HARRY was still feeling pleasantly full an hour later, sitting on his couch as his mind meandered to the music from the television. He was well-rested and content and he allowed his muscles to sink into stupor.
He had enjoyed dinner, with everyone dispensing wisdom about various topics. Yet he still could not stop wandering back to the topic of Don. Harry did want to know him better, but was it worth it? Was it practical to connect with someone who, in all likelihood, he would never see again?
Yet he itched to do it. It was a slow-burning longing within him to pick up the phone and dial that number. Don's face was still etched in loving memory, and no matter how hard Harry tried to erase it, it remained. But then, he reminded himself, it has only been a day—barely. He wasn't going senile; there was no reason for that quick of a memory loss, no matter how much he might want it.
And it was precisely at this moment, when Harry was mulling over this, when his phone rang.
"Hey! I thought I was gonna get voicemail." It was, irrefutably and unmistakably, Don's voice.
"Oh really? You didn't want to talk to me?"
"No! It's just that I thought you'd be out tonight."
Harry smiled. "Nah … I'm just at home right now. So what's up?"
"Not much," he said. He seemed hesitant. "I was just wondering what you're up to, I guess."
"Not much," Harry said. "I had work, had dinner, I'm now home. My life is boring."
"Don't say that," Don said. "You don't need crazy adventures every day. It'll wear you out I mean, I have to fly often for business, and it kills me. I guess I don't deal well with jetlag."
That sentence alarmed Harry. Jetlag? "Do you live on the other side of the country or something?" he asked, trying to keep his voice light.
"What? Oh, no! I live an hour away. I just mean that I have to travel a lot for my job, and it gets tedious."
"Oh." Harry's heart lightens immeasurably. "That makes sense, though I can't begin to understand it. Anyways, what's up?"
"Well, I'm going to be in town for a conference tomorrow, and I was wondering if you'd like to get a drink afterwards. We didn't really get a chance to really talk and stuff yesterday, and you seem like a cool guy, so…."
"Yeah, I'd love to," Harry said. "I'll be off work around five, so we can meet up."
"Coo!" Harry could hear his beam through the phone. "I'll see you tomorrow!"
Life just became so much easier, Harry thought. The fact that Don was only an hour away—even right now—made his heart flutter. But he should keep calm; they were only meeting for drinks tomorrow. It was what friends do, a casual meet-up, and he shouldn't read too much into it. Be cool about it, and not act like a teenage girl, that was what he should do.
He was failing miserably.
His chest was beating a staccato beat, trying to jump, and his head was dizzied like mad. It was odd, but he felt like for once he had something to look forward to.
Harry looked around his apartment. Tonight, it didn't look cramped and claustrophobic. He could clear away the mess by cleaning up that mess of magazines on his desk and tidy up a bit. It wouldn't be too difficult.
It was with those thoughts that he fell asleep.
THE next day, time slowed to a trickling halt at work. Harry's mind drifted every few minutes or so from his work. The day was not unusual in that; his powers of concentration were not that formidable. The unusual part was how he kept looking at his watch, hoping to clock out. Harry typically did not detest work that much.
He knew what it was about, too. Don. He was looking forward to meeting Don, preferably without a raucous atmosphere. It was, in his mind, the first time. Encounters at a club didn't count—they were for quickies and one night stands, not something more…
Something more as what? A voice in his head challenged. He was getting ahead of himself again. He was doing that a lot today; he tried to remind himself, cerebrally, that skipping ahead often ends with tripping.
"You're quiet today," Jake observed from his desk. "What's up?"
"Nothing," Harry said. "I'm just a little distracted."
"Oh?" Jake's tone took a deeper level of interest. "Tell me why."
"You know," Harry said, "you're an incorrigible gossip."
Jake grinned and said: "You know you want to tell me. Is it a guy? I bet it's a guy, isn't it?"
Harry sighed. "Yeah."
"The same guy you told me about yesterday?" Jake teased out. He really was relentless, Harry thought. Besides, it might do him some good to air out his mind on this.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I'm meeting him for drinks later, and honestly? I'm fucking terrified."
"Drinks is a big deal," Jake agreed. "I mean, with coffee, you don't get drunk or a chance to do anything stupid. But with alcohol, who knows? You two could end up throwing chairs at each other or in bed together. It's really hard to tell, actually."
Harry groaned. "That is the last thing I need to hear right now. I really like him, too. I do want to get to know him better."
"Well," Jake said, "I think you'll be alright. I mean, you two probably aren't going to get wasted, right? You guys are just meeting at some chill location."
"Yeah…" Harry said, his heart rate returning to normal. "You're right. You're absolutely right. I should just be relaxed about this and let things go with the flow."
"Yep," Jake nodded. "Stay cool about it. Confidence counts for a lot here."
"I know," he said. "But I suck at that."
"Harry," Jake said, exasperated, "it's all in your head. It's a mind game. You can't lose the battle before the war even starts."
"What the hell is this war analogy?" Harry said. "And how the hell do you know? You're straight."
Jake scoffed. "All men are the same. In the end, it doesn't matter whether you're gay or straight. We're all looking to fuck."
Harry considered his words. It was true: he did feel an intense physical attraction to Don. He wanted to let his hands explore, touch that silken skin, grip those harden muscles underneath. But he needed more than that; otherwise, Harry would have already hooked up with Don already.
"But this meeting is for us to just do the opposite," Harry said at least. "It's because neither of us wants a fuck buddy that we're getting to know each other and take it slow."
Jake shrugged. "You know best. I haven't met the guy. But in my experience, these things happen."
Harry groaned. "I know. I hate that you're right. But I don't want a dick to suck; I want a person to talk to."
"Don't get that detailed, Harry," Jake said, faking a gag. "I don't need to know. But I think you need to relax. Maybe finish some more summations. I don't know … keep your mind off things."
"I guess." Harry swiveled to face his computer. "By the way, have you noticed we haven't seen Hector all morning?"
"Do you want to?" Jake asked. "Because I sure as hell don't." He returned to his work. "It's fine; we still get paid either way."
Harry glanced around. Through the glass walls, he saw the usual: sharply dressed men and women working, walking around. There was the same hush of concentration. Yet he noticed that all the higher ranking associates and partners were not to be seen anywhere. Typically, he could spot at least one of them flirting with the secretary or chatting casually. Today—no one.
"It's just weird." Harry shook it off. Jake was right: the less he saw of Hector, the easier the day would go. "But it's not a big deal."
Harry resumed tapping away at his keyboard, not really minding what he inputted. His mind was on other matters. There was a nagging suspicious that something was off, especially since Hector lived to terrorize his employees….