Brad’s Search : Part 19


The rest of the week goes smoothly. Eric and I have a roadmap all planned out for getting our project done by mid-March.

“Enjoy the extra-long weekend, Brad. See you on Thursday.”

“You too. Happy New Year.”

Gary and Harry feel a little guilty for abandoning me last weekend, so we all head to Cooters on Saturday.

We all grab a table, and Gary and Harry lean in. Gary starts. “I am dying to hear how your date went, Brad. You’ve been so evasive every time I ask you about it.”

“I know, I know. I just don’t want to get my hopes up.”

Harry frowns. “Why not?”

“It’s just unbelievable how well things are working out so far.”

“No, Brad. It’s unbelievable how well things worked with Kelly. Neither Harry nor I know how you pulled that off.”

“Me either.”

“So what has you so worried about James?”

“He just seems cool with everything. Almost too cool.”

“How so?”

“Well, I told him about the weekend with Kelly, and he didn’t run away.”

“And that has you worried that things won’t work out?”

“It just seems too perfect. Like I’ll get my hopes up and all of a sudden everything will come crashing down because I’m expecting too much.”

“Whoa, Brad, slow down. You’re not marrying the guy tomorrow. Just take it slowly and see where things go one day at a time.”

I take a deep breath. “All right, I guess I can do that.”

“Do you and James have any plans for New Year’s?”

“He wants to watch the fireworks at the Space Needle.”

“That’s a great idea! Gina mentioned wanting to do that too.”

“I think I can get Julia to tag along. Want to make it a triple date?”

“I don’t see why not.”

We catch up on other things while we wrap up dinner. We pay the check and get up to leave.

“I’ll call you when James and I get to the Space Needle and then we’ll meet up from there.”

“Sounds good. See you then.”

I head home and relax the rest of the night. The next morning is all about cleaning house and getting everything in order. No better way to start the New Year than a fresh, clean beginning.

I take a break in the middle of everything to give James a call.

“Hey Brad! How’s your day going?”

“OK. Been cleaning up mostly and taking care of other things. You?”

“Just taking it easy this weekend. Dad wanted us at the firm to get all these client details in order before the year ended. We were there till the late hours of the night, but we got it all done.”

“That’s good to hear. Well, I wanted to ask you if it’s all right if Gary, Harry, and their girlfriends join us for New Year’s tomorrow.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I’d be delighted to meet them.”

“OK. I said I’d call them when we get there, and then we’ll meet up.”

“Did you want me to pick you up, and then we’ll just take one car to get there?”

“That sounds good.”

“All right, Brad. Anything else?”

“No, I guess that’s it. I’m really excited about tomorrow.”

“Me too. It’ll be a great time. I promise.”

“I know it will.”

“I’ll call when I’m on my way.”

“OK. I’ll see you then.”

We hang up.

* * * * *

I had a pretty fitful night of sleep. The same thing always happens when I first meet someone really nice and cute. And when I start falling in love. So I do what I always do when that happens: pop in every romantic comedy I own.

I fall asleep in the middle of Serendipity and wake up around 10 in the morning. I have nothing better to do, so I rewind it to the last scene I remember, finish it out, and start watching another one.

I lose track of time, and don’t realize what time it is until my phone rings. It’s James.

“Hey Brad. I’m going to start heading your way in about half an hour. Is that OK?”

I look at the time. “Wow, that’s a bit early.”

“I can come later.”

“No, that’s OK. But can you make it 45 minutes? I still have to shower.”

“How about I make it 15 and we can shower together?”

I chuckle. “Nice try, Mr Briscoe.”

“Hey, no harm in trying. I’ll leave in 45 then.”

“Sounds good. See you when you get here.”

I hop in the shower and wash up. I get out and dress as I watch the last few minutes of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Right on cue, James pulls up and rings the doorbell. I shut off the TV, get up, and open the door.

“Hey, come on in.”

James steps inside, and I close the door. “Nice place you got here.”

“Thank you. Been having it for almost a year now. My lease is up in February.”

“Are you going to renew?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

James taps his chin with his finger a few times.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Oh, no thanks. I’m fine.”

James walks to a shelf where I have a few framed photos. “Hey, this is a really nice picture. Is that your mom?”

“Yeah. Gina took that picture of her when we went to Mount Rainier a few weekends ago.”

“Who’s Gina again?”

“She’s Gary’s girlfriend. You’ll meet her tonight. And you’ll meet Harry and his girlfriend, Julia.”

“Wow, I hope I can remember everyone’s names.”

“I’m sure if you were Erin Brockovich, you wouldn’t have any problem.”

James laughs. “And Gary and Harry’s names rhyme. That’s going to be really confusing.”

“I promise, once you meet them, you’ll be able to tell them apart easily.”

“I hope so.”

James turns, walks to the couch, and sits. I follow suit.

We sit there in silence for a few seconds. James stares into my eyes, then finally speaks up. “Brad, I just want you to know how happy I am that we ran into each other again.”

I smile. “I am, too.”

James leans forward and places his hand on my knee. “You look nervous.”

I take a deep breath. “I am.”

James leans back into the couch. “Why?”

I take another deep breath. “You really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“All right. I guess I’ve just been through a lot emotionally recently.”

“With Kelly?”

“Well, yes, but also with my ex-boyfriend.”

“How long ago did you two break up?”

“Let’s see... It was just earlier this month. It seems like it was further back.”

“...And?”

I look at James. “You want the whole story?” He looks at me and shrugs. I turn and look out the window.

“Brad, you don’t have to worry about me judging you. I’m not that kind of person.”

I look back at him. “How can I be sure?”

“I’m still sitting here.”

I look into his eyes for a few seconds. “Good point. OK, here goes. He came home one day and asked to marry me.”

“And you said ‘no’.”

“Right. We had been dating for about ten months before that.”

“So why’d you say ‘no’?”

I sigh. “His parents found out about us living together, and they don’t really approve of him being gay. Once they found out, they stopped paying his tuition and he couldn’t afford to finish his degree.”

“Wow, that sucks.”

“Yeah. He started going out and staying out late at night. I never knew where he went. He even stopped going to class, but didn’t tell me. I found out from one of his classmates. Who knows? He may have been cheating on me. He always came home after I had gone to bed, drunk most of the time. He just stopped caring. I don’t want to marry someone who just doesn’t care anymore. He just walked out after I told him I didn’t want to marry him.”

James just sits, pensive. He eventually speaks up. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Well, let me first say that I think your decision not to marry him was sound. It’s disappointing that he walked out of the relationship because of that, but that’s a decision he made.”

“Right.”

“So my question for you is: How much did you want him to stay?”

I take a deep breath. “Well, I didn’t want him to leave. I wanted to work through it, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“What was I supposed to do, James? I couldn’t support both of us financially. He couldn’t get a job because of his class schedule. It just wasn’t working without his parents’ financial support.”

“What about your emotional support? Were you there for him emotionally?”

“I tried to be. I mean, I have my own job, my own friends, and my own life. I can’t be there for him all the time.”

“Not even when he needed you during that difficult time in his life?”

“It was just hard to be around him when all that was happening. Nothing seemed to be going right.”

“And so you gave up on him.”

“No, I didn’t give up. I just didn’t want to be around him like that. He brought me down.”

“So is that the same reason why your best friends weren’t with you the night I found you in the bar?”

I sit there, stunned. A light bulb turns on in my head.

“Wait a minute. You think they intentionally avoided me?”

“Hey, I didn’t say that. I just know they weren’t with you when you needed them most. And it seems like you three are inseparable from what you’ve told me. I just find it surprising that you weren’t their first priority after all the shit went down with Kelly.”

“So you think I did the same thing with Stan?”

“I can’t answer that question. What do you think?”

I just sit in silence for a few seconds. “You’re right. Maybe I wasn’t around him as much as I should have been. Oh God, James, I was such a horrible boyfriend to him.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Brad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘horrible’. Don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all made mistakes in the past.”

I look up at him. “God damn it, James, why aren’t you running away from me?”

He looks at me with a very serious expression. “Because I ran away from a boyfriend of mine once. It was probably the one thing I most regret doing. But you know what? No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to go back and change the past. The only thing we can do is make different decisions. Better decisions. And hopefully someone else will give us a second chance. That’s why I’m not running away.”

We sit there in thoughtful silence for a few seconds. Had I really been that bad of a boyfriend? Did Gary and Harry hurt any chances of Stan and I staying together? Did they make the same mistake I did when they chose to spend Friday night with their girlfriends instead of with me? I don’t have all the answers, but James has helped me become aware of the questions.

James leans forward and shakes my knee. “Come on. We should get going.”

I scoot closer to him on the couch, wrap my arms around him, and we embrace for a few seconds.

“Thank you, James, for listening.”

“Anytime.”

“What am I going to do about Gary and Harry? How will I know if they were intentionally avoiding me? If they are my true friends?”

James puts his hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to get your answer soon.”

I let out a sigh. “OK, let’s go.”