Brad’s Search : Part 35


I stir awake and see James sitting at the foot of the bed putting his shoes on.

He looks over to me. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”

I stretch. “Nah, I should be getting up anyway.”

He stands up, looks in the mirror, and straightens his tie.

“Damn, you look fine in a suit.”

He turns to me. “I look even better with the suit on the floor.”

“Care to prove it?”

He chuckles. “Maybe another day.” He walks up to me, bends down, and gives me a kiss. “I’ll see you when you get home. Love you.”

“OK. Love you, too.”

He heads downstairs and out the door, locking it behind him.

I take a quick shower and get dressed. I pour myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast and then head out the door to work. It now takes a bit longer to get to work from where I live, so I haven’t yet had a chance to go out running yet. I’ll have to start getting up a bit earlier.

By now our teams at work have gotten into a good groove and we’ve made great headway. Eric is very pleased with how well I’ve been managing things. I ask him if he has any idea when we can wrap everything up.

“If we keep working at this pace, and the client likes everything we’ve done so far, I bet we can get this out the door in early April. Two more full months. It’s a bit optimistic, but I think we can get it done.”

“Great, because I want to take some time off afterwards to visit Mom in Denver.”

“Is James going along with you?”

“Yes; he says getting time off won’t be a problem for him.”

“It won’t be a problem for you, either. Whenever we get this project finished, you can take off as much time as you need. You’ve earned it.”

“Thanks, Eric.”

* * * * *

I finish work for the day and head home. I park along the street. There’s a car here I don’t recognize. I head inside.

James greets me with a kiss as soon as I walk through the door. “Hey Brad; my Dad’s here already.” He leads me to the kitchen where his father stands up and approaches me.

He reaches his hand out to me. “You must be Brad.”

I take his hand and shake it. “Yes, sir. Brad Palovich.”

“William Briscoe, but you can call me Willie.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Willie.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Brad.”

I turn to James. “Mind if I go upstairs and change?”

“Sure, go ahead. Salmon’s in the oven, but it’s almost finished.”

I run upstairs, pull off my polo and khakis, and throw on a t-shirt and jeans. I head downstairs just as I hear Willie say, “James, listen to me. You should call your brother back. He really needs to talk to you.”

“Dad, can we please not discuss this right now?”

They both look at me and fall silent. James continues, “I just don’t feel like dealing with him right now. I’ll talk to you about it later.”

“Fine, James, but it’s not just going to disappear.”

I speak up. “I’m sorry I interrupted.”

Willie turns to me. “No interruption at all, Brad. Come have a seat.”

I sit next to Willie.

“So, James tells me you work with computers?”

“That’s right. I used to work more closely with them, but I recently got promoted to project manager, so now I oversee a team as well.”

Willie pats me on the back. “Congratulations! I bet it feels good to be a little higher on the totem pole.”

“Thanks. It certainly does. We have a big project going on right now for a casino in Vegas. We’re actually a bit ahead of schedule and may finish in early April.”

James turns to me. “That’s great to hear!”

Willie speaks up. “And you guys are planning to visit Denver once that’s all finished?”

“Yes, sir. We’ll be heading down there to see my Mom. She came up to visit me last month, but it’s been a while since I’ve been down to visit her.”

“I bet she can’t wait to see you again.”

“She can’t. She never likes it when we have to part ways. It’ll be good to see her again, though.”

“And I understand your father was in the Air Force.”

“He was, yes.”

He places his hand on my shoulder. “I just want to let you know I sympathize with you. My own wife passed away a few years ago.”

“Yes, James told me. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Well, at least your father passed away with honor, unlike my wife who mostly brought it upon herself.”

“Dad!”

“Sorry, son. Excuse me, I’m being rude.”

The next few seconds are tensely silent, except for James retrieving plates and silverware. He takes the salmon out of the oven and serves it on three plates. We sit at the dining table and James lights a fire.

Willie takes a bite of the salmon. “Oh, James, this is delicious.”

“Thanks, Dad,” he says unenthusiastically.

After a few more bites, Willie turns to me. “So, how did you and James meet?”

“Pretty randomly, actually. I go running in Volunteer Park occasionally, and one day James was there with his friends. About two weeks later we ran into each other again at a bar.”

“Well, as long as you don’t drink as much as James’s mother did, you should have nothing to worry about.”

James slams his hand on the table. “Dad, please don’t say things like that, especially in front of Brad.”

“What? You don’t think he can handle it? He’s not a kid, you know. He needs to be aware of these things.”

“Now is not the right time. Let’s just eat dinner, please?”

Willie hangs his head down. “Sorry, James.”

The rest of dinner is uncomfortably silent. Willie takes his last bite and wipes his mouth. “That was a very good dinner, James. Thank you for inviting me over.”

“You’re welcome, Dad.”

“It’s late. I should be getting home.”

We all stand up. Willie walks over to James and gives him a hug. “I’ll see you at the office tomorrow.” He then turns to me and shakes my hand. “It was nice meeting you, Brad. I hope to see more of you soon.”

“Sure thing, Willie. Have a good evening.”

James accompanies Willie as he walks to the door. Willie steps out and James shuts and locks the door. He then walks back to me.

“Brad, I’m so sorry. That was such a total fucking disaster.”

I take his hand and lead him to the couch in front of the fireplace. “I wouldn’t call it a total disaster. The salmon turned out nicely.”

We sit down in silence for a few seconds until he speaks up again. “I really don’t know what got into him tonight. He’s not usually like that.”

“Did something happen at work today?”

“Not that I know of. He tends to get like that from time to time, but never around people he’s just met.” James takes a deep breath. “In the past before Mom died, he never really spoke up. For a while after she died, he used to blame himself a lot for her death because he never tried to stop her self-destructive patterns, but now he’s realized he never really had that much control over them anyway. He couldn’t help that Mom smoked and drank a lot. But now he almost makes her out to be the bad guy and completely forgets she was a human and made mistakes in her life, just like anyone does. Sure, she wasn’t perfect, but who is?”

I place my hand on his thigh. “I’m sure he means well.”

James slams his hands on the couch, barely missing my leg. “It just frustrates me how he talks about her sometimes. Deep down she was a good person. Dad wouldn’t have married her if she wasn’t. Now he acts like he regrets ever having anything to do with her.”

I rub his thigh. “I’m sorry, James. I wish things could be different for you.”

“And then he brings up that thing with Paul.”

“Paul?”

“My brother out in the Midwest. He’s been calling the office the past few days wanting to speak with me. I see his name pop up on the caller ID and just ignore it, so he’s been talking to Dad this whole time. I tell Dad every time that I don’t want to talk to him, but Dad keeps telling me Paul’s got something important to talk to me about.”

“Why don’t you want to talk to him?”

“Paul just hurt me so much with his words and actions back when I came out. I don’t want to open myself up to that kind of pain again.”

“Maybe he’s calling to apologize.”

“Yeah, right. Paul apologize?”

“You’ll never know unless you speak with him.”

James groans. I continue, “You’ll probably feel a lot better once you talk to him and get things resolved. It sounds like that’s what he wants.”

“I don’t know - I’ll think about it.”

“And I’m sure that’s what your Dad wants, too. I’m sure having his two boys not talking to each other hurts his heart, too. Perhaps his being open about it, even in front of me, is his way of coping with the pain.”

James sighs. “You’re right. I guess I shouldn’t have acted so frustrated with him. It’s just - my relationship with my brother has been full of pain for so long that I’ve become numb and used to it-”

“-But it’s probably affecting your father more as time passes.”

“And he of all people really doesn’t deserve the pain.”

I squeeze his knee. “I’m sure you’ll get things figured out.”

“Thanks, Brad.”

He leans in and we hug tightly for a few seconds. We pull away and kiss. I wrap my arm around his shoulders, and we lean back and enjoy the warmth from the fire.

After a few seconds, he turns to me and says, “Why does life have to be so complicated?”

I sigh. “I guess it would get too boring if it wasn’t.”

James chuckles. “Boring can be good - sometimes.”

We continue sitting there for a few minutes, enjoying the fire. James speaks up again. “As much as I get frustrated with Dad sometimes, I really do love him. I mean, I wouldn’t have this place if it weren’t for him. I guess I should let him know I appreciate him more.”

I rub his shoulder. “I’m sure he knows that deep down.”

He sighs. “Yeah.”

“Do you mind if I head up to bed early? I want to get up earlier tomorrow morning and go for a run.”

“Not at all; go ahead. I’ll probably stay down here and read for a bit to relax. I’ll try not to wake you when I head up.”

“Everything will be all right, James. I’m sure of it.”

He chuckles. “You’re beginning to sound like me.”

“Well maybe you should be taking your own advice more often.”

He nods. “Yeah, I should. All right, you go on up and sleep well.”

We kiss and I get up and head upstairs. I strip down, brush my teeth, and crawl under the covers. I fall asleep pretty quickly.

After what seems like a few hours later, I’m stirred half-awake by James crawling under the covers. He kisses my cheek, whispers ‘I love you,’ in my ear, and wraps his arms around me.