Brad’s Search : Part 39


We pull up and park outside the restaurant along the street. Before we step out, I rest my hand on James’s knee. “Are you OK?”

He takes a deep breath. “Yeah. Let’s go in.”

We step out and head in. Willie is already waiting inside and sees us when we walk in. He approaches us and hugs James. He then shakes my hand. “Thank you both for coming.”

The hostess leads us to our table. Willie sits across from James and me.

Willie starts, “I want to apologize for how I acted. To both of you.”

“I accept your apology, Willie.”

“Thank you, Brad.” After a few tense seconds pass, Willie continues, “James, aren’t you going to say anything?”

I glance at James. His expression rapidly runs the gamut between indifference, sadness, and anger. “Dad, why do you hate Mom?”

“Hate her? I don’t hate her, James. Why would you even think such a thing?”

“Every time you mention her, you have this air of contempt - not just earlier this week, but ever since she died. You’ve been blaming her for everything.”

“That’s not true-”

James cuts him off. “You act like she could never do anything right. You blame her for her own death, yet you didn’t have the balls to say anything to stop the behavior that led to it.”

Willie hesitates for a second or two, then hangs his head down. His voice turns somber. “I know. Even though I could not control her actions, I’m just as guilty because I remained silent about them. I let you boys down. You should still have a mother. I wish I could give anything to go back and do it differently.”

“I wish you could, too, Dad.”

“Why do you think I’ve been hounding you day after day to talk to your brother?”

James just sits and waits for Willie to go on. He continues, “You’re right; I can’t do anything about your mother. It’s too late. Nothing in the world can bring her back now. But Paul is still here. He wants to talk to you. He wants to make things right. Are you just going to sit there in silence like I did with your mother?”

James take a deep breath. “No, Dad. I see how much my relationship with Paul is affecting you. I don’t want to put you through that. We don’t need any more pain in our family.”

Willie’s eyes light up. “So you’re going to talk to him?”

James nods. “Yes, Dad, I am.”

I grasp James’s hand and hold it. Willie looks as if an enormous weight has just been lifted off his shoulders. A tear begins forming in his eye and he wipes it away. “You and Paul are all I’ve got. We were barely a family even when Mom was alive. I don’t want that anymore, James - I want us to be a strong, healthy family.”

“I think that’s what Mom really wanted for us, deep down inside. I’m willing to try if you are, but you have to let all your frustrations with Mom go. Maybe not all at once, and maybe not right now, but if I can find it in my heart to talk to Paul and forgive him, you have to forgive Mom, too. And you have to forgive yourself.”

Willie sniffles. “I’ll certainly try.”

James and Willie stand up from the table and give each other a tight hug. They both break the hug, wipe tears from their eyes, and sit back down.

Willie turns to me. “Brad, I’m so sorry you had to hear all of this.”

James rests his hand on my arm. “Dad, Brad is part of the family now. He knows how tough our family’s situation is. He’s made the choice to stay with me even though things can get difficult from time to time.”

I give Willie a reassuring expression. “I want things to work out just as much as you and James do.”

“Thank you, Brad. That’s so nice of you to say.”

We wrap up dinner and say our goodbyes to each other. James and I head home.

“Brad, are you still up for meeting the guys tomorrow?”

“Sure! I can’t wait to meet Patrick and - what’s the other guy’s name? Dennis?”

“Damon.”

“Oh.”

He chuckles. “Don’t worry; you’ll get all their names down soon.”

* * * * *

We head to bed and wake up the next morning and get ready to head out. After James pulls on his jock and shorts, he gets a devilish grin on his face. “I just love how this jock feels.”

I walk over to him, shove my hand underneath his shorts, and rub the pouch. “I love how it feels, too!”

After our hard-ons subside, we hop in James’s car and drive to Volunteer Park. We get out and start walking to our usual spot.

“It looks like the guys aren’t here yet. We can go sit up there to wait for them.”

We find a spot on the grass and sit facing each other. We lean back and let the sun shine on us and warm us up. I glance down; I can barely see up the leg of his shorts, but I catch a glimpse of the pouch of his jock. He fills it out rather well.

After a few minutes of lounging in the Saturday sun, James speaks up. “Thanks for coming with me to dinner last night.”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Just because of all the shit going on between me and Paul, and then with me and Dad because of me and Paul. It’s such a big mess. I just hate subjecting you to that.”

I look at him. “James, every family goes through something like this. You’ve been so understanding of everything I’ve gone through so far. It would be wrong of me to not be as understanding as you have been.”

“Well, I appreciate it nonetheless. I’m just ready to get this all over with.”

I massage his calf. “Soon enough, James. Soon enough.”

We spot five guys in the distance walking toward us. “That must be them.” We stand up as they get closer.

James introduces me to Patrick and Damon. I shake their hands. “So, you must be the guys getting married next week.”

“We sure are!” Damon says excitedly. Patrick then chimes in, “We’ve heard lots of great things about you, Brad. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

After greeting the rest of the guys, we spread out and start throwing the Frisbee around. I seem to be doing much better than the first time, which is normally how everything else in life works, right?

After a while, we gather closely together and sit down to go over the itinerary for the upcoming weekend. The guys have booked a four-bedroom suite at the best hotel in Portland, where we will all be staying. We’ll travel there Friday evening, have the rehearsal and dinner on Saturday, and then have the wedding Sunday morning.

James notices the confusion on my face. “What’s wrong, Brad?”

I turn to Patrick and Damon. “I was just wondering - how are you going to get married in Portland if Oregon doesn’t allow same-sex marriages yet?”

“Damon and I will go across to Vancouver Sunday morning and legally get married there. Then we’ll head back and have the actual ceremony.”

“So you will already be married before the wedding?”

Patrick nods. Damon chimes in, “I know, it is a bit unconventional.” Everyone chuckles, then Damon continues, “But Patrick’s parents have been going to this one church in Portland and they really want us to get married there. We think it’s a great idea, but it means we would have to actually get legally married elsewhere. Luckily, now, we only have to cross one state line to do it.”

Patrick continues, “Yep. And then the reception will be right after. We’ll all have time to be back at work Monday morning.”

All the guys, including myself, let out a huge groan.

Patrick turns to me. “Speaking of work, what do you do, Brad?”

“I’m a project manager at a software development company. Right now we’re working on a pretty big project for a casino in Las Vegas. What about you guys?”

Patrick goes first. “I work in real estate. I actually got James and his father a great deal on that place in Fremont.”

Damon is next. “I’m currently getting my PhD in psychology at the university, but I also teach there.”

Charles speaks up. “I’m an accountant. If you ever get audited, let me know. I’ll help you out and give you the friends and family discount.”

Everyone laughs. Hadim goes next. “I do catering. I’ll be helping with the wedding.”

Freddie is last. “I own and run a gay bar in Capitol Hill.”

“Really?” I say with shock and surprise.

“Yeah. In fact, it’s the same bar where you and James met - for the second time.”

James speaks up, “And I work at the law offices of Briscoe and Feldman.”

I playfully punch his shoulder as he and everyone else starts laughing. “Yes, we all know what you do, James.”

We stand up and say our goodbyes. The next time we’ll all see each other will be in Portland on Friday.