Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brian 3

Soon after Brian returned to Atlanta they took the opportunity to head to the north Georgia mountains together. Mac met Brian at his home and they drove together listening to that new age music Brian had a knack for finding. Talking came so easy when they were together so the two hour drive was over in no time at all.

When they arrived at Brian's Blue Ridge home he made sure Mac followed him to where the key was kept and how to turn the water on under the house. They stopped on the front porch while Brian explained that the upside down skate board on the porch railing was part of his security system. Old men on skateboard jokes now became part of the regular repartee along with the ones about the nine year olds that required running over with bikes. Brian was adamant that Mac would need to know where everything was and how to get it all going for when he brought Clay and Harrison, or any other of his friends, to the cabin.

They stayed longer in Blue Ridge than planned, partly because the soaring temperatures in Atlanta discouraged them from returning but mostly because they wanted to. Brian had expressed how he did his best thinking at the cabin and Mac came to understand that too. There was something about being in the clear air, or being away from Atlanta and the strife of his fallenness, or away from the hectic schedule of work. On the other hand, Mac was beginning to think more that his brain was simply clearer when Brian was around.

One of the early morning outings they took was to Jack Falls. They never made it. Somewhere along the way they took a wrong turn on one of the poorly marked forestry roads but that didn’t matter. To each of them the company was more important than the destination. While Brian drove his Nissan Pathfinder along stony roads, Mac happily videoed and photographed the day as it went by.

The idea of getting lost in the north Georgia Mountains turned into a big joke. Mac shared with Brian a story that Harrison had told him in which the punch line was that if you hear banjo music you’d better paddle faster. Brian’s chortle was infectious and soon they were both laughing about what could happen to them if they were truly lost.

At one point, long after they realized that they were on the wrong road to get to where they had planned they saw a sign for lakeside camping ground and opted to head there to see what could be seen. A stroll around the lake was wonderful. They talked easily about everything and once again Mac found he could listen to Brian all day long. As he had in Florida, Brian guided them along the trail with commentary about intricate details. Here he pointed out plant species, their growing habits, and the similarities and differences between the plants. Mac watched Brain closely and caught himself on more than one occasion that afternoon daydreaming about the two of them. Whenever Brian caught Mac looking at him he’d just smile back and continue his botanical dissertation.

When they returned to the vehicle it was discovered that the front passenger side tire was flat. Brian initially thought that Mac, in the spirit of the day, was joking. The two of them tried as they might to get that flat tire off the car using the standard equipment but they found it impossible. Mac in his usual imitable style attempted all kinds of solutions to the situation using whatever could be found in the trunk and a MacGyver-like attitude. Nothing worked so as the day was fading Brian went off to find someone in the campground who could help.

“Beware of Banjo music,” Mac called out as Brian disappeared through the woods. Brian’s gentle chuckle could be heard by at least three squirrels that all ceased from their activity and held their little hands together in a still and silent prayer for safety and quick solutions. Mac wondered what this feeling was that overcame him as Brian was swallowed up by the darkening woods. Was this loneliness? How was it that he missed his friend in such a short time? Mac dismissed the emotion and walked around the parking lot picking up other people’s trash just as his father would have done.

Before the end of that day three more tires on the vehicle were torn to shreds by the unreasonably large stones some incompetent person had decided to put down on the road. This of course meant that the two men found themselves sitting in the car on a remote track as the light faded in the sky above the trees. The only way to deal with the visions of bears coming out of the woods and crawling over the car was to joke about whether they would prefer A grade American meat or the finer imported Australian flesh. Discussions also included the best way to ration the water and the hundreds of energy bars that Brian always had in his car.

As they talked Mac could still see the matchless blue of Brian’s eyes. Moments of catching the other’s eyes were followed by lingering smiles and each discovered new comfort in knowing each other, of being able to look deep into the face of his friend and not need to turn away. Mac’s heart was falling for this man and he was certain the feeling was mutual. But he had no idea what to do about it.

As the last remnants of light were sailing from the sky their solitude was interrupted by the arrival of an AAA truck ready to haul them back to Blue Ridge and perhaps to reality. Well, at least to another more ordinary reality. As the lunatic driver sped through the mountains the roads seemed so much more treacherous than when Brian had been driving. The harrowing journey back to town was barely enough distraction for Mac to wonder what would have happened, to hope about what could have happened, had they been stranded over night.

The few remaining days at the cabin were kept simple; a float in the lake each afternoon, a stroll down main street, pizza at Blue Jeans. Future plans included another cabin retreat in July while Mac was on vacation from school and then some days at the beach on the Gulf in the few days prior to Thanksgiving. Mac worked hard to convince Brian that they should take a trip to Australia together in the following summer.

“When you go back, you don’t need the complication of a man in tow.” Brian’s response was adamant. And wise. As much as Mac would have liked to take Brian back with him he figured there was only so much his sons, parents, siblings, and friends would cope with. It would be the first time that Mac would return to Australia since his separation and consequent divorce and that would be challenging in its own right, let alone the whole coming out thing. And to take a man with whom you are exploring a romantic relationship with would be unfathomable, at least for the first visit. Brian agreed that he’d make the trans-Pacific journey at a later time.

In the lead-up to their planned retreat to the cabin there were the typical days between phone calls. One dinner somewhere together one night when Mac was too tired from a hectic day in the classroom was the only face to face moment. Both were glad to have even that evening together as short as it was. The physical contact was more tender than on previous dates albeit an extra long hug with a whispered “love you” to each other before Mac climbed into his car and drove home to get a good night’s rest in preparation for the next day. Later at a graveside he would regret not pushing himself harder to get more time with Brian no matter how he felt.

Sometimes there were extended times between actual conversation between the two men. They’d leave messages on the other’s voice mail or write a quick email but Mac knew that Brian was all over the place for his work and life and didn’t tie himself to a desk with a phone and a computer with internet access. Neither of them believed in the sovereignty of the phone. They’d often ignore their phone ringing when in conversation with someone who shared a physical space at the same time. People with them were always more important than people somewhere else. The only exception to this that Mac had was if Brian called but it seemed that Brian could only get to a phone during the day when he could get a moment away from his mother while she had a nurse with her and while Mac was at work. It was frustrating but Mac didn’t feel the need to be impatient about developing a relationship. After all, they had years ahead of them.