Friday, June 22, 2012
Mark thought Tristan looked defeated as they walked back to his car. The date hadn’t happened the way he would have wanted it to happen but there seemed to be little he could do to save it. They got into the car and he began to drive. He turned left out of the parking lot not sure where he was headed. Tristan sunk against the passenger side door.
No one spoke for a long time and Mark felt worse with each moment of silence. He thought about the coffee Tristan had ordered, the counting of money as they waited to order. Not everyone can be bankrolled by scholarships and a father’s money, though he didn’t spend it the way his father would have approved, but still it was his money. He wanted to change everything, make the date, the night better. He wanted to make Tristan happy but there was little that interested him. Then a thought occurred to him.
“Do you want to see my campus?” Mark asked.
Tristan looked up from the door and to Mark who stopped the car at a red light and looked back.
“What do you mean?”
Mark shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, it’s pretty late and most everyone is gone. Sometimes on nights like this I just like to walk around my campus. Most every building is locked but there are still some cool things to see. Do you have to be home soon?”
Tristan looked to his watch and saw that it was only after 8 o’clock. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why not?”.
The light turned green and Mark told Tristan to get his phone out and type in the address of the campus as he had gotten himself lost. In minutes they were on the highway and headed to campus after that he followed the familiar route back into the parking and found an empty spot under a light. He made sure the windows were up and both doors were locked when they were closed.
They walked together from the lot, not too close, friend close. And Mark suddenly thought about what he was doing. He was taking his date, another boy on campus. Would he want to see his dorm? Would his roommates be home? Would they meet? Would they know he was gay and by extension know that Mark was gay? What the hell kind of date was this?
As they got closer to the housing area they heard the sounds of a party. It wasn’t where Mark had wanted to go. He wanted to go somewhere else. He had something else in mind. If it worked. But as they walked by the party Tristan seemed distracted by the activity. They stopped.
“Want to go inside?”
“Do you know who’s party it is?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Mark answered.
“Oh,” Tristan replied. He had never been inside a college party. “Maybe we can just check it out.”
“Sure,” Mark said before turning back and leading the way to the party that was on the second floor of an dorm apartment style building. Tristan followed close behind, closer when they entered into the dark, barely lit space. Inside the bass that they heard was overwhelming along with a cacophony of people talking and the finer parts of the music.
People stood anywhere they wanted. They lined the hallway, moved back and forth into rooms, stayed in doorways, but Mark led them to the living room where a small DJ table had been set-up along with several speakers. The source of the music was a skinny man who pressed headphones to one ear as he stared at a laptop screen and held the other hand over what looked like a turn table.
Tristan thought to say something and he moved closer but Mark stopped and he bumped into him.
“Sorry,” he yelled out.
Mark turned to him.
“What do you think?”
“Let’s get out of here,” Tristan yelled.
Mark nodded and Tristan turned and began to push his way back through the crowd that seemed to have grown behind them. With Mark’s help he pushed back out into the cool winter night, past the smokers and down the steps to the sidewalk. Tristan suck a finger in his ear and wiggled it around to try and get his ears to return to normal. Mark moved to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Not your thing?”
“It was so loud,” Tristan said.
“Come on,” Mark replied.
They walked from the apartments to the dorms and Mark pointed out that was where most Freshman lived then they made their way to the campus of brick and stone buildings, connected by concrete and brick paths, lined with trimmed trees and landscaped bushes. It was supposed to look natural but it still felt constructed, designed. They passed one building and Mark said it was gymnasium.
“Do they have a pool?”
“They do but the building is locked. And it has security, I know because I go there like everyday for training.”
“So no skinny dipping then?”
Mark turned to Tristan and laughed before looking away and quickening his pace. He called for Tristan to follow him and Tristan picked up his own speed past the sign that said Library. They entered easily and Mark led them down a hallway past the elevators and to a doorway marked stairwell.
“You can’t trust the elevators at night,” Mark said before he began to climb the steps two at a time.
Tristan tried to follow in the same way but found by the third floor he was falling behind so when Mark noticed he slowed and waited until Tristan caught up with him until the seventh floor, the top floor. Mark exited into the hallway and Tristan followed. They walked down the long hall to the other wing of the building.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise,” Mark said. “If it works.”
Mark stopped at another stairwell door but this one had a turn handle and was locked. Mark produced his student ID and easily picked the lock then opened the door. He ushered Tristan inside then gently let the door swing back into place stopping it short from closing. Tristan spotted the stairs up and the sign that said, roof access. He looked to Mark who smiled back then led the way. He got to the top of the stairs and picked another lock and opened the door. Tristan followed and stepped out onto the gravel covered roof top where he spotted two, upside down lawn chairs that had been left there for frequent visitors.
“People come here regularly?” he asked.
“Mostly smoke breaks,” Mark said. “I found all kinds of cigarette butts up here before.”
“Nice,” Tristan said.
“Let’s have a seat,” Mark said. He moved to the two chairs and turned them over.
“It’s the middle of winter,” Tristan said.
“Thank god for global warming because this is the mildest winter ever,” Mark replied.
“So they say.” He moved to one of the upturned chairs and sat. Mark did the same nearby. They were close enough to touch knees, hold hands but Tristan left his firmly in his pockets.
From their spot they could see the tops of trees, part of the night sky and only a few stars that weren’t blocked out by the campus lights.
“So do you bring lots of dates up here?” Tristan asked.
“You’re the first,” Mark replied.
And like that, somehow, their tension was broken between them, diffused. They were both no longer thinking about other things. They had pushed through a limit together, broken rules together.
“My date sucked,” Tristan said.
Mark let out a laugh then stopped himself.
“It was fine,” he said.
“No it wasn’t. It sucked. And not in a good way.”
Mark didn’t laugh and Tristan found himself searching for new words as his joke had gone down in flames.
“So how did you find out about this place?”
“I get restless sometimes and I used to hate sleeping in my old dorm room because it was a shared room. So I used to go out at night and just wonder around. I started finding things.”
“And picking locks,” Tristan added.
“Not to anything too private or sensitive, just locks for stairwells and things.”
“Right,” Tristan said. “So where are they hiding the UFO?”
Mark made a polite laugh then said he couldn’t tell.
“See my point,” Tristan said.
They sat in the darkness for a moment without speaking until Mark asked if he could hold Tristan’s hand.
“It’s cold,” Tristan said.
“It doesn’t matter, I can warm it up,” Mark replied.
“No, my hand is fine I mean the weather it’s cold out here,” Tristan said.
“Oh,” Mark said. “Do you want to go back inside?”
“In a little bit,” Tristan said. He stood and walked to the railing at the back of the building.
Down below he could see the empty lawn covered over mostly in shadow and snow which made the surface look strange as if it were a flat surface. He was surprised when he felt Mark move behind him. He thought about turning around but as Mark moved closer he welcomed the idea of what he thought might happen. He was still pleasantly surprised when he felt the reality of it, the pressure of Mark against his backside, arms around him.
“Is this okay?” Mark asked.
“Yes,” Tristan answered.
“Can I kiss you?”
Tristan turned his head to where he thought Mark’s mouth would meet him and it was there, somehow more warm than he had expected. Their tongues touched. His cheeks burned. He grabbed at Mark’s hands that grabbed at his own leather jacket. They kissed for a long time until their seemed no reasonable way out of their predicament and then Tristan pulled out of the embrace and turned on his new partner.
“What are we doing?”
“It seemed right,” Mark said.
“I know but--”
“--Don’t worry about it,” Mark interrupted, “no one comes up here.”
“That wasn’t what I was thinking. It’s cold. It’s winter.”
“Let’s go inside,” Mark said. “There are plenty of places.”
Tristan reached back for the railing. He felt as if he would collapse for a moment before a resurgence of strength. He was worried that someone would find them. He was worried they would get caught. But he was worried about something else. It felt like it could be the end of the world. Mark reached out and took his hand then pulled him from the railing and back to the door where he led them back inside down the stairs to the door out into the hallway but it was closed.
“Fuck,” Mark said.
“It closed on us?”
“Looks like it but I can pick it,” Mark said.
Tristan was suddenly worried about what or who they might find on the other side of that door so he turned Mark to him and moved to kiss him again. He was suddenly aware of their size difference, their body difference, and all in the fake, white light of the stairwell. But his body felt warmer, warmer but not entirely comfortable. He pulled back from Mark.
“I don’t want to go all the way,” he said. "Not on the second date."
“Okay,” Mark responded. “What’s ‘all the way’ mean to you?”
“You know,” he said.