We Went Everywhere Together

It’s true, with my job as restaurant critic for Food World magazine, we went everywhere together. With a mission to cover all fourteen states of the Eastern Seaboard, the last 12 months had seen Jürgen and I move around regularly.
Typically, while I developed an extensive directory of remarkable places to eat, he’d take up casual employment, in whichever conurbation we found ourselves in. I hadn’t heard him complain too much about it. Picking and choosing whatever took his fancy, almost any form of manual work suited him.
Apparent to even the casual observer, Jürgen has a little less height and weight in comparison to me. His toned, athletic physique is impressive. I make comparisons to a competition-winning, middle distance runner … and with the stamina to match. His many attributes are widely recognised by other people too, the kind of folk who need a job done. I’m not sure if he’s altogether aware of it, but he has a social magnetism, drawing people into him. For sure, when out together he’d often get hit on by men and women alike. After a period of adjustment, it became something I’d gotten used to.
I’d guess it’s fair to say Jürgen and I were opposites in many ways. My work tends to be a solitary endeavour. Before we met, most of my acquaintances were involved in projects closely related to my own. You get to recognise the characters, top-end restauranteurs and event organisers, wine merchants and the rich who never cook for themselves. Reasonable-minded people might say the connecting thread for these types is arrogance, plain and simple. Well, nevertheless, I don’t hate them for it, I feel comfortable in their company. In the past I’ve shared time with them all … and occasionally whole weekends.
Next to my New York background, sits a proud Sicilian ancestral heritage; I’m Roman Catholic. Ultimately, I believe in the judgment of God and not that of bigots. In Jürgen, while he holds an immense regard for the architecture, art and atmosphere of churches, I see not a glimmer of faith inside of him.
Politically, my sympathies point towards liberalism, while, as far as I can make out, he holds no truck with any idealogical wing. Jürgen describes himself as apolitical. A person seeking power, he once told me, disqualifies themselves from suitability to hold office, by definition. I see his point, but I am less cynical. Despite our differences, I felt compelled and excited by this man, more than anyone else I’d ever known before. Across the time spent together, I experienced growth and insight from a perspective hitherto unknown to me. It sure as hell hadn’t happened immediately, but gradually, I did indeed fall in love.

Whilst finishing off in Georgia, the penultimate state on the list, I received a call from James, lifestyle editor at the magazine. He’d been instrumental in my successful application as restaurant reviewer. Originally, I’d met him and his husband Todd, at a members-only spa in the Village district on the west side of Manhattan. Over time, the three of us established a friendship featuring regular meet-ups, convivial late nights … occasionally late morning sleep-ins.
Ross, he says, for your next assignment, how does sunny California sound?
It sounded good. I wondered how fast he wanted me there.
How about you speed your way through Florida and get your sweet ass over to Los Angeles by … let’s say … this time next week. I’ll book a table at La Providence for Saturday.
That fast.
No way could I turn him down. Lots of wonderful opportunities had opened up to me since meeting James. I hadn’t had so much fun in years, finding myself generously rewarded for travelling, writing and eating out in fancy restaurants. Looking back, I knew deep-down Jürgen wouldn’t want to go.
How am I going to get to California? he said. He disagreed with air travel, solely on environmental grounds. Well, when I’m finished in Florida, you catch a greyhound bus from Miami, I told him. By road or rail, factoring in stop-overs, that’s the best part of a week’s travel, just to get somewhere I don’t even want to go to, he’d said.
Ultimately, Jürgen caught a greyhound from Miami, but upon arrival at the first stop in Atlanta, from where we’d not long left, he carried on north via Little Rock and back to Omaha, Nebraska, his home state.
Over in LA, I had the time of my life. I loved the climate, the people, the restaurants, bars and cafés. Soon, I hooked up with contacts and made new friends. With their help, I discovered parts of the city tourists often miss, expanding Food World magazine’s directory for the city tenfold, over the course of just a few months.
Jürgen and I kept in touch. He’d found work, some happiness, alternating between Omaha and Gothenburg, a town just a few hours west on the interstate. One time, we met at a convention in San Francisco, six months after last seeing each other. Our lives had diverged, this much had become apparent. I came to recognise the differences between us extended to our entire outlook on life. Unable to understand each other’s point of view, felt like a blindness. Getting the time and distance between us, helped me understand this. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever miss him. Although, something that has just occurred to me, the asshole flew to San Francisco!

©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)

Double Reverse Mormon

“But…” Katie hesitated, what she’d just heard made no sense to her. “A double reverse Mormon thing situation.” Aware of the relative silence inside the public library, aside from the muffled sound of pages turned and throats cleared, she half whispered “What the fuck is that?”
“Well.” Maya glanced at Erik, seeking a signal he was happy for her to continue and explain. Erik returned a gentle smile, an eyebrow arched slightly.
“I hope it’s not what I’m thinking,” Katie said, noticing the non-verbal exchange, “because I can tell you straight off, I am not interested in, that.”
Disengaging himself from the conversation, Erik retrieved a large photo book from the low-level table they sat around, entitled ‘The Wonderful World of Volcanoes’ and began flicking through.
“Okay, let me explain.” Maya gauged the distance of library-users, measuring the volume of her voice to suit. “Erik you see, he grew up within a Mormon community near Gothenburg, Sweden.”
“I’m already not liking this.” Katie said.
“It’s not what you think,” Maya said patiently, “I’ve known Erik for a little over two years and I can tell you, he’s quite unique – at least in my experience of men.” Maya looked admiringly over to Erik again. “At age eighteen, upon rejecting his religion, he became initially persecuted – then completely ostracised by his family, friends – the whole community he’d grown up in; basically everyone he’d ever known.”
“No contact whatsoever?” Katie watched as Erik nonchalantly looked through the book held in his hands. Involuntary feelings of sympathy welled up inside her; he had a kind face, she thought.
“None.”
“Okay,” Katie had a question, “so, you and I have been getting on well since meeting at the book club three months ago. We share similar interests and there’s been more, too. After the last gig we went to, I felt sure we were heading somewhere. But, I didn’t know about Erik; you conveniently omitted to mention your involvement with him. Why was that?”
“Right okay, I’m sorry.” Maya inhaled deeply. “Look – you understand how relationships work within the Mormon faith, don’t you?”
“I know about the polygamy.”
“Yes, okay, well Erik’s take on this, now he’s outside of the faith – is he doesn’t mind if I have additional relationships, with women.” Maya paused, allowing time for the statement to be absorbed and understood.
“But not with other men?”
“Not with other men, correct.”
“And Erik has relationships with other women?”
“No, nor with anyone else. He is exclusive to me; this is his choice.”
“And,” Katie asked, “he has no ambition for involvement with you and I together?”
“None.”
“That is amazing.”
“Believe me, he is an amazing man.”
“Okay.” Katie’s gaze moved between Maya and Erik. “What if,” her voice adopting a speculative tone, “what if I was interested in Erik?”
“You can’t be.”
“I mean, as well as you – the three of us all together.”
“No, you can’t be.”
Erik slowly closed the book and returned it to the table.

Not Any More

From a series of short form fictions taking inspiration from collage.

I’d once loved Alec, but not now, not anymore. After six months together, I realised I felt nothing for him, no affection, no real attraction. I didn’t actively dislike him, but a feeling of complete emptiness had taken over. The situation had become undeniable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve drifted away and become less available to him. Soon, I realised I had more fun doing things without him – things I knew he had no interest in. A weekly contemporary dance class I discovered, soon became one such activity. I loved the idea of dancing, but hadn’t attended formal lessons ever before. On impulse, I signed up.

I’m not exactly an outgoing type of person; I prefer the environment of a library as opposed to a nightclub. And yet, since going to the dance class, I’ve felt inhibitions to fall away. One had to let this happen naturally, the teacher had told me. I was not to try to force it or be anything I wasn’t. Over time, he said, I would locate an open door, give myself permission to walk through, and dance.

Class exercises were designed to facilitate bonding. I can still recall the sense of trepidation when I fell backwards for the first time – and with my eyes closed, into the arms of my partner Mira. We were instructed to repeat; the predictability of simply falling backwards eventually gave way to a random, physical collapse. Each time Mira would catch me and from there, a dance routine evolved, set to music played on piano by the choreographer. We swapped roles back and forth. Our improvisation received encouragement, gained complexity, while remaining effortless.

You see, I’m not sure if I’ve described this adequately – but placed altogether, it was an incredible experience. To put it this way… that’s when I fell in love with Mira.