By Melli Cat
“Come take me dancing,” Sammie asked of his lover.
“Aren’t we a little old for that?” Steve replied.
Sammie snorted at the implication. “We most certainly are not. Now, come on, go put on your dancing shoes. I want to go out.”
Steve rolled his eyes at his lover’s campy behavior. “Yes, dear.”
He smiled as he strode off to the bedroom to change. Sammie knew that Steve really did love him, and going out dancing at some club wasn’t so bad. Besides, it was just his role in the relationship, Steve was the stable one as opposed to Sammie, the impulsive one.
“I can’t believe we just paid thirty bucks to come here. I mean just to walk in the door. This club is so overrated,” Steve grumbled as Sammie pulled him through the maze of sweaty, shirtless men. The lights flashing to the beat of the music turning their skin blue, then red, then yellow.
“Oh, hush your mouth. Come out here and grind your body into mine,” Sammie chastised as he drew Steve out onto the dance floor. The club was in an old warehouse. Despite its size, it was packed.
They made their way through the crowd and began moving to the music. “Now isn’t this fun?” Sammie asked
Steve smiled as him, “Yeah, it is, I guess I forgot how much I love dancing with you.”
“And watching all the beautiful boys.”
“Boys being the operative word. Everyone is so young, I feel like a troll.”
Sammie shrugged. “Fuck ‘em.”
“Like I would get the chance,” Steve chuckled.
“Hey, we look damn good.”
Steve rolled his eyes and said, “For our age.”
Sammie smiled and shook his head.
They continued to move to the beat of the music, enjoying the feel of each other as they pressed their bodies together.
“I love you, Frog,” Steve whispered.
“I love you too, Toad,” Sammie replied.
Steve had given Sammie the nickname ‘Frog’ many years back. It came from the small collection of ceramic frogs Sammie had at the time. The collection was huge now, Steve buying Sammie another frog at every turn. In retaliation, Sammie had started calling Steve ‘Toad’. Both names had stuck.
Sammie was in love, too, like never before, so Steve’s words a few weeks later took him by surprise.
“There isn’t any fervor between us anymore.”
It was Saturday. Sammie and Steve had spent the afternoon watching a DVD they had rented. The movie had ended and Sammie reached for the remote when Steve said it.
“There isn’t any fervor between us anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” Sammie sounded almost annoyed.
“Us. I am talking about us. There’s no passion, no flame, no heat.”
“Of course there is.” Sammie sat up on the sofa , and looked over at Steve sitting in the recliner.
“Not like there used to be.”
“Well, of course not. We’ve been a couple for six years now, and living together, sleeping in the same bed for almost five. It’s only natural that the passion will wane a bit.”
“Is it? Because I really miss that. I miss the tingly feeling in the pit of my stomach when I meet someone new. The mystery of getting to know them, of discovering their likes and dislikes, the intrigue of it all.”
Sammie stared back with his mouth hanging open. Where had that come from? He had no idea that Steve felt that way. “Steve,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry Sammie. I keep telling myself this is just a phase, a mood and it will pass, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”
“How long have you felt like this?”
“I don’t know, I guess I can’t tell you when it began, but I feel lost.”
They met six years ago at a circuit party in Montreal, at the time not realizing they were both from the St. Louis area. Sammie lived in the city and worked as a software engineer; Steve lived in Hillsdale, a suburb and was a counselor for troubled teens. They were both twenty-eight then. Neither of them had been big into the circuit party scene, maybe that was what attracted them to each other that night, the fact that neither of them fit in that big warehouse full of sweaty men.
Oh, they looked the part: lean, muscular bodies, well-coifed hair, and tight jeans with their shirts off, showing their shaved chests. Sammie and Steve looked like any other circuit boys, but somehow their hearts weren’t in it. They both felt that there was something more then all the meaningless sex and mind altering drugs.
“Hey,” Steve had said that night, walking up to Sammie.
“Hey yourself,” had been Sammie’s reply.
Sammie had snorted, “I don’t know why I agreed to come here. My friends told me I would have the time of my life, but so far…”
Steve smiled at him, “Want to go get some coffee?”
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
They left the party and spent hours sitting in an all night diner sipping coffee and trading stories of growing up in St. Louis. They exchanged phone numbers when they parted and promised to get in touch with one another when they got home.
****** ****** *****
“So just what am I to do with this information?” Sammie asked sitting on the sofa, stunned at Steve’s words.
“I don’t know. Shit. I’m sorry Sammie, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.” Steve rose from his chair and picked up his jacket. “I’m going for a walk.”
Sammie was still sitting on the sofa when Steve walked back in. He walked up behind Sammie and put his arms around him, pulling him back against his body. “I am so sorry Frog, we’ll get through this.”
Sammie leaned back into Steve’s embrace and nodded his head as the tears began to run down his face.
Sunday afternoon they had plans to have brunch with their friends, Lisa and Terri.
"You still want to go?" Sammie was standing in the doorway watching as Steve stood in front of the bathroom mirror shaving slowly and methodically.
"To brunch with the girls?" Steve turned to him, "Of course. Don't you?"
Sammie shrugged, "I'm not sure I'm up to it." He had that little boy pout that always melted Steve's heart.
"Oh, Frog. It'll be okay. Come on, a brunch with the girls is just what you need to lighten your mood."
Sammie wanted to point out that his mood wouldn't need to be lightened if not for Steve's revelation the day before, but not wanting to fight, he held his words.
By the time they arrived at Lisa's apartment, Sammie had managed to pull himself together enough to get through the visit. He refused to be a storm cloud no matter how much Steve's words had rained on his parade.
"There you two are." Terri answered the door to their apartment and pulled each man into a hug. "Lisa is setting the table. Come on in."
They followed her into the dinning room.
"You guys hungry?" Lisa asked as they walked in. She was setting the plates on a table that held a platter of pancakes, a bowl of scrambled eggs, another platter full of bacon strips and a huge basket of fresh fruit.
"Mmm, it smells good," Steve said as he sat down at the table.
"Look at all this food," Sammie exclaimed. "Who else did you invite over to eat this?"
"No one," Lisa said as she smacked Sammie on the shoulder. "It wouldn't hurt either of you to gain a pound or two."
"As if," Steve snorted.
The four friends sat down to their meal and fell into an easy banter. They discussed their jobs, their hobbies, movies they had recently seen, and troubles with their families.
Sammie and Lisa had been friends since they first met back in college. They had remained friends throughout numerous relationships and ups and downs for both of them. Lisa had finally found her soul mate in Terri.
After the dishes had been cleared and loaded into the dishwasher, Steve and Terri went out to the deck for a smoke. Lisa and Sammie carried their coffee into the living room to relax.
"What's going on, Sammie?" Lisa asked now that they were alone.
"Going on? What do you mean?" Sammie tried to play it off.
"You know damn well what I am talking about. You never could fool me. Are you and Steve having trouble?"
Sammie frowned and hesitated a moment before answering, "It seems we no longer have any heat in the bedroom." He said it low, almost a whisper, as if saying the words out loud might make them truer.
"What does that mean?" Lisa snickered.
"How am I supposed to know? Steve said we no longer have any passion, that he misses the spark of being with someone new."
"He said that? That shit."
Sammie sighed and shrugged, "What am I to do? I'm afraid he is going to ask me to open up the relationship."
"How do you feel about that?" she asked.
"You know how I feel. I think that it’s just an excuse. I think it means 'I really want to break up, I just don't have the balls to break your heart, so I'll make you hate me instead.'” He paused then added, “I have never known anyone that had an open relationship that worked. But what if he asks me? If I tell him ‘no’ he might leave."
"If you tell him ‘yes’ you'll be miserable."
“It seems either way, one of us will be. God, I remember when Steve asked me to move in with him. He was so romantic, he took me out to dinner, wined and dined me, then he took me to his little hole in the wall apartment and told me he never wanted to share his bed, his life with anyone else.” Sammie grinned as he retold the story. “Of course, I insisted we get an apartment together. There was no way I was going to move into that shit hole. I loved the man, but I still had my standards.”
Sammie and Lisa sat in silence. Lisa watched, as Sammie seemed lost in his thoughts.
"What if they're right?" he asked.
Lisa furrowed her brow, "Who?"
Sammie shrugged, "I don't know, Society? The Powers That Be? I think our greatest fear is that we really are freaks of nature. That we can never really find true love."
"That is utter bullshit, Sammie, and you know it." She saw the fear shine through in his eyes.
"I love him," Sammie whispered, trying to hold the tears at bay.
"And he loves you. This is just a bump in the road, just a seven year itch."
He smiled, "We've only been together five."
"So, it’s a couple years early."
"I'm scared." He turned serious again.
"I know, but you’ll get through this." She reached over and ran her hand down his arm.
On the way home Sammie approached Steve with what he thought was a solid plan. "Why don't we take a little trip this weekend? Maybe go to a cozy little bed and breakfast?"
"I thought maybe we could spice things up."
"By fucking in a different bed? You think we can fix all this that easily?"
"Apparently not." Sammie slumped silently in his seat.
The next week they both went through the motions. They came home from work, shared a meal, and watched some television before going off to bed. Their conversations stayed light, both afraid to speak of the elephant in the room. Sammie reached out to Steve the first couple of nights, but when Steve only pulled away, Sammie gave up.
He could remember not all that long ago when Steve would reach out to him in his sleep, curling up to Sammie while murmuring in his dreams. Now Steve slept with his back to Sammie. Now Sammie was the one reaching out for contact.
Looking back, he should have known when he got the flat tire on the way to work. He should have known that it was only a terrible start to a terrible day.
Sammie was half way to the office when he felt his steering wheel pull hard to the left. He pulled off the road as soon as traffic would allow. Getting out to survey the damage, he wasn’t surprised to see the tire flat all the way to the rim. He opened the trunk and began taking out the jack and spare tire.
By the time he got the tire changed he was late to work. He walked in and saw a note from his boss lying on his desk. It read simply, 'See me.'
He spent the remainder of the morning getting his butt chewed over missing a deadline on a software prototype. When he was finally at his desk and ready to work on his current project, he was told that the project had been transferred to a different department for more study before the developers could go any further. If he hadn't been working on this project he wouldn't have been late on the other. Some days he just couldn't catch a break. To top things off, Jarred, another software engineer, had called in sick. Sammie was counting on his help to finish yet another project due the next week. Now he was in danger of missing that deadline too.
By the time he got home that night Sammie was ready to forget his for shit day. He walked in the door and expected to hear Steve in the kitchen. He had stayed late to make up for coming in late that morning so Steve should have gotten home almost an hour before.
"Toad?" he looked in the kitchen. The breakfast dishes from that morning sat untouched in the sink.
"Steve?" He next looked in the bathroom, thinking maybe Steve had decided to take a shower when he got home.
"Steve? Where are you?" He hadn't noticed whether Steve’s car was in its parking space. He had been so tired and beat when he pulled his car in that he hadn't paid attention to the spot where the other car normally sat.
Sammie walked into their bedroom and saw the closet door standing ajar. He had a sinking feeling as he walked over and looked in. Hanging in the closet were all of Sammie's clothes and none of Steve's. Sammie went over to the dresser and began opening drawers. The drawers on the right side were empty. Finally, he saw the note on his pillow. Picking it up he mouthed the words as he read them, 'I'm sorry, Frog. I'll call you in a few days. Love, Toad.'
Sammie sat on the bed, the note still in his hands as he cried.
The next morning, Sammie called in sick to work, to hell with any deadlines, He went back to bed and pulled the covers up over his head. He stayed that way most of the day, thinking about the time not long after they had moved in together when they both had called in sick. Steve had been feeling a little under the weather, although nothing serious enough to warrant bed rest, but he had somehow convinced Sammie they should both call in and spend the rest of the day in bed. Intensive sexual healing was how Steve had referred to it, his days of listening to Marvin Gaye showing through. It always had been one of their favorite songs.
The day after that he called in again, but this time he did take a shower before crawling back into bed. He supposed that was progress, not that he would admit to caring one way or the other if he made any progress.
At noon he heard Lisa at his front door. "Hello? Sammie?" she shouted as she let herself into the apartment. "I called your office, they said you were home sick." He opened his eyes to see her standing in the doorway of his bedroom. "Sammie?"
"You okay?" She walked over and sat beside him on the bed. Reaching up she felt his forehead, checking for a fever.
"Steve left," Sammie said, then hearing his own words he moaned and pulled the covers back over his head.
"Oh, Sammie." She frowned and pulled the blanket back down so that she could stroke his hair. . Sammie was glad she was there, they had been through this before, sometimes his heartbreak, sometimes hers.
"What am I going to do?" he whispered.
"You are going to go on." She leaned down and placed a kiss on his forehead.
He moaned, "I am swearing off love, never again."
"Yeah, yeah. Been there, done that. Doesn't work." They were quiet for a few minutes, then she asked, "What did he say?"
Sammie reached over to the nightstand and handed Lisa the note.
"That is it?" she exclaimed. "This is all he had to say?"
"It says he’ll call. Maybe I'll get some answers then."
"Is that what you're doing? Waiting for him to call?"
He shrugged, "Maybe a little, mostly I am just feeling sorry for myself."
"Well, enough of that. Get up. I'm going to go fix us some lunch."
Lisa had managed to clear her schedule that afternoon and spent the time drawing Sammie back out of his shell. They sat on the sofa and ate ice cream while watching one of Sammie's favorite movies. They talked and cried and laughed. By the time Lisa went home, Sammie was feeling a little better, like maybe this wouldn't be the end of the world.
Then he got the phone call from Steve.
"Where are you?" Sammie asked.
"I'd really rather not say, but I am alone. I didn't leave you for someone else. I want you to know that," Steve tried to explain.
"Then why did you leave? I don't understand, Toad." All Sammie wanted to do was to beg Steve to come home, but he knew that would never work.
"I have to find me, my place in all this. My path in life."
"Why can't your path be with me?"
"It may very well be, Frog. That’s what I have to find out," Steve said.
"Oh, Steve. I don't like this. You belong here. Please." Sammie stopped. He promised himself he would not beg.
"Sammie, I'm sorry. Give me some time. Let me work this through."
"Please, at least tell me where you are," Sammie asked again.
"I will, but not yet. It would be too easy for you to come over here and too easy for me to give into you."
Sammie pouted, "And what would be so bad about that?"
"Please, Sammie, give me some time. Okay?"
Sammie sighed and gave up the fight, "Yeah, whatever you want."
"I love you. I know you don't believe that, but I do," Steve said softly.
"Whatever." He knew Steve meant those words to be healing, but right now, they only angered him.
"I'll call you again in a few days, Frog. Goodbye."
Sammie hung up the phone and cried.
© Melina Catts 2005