Alexandria Hotel, Los Angeles…2009
I am bored, this man bores me. Everything about him just bores me to tears. He’s taking the fun out of this. Well, almost. I needn’t waste any more time here, he’s not going anywhere. He’ll shave, shower, eat and sleep until 7 or 8 this evening. It’s his pattern, his boring, boring pattern. I suppose I could wait around and listen to him quiz Dr. Looney with his usual flare, rife with a boring amount of sexual innuendo and vulgar banter, the gutter snipe. Is he really attracted to that egghead? I think that he is. Ah well, no accounting for taste I suppose. He’s worse than a schoolboy crushing on his cute homeroom teacher, pathetic! I could stay put and hear it all from where I am perched. He has no idea who, what, or where I am, he has no inkling that he is being watched. Ah but isn’t that the way with everyone? Nobody wants to think they are that exposed, but they are. Someone is always watching, always.
I think maybe it would be more interesting to watch him from the other end of his call. Dr. Looney and I have yet to meet, formally that is. Perhaps this would be an opportune time? Now that would be a keen distraction, wouldn’t you agree? Women in general possess a heightened sense of awareness; it’s instinctive. She’d feel my presence even if she could not see me. Her sensitivity served my purpose, a woman’s fear is always more intense. Men have a keen fight or flight instinct. Women are deer in the headlights. Yes, I should visit Judy.
I really had no plans to do so, it would be so impulsive. Not like me, not like me at all. Still, I am strangely intrigued? Typically smart, driven females repulse me. They are overly assertive, out to prove themselves either equal to or superior to the males of the species. Pity, because in doing so the very essence of their femininity is sacrificed, and for what, to take on the worst characteristics of men? And intentionally change what was designed by the creator to be soft and beautiful into something hard and ugly. It’s a sad and unnatural transformation.
Christian Scripture reminds those that pay attention to such things that one cannot serve two masters. It’s true. Mankind has been missing that point ever since the garden in Eden. And the All Mighty has been punishing them throughout the ages ever since. They still don’t get it, fools. I suppose I could lend a hand in this instance, couldn’t I? Ah, but there’d be no sport in it. As females go Judy Looney is far from the worst of the lot. But Whitey is such a rube, and she is becoming a bit of a distraction. I need him to focus right about now and haven’t the patience for any detours. Judy’s served our purpose, we don’t need her anymore. It’s an opportunity to lend a hand to the man upstairs.
SHO-M-U-LYKE-M, Los Angeles…2009
It doesn’t rain very often in LA and when it does the populace goes positively bonkers. You’d think they had never seen water fall from the sky. Drivers can’t drive, buses are later than usual, traffic lights stop working, and everyone is dressed for a monsoon, ridiculous! That tended to make life miserable for Lu and Jai. As card carrying germ-a-phobes every time the door opened and a fresh batch of customers rushed in and shook off the cold their little pointed heads would nearly explode. Today was one of those days.
“OH, OH, please stop that,” Lu shouted, running over to assist his newest arrivals! He threw a fresh bath towel onto the floor at their feet and quickly handed another to each of the patrons.
“May I,” he added, taking their coats while they toweled off. He pointed at their shoes and then at the racks next to the door. They picked up on his message without a word spoken and stooped to remove their shoes placing them with the others.
“Thank you for your indulgence, we’re Asian after all,” Lu said smiling meekly.
“Not a problem Lu, it’s not our first time here,” replied the taller of the two.
“Of course, I should have recognized you,” said Lu, slightly embarrassed.
“YES you should have,” scolded Lu’s better half, as Jai joined him at the door.
“Thank you Mr. Mankowitz, forgive the mess, it’s the precipitation you see,” Jai explained.
“Yeah, well you think we can we get a seat and a nosh now fellas, or are we going stand here and gab through my dinner break?”
“Of course, of course, Armando, table seven,” Jai replied, summoning the nearest waiter to seat the two patrons. The small round employee arrived in nanoseconds and quickly ushered the pair to the empty table near the deli case. Mr. Mankowitz winked at Lu and Jai as he was seated and the owners waived and made their way back to the kitchen.
“Well, that went well,” Jai said sarcastically.
“Can we just leave it alone,” Lu begged, his tone tired and low?
“Oh Lu Lu, don’t be like that, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just saying that I’m glad that went as smoothly as it did, all things considered.”
“I see, well, do you think we should pick up their tab,” Lu asked?
“No, these guys are shitty tippers, all the girls say so. Besides, they don’t earn a freebie by making puddles on our Italian marble, I mean really!”
“You’re to cute sweetness, now I remember why I keep you around,” said Lu, hugging his partner as they got back down to business. Just then Armando peeked in the kitchen door.
“Should I comp these guys a couple of cocktails?”
“NO,” Jai and Lu replied together, giggling at the absurdity of the question!
“I’m taking a break,” Jai said, bussing Lu and heading for the door.
“You mean you’re taking a nap,” Lu replied.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean, I’ve earned it,” Jai whined as he exited the kitchen.
Jai walked quickly through the dining room and past the bar to take the private lift up to the apartment upstairs. He accepted the glass of Chardonnay from William the bartender as he past by and entered the small elevator. Smiling at nobody in particular he sipped on his wine as the doors closed. His cell phone rang as if on cue. Jai fancied Mozart’s fleur de le it was his signature ringtone for the week, which he religiously changed every Sunday before bedtime. He waited a moment to answer, enjoying each note before the bridge.
“Cello,” he said coyly, pretending not to know who was on the other end.
“Don’t toy with me you beast! As much as I enjoy the heavy breathing I prefer it face to face lover,” Jai continued, scolding the mystery caller. The elevator stopped and the doors opened just as the expression on his face changed. The blood had suddenly drained from his face and he was even paler than normal, which was saying a lot because Jai Lai was famously nocturnal. Whatever had been said had brought on a serious mood change. Jai exited hurriedly, jogging across the all white carpet in his stocking feet and sat uncomfortably on a pristine white sofa. He sat down gingerly as if he were sitting on rice paper. His reflection in the large bay window stared back at him accusingly.
The city began the day to night transformation as the sun set quickly. Dusk became evening and the silence in the empty apartment seemed eerily familiar. Jai made no sound. He was clearly agitated. He listened for a long time, speechless, never uttering a response. He sat as if made of stone and stared down his own reflection, never blinking, not once, it was unnatural.
“You’re lying,” Jai said finally, tears dropping from his eyes. His voice began to quaver and was reduced to a harsh whisper. Sniffling audibly he continued.
“Why are you doing this? I don’t believe you, I won’t,” he whimpered, licking at his lips, tasting the salt from his tears. The voice on the phone was gone, the line disconnected. Still Jai held the device to his ear as if whoever was speaking would start again at any moment. Several minutes passed, long enough for the tears to dry, leaving snail trails down both cheeks.
The sun set had gone unnoticed and the large apartment had become dark and silent. Jai set the cell down on the end table beside him without flipping the phone closed. He stared at if for a moment then pushed the number one on the keypad. It was Lu’s cell phone number on speed dial. Rising from the sofa Jai walked over to the window slowly, while Lu’s phone rang faintly in the background.
“Hello? Peaches, is that you,” squawked Lu’s voice over the speakerphone? No reply.
“Come on Jai, don’t play games it’s really busy down here!” Still, no reply?
“Oh for the love of Pete, I’m coming right up,” Lu said annoyed. He removed his apron and walked out of the kitchen toward the lift, his cell phone still pressed to his ear. Lu was pissed, he hated when Jai got moody like this, as if he didn’t have enough to deal with on a busy, rainy day! The elevator doors closed and Lu started the slow climb to their 21st floor apartment. Still no sounds on his phone save the eerie static of silence.
“Jai, Jai,” he called, not exactly shouting but darn close!
The doors opened as he arrived home and Lu exited in a huff. He passed through the foyer and then quickly crossed the living room to the sofa. He called out to Jai and heard himself over the speakerphone on Jai’s open cell resting on the end table table.
“Honestly,” he sighed. He ended the call by closing both cell phones. He scanned the dark room, which was dimly lit by the glare from the city lights streaming through the large bay window. He couldn’t see well and squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dark. He didn’t hear anything either except for his own movements. The refrigerator motor switched on suddenly and startled him. Lu recoiled abruptly and fell back onto the sofa, seating himself unintentionally. He clutched at his chest for a second composing himself and took a deep cleansing breath. He closed his eyes as he exhaled and then opened them slowly.
“This is so silly,” he muttered tiredly, scooting forward on the sofa to stand up.
“I don’t have the time or patience for your nonsense tonight Jai Lai. I’m going back to work. You know where to find me when you’re through brooding,” he shouted as he stood.
Lu walked back to the elevator without looking for his partner any further. What was the point? Jai was just setting him up for yet another bickering session. Lu hated those tiffs. Truth be told so did Jai, as he admitted time and time again. “I can’t help myself, it’s the way I was raised,” he would say as soon as the storm passed and it was time to make up. Lu tried to understand, he really did, because at the end of the day he genuinely loved his partner with all of his heart. But it’s true what they say about expecting leopards to change their spots, it’s not fair to expect the impossible. But behavior isn’t rigid, it’s fluid, and while people are what they are, changes are possible if they come from within. However, they can’t be coaxed or demanded.
Unconditional love is a rare and precious gift but always comes at a cost, and always to the one who gives. Lu had realized all of that some time ago yet was still learning to take the high road. He wanted to give the man he loved the freedom to be himself. I admired that, sort of, but I’ll never understand it. I’m too selfish to grasp the concept of unconditional love.
The elevator doors had started to close when the shot rang out, made louder by the complete absence of noise in the seemingly deserted apartment…BAM! Lu stuck out his hand to keep the doors from closing. The brushed aluminum panels hesitated and then reversed direction, allowing him the opportunity to squeeze past. He walked rather than ran toward the ringing sound of the explosion. Strangely, he felt calm even though his mind was racing through a litany of possible scenarios. He entered the hall and made his way to his bedroom. He could smell the cordite as it wafted toward him. The odor was caustic and made his nostrils flare. His skin became cold and he could feel the goose bumps forming on his bare arms. At the end of the long hallway, Lu entered the room that he and Jai had shared for so many years. It was where they loved, where they fought, and where they were a couple, in and out of like with one another but forever in love. He stopped at the foot of the bed and stared down at the lifeless form of his life partner.
Jai lay motionless, his open eyes staring up at the ceiling, a gaping hole where the muzzle blast had torn off most of his hairpiece (a little secret he had guarded closely in life). The weapon, still in his right hand, lay partially tucked beneath him at the small of his back. His legs were crossed the way they were when he worked the crossword on Sunday mornings. He didn’t look as dead as he was, well except for the blood maybe. Lu fought the urge to be angry at Jai’s selfish action. Then, he fought off the urge to cry. He settled on being comfortably numb and lay down beside his companion. On his side he studied Jai’s lifeless eyes and reached over to close them. He tried this several times but they would not stay closed. He wondered why? It always worked in the movies? He traced his index finger over the length of Jai’s form, beginning at his forehead and ending at the wrist of his right hand.
Lu touched the gun in his hand, it was still warm. A tear rolled down his face as he pulled the weapon from Jai’s hand. He held it and raised it high above the two of them, admiring the dullness of it. It was black and square like, with hard angles and it was lighter than he had imagined. It almost didn’t seem lethal at all, almost like a toy? He grasped it firmly and pointed it at the ceiling fan, counting the blades as they swung past the barrel. He gently laid it back down on Jai’s chest and wept softly. That was how I found them hours later when Marco called me from the restaurant. He was afraid to call the cops, and I could understand why. Romeo and Juliet were dead and for what? My job just became more than I bargained for.