The Trip Home
by Maxine Mayer 8/14/99
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We become more and more - moody - as we approach the time when our road trip will be over and we will need to return to our jobs and our roles as officers of the law.
It isn't happening all at once, of course, but in increments I can measure by the number of occasions in the course of a day that Ray "loses it" with me, and the number of times I "correct" him for no reason.
The frequency of these behaviors increases daily. We have no control over it, I am dismayed to learn. No control at all.
Because the moment of truth is upon us, and we both know that.
Our nights remain delightful, though.
We no sooner arrive in a motel room before we're pawing at each other in a manner similar to starved wolves falling upon juicy bones.
I cannot get enough of him. I taste him, bite him, chew on him, lick him. Consume him, to whatever extent possible, short of actually slicing off slivers of his flesh and swallowing them. I swallow what I can, as often as possible - saliva, sweat, body secretions - much to Ray's amusement and occasional disgust. I cannot help myself. I need him, desire him, in a way I've experienced with no one else since my first male lover - or should I say, my only other male lover. No one since has captured my heart and body as Victoria and Ray have done.
Truth to tell, no one - ever - has captured my body as Ray has.
No one, not even Victoria….
Truth to tell….
But not something I care to tell Raymond Kowalski….
There's little point in making things more difficult than they inevitably will be….
We are three days out of Chicago when Ray finally verbalizes his speculations concerning our future and I am forced to "shoot him down."
"So, Frase, whaddaya think?" he asks over coffee after supper in yet another diner on the road. Dief's ears perk up, as do mine. This is it - Ray has come to the point.
I reaffirm in my heart and mind my determination to be strong….
"About what, Ray?" I ask mildly, carefully setting my coffee cup on its saucer and moving both our cups off to the side, to prevent spilling. Ray has a tendency to emphasize his displeasure with hand motions. Surreptitiously, I move our water glasses as well.
"About - us, 'course, ya idiot!" he exclaims in the manner he uses to tease me. He is as yet unaware of my stance concerning our future. Therefore, he continues to assume we'll see eye to eye.
"I'm not sure I know what you mean, Ray."
"Us - us, Frase. When we get back to Chicago."
"Ah…. " I reply, aware that this will madden him.
"Ah? Okay - ah. Ah, what, Benton-buddy? Don't go makin' like ya ain't been thinkin' about it - how we'll handle things when we get back."
"No. I have - thought about it."
"So - whaddidya come up with?" He grins. "Ya wanna move inta my place, or just trash it and get some place new together? Cleanin' my pad's probably beyond even you, right?"
And as if his suggestion is one I hadn't thought about, I frown and ask, "You wish to share an apartment with me, Ray?"
"Well - duh! Yeah, 'course I do, Fraser! What, you were thinkin' we'd be goin' to a motel every time we wanna get it on?" He hunches closer to me across the table and grins again. "I can't afford that on a cop's salary - can you?"
I'm forced to speak sooner than I wish. I have no choice.
"Ray, we cannot live together -"
Immediately he interrupts me, angry. "Why not, Fraser?"
"It's simply not done. Two men our age who are unrelated by blood don't share quarters unless they're -"
"Unless they're what? In love? Crazy for each other? Can't keep their hands offa each other? What?"
"Yes, Ray, unless they're all of those things. Unless they are lovers," I conclude calmly.
"Well, we are lovers, Frase - so what's the problem?" Ray settles back in his seat, his beautiful hands toying with a knife, confident that the question is settled for all time.
"But we cannot be - not in Chicago, Ray," I say patiently.
His eyes widen and his face - I cannot look at his face. I drop my eyes. Such pain -
I've had time to think about this. I am prepared. Ray is not.
His shock is awful. His pain is - alarming.
I expected - I don't know what I expected. A modicum of common sense, objectivity, perhaps. A sense of self-preservation, maybe.
Why had I expected that from Ray? What was I thinking?
He doesn't say a word for some time. Finally, he mutters, "So - this is it, then? Slam, bam, thank you, m'am?"
"No, I wanna know," he says intensely. "This is it? We gonna be 'partners,' again - good buddies? Go back to the way we were doin' it before? Like nothin's happened?"
"Ray - you must understand -"
"No. I don' must anything, Fraser. I don' understand! Explain it ta me."
In a way, what Ray is saying is extraordinarily, deeply gratifying.
On a personal level, it's wonderful to discover that he - cares for me enough to fight for what he wants, to fight for us.
And from the point of view of Ray's heart and soul, I am happy to learn he's sufficiently confident about what we've shared to trust it - trust his assessment of our relationship - despite my denial.
He says we love each other. He does not question that. Is willing to fight for that. I cannot help but be - thrilled to the depths of my soul by his conviction and his - courage….
Nevertheless, I must follow my own heart and mind, fight for what I know is right for both of us.
I must match his courage with my own.
"Ray, we are officers of the law, champions of justice -"
"So what," he retorts flatly.
"So - we cannot afford even the appearance of - impropriety. Or the scandal, should someone discover us together."
"Hey, Earth to Fraser! This is the twentieth century, ya know!"
"Not in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not in the Chicago police department. Not for your family. Not in the media. Not for us."
"We cannot live together, nor can we - visit motel rooms to satisfy our - lust."
"Our 'lust'? I love you, Fraser -"
"And I, you, Ray."
He tosses his head and his expression is one of disbelief, perhaps even - contempt. "Yeah, sure."
"I do. That is why I must insist that we return to our former relationship and behavior when we arrive in the city."
Words tumble out of his mouth - but they make no sense. They are simply Ray's desperate attempt to be logical, to convince me.
"We could live together, Frase," he pleads. "Nobody would care - it could be just for - I dunno - money reasons - two can live as cheap as one - like that."
When he sees I am adamant he searches for some other point he can make. He babbles, "Jim and Blair share a place - 'course, ya don't even know who they are. They're guys - they live together -" His voice trails off when he looks into my eyes.
I am taken aback. I stare at Ray. Finally, I recover my composure and my voice. "Jim and Blair are fictional characters in a television series, Ray -"
"So what? Jim and Blair are cops - well, Jim is. They're two guys, older guys - okay, Blair's not so old, but Jim's older than us. They live together. Nobody says nothin' about it, on the show. That series goes out all over the world - and nobody says nothin' about it -"
"Ray, the characters say something about it -"
"Have you noticed their behavior towards one another?"
"Yeah, they make like they're just friends -"
"No, Ray. They do not. They quarrel all the time. And any time it would be natural for two men who care for one another as they so obviously do to fall into one another's arms, Jim becomes - nasty - and Blair becomes - vulgar."
"That doesn't mean a thing, Frase - we fight, too, sometimes -"
"Ray, those fictional characters resort to casual sexual liaisons with any female who crosses their path. Simply to cover their love for one another. The premise of the show is that their special relationship - their closeness, if you will - is grounded in Jim's extraordinary heightened senses, his Sentinel abilities. And that Blair is connected to Jim in a mystical way, that he is Jim's Guide, his Shaman -"
"I cannot believe ya watch 'The Sentinel,' Frase," he puts in. "I can't believe ya watch TV at all!"
"Ray Vecchio's mother was very fond of that show - I think, because it's a 'cop show.' Although even she found the incessant bickering and - immorality - unsettling. She was always wondering why the two 'boys' couldn't get along when anyone could see they loved each other."
"Ma Vecchio said that?" he asks with a grin.
"She meant nothing - sexual - by it, Ray."
"I know dat. Get back to yer point, Frase."
"That is my point, Ray. The producers and writers were at great pains to disguise the romance -"
"Ya mean, the sex -"
"Very well. They disguised the sexuality in Jim and Blair's relationship in any way they could. With harsh words and ugly actions, the two men repudiated their - connection - periodically. In the early seasons, infrequently. But as the undercurrent grew more - obvious - so did the efforts to cover it up -"
"I'm all over that but -"
"But nothing, Ray. Two heterosexual men don't love each other, or live in each other's pockets in the manner Jim and Blair do, simply because they are police officers and partners. That show, in particular, invented a scenario where these two specific men chose to love one another in an all-consuming fashion - despite their essential heterosexuality. When the fact is, no one chooses his sexual orientation. They simply choose either to hide their bisexuality - or repress it. They don't discover it at the age of thirty-five, with one special person. That's just - silly, Ray."
"An' you know this - how, Fraser?"
"I know this because I've lived on intimate terms with a truly heterosexual man."
He shakes his head. He lifts his hands, then drops them again - an expression of defeat.
"So - that's it, for us," he remarks, effortlessly skimming to the end of our conversation.
"Actually - yes," I reply, my heart plummeting when I realize he is correct.
It is the end for us. We will not be able to return to simple partnership or friendship.
I - I hadn't realized that.
No, that isn't true. I had realized it. Clearly, that was one of the main reasons I'd resisted "coming out" to Ray in the first place.
I was right to resist.
Because now I've lost everything. As has Ray.
We've lost the beautiful, joyful, fruitful working partnership we've shared. And although I'd hoped we could retain at least our friendship, I was mistaken. Cruelly so.
We will lose our friendship, as well.
Because friendship is so close to our meaning, our connection - so close….
If we try to hold on to our friendship we will fail. We will fall into the - love - again.
And everything we've lived for all our lives will be jeopardized or lost. Our jobs, our work. Everything.
I cannot do that to Ray Kowalski.
He has nothing but his work.
I cannot take it from him.
Nor can I risk the destruction of my own career, which has been my life for so long.
We cannot do this to each other.
Therefore, even our partnership and friendship must end. It must end.
I sigh. Then, I repeat my thoughts aloud, to Ray. "It must end, Ray. We must end. It's for the best, for both of us."
"Is it?" he asks earnestly.
I swallow. "You must trust me, Ray."
"I do trust ya, Fraser. I trust ya -"
"Then, you must trust me when I say, it is for the best. I promise you that."
"And this pain in my gut? That's good too, is it? That's 'for the best,' too, Fraser?"
"Yes. Yes, it is. Trust me."
He works his mouth a bit but doesn't look away. Simply stares into my eyes.
At last he replies. "Yeah, Frase, sure. Okay." He pats my hand once, then rises and moves out of the booth. "I trust ya. You say it's for the best, I'm all over that."
"Thank you, Ray."
"Yeah - thank you, too, Fraser."
I relax for a moment, relieved.
Ray has stopped fighting me. That is a very good thing, because it is so difficult to fight both him and my own heart….
It seems, however, that I've relaxed too soon.
Ray isn't quite finished telling me what he thinks of my decision.
He adds a few words, thereby managing to induce terror in my heart.
While snapping his fingers in my face to remind me that I'm carrying all our cash, he tells me, "Don' come cryin' ta me when ya find out yer wrong, Benton-buddy. 'Cause I'll kick ya in the head."
"Shut up now, will ya! Just - shut up."
"Get up." When I'm slow to move he grabs hold of my sleeve and pulls me out of the booth as if I were a criminal he's arresting.
What a fine sense of the fitness of things he has….
"Just - shut up, Fraser. I don' wanna hear anotha word outta you, get it?"
"Get goin' - go on, now." He pushes me toward the cash register. "Pay the bill. Me and Dief'll be in the car. Don' forget to leave a tip."
"All right, Ray."
"All right." He eyes me. I can't bear the look of - detachment and contempt on his face. "You bet it's all right. Don' make no nevermind to me, Fraser. Ya call 'em like ya see 'em. Who am I to say any differen' - ain't that the truth? So - whatever ya want, buddy-boy, it's fine wid me."
Sometimes Ray takes the short view. In certain situations.
For example, right now he's furious with me and with himself because he forced our conversation, which effectively cut short our affair.
We have three more days on the road. Two more nights we might have spent making love….
Now, we have nothing….
I sit in the car hour after hour, stiff as a block of wood, silent as the tomb.
Ray devotes all his concentration to driving. To getting us back to Chicago even more quickly than he got us away at the beginning of our trip.
On the second day, I cast about for something to do, to pass the time.
I ask, "Ray, would you like to hear some music? Perhaps one of your CD's? That album by Lhasa, for instance, would be soothing, don't you think? I particularly enjoy the song 'De Cara A La Pared." I've rarely heard such a lovely melody - one so haunting -"
"No. Not that one. Pick somethin' else, Fraser," he tells me.
Then he shakes his head and laughs.
"What is it, Ray?"
"Nothin', it's nothin'."
"Then why did you laugh?"
"Irony, I guess. That's my favorite album. An' my favorite song - to dance to. Stella and me usta play it all the time, when we were together."
"Do ya?" He glances at me. Snorts another little laugh. "Looks like I can't get away from love songs. That one's hauntin' me, all right. Funny you should like it, too."
"Music is the universal language, Ray," I reply thoughtfully. "Sometimes, when words fail us, music speaks what we feel in our hearts. Better than we could ever express it -" I stop abruptly.
He waits a full minute for the rest of it - he's accustomed to my longwinded explanations, interpretations and stories. Finally, he asks, "That's it?"
"Ya ain't gonna connect the dots for me?"
"What dots, Ray?" I ask.
"The ones between that song and what yer feelin' - or what ya think I'm feelin'."
"I - I have nothing more to say about the music, Ray."
He taps his ring on the steering wheel. "Right," he mutters darkly.
"I don' believe this!" he explodes. "Ya gonna just - throw us away like we're nothin' - like -" He runs a hand through his hair. "We're gonna go back to Chicago and back to square one, like the first day? Like we never met? Izzat what I can expect, Fraser?"
"I don't know what you mean, Ray."
"What I mean is, ya gonna take my fingerprints again? Measure my nose? Like we was strangers?"
"No, Ray, I won't do that."
"No? So, tell me, old friend, old buddy, what ya got in mind?"
"I - I won't be there, Ray. I can't -" I choke up, swallow.
"Whaddaya mean, ya won't be there? Where else wouldya be?"
I let out a sigh. "I'm putting in for a transfer as soon as we return to Chicago. If not to Canada, if my - offenses - are still remembered and my superiors continue to keep me in exile, I'll request a move to another Consulate in the States. Anywhere there's an opening. It doesn't matter where I go, which city. The only thing that matters is that it be soon. Very soon."
"Can't wait to get away from me, izzat it, buddy?"
"You know that isn't why, Ray. It will simply be - difficult - to live in Chicago and not see you. Not speak to you, be with you." I pause. "For me."
"For you? Ya think it'll be easy for me?"
"I don't know, Ray. You appear to be quite angry with me. I imagine you'll be happy to see the back of me now."
He laughs and I turn and stare at him. He's still looking forward, at the road. But he's shaking his head. "You are some piece of work, Fraser."
"Am I? Perhaps so."
"Ya really think I'm so mad at ya I don' ever wanna see ya again?"
"The thought has crossed my mind."
"What mind? I'm beginnin' to wonder if ya got a mind!"
"There's no need for you to insult me, Ray." I reply stiffly. "We'll be back in Chicago soon. Surely, we can be civil to one another for a few more hours -"
"Listen up, Fraser, 'cause I'm only gonna tell ya this once." He darts another glance in my direction and apparently is satisfied when he sees I've turned slightly so I'm looking at him. "This is what's gonna happen when we hit Chicago."
"We're gonna forget all about this road trip. Wipe it from our heads."
"That's not possible -"
"I said, we're gonna do it! We're gonna erase the whole thing. All of it. Like it never happened. Not the trip, not the talk, not the sex."
"I can't do that, Ray."
"You ain't listenin' ta me! Yer gonna do it, and I'm gonna do it."
"How?" I ask quietly.
"I dunno how. I just know - why."
"Why? Why should we attempt the impossible?"
"Because - because I don' wanna lose ya, Fraser. I don' care what ya think. If ya think we can't be partners anymore, can't be friends anymore. I never met anybody like you. Never had a friend like you. I'm not losin' ya, and that's it!"
"Ray, some things aren't meant to be -"
"Fraser, we were meant to be! If not - together - at least, partners, friends. That much, we were meant to be. Ya ain't takin' it away from us."
"Promise me ya won't put in for a transfer." When I'm silent, he repeats, "Promise, Frase."
"Very well, I promise."
"Good. I'm holdin' ya to it."
"But it won't work, you know. It's impossible. We can't erase the past, or forget it. We can't pretend what happened didn't happen. With the best will in the world, Ray, nobody can do that."
"Just - try - okay? Just 'cause I'm askin' ya to. Will ya do that much for me, Fraser?"
I take a deep breath. I can refuse him nothing. And he's asking for so little - simply to go back to where we were, what we were to each other.
What we seemed to be to each other….
He's asking for so little, and so much.
That I live the lie once more.
I close my eyes, hiding from the unbearable pain simply trying to look at him that way - without love - brings me.
How can I do that again - live the lie - when I've known such bliss? When I've lived the truth?
I don't know how.
I don't believe I can do it.
But I can't refuse to try.
"All right, Ray."
"You'll do it?" he asks anxiously, wanting to be sure we're "on the same page," so to speak.
"It's good, Fraser. You'll see. We'll make it work."
"Fraser, we done it before. We both knew there was - more - but we worked it like there was just the cop thing, the friends thing -"
"Yes, we did."
"We can do it again."
I nod. I don't trust myself to speak further.
I turn in my seat, facing forward, and watch the road for a while, fear and despair seeping from my heart until every inch of my body is drenched with those emotions. I feel so heavy, so burdened. I wonder if I'll ever be free again.
It crosses my mind that I may not even be able to work, feeling as I do.
I'm horrified at that thought. If I can't work…. It doesn't bear thinking about.
I'm silent for a long time, praying that my way will be made clear….
Finally, an idea emerges from the depths of my despair and I know what I must do so I can go on.
"What, Fraser?" he asks with a quick glance.
I take a deep breath. "A favor. I need a favor."
"Anything, Red. Whatcha need?"
"We - I - there's one more night. I can't live through another like the last one…. "
My words are scarcely out of my mouth when he tells me, "I'll ask for a double bed when we stop."
"Thank you, Ray."
"Don' mention it. It ain't as if I like sleeping alone, either."
"But it will make it harder, I know that, I'm aware -"
"Maybe not. But it don' matter. Harder, easier. Ain' gonna be easy, no matter what we do, Frase."
"No, Ray. It won't be easy."
"I'm not lookin' for easy. Just - do-able."
"Yes, Ray." My throat is so tight I can hardly speak. I know he sees the tears running down my cheeks. He won't mention them. Not now, not ever.
"Ya know I love ya, ya know dat, right?"
"Oh, I know, Ray."
"Then we're okay," he declares. I can hear the joy and certainty in his voice.
Perhaps his conviction and courage will fuel my own. It wouldn't be the first time.
I'll try not to "get moody" on him.
Ray has good instincts. Maybe he's right and I should trust him. Maybe we are "okay," after all.
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