Perfection Is Overrated
by Bradley Scott
Kyle opened the door, coming in out of the bitter cold night. He was shocked at how quickly winter had come. It felt like just the other day he was tanning on the beach with Ted, and telling him not to be such a baby when he moaned about the sand. The weather must have changed over the last two weeks without him noticing. He had spent most of that time indoors – coursework had kept him from having time to go outside, and Darren had kept him from wanting to.
A plump woman with bright red hair and a tie-dye dress shuffled up to him.
“Come inside, dear. Would you like a table?”
“Yes please. I’m meeting someone here.” She grabbed a couple of menu’s, and started leading him to a table in the far corner. But before that had gotten half-way, Kyle saw Darren stand up in table that was hidden behind a pillar when he first came in. “Oh, wait – there he is.”
“Oh.” She looked across at Darren. “Oh…” She repeated. She lead him towards Darren, and passed him a menu.
She looked between Kyle and Darren – who were looking at eachother and smiling.
“I’ll give you two a minute,” She mumered, and turned and patted Darren on the shoulder. “Call me if you need anything dear.”
She shuffled off speedily to the kitchen.
“Hey.” Kyle breathed. It’d been a whole week since he’d seen Darren. Not that long, but just having talked to him on the phone over the whole time, he forgot the effect that Darren soft, wavy, coppery hair and chocolate coloured eyes had on him. Kyle had the suddden thought that Darren seemed to match this place – since it was mostly covered in warm, earthy tones.
“I’ve had the worst week,” Kyle sighed. “But, surprisingly, the best day. Can we sit?”
“Sure. Here.” Darren led him over to the couch where he had sat. “You’re here early.”
“I am,” Kyle laughed. “As it turns out, Ted’s new girlfriend has a car, and they were coming past this way, so I didn’t have to catch a bus or walk or anything.”
“Cool… Wait, Ted has a girlfriend?… I thought he was…”
“Oh, he is.” Kyle chuckled. “Sorry. Wow, can’t believe I haven’t talked to you about that. He met this girl, and she tried putting the moves on him, and now they’re friends… it’s a complicated situation… made even more complicated by the fact that Ted slept with, and is now somehow dating, this girls younger brother, who’s still in highschool, and this boy apparently has a thing for some light bondage – which I found out when I got home today and found Ted handcuffed to his bed.”
“Yep.” Kyle bit his lip. “Do you see why I’m having the best day?”
“Yes, I kind of do. Wow, poor Ted.”
“Yeah… He yelled when he heard me coming home. He sounded very… annoyed. So I went through, and there he was, naked.”
“Naked?” Darren raised an eyebrow.
Kyle expression changed a bit.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that. Ted and I are like brothers.” Kyle gave him as stern a look as he could muster.
“I can be a little jealous though, can’t I?” Darren felt like sulking a bit.
“Just a little.” Kyle leaned and gave Darren quick peck on the cheek. “So… this cafe is cool. Can’t believe I’ve never been here before. How do you know about it?”
“I…” Darren shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I live near here. My apartements just down that road over there.” He pointed out the window at a row of stately, white aparement complexes.
“Oh… so you don’t just sleep on the streets when you’re not in my bed?” Kyle winked. “I was wondering about that.”
“Yes…” Darren smiled half-heartedly. “Well… I wanted to show it to you… if you don’t mind.”
“Sure. I’d love to see ‘it’.”
“Oh, shut up.” Darren picked up a little sugar packet of the coffee table and threw it at Kyle. “I’m being serious.”
“Hey, I’m just joking. I’d love to see your place. Should we go now?”
“I…don’t know. You should get a coffee or something first.” Darren looked unsure.
“I don’t mind. We can have coffee at your place, can’t we?”
“Um… I don’t know if I have fresh milk or coffee or anything.”
“We can buy some. There’s a little late night convenience store right on-“
“The corner, I know.” Darren smiled.
“Oh… right. Your neighborhood – my bad.” Kyle shrugged. “Okay, let’s go.”
Then plump lady was walking toward them with a tray carrying a chocolate croissant and a pot of coffee.
“Oh, hey Steph, can I get that to go?” Darren looked up at her. “And, can I get the bill.”
“Okay, dear. You sure there’s nothing else I could get you or your… friend here?” She smiled at Kyle.
“Hi, I’m Kyle.” Kyle stood up to shake her hand.
“I’m Stephanie. Everyone callse me Steph tho. It’s wonderful to meet you Kyle.”
“And it’s wonderful to meet you too, Steph, and to be in your lovely cafe. Here,” He pulled a few notes out of his pocket and gave them to her. “That’s for the bill. And the change is for you.”
“Oooh, thank you.” Steph pocketed the money, smiling. She turned to Darren.
“I like him.” She said behind her hand, in a loud stage whisper that Kyle, if not everyone in the whole cafe, could here. As if that wasn’t enough, she jerked her hear four times in Kyle’s direction.
Darren went red, but Kyle just winked at Steph as she went back to the kitchen to pack up the croissant.
“You realise you tipped her like… 500%… I only had 2 coffees and that croissant…”
“Ah yes, the croisant. All that chocolate’s gonna go straight to your hips, you know.” Kyle winked.
“Ha-ha. I deserve to eat whatever I want. I work out.”
“Yes you do.” Kyle cooed mockingly, and ran his finger down Darren chest. “My big, strong maaaaaan.”
Darren laughed, and grabbed Kyles finger, and dragged him to the counter. Steph came out with a small, neat cardboard box, and handed it to Darren.
“There you go, dear. And don’t be a stranger. Not again. It’s been far too long. Come back. Soon.”
“Don’t worry.” Kyle smiled at her. “We’ll be back tomorrow morning, for breakfast, if you’re open?”
“I’m always open, dearie.” She winked at Kyle, and giggled when he went back.
Kyle and Darren hurried through the cold to the grocer, and quickly got some coffee, some milk, some vodka and a couple of frozen pizza’s that Kyle insisted on for some reason. Kyle paid again, making Darren start to feel a bit self-conscious about money, and then they were out in the cold again, crossing the road, and walking along the pavement, next to the white apartments.
“Which one is yours? And how do you find you way when you’re drunk? They all look so…. identical.”
Darren laughed. “I’m unit 3D.”
“Right here.” Darren led Kyle down a little path, up two flights of stairs, and Kyle waited while Darren took his keys out of his pocket and opened the door. The lock seemed a little tight, but Darren eventually got the door open. Instead of going in though, he just stood there, with a look of apprehension on his face. Kyle thought it reminded him of the look on Ted’s face before walking into a crowded room. Darren looked like he was about to do something he really didn’t want to do.
Kyle took his hand.
“Are we going to go in?” He ventured tenatively.
Darren snapped his head around, shaken from his thoughts.
“Sure,” He sighed uneasily, “Yeah, come on…”
Still holding Kyle’s hand, he pullled him through the door and into a dark room. He turned and felt on the wall for a light switch, and turned it on.
“Wow!” Kyle gasped, looking around.
They were standing in a beautiful room that was part spacious living room and part sleek, modern kitchen. The furniture was all black leather and steel, and the whole place looked like it came out of one of those interior decorating magazines, with natural earthy colours. When he thought the cafe matched Darren’s colours, he had no idea that there was this. It was like the room version of Darren’s personality. Kyle thought about his apartment, which he had just sort of left the way it was, only updating things for utilitarian purposes – like a better TV, nicer shower and bath – that sort of thing.
This was what a gay guy’s place should look like, he thought as he wondered into the Kitchen and looking at the marble counter tops and polished wood cupboards. Kyle felt a slight sense of embarrasment. He tried to live up to the stereotype, proving that it was okay to act that way. But he had completely forgot about the whole interior decor part of the stereotype. He had the money and enough style – he’d just never thought of it before. He resolved to rennovate his apartment someday soon.
Kyle looked back at Darren. He was crouched over by the door, picking up a gigantic pile of mail that Kyle had stepped right over in the darkness. He stood up, and started sorting them into two piles. Kyle grabbed the packet of groceries and put them away, while Darren finished up. He turned and saw Darren in the kitchen, pulling out a big drawer that held the dustbin and throwing away what looked like half of the mail. He smiled at Kyle.
“Junk mail.” He looked back at the door and closed the drawer that was the dustbin. “Anyway, you want a drink?”
“Sure,” Kyle said. “Do you still have stuff? It seems like a while since you’ve been back.”
“Oh, sure. Milk goes off, but alcahol is forever.” He winked. Something about him seemed a bit strained, but Kyle just went with it. He gave a little chuckle.
“Here, I’ve actually still got plenty.” He was crouching by a bar fridge on the far wall, that Kyle hadn’t noticed. It was all black and sleek and modern looking too, and standing next to a polished darkwood cabinet . “What can I get you? Brandy and Coke? Beer? A Hunters? A Smirnoff?”
“Oooh, yes, that one. Smirnoff.” Kyle bounced up and took the bottle from Darren. He twisted off the cap and went to the kitchen to throw it away. He looked at the letters quickly when he opened the dustbin. They looked a bit too official to be junk mail, but he coulnd’t see them properly and Darren would notice if he pulled them out to look.
He walked back to Darren, who was pouring an amber liquid from a glass bottle into a glass with ice in it. Then he pulled out a can of coke and mixed it with whatever spirit he was using, which, Kyle thought, there was quite a lot of, for just one drink. He kept quiet though, and just sat down on the big, modern couch. Darren put away the bottle, and Kyle saw what it was.
“Bourbon and coke? That’s wierd.” It was a combination he’d never tried, at any rate. And he thought he’d gone through most of them.
Darren just shrugged, and smiled. He closed the fridge and came over to flop down on the couch next to Kyle.
They sat there for a little while, chatting about their week, talking about their workload. Kyle was doing his second year of an open Bachelor of Arts degree, and hadn’t decided on a major yet, although he was leaning towards drama. Darren was in his first year of engineering, but he’d taken a gap year, and he was only starting now. He had travelled the year before he started at the university, and then he decided to come home, and get the apartment and make it a nice place to stay.
“I got this place about three months before I started. I got a bursary from this company, and they were willing to pay an accomodation allowance, so my dad got an extension of his mortgage, and he’s officially “renting” this place out for me, so they’re basically helping me buy my own place. And before I started my dad came over and helped me do some tiling and put up shelving, and my mom helped me paint and pick out furniture and stuff… not together, of course, becuase they’re very happily divorced… and the further away I keep them from eachother, the happier they stay…”
The conversation sort of went that way. Kyle told Darren a little about his history, feeling a little bad and sometimes skipping over issues about money. He was beginning to get the impression that Darren, while not exactly poor, had worked and scrounged and pull together everything he had, whick made Kyle feel a bit like a shallow, spoilt brat. After a while, Darren got to his feet.
“Do you want another drink?” Darren walked over and opened the fridge, getting his bourbon and coke out, ready to pour.
Kyle shot a glance at his drink, which was still more than half full.
“Um, no thanks, I’m still good.”
“Okay then.” Darren poured his drink, and came to sit back down again.
He took a deep draught of his drink, and Kyle heard the ice clink on the bottom when Darren put it down, noticing that almost half was gone now. He turned to Kyle, as if steeling himself up for something.
“I…” He paused for a moment, as if he was reconsidering what he was about to say. But then he looked up again. “I need to tell you something…” He paused again, as if he’d just said something that sounded wrong. “Well, it’s not like that, or… maybe it is…” He shook his head. “I don’t know how to…”
“It’s okay.” Kyle grabbed his hand, even though he, himself, was worried by the serious expression on Darren’s face. “You can just say whatever it is.”
Darren didn’t looked too reassured. He looked like he was about to say something, then he shook his head. “I don’t know where to start..”
“Start at the beginning. It’s normally the best place.” Kyle urged.
Darren gave a dry laugh. Then he started again, and he seemed to be able to start talking now.
“I’m not sure I even know where the beginning is… so maybe it’s not. I’ll just start at the big thing. It’ll probably be easier to talk after that anyway.” He took a deep breath, steadying himself for what he was about to say. “Okay… there’s someone… there was someone… my boyfriend… ex-boyfriend, I suppose… I was living with somebody… here… and he… he… killed himself.”
Darren looked up at Kyle, breathing heavily, like he’d just done something physically exerting. Kyle tightened his grip on Darren’s hand.
“Tell me.” Kyle looked in Darren’s eyes, and shifted a little closer, putting one hand on Darren’s leg.
“Okay.” Darren said tenatively. He took a deep breath. “We met last year, before I started my course. I’d moved here early, because I just wanted to… I don’t know, get out of the house and into this new life. And the gay scene. There wasn’t much of it before, where I came from. And even then, my mother was so worried after I came out to her, that I held out a bit, and didn’t go for it as much as I should have… You know… I felt bad. She was doing her best to come to terms with it, and I didn’t want to push it and make her worry. Anyway, I talked to the LGBT group here, telling them I was joining next year, and they were nice enough to let me in early… I think it might be because the club secretary who I dealt with wanted to sleep with me…” Darren smiled, and Kyle chuckled, and gave his hand a squeeze.
“His name was Ian. I didn’t really like him. He was just…. to queeny and too wierd and… he had this annoying voice… Anyway. He was nice to me, I guess. The group gets kind of lazy around the end of the year, and there wasn’t anything going on where I could have met new people, so he invited me to movies with a bunch of his friends.” Darrenn stopped, “And that’s when I met Luke.”
Kyle shifted uncomfortably. The way Darren said this guy’s name made him a bit uncomfortable. Almost like there was competition. But Kyle pushed down his thoughts, and refocussed on what Darren was saying.
“At first I thought they were dating. They had this way of always draping themselves over eachother. They didn’t really kiss or anything… but you know, some guys don’t like doing that in public… but anyway, the way Ian looked at him all the time made me think there was something more there. Of course, for Ian, there probably was.” He grimaced. “Anyway, Luke was fucking gorgeous. He had this pale, pale skin and dark brown hair, and the effect was shocking. He looked like one of those twilight vampires. Just… not as sparkly. That first night I saw him, he was wearing plain white shirt and a leather jacket. He had this real bad boy thing going on, and it was hot. And of course, the fact that I thought he was in a relationship, for reasons that I’m not going to examine, made me even more attracted to him. I wanted him, in a way I’ve only wanted a few other guys. You being one of them.”
“Aww. Thanks.” Kyle gushed.
Darren smiled back weakly in return.
Before continuing his narrative, he took another swig of his drink. He put it down, and carried on.
“I exchanged numbers with everyone else in the group. There were three other guys, two of them straight, actually, and one who had said his boyfriend couldn’t come along, and two girls who were definitly lesbians. They were all great, and told me if they weren’t doing anything they’d show me around or take me out for lunch. I was very grateful, not having any friends of my own. I went out with the girls, Melanie and Claire, the second day after the movie night, to shop and have lunch, and that was pretty cool. And then one of the straight guys took me to the engineering building and showed me some of the projects, and that was cool. His name was Stephen. He was very cool. We actually had a lot in common. “
“Anyway, I’m getting off track – I just wanted to mention those people. Because they’re my friends now. But back to the main part – Just over a week after that movie night, Luke phoned me, and asked if he could take me for dinner and show me the student mall. I had already seen it, but I didn’t want to tell him that, so I just agreed and we made plans to meet the next night.”
“We went to a pizza place and then he showed me a bar there where you can play air hockey for free, as long as you want, if you put down a deposit, buy a drink and show them your student card.”
“Doodles” Kyle smiled.
“Yep. So we went there, and part way through the night, during a game of pool, he looked over at me and said something like. ‘I have a confession to make. I actually intended this to be a… date.’ I was so shocked. I think I stammered out something, asking him if he and Ian weren’t a couple. He just laughed, and said that they’d just been friends for a really long time, but that was it. I knew that wasn’t true – I’d had unreturned feelings for a guy before, and Ian was showing all the signs that I’d come to recognise in myself. But, at least, there was nothing from Luke’s side, which made me feel a mean sense of triumph.”
“When he was walking me home that night, I kissed him. I think I did it because he was cute, single and interested in me, and the combination of the three made me think that fate or destiny or whatever must have intended it. I’m not even sure how I felt about him then… I was too in awe of the situation, sort of… floating. And… It was my first time kissing anyone, and I was so nervous and excited… it felt really good. And he turned me into jelly. I had a raging hard-on by the time I got inside, and I jerked off fantasising about him about 3 times before I went to bed that night. About a week later, after a few more dates, I slept with him. Also my first time doing that with anyone. And I was pretty sure I was falling in love, or something like it.”
Kyle thought fondly of his first time kissing somebody, and fantasizing about sex with them. He was quite a bit younger – thirteen, actually. It was a guy from high-school, but much older – he was about seventeen at the time. The guy and his parents left town before they got any further than hand-jobs in the school bathroom, but it had changed Kyle completely. His old world had completely fallen away at that kiss. His first time having sex was different – it wasn’t nearly as romantic or exciting. He wished he coud have had it like Darren – have the first guy he kissed be the first guy he slept with and the first guy he fell in love with.
“Anyway, something happened with his residence application, and he was being put in this crappy res… can’t remember which one. But we had been ‘official’ for two months after that, and I just asked him to move in with me.”
“After two months?” Kyle was surprised. Kyle really liked Darren, but he’d have to know someone better before he made that sort of leap, moving in with someone. He’d even had his doubts about sharing a house with Ted, wondering if it would put a strain on their friendship, even though he had know Ted for years and their relationship wasn’t complicated by love and sex.
“Yes, I know, it probably wasn’t the best idea. Well, I knew it wasn’t, even at the time. And after a while of having him live here, I found out just how bad an idea it was.”
Darren took a deep breath again. Kyle realised this was probably another part of the story that was hard for him to tell.
“Luke kind of… had a dark side. And I don’t mean the bad boy thing… there was much more to it then that. He was bi-polar, actually. He didn’t talk about it much… when he was happy, he didn’t talk about it because it ruined his mood, and you couldn’t really talk to him about anything when he was depressed. And he got depressed every now and then. It wasn’t extremely often, and it wasn’t very regular, but… sometimes, every two weeks to a month he’d have a day when he just wouldn’t leave the house, and wouldn’t talk to anyone, and he’d just drink… it was bad. Plus, when I tried to help him out of it, he’d always be a real asshole to me. I considered leaving him after his fourth time doing it, and the times after that, but I’d always reconsider the next day, when he’d show up with a bunch of flowers, and cook dinner for me, and tell me how sorry he was… He was a great guy, when he wanted to be. And he never hit me or anything, which would have made me throw him out in a second.”
“Anyway, one weekend I had to go home. My grandfather – my dad’s father, that is, was busy dying after a bad stroke, and my dad was having a lot of troube with it, so I went to… I don’t know… See what I could do? It wasn’t much. I basically just helped my grandmother. She’s always been a bit crazy, but the whole things sort of made her even worse….”
“Things worked themselves out, eventually, and they were all doing a bit better… so, I decided to come back, and catch up on the lectures I’d missed… which weren’t many, because it was still the first semester of first year and I was getting into the swing of things.”
“I got home, and all the lights were off, which I found a bit wierd, because Luke didn’t really go out often at night. He usually only liked going out for movies or meals in the middle of the day, unless I forced him to go at night, and if he wanted to see friends, they usually came over because we always had food and we have a nice place, and a playstation and a nice TV.”
Kyle glanced over at the TV, which he hadn’t really noticed before, which made him feel like a spoilt rich kid again, because he and Ted had gone through three TV’s in a year and a half because Kyle kept wanting a newer one. It was a bravia, and almost as good as Kyle’s, and there was a PS3, standing on a little shelf underneath it.
“Anyway, I assumed Ian had dragged him out, siezing the chance, since I was out of town. I didn’t mind too much though. It’s not like I was prepaired to worry about Luke cheating on me with him… not that I’m that cocky about my looks, it’s just that… it was Ian… And it was Luke. It’d be like you and Ted hooking up. Actually, worse, because Ted is cute.”
“Hey, now I should be jealous.” Kyle huffed, jokingly. smiled, and remembered that time, long ago, when he had tried to hit on Ted.
Darren just shook his head, and carried on, as if stopping now would leave him unable to carry on.
“So I just decided to go for a shower and go straight to bed. I’d been driving for hours, and I was really tired. On my way, I noticed he’d left the bathroom light on. I remember rolling my eyes and feeling annoyed, and thinking of the power bill. Anyway, I marched in pulling off my shirt to get into the shower, and I bumped into something, and…”
Darren closed his eyes. Tears started trailing their way down his cheeks.
“It was him. He was just… hanging there, off the showe rail on the bath, hung by his tie… I remember falling to the ground, screaming… It wasn’t one of those things where the person sees the dead body and thinks they’re just sleeping and tries to wake them up… he definitely looked dead…” He wiped the tears away with his shirt, and straightened up, his face purposefully blank. “Actually, I don’t want to talk about that part…”
Kyle gripped his hand harder.
“Anyway…” Darren took a moment to gather his thoughts. “I… I called the ambulence as soon as I could make myself move, and they got him and the police came and asked me for a statement and… they took him away and Stephen and Claire came over and it was all a blur of people and activity. And then I woke up on Claire and Lisa’s couch, and I snuck home.” He looked around, as if seeing the place for the first time. “I… realised I couldn’t be here. It was just… too much. I managed to force myself into my room, and I just emptied all my clothes, into a bag. Grabbed all my coursework stuff. I basically just loaded everything I thought I might need into my car. Except for anything from the bathroom. I just sort of wrote that all off. And I had already had most of my main stuff in a bag anyway, from the trip to my dad. Then I just left… and I didn’t come back. Till now”
“Wow.” Kyle sighed, shocked at all he had just taken in. “Why did you come back?”
“Because I have you.” Darren smiled, then blushed. “And I know it’s silly, but you make me feel… better. I know we’re not majorly serious, and I don’t know if I’ll be with you forever or if you’re my soulmate or anything like that. But… you make me feel like I can face the place again.”
Kyle leaned in and kissed Darren on the lips. Not passionately, or lustily, like he was so used to doing. Just tenderly, and full of warmth. He felt he could have said that he loved Darren right now, if it was important. But he found that it wasn’t. Whatever he and Darren were, it was more about how it made them feel right now, than where it would go.
“I…” Darren smiled as Kyle pulled away. “I just… didn’t know what to feel. Luke was great, but it wasn’t perfect… It never is, I suppose. It was just so rushed, and messy… and the whole relationship was so…”
“Raw?” Kyle suggested.
“Yes. It was messy, and it was great, and I did things that I shouldn’t have. And then it just ended… like that. I didn’t know how to feel. If he hadn’t… if we’d carried on being together, we probably would have broken up, drifted apart and ended up hating each other and I would have learned that moving in together before you know someone well enough is a bad idea, and I would have carried on. And he would just have been the first guy I ever dated, instead of this huge… tragedy like a paint splotch on my life. And I don’t know whether to miss him and feel sorry for him or… be angry at him for what he did to me, and my life…” Darren sighed, and Kyle saw his eyes get watery. “And now… well, now it’s here… he’s here… and I don’t know if, now that I’m back, that I can actually stay-“
“You can. We can. And we will.” Kyle gabbed both Darren’s house. “You have every right to be angry at Luke. He was selfish. He took the easy way out, and he didn’t think past his last act, and how it might affect the people around him. How it might affect you.”
“I know, I just…” Darren sighed and shook his head.
“So let’s stay. Tonight, at least. Or as long as it takes. And chase out his ghost, or whatever it is that’s still here.” Kyle felt passionately about htis.
Suicide was something he had never understood. He believed that suicide was the single most selfish act any human being could commit. Kyle had a great-aunt, who’s husband had commited suicide when they were still young and newly married, and it had destroyed her – sixty-odd years later, she was still staying in the same apartment in a huge high-rise, in a neigborhood that had turned from a bustling party district to a downright ghetto. She stayed there, unwilling to move away, ever, even to be with family – like some princess trapped in a tower by an evil dragon that was her late husband’s suicide. Kyle just didn’t see how giving someone else that much pain was worth getting rid of your own. Even without that, suicide was the ultimate way of giving up. And that was pointless, because while, without life, there may be no despair, but without life, there is also no hope.
He felt a cold rage grip his stomach. This Luke person, Kyle thought, had no right to destroy Darren’s life. He was gone – and Kyle was determined to not let Darren go down with him.
“Because this place is yours, not his. It never was. You worked for it, and he has no right to taint it, whether he’s dead or alive. You understand?”
Darren just nodded and leaned into Kyle. Kyle put his arms around Darren, who muffled his sobs in Kyle’s chest. Kyle felt his heart break a bit for Darren, having to go through with this, when all he did was enter naively into a relationship. He and Darren eventually lay down on the couch, and before he knew it, Darren was asleep, cuddled on top of him, and he closed his eyes and soon followed.
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