Part 2 – Into the Gyre
Chapter 1 – Back to Reality
Dennis and Barry didn’t speak much for the rest of the weekend, after their night out at Depot. It was clear that something between them was withering in a way that was rather unexpected, but neither of them could articulate. Barry, however, was closer to understanding it. It was the same sensation that he always felt after a circuit party, or an orgy, when he was back in the quiet house again. He was back in reality. The party, the club, the sex, all of that was just fantasy, it couldn’t penetrate him. He couldn’t allow it to penetrate him. But when he saw someone like Samuel, or Parker, who not only allowed that energy to flow through them, but lived and breathed it, all he felt was restless. Like he’d done scuba diving, with all of this protection, only to discover other guys he knew had gills. That Dennis had intruded on that rather sacred experience, injected his own kind of order and justice and control into it only made him feel more sour, more disconnected, more jealous of what he could be, if he hadn’t chosen all of this.
Dennis, on the other hand, was feeling usurped. Annoyed that Barry had dragged him to that party, annoyed that he had challenged him when it came to Kyle and threatening to tell his father, annoyed that he felt bad about it, most of all. He’d done the right thing, he was sure of that. Kyle shouldn’t have been there, he was too young. It was illegal. Pretty much everything that was happening in that club was illegal, in fact. But Barry had put him on the defensive, a position Dennis hated, since he was very careful to always maintain a moral high ground. He felt like he needed to defend something that ought to be obvious. The fact that Barry apparently disagreed only made his own values feel more slippery.
Barry dealt with the frustration by going to the gym, and stopping off at a gay sauna on the way back for a little action. Dennis dealt with it by making calls to the health department, the liquor control board, and the police department, reporting the myriad of violations he had witnessed at Depot on Friday. Neither of them felt satisfied, by the end of it. The energy that Barry was craving just wasn’t there, like it had been at Depot. The guys were all too nervous, too embarrassed, mostly older closeted men with wives in the suburbs. It only made Barry feel more hemmed in than before. Dennis kept getting the runaround from every agency he called. They would seem interested, and then as soon as he mentioned where he had been and they confirmed the address, the person on the other line would go quiet, say that wasn’t their jurisdiction, thank him for his vigilance and hang up on him. Only once, with a police officer, did he manage to get a little bit of info out of him. “Look, the folks you ought to talk to are down at Precinct 27. They handle everything in that neighborhood.” Frustrated, and again feeling like he was running into some bureaucratic red tape he hadn’t expected, he decided he’d pay a visit to the precinct sometime in the next week, and get some answers there. Surely they would have a more difficult time dismissing his complaints in person.
Monday came for them both. Dennis headed for the hospital–Monday was usually a day for appointments, and getting his surgeries for the rest of the week planned out and organized. Barry headed into the office, dreading it more than he had in some time. He’d hoped that seeing Samuel and having a chance to blow off some steam would have helped soften the blow of being passed over for a promotion, again. Instead, he just felt caught between two worlds, one unsatisfactory foot in each. He couldn’t invest himself entirely in his job–it bored him to death, and he didn’t understand how Dennis could stand being so normal all the time–but if he didn’t, he’d never get the respect there he longed for. Each time he saw Samuel though, it was like looking at some amazing being. He was so free. Sure, his life likely wasn’t easy, but it seemed effortless and fun and exhilarating in a way Barry’s had never been. It also terrified him, all the same, and he hadn’t even been able to hack an hour on the dance floor on Friday. He got settled in his office, and got caught up on his email for the first couple of hours, before the usual Monday morning meeting was due to start.
This is what he was dreading the most, of the entire day. He showed up a bit late, took a seat towards the far end of the table. Evan Ternbull, his current boss, was sitting at the front, and off to his left was Richard Carlisle, the man that Barry privately considered his rival, but they had never spoken more than a few words to each other, since Richard was a relatively new hire, and they’d been working on different projects.
“As you know,” Evan said once getting everyone in order, “I’m going to be transferring over to a new project team in a month or so, which I know all of you are so disappointed to hear about. I’m happy to announce today that Richard here will be stepping up into my role and overseeing your team for the remainder of your project. As you know, Richard is relatively new here, but he comes with some great outside experience, and I am very confident that he will be a great project lead.”
The folks around the table clapped for Richard, who stood up, looking a bit sheepish. How old could he be, really? Twenty-five, twenty-six? Slender, twinkish but clearly straight, Richard got up and introduced himself, talking about his wife, and about the baby they had on the way. The table clapped again, and Barry tried to mask his scowl as he clapped along. Part of him felt a bit bad now for feeling so entitled to the position. Dennis and he were doing just fine with their incomes, and he knew that kids were expensive–one of many reasons he’d never wanted one. But as soon as that sympathy popped up, he pushed it back down. Just because he was straight, just because he was “starting a family” didn’t mean he was entitled to more money than him. It didn’t mean he was entitled more respect.
That was it, wasn’t it? The respect. He didn’t feel respected here. He didn’t feel respected at home, even. Dennis loved him, sure, but did he respect him, really? Did it feel like a relationship between equals all the time? It didn’t. Barry would goad him, and half the time Dennis would just dismiss him out of hand, refuse to even engage, like fighting with Barry was simply beneath him. Like he knew that no matter how dissatisfied he might be, he’d never leave him, because he liked the money, and the lifestyle, and Barry’s own job here couldn’t afford it.
He could barely focus for the rest of the meeting. After an hour, he faked a phone call, and retreated to his cubicle to think. Mostly, he stared at the little business card that Hugh had given him, and thought about what on earth “Broker” might mean. Someone in the drug trade, apparently, if Hugh worked for him. So much of that conversation had been…weirdly cryptic, but Hugh had been right about the central proposition. Barry was unsatisfied with his life, and more hemmed in he felt–by Evan, by Dennis, by Richard now–
“Hey, Billy, right?”
He was startled up from his thought, looked up and saw Richard looming in the doorway of his cubicle. The meeting was over apparently–was this the first thing he’d thought to do? Hunt Barry down?
“Oh shoot, sorry man. Everything alright? You zipped out of there in a hurry.”
“Yeah, just the husband, you know. Everything sounds like an emergency to him.”
Richard laughed, “Yeah man, I get it. Hey, Evan told me that you were on the shortlist for the position, and I just wanted to let you know that he thought you would have been a great choice too, and he wants you to keep throwing your hat in the ring, alright? He just didn’t think that this position would be a better stepping stone for me, since we’re at the tail end of a project, about to ship. He knows that wouldn’t have been a challenge for you.”
Barry’s face was growing a bit heated. Evan thought so, huh? Then why wasn’t Evan here telling him this? Why send this cherub faced little shit to come apologize on his behalf? “Sure thing, I understand. Besides, you got the growing family to feed, right?” Barry said, stretching his mouth into something he hoped was a smile and not a sneer, and from the way Richard’s face lit up back, he must have managed well enough. They chatted a bit about Barry’s current duties, and then Richard moved on to the next member of the team.
That settled it, then. If nothing else, he would have his curiosity satisfied. If it was a service that could make his life better, than great. Why care that the info came from a drug dealer? He pulled out the card Hugh had given him on Friday–it was rather simple. All it had was a name, Ian Miller, the word “Broker” below it, and on the bottom of the card, a phone number. He picked up his phone, and gave the mysterious number a call.
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