Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gerald had just arrived home as he walked back into his apartment and tried to remember if there was anything he had forgotten to do. Still riding high from the recent excitement and fun he had in his impromptu dinner with Patricia, Gerald found himself wondering if there was anything he had neglected that would ruin the happiness he was feeling that moment.

The answer came to him faster than he could say the word, cellular phone.

“Hey, you back home yet, fruit cake?” John’s voice hollered from outside the door. Gerald groaned out loud and before he realized it gave John the very sign that he was home. “Ah I heard that grunt, you fudge packer. Now open this door up or I am going to call your folks and remind them that they have a kid who is dying to step out of the closet.”

“John,” Gerald slid the door open but blocked it with his foot to keep it from opening up completely, “What are you… oh no..”

Outside, John carried with him two six-packs of beer. Behind him, Seth and Elaine carried with them a small pyrex container with pork barbeque and spaghetti. Seth also had a two liter bottle of soda under one arm.

“We bring gifts,” John explained and tried to shove the door open.

“What is going on here? Why are you doing this?” Gerald groaned in an evident show of disapproval, “I am tired. I just got home. And I am sleepy.”

“What, you do not want your neighbors to be friends?”

“Neighbors? Friends? John, we have lived beside one another for nearly four years now. Why on earth would I suddenly want to change that and become your friend?”

“I was not referring about myself, fruitness, but it is really nice to see how you fixate on me,” John sneered and the moment Gerald realized he meant Seth and Elaine, took advantage of his momentary shock to shove the door open.

“We just moved in,” Elaine told Gerald as Seth and John walked into the apartment and set the food down on the dining table. Elaine motioned towards a door further down the hallway, “There was a free room there for half what Seth and I used to spend. So we decided to take it before anyone else does. But since we moved in before having it refurnished, or arranging for our own stuff to be moved from our old home-”

“-You thought it would be better to have dinner here,” Gerald sighed, “Sure, come on in.”

Elaine gave a cheerful thank you as she walked in, her eyes scanning the place like an excited child who had just been given the keys to enter a mysterious castle. Seth was busy looking around the apartment as well, and the two began to remind Gerald of crime scene investigators searching for clues. “All you guys need now is that weird funky purple light.”

“What?” John asked, not catching the joke. John busied himself setting the food on the table and digging through the shelves for plates, spoons and forks. “I know the food we brought with us is not quite up to par with what you normally dine upon, banana boy, but hey, give us a break here. None of us work for such a high class company, you know.”

“I was not complaining-“ Gerald stopped himself, realizing the futility of arguing with John. To do so was like trying to convince a mob to behave… by speaking to them one at a time… in a different language.

“Ey, you have the complete DVD set of Band of Brothers!” Seth called out, “And the whole Miyazaki collection. Everything from My Neighbor Totoro to Nausicaa: Warriors of the Wind… nice.”

“Uh yeah, thanks” Gerald turned towards Seth, half expecting some punch line to come. But when none came, Gerald slowly began to wonder if he was being too paranoid about the three of them being here. Dark visions of him being tied up, grossly tortured, then mutilated by the ape-faced football guy, the botox bosom queen and his passive-aggressive gay bashing neighbor danced in his brain. He would probably cry out for help and only then learn that the walls were only thin when they wanted to be.


“What, what..” Gerald blinked a few times, surprised to hear someone utter his name while he was visualizing the brutal murder. His brain nearly took a full three seconds to register the voice’s owner. “Oh, yes. Elaine?”

“You really read a lot?” she asked, motioning to a bookshelf that was filled with various books of all sorts. There were novels, role playing game books, manuals, magazines and even books that fell across varied interests. An encyclopedia on angels was set beside a book on living a purpose driven life. Beside them was a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and a novelization of the movie Alien. Then beneath them were books with names that ranged from Demon: the Fallen to Chronicles of the Black Spiral. “Honey look, he even has a copy of Clive Barker’s Imajica and Doctor John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. At least you are not one of those geeks horribly obsessed with comic books.”

Gerald opted not to answer. He bit his lip and shut his mouth and hoped no one would notice the eight plastic poly boxes that were set at one side of the room. All eight were filled with various comic books and trade papers backs.

“What is this?” Seth asked Gerald as he lifted up from a plastic green tube a strangely shaped semi-transparent object. It looked like a tiny golf-ball that was golden and translucent with numbers on each tiny triangular face.

“That would be a… twenty sided die. Not all dice came in six sides. That’s used during role playing games.”

“You role play?” Seth asked. Gerald knew he was to regret leading the conversation to one of his hobbies.

“Yes,” he replied, “Every weekend,” he added and mentally began scolding himself for even giving them more ammunition to use against him. Elaine looked at John and John shrugged, “Do I look like I know what he’s into?”

“I think it is cute,” Elaine smiled and made her way back to the table where John had set the food. Seth pulled out a few more of the strangely shaped dice and counted the sides. “A four sided. It looks like a pyramid. Come here, Elaine. Check it out. This one I think has twelve sides.”

“So what exactly do you role play as?” Elaine asked as she turned around and made to join Seth.

* I am going to regret this * Gerald told himself and took a deep breath before answering, “On some weekends, I play a vampire. If you’re familiar with Vampire: the Masquerade… well obviously you are not… hmm… Anne Rice. There you go, I play a vampire much like Louis in Interview with a Vampire. On other weeks I handle the game, with others playing superheroes. DC Universe. Superman. Wonderwoman. Green Arrow. That sort.”

“Whoa!” John looked at Elaine, “You mean you got girls in this thing?”

“Only for the superhero game. For the vampire thing, we are all guys,” Gerald explained, half surprised they were really interested in his hobby.

“Sounds kinky,” Seth commented as he handed Elaine the pyramid shaped die.

“I don’t know honey, I think its cute,” Elaine muttered.

* Kinky? Cute? * Gerald found himself realizing what they understood role playing to mean. “No.. not that kind of role playing. We don’t do it… uh… um… in bed…”

“Okay, that is just too much information man,” John teased Gerald and stood from the table, “Should I move the food to somewhere else you haven’t laid upon with your little orgy buddies while dressed as suck happy vampires?”

“I give up!” Gerald grabbed his hair and wanted to scream. All three began laughing and John raised both hands towards Gerald and playfully clamped them down on Gerald’s head and shook it.

“Ah, you are too easy!” John laughed as Elaine and Seth gathered by the table.
“I normally play a more political type of character,” Elaine admitted as she sat down and began placing some spaghetti on a plate. “Seth here tends to prefer to be a character who shakes things up. You know, an agitator?”

Gerald looked at the two, uncertain if they were pulling his leg again.

“We game too,” John admitted and began walking back to the table, leaving a confused and stunned Gerald who still tried to make sense of things behind. John sat down and began opening one of the cans of beer from the six pack they brought. Gerald inched closer, his eyes shifting between the three of them as he waited for the punch line.

“Seth here got us to try this game called Werewolf a few years back when he was still in the United States. We used to play through the internet, meeting up in chat rooms on specific dates. Elaine and Seth actually met thanks to that game,” John explained.

“Someone is obviously not telling the whole story,” Seth teased and John rolled his eyes, “Okay… okay.. Elaine and I back there were going out.” Elaine laughed as she placed the plate of food she had served onto Seth’s side. She began preparing another plate as she spoke, “John and I were together for two months. Only we weren’t really attracted to one another. It was more.. convenient than anything.”

“What?” John gasped out in false exasperation, “I was convenient!? You make it sound so naughty!”

“John,” Seth jokingly threatened him, “Watch it!”

The three began laughing and Gerald shook his head, “Ah, now I can’t tell when you guys are teasing me or not. This isn’t true is it. You and Elaine were never an item were you?”

“What, you saying I don’t have what it takes to score-“

“Score?” Seth interrupted John.

”Ak… I mean… I mean to be going out with a delectable piece of womanhood such as Elaine here?”

“Why did your choice of words make me feel more like a body part?” Elaine teased and placed down a second set plate on the empty space. Gerald presumed it was meant for him. He walked up to them, and still struggled to discern truth from fiction.

“Well, going back,” John tried to maintain control of the conversation. Slowly, it seemed the target of the jokes was to become John instead. And that, Gerald frankly would have preferred to have happen. “So Seth used to hold these games online right? He would go set up these little announcements in what used to be called bulletin boards.”

”Yeah, the good ole BBS systems of the past. Back then, the internet was not as user friendly as it is now. One had to know how to type certain codes and stuff. More like how some chat providers now work. Websites were few and far in between,” Seth added and turned to thank Elaine for the food. The two shared a silent moment smiling at each other.

“Okay, so you guys all happened to just one time go online?” Gerald tried to help.

“No, I was in the process of convincing Elaine to try gaming when we both noticed an invitation posted in one BBS by someone who wanted to run a werewolf game set in the Philippines,” John explained.

“Manila by Midnight: Garou,” Seth proudly proclaimed, “It was a sucky name but for its time it did catch on quite quickly. Had seven players hook up immediately. Two of them happened to be John and Elaine.”

“So you three all finally admit to being geeks,” Gerald spoke before realizing what he just said. The three turned to face him, their faces devoid of any expression other than shock. Gerald offered a smile and barely found the voice to utter, “…Joke?”

“God, you are right, he is easy,” Elaine laughed and stood up from her seat. She slapped Gerald’s shoulder as she walked passed him and headed for the refrigerator. “Anyone want some ice?”

The strains of music suddenly filled the air. All four looked at one another before collectively turning to face the refrigerator. From somewhere beneath it, sung Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major.

“My phone?” Gerald stared at Elaine, confused, and reached for his pocket. The pocket was empty. “But I just got it last night…”

“I recall kicking something by accident as I approached the table,” Seth confessed, “But I didn’t see what it was so I assumed it wasn’t anything important.”

“You kicked my phone?!?!” Gerald gasped aloud.

“How sure are you it was the phone I kicked?” Seth countered. “And what idiot keeps his phone on the floor?” Gerald stuffed his hands into his pockets and pulled them inside-out. The pocket where he kept his phone had a tear in it.

“You’re lucky it fell in your room,” Elaine reminded him, “Imagine if it fell out while you were commuting back from work!”

“Can someone please shut the phone up?” John groaned and tried to pretend he could not hear it, “I think I have heard that classical piece enough times a sane mind can take in a single day.”

Elaine immediately bent so gauge the narrowness of the refrigerator and the floor. Seth and John stood up and approached the refrigerator. “I think we can both lift it,” Seth told John while John gave his own suggestion, “You can lean it back, towards the wall, with enough time to reach in…”

“Guys guys guys,” Gerald called out to them, failing to notice Elaine walking towards the drawer cabinets in the kitchen, “Trust me, moving the refrigerator is the last thing you can do. The thing is old. And heavy.”

“I think we can do it,” Seth told John, “Come on… just help me out.”

“No no no we just need to prop it on one side for a few seconds. I can fish it out real fast,” John muttered.

And rather than participate in the argument, Elaine sat down in front of the refrigerator, slid the long wooden spatula she had found in the kitchen drawer, and fished the phone out.

The three men stared at Elaine as she stood up, dusted the phone clean, and looked at the numbers on the screen. The phone did not recognize the caller.

“I thought of that too,” John quickly added, “But I did not want to steal Elaine’s thunder.”

Handling the phone to Gerald, Gerald flipped the phone on in time to hear the caller put the phone down. “Hello-“ Gerald still found himself saying even if he knew full well the caller had already replaced the phone on the cradle. He tried to click on the call back functions and found the phone instead freezing up. Shutting it quickly, Gerald softly cursed as he started the phone again and hoped for the best.

“What’s wrong?” Elaine asked.

”Probably broke something,” Gerald sighed, “Won’t redial.”

“Maybe when it fell,” Seth suggested. Gerald nodded without looking at them, “Yeah,” his voice came with irritation evidently there, “Can’t be helped. It happens.”

The phone rang again and this time, Gerald quickly answered the phone. “Hello?” he asked and waited for an answer, “Hello?”

“The microphone?” Elaine looked at John.

“Most likely, the mic,” John agreed.

The three looked back to see Gerald scratching his head as he fiddled with the phone more. “The caller.. well, who ever called, I couldn’t hear anything.”

“The speaker then,” Seth suggested.

“Oh this is crazy,” John shook his head, “If the mic, the speakers, and the damn recall button ain’t working, then stop using that phone. Here.” John slid out his own cellular phone from his pocket and shut it down. He slid the battery cover off and slid the sim card of his own phone out of its place. Handling the phone to Gerald, he told him, “Drop it and you’re buying me one of those video camera – mp3 player cellular phones, you got it?”

Gerald smiled, inserted his own sim card into the slot, restarted the phone and hoped for the best.

The phone rang. And Gerald lifted the still booting cellular phone to his head. “Hello?” he anxiously called out before realizing it was the land line that was ringing.

Elaine and Seth rushed to their feet, ran to the land line and lifted it from the cradle. “Hi!” Elaine replied and motioned everyone else to shush quiet. Gerald quickly made his way to the phone.

“Hi,” Patricia responded, a tad surprised to hear a female voice in the other line. “Can I speak to Gerald?”

“Sure,” Patricia heard the woman respond only to giggle away from the receiver and mumble, “Honey, stop that!”

Elaine slapped Seth’s hands and walked past him to give the phone to Gerald. Gerald motioned the three to move away, “Quiet please?” he told them, not realizing on the other end Patricia was starting to see whole different picture. “Hello?”

“Gerald?” Patricia replied, her voice starting to shake. She felt something unexpected welling inside of her. She felt jealous. She felt angry. But she did not know why she felt all these feelings. She barely knew Gerald. It was not like they were dating. Or seeing one another. “Uh.. are you busy?”

“Not really,” Gerald explained and realized the others were there, “I just have some.. uh… some friends over.” Gerald decided to call them friends was a simpler thing to do. He did not really feel like explaining they were more strangers who just invited themselves over. Patricia, unfortunately, saw the reason for the hesitation differently.

“Oh, I see, they’re just friends,” Patricia repeated Gerald’s words then fell silent.

“What?” Gerald asked, suddenly noticing the shift in her words, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Patricia told him, “I guess I just wanted to say hi. Anyway, I won’t take your time with them from you. Catch you again some other time?”

“What? Wait.. Are you saying goodbye? What’s going on here?” Gerald asked Patricia, suddenly feeling paranoid that he had done something wrong. He could sense Patricia was hurting. Was angry. But he could not define what caused it.

“I have to go,” Patricia told him and put the phone down.

Gerald was too shocked to move. His hand still gripped the phone. His feet were still planted in place. The three visitors stared at him, wondering what had happened. It was John who approached him, carefully keeping his distance, and only spoke when he realized that Gerald was not speaking to anyone.

“Hey, fruit cake. You okay?”

“Not now, John,” Gerald replied without moving. He closed his eyes and tried to say things as calmly as possible. “Maybe it is time for you guys to go. For now. I think I need to be alone.”

Elaine and Seth looked at each other. John backed up to the two and motioned with his head. The three quietly made for the door.

“John, your phone-“

“Its all right, hommie, you can hold on to it for now. I’ll be just next door if you need anything,” John told him and the three quietly made their way out. Gerald finally sighed, and allowed his anger and pain to explode outwards. He slammed the phone back on to its cradle, then dove into the nearby couch to scream against the mattresses.

He was angry. He felt like he and Patricia had broken up. And the funny thing was, for both, he did not know why.

* *

Patricia hated how stupid she felt. She hated how she let some guy she barely new start to get on her nerves so much. And now, she hated how he thought she could be so easily fooled. She did not cry, however. No, Patricia was not the type who would cry when faced with such a slap in the face. Instead, she faced it head on. She stood against the tide and proudly kept her chin up. Only when things had simmered down would she allow it to affect her. Only when she was alone and it was in the dead of the night.

But for now, the urge to do something grumbled within her. Something to do. Something to break this moment of just starting at the phone and wondering what to do. She remembered the two calls she made to him, both of which were unanswered. Then the third one on her land line, which some woman who called him honey received for him. He was a bastard. A two-timing son of a bitch who thought she’d be easy. * Boy was he wrong, * she found herself thinking. If only she knew how wrong she too was.

She stood up, grabbed her own cellular phone and wallet, and decided to step outside and grab something to eat. Ice cream perhaps. Or some cake. Anything to drown the sorrows in.

* *

Gerald was still struggling to make sense of what had happened. He knew there was a misunderstanding somewhere but he did not know how it all began. So he tried working on things in reverse the way he would have in a role playing game. He considered the ingredients of the confusion and decided the two missed calls were part of it. As was perhaps the sudden mention of him having visitors, something which he remembered telling Patricia was an uncommon practice on his part.

Then it struck him. Elaine.
She probably was surprised to hear Elaine answer the phone.

Gerald tried imagining how it would sound if he was the person on the other end of the line. The two attempts to call, assumingly with no response. There was the off – chance she could hear him earlier when he picked up the phone. But that did not seem as relevant to what was happening. Elaine answered. What did she say back then?


“Quiet please.”

“Not really, I just have some.. uh… some friends over.”

What triggered the confusion. Surely, it could not have just been the hesitation in his words? Gerald struggled to remember if he failed to bear in mind anything in particular. If he failed to pick up any particular phrase.

Head pounding from frustration, Gerald was on the verge of giving up when he decided to break the silence and turn on the television. The commercial showed a woman calling out to her husband, “Honey! What’s that?”

Gerald’s eyes popped open. “Honey,” he muttered and recalled Elaine calling Seth that a few times while they were perusing his things. He stood up and gasped in realization when he remembered Seth tickling Elaine while she had the phone. “Honey, stop that,” Gerald repeated and realized how it all made sense now assuming one thing was taken as true: that she was jealous.

He did not, after all, know for certain that she saw.

But he did not want to risk having her feel that way.

Word Count = 3,851
Previous Count = 41,314
otal Count = 45,165 of 50,000


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