I grimaced and waved the voice off with my hand. “Not now, Ivan,” I huffed and flipped to the next page in ‘The picture of Dorian Gray’. “I am at my favourite paragraph. Ah, this book never gets old.” I was sitting well leaned back in the old office chair. Even with its squeaky wheels and curved backrest I could easily enjoy hours of reading slacking off in it. With the rusty transistor playing some outdated classic concerts I felt my mood brighten with each word I read. It was as if I was brought up higher and I my toes curled in excitement as I was about to turn the page again.
“Sorry, but I am not Ivan.”
“I’m not Ivan. I’m Alfred. What’s showing?”
I glared up above the desk expecting to see Ivan’s amused, chubby grin, but instead I stared into a pair of handsome, azure eyes and thin lips which curved into a grimace as I dropped my book to the floor with a loud thump.
“Sorry,” I mumbled flustered and reached out to turn off the radio before I snatched my book back off of the floor and put it aside. “I thought you were… Well, sorry, since you’re not. Sir. Uh, you were saying?”
The guy seemed amused. “Sir?” he repeated questioning. “No, Al will do. Isn’t ‘Gone with the wind’ playing? I would like a ticket.”
I too thought he was kidding, but he was giving me an honest look. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old and still he was pulling forward his wallet to pay to see a movie from 1939. I guess there’s a first for everything.
I’m Arthur Kirkland and I’m not normally as distant as the above situation might suggest. I only daydream when at work because nothing hardly ever happens. My job is to sell tickets at a local, small movie theatre. While the movies are on, I just have to clean the lobby and be at service, but at Tuesdays we only show classics and those are not a big seller. There’s hardly enough people walking in and out to dirty the blue carpet, so for me it’s more of a day off than anything - hence the music and book.
“Are you sure?” I found myself stuttering surprised. “You want one ticket?”
Alfred furrowed his brows. “Am I too old to be going to the cinema alone? If I knew someone who liked movies, I would ask them to go with me. But I don’t.”
“No, sorry,” I said shaking my head embarrassed. “I should have said a ticket. Not one. I mean, you’re just very young.”
Alfred lit up into a smile. His grin was bright as he said: “To me, the classics never die. Especially not ‘Gone with the wind’. I just love Vivien Leigh!”
I almost shouted: “Me too!” and clasped my hands down onto the desk as I leaned in over it to get closer to Alfred.
In my excitement I forgot all about personal space and Alfred’s cheeks turned bright pink. He ran his fingers through his messy, blond locks and looked away.
I stepped away again and cleared my throat. “But a ticket. Of course sir. Al. It has already begun playing, though, but it’s only ten minutes in.”
“I’m still interested,” he said and handed me a banknote.
I took it and swiftly counted his change and printed the ticket. As I handed it all back to him, I couldn’t help but stupidly smile: “Say hello to Vivien for me.” I immediately regretted it.
Alfred just chuckled at me and headed for the doors.
I watched his dirty sneakers for as long as I could. As soon as the doors closed behind him, I smacked myself. “Say hello to Vivien for me,” I mumbled and smacked myself again before sitting down. “What are you Arthur, a teen? Well yes, but still…” Tired I reached over and grabbed my book. As I leaned back and opened it, I glanced above the pages and caught a glimpse of Ivan laughing at me from the candy-booth across the lobby.
He formed a heart by putting his hands together and winked at me.
I let my middle finger slip up alongside the book and waved it at him. It only made him laugh even more. Dickhead.
“Is it Vivien you have a crush on,” he asked, “or anyone who knows her?”
“What was that?” I asked and held a hand to my ear as if I desperately tried to catch the sound of his voice. “I can’t hear you over the fact Matthew turned you down last week.”
“Shut up,” he grumbled and started looking through the liquorice.
I returned to my book.
“Do you know who that was?” Ivan asked.
I looked up. “Alfred?” I asked.
“He’s Matthew’s older brother.”
“Oh?” I looked towards the closed doors again. “I didn’t know he had one.”
“Handsome, right?” Ivan smiled smugly. “Rumours are that he’s gay.”
“No, he’s too handsome to be gay,” I said and flipped through my book to find the page I was reading as Alfred showed up. “Handsome gay men only happen in porn.”
“You wouldn’t know; you only ever read.”
I didn’t try to prove him wrong. Instead I indulged myself in Dorian’s sins.
‘Donna Reed is pretty awesome! Dontcha think?’
I blinked at the note that fell into my book and picked it up slowly. The handwriting was clumsy and childish but somewhat charming. The red ballpoint that had been used made the words jump out of the paper like a 3D-movie. I found my own thought amusing and snickered.
“I loved her in ‘Dallas‘. Obviously. But she was cool in ‘The Caddy’. Did you like that movie?”
I glanced up at Alfred.
He looked back down at me excited. His blue eyes seemed almost electric, but maybe it was just because of the weather.
It was a rainy and windy day. The front doors had been smacking since the early morning and we had to take in the posters outside not to have them fly away. Few had cared to drive out here to the outskirts of town to see a movie that had probably been shown on telly several times already. But here Alfred was anyway and he surely hadn’t been driving. He was soaked from top to toe.
“Do you only like female actors?” I asked playfully and put the note on the desk before getting up.
Alfred seemed nervous for a second, but then he regained confidence. “No,” he said. “But Donna Reed, she’s something.”
“Did you enjoy the movie last time?” I asked.
Alfred nodded eagerly. “Yeah, it was really good! I was surprised it was in colour.”
I wrinkled my brows. “Hasn’t it always been?”
“Yeah… Just joking.” Alfred scratched his chin and looked over his shoulder.
I leaned a bit to the side to see what he was looking at, but he was quickly facing me again and his broad shoulders were shadowing my sight.
“So you like old movies?” he asked.
I nodded: “That’s why I work here every Tuesday. It’s nice chatting with others who’re not into all the modern action movies.”
“Yeah, those people are rare.”
I looked at him suspiciously. “You don’t exactly look like the common old movie-lover,” I said slowly. “But you are?”
“I surely am,” Alfred chuckled. He placed a banknote on the desk. “What is playing today?”
“I’ll watch it.”
I slowly started counting his change while discreetly eyeing him.
Alfred was smiling warmly. He wasn’t looking at my face, just my hands as I moved them to put the banknote away and bring forward the coins. He had such gentle dimples poking into his cheeks.
I almost felt like pinching them.
“Who is your favourite actor?” he asked.
I put his ticket on the desk and the coins on top of it. “I won’t say. Make a guess.”
He seemed uncertain. “John Travolta?”
I laughed harshly. “Good one!”
Alfred didn’t laugh but merely picked up his things. His cheeks had gotten a bit of colour again. Somehow I got the feeling that he didn’t mean it as a joke thought it had sounded like it.
“Next week we’re showing ‘Roman Holiday’,” I said and Alfred looked me in the eyes. I felt a silly smile take over my lips as I breathed: “My favourite actor is in it. Make a wild guess.”
“I will,” Alfred said. “Next time.” Then he smiled.
I felt all the better watching him leave this time. He’d pretty much promised me he would be back. I sat down and pulled my book closer to me as I noticed the note again. I picked it up and read it again and again until I knew every little letter in it and could close my eyes and imagine Alfred saying those words.
‘Yes,’ I thought to myself. ‘Donna Reed is indeed awesome.’
Then I snickered.
The note was soon followed by another; the following week Alfred turned up by the desk as promised and without a word he handed me some coins.
“Are you here to see ‘Roman Holiday’?” I asked.
I counted the coins one by one and as I reached the bottom of the little bunch, I noticed a note that had been lying crumbled up between them. I straightened it out. It read:
‘Audrey Hepburn!!! (:’
I smiled stunned and looked at him ponderingly. “Audrey Hepburn?” I said.
“She’s your favourite actor, ain’t she?” Alfred asked and as I nodded he looked well proud. “I knew it!”
“You figured me out,” I laughed and put the note next to my book.
Alfred nodded eagerly. “She’s my favourite too!”
I was taken aback: “Really?!”
“Which of her movies is your favourite?!”
Alfred’s excitement suddenly seemed to fade. His cheeks got a bit white and he stuttered: “Uhh…”
“Don’t say! It’s ‘My Fair Lady’, right? No! No, it’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’!” I cried.
Alfred looked overwhelmed but very happy. “The last one!” he stammered and then added: “’Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ it is.”
“Me too!” I yelled excited.
“Shut up!” Ivan shouted at me.
Alfred stepped a bit aside to look back at him and I gave him an evil glare.
Ivan was munching popcorn by his booth. “You’re very loud,” he said.
“Sorry,” Alfred said.
“Don’t say sorry to him,” I huffed. “He’s just jealous.”
“Why would I be jealous?” Ivan asked.
“Because you don’t know anyone who shares your interests,” I answered logically.
“I know plenty,” Ivan lied.
“Like Matt-…” I looked at Alfred and cut myself off short as Ivan looked like he was about to have a heart attack. “…Matthias.”
Alfred wrinkled his brows: “Matthias?”
“The movie has begun,” Ivan said. “’Romantic Holiday’ or whatever it was called.”
“’Roman Holiday‘,” I corrected him flustered and printed the ticket. I handed it to Alfred. “But yes, you better hurry.”
“Thanks,” Alfred said, but he looked a bit down. “Uhm, what is playing next week?”
I couldn’t remember, but he seemed set on staying until told. He was looking me up and down.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled and turned more red.
“’An Unremarkable Life’ is showing,” Ivan said.
Alfred shrugged. “Okay, thanks.” Then he headed for the doors.
Both Ivan and I held our breaths until he had left.
“Idiot!” Ivan then hissed. “He can’t know of Matthew and me!”
“I said Matthias! Your secret is kept a secret!” I said and rubbed my cheeks. I took in a deep breath. “But it was a close call. Phew.”
“You’re all red,” he mumbled.
I could feel it as well. I gave him a sorry look. “It won’t happen again,” I promised.
Ivan just shrugged.
Matthew and Ivan had a long history. It wasn’t one I’d known of before I became friends with Ivan as we both started working at the movie theatre two years ago.
They’d pretty much grown up as neighbours and played together since they were kids. As teenagers they’d started flirting and had almost dated, but Matthew was hesitant. He was shy about coming out while Ivan had always been very open about himself. Lately it had scared Matthew away. Though we both joked about it, I knew it pained Ivan not knowing whether or not he would have him back again.
“Hey, look,” I said as I sat back down. “If it would make it easier on you, I can stop chatting with Alfred.”
Ivan smiled, but he shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said. “I’ll can’t break up lovebirds.”
“We’re not lovebirds,” I huffed.
But Alfred was lovely; and he soon proved himself to be even more lovely.
I was seventeen years old and into movies - as you have probably guessed by now mostly the old ones. I used to watch them with my dad when I was younger. He introduced me to all the actors and all the series that he thought were quality. Mum didn’t share this interest, so as he passed away because of a blood clot in his heart, I was left alone with this hobby.
I was never a lonely kid, but I was always a bit of an outsider; the nerdy guy who always carried a book, the boy with an oddly large knowledge about old American actors or just simply the half-Brit. Despite me growing up in the states, I’d taken on some of my English mum’s accent and people just wouldn’t leave it be.
But though Alfred seemed charmed by the way I pronounced certain words, he didn’t start asking me pressuring questions about my nationality. We just chatted about movies - and it was lovely to feel like I wasn’t the odd one out.
The next time he showed up it was with a note that read:
‘I think that Dorian Gray teaches us that beauty isn’t everything.’
I asked: “From where do you know Dorian Gray?”
“You’re always reading the book,” he said and pointed towards my edition of it lying on the desk. “’The picture of Dorian Gray’ - I don’t think it’s read by many around here.”
“But you’ve read it?” I asked.
Alfred smiled wryly. “I’ve skimmed it through recently. But I read it fully many years ago.”
“Many years ago even? How old are you?” I laughed.
“Nineteen,” he said.
“Oh.. I thought you were eighteen,” I mumbled without thinking about it. Alfred blushed and so did I. “Sorry. When you get older, you’ll love looking younger! But not now of course… Actually, looking at you this close, you could be twenty-five! You have a nice body. Muscular, I mean. No, I don’t mean anything at all,” I stuttered flustered.
Ivan was sending me odd looks from the other side of the room.
I lowered my voice so that he couldn’t hear us as easily. “Sorry,” I said and looked him in the eyes. “I rarely meet anyone who has read it. Let alone another guy.”
“It’s very gay, hah?”
I blinked. Then I slowly nodded. “Yes. Yes I suppose it is.”
“I like it for the same.”
It was an odd thing to say, but I didn’t call him out on it.
“Have you seen the movie?” Alfred asked.
“The new or the old one?”
“There’s an old one?”
I smiled a bit. “I have seen them both, yes.”
“I haven’t seen the old one,” Alfred admitted shyly. “I have seen one that is fairly new. From this century. But it follows the storyline poorly. It is more like a new movie concept than the original one.”
The way he spoke was as if taken out of a review. I smiled a little. It was somewhat cute. “Oh, you think that?”
“Don’t you?” he hurriedly asked.
“To a certain point, yes.”
Alfred seemed to calm down again at that answer and he, too, lowered his voice. “What scene do you like the best in the movie?”
“Do you know which is my favourite?”
“Which?” I asked.
Alfred blushed as he mumbled: “The one where Dorian makes Basil kneel for him to give him a… ehm…”
“I know,” I stuttered and felt my heart skip a beat. “It’s well sexy. I just didn’t think that you-”
“-would be into that kind of faggy stuff? Oh yeah.” Alfred straightened up. The way he spoke was cool, calm and collected. But he didn’t look like his own voice belonged to him at all; he was more of a shy schoolboy than a porn star though his body looked like it belonged to the latter. “A ticket please,” he said and handed me a banknote.
I smiled and let him pay.
Over the following weeks Alfred showed up every Tuesday and chatted with me about movies, actors and whether or not they were great. I loved every second of it and we soon strayed away from the subject of movies to other things; sports, food and hobbies to mention a few. It was for the better, I think, because though Alfred seemed well excited about the classics, he always hesitated talking about them. It was as if I should let him know beforehand what movie or which actor we would be talking about, so that he could freshen his memory before we started discussing them.
I suspected he was just very shy about not having as much fingertip knowledge about it as I did.
Soon the notes went from ‘George Sanders - good or bad?’ to: ‘I love the way you laugh.’ We started flirting openly and Ivan was our only witness, so we didn’t fear anyone would hear about us. And if they did that didn’t matter either. I was just thrilled to have found someone who seemed to understand me fully.
Even Ivan didn’t have it in him to make fun of me. Surely he joked and teased me, but he was very modest. He preferred to smile smugly like someone whose plan is coming together.
“How are things with Matthew?” I asked him once, but he answered:
“How are thing with Mr Jones?” and made me stutter like an idiot before smacking him. We both laughed about it.
Three months after first meeting Alfred he’d started showing up on all of my workdays, Tuesday or not. During one of my breaks we were sitting on the steps outside writing each other notes instead of talking. Alfred was smoking a cigarette and I was eating a bar of chocolate.
‘Doing anything this weekend?’ he wrote.
I smiled a bit. ‘No, are you?’
‘Yeah, something with you (((:’ He passed me the note.
It made me laugh. ‘Cheeky. Are you asking me out on a date?’
‘Is date dinner?’
‘That would be nice.’
Alfred took a puff of his cigarette and looked at me as he’d read my note. He was smiling deeply. His tanned fingers grabbed around the ballpoint and started writing on a new note.
I just watched him.
I watched his squared, handsome face with those thin lips that curved in every direction as he concentrated on spelling each word right. By now I knew spelling and English in general wasn’t something Alfred knew a whole lot about; he knew more about sports and fastfood.
‘Date at McD?’
I gave him an annoyed glare.
He turned the note over: ‘Date at KFC?’
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
He chuckled. “Of course I am. Homemade dinner. How is that?”
“You can cook?” I asked.
“I can try,” he answered bravely.
I gave it a quick thought. “Okay. I would love that,” I said.
Alfred brightened up: “Yeah? Cool!” He dropped the ballpoint and his little bunch of blank notes to grab my hand. His warm fingers curled around mine.
I felt extremely happy.
“Yes, cool,” I mumbled shyly and he pecked my red cheek.
Then things turned very un-cool.
It was Thursday afternoon and I only had an hour left of work. Alfred was hanging out by my desk as usually while I was cleaning up the lobby. He was sticking small notes all over the tabletop; I could tell they were all lovely messages.
“You know what is showing next week?” I asked him.
“’The picture of Dorian Gray’.”
“Oh, nice. We should see it together.”
“Yeah, it’s the old one. So now you finally get to see it.”
Alfred smiled: “Yeah, good storyline no matter what. That Shakespeare knew his stuff.”
I stopped with the broom between my hands. I looked at him oddly. “Was that a joke?”
“Shakespeare didn’t write Dorian Gray.”
“…of course not.”
“Who did, Al?”
I leaned against the broom.
“Yeah, let’s watch it together,” he said avoiding.
“Who wrote it?” I asked again.
“I don’t remember, okay?” he shrugged.
Alfred nodded. “Of course,” he said. But he didn’t sound convincing.
I pursed my lips. “Did you like John Travolta in ‘My Fair Lady’?”
“He was superb,” Alfred said.
“Funny,” I hummed. “Since he wasn’t in it.”
“No?” Alfred started looking nervous now.
“Who plays Holly in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’?”
“Arthur, I am a bit tired…” Alfred mumbled.
“Who?” I asked sharply.
“I don’t know!” Alfred almost shouted and dropped his pen and notes. He looked at me aggravated. “Okay?”
“Audrey Hepburn does!” I yelled.
“I love her!”
“You don’t even know what roles she plays!”
“I forgot! That is all!” Alfred defended himself.
“When was she born?”
“Hell…” I dropped the broom. I was looking at him with doubt clouding my eyes. “Do you even know who she is? Honestly, Alfred,” I added as he looked away. “Tell me honestly, do you know who she is?”
Alfred was shyly kicking the floor. “No,” he admitted. “And I haven’t seen her movies either.”
“So you have been lying all along?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” he asked.
“Yes!” I cried. “Of course it matters!”
Alfred looked bewildered. He walked over to me. “I was doing my best!”
“Lying isn’t doing your best!”
“You wouldn’t have noticed me if I hadn’t lied about this! Hell Arthur, you’re an outsider - you talk to no one!”
I felt a rage building up inside of me. Of course I knew I was a bit odd, but Alfred had assured me for long now that I wasn’t alone in being it. He had shared my interests - or at least I had thought that he did. Now I was just back to being the geek. The weirdo. I shook my head. I didn’t like it one bit. “You didn’t give me a chance to notice you,” I mumbled.
“Arthur,” Alfred said tired and reached out for me, but I pushed his hands away. I could feel myself almost tearing up.
“Fuck off,” I said.
Alfred gave me a long look. And then he did just that; he turned around and walked out the doors.
I broke the broom and went home.
I felt horrible the following days and Alfred’s sudden disappearance didn’t help much more. I tried to tell myself that it was only good that he didn’t show up at the movie theatre, because he was a lying jerk and it had all probably been a game for him. But I felt lonely. Despite his lies, he’d been wonderful chatting with and from the moment he pecked my cheek, I’d only hoped for him to peck my lips as well.
Maybe even move closer.
But now I could forget all about that. Not only could, I should.
I angrily threw myself back into the world of Dorian Gray, but the words didn’t seem as fantastic to me anymore. I found myself reading the same sentence over and over again without understanding it and I was starting to turn red in frustration.
That’s when Ivan’s voice brought me to look up: “What happened?”
He was standing by the desk with concern in his eyes. His fingers were resting on the tabletop, but as soon as I closed the book and put it away, he grabbed one of my hands and squeezed it.
I felt a bit like a woman. I quickly pulled my hand away.
“What happened with what?”
Ivan sighed: “Don’t play dumb. Alfred. I haven’t seen him around for days now. And you look sad.”
“I think we’re done,” I said.
Ivan’s eyes widened: “Done?!”
“But you were perfect!”
“He lied. All along he lied. Remember how I told you how happy I was? About someone sharing my interest,” I asked. “He lied. He never liked movies.”
Ivan didn’t look the least surprised. As I looked up at him, he was avoiding eye contact with me.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said and shook his head.
I stood up. “Yes, there’s something,” I said looking directly at him. “I can tell.”
“Well..” Ivan cleared his throat and peeled at the tabletop.
Now I got really curious.
“You have never been easy to get to,” he mumbled.
I threw my hands up in the air. “Aw, come on! Not you as well! Alfred said just the same! Or, well, pretty much the same!”
“Arthur!” Ivan interrupted me.
I put my arms akimbo with a scowl. “Go on.”
“You know I have known Matthew since we were kids,” he said.
I nodded. Yes, I knew that.
“Obviously I have met Alfred as well. I mean, they are brothers.” Ivan started scratching the top of his hand. I could tell he found this difficult to speak about. “Because I was always open, Alfred knew I liked men as well. Oh, not that it is important, but he confined in me from very early on. We understood each other.”
I shook my head: “I can’t believe this. You’re mates and you didn’t tell me? Fuck you.” I felt like walking away, but I kept standing where I was at.
“It’s nothing like that,” Ivan said. “And then… maybe it is. But do you remember two years ago? When we met and became friends.. Alfred sometimes came by to see me, and he saw you as well.”
I hesitated. I could remember Ivan, but Alfred didn’t pop up in my memory. No matter how hard I tried to think back only two years, I couldn’t remember having seen him even once.
I must’ve had furrowed my brows, because Ivan smiled gently. “See? You don’t even remember.”
“It’s long ago,” I mumbled.
“Al hasn’t forgotten. He fell for you right away.”
I blushed. “He did?” I mumbled.
“He told me.”
“Ivan, if this is just a story-”
“Neither of us knew how to make you notice him. It wasn’t until this place started on the classic Tuesdays that I found out you love those things. I told Alfred. He’s really made an effort to look like he loves it just as much. It was the only way he could get in touch with you.”
I was shaking my head and grimacing while Ivan talked. It was as if everything started making sense, but I didn’t want for it to make sense. I just wanted to be angry at Alfred.
“Is that so…” was all I could mumble.
“Listen,” Ivan said. “Things aren’t going well for Matthew and I. I don’t even dare to tell Al about it all. But that doesn’t mean things shouldn’t work out for the two of you.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.. It’s not the same.”
“You’re right,” Ivan said. “It isn’t. Because Matthew doesn’t care enough for me to show it. But you two care a whole lot for each other.”
I looked him in the eyes.
His purple eyes were shaking a bit.
I gave his shoulder a short, awkward but friendly pat. “Thanks man.”
Ivan smiled. “Will you talk to Alfred?”
I took in a deep breath. Then I nodded. “I will.”
I was feeling nervous as I called Alfred during my break. I was sitting outside on the stairs while watching the sky.
“Hey, it’s Al,” he answered.
I smiled hearing his voice. “Hey Alfred, it’s Arthur.”
“Oh?” He sounded surprised. “Oh. Hey.”
“Ivan gave me your number,” I explained.
“Oh?” he said again. “Oh, Ivan did?”
“Yeah…” I poked the ground with the toe of my shoe. “He kind of… explained things.”
Alfred was quiet for a few seconds. Then he sighed. “I am sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have lied, I know that. But I have tried for almost two years.. Nothing really worked. Only this. I had to grab the chance.”
“Alfred-” I said, but he continued despite my interruption:
“I would’ve told you at some point. At least I planned on letting you know. There just was never a right time, you know?”
“Alfred,” I said again.
“But I really, really like you,” he breathed.
I smiled hopelessly. “I really, really like you too,” I whispered.
“You do?” Alfred choked.
He was chuckling too. “Does this mean we can… try again?”
I nodded. Then I remembered he couldn’t see me. “Yes,” I said. “I think it means that. No more lies.”
“But a lot of notes?”
“That would be great,” I admitted.
“Is Dorian Gray still running?” Alfred asked.
I sighed: “I wouldn’t force you to watch it.”
“I would like to,” he answered. “I actually would. No lies.”
I hesitated. “No, it’s not running. But I have the new one on DVD.”
“Is that a date?”
“Are you cooking?”
Alfred laughed: “I am.”
“I’ll see you Saturday then.”
“Mhmm?” I mumbled.
“When I see you again, I’ll kiss you.”
I felt my face heat up.
“No lies,” he added and then ended the call.
I stared at my phone and then shook my head as I pressed it to my forehead. “Then I will kiss you back,” I mumbled. “No lies.”
I knew we were doomed to be a hopeless couple. But you know what? I think we would make Audrey Hepburn jealous.