Hadn’t it been Jordie’s turn to pick up a joint for their monthly hangout with the guys, Jamie wouldn’t have stepped foot into Penguins Sports Bar the night the Cowboys were playing the Steelers. Well, maybe if his blue-collar friends offered to pay him his weight in gold, but Jamie knew the best deal out of their outing tonight would be the discount Jordie always managed to squeeze out of Geno whenever they stopped by the LGBT hotspot on this side of town. Nah, make it a hefty discount. With the place packed to the brim, Jordie’s buddy was sure flying as high as a happy lark with all the dough rolling into his bank account tonight.
Jason and Sharpy had welcomed him and Jordie with a large order of buffalo wings and chilled beers at a table crammed in a corner too close to the bar for Jamie’s comfort. Their view to the three big screen plasmas hanging over the polished bar counter and to the others scattered around the large, moden saloon was compromised at the best. The constant coming and going of the patrons and staff rooting and all the swearing basically made Jamie’s life a living hell with the promises of a helluva headache for the very near future.
Truth was, being a hockey fan Jamie usually didn’t give two flying fucks to football, just like his friends and brother, hockey fans and Cowboys till the end didn’t give two flying fucks to the queers openly ogling their very straight asses.
Jamie smiled and thanked the flaming twink who rang their order and handed Jamie a new chilled pitcher along with a piece of paper most likely bearing a name and phone number Jamie shoved in his pocket because he was polite like that, and turned around to make his way back to their table.
He could have gotten there twice as fast if the guys trying to chat up their way around his dick every step along the way got the clear message that Jamie wasn’t in pursuit of a good time rolling on the sheets in some one-night stand’s bed. Sharpy, Jason and Jordie however were having a blast letting their hands, up and down thumbs and general body language rate Jamie’s wannabe companions for the night, much to Jamie’s dismay and to the amusement of the bunch of assholes Jamie fondly called friends.
He finally, finally reached his destination and set the pitcher at the center of the table, not without sloshing some beer on the plate full of chicken bones and greasy napkins lying around. He had aimed for one of the assholes’ IPhones.
“Took you long enough,” Jason bitched behind a smirk, but making himself useful by filling up their glasses.
“Nah, kid was busy, Demers. Did you see the line of guys hitting on my little bro here?” Jordie threw one arm around Jamie’s shoulder and used the other to raise his glass in salute. “So proud of you, Chubbs!”
“So who’s your pick? Guy number three topped my list,” Sharpy offered a beer salute of his own along with the killer smile that could have the toughest lesbians go hetero and wet-slash-drop their panties at its bright and sparkling command. Hillary’s words, not Jamie’s.
Jamie gave them the finger treatment and grimaced taking a sip of his bitter, cold drink. “Fuck you.”
“My bro Sharpy here I can understand, but Demers, Chubbs, really?” Jordie shook his head and took a long gulp of his beer to show his disappointment. “So many nights spent talking about high standards and shit for nothing!”
“Fuck you, Jordie! I am fucking hot! The fucking hottest definition for hot ever! I can get any dude here fill up that last blank spot in my V-card!” Jason’s indignity was met with a chorus of snorted yes and of courses. “I sure as hell CAN! Tell them, Jamie! Tell them what a fine specimen of the male form I am.”
“Does this shit even make sense?” Jordie asked in between sips. “Man, this is good!”
“I’d glad fill up that last blank spot in your V-card, Demers, but you’re like a brother to me,” Jamie apologized planting a wet one on his friend’s cheek. Then he wrested bartender-twink’s name and phone number out of his pocket and stuffed it into Jason’s. “Give twink a chance.”
Jason laughed, shoving the paper and Jamie away. “Oh why, thanks but no thanks, buddy. I don’t mind keeping that last spot empty.”
Jamie had the long, heartfelt speech covering all the advantages of some good, old-fashioned man-on-man action that never failed to make Jordie blush ready and at the tip of his tongue when he saw a kind of familiar pregnant dude rush in their direction with an order of fries and onion rings Jamie supposed was theirs.
That’s when it also happened.
“Hey gents, good evening.”
“Hey, Sid. How’s little G Junior doing?”
Jamie earned his living by paying attention and being a trustworthy, level headed employee in moments of crises. His position at Dallas Stars Power Plant didn’t afford him to have anything less than a hundred percent of his sense of awareness on to focus on his workplace, and the same level of commitment was dispensed to the guys working under his supervision. He wasn’t wired in a very different way when off the clock, yet every now and again surprise would rear its ugly head, be a bitch and slap him hard in the face, knock the wind out of him and leave him breathless and at a loss for words.
“Killing my back and ruining my bladder, thanks for asking. Oh, G wants to talk to you, Jordie.”
“Freezer acting up again?”
Geno’s polite and guilty looking pregnant husband was irrelevant to Jamie’s current verbal apoplexy.
“Hello, folks. Nice day to have your ass fired because your pregnant boss’s husband doesn’t get the concept of leaving the fucking fries alone, don’t you think?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ty! G won’t fire you!”
Jamie forgot. He simply forgot how to be an articulate, full functional adult because Tyler Seguin, exquisite Tyler fucking Seguin, protagonist of a whole bunch of Jamie’s wet dreams for the last couple of years was right there bickering about banned to the kitchen and overprotective Russian husbands and stupid pregnant carriers and… Sharing space, air and the wholesomeness of him with Jamie! The man’s presence alone turned Jamie into a fucking walking cliché in which all the talk about whatever ceased to exist, giving room to puffed out emotions named Tyler, Tyler and Tyler with nowhere to go but to grow and grow and grow inside of him until everything blew right before Jamie’s eyes, leaving in its awake…
A silence charged with a shitload of weirded-out awkwardness in which everyone was expecting someone to fill up the void.
Someone who was most likely Jamie.
Jamie blinked himself out of his Tyler-induced-trance to a scenario in which all the burgers had been handed out and he was the sole object of long stares made of curiosity (uh… Sid?), fondness (Sharpy), uneasy lightness (Jason) and confusion (Tyler). Jamie didn’t have the balls to look at Jordie and find the crocked smile schooled to conceal the apprehensiveness caused by Jamie’s boy-crush-turned-love. Jason and Sharpy had known for a while and shown their sympathy for this lost cause, but Jordie was the one to take it the hardest because Jamie: a) was blood; and b) would never fight for the love of a man who was already taken by another.
No dream could survive the harsh realities of life taking place right before his eyes.
Then just because Jamie wasn’t already a goner, “Hi, Jamie. Nice to have you back with us.”
From the corner of his eyes Jamie saw Jordie cringe and take half of his beer in one gulp. Jamie wished he could do the same.
“Hey, ah, hey, Ty. Got a little… ah… distracted… by the game. How’s it going, man? What are you doing here?”
“Not much now that I’ll be fired,” Tyler shrugged like it was no big deal. “It was good the two days it lasted.”
“G. Won’t. Fire. You.”
The guys started firing questions at Tyler about why he missed their amateur hockey team last couple of games, that they were already one man down with Kruger, and if Oduya had finally had enough of his ugly mug managing his husband’s business.
For Jamie all the bantering came to a screeching halt at fire Tyler.
But Tyler did an awesome job managing the diner during Kruger’s paternity leave! That was the place him and Jamie chatted about their passion for hockey and how their amateur team had played the night before, about Tyler’s online classes this semester. They talked about so many things and nothing at all while Tyler kept an eye on things and Jamie stretched his lunch hour to its full capacity just have an excuse and be closer to Tyler. Tyler’s shift finished at six otherwise Jamie would be there for his evening meals too, nevermind the mouthwatering three-course meals served at Jamie’s workplace.
If Tyler were really gone from the diner, could Jamie afford taking his meals at Penguins without messing up his mortgage plans?
“Of course Krugs didn’t fire me! I am, was here just to help out a little! And who are you calling an ugly mug, you shithead!”
Oh, goodness, thank Lord! Tyler hadn’t been fired! Jamie could stick to his plan to pay off his mortgage in two years!
“Is that how you talk to the patrons?”
“You’re not a patron, Demers, you are my teammate!”
“And you haven’t shown up for the last couple of weeks!”
“Shit!” Sid gasped and dropped the tray in his hands, the noise drawing the attention of the patrons in their proximity. “Hi, G! Jordie’s here. Didn’t you want to talk to him?”
At least now Jordie had a valid reason to turn his attention somewhere else. “Leave me out of this!”
“What you doing here, Sid?” Geno asked picking the tray from the floor and handing it to Tyler. “Leave you alone one minute! One minute!”
“Tyler needed help with their order. I tagged along to say hi.”
“Hey man, not fair! I told him to stay in the kitchen, G!”
“Told both of you to stay in the kitchen and do inventory! Place is packed, Sid. What if you fall?”
“G, I’m fine. Nothing happened.” Sid grabbed both of Geno’s hand and placed them on his bump. “The baby is fine, see?”
By now, the drama unfolding in the room and the reverence of Geno’s touch to the safe cocoon housing his kid was way more interesting to the people closer to them than the game. However, all Jamie could see was the longing pouring from Tyler’s eyes in spades, the way he pressed his empty tray against his belly, then how he shook his head and moved to the table next to theirs to start collecting the dirty napkins, empty plates and cups.
“We’re fine,” Sid said. “Nothing…”
Geno wrapped himself around Sid and through the chaos of people shouting, jumping and high-fiving each other, Jamie got pieces of Geno putting Sid in early paternity leave, but it looked like Sid was not one to be bossed around. The celebration was dying down and Jamie could hear clearer now.
“Don’t be ridiculous! I can work!”
“Have to be careful in your condition!”
“AND SO DOES TYLER, BUT YOU DON’T SEE HIM SLACKING!”
A loud crash of metal followed by the sound of glass and porcelain breaking when Tyler dropped the tray. Could have been Jaime’s heart and what little hope he had of someday winning Tyler shatering.
Jamie’s awareness of the bar dissolved into strains of Geno’s voice claiming something like Russian beer the best and free refill to people who got his name right. There was Sid whimpering apologies and Tyler’s voice cracking to say they were cool, ask if he still had a job. Geno’s reassurance in broken English that yes, of course he did.
And his eyes tracing Tyler’s every move.
Tyler untying his apron…
Tyler reassuring Sid with a shaky smile…
Tyler meeting Jamie’s eyes…
His lips moving without adding anything to sooth the pain tearing Jamie apart…
The same pain pooling in Tyler’s eyes…
Tyler biding everybody goodbye…
…a tear falling…
Jamie moving around the table, reaching out to stop him…
Jordie, Jason and Sharpy stepping up to block his way, holding Jamie in place…
…his protests landing in deaf ears…
Tyler’s retreating back lost in the sea of bodies cheering the Cowboys second score.
Jamie calling out for Tyler.
The broken glass crunching under his feet.
Fucking. Walking. Cliché.