Şubat 3, 2021

Embracing the Tension Ch. 06

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Copyright © 2018 by Hudson Bartholomew. All rights reserved. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


Embracing the Tension – Chapter 6

“I can’t believe we’re doing this.” Erik shook his head as they walked through the roped off lanes that led onto the massive ferry.


“Because… I don’t know.”

Ryan chuckled, then gave his signature grin and shrug. “I like it. It’s one of my favorite things to do in New York.”

“Really?” Erik said, as they climbed the steps to the third level of the giant boat. “Of all the things to do in New York, riding the Staten Island ferry is one of your favorite?”

“Yeah. It’s the best way to see the Statue of Liberty.”

“I never would have thought that you’d like the Statue of Liberty so much.”

“It’s not just the statue, there’s also a nice view of Manhattan on the way back.

“Sure, but it’s all very touristy, don’t you know?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing,” Erik said. “Just unexpected.”

Ryan grinned at him and led them to the outdoor viewing deck. They claimed an empty spot on the railing.

“Are you sure you want to stand outside?” Erik asked.

“Yeah, you can see everything better.”

“It’s also colder.”

“Aw, are you cold?” Ryan bumped him on the shoulder, and Erik couldn’t help but grin at the touch.

“Don’t bring your Canadian standard of cold down here.” Erik bumped Ryan back.

“Wimp.” There was no sting in Ryan’s voice. Especially when he wrapped an arm around Erik’s shoulder and tugged. Erik let himself be pulled close so that his back pressed against Ryan’s chest and Ryan’s chin rested on his shoulder. When he turned his head, he could rub cheeks with Ryan, and that beautifully lush beard tickled his skin.


Ryan responded with squeeze and a sigh.

They leaned against the railing as the ferry moved away from Manhattan, the mid-morning sun glittering off the water. As the ferry picked up speed, the wind blew colder, and Erik snuggled more deeply into Ryan’s arms, leaning his temple against the warmth of Ryan’s beard.

He didn’t remember the last time he’d taken the Staten Island ferry—might have been during the first months he’d been in New York. As much as he teased Ryan for wanting to do something so touristy, he had to admit that it was nice, simple and carefree.

That’s it. That’s what he felt when he was around Ryan: carefree. He didn’t need to be the life of the party, didn’t need to be funny or charismatic or entertaining or any of the million other things people always expected him to be. With Ryan, he could just stand in silence and notice such things as the warmth of Ryan’s body against his and the chilly bite of the wind against his cheeks.

With Ryan, he could just be. Just Erik. Not Erik, the good son, the good student, the successful film producer, the famous porn star. With Ryan, being himself was good enough.

That realization was more than a little terrifying. His heart beat heavily against the inside of his chest, dangerously close to where Ryan’s hand lay flat against his body. Erik was sure Ryan could feel it, but the only response Ryan gave was a quick squeeze of his arms pulling them even closer still.

Erik wasn’t sure he wanted to be himself. He’d spent his whole life trying to be something more than just himself. Leaving Salt Lake City, choosing a career in film, doing porn; he liked the Erik who did all those things; that Erik was ambitious, driven, accomplished, at the top of his game and climbing. Who would want to be the Erik who was just a gay boy from Utah? There was nothing interesting or special about that guy.

And yet, with Ryan, Erik’s bigger-than-life personas were met with a lopsided grin and a shrug. Ryan’s quiet reserve had no use for anything other than plain authenticity, and Erik found himself drawn to a place where he couldn’t put on those masks anymore. Ryan brought him to a place where, whether he liked it or not, he was just Erik Fischer, gay boy from Utah.

Erik turned around in Ryan’s arms, leaned back against the railing and wrapped his arms around Ryan’s waist, pulling the other man between his legs. He leaned his forehead against Ryan’s shoulder and then nuzzled into that spot right at the crook of Ryan’s neck. Spicy, earthy sandalwood filled Erik’s nose.

He couldn’t help a quick glance around to see if there were cameras nearby, recording their little moment. A few passengers stood huddled together farther down the railing, but no camera. He pushed the thought out of his head.

“You okay?” bahis firmaları The vibration from Ryan’s voice reverberated against Erik’s cheek.

Was he okay? He couldn’t say what exactly was wrong, but things in his life hadn’t felt right in a long time. At least, they didn’t feel right when compared to moments like this.

Erik nodded in the small space between Ryan’s neck and shoulder. Whatever was wrong with him, he’d shake off like he’d always had. Gay boy from Utah, he may be, but that wasn’t the only thing he was now.

“You’re missing the Statue.”

Erik shrugged. “I’ve seen it before.”

Ryan gave him a quick squeeze, and Erik let himself relax into their embrace. By the time Erik extracted himself from Ryan’s embrace, the ferry was already pulling into St. George Terminal on Staten Island.

Erik blinked at the bright sun, and Ryan gave him a lopsided grin but didn’t say anything. And there it was again, the space Ryan created where Erik could just be.

“So, is there anything to do on Staten Island?” Erik asked as they headed toward the exit.

“I don’t know, actually,” Ryan responded. “I’ve never bothered to check.”

They entered the terminal, and sitting in the waiting area, in the middle of rows of seats, was a large fish tank, full of colorful rocks and corals and fish.

“Hey, look at this.” Erik headed over and looked in on the marine life encased behind glass. “Doesn’t this remind you of our aquarium trip?” he asked when Ryan joined him.

“Yeah, not quite as big, though.”

Erik scoffed. “Obviously, but…” That day had been special to Erik, but saying that out loud felt silly.

“You know,” Ryan filled in the silence, “Chloe still drags that magenta jellyfish around everywhere. She even sleeps with that thing. Rachel and Tom keep telling her she’s getting too old to sleep with toys, but she insists.”

Erik smiled at the thought of the little girl clutching her stuffed toy. He kind of wished he also had a magenta jellyfish he could fall asleep with. It would remind him of Ryan on all those nights they spent apart. He took a step back from the glass, slightly startled at how badly he wanted that toy now.

“Cute.” The word came out a little more dismissively than he had intended, and it got him a raised eyebrow from Ryan. He tried to smile to soften the tone, but that felt a little forced, too. God, he was a mess.

“So, it looks like the next ferry is in twenty minutes.” Erik changed the topic. “Let’s wander around a bit and then come back?”

“Yeah, sure.” Ryan agreed easily, and Erik left it at that.

There was a footpath that led from St. George Terminal along the waterfront past the Staten Island Yankee stadium. They followed the path, enjoying the bright autumn sun, the little strip of grass, and the breeze blowing off the water. Off in the distance was the Manhattan skyline, a little too far to really enjoy but standing tall all the same.

“Feels like a different world out here,” Erik said, turning his face toward the sun.

“It is a different world out here.”

“Funny.” Erik bumped shoulders with Ryan. “But so close to the city. It’s hard to believe that we’re only a twenty-minute ferry ride away.”

“You know, Manhattan is really its own microcosm. There’s a whole other world outside of that little island.”

There was something in Ryan’s tone of voice that Erik didn’t quite understand. He pirouetted on one foot and walked backwards, facing Ryan. “What are you trying to say?”

Ryan shrugged noncommittally. “Nothing. Just that there’s a world outside of Manhattan.”


“And… it’s possible to have a life outside of Manhattan.”

Erik narrowed his eyes at Ryan. “I know that.”

“Yeah, I know you know that.” Ryan shrugged and wouldn’t meet his gaze. “But a lot of other people in New York don’t know that.”

“How long did you live here?” Erik asked, pirouetting again so that he faced forward.

“Um… eight years?”

“That’s a long time. Longer than most people who come to New York for school.”

“I only lasted that long because of my… career change,” Ryan said with a smile. “How about you? How long has it been?”

“Six years now.”

“That’s a pretty long time, too.”

“Yeah.” Erik shrugged.

“And you never get tired of it?”

Erik thought about his answer before speaking. “I mean, I get tired. Everyone gets tired. But tired enough to… what? Leave?” Erik shrugged. “And go where?”

“Anywhere,” Ryan replied. “Like we just agreed. There’s a whole world outside of New York.”

“Yeah, but… come on.” Erik raised his eyebrows and sent Ryan the look he used when he was humoring one of his nieces or nephews.

Ryan rolled his eyes and shook his head but didn’t try to convince Erik otherwise, and Erik didn’t try to continue with the topic.

Ahead of them was a white sculpture that rose from a small concrete courtyard. As they got closer, Erik realized it was actually two white sculptures, kaçak iddaa shaped almost like the wings of a bird, extending up into the sky with the tips curving outwards. They looked familiar to Erik, and it took a minute for him to remember where he’d seen them before.

“This thing is called Postcards,” Erik said. “It’s a 9/11 memorial to victims from Staten Island.”

“Oh, wow. I didn’t realize they had this.”

They walked around the sculpture and then in between the two wings. There, on each side, were plaque memorials bearing the names of the victims, their job titles, and their dates of birth. Each plaque was itself a little sculpture of the victim, his or her profile in silhouette, all facing across the water toward Ground Zero, where they lost their lives.

As they walked in between the two wings, Erik read the names etched in stone. Many of the people had been emergency workers, police and firefighters; others had worked in one of the towers, many from the same few companies. All of these people had gone to work that day as if it were any other day, perhaps expecting to be home in time for dinner with their family. But none of them got to do that.

Life is short. It might be a cliché, but it was true, and the thought rang loudly in Erik’s mind. Life was much too short to hold a grudge against family members; it was too short to push away people he loved.

Erik emerged from the sculpture and stood by the railing overlooking the water. The saltiness of the water wafted up to greet him. It was Thanksgiving today, and his family would be gathering in his parents’ house, the women cooking in the kitchen while the men watched football in the living room. The kids would be in the den, playing and making a racket. And he was on the other side of the country.

“Hey, you okay?”

Erik felt Ryan’s hand on his shoulder, the warmth of Ryan’s body pressed against his arm. He turned his face in the other direction, clenching his teeth and gripping the railing tightly until the vice around his chest eased.

“Yeah.” Erik tried to sound perky. “I’m fine.” He probably sounded too perky.

Ryan didn’t move away but didn’t say anything, either. He just squeezed Erik’s shoulder and waited until Erik was ready to go.

They walked back to the terminal in silence and caught the next ferry back to the city. Erik led the way again to the outdoor deck on the third level. He needed the wide-open space. Ryan didn’t say a word and simply took up the spot next to Erik and gave him room.

They stood in silence as the ferry pulled away from the terminal, and the gleaming Manhattan skyline gradually grew larger. The sun glinted off the shiny glass buildings, and the Freedom Tower soared above it all.

“Would you ever move back?” Erik asked quietly. He was pretty sure what the answer was—not the one he wanted—but he asked anyway.

“Probably not,” Ryan answered.

“Why not?”

Ryan sighed. “Because I don’t have a death wish?”

“Seriously? After we just saw the memorial?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.” Ryan shifted so that he leaned his hip against the railing and faced Erik. “I won’t rule out ever moving back because I can’t see the future, so who knows. But I can’t see myself coming back here. Living in New York is about being the best, and I’m okay with not being the best.”

“What? Why wouldn’t you want to be the best?” Erik shifted to face Ryan, who looked much too nonchalant for someone who just admitted he didn’t want to be the best.

“Because, I don’t. What’s so good about being the best? I mean, I want to be good at what I do, but I don’t need to be the best.”

“It’s good because it’s the best. That’s the definition.”

Ryan threw him a skeptical look that Erik wasn’t quite sure how to interpret. It was half “I don’t believe you” and half “You’re so full of shit.”

“Look.” Ryan shrugged. “When I was in New York, it felt like a daily battle to prove to other people that I was worthy of the city. I’m just not interested in playing that game anymore.”

Erik wanted to deny it, the words were right on the tip of his tongue, but he gave himself a second longer to consider what Ryan had said. It did feel like a daily battle to prove that he belonged. Whether it was to prove to others or to himself that he was good enough to make it, Erik wasn’t sure. But there was truth in those words, and Erik was smart enough to let it stand.


The phone rang so many times that Erik thought it would go unanswered. Right before it would have gone to the answering machine, someone picked up.

“Hello?” It was a young woman’s voice, breathless and giggly. In the background were a dozen voices and the banging of pots and pans in the kitchen.

“Suzie?” Erik said, pretty sure it was his youngest sister on the other end of the line.

A pause, and then, “Erik?” His name was spoken in a hushed tone. Then there was a bit of shuffling, and the din of the kitchen faded into the background.

“Yeah, hi. It’s me.” kaçak bahis

“Oh, my god, Erik,” Suzie said. “I can’t believe you called.”

“Oh, um… yeah. I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.” Erik was glad Suzie couldn’t see him pacing back and forth in front of his bedroom window, running his free hand through his hair or across his face. Why was she surprised that he called? Was it so far-fetched that he would want to speak with his family on the holiday?

“Oh, yeah, of course. Yes. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.”

“How have you been doing?” Erik asked. “How’s school?” As the youngest in the family, Suzie was still in college and exposed to more liberal thoughts than was usually touted at home. Of all his siblings, Suzie was a little friendlier toward Erik. He was glad she was the one who picked up the phone.

“School’s good.” Suzie sighed. “We’re doing a lot more training in the hospital now, learning from real nurses and all that. It’s a little scary to be working with patients, but I’ve been enjoying it.”

“That’s great to hear!” Erik smiled at the thought of Suzie working as a nurse. Those patients had no idea what they were in for. “And your dancing?” She was part of her school’s ballroom dancing team.

“Pretty good. We came in second at Regionals. We were hoping for first, but we gave it our all, and so we’re happy with it.” She paused. “So, um, how are you?”

“Good. Fine. You know, just work.”

“Right.” Another pause. “Remind me what you’re doing again?”

Erik scrunched up his face. Fuck. His family had never had to ask him that before. They’d always been up to speed on what he was doing, at least the more PG-13 stuff. “I’m a film producer now.”

“Oh. Right.”

He only realized how that must have sounded after the words left his mouth. “No, I mean. Like, real films. Not… I produce normal films. The last one was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.”

Fuck. Please don’t ask what it was about…

“Right.” Suzie didn’t really sound convinced.

“So, listen.” Erik jumped in before they could continue down that topic. “Are Mom and Dad around? I wanted to say hi.”


Erik hated the uncertainty he heard in Suzie’s voice. Please, please, please. Just let me talk to them. I just want to talk to them for a minute.

She sighed heavily into the phone. “Hold on.”

There was a muffled sound as Suzie’s hand brushed against the phone’s mouth piece. The longer the silence dragged on, the faster Erik’s heart beat until he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He pulled on his hair and forced himself to take a deep breath—no point in passing out now.

Suzie’s hand must have slipped from the mouthpiece because Erik could hear the hushed conversation taking place on the other end.

“Mom! He’s waiting on the phone! You have to talk to him.”

“Suzie, it’s— but— I can’t.” She was doing that blubbering thing she did when being asked to do something she really didn’t want to do. Erik’s heart was in his throat, blocking off his airway, and his lungs burned with the lack of oxygen.

“Mom! You can’t just not talk to him.”

“Suzie! I don’t like your tone.”

Erik leaned heavily against the wall and let his legs give way under him as he slid to the floor. His mother was more concerned about his sister’s tone of voice than speaking to him.

“Mom!” A pause from Suzie. “Mom!”

She must have walked away.

Erik squeezed his eyes shut and fought back the stinging behind his lids. Why had he thought this would be a good idea? He almost hung up when he heard a shuffling sound as the phone was handed off to someone else.

“Hello? Erik?” It was Dean.

“Hey.” Erik cleared his throat. “Hi, Dean.”

Dean sighed heavily into the phone. “Look, I’m sorry, but… it’s probably not a good idea to talk to Mom or Dad right now.”

Erik took a shaky breath. Just hold it together for the rest of the call, just a couple more minutes. “Mmhmm.” He didn’t quite trust himself to speak.

“You’re doing okay?”

At least the question sounded genuine.

“Yeah.” Erik took another gulp of air and cleared his throat again. “I’m good. I’m doing well. Yeah. Thanks for asking. And you guys? How’s everyone doing at home?” He hated how high his voice went when he tried to sound cheerful.

“Yeah, we’re good. Um, the kids have been asking about you.”

Erik bit back a sob. “Can you tell them I love them?” He managed to squeak out.

“Yeah, I will.”

There was still so much more that Erik wanted to say, so much that he wished they knew about him. But what use was it now? What could he say now to get them to listen, to get them to understand that he was the same person they’d always known? What could he say to convince them to let him back in?

“I… I should go.” Dean sounded resigned, and Erik thought he heard a tinge of regret.

“Yeah.” Another deep breath. “Yeah, okay. Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.”

As the line went dead, Erik gripped the phone tightly in his hand, and despite telling himself not to, he threw the damn thing across the room. It hit the opposite wall with crack and tumbled to the floor.

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