|Matthew | Чернобог (chernobog) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2011-11-24 13:30:00
|Entry tags:||baron samedi, chernobog|
Screw the turkey
Who: Nathaniel and Julian
What: Nathaniel doesn’t get this American food holiday.
Where: Julian’s apartment
Nathaniel had been relatively happy since moving to America. There had been too many problems with living in England that the escape was necessary and he never regretted the move. Meeting Juliet had been a highlight to his move and now, with her as his girlfriend, he could honestly say that he was truly happy. Things had panned out for the best and when Juliet left for home for the week Nathaniel was startled to realize how taken he was by her. They didn’t typically see one another constantly but knowing she was near served as some sort of a comfort for Nathaniel. When she left Nathaniel found himself somewhat sad and missing her presence. Even more than that, he was counting down the end of the week so he could see her again.
And then the whole Thanksgiving thing happened. Nathaniel found himself trying to pick up frozen dinners on the day and being turned away from one place and another. Half of the stores were closed and the other’s had shortened hours. Some were blasting the signs about Black Friday, which Nathaniel had gathered was a huge sale but he didn’t understand why it was called “Black Friday”.
Frustrated and lonely, Nathaniel made his way through the lobby and towards the elevator when he spotted life: the club owner, Julian. Quickly, Nathaniel grinned and called out to him. “I thought everyone went somewhere special for this holiday. It’s nice to see someone milling about.”
Julian wasn’t sure he was necessarily ‘milling about’, but the young man’s sudden arrival put a toothy grin on his face regardless. He’d been in the motion of calling down the elevator, a package labeled with HONG RESTAURANT - CHINESE DINING in a large, red print. Not the usual Thanksgiving fare, but since he and Ariana were continuously avoiding each other and the disownment of his family, Julian had no one to spend the holiday with but himself. Not that he minded, at all.
Still, the club was a piss-poor and depressing place to be around the holidays, simply because it was empty. Everyone was at home with their families, and though Julian had done his best to build one into CASKET, there were some days when it just fell short. Reaching forward, he tapped the elevator button, then turned back to Nathaniel.
“Nope, not everyone. It’s really all just about the food, anyway, so you’re not missing out on much. The little woman not around?”
Nathaniel shifted his plastic bag of frozen foods to his left hand and slipped his right into his pocket. He smiled, his eyes turning to look at the floor pointlessly for a moment as he savored that happy feeling he got whenever people (thus far, it was his secretary and family only) asked about Juliet. “No,” Nathaniel replied, his smile fading a little but not vanishing completely. He looked at Julian again and gave a small shrug. “She left on Monday to go home and visit her family. She said she would be back this weekend. I’m completely alone on my floor.”
The elevator doors swished open and Nathaniel moved to step inside, the plastic bag swinging from his hand and bumping into his leg. “So it is about the food. That’s what I thought. It just seems to be completely about the food and nothing else. Well, no, it seems to be about shopping as well. What are you doing for this holiday?”
“Was going to catch up on my sleep - the ad for my office chair said it was so comfortable that I’d be snoozing in it, but that frankly isn’t the case.” The elevator descended slowly, giving Julian a moment to consider the thought that had popped into his head. “If you don’t have anything to do, you’re welcome to join me for an impromptu dinner. Then you can say that you got in on the food action as well.” Julian bumped the containers of food on his arm, warm in contrast to the frozen food hanging from Nathaniel’s own hand. “Can’t say it’s home cooked with love, but it’s probably better than something you’re about to throw in the microwave.”
Nathaniel gave a half smile for response and after a moment he gave a nod. “If you’re sure that I am not intruding on you I will gladly accept your invitation.” He lifted his bag of frozen food and raised an eyebrow. “I could at least pitch in so there is enough food for the both of us. I would offer to cook but I’m pretty clueless. I can make toast though.”
Nathaniel looked at the passing floor numbers and glanced back at Julien. “I have scotch at my apartment. Would you like me to grab some? Or do people shy away from alcohol on this holiday?”
Laughter met the last question, though in no way was Julian laughing at Nathaniel. Well, perhaps a little, as the low chuckle died off in lieu of a smile.
“No, I bet there are a lot of people who are digging out bottles of vodka. It might be the only way to get through the inevitable family reunions.” The elevator doors opened, beckoning the two men inside. “But don’t worry about the scotch. I’ve got some in my apartment, you can always just refill me later.” He held the doors open for Nathaniel, waiting for the younger man to join him. Julian never relished being alone, and the presence of another bachelor (even though Julian wasn’t technically one...he’d been living for far too long as such) would prove to be a blessing in disguise, he was sure.
Nathaniel gave a nod of thanks as he stepped into the elevator. “I can understand that,” he commented. “Christmas supper with my family is always an event where my brother and I sneak to the library with a stolen bottle of liquor. Our home is always dreadfully filled with relatives who were very obnoxious and would talk your ear off. Maybe we’re the lucky ones to be celebrating with take-away food. But I’ll be here for Christmas this year and thankfully avoiding the party. I think I may send my brother a picture of myself and a bottle of liquor though--just to tease him.”
Nathaniel realized his smile had never quite diminished. He had been more lonely than he had realized on his floor and Julian’s invitation was a welcome surprise. It was also nice, Nathaniel thought, that he would have an opportunity to get to know his neighbor of sorts more than he did during the bizarre Halloween party.
“Sibling love, I have to say, I don’t miss that too much. Or maybe it’s the rivalry that I don’t miss. How many?” Leaning forward to tap the fourth floor button, Julian thought of his own brothers, who were surely gathering around the table at their parents’. Maybe his mother would think to call him, if she got to the phone before his father unplugged the jack. She had never quite approved of simply cutting their child off, but Julian’s father had always had the last word in any argument. He still received cards from his brothers and their families for Christmas and announcements, but otherwise wasn’t terribly involved in their lives--not that it bothered him. There were more important things to do, like running a business.
“Three siblings. An older brother and sister and one younger sister,” Nathaniel replied. “I’ve never been very close to them but we do get along. How many siblings do you have, Julian?” Nathaniel realized he could have a little family right there. He appreciated his apartment and the area around him, even with the oddities, and now that he was gaining friends he felt more and more like this was his home. Happily he thought of how he would tell Juliet of this, his impromptu meeting with Julian and his acceptance into his home for a Thanksgiving meal. “Do you get to see your family often?”
“Three brothers, and no. It’s a long story,” he continued, the elevator finally arriving at his selected floor. He stepped out of the box, one hand lingering on the doorway to ensure that Nathaniel stepped out in order to follow him. Julian shifted the boxes, one glance going toward Ariana’s apartment door (just maybe wondering where she might be this fine evening - the idea that she had flown home to see her parents did not escape him, and it would have probably been just the moral booster she needed, considering the events of Halloween) before he continued on to his own. Keys were produced, and Julian flung the door wide to invite the other man inside.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” Julian replied with a smile, turning to glance at Nathaniel as he swept an arm wide as though he had suddenly turned into Vanna White and the entire space of his apartment was a blank board for Wheel of Fortune. “Make yourself comfortable, I’m going to grab some plates.” He made a vague motion toward the living area, or what could best be called a living area - two couches sat facing one another, a small television sitting on an end table nearer to the right side of one. On the wooden floor lay a plush oriental rug, one that someone could sink their toes into comfortably.
The walls were cluttered with pictures of various places, some of them showcasing a much younger looking Julian with an assortment of people. Some of the photos were Polaroids, quite a few were of him with young women, each different and evidently not long lasting. There were also two long tables pressed against the north and west wall, proffering a selection of what looked like trinkets, all worn from being handled. Though it wasn’t necessarily an untidy apartment, it certainly showed a bachelor mindset as shoes were strewn here and there, along with a jacket over the back of one of the couches.
The sound of plates scraping against one another and the jingling of silverware broke the silence before music poured forth, coming from a boombox Julian had set up in the kitchen. Blues filled the apartment with a rich, relaxing sound.
Nathaniel strolled into Julian’s living room, happily taking in the photos on the wall before gently sitting his bag of frozen food on the floor by the couch. His family had a set list of rules on how to decorate a house. Clutter was something you avoided and that had been passed down to Nathaniel. Everything he had was neat. But he appreciated homes like Julian’s because he could know the owner better just by seeing what they felt was important. Looking at all of these objects spoke volumes to Nathaniel. Of course, as a psychologist, Nathaniel did admit he was only human and could be wrong.
Taking a final look at the photos, Nathaniel retired to the couch but continued to look at the different things Julian had placed on tables. “It looks like you have had many adventures in your life,” Nathaniel called to his friend. “I feel that I know very little about you. You don’t have to tell me anything, but do know that if you’re interested in sharing I will be interested in hearing what you have to say.”
Clearing his throat, Nathaniel softly scolded himself for sounding too much like a doctor. So he decided to change the subject, rather than wait for Julian’s reply. “Lovely music you’re playing. Who is it by?”
“The one and only B.B. King,” Julian replied, re-entering the fray with two of each - plates, cutlery, cups. He set his offerings on a coffee table placed between the couches, making for an interesting if a little impromptu dining area. The Chinese food was brought out next, the boxes dumped into bowls to offer their contents in a little more aesthetically pleasing array, spoons at the ready to dish out the various options: rice and chow mein, beef and broccoli, honeyed shrimp, black-pepper chicken, and, finally, sweet-and-sour pork. Not the most traditional of Thanksgiving meals, but Julian had never been much of a cook and certainly didnt’ care now to give himself more to do on his self-appointed day off.
“And one of my favorite topics happens to be myself,” he half-joked in reply to Nathaniel’s earlier statements. “I did a little travelling when I was younger. Just around the ‘states, nothing across the pond like you and yours. I imagine you must have done much more travelling than me, then, unless the UK and California have been your only two pit stops?”
Murmuring his thanks for the food, Nathaniel leaned forward and began to take the offerings of food onto his plate. “While living in the UK I did travel around Europe with my family. But it’s much cheaper to travel from place to place within Europe than it is to fly there from America. But within the States I’ve only visited California. I’ve been to New York as well, but only for layovers. I’d like to visit more of America though. What are your favorite places that you’ve seen?”
Nathaniel stabbed his fork into a piece of beef and popped it in his mouth, savoring the taste and agreeing with Julian’s earlier statement that this was certainly better than frozen food.
“New York is definitely a city to visit. Savannah, Georgia, and New Orleans in Louisiana, those are great places, too,” Julian replied, before neatly shoveling a large bite of broccoli and beef into his mouth. He politely chewed, always sure to not muss his goatee with the sauce that caked the beef, before continuing. “Orleans, really, that’s a place to be. Born and raised here in California, but the moment I walked into that town, I never felt more at home.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d managed to finagle his visit around Mardi Gras, probably the biggest party in America at any time of the year. He could only half remember what had gone on, considering how drunk he’d gotten, but the place had fit him like a well-worn glove. And yet it was almost like a shadow, a lingering presence of where he should have been from - a carbon copy of another place, with hidden meaning imposed over better known values, to safeguard what was considered precious. Julian had no real way of communicating such a feeling to Nathaniel, so he kept it to himself.
“Definitely take a spin around the country, before you get too old,” he continued, pushing food around on his plate as he selected his next bite. “Don’t want to settle before you know your options.” The underlying thought wasn’t entirely clear, but Julian grinned bitterly to himself since it was all too obvious to him.
Nathaniel smiled, picturing a trip to locations he had only seen in pictures or on movie screens. “I’ve heard of the nature preserves of America. I’d love to see those. There’s something about being in forests that almost seems comforting.” The deep dark woods, snow, it had always looked so peaceful and comforting to Nathaniel. But from a psychological standpoint the woods had often been represented as comforting or mysterious to children, it could always affect the opinion of an adult, surely that was the reason Nathaniel found it so lovely. He saw it as comforting rather than creepy.
Maybe by summer, if he and Juliet were still dating (and he hoped that they were) he could suggest a trip for the two. She had such fears though...but maybe they could work on them together. “I will make it a priority. Maybe with each vacation I have I can travel. Americans do seem to have a lacking of vacations though. My office seemed rather shocked when I mentioned taking off for more than a week during the next year.”
He took another forkful of food and after swallowing looked at Julian. “I assume you work a lot as well?”
“It is the national mentality,” Julian replied with a grin, spearing a shrimp with his fork. He lifted it, twirling for inspection. “40 hours a week, or more, is a sure sign that you’re a hardworking adult. Personally, I don’t see my job as work, but since I’m the head honcho I could always give myself more time off - but I enjoy it too much.” His wife would undoubtedly see such a thing differently, claiming that he was a workaholic who’s possessive need to have control of everything colored his actions to a T. But Julian preferred to not worry about Ariana’s opinions more than he had to. A slight jab of guilt, left over from that strange feeling during October, hit his gut, but he did his best to ignore it.
“Got my traveling out of the way while I was young, then threw myself headfirst into the all American dream.” And he certainly was reaping it now, wasn’t he? An overly successful club, a failed marriage, and his own apartment filled with memories of the past. Julian mentally kicked himself, moving on from that train of thought.
“But don’t let others tell you what to do, there’s no fun in that. Of course, don’t not listen to the point of losing your job...there is a fine line with that.”
Nathaniel smiled. “I don’t believe I would lose my job. I’m a psychiatrist and try to keep my own hours. It just seems that Americans are...less understanding when I declare my intentions of still maintaining 28 vacation days as we would back home. I’ve already had a complaint from a mother of one of my patients that I should give out my cellular number so that she could call and ask for advice while her teen, my patient, wouldn’t do his homework on the weekends.” Julian chuckled under his breath at the mental image, helping himself to more black-pepper chicken.
Giving a sigh, Nathaniel shook his head and chewed on more food before continuing. “I have a system set up that if there was a true emergency I would be notified, even if I was not in the office. Otherwise, I feel that small questions can be answered during business hours. I’d rather enjoy my time with my girlfriend without being bothered by questions of ‘what are your office hours’.”
Bending to retrieve more Chinese food, Nathaniel realized he was having a bit of each item Julian had purchased. “It’s wonderful that you enjoy your job so much. I’m sure you meet many lovely people at your bar.” The implication was that Julian must meet many lovely ladies. But Nathaniel wasn’t about to be that blunt. He had seen the photos on Julian’s wall and spotted the assortment of women. His guess was that Julian did appreciate having female companionship.
The dropping of the term girlfriend did not escape Julian’s notice, though he gave himself a moment to thoughtfully chew his food as they wandered into this category of discussion. He was unsure if Nathaniel would be interested in petty issues like Julian spending time (or as some would label it, flirting) with other women while in the middle of a divorce. He opted to deflect the question.
“As you do as well - so I guess the spilled drink wasn’t a deal breaker?” His question referenced the Halloween party at CASKET, where the two had originally met. Glancing up from his chicken, he popped another piece in his mouth as he waited for Nathaniel to respond.
A coy smile was all Julian received at first as Nathaniel continued to eat. Placing his fork down on his plate, Nathaniel wiped at his mouth with his napkin and leaned back into the couch. “No, no it wasn’t. She and I have had ridiculously strange things happen during our dates. That would have been the second one and it became more strange as the night went on. Unfortunately the date was cut short after it just progressed from when I saw you. But...the point is that all of the oddities didn’t seem to scare her off. We’ve only been officially seeing one another for a week but I’m rather happy.” He beamed at this, feeling his stomach jump at the thought of Juliet’s smile, her dark hair, how familiar she had seemed. Nathaniel didn’t believe in destiny, not really, but he had to admit this seemed rather fitting. They had seemed meant for one another.
Julian appraised Nathaniel’s words, his expression, and gave a slow nod. It was quite obvious that the younger man was smitten - he could well remember those days, when everything one’s significant other did was absolutely amazing and flawless. Part of him wanted to make a mental bet about how long it would last, but thankfully he refrained from speaking such a thought aloud.
“Good for you,” he commented, filling in the sudden unhappiness in his gut with food. He chewed, then spoke before swallowing. “First few months are always good; they call it the honey moon phase. Gotta watch out after that, though.”
“Ah, yes, I know the honeymoon phase well,” Nathaniel replied. “I dated a girl for years. She...she was a negative influence to my life and it took me awhile before I realized it. It took me even longer before I was able to shake her from my life.” Sighing, Nathaniel poked his food with his fork. “So, are you single? You could be a relationship advisor with your fount of knowledge.”
He smiled at Julian briefly before returning to his food. He did want to hear more about this man, his possible friend, and he hoped he would continue to open up.
For a moment, the older man considered his options. The fact of his marriage was already common knowledge, thanks mostly to Ariana. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to confirm such information to his new, young friend - in the end, it would probably even cement his apparently newfound role as advisor. And Julian was rarely one to turn down any semblance of power, however minimal.
“Married, actually,” he admitted, at least with a smile. “Fifteen years. So I’ve definitely got the experience under my belt; though if you’re a shrink, I’m sure there’s plenty of terms that you could put to things. But I have to say that getting your hands dirty,” and here he wiggled his brows, intimating the more physical aspects of relationships, especially those of a romantic nature, “is always good to back up the theories and hypothesis.” He fed himself a last bit of the chow mein, leaning back on the couch to survey the destruction done to the food he’d brought home. There would still be enough for left-overs.
“But I guess popping the question never occurred between you and this other girl?” His natural curiosity pried into the topic Nathaniel had left standing.
Nathaniel’s face paled slightly and he met Julian’s eyes for a brief moment with a face that was blank. Slowly, he looked to his plate and reached to turn it slightly on the coffee table. “She wanted to marry but I pushed her away. She was controlling...possessive...the entire relationship was unhealthy and had gone on for far too long. I decided to end things, she didn’t want it to go that way, in the end moving to America was one of my best decisions. My job is wonderful, I’ve met Juliet, I truly enjoy this area and...it got me away from her.”
His blue eyes flicked back up to Julian and he held his gaze. “Where’s your wife now? I thought you had lived alone, I’m sorry.” Nathaniel had taken note that there were no signs of a woman in the apartment. No shoes, no purses, no women’s clothing, not even photos of a wedding or repetitive photos of the same woman on Julian’s wall.
Of course this would be the direction the conversation would turn, but there was no point in hiding such things from the young man. From what he could tell thus far, Nathaniel didn’t have a mean bone in his body, not if he had to move halfway across the world to get away from an ex-girlfriend. If anything, the guy could stand to get a few lessons about how to tell someone ‘no’, effectively.
“This floor, two doors away, is where she is.” This would probably shoot his advice-giving credibility to all hell, but there was always the option of spinning things in his favor. “We’ve been separated for over a year now, though the divorce isn’t finalized. Sometimes you learn things about people that just don’t work out - as with you and your previous lady friend. It’s why I’d be careful with Juliet. Never know what kind of problems might surface.”
Eyebrows furrowing, Nathaniel nodded. “I understand.” His voice was soft and for a moment he looked away. “I don’t intend on hurting Juliet, I’d never dream of it. If things were to go wrong...then I would end them. I wouldn’t want her to feel that she wasted her time for something that we both realized wouldn’t work out. It’s all very fresh right now but I feel...I feel as if I have known Juliet before. I feel as if I was meant to meet her here. You know, when you meet someone and something just clicks?”
Nathaniel placed his napkin on his plate and looked at Julian with obvious sympathy. “I’m sorry things are not working out with your wife. It must be hard to have her live so close.” Julian could only nod in reply, settling a hand on his stomach. He was pleasantly full, but the thoughts pertaining to Ariana and their relationship were putting a sour twist on the evening. Surely there were more pleasant topics of conversation.
“So another thing that’s pretty popular during Thanksgiving is football, but I’ve never been much of a sports fan,” he abruptly said, sitting up to scout the area for the television remote. “But there’s usually plenty else to watch as well. Any shows you care for?” He lifted up one of the cushions, finally procuring the many-buttoned thing.
Nathaniel frowned slightly, feeling sorry that he had brought up the subject and making a mental note not to discuss it in the future. He accepted Julian’s avoidance and looked to the television. “I watch that show Jersey Shore. Those MTV shows, you know? I find them rather fascinating. American television has a certain lack of graphic content but those particular people are so vulgar and idiotic...it’s very entertaining. Otherwise, I’ve never seen American football. Although one Sunday a few weeks ago I saw it quickly as I was flipping through the different channels. I’ve never been very good at sports and your football I really know nothing about.”
He smiled at Julian and nestled back into his couch to relax.
Julian gave Nathaniel a wide, amused stare, his brows arching up on his head before he looked down to the remote, aiming it toward the television.
“MTV, huh? You know, they say that stuff will rot your brain. It sure isn’t what it used to be,” he replied smoothly, flicking the television on with a push of a button. An infomercial for something called The Rack popped up; Julian quickly switched the channel, murmuring aloud as to who thought it would be fun to name exercise equipment after medieval torture devices. He kept changing channels until a football game was about to roll by - he stopped, thinking that Nathaniel might be interested in ‘his’ football. It was a headlining game, with the Packers going up against the Lions.
“Not like watching grown men smash each other into little pieces is any less mindless, but here’s what my country calls football.”
Nathaniel’s head tipped to one side as he looked at the screen with interest. “And have you ever played football?” He glanced quickly at Julian but shortly after his gaze returned to the screen. “It looks rather cold there, all of those people out in the stadium. Some of the men look like they could be rugby players!” He would have to text message Juliet when he returned home and inform her of his Thanksgiving. It was nearly traditional, from what Nathaniel could understand, he had eaten a meal until he was full and was now watching football.
Julian returned to Nathaniel’s question with a negative. “Naw, I never was much for sports. Too busy with, ah, other recreational activities,” he replied, brows climbing as his mouth showed off a toothy grin. He settled back into his couch, the sumptuous cushions nearly swallowing him. “That there was what I think is called a blitz - and they didn’t quite sack the quarterback, but that was the intention. I honestly never really caught on to all of this stuff. Rugby...I’ve heard of that, but doesn’t that have hockey sticks or something?”
“It can be called rugby football, so I think it is somewhat like this,” Nathaniel commented, his hand motioning with his words. “Otherwise, rugby, or rugby union. There’s also rugby league. There aren’t any sticks used. Just yourself and a rugby ball. You run with the ball in hand and try to bring it to a goal as often as possible so that your team wins points. It looks somewhat like your game is similar...but they have a lot more equipment on than a rugby player would.”
Julian gave a slow nod, watching the game with disinterest.
“Sounds like you’d know a fair bit more about this than I would, then,” he responded. Swapping the remote to the other hand, he toyed with the idea of flipping the channel, but even he knew that would be outright rudeness. There were other options at his disposal, however, and as he tossed the remove from one hand to the other it suddenly, accidentally went flying, landing on the floor button side down, instantly bringing up another channel.
This one was in Spanish, captioned in English; a few moments went by as Julian recognized it for a telenovela. His dirty pleasure was soap operas - not necessarily for their romantic storylines, but for the cutthroat behavior expected of nearly every character. Slowly he leaned over from the couch to collect the remote from its position on the floor. “Shoot, my apologies. Do you want me to change it back? I don’t even remember what channel the game was on...”
Nathaniel shook his head, waving his hand to ward off Julian finding the game again. “It’s perfectly fine. I should probably get going. I’ve taken up enough of your hospitality and I thank you for sharing your dinner with me.” Julian gave a nod, pleased that he’d managed to do another successful job of entertaining, even if it was outside of his club.
Grinning, Nathaniel got to his feet and collected his bag of formerly frozen meals until he froze and turned to Julian with a pointed finger. “What is this whole Black Friday thing? I have been getting a mixture of impressions. Some want to stay away from the stores while others are planning on going in the middle of the night.”
Again he laughed - things he had so easily taken for granted all these years were new concepts to Nathaniel’s eyes, which amused Julian to no end. “It’s Black Friday because everything goes on sale. Retailers use it to move from the red to the black. Poor sales to good sales, that’s all. I’d stay home, if I were you, some of those shoppers - especially the older ones, watch out for Grandma - can be especially vicious.”
Eyebrows nearly joined together, Nathaniel gave a slow nod then took a step towards the door. “I...think I’ll stay home. Thank you for the forewarning...and the food! If we’re both alone for Christmas I will repay the favor and find some take out that we can both feast upon.” Nathaniel flashed his teeth with a grin before heading towards the door.
Julian gave him a lazy wave from the comfort of his couch. He sincerely hoped that he wouldn’t be alone again like this for Christmas - not that he disliked Nathaniel’s company. The older man just wasn’t used to such a sausagefest. But Nathaniel was a perfectly welcome presence.
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you around the building.” With that, Nathaniel nodded and slipped through the apartment door, leaving Julian to his soap operas and relaxation.