I’ve been revising and rewriting this Tom piece. Enjoy:
I met Tom at Wells Fargo on the second floor of the Montgomery park building, but we really met at the bus stop outside. Tom was usually outside with Whitney, a gay man who had lived in Kansas and was probably in his early 30’s but looked like he was in his late 40’s because he had olive skin, was bald and heavyset. Whitney was William S Burrough’s caretaker. I usually just smoked Camels and listened to Tom and Whitney chat. That’s what I did. It was easier for me to just listen to your conversation, stay quiet and throw in an occasional “uh-huh”. I had been doing that since forever.
Tom and I had our first conversation on the #15 one day when Whitney wasn’t around. He was 6’1, Jewish, skinny, and brown hair in the shape of mohawk that was not tall and blue eyes. He wore a brown suede jacket, button up shirt and skinny tie. He was the only person I had been involved with who looked like he could be a model.
We were sitting in the back, up the stairs near the rear door. We talked about the indy rock bands Beat Happening and Death Cab for Cutie. I made it clear I had a boyfriend but just said it casually. No big deal. I was dating “B”, my half Italian half Greek boyfriend who called his Greek grandmother Yaya and smoked enough weed for three people. He was always at my one bedroom apartment sitting in my living room playing that stupid guitar when I got home from Wells Fargo.
I wanted “B” to go home.
I had the hots for Tom even though I was trying not too. The more I rode the bus with him the more I knew. He was so much that “B” was not. Tom talked about music but was not a musician. He lived at the Beverly Alder apartments in downtown Portland. Tom was the only person I knew who lived downtown. It was 2003 and everyone I knew was is in shared housing with at least three or four roommates. He got off downtown. I stayed on until my stop at 34th and Belmont over the Morrison Bridge.
Tom burned a cd for me with songs from a new band called The Postal Service. I listened to it at work while I verified checks written for over $5,000. He was from Whidbey Island and had travelled across the US with his then girlfriend Andrea and lived in Delaware. He had family in New York. He had just gotten out of a two year relationship with Andrea. She had cheated on him.
I was dreading seeing “B” at my apartment more and more. He had brought a four track over and was using my living room as his recording studio. “B” and I broke up a few weeks later. Tom and I hang out soon after. It’s mid-February and we return Beat Happening CD’s to the library, walk to the new Whole Foods in the Pearl District, and see his friend Michael who works at Whole Foods but soon will leave for New York. Tom will leave for New York too and take a handful of his friends, including Whitney with him.
I like him but he’s busy and I’m not as busy and super busy people make me nervous because they don’t have time for ol’ Kelly. I don’t tell Tom this.
We go back to his house and make vegetarian sushi with the items we bought at Whole Foods. He’s in a one bedroom that overlooks 11th Avenue. In five years I’ll be contracting with an agency in the building next door and going to therapy two more blocks down. We eat the sushi at a small table that’s pushed up against the window that overlooks 11th Avenue. There’s a rug store across the street and there’s a picture of an oriental rug painted on the side of the building. That rug was there was a long time.
He’ll wipe the countertops down with a yellow and green sponge and sweep the floor. I sit at the table and offer to help but he insists on doing it himself. He is the cleanest man I have ever dated. After he cleans up we fuck in the kitchen. My hands pressed up against the wall near the counter he just wiped down and fucks me from behind. He spanks me. I want to laugh. No one has ever spanked me during sex before.
Tom and I will go from fucking in the kitchen to fucking in his bedroom that’s decorated sparingly. I don’t think there were any photos on the walls. There was a lot of photography equipment everywhere. After we fuck, he’ll go into the kitchen and get a glass of water from the tap and set it next to his bed.
“I love going to bed with a tall glass of water next to me.” He sets it down on a small table next to his side of the bed, pushes his floppy Mohawk that’s floppy from fucking out of his face and let’s out an audible sigh.
I don’t understand going to bed with a full glass of water but just go with it. He puts his arm around me and it’s my head in the crook of his neck. It’s noisy outside and boy oh boy am I sensitive sleeper. I’m not used to the downtown banging and clanging and garbage trucks rolling up and down the street and the sound of the Max horn. Tom’s asleep immediately. I’m a horrible sleeper and downtown I’m even worse. Outside the window the street lights are on. It’s too bright even though it’s midnight. I stare at the floppy Mohawk and his naked chest. That water. I toss and turn and stare and finally at 1 am decide I’m gonna go home. I’ve decided. It’s final.
I wiggle around and Tom wakes up.
“I think I’m gonna go,” I sit up.
“Really?” He gets up and turns on the overhead light.
“So can I ask you something?” I pull out a paper bus schedule from my bag and the last bus is leaving in 2 minutes. This is the age of landlines and no cell phones. No internet in two seconds or less. No way can I make that bus.
“Would you be interested in dating me monogamously?”
“I’m just not ready to date monogamously,” Tom says.
I decide to walk home even though that’s not the real reason for leaving. If I escape first I won’t get hurt. The lights, the noise and the crap bouncing around in my head keeping me awake is a distraction. The farther I physically get away from Tom the less I’ll feel.
“Ok,” I put on my coat. “I’m gonna go.”
“Are you sure?” He said.
“Yep,” I want my own bed and comfy and quiet and secretly, away from non-monogamy Tom. I don’t want to date someone that isn’t monogamous.
I don’t want to share a bed with him anymore unless he really wants to be with me. Only me.
“I’ll call you tomorrow to make sure you made it,” Tom says.
I pull on my clothes and shut the door behind me. There’s a stairway that leads to 11th Avenue. It’s a one way out/no way in kind of door. I shut the door behind me and its three miles of walking downtown, over the Morrison Bridge and up Belmont at 1 am. The thing I remember most about that night:
the looking back over my shoulder and making sure no one was following me. Wondering why I had broken up with “B”. Even though he played that stupid guitar all the time he was there for me. I found his Mediterranean features attractive. He was way different amongst a sea of pale Portlanders. He was also looking for the same thing I was: monogamy.
I turned on my heel and downtown there were a lot of lights on in office buildings. I dug around in my bag for my Camels and a lighter. No one was around. It was just me walking over the Morrison Bridge and that street light at Belmont and Grand. Red, then yellow, then green. Go. I popped a Camel in my mouth, lit it and picked up my pace because I wanted the comfort of my bed where “B” and I slept. I was tired but made myself run with that cigarette burning in my fingers.