The following is a story to which I just recently reacquired the rights after its having been in an anthology for the past decade. Having no idea what to do with it, I thought I'd share it here. It's BASED on a true Arvinian story, meaning, I fictionalized this bitch like James Frey on Oprah. This will most likely end up in another antho somewhere down the road. Without further ado, here be "Deacon Decides."
Deacon passed the rows of travelers in their identical blue seats with disinterest and something approaching disdain. The mothers and fathers, teenagers and grandparents, businessmen and vacationers of Qantas Air Flight 94 to Australia surrounded him. He had always hated flying, but not for any fear of disaster. No, Deacon simply hated being aloft with a herd of people he really didn't know, especially for hours at a time. His nature was rather reserved, and, for the most part, he was a loner. He had never been a big fan of crowds. But for Australia, for graduate school, he would do it. The adventure waiting for him at the end of the flight was well worth the torture of getting there.
He followed his traveling companion, Carol, to their seats. She was much more at ease. She loved people, adored them actually.
Luckily Deacon's was a window seat. He preferred to focus on the ephemeral qualities of clouds and traveling birds to the stolid presence of his fellow passengers.
It was as he was loading his carry-on into the overhead bin, other travelers pushing past him carelessly, that he caught the interested glance of a flight attendant a few rows down. Deacon noticed first that the broad-shouldered man was helping a little white-haired woman with her things while she was thanked him profusely in a thick, New-England accent. Deacon quickly sized up the man's features: strong jaw; clipped hair; and a deep chest-very attractive. He then promptly collapsed into his window seat, fearing he might have stared too long, though it had only been a few seconds. There was the connection, of course-any gay man would have felt it. It was a kindred attraction, so to speak. The flight attendant's eyes clearly expressed interest; he might as well have winked. Deacon, though, had never acquired any flirtation skills and always doubted his own gaydar. He was somewhat-
"-socially retarded," Carol said as she sat beside him. "Just say something to him. You're both gay." Carol was more attuned to such things. She could spot the one gay man in a crowd of ten as if he was wearing a scarlet letter. That was, in fact, how she had met Deacon.
"I don't know that. You don't know that." He definitely knew it, deep down in his strong, gay core.
"You always do this. You find a guy you think is cute and drool over him, but then never go for it." She started flipping through the in-flight magazine from the seat-pouch in front of her. "It's so irritating, because then you bitch to me about being lonely. And there's no one to blame but yourself, Deacon."
"Why would he be interested?" Deacon asked, already defeated. The plane was filling up and Deacon massaged his ear lobe, a nervous habit.
"Because you're gorgeous, honey. Everybody in school thought so. You were always the only one who couldn't see it."
Gorgeous? No, Deacon would have never applied that word to himself. He thought he could sometimes be nice-looking, but never gorgeous. Gorgeous was something reserved for underwear models and go-go boys in New York and Montreal. He had a nice body from years of exercise, a winning smile, and green eyes, but those were ordinary traits in a world that wanted the extraordinary. It was a world where everyone sought an Adonis, and every Adonis became a Narcissus.
He took off his thin, black-rimmed glasses and rubbed his eyes. It had been a long day. A strand of his dark hair fell into his face and he swept it back. The flight attendant walked by just as Deacon looked back up. Deacon watched him. Not only did he have a well-built upper body, his thighs also looked large and muscular hidden beneath the tight, black slacks. Deacon imagined the man a rugby player (that being the only Australian sport he could think of). The man looked at Deacon and gave him a quick nod, making Deacon quickly look away. The acknowledgment terrified him.
"He looked at you. Right at you!" Carol said a little louder than he would have wished. "Why did you look away?"
"I don't know! It's what I do. My stomach goes into knots and I freak out." He sighed. "I'm going to die alone." He turned back to the window.
"Oh, the dramatics!" she said. "Besides, are you already planning a future with this guy? What do you have going on in that pretty head of yours? He probably just wants a fuck. You can find a boyfriend when we land."
Deacon shook his head and smiled. But the idea of "just a fuck" with the flight attendant was hot. He did have those huge, strong thighs, after all. He felt some fledgling desire begin to stir in him; some new restlessness.
The plane began to taxi down the runway.
In the air, all Deacon could think of were ways to atone for his lack of contact with the man. He chided himself mildly, making promises to do better. The same promises he had made on numerous other similar occasions at fraternity parties, bars, dinners. Nothing ever came of those situations either. He did go to the restroom once, hoping to bump into the flight attendant along the way, but had no such luck. Every time the man did pass by his seat, it was too quick to get a proper nod, though Deacon was caught looking plenty of times. The flight attendant eventually smiled at the attention. It wasn't as overt as a proper smile, but it contained a hint of possibilities. Deacon forced himself to smile in return. It took energy. His heart pounded as the grin stretched across his face. There was a sense of victory with that smile.
After that it was easier, as if they were friends or at least casually acquainted. The flight attendant came by more often, once with a couple of gift bags from business class, handing one to Deacon with inquiring eyes. "Here you go," he said, though there was a wealth of innuendo beneath that harmless statement.
"Oh my God," Carol kidded. "He loves you!" She jabbed him with her elbow.
It was about midway through the flight when Carol left her seat to use the restroom and stretch. There was a line, so it would be a while before she returned. They were gliding through night clouds, darkness the only thing visible from the window. Deacon was paging through one of the various airline magazines selling oddities he was certain he could never possibly need when the flight attendant sat down beside him in Carol's seat.
"My name's Joel," he said in a deep, accented voice. Deacon almost shattered into a million pieces at the suddenness of the situation. He collected himself, though, and shook Joel's outstretched hand. It was strong and firm.
"Deacon," he introduced himself. His heart pounded fiercely and he swallowed hard.
"You headed to Australia for uni?" Joel asked.
"Uh, yeah," Deacon stumbled out. "University of Sydney. Are you from Australia?"
"No. Auckland," Joel replied. "You should hop over there some time. You'd love it. There's a lot to see."
"Do you play rugby," Deacon asked. His conversation skills were usually much better, but they evaporated when faced with someone he found so attractive.
"A little bit," Joel said. "What about you? You're a big guy." He made a flexing motion with his arm. "You work out?"
"Yeah. When I can." In fact, that was a lie. Deacon made sure to work out six days a week, but he didn't want to seem obsessive about it.
"Well," Joel said as he rose. "You're very cute." And there it was. A phrase Deacon had never heard another man ever say to him, certainly not in the States, not in the small town in which he had spent his childhood.
"Th-thanks," was all his stunned self could muster. He was already beating himself up before Joel walked away. He wanted to shout "No! Wait! Come back!" but that would have been desperate and silly. And yet maybe that was what he needed to be. Maybe sheer lunacy was his only hope. But the moment had passed. The awkward conversation, if it could be referred to as such, was over, and there was no getting it back.
He replayed it in his mind like a humiliating reality program, inserting what he should have said here or what might have been better there. And why, for Christ's sake, when Joel complimented his looks, didn't he return the compliment? Anything! Even "Hey man, I think you're hot as balls, too!"
When Carol finally returned from the restroom, she could tell he was distracted. He couldn't bring himself to tell her why. Her criticisms, even in jest, stung.
"It's nothing," he said wanting to scream under the self-rage that was growing stronger by the second.
He kept his eyes on Joel, hoping for another second chance. He couldn't help hoping that the flight attendant would glance his way again. But it didn't happen. Joel didn't pass by as often as before.
"Where's your lover?" Carol asked off-handedly.
"We've split," Deacon joked, trying to keep the desperation from gushing out.
He kept quiet and still in his seat, dozing off occasionally, but he was awakened each time with a fresh sense of self-contempt for the way he handled the situation with Joel. He was all too aware of his true self, the desire and yearning, bruised and battered, of his conscience. He shifted in his seat as if some physical form was fighting its way out of him. Finally, Deacon could take the self-abuse no longer. He looked around nervously, standing up to get a better view of who surrounded him on the plane.
"What's wrong?" Carol asked, waking from her own nap. "What are you doing?"
Deacon didn't respond. His eyes were following a glimpse of tight black slacks and strong shoulders that was disappearing into the restroom.
This was his final chance. Without really thinking, Deacon decided to take it.
"I'll be right back," Deacon told Carol as he made his way to the restroom.
There was no one else in line. Fortunately, everyone was safely in their seats, asleep and still. If there had been others, Deacon might have given up the idea, scared off by a religious-fiend mother or a teddy-bear-hugging little girl.
Deacon's heart felt as if it might explode as he heard the latch click and the lavatory door slide open. Joel stood looking at Deacon, an expression of slight surprise on his face.
"What are you doing?" he asked. His eyes moved over Deacon, making him feel dirty and sordid. It was more enjoyable than Deacon expected.
"Being desperate and silly," he replied as he pushed Joel backward into the lavatory and shut the door behind them.