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An Ever-Fixed Mark (Unexpected Occurrences 3/12)

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  • Mo
    An Ever-Fixed Mark (Unexpected Occurrences 3/12) Watching Jake amble from our booth to the bar, I felt some sort of brief sense of foreboding, a slight worry
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13 7:15 PM
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      An Ever-Fixed Mark (Unexpected Occurrences 3/12)

      Watching Jake amble from our booth to the bar, I felt
      some sort of brief sense of foreboding, a slight worry
      that I really shouldn�t be here. It passed quickly,
      or maybe I suppressed it. Mostly I was having a fine
      time. Sitting in a bar in the Castro was giving me a
      profound feeling of being back among my own people, a
      welcome one after months of isolation. City life made
      a nice contrast to being hidden away in rural
      Saskatchewan, occupied with Ezra and Jean-Paul and
      domestic chores and with helping Arthur and Wendy run
      the Outpost. Getting nowhere on the novel I had
      supposedly moved there to write. And then lately I�d
      been much too occupied with the tragic side effects of
      the War on Mutants, working to integrate the refugees
      that were still streaming into the secret community.
      I needed a break from all that, I thought to myself.

      Now the crowded bar, the pleasant buzz of conversation
      and loud music, the sexual energy I could feel all
      around me in a room full of gay men � these were
      sights and sounds I�d missed more than I�d realized.
      The decidedly delectable Jake - heading back now with
      our drinks - made a most welcome sight, both rear and
      frontal view. Jake�s got the attractively scruffy
      look of a raffish and charming journalist and the long
      body and lithe grace of a long distance runner. Not
      surprising, since he�s both of those things. I had
      heard over dinner that Jake had covered the last
      Olympics for the Chronicle, but he�d competed in the
      previous ones, in Athens. For some unknown reason,
      the fact that athletes in the ancient Olympics had
      competed naked jumped into my head. �A nice custom
      that,� I thought to myself, eyes on Jake.

      I was glad to see Jake quickly and decisively brushing
      off the extremely good-looking body-builder type who�d
      accosted him en route. I�d worried that I might be
      abandoned for the possibility of sex, but Jake seemed
      eager to return to the conversation we�d been engaged
      in. I was, too. I was certainly enjoying Jake�s
      company, and not only � or even primarily - as eye
      candy. It was so refreshing to talk to another gay
      man, another reporter, someone with stories to tell
      that I wanted to hear and with a willing ear for my
      journalistic and sexual reminiscences, as well. I was
      feeling the excitement of getting to know an
      intriguing new acquaintance along with the relaxing
      familiarity of conversing with someone who understood
      a journalist�s lifestyle. All of that felt wonderful.

      In fact, I�d been really enjoying myself since the
      moment I�d arrived in San Francisco. The enjoyment
      had come as a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one. I
      had been so angry at Jean-Paul for backing out of the
      trip at the last minute that I hadn�t left the Outpost
      in a very positive frame of mind. I�d been worried
      that my bad mood would spoil the whole conference for
      me. I�d even considered canceling altogether and
      staying home, too. I went ahead with it partly
      because I felt I *should* go, since I knew it was
      important for the upcoming assignments � both the
      overt one and the clandestine one from Charles Xavier.
      Mostly I went because I just couldn�t face spending
      the next few days in Jean-Paul�s company, as angry as
      we were with each other.

      I�d left the Outpost last night with a cold nod to
      Jean-Paul and a warm goodbye to our baby in his arms.
      I couldn�t help venting to Wendy as she drove me to
      the airport, even though I know I was putting her in
      an awkward position. She�s at least as much
      Jean-Paul�s friend as mine and it�s not fair to stick
      her in the middle of our spat. But who else was I to
      talk to? Perhaps ranting at Wendy had helped to purge
      the bad feelings.

      �I don�t get why he wouldn�t come,� I�d said for at
      least the fifteenth time, as we drove along Highway
      11, heading towards Regina. �It�s perfectly safe � no
      way they�d know at U.S. customs that he�s a mutant.
      Martin just refused, again today, to accede to the
      American demands to put mutant status on Canadian
      passports. And even if the P.M. gives in, you know
      Alpha Flight will get around that. There�s nothing in
      any of his papers to identify him as a mutant, and
      he�s the classic case of one whose powers don�t show.
      Jean-Paul�s passed as normal before and he can do it
      again. He doesn�t have to be scared.�

      �You know he wasn�t scared to come with you to the
      States,� Wendy had patiently replied. �Come on, Adam.
      Who are we talking about here? Jean-Paul�s not
      exactly risk averse. When did he ever not do
      something because it was dangerous?�

      �Yeah, he�ll put himself in danger any time Mac or
      Heather asks him to. He�s been in the States how many
      times since the war started? He just got back from
      that mission in DC. Washington, DC for God�s sake -
      Ground Zero. I was terrified until he got back, but
      he acts like there�s no danger.�

      �No he doesn�t. He�s always sensible of the danger �
      you know that. That�s what�s kept him alive this
      long. He doesn�t avoid danger, but he knows it�s

      �Yeah, I guess. He sure acts like the danger doesn�t
      matter, anyway. Like he doesn�t give a shit if he gets
      killed and leaves Ezra and me behind. There�s nothing
      he wouldn�t do for Alpha Flight. But he won�t come
      with me to this conference, no matter how important it
      is to me. No matter that you guys � with all that�s
      going on at the Outpost � offered to take care of Ezra
      for us, letting us have this trip to ourselves. What
      does Jean-Paul care? He isn�t willing to even cross
      the damn border for my sake.�

      �Try to see it from his perspective, Adam. The U.S.
      has declared war on our people. Jean-Paul doesn�t
      want to be there � none of us do. It�s my country and
      I don�t even want to cross that border until this war
      is over. It makes me sick to even think of going
      home, going to a country where our people are labeled
      �enemy combatants� just because of who we are.

      �And Jean-Paul doesn�t have the ties to the U.S. that
      we do. He doesn�t feel the pull you and I do because
      it�s not home to him, and he still feels the same
      revulsion as us at the thought of being there. But
      he�s still willing to go when he needs to. He goes
      wherever he�s sent. He�s willing to risk being
      arrested as an enemy combatant when he really is one �
      working as an Alpha Flight operative, trying to rescue
      detained mutants or improve our intelligence. It�s a
      �whole nother thing� � as April would say - to go
      there for fun. I don�t blame him for not having the
      stomach for that. He can�t just go off for a week of
      vacation in a country that�s imprisoning and killing
      our people. I know he wants to be with you. There�s
      nothing he�d like better than to have a few days alone
      with you, but he�s too serious a person to do this.�

      �So, what does that make me? Not a serious person?
      Frivolous?� I could feel that I was displacing my
      anger at Jean-Paul on her, but I couldn�t stop myself.

      �No, Adam,� she replied, ever patient, ever kind.
      �It�s different for you � it�s work. Now that you�re
      freelancing, you need all the contacts you can get.
      Jean-Paul understands that. We all do. And we�re all
      hoping you�ll pick up information this week that we
      can use. We�ve got to find out what�s really going
      on. It�s the only way we�ve got a chance of getting
      Tabitha and Rogue out of that prison. The government
      is certainly trying to keep a tight rein on what gets
      to the media, but the press has a way of finding
      things out. I�m glad you�re going to the conference,
      and glad you�ll be in Washington next week.�

      I tried to take Wendy�s words to heart, tried to
      remind myself that I was at the conference for work.
      I tried to quell the nagging feeling that this trip
      was a self-indulgence Jean-Paul had rightly refused
      and that I would have, too, if I�d been more
      principled. Yet what Wendy said was right. The
      conference could be a big help, both to my career and
      to the underground war resistance effort.

      The career and my participation in the resistance were
      intertwined. I had only recently begun freelancing,
      and was doing so mostly for the opportunity to help
      the resistance. Charles Xavier had called me to his
      room for a private meeting and told me he felt I was
      underutilized at the Outpost. He had asked me to use
      my skills and my profession to do undercover work for
      the X-Men. �I�m sorry to interrupt your fiction
      writing, Adam,� the Professor had said. �But right now
      the mutant community needs an investigative reporter
      on our side a lot more than we need a novelist. I�m
      sure the book will be wonderful, but I�d appreciate it
      if you put it off for a little while.�

      I had agreed, of course, but I wasn�t sure how much I
      could help, how effective I could be. Truth be told,
      I was having trouble even thinking of myself as an
      investigative reporter these days. Well, if Charles
      read my mind and knew how doubtful I was, he didn�t
      say. Maybe this conference, and next week�s
      assignment in DC would help give me the contacts I
      needed to fulfill Charles�s clandestine mission. Even
      more so, I was hoping it would do something for my
      sagging professional ego. Work is the one area where
      I�ve always felt confident, and it has been so hard to
      lose that.

      So, Jake�s enthusiasm when we met had been very
      welcome. As soon as I introduced myself he started
      telling me how much he admired my work, how he�d
      followed my stories since he was in journalism school.
      It was flattering to get that kind of response, take
      on the role of a wiser senior colleague.

      Meeting Jake had been just one of many pleasant
      encounters in a lovely day. I had had a wonderful
      time the entire first day at the conference, and even
      more so when I joined a few of the other reporters �
      Jake included �for dinner. Months of living in rural
      Saskatchewan had left me wondering if anyone back in
      the States remembered Adam Greenfield, journalist.
      Try as I might, I wondered sometimes if I remembered
      him, myself.

      We all have our own pet theories. One of mine is that
      everyone has a �real resume� that�s nothing like the
      formal one. My formal resume lists my work experience
      and educational credentials, major articles I�ve
      written, awards I�ve won. It goes on for a couple of
      pages. It�s the paper I send to prospective employers,
      but it doesn�t represent the real Adam Greenfield. It
      may have determined whether I got an interview for
      this job or that, but what�s written there has nothing
      to do with whether I could do the job. What decides
      that for everyone, I�m convinced, is your �real
      resume.� Your real resume is a short phrase or two
      that truly sums up your abilities as a worker, the
      description you never share with your employer
      directly but try to convey in the interview your
      formal resume got you.

      I remember sharing my theory with Jean-Paul early on
      in our relationship. He�d confessed his insecurity
      about his lack of formal credentials, whispering into
      my ear in bed that he�d wished he hadn�t dropped out
      of school. �It doesn�t matter,� I�d told him, running
      my hand along one of his strong thighs, and getting a
      little distracted as I did. �Mac doesn�t care that
      you never went to university. He knows what�s on your
      real resume.� I explained the dual resume concept, my
      hand sliding up his thigh and then cupping his cheek
      as I spoke.

      �So, tell me, mon ami: what does it say on my real
      resume?� Jean-Paul had asked, throwing one leg over
      mine, nuzzling my neck.

      �Fearless, ferocious, and extremely loyal,� I�d
      answered without hesitation. Then, hand wandering to
      Jean-Paul�s half-erect penis, stroking him hard again,
      I�d added, �And always ready for action.� To my
      delight, he�d chosen to prove the last point and the
      discussion of resumes � real and formal - had ended.

      My own real resume had always said �Gets the story,
      whatever it takes.� That dogged persistence has
      served me well for years. It has always been even
      more important to my success than my ability to write
      quickly under pressure, although it was that ability
      to write under deadline that was more noticeable to my
      employers and colleagues. I had been so sure that
      both the persistence and the quick writing (which my
      friends jokingly refer to as my mutant power) would
      serve me well when I quit the Herald and moved to
      Saskatchewan. My plans were all set, and they
      included a solid domestic life for the first time
      since I�d grown up and left Brooklyn, as well as
      finally having the time to write the novel that had
      been growing in the back of my mind for years.

      The domestic life had flourished but the novel was
      getting nowhere. Days went by when I wrote nothing at
      all, busy with Ezra, Jean-Paul, and the running of the
      Outpost. Worse still, when I did manage to spend a
      few hours working, I more often than not threw out
      what I�d written.

      What did it say on my real resume now? The face in
      the mirror each morning seemed on good days to be
      �Adam Greenfield, father of Ezra and partner of
      Jean-Paul.� Was that enough? I�d ask my reflection.
      Where had my ambition gone? What had happened to my
      skill? On bad days, staring at the empty pages � or,
      worse yet, at pages filled with a story that didn�t
      seem worth reading, even to me - I felt like �Adam
      Greenfield, failed novelist� was all it said on my
      real resume.

      So, this conference had been a welcome distraction and
      I had been looking forward to attending it with
      Jean-Paul. I wanted to feel back in my element during
      the day, and I was anticipating hot sex every night,
      uninterrupted by our adorable but often wakeful baby.
      I knew it was just the thing for me, and for our
      relationship, too. We needed a reminder that we
      aren�t just parents and partners, but lovers, too.
      Some private, unencumbered, uninhibited fucking would
      have done a world of good for us both.

      The first day over, I was glad I came, even without
      Jean-Paul. I was really enjoying myself. Well, I was
      when I was managing not to think about him. I was
      still too angry at his refusal to come along to do
      what I usually do in the evenings when we�re separated
      � head back to my hotel room to spend hours on the
      phone with Jean-Paul. Half the fun of a good day was
      usually talking to Jean-Paul, reviewing everything
      that had happened, talking about life and love and our
      growing son, attending to our relationship and our
      erotic needs through phone sex. He knows just what to
      say and how to say it to really turn me on, to make me
      feel like we�re together. Still, I didn�t want any of
      that tonight. I thought I might not even call
      Jean-Paul at all. �Fuck you, Jean-Paul,� I muttered
      under my breath. Let him think a day or two about how
      much he�d hurt and disappointed me by staying home. I
      went out with the guys I�d met instead of calling him.

      I turned my thoughts away from my lover back in
      Saskatchewan and towards the here and now. A day and
      an evening in the company of people in my field,
      people who were interested in what I had to say, who
      clearly looked up to me, had been great for my bruised
      ego. The ease and genial banter of reporters swapping
      stories was something I hadn�t realized I�d missed
      until I had it back again. The epidemic that had been
      the excuse to start the war had peaked and waned, and
      was on the other side of the country anyway. No one
      here seemed reluctant to go out to dinner for fear of
      infection. No one in the restaurant seemed to be
      looking around for secret mutants. The world could
      almost seem normal again.

      Much laughter and wine later, I had headed off to the
      nearest gay bar with Jake. As the only other gay man
      in the group at dinner, and a local, he�d pulled me
      aside as everyone was dispersing. Jake had offered to
      take me to a place he knew while the others headed
      back to the conference hotel. I had almost said �no�
      � I�d had more to drink at dinner than in the past
      month put together � but he convinced me to go for
      just one drink. I was happy to let myself be
      persuaded by young, rakish, funny, insightful Jake.
      Talking to Jake felt so relaxed and easy.

      He was awfully pleasant to look at, too, I thought
      watching him saunter back from the bar, flashing that
      engaging smile as he sat down, his hand brushing
      against mine accidentally as he handed over my beer.
      Jake took a sip of his beer, his tongue sliding out of
      his mouth to catch a stray drop. Lovely tongue, that.
      If only I were single.

      Hmmm, does he even know I�m not? I hadn�t mentioned
      my family to him, I realized. I figured I�d better do
      that right now. I was enjoying looking at Jake,
      enjoying the attention, maybe indulging myself a
      little bit in imagining how that tongue might feel,
      various places on my body. But it was crystal clear
      to me that I was just looking. Even if Jake were
      interested in me sexually � and he probably wasn�t � I
      would never do anything with him.

      Jean-Paul and I are committed to each other, committed
      to monogamy. Okay, so I�m pissed off at Jean-Paul
      right now, but that doesn�t mean I�d break my promises
      to him. I�m disappointed in him, wishing he hadn�t
      backed out like that, but I�m still in love with him.
      Love is not love if it alters when it alteration
      finds. We�ve been through other problems and we�ll
      get through this one, too. I wouldn�t jeopardize our
      relationship, our family, potentially our health for a
      one-night stand with Jake. I haven�t had sex with
      anyone but Jean-Paul for years now. And that�s the
      way it�s going to stay, I reminded myself forcefully.
      I�d better make that clear to Jake in an understated
      way, by talking to him about my lover and son. Just
      in case Jake was interested in me � which he probably
      wasn�t � and thinking I was available.

      Yet somehow I couldn�t find a way to inject Jean-Paul
      and baby Ezra into the conversation. The secret
      location of the Outpost had dictated caution in my
      descriptions of my current life, both at the formal
      conference and during the evening of convivial and
      more personal conversation. I�d listed my residence
      as still in DC when I�d registered, using Anjuli�s
      home address as mine. I�d talked to Jake and the
      other reporters at dinner about the novel I was
      writing (although I hadn�t disclosed how little
      progress I�ve made on it) and presented that as the
      reason I had quit the Herald. I had mentioned
      freelancing on the side. I�d expounded at length on
      how frightened and how outraged I am about the War on
      Mutants, tying what I�d seen in Belarus to what was
      happening in the U.S. I spoke passionately about the
      effects on mutant friends of mine. Yet I had never
      mentioned to any of the other reporters that I have a
      mutant lover and a child who might well grow up to be
      a mutant. I just couldn�t figure out how to broach
      the subject without letting on that a great deal of
      what I�d told them hadn�t been strictly true.

      �So, you gave up your apartment when you left the
      Herald?� Jake had asked, responding to one part of my
      recent life story I had disclosed. �Where are you
      living now?�

      �With a friend in Georgetown - Anjuli Radavan - and
      her son Hank. She�s a single mother with close ties to
      the mutant community and she�s been going through hell
      this past year.�

      �I can imagine!� Jake responded, sympathetically,
      leaning in close to hear me in the loud bar. My pants
      started feeling a little tighter as he did.

      �Hank � not the baby, his father � was a good friend
      of mine, a mutant. He was killed in the 4/16 attacks.
      I�m not there enough to need a place of my own, and
      Anjuli�s glad to have company when I�m not off on

      So, I went on to talk about Hank and Anjuli, about
      other mutants I knew and worried about, but never
      mentioned the one I�m closest to. I was feeling more
      comfortable, trusting Jake better. I felt like I
      could tell him I have a mutant lover without worrying
      about shock or revulsion. And I know I could do so
      without revealing where Jean-Paul and I are really
      living. So, I wasn�t quite sure why Jean-Paul�s name,
      and Ezra�s, just weren�t coming up. Maybe it just
      felt too crowded and impersonal in the bar to discuss
      such a personal issue. Maybe all the male flesh on
      display made talking about family sort of incongruous.
      I did want to tell Jake about them, though.

      �Hey, you getting tired of the crowd and the noise?�
      Jake was asking, as if he�d read my mind. �I am. Why
      don�t we go back to the hotel? It will be quieter
      there and we can talk in private.� He leaned in
      close, hand on my arm.

      I agreed right away. It seemed like a good idea at
      the time.

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