"Why didn't you just tell him" Grady asked. Finn, my current fling, sat quietly, holding his knees to his chest. A stream of orange light cast shadows on the bungalow wall, as the sun was just setting into the bay. I lost myself in the hullabaloo at The Ice Palace and ran off without looking back.
"It's not your fault. Joey has been weird about relationships for years," Luke interjected. Walking in from the kitchen with a pitcher of early-evening margaritas, Luke brushed off the sour face that Will threw him. For Luke Yates, the novelty of going steady with a serviceman would only last until the big ship pulled from the dock. It would be over and out and on to the next.
"Maybe if you just told him up front that you're in the Navy-and have no intentions of staying in New York... ," Will blurted out. His tone was as hard as that of an older-brother who just seen his kid-sister get pushed off a seesaw.
"I really like Joey," Finn protested, seeing three unwavering looks as he spoke his piece. Then, Luke actually softened, going from a grimace to a understanding smile.
"I know you guys don't believe me, but I never intended to come here and meet someone and hurt him," said Finn, cutting off his sentence as a lump blocked his throat.
"Welcome to Fire Island," Luke whispered under his breath, because as sincere as Finn's words were, the three of them all knew too well, firsthand, what he was saying. No one wants to be either the guy one who gets the shit end of the stick or the one who's left holding it.
I found my favorite spot on the beach, somewhere between a desolate strip of sand and one on which, if you squinted hard, you could still make out the faces that dotted the shore, but was far enough away to feel like it was your own private hide-a-way.
The water felt cool enough to relieve the throb that filled my brain. Getting out of the water I wrapped a Batik print pareo, bought on the island, around me and tossed my tank top back on.
"You swim?" I heard a voice ask me, as it grew closer. "It's just that"-Finn hesitated, as he drew nearer"-you don't see a lot of guys actually in the ocean around here." His laugh was uncomfortable, like a fart at a black tie dinner.
"Why did you ask me if I swam?" I questioned, moving slightly as he tried to sit beside me.
"I guess I don't know all that much about you."
"Wow, really, how does it feel?" I shot back.
"Ok, I deserved that."
"How about you tell me something about you," I invited. Maybe it was the way he looked at me from under his baseball cap, or the fact that, for the last two weeks, we were stuck up on cloud nine, before either one of us wanted to touch ground-and we just had.
"My name is Finn Rodgers, and I'm in the Navy and on leave for three weeks this summer. I just happened to run into, well my dog Zuni tossed sand on, this cute guy."
"Oh really, go on," I said.
"Yeah and, well, I should have been honest with him."
I didn't look at him, but swirled a stick into the sand as he continued to speak.
"What do you think his guy would say to that?" I asked, still twirling into the sand.
"I think he is sincere and would understand. I also think he assumes he will never see me again, but I thought twice about that, and realized I never want that to happen."
"How did you find me here?"
"Luke drew a map on my hand," he said, turning his palm toward me. The black ink and little drawing filled his palm. "You're welcome" was scribbled in Luke's chicken-scratch penmanship.
I couldn't let him finish, because my lips covered his before he could go on. I let go of the stick when I realized Finn had grabbed it, breaking it in two. Luke may be a lot of things: egotistical, hyper-masculine with a wicked body to boot, and even if relationships hinder his game, he knows that, when a good guy comes along, you don't let your friend make a mistake about him.
"Remind me to thank him," I whispered into his ear............