Craig is a man adrift, never quite feeling like he belongs or like he’s as successful and settled as those around him—especially his lovers, Alan, an art professor he met while in college, and Sybil, who tutored him throughout his Italian class. When Alan goes to Rome life becomes even shakier and the only grounding point becomes the corkboard of memories Craig creates for the three of them.
By the time Alan returns, Craig isn’t certain how his relationships will change—especially when Alan starts to fall for Sybil, bringing two pieces of his world completely together and leaving Craig worried it will create a world that has no place for him.
A week after I had told him to send me something from Rome, a postcard came in my mail. It was of the Coliseum, a very small and touristy card, which he apologized for on the back.
This feels so tacky and I want to criticize myself. I hear the lecture I've given on souvenirs, Craig. I'm pretty sure you've heard it too, so I won't give it. But I'm thirty-five now. Thank you for your birthday text, by the way. I'm older now—almost an old man! But look at how old the Coliseum still is. It still stands. And the Tower of Pisa leans like it has bad knees. There is probably hope for me, and there is so much hope for you.
I hung the postcard up by red yarn around the rear-view mirror in my car, then asked if he wanted me to write him a postcard back. Maybe something equally tacky, like one of Niagara Falls to remind him of Canada. I could even make a bad pun about going over the falls in a barrel and falling too much in love with him.
No, no! he had written in an email. Write your letters to Sybil and slip them into her books, so when she studies, she is reminded there is always someone there, waiting for her, too. I already know you're waiting for me.
I took his advice about the letters. But I knew that even if we somehow managed to become the famous artists or counsellors—or something—we were destined to be, the people who handled our archives would get it wrong. They would always get it wrong. They'd see my letters to Sybil, her post it notes back to me, and Alan's long verbose emails and think this was a weird love triangle. That like a bad game, we were cheating, two-timing. Even if it was never like that, and never would be like that.
I figured that was why, while Alan was gone, I put up the corkboard in his apartment. Along the wall closest to the kitchen, with the light from his small balcony, there was blank space enough for something I picked up from a business supply store.
At first, I just wanted the corkboard so I could stop hanging the postcards he sent me off string in my car (it was getting pretty dangerous), and then I wanted a place where I could do a count-down to his coming back home. But as I added notes from Sybil, photographs she and I had taken in a photo booth in a mall, I realized this was more complicated than a mere push-pin board. This was our archive—this was me trying to have some control over our story and how people would see us. I needed to take everything that I thought we represented and set it up. Some days, I felt like I was a mad man arranging things with no order, no real placement, only random intervals and ricochets of emotion. But I figured this was how people who discovered galaxies and stars felt. There is nothing but space, but then all of a sudden a pattern emerges; Scorpio's stinger moves out of the star clusters, Orion is folded into three bright points ending in Mintaka, and then the North Star shines you home.
I took a picture of the nearly full corkboard two weeks after Alan had turned thirty-five. He sent me back a response within moments.
This, he wrote. This Craig. This is all I could have ever wanted. Thank you.
For a time after that, the distance between us wasn't so far.
Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal. Find him at francisgideon.wordpress.com.