Time went by fast. That day the weather was gray and rainy and the trees gave up on their last dead leaves to make room for the approaching winter. Joni sat on the bed, looked out from the window and tried to assure himself that the day was just like any other day. Finally he stood up, there were things that he needed to take care of, life continued as it had before. He packed his gym clothes, tried to distract his thoughts by thinking about Jami’s hair fashion show in which he had agreed to help. The show was in two weeks time and Jami was going crazy with excitement and nerves, he called often to go through some of the details and ideas that he had gotten, at times managing to tighten Joni’s already tense nerves.
He looked at the time: 10am and felt a jolt in the bottom of his stomach. He went to get the shampoo and shower gel from the bathroom, returned to the bedroom placing the items into his bag. Misha had hesitated about going to work in the morning and had suggested numerous times during the week that he could work at home that day. Joni denied saying that he saw no reason for it.
”Promise to call me if anything comes up?” Misha had asked before leaving and Joni had chuckled with faked cheerfulness wondering what could possibly come up, but still he made the promise.
His father had also called that morning, asking how he was; everyone seemed worried about how he was holding up. They were ridiculous, everything was fine and it would be fine. The day was just like any other Friday, except that it wasn’t…. Joni stopped to stare at the content of his bag, his chest seemed to ache and he felt another worried stab in the bottom of his stomach. Everything was packed; Joni took the bag and moved to the hall. ”You belong to me Joni… And we will be together again”, the voice whispered in the back of his mind and made him shiver.
Joni gritted his teeth and put his coat on. He wouldn’t allow the past to take a hold of him. Determined he walked out of the apartment out into the cold, grey weather. When he walked to his car worry crept into his mind once more. He had startled awake from nightmares repeatedly during the past few weeks and a couple of times Misha had also woken to his whimpering. Misha was worried and Joni tried his best not to seem worried himself, at times he had to admit that it was difficult. A few times he had seen a dream of approaching death in Chris’ form, but dreams were just dreams; he tried to assure himself. Joni had spoken with Adam and the man had assured that he would be meeting Chris when his plane would arrive and he would do anything he could to help his friend back on his feet and this way (Joni hoped) to forget him completely.
He drove at a gym located in a swimming hall, he had used this gym a couple of times enjoying the fact that he could take a swim after training. The following week he was supposed to meet Jyri and Eljas, who was organizing an opening to his gym soon. Possibly he would move his training there.
When he was changing his clothes in the dressing room, he wondered if Chris was released already, was he at the airport now? Joni wouldn’t have wanted to ponder the subject, he would have wanted to believe that Chris had suffered his sentence, would return home and move on with his life. Their paths would never have to cross again, right?
Excitement twirled in the bottom of his stomach, Chris hardly believed that the day had arrived. Freedom! Waiting was mixed with fear and relief. When he walked out of his cell, escorted by the guard, passing the security doors, towards the lobby. He got his belongings back; his passport, his ID, his cell phone… Almost a year and a half had passed since his arrest and after such a long time he was finally allowed to dress into his own clothes. The November day was grey and accompanied with misty like rain. He was escorted from the prison to the airport, hospitality had ended and he was no longer welcomed. Joni was the only thing that he would miss in this country, the reason strong enough to persuade him into staying if he could have. He wondered if Joni though of him at this moment? Had Joni ever missed him? – No, why would that slut miss him when he already had another… How fast Joni had been able to move forward, into a new relationship and engaged; it hurt…. Perhaps he had never meant more to Joni than brief passing fun?
He looked out from the vast windows of the airport, passport and the plane ticket in his hands waiting for the call to board the plane. He remembered
the previous times at this same airport, how happy he had been, arms full of expectations and wishes… The summer that Joni had turned eighteen… If he could have turned back in time, it was that summer and those expectations he wished to return to. Deceptive or not from Joni’s part, Chris had been happy then.
For a moment he played with the idea of not boarding the plane, that he would take a taxi, ask Aki the address and drive to meet his ex. But they would notice his disappearance and probably arrest him before making to where he wanted to be. It wasn’t wise. Still, the need burned in his chest; he had to see Joni sooner or later. His emotions were mixed, at times filled with bitter hate and on another time filled with longing and something that he interpret as love. Joni was his.
Chris was able to get some sleep during the flight, although most of the time his restless thoughts kept him awake. Adam had promised to meet him,
he had arranged an apartment for him. Chris thought about job hunting, it might be difficult to explain the year and a half cap between his last job and if they would call his previous employer… Chris wondered if he could get work from the same company that he had worked in before moving to Finland, but he was afraid that they would be aware of his sentence. He was afraid that he could no longer continue in the game industry that he had loved.
It was 3pm the local time when the plane landed. Chris followed the other passengers out feeling peculiar, he wondered how the first day of freedom felt for those people who had spent a longer time in captivity. He wanted a beer, cold relaxing beer, he would also order a pizza from that place that he had always loved. The food served on the plane had been just as horrible as he remembered. Even prison food had been ten times better in quality, not that he would miss it.
Adam waited for him just like he had promised, his friend smiled and waved his hand. Chris didn’t trust him anymore, he didn’t trust his friendship, but smiled just the same, Adam could hold on to his fate that Chris believed their friendship still stood solid. They hugged each other, Adam tapped his back and Chris wondered how odd it felt to be touched again, even in this simple friendly way.
”How was your flight?” Adam asked and Chris felt some form of amusement. The question was so ordinary, like he would have just returned from a long holiday.
”It got me where I needed to be, so in those terms it was fine.” Chris replied with a crooked smile. ”I need a beer, you treat?” He asked with full intention of making the best of the quilt that his friend might have felt since he was moving to the United States with his silly wife.
”Of course, where do you want to go?” Adam asked. ”Should we first go and check your new home?”
”We can first have drinks right here.” Chris said and walked towards the nearest airport bar. Adam followed obediently and bought him the over prized lager without any argument. Chris took the first sip and closed his eyes for a moment as the cold drink poured down from his throat. ”Mmh, I missed this.” He said. ”I’m going to get totally wasted today.” He added glancing at his friend. ”Are you in, daddy?” He grinned. ”Or does your wife demand that you’ll stay sober?”
”Suvi knows that I’m with you. I thought I’d spend the night at your place, if it’s alright? The first night must feel strange…” Adam said and Chris stared at him for a moment before nodding slowly.
”I am surprised… I was certain that Suvi would want you to spend as little time with me as possible. But for a night? Your prison keeper is merciful.”
”Chris, don’t be like that…” Adam sighed.
”What?” Chris asked. ”You don’t like me calling your wife like that? Fine, but it is often how it is. Wife guards her husband forbidding everything that is fun.” Chris drank greedily from his pint, gazing at the people around him, cheerful and laughing, perhaps going on a journey. Couples… He felt annoyed about how happy so many of them appeared.
”It isn’t like that.” Adam sighed. ”Suvi doesn’t guard me, besides you are the last person to talk about that!” He added agitatedly and Chris looked at his friend who clearly seemed to get embarrassed because they both knew what he was referring to and Chris thought that Adam hadn’t meant to bring Joni up. Chris smiled, felt annoyed and there was lots that he felt like saying but it was better to be silent and change the subject. Adam had to think that he had gotten over Joni and that he held no grudge.
”You are right.” Chris said as calmly as he could and emptied his pint. ”Lets go.” He added and got up. They walked quietly to Adam’s car, the air
was bleak, but dry and not as cold as you could have expected considering the time of year. Chris glanced at his friend who had a thoughtful mien, they walked side by side, but Adam felt strange and distant…. Their friendship had changed and Chris didn’t think that it could ever get back to how it had been. Adam felt disgusted of what he had done, although he tried to hide it. Chris would have wanted to ask when Adam had last seen Joni but he had to remain silent.
Adam tried his best to cook up a conversation while driving, but it remained shallow and Chris said that he was tired. Adam told him that he had already done shopping earlier and promised that there would be beer since he had thought that he would like it on his first day of freedom. Chris wondered how many of his old acquaintances knew what had happened and if it would have been wiser to change the scenery all together. He felt anguish building in his chest and hoped that he would find the cure from the promised alcohol.
It was a three-story building and the studio apartment that would be his home was located on the top floor, it was smaller than his previous place. ”I hope this is okay?” Adam said. ”The neighborhood seemed pleasantly peaceful.” Chris looked around; Adam had gone through a lot of trouble, biggest furniture had found their place, boxes in the corners contained his things brought from Finland. Chris knew he should feel grateful, without Adam it would have been a mirthless homecoming.
”Thanks Adam, this will do nicely.” Chris said. His computer was placed on a table in front of the window, the sleeping area was isolated with a curtain. A couch, small coffee table and a television.
”I was able to get used stuff quite cheap, you can replace them later with new ones if you like, but this is a start.” Adam explained and Chris walked
into the small kitchen looking around. He felt touched when he saw that Adam had already gotten him food supplies. He opened the fridge and smiled when he saw that the bottom shelf was filled with beer.
”Thank you, I would have been quite lost without you.” Chris admitted and glanced at his friend who smiled back, this time much more freely and genuinely. Chris felt confused; he had convinced himself that Adam was planning to abandon him, that he had no one left, only Aki. Now he wasn’t sure what to believe. He took two bottles from the fridge, opened them both and handed the other to Adam.
”I will help you as much as I can, you’re my oldest friend.” Adam said. ”Should we order pizzas?” He suggested. ”We could then have a few rounds with PlayStation?” His voice was exaggeratedly cheerful and for a moment Chris wanted to believe that the past 18 months were just a bad dream and it was possible to return back; they could be friends again, just two single guys without worries, playing games till dawn, drinking beer, simple and easy.
”Sounds like a plan.” Chris nodded and Adam grinned.
Adam made the pizza order while Chris connected the game console. He felt unreal, last night he had been in his cell in Finland and now he was here, spending the evening with his best friend, home in Canada, was Adam still his best friend? – Chris pondered and recognized the yearning that he had felt towards moments like these.
For a moment Chris felt at ease, for a moment he was able to fool himself and forget. They became absorbed in playing, they laughed like no time had passed and they were still just two teenagers who played video games although they should have done their homework.
They drank beer, sat on the floor leaning against the edge of the couch.
”When are you moving?” Chris asked finally and uncomfortable silence settled for a moment.
”Actually…” Adam started slightly uncomfortably. ”We’ve already moved, Suvi and Aaron are already in our new home… I’ll drive there next
Chris nodded and felt the heavy weight settling down on his chest once more, uncomfortable feeling in his throat; it had been too good to be true. Soon he would be alone again and Chris didn’t know what to do. ”I’ll come and visit of course, as often as I can.” Adam promised and Chris glanced at him.
”Suvi would let you? Or does she think that even at this moment, you’re with your parents?”
”She knows that I’m here.” Adam said and the reply surprised Chris. He twirled the joystick in his hand.
”Even that you’re spending the night?” Chris smirked and Adam nodded. Chris frowned, he suspected that Adam was lying and his friend seemed to sense that.
”Joni was able to talk some sense to Suvi, she won’t stop us from meeting each other.” Again Chris felt surprised.
”Joni?” He asked. ”What did he say?” He couldn’t help but to ask.
”That we’ve been friends since forever and she shouldn’t put an end to it.” Adam replied watching him. ”Joni doesn’t wish ill for you, you know that?” He asked. Chris was quiet and took a sip of his bottle and huffed. Joni probably would have wanted him to stay locked up longer time, – he thought but held his breath not to voice his thoughts out loud.
”Of course not”, Chris finally sighed. ”As long as he will never have to see me again.” But in that wish, Joni would have to be disappointed.
”I have arranged a job interview for you on Monday.” Adam changed the subject and Chris gave his friend a curious look. ”It isn’t what you are used to, but it’s a start and something to do while searching work from your own field…. You remember Ethan?” Adam asked and judged from the look on Chris’ face that he did. Ethan had once dated Adam’s aunt, they had already broken up years before, but Adam had stayed in contact with Ethan.
”Well, I talked to him and they have an opening at the warehouse, he said that if you’re interested…? It’s a quite physical job.”
Chris was quiet for a moment. ”Free workout, I guess…” He answered and Adam smiled. Chris wasn’t stupid, he knew that it might be a struggle to get work and at that moment he was willing to take up anything that would earn him some money and routine for his days. He would build up his
strength, take control of his life and plan for a reunion with Joni.
On Monday morning Adam drove him to the job interview, they had spent the whole weekend together and Chris felt his trust slowly building back up to his friend. The future didn’t seem quite as impossible and bleak as he had feared. Adam stayed and waited for him. The interviewer was in his sixties, a man who told him that he had worked in different warehouses all his life; he had started at sixteen years old.
”Ethan put in a good word for you, the job requires good physical condition and I see that you’re more than qualified in that respect.”
”I’ve done my best,” Chris replied returning the smile. The man glanced at his papers.
”You’ve worked as a game designer before…” He noted out loud and Chris wonder if he knew that he had spent the last 18 months in jail. ”Quite different than what we’re doing here, have you ever driven a truck?”
”Yes, I worked at one warehouse for a couple summers, more ten years ago, it was a smaller place than this but anyway… And I enjoy physical work, I spend enough time in front of computers on my free time.” The man was quiet for a moment looking at him.
”Then you know what kind of work this is. Man gets bored easily, it’s fairly routine and self-contained.”
”I enjoy routines and job where I can listen to my own thoughts.” Chris replied and again the man was quiet for a moment, glanced at his papers
”We all have our past and you are not the only one who has had some troubles with the law, but I firmly believe in second chances. If there is any trouble though, violent behavior or such, you’ll get kicked out immediately, understand? We follow a four-month trial period.” Chris nodded. ”Do you have any questions?”
”When can I start?” Chris asked and the man smiled.
”Tomorrow if you like, I’ll make your contract ready by morning.”
Chris felt small relief after securing the job, it was a start at least although a far cry from his dream job. If he’d stay home doing nothing, he knew it would only drive him nuts, he had to do something, anything.
Aki had left him messages, asking him to contact him as soon as he could, but Chris felt no interest to contact him. Adam spent four days with him and Chris hoped he could have stayed. He understood that he had feared that he’d lose Adam and because of that fear he had tried to distance his feelings, getting ready for a rejection, abandonment. But during those four days Adam had behaved like a friend would, Adam had forgiven him.
The day that Adam had to leave came much too quickly though. ”Perhaps I come to visit you in New York.” Chris pondered on their last evening. ”I wonder if they check the crime record of every passenger?”
”I don’t know.” Adam replied offering a small smile.
”I guess one doesn’t have to share everything with them…” Chris pondered; he couldn’t see how the officers would have time to check every passenger past. ”I guess I can’t really expect that I could spend the night at your place when and if I arrive.” He added with a crooked smile and Adam immediately looked uncomfortable. ”I know, don’t worry, Suvi wouldn’t be quite ready for that yet.”
”Perhaps one day?” Adam finally said. ”She just needs to see that you’ve really changed. It may take time, but if we’re patient… Chris, I know you can do this.”
Chris nodded, in a way he wanted to believe Adam. Part of him wanted to be able to forget Joni, because remembering him hurt. Chris just didn’t know how to let go, how to forget.
After Adam left, Chris felt lost and alone, he felt anguish building up. He spent his time reading Joni’s old text messages from his phone, attempting to delete them but in the end he couldn’t. He had saved the best ones. ”I saw a dream of you last night, it was hot and sweaty and just before we reached the best part, I woke up in my bed, alone and frustrated… I feel so horny that it’s driving me insane! … I miss you so much Chris, I’m counting the days till summer, and time seems to run so painfully slow…” The message had been sent well over three years ago, after Joni had visited him in Canada. Chris felt longing burning in his chest, how he hoped that he could have awoken that same heath in Joni still, how he hoped that Joni would still text him that he missed him…
He logged in on his computer, looking at old pictures. They had been good together, why couldn’t Joni see that? Google chat peeped in the background. Chris sighed and opened the window. ”Everything okay?” The message was from Aki. For a moment Chris stared at the conversation window before replying.
”Good, I was getting worried when I didn’t hear from you.”
”Adam was with me, I had to take care of things.” Chris replied and for a moment the other end was quiet.
”Did he leave?” Aki finally asked.
”Good. Joni is performing a week from now in a hair show, I thought I’d go there, my barber invited me 😉 ” Aki wrote and Chris frowned, feeling oddly agitated. ”I could take some pictures.” Aki added and Chris recognized some amount of irritation between everything. He had valued Aki’s help, he still did, but where should he draw the line?
”Okay.” Chris replied.
”You’re not very talkative.” Aki took note.
”I’m just tired.”
”I looked at plane tickets, what if I would travel there to see you and we could plan the future little better?” Chris pondered for a moment, he wondered whether he wanted Aki to visit. He questioned how much Aki wanted to be apart, what was his motive concerning Joni? Joni belonged to him and there was no need for a third person between them, was there?
”Let’s see, I have to go, talk to you later!” Chris logged out before Aki had time to answer, He had to think, had to make sure that Aki wasn’t trying to take control. Chris wanted to hold the strings in his hands and now he felt unsure. What did Aki really want?
Review Web published: 9th of December 2014.
My Secret Shore