A Recognized Man
Timothy was in love with René, or felt he very soon would be. All the looks and habits of love were there. They farted in bed without apologizing and argued over toast and jam with the casual hostility of married people. In fact, Timothy felt so strongly that he would very soon be totally in love with René that his failure to quite feel the sensation hung over him in a fog of guilt.
At any rate, the awards ceremony was in just a few months; it would be self- destructive to throw away adecent relationship and show up alone when he’d been inching toward love with such a beautiful partner. René looked good in a tux and had a way of making formal events feel as simple as card games. He would place a hand in the small of Timothy’s back at precisely the right moment or interrupt a painful conversation to sweep him away. As for the love part, it was probably developing, was probably imminent. Very soon, he said to the mirror as he parted his hair. Any day.
“Heil Hitler,” said René, walking into the bathroom. He’d showered in the guest suite, but all his lotions and ointments were here, in the master, along with a silver tray of the colognes he liked to layer onto his chest in a specific palimpsest that Timothy could never quite fathom. “Your part is Nazi-rigid,” he explained, and he mussed Timothy’s hair from behind, wriggling two fingers down the neat line at the side of his scalp. “You said to be fancy.”
“Fancy, not fascist.” The spritzing began, and Timothy retreated to the closet, where he selected a pair of trousers that bothered him when he sat but worked well when he stood. He could sneak off the top button once they were seated at whatever restaurant René had chosen. Assuming there were tablecloths.
“You can’t wear that,” said René. “I’m wearing blue.” Timothy looked down at the shirt he’d put on. René pulled down a thin navy sweater for himself.
“But that’s not the same blue.”
“That’s what I’m saying. We’ll clash. We’ll be all — ” René made a face to signify electrical disjuncture and began unbuttoning Timothy’s shirt. He re-hung it on the wooden hanger and chose a pinkstriped substitute that had lately been feeling too snug around the belly. Timothy put it on and went to feed the cat.
They were in the elevator by 7:50 p.m., which still left them plenty of time to go on foot, said René. Timothy plotted a tenminute walking radius in his head and determined that his birthday dinner would probably be at Buca. This was a good choice— they had a sea-bass carpaccio that was really special — but it was also hugely expensive, and the dawning realization that he’d be paying for his own birthday dinner caused Timothy to let out a little sigh.
René retaliated with a mocking sigh of his own, which made Timothy look over in surprise, prompting René to say, “Don’t be all” — he made his electrical disjuncture face — “tonight, okay? Just relax.”
René was making an effort. And this was, in a way, quite touching. He could have taken that sigh of Timothy’s and spun it into an argument (he’d done it before), but it was Timothy’s fortieth, and so René would make an effort. Timothy smiled at René and reached over to rub the back of his neck. “Almost there,” said René. And he gave Timothy a whatsitgonnabe eyebrow waggle.