Amir sniffs the air.
"Afoot, silly," Jake says, laughing.
"Haha, yeah, that's what I said!" Amir laughs.
"Oh. Really? Must have misheard you."
"Yeah. I guess. You need to pay more attention, comprende!"
Jake laughs and looks back at his computer. A few seconds later, an IM window pops up.
Amir: What's uppp?
Jake: I'm working.
Amir: Cool, cool.
Jake: So, what's up on your end?
Amir: Nothing much. Just IMing you.
Jake: Hahaha, you're so funny.
Amir: Haha I know.
Jake: Hey, close the IM window. Ricky's coming.
Amir: He won't care.
Jake: Yeah he will! Jake has signed off.
"Why'd you close the window?" Amir whines.
"It looked like Ricky was coming over here, but then he left," Jake says.
"It doesn't matter! Ricky told us at that meeting yesterday that we need to communicate more, right?"
Amir laughs. "So, dinner tonight?"
"Sure!" Jake says.
Amir leans across the desk and whispers, "Do you wanna just leave right now?"
Jake looks at his computer. "It's only 5 o'clock, but hey, you only live once!"
"Yeah, sure!" Amir says. "Whatever that means!"
Jake laughs. He has a pretty laugh, but not in a girly way. Jake has a manly pretty laugh. Or something.
They both stand up and start walking toward the hallway. "Hey," Streeter says. "Where are you guys going?"
Amir beams him with his laser eyes and he passes out cold. No one notices.
"Wait," Jake says as they step into the elevator, "I forgot my camera! How will we document our wildly fanatical dinner adventures now?!"
"It's okay," Amir says, reaching into his pocket. "I have it." He pulls out Jake's camera.
"Wow. You knew I was going to forget it and so you pre-empted me. You know me really well." Jake slings his arm around Amir's shoulders. The elevator beeps and the door opens. The Gullies For Life walk out onto the sunny street.
"Where are we going for dinner?" Jake asks as they walk hand-in-hand through the crowd of people.
"Before I tell you, I have to let you in on a really important secret," Amir says.
"Yay!" Jake shouts. "I love secrets! Especially really important secrets!"
Amir pulls Jake by the waist into an alcove. "What's the secret?" Jake asks excitedly.
Amir cups his hands around his mouth and presses them to Jake's ear.
Jake smells like a bonfire. Or strawberries. Or a pond. Or an unwashed blue plaid pillowcase with a kinda-broken zipper. Or something.
"What is it?" Jake asks again.
Amir draws a breath. The people walking down the street stop moving. It starts raining. Then it stops.
Amir exhales and tries again. "Well, I think I may kind of—"
"WHAT THE FUCK."
"Agh! Sheesh, Jakey, your voice is really loud. Tone it down, down, dow-ow-ownnn—"
"Amir. Why are you lying on my desk wearing nothing but your underwear? Never mind, don't answer that. Just go away."
Amir sits up. "I was dreaming about you," he informs him.
"That's disgusting. Go away."
I was dreaming about you! Amir thinks. It was a good dream, too. He hops off Jake's desk. "Whateva, bro."
"Not whatever. Go put some clothes on," Jake says, exasperated.
Amir strolls out of the office. Jake sighs. He reaches behind his monitor to turn it on, and his fingers brush across paper. It's a post-it note stuck to his computer. He pulls it off and reads it.
Jake…well, I think I may kind of
"Huh?" Jake says out loud. He turns it over. There's nothing on the back. He reads it again. He doesn't
recognize the handwriting.
Amir walks back in wearing a sweater, a scarf, and a pair of boxers. "Where is everybody?"
Jake doesn't bother commenting on the clothing choice. "It's 6 AM. I came early 'cause I have to finish some stuff. Do you know about this?" He shows Amir the note.
Amir reads it and scrunches up his face. I was dreaming…no…yes, I was. "No idea. Never seen that shiatsu before."
"All right," Jake says. He can't help but be curious, so he folds the note in half and puts it in his wallet.
"…Breakfast this morning?" Amir asks.
"Neither," Jake says through gritted teeth.
"Well, they have to be one or the other!"
"Zebras are black and white. The question is, 'are zebras black with white stripes, or white with black stripes?'"
"Hmm. No," Amir says decidedly.
"I know you know you're wrong. You get this look on your face when you try to stick up for yourself and yet know, deep inside, that it's a futile battle you'll never win because you're wrong."
Amir sniffs. "Ouch," he says, with no real conviction.
"Are you saying ouch because I burned you with my previous statement or because you've been dangling upside-down off my desk for the past 20 minutes and the blood rushing to your head is finally beginning to hurt?"
"Eck," Amir says.
"Eck?" Jake asks.
"Eck," Amir confirms.
"Okay." Jake begins typing. It's silent for a little while. Amir shifts his weight and kicks out at the end of the desk. "Jake."
"I was going to ask you if I was your best friend, so I guess you shouldn't answer before you know, huh?" Amir looks satisfied.
Jake says, "Okay. Still no."
"Hmph. You're just saying that so no one gets jealous. It's okay, everyone, Jake isn't really my best friend!" He winks at said 'best friend.'
"You do know there's no one else in the office, right?" Jake asks, not looking up.
Amir pauses for a moment, then slides head-first off the desk.
"Did you know that ponies grow on trees?!"
"Wow, really? I thought that was only fruits and stuff. How are they attached to the branches? How do the branches support them? Ponies are big."
"They're miniature ponies, of course!" Amir slaps Jake on the back. "Well, best friend, where are we going for lunch today?"
"Dumb question," Jake says, smiling. "Where else would we go but the Ds?"
"Oh, duh!" They laugh. A bird tweets from a nearby tree. "You know what we should do? We should buy the food and then have a picnic in the park."
"Good idea!" Jake says. "I don't have a blanket or anything, though, and the grass is kind of wet."
"No problem!" Amir says, and he pulls a blanket out of his pocket.
"How did you do that?" Jake asks, amazed.
"Magic." Amir winks. Jake accepts this answer because it's perfectly logical.
"Ok, let's go get the food."
Twenty minutes later, the bestest friends are eating their delicious but not-at-all-nutritious but still-really-tasty nuggets when it starts to rain.
"Aww, crud-nuggets!" Jake says, shielding his food under the blanket. Amir does the same, then says, "Ha, you said nuggets, and we were eating nuggets! That's funny."
The rain stops. "Do you really think I'm funny?" Jake says, all big-hopeful eyes and excited-adorable smile.
"Sure!" Amir says. "You're almost as funny as me!"
Jake grins. A discarded parka on the ground a few yards away from them bursts into flame. Then it disappears, unnoticed.
"Should we head back to the office?" Amir asks.
"I guess," Jake says. He eats his remaining nugget and tosses the box into the trash. Amir pockets his, along with the blanket, and they walk away.
"Hey, remember that story I told you about the—"
"Ten-foot-tall dog?!" Jake asks excitedly.
"Yeah!" Amir says. "That thing was so big! It could have, like, stepped on me and not even noticed."
"And wasn't it blue?" Jake asks.
"Yeah, this weird sky-blue color. And—Jake, look out!" Suddenly, there is a semi-truck skidding along the sidewalk. Amir grabs Jake's arm and flattens both of them against the brick wall of a building.
"Ouch!" Jake says. The semi-truck rolls further down the street, crashes into a building, bounces off, and slides away through an intersection.
Amir has Jake pinned to the wall by his elbows. "Sorry," he says, but he's breathing fast and he doesn't let go.
"No, it's okay," Jake says quietly. "We're not dead, so it's okay."
Amir laughs, a little shakily, and says, "Jake, I just want you to know, you're really—"
Amir cracks open one eyelid and looks into the face of a guy he's never seen before. Then he opens his eyes fully and sees Jake. "Hey, Jake, who is this guy?"
"Oh my God." Jake covers his face with his hand, and the other guy says, "I guess he's okay," and leaves.
Amir sits up. "Who was that?"
"I thought you were unconscious. I couldn't wake you up, so I went to the next floor up and got someone to help me. You are an incredibly deep sleeper." Jake looks relieved. "You fell off my desk and hit your head, so I figured you passed out."
"Oh," Amir says. "Nah. Just napping."
Jake runs a hand through his hair. "Okay. I have one thing to finish here. Do you need a ride home?"
"If by home you mean your apartment, then yes."
"No, I mean your apartment. Look, do you want a ride home or what?"
"Finebutdon'texpectmetostaythere!" Amir says in one breath. "…Jake, don't expect me to stay there."
"I heard you," Jake sighs. He types. Amir sits on the floor by his desk, watching him. Jake can type really fast. Must have something to do with his finger-structure, Amir thinks. Fingers are weird. He looks at his hands.
"Huh?" Amir looks up.
Jake is holding a post-it note. He hands it to Amir. It says,
Jake, I just want you to know, you're really
Amir blinks. It looks oddly familiar, but then, everyone has post-it notes.
"This is the second one. Are you sure you don't know about this?" Jake asks, taking it back.
"I am indeed. Sure. That is," Amir says.
Jake pockets the note and shuts down his computer. "Okay, let's go."
"Be careful for skidding semi-trucks," Amir says seriously as they walk to Jake's car.
"…Whatever. Never mind."
Jake can't help but smile. "Okay."
The next building ahead was the office. Jake crossed a street and was about to perform a mental 'almost-there' dance when he saw Amir. No he didn't. He backtracked and stared. Yes, he did. Huddled against the side of the building Jake had just passed was Amir, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and presumably freezing his ass off. Quite possibly in the literal sense.
Jake turned down the street and waved. Amir looked at him, then put his head between his knees and shivered.
"Hey," Jake called out. "Amir. What's up with you?" No response. Jake ran the last few feet to him and sat down in front of him. The snow immediately began seeping into his clothes and he winced.
Amir looked up. "Hi, Jake," he said dismally.
Jake put his hands on Amir's knees. "What the hell are you doing out here?"
"I don't want to talk about it." His teeth were chattering like crazy.
"Don't you have a coat? Never mind, here," and Jake took off his gloves and handed them to Amir. Amir reached out a reluctant hand, grabbed the gloves, and put them on quickly.
Jake was reaching to take off his scarf. "Wait," said Amir. "We could just go to the office."
Jake had completely forgotten. "Why aren't you at the office?" he said. It came out a little harsh without him meaning it to.
"I dunno, well, I do know, Pat was making fun of me, and Sarah was like, 'oh, Pat, you're so funny, Amir's stupid, hahaha,' or something, and at some point I got kicked out."
"They can't do that to you. Let's go back there. I will make sure to personally kick both their asses."
Amir smiled. "Really? You're such a good friend." And with that they both stood up and began the walk to the Office of Ass-Kicking.
"Hey Amir," said Jake as they walked into the office building, "can I ask why they were making fun of you?"
"Well, we were talking about who would be the best person to write the script for this video series, and I said you should write it because you're really funny and stuff."
"They made fun of you for praising me? Now I'm really gonna do some ass-kicking." The elevator doors opened and they stepped in. "Why would they do that?"
"Uhh," Amir said, "they said I was only saying that because…"
"…Because why?" Jake prompted.
"Because I, I dunno, because I'm in love with you or something."
There is a hissing noise coming from Jake's shower. He sits up in bed. He can distinctly hear someone singing. Then it hits him. Amir is in his shower. At 7 in the morning.
Well. Better than a murderer.
Jake gets out of bed, hardly even creeped about the Amir thing. Pieces of his dream start wafting back to him. He can distinctly remember someone saying that they love him. Sarah must have finally come round. He laughs about the fact that that could only happen in his dreams. Sarah is attached to Pat like…something that's really attached to something else.
Amir emerges from the bathroom wearing a pair of Jake's boxers. "Good morning, comprende!"
Jake starts to say "Why are you here," but the sight of Amir brings the full reality of his dream back in a rush. Jake is silent for a moment, remembering and processing.
"Yo, Jakeyboy, are you awake? You're not a zombie, are you? I hope not, because gullies or not, I'll have to kill you. I'm dead serious. Hah, I said 'dead' like—"
"Amir," Jake says.
Amir pouts. He thinks maybe Jake is pissed that he's wearing his boxers, but honestly, Amir borrows clothes from him all the time and he also uses his shower all the time, so he can't see what the problem is. Until he notices Jake's face is red. "Why's your face all red?"
Straight up, Jake thinks. I have no idea. But he has an idea. He has a lot of ideas, for that matter. "It's hot in here," he says. Amir blinks. Jake can tell he doesn't believe the lie.
Amir looks like he may call Jake out on it, but he just says, "Whatever, bro," and walks right out of Jake's apartment.
Jake sits on his bed. This is all so ridiculous, he thinks. But the blush remains. He looks at his alarm clock. "Shit!" He has to be at work in half an hour and he hasn't even changed clothes yet. He jumps off his bed, pushes the dream-thoughts into a corner of his mind, and decides instead to concentrate on not being late.
Amir swivels around in his chair. Ricky is pointing at the elephant. "You're not allowed to have elephants in here."
"Sorreh," Amir says, and the elephant disappears. Ricky returns to his office. Amir looks at his unopened laptop sitting on the floor and contemplates—
"Hello, Friend For Life!" says Jake. He walks over and sits down on Amir's desk. "What's up?"
"Well, I was petting this baby elephant, but then Ricky told me that there's no elephants allowed in the office," explains Amir.
"C'mon, silly! You should know that by now!" says Jake, smiling. He reaches over and ruffles Amir's hair. Amir grins and stands up.
"I have something I want to show you," Amir says. "Follow me."
So Jake stands up and they walk to the conference room. Amir motions for Jake to cover his eyes and Jake does so. Amir spins a chair around so that the back of it is facing Jake, and then he says, "Ok, open your eyes!"
Jake opens his eyes and looks at the chair. In pink spray paint, Amir has written 'Jake's Chair' in sloppy but discernable writing. "Oh my gorsh!" Jake says. "It's beautiful! What a fantastic work of art. Thanks so much, best friend!"
Amir smiles. Jake grabs him by the shoulders and hugs him. Amir puts his head on Jake's shoulder and whispers, "I know it's bad. But I'm not an artist. I just wanted to do something for you because—"
Something heavy lands near Amir's face. He snaps his head up and opens his eyes. "What?" he says sleepily.
"It's your clothes," Jake says, an edge of anger in his voice. "You left them in my bathroom."
Amir takes in his surroundings: he's at his desk, there is a pile of clothes sitting next to him, and the office is empty save Jake and himself. "Where is everybody?"
"They're shooting a video in the street. They should be back in half an hour or something."
Jake sounds angry, Amir thinks. Good thing I know a good joke to make him happy. "Hey Jake, why'd the turkey cross the road?"
Jake looks at him from next to his desk. "Amir. I'm sick of it."
"What?" Amir asks.
"You coming to my apartment whenever you want. I don't want you there anymore. Do you understand?"
"Jake, I don't know why you're all pissed or whatever, I just used your shower."
"You use my shower all the time. You steal clothes from me all the time. You break my stuff. You annoy my friends. You insist on being at my apartment all the time, even though I know, I know you have your own. I don't understand it and I don't want to. Just please. STOP." Jake's face is red, from anger or something else, it's impossible to tell.
Amir says nothing.
Jake looks at him. Their eyes meet and Jake sucks in a quick breath. He wants to be angry. He is angry.
"…Okay," Amir says finally.
"Okay, what?" Jake snaps. Too fast. Too harsh.
Amir takes off his glasses and puts them on his desk. Jake wants to grab them and smash them to bits. He's pissed, really pissed, at Amir, but for none of the reasons he said he was.
Amir stares straight forward at the space above Jake's desk. Jake walks over and sits down in his chair, in front of his desk, in front of Amir, who is still staring into space.
Jake turns his monitor on and finds another post-it note. This one says, Jake…I just wanted to do something for you because
He crushes it up in his fist and looks over his computer at Amir. "…Dude, are you crying?"
Amir is covering his face with his hands, but it's obvious he's crying.
Shit, Jake thinks. Shit. Shit. Fucking SHIT. "Hey," he says in what he hopes isn't an angry voice. "Hey…"
Amir sniffs and doesn't speak. Jake stands up and walks to the side of Amir's desk. Amir doesn't even look at him. Jake smoothes the note out and puts it on Amir's desk. "Do you—"
"SHUT UP!" Amir says with such ferocity that Jake takes a step back. "Will you just fucking shut up!" His hands remain over his face, though, so he could just as well be talking to his overactive mind as he could to Jake.
"Amir," Jake says. "Hey. Amir." He swallows hard and takes a step forward. "I'm sorry I—"
In one swift motion, Amir uncovers his face, stands up, and latches onto Jake, nearly squeezing the breath out of him.
"Okay, okay," Jake says because he doesn't know what else to say and because he can only kind of breathe. "You're choking me," he adds. Amir loosens his grip by a fractional amount, but it allows Jake to talk. "Okay, Amir, look. I know—"
Amir sniffles and convulses, and Jake returns the hug reflexively, running a hand up and down Amir's back without even knowing what he's doing. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get all shitty like that. I'm really confused right now and I don't know what to do about a lot of things and I'm just—sorry." Jake's face turns red. As if he needs that to happen again.
Amir begins digging a hole in Jake's collarbone with his nose, so Jake figures his apology was accepted. "Hey," Amir says finally, his voice coming out more nasally than usual, "This is okay. Right?" He doesn't look at Jake at all; he expects him to say yes. And he does.
"…Yeah. This is okay. You're okay." Jake hesitates, then says, "Are we okay?" He mentally cringes. It sounds like they're in a relationship. A more truthful part of his brain tells him they may as well be.
"Yeah. Yes. I…" Amir trails off.
"What?" Jake asks.
Amir finally looks at him. "I'm hungry."
"Your face is for losers!" Jake says.
"Well, I guess you're a loser, then!" Amir says triumphantly.
Jake blinks. "Huh? That made no sense."
"Of course not," Amir says shadily, and he runs a few yards down the beach before flopping onto his stomach and sliding into the ocean.
Jake puts his sunglasses on.
He's so chill.
Amir returns to the beach to find Jake sitting down and reading. "Hey! The water is, umm, warm! Or something."
"So it's not," says Jake.
"No, but—whatever! You should swim anyway!" Amir's hair is plastered across his face and water is dripping into his eyes. He blinks at hyper-speed to get rid of it.
"Fine," Jake says. He takes his sunglasses off and puts his book down. The instant it touches the sand, all the other beach-goers disappear.
Jake turns around. "Where did all those people go?"
"The bathroom," Amir says confidently.
"Oh, duh," says Jake. He smiles and races toward the water, running in until it hits his knees and then flopping down under the surface.
Amir follows suit. He opens his eyes underwater. It burns, but there's some pretty sweet seaweed to look at. He picks a piece of it up and surfaces. "Hey, Jake! Look what I found!" He shows Jake the seaweed.
"Dude, that's everywhere," Jake says.
"I know!" Amir says. "I was testing you."
"Ohh, you got me!" Jake says. They laugh.
"You know what we should do? We should swim out beyond that 'Do Not Swim Past This Point' sign," says Amir.
"But the sign is telling us we shouldn't do that," says Jake.
"You tell me I shouldn't do things all the time, but that doesn't stop me!" says Amir.
"So true!" laughs Jake. "Okay. Let's do it."
So they begin to swim.
"Look, Jake! We're past the sign!" says Amir happily a short while later. "We should take a break." Amir reaches down with his toes for footing, but the ocean is nearly 25 feet deep at this point, so he goes under instead.
"Amir!" Jake yells as Amir surfaces, spitting out water, "You have to tread water."
"Aww, crap!" says Amir. "I don't know how to do that!" He flails his arms and legs and bobs underwater again.
"Just do this!" Jake says frantically, trying to show him, but Amir is falling under and resurfacing constantly, and then he doesn't come back up.
"Amir!" Jake reaches underwater and grabs Amir's arm, dragging him back up. "We have to swim back, okay? Can you do that?"
"Sure," Amir says, and he spits out water and, oddly, a piece of seaweed. There is no time to analyze this.
Jake begins swimming back, but Amir falls behind, so Jake grabs Amir's arm again and continues swimming.
Finally, they reach the area where the water is waist-high, and they stand up. The beach is still empty save for a seagull pecking away at a piece of garbage.
"Swimming out that far was a dumb idea," Jake says.
"Agh," says Amir, panting. "Okay. Yes. It was. But you…you are awesome!" He launches himself at Jake, knocking them both underwater again.
Jake is laughing when he surfaces. He holds up a piece of seaweed. "Dude, this is so cool!"
"That's everywhere," Amir says. "Ohh—wait—you were testing me, right?"
Jake nods. He throws the seaweed back into the ocean and laughs.
Amir smiles. "Hey, Jake," he says.
"You're really cool, and I—"
Best. Nap. Evaaar.
"Jake, I just took the best. Nap. Ev—"
"I heard you the first time," Jake says as he sits down at his desk.
"Oh. Well. Still. It was a good nap."
Jake nods slowly. He's distracted by what his desktop background has become.
Suddenly, Amir smirks evilly.
His background is, in essence, Photoshop gone wrong: on the left side is a picture of Jake himself with his arms out (taken in front of the Grand Canyon) and on the right side is a picture of Amir with his eyes closed, smiling hugely. The background of the Amir-side is the office, so the whole thing is totally ridiculous. In the top-left corner in bright green font, it says JAKE! with a spraypaint-looking circle around it.
Jake looks up. "What is this?" he asks, gesturing towards his computer.
"I made it in Photomart!" Amir says proudly.
"You mean Photoshop," Jake sighs. "And you did a crappy job of it." But for some reason he's smiling, and Amir picks up on it.
"You're smiling. You like it. Totes fo sho, BBF!"
"It's really bad," says Jake, but the freaking smile won't go away. Amir stands up and moves so that he's standing next to Jake. Jake looks at him.
"Bro," Amir says. "As payment for that piece of art, you're taking me to dinner tonight."
Jake looks around. Jeff is laughing at him. Whatever.
"Fine," he says. Amir smiles and sits back down at his desk.
When Jake stands up to go get a glass of water, he notices a post-it note on his chair.
"Seriously?" he says. Amir looks up, curious.
Jake unfolds the note. It says, Jake…you're really cool, and I
"…I take it you don't know about this?" Jake asks, showing it to Amir.
Every time Jake shows him one of those, Amir thinks maybe he knows where it's coming from, but then his memories get kind of hazy and he gives up. "Don't know anything about it, son. Nothing at all, nothing – at – all…"
"No rapping," Jake says, but he's smiling. The frequency of this whole smiling-because-of-Amir thing is beginning to creep him out (or so he tries to tell himself.)
"Fine," Amir says. "But for stopping my rapping, you'll have to take me to dinner twice." He says this like it's the ultimate punishment. Jake used to think it was, but now it doesn't really matter.
"Okay," Jake says.
"Seriously?!" Amir says. "That's so chill."
Jake folds up the note and puts it in his pocket. Everyone in the near vicinity (besides Amir) is giving him a weird look, but he can't bring himself to care. What do they know about being BBFs?
"Huh?" Amir looks up over his computer.
"Did you get me coffee?"
"Oh, yeah! You're welcome," he says, smiling.
"Dude. I don't like coffee," Jake says.
"Yeah," Amir says happily. "I know."
"…If you know, then why did you get it for me—"
Jake rolls over.
"See, there's this thing, like this running joke or whatever, about me being, like, the least responsible person here or something, and—"
"You are," says Jake.
"Well," says Amir. "What about Ricky? What does that guy do, seriously?"
"He's our boss," says Jake.
"…That's it," Jake says. "He must be busy. He has things to do. He has a website to run!"
"So do I," Amir says.
"Okay, but not a popular and actually entertaining website."
The refrigerator hums.
"I've got an issue."
"You've got lots of issues," Jake says.
"Shut up, okay? Okay, so there's this person."
Jake waits. Amir looks at him.
"Okay…" Jake says.
"Oh, the person? I can't tell you who it is," Amir says.
"That's fine, but you didn't tell me what your issue with this person is."
"Oh, the issue, right. Okay, so this is so super stupid, but—"
Jake opens his eyes. It's dark. It's too early to be awake.
He shuts his eyes again.
They're standing on a bridge.
The bridge is floating. Over land.
"I brought you here for a specific reason…" Amir begins.
"Where is here? How is this thing floating? What the hell is going on?"
"Would you be quiet, please? You're disturbing Mr. Cuddles." Suddenly, there is a white cat in Amir's arms. Jake looks it in the eyes and it hisses.
"Crap, keep your cat under control; I don't think it likes me."
"Why would he?"
"Okay, this is weird," Jake says. "This is weird."
"Yes," Amir says. "Very weird."
They stand there. Jake contemplates jumping off, just to see what would happen.
"Do it," Amir tells him.
"Do what?" Jake asks.
"Jump," Amir says simply. He strokes the cat gently.
This is rational. Jake climbs the side and stands on the edge. He looks back at Amir, who nods.
Jake bends his knees and jumps.
He falls, and the ground is definitely getting closer, which means Amir lied to him. He tries to scream, but the wind sucks his breath away. The bridge isn't very high up, and he's coming close to the roof of a skyscraper; a hard, cement, unforgiving roof—
Jake twitches. And then twitches again.
He pulls his blanket tighter around him.
He's at a deserted rooftop café. Jake looks around and finds that he's not on the ground, and he's panting and can't remember why.
"Hello," Amir says.
"—the fuck!" Jake screams. He looks up and sees Amir's face. "Are you carrying me?"
Amir smiles and plops him down. "Not anymore!"
Jake's legs wobble. He heads for a table and sits down in a fancy white chair. Or at least it used to be white. Now it's yellowing.
Amir sits across from him.
"Where are we?" Jake asks.
"A roof." Amir gestures around. "I caught you."
"You were falling, and I caught you."
Jake thinks. He vaguely remembers falling, although from what, he can't say. "How is that possible?"
Amir shrugs. "Anything's possible. You're dreaming."
"I'm dreaming?" Jake asks. "Like, actually asleep but this is a dream?"
"Yup," Amir says. "So really, you could do whatever you want. Nothing has to make sense."
"Why are you telling me this?" Jake asks. He leans forward, interested.
"No reason in particular."
"I think there has to be a reason."
"There's not," Amir says.
"Okay," Jake says. "Okay. You said I could do anything. So if I jump off this building, what happens?"
"Whatever you want to happen. I'll catch you, probably."
"So I want that to happen?"
"Well, you don't want to die." Amir smiles.
"But there are alternatives," Jake presses. "I could land on a goat and then ride to Africa across the ocean."
"You could, but you won't."
"Because that's not what you want to happen."
"So it happens the way I want it to," Jake says. "That's new."
Amir laughs. "Yup."
There is a short silence, then Amir stands up. Jake does, too, although he doesn't really know why. Amir walks around the table and faces Jake.
"What are you doing?" Jake asks, not panicky, just curious.
Amir takes Jake's hands and twines their fingers together. Jake looks at him, confused.
Amir just smiles. "What do you want to happen?" he asks.
"I dunno," Jake says, but he knows.
"It's okay. It doesn't matter what you do."
So Jake leans in until their noses are touching. He can feel genuine warmth radiating from Amir, which is weird because it's a dream. But we dream in color, Jake thinks. Why not with feeling, too?
"Jake," Amir whispers.
Right, Jake thinks, and he closes what little space is between them.
Amir mumbles something into the kiss and Jake doesn't even know what it is, he just smiles.
Because it's what he wants.
"Agh," Jake says. He slams a fist down on his alarm clock and Britney Spears shuts up.
Jake rolls out of bed and walks towards the fridge.
I could land on a goat and then ride to Africa across the ocean.
"What the hell?" Jake says out loud. Oh. A dream.
"Well, that's a new one," Jake says. But something tells him that's not all. There was a bridge involved, and a cat and a café and Amir.
Suddenly, Jake remembers it all.
He sits down at his table and thinks. He thinks things like shit, shit, shit and how am I gonna go to work and why am I thinking about that and this is seriously messed up. But the fact remains that it happened.
An hour later, he walks into the office to find Amir on his computer and about pisses himself.
Okay, control. It doesn't matter. It was a dream. It doesn't mean anything.
But it means everything.
"Good morning, comprende!" Amir shouts.
"Good morning. Why are you on my computer?"
"I'm checking your email!" Amir says happily.
Jake scratches the back of his head. How do I normally react to this? Ignore it? Get angry?
The rooftop scene flashes in front of his eyes and he wordlessly walks over and sits down at Amir's desk.
Amir looks at Jake over the computer. "Jake. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he lies. He can tell Amir doesn't believe him.
Amir stands up and walks around the desks to Jake.
Jake looks up at him warily.
"You look sick," Amir informs him.
Jake shakes his head. "I'm not."
"Hmm," Amir says.
I need a glass of water, Jake thinks. He stands up and makes a move away from the desk, but he doesn't get far before Amir tackles him into a bear hug from behind.
Amir grabs Jake's shoulders and turns him around, then proceeds to squeeze him within an inch of his life.
It seems like the entire office is watching as Jake swallows down trivial things like embarrassment, the threat of public humiliation, and his dignity, and wraps his arms around Amir's back.
It feels right because it's what he wants.
He's headed to the Ds to pick up some noogs. Oh dear Lord, they're so good, and you really can't beat 50 for 10 bucks. Unless you're Amir, that is. Amir has already decided he is getting 100 for 20 bucks. Cheating the system, or whatever.
He gets closer and he can practically smell the goodness wafting from the building. Jake's always telling him how he's gonna die the second he turns 30, but as long as he's eating noogs on that birthday he can die happy.
Finally, the building is in plain sight. Amir crosses the street and walks up towards the Ds. At last.
He opens the door and it starts to shut behind him, but it catches on something. The bells on the door jingle obnoxiously and he turns around to see what's going on.
The cardboard box from earlier is stuck in the door. It's not very big. Not even big enough to fit his 100 nuggets in, Amir thinks sadly. But he's sure he'll find a use for it, so he picks it up and takes it in with him.
He orders, gets his precious food, and sits down at a table. The box is all taped up like it was going to be mailed, but there are no stamps or address on it. Amir shakes it and something inside goes 'vwp vwp vwp.' Amir eats a nugget and concentrates. He begins to peel the tape off, but he ends up ripping a flap off the box, so he gives up and goes into total decimation mode, clawing at it like an excited child at a birthday party.
The man at the table next to him makes a disapproving 'tut, tut' sound and Amir unleashes the full power of his laser eyes on him, instantly turning him into an ant. The ant-man crawls around on the chair. Amir smiles triumphantly, pops a nugget in his mouth, and wrenches off the last bit of tape.
Four tiny pieces of paper fly out of the box and float down onto the table. Amir picks one of them up and reads it.
Jake left early for God knows why.
Amir insisted on sleeping over at his apartment, despite it being a Thursday, and when Jake woke up Amir was all slobbery and clingy and completely, totally asleep.
Jake was a man. He didn't freak out about things. But 'things' didn't take this situation into account.
So at 4 AM, Jake literally rolled out of bed onto the floor, banged his head on a nightstand he forgot existed, and let out a string of curse words, none of which woke Amir up.
After eating some cereal in total silence, he got dressed and left. His mind was telling him things like what the hell. How is he going to get to work? You agreed to this. You led him into this. You're an asshole. Et cetera.
"Shut up," Jake mutters to himself while driving aimlessly around in his car. Yes, this was a predicament. "It's not that bad. He does this all the time. It's not like you seduced him or anything." He stops at a red light. A man with a briefcase walks slowly across the street.
"I think I may be losing my mind," Jake tells himself. His mind disagrees. Instead, it decides to show him a graphic picture of what could have happened the night before had Amir not fallen asleep at 9 o'clock wearing dinosaur pajamas.
"NO," Jake says. "I can't even picture that. Well, I just did, but—oh God." He pulls over and slams a fist down on his horn, drawing the awful noise on and on. "Wake up, New York. It's time to feel my pain."
Amir wakes up. He rubs his eyes and looks around curiously. Oh yeah. He and Jake had an epic sleepover. "Jake?" Amir mumbles. "Today's Friday, son."
"Hmm," Amir says. The obvious solution, after checking the whole apartment for signs of his BBF, is to eat his leftover nuggets hidden in Jake's fridge. "Right behind the e-coli," he says, reaching past a huge bag of broccoli and grabbing a packet of nuggets.
Eating alone is boring, though, so after a while, Amir leaves and walks to the Ds in his pajamas, completely forgetting about work.
Jake enters the office and everyone pointedly averts their eyes. He decides to ignore this and sits down at his desk, switching his computer on and waiting.
The office is completely silent save for the clicking of keyboards, and it's unnerving. Jake taps his fingers against his desk. No one says anything.
"Hey," someone says, finally, from near Jake's desk. Relieved, Jake swivels around and the word 'hi' is halfway out of his mouth when he hears, "Do you want to go out for lunch with me today?"
It's Pat talking to Sarah. Shit-monkeys.
Jake turns around again and faces his computer. His background has loaded, the awful Photoshop job of him and Amir, and Jake feels like slamming a fist through his monitor. He shouldn't be blaming Amir for his freak-out—after all, today was a normal day for him—but he can't help it, because if he doesn't blame Amir then he has to blame himself.
But I am the one who deserves the blame. I am the one who's a creepy insecure freak. I am the one who's in love with his best friend. Jake would like to think it's nasty to put it out there like that, but despite whatever else it is or isn't, it's definitely one thing: the truth.
The day passes in a haze. Jake half-heartedly writes an article, stopping every few minutes to check his email for no apparent reason. No one says a word to him until nearly 1 o'clock, when Jeff and Pat gang up on him and ask, "So where's your boyfriend?"
And Jake snaps. He'd like to give them a shouting lecture, then punch every single one of them in the gut, but instead he gets up, violently shoves his chair aside, and leaves.
The truth is, he had forgotten that Amir never actually came into work. But Jake assumes that Amir is still sleeping at his apartment, so he drives away to go check on him.
Jake opens the door. He doesn't see Amir anywhere, but knowing him, he could be hiding behind the couch ready to pounce. "Amir?" Jake calls. No answer. He searches the apartment, but Amir is definitely not there. Jake pulls out his cell phone and is just about to call him when he notices a note halfway under the bed. He pulls it out and reads it. It says
you're always so good to me.
love you tons.
Jake knows exactly what it's about. He puts his phone down and pulls his wallet out of his pocket. There are four notes in there, all written in identical handwriting. This could be it. This could be proof that he's not crazy and he doesn't have to feel like a pervert for being in love with Amir. He unfolds the first note and finds his suspicions to be correct.
The first four notes are beginnings, and this new note is the end.
Jake lays them out on his table. Put together, they read
Jake…well, I think I may kind of like you.
Jake, I just want you to know, you're really cool.
Jake…I just wanted to do something for you because you're always so good to me.
Jake…you're really cool, and I love you tons.
Jake inhales, then breathes out slowly. He needs to find Amir. And suddenly, it dawns on him that calling him would be a stupid idea. He already knows where he is. He's always at the Ds.
Jake gathers the notes, jams them in his pocket, and runs, forgetting that he owns a car.
When he gets to the Ds, he can see Amir through the window. Of course. It's hard to believe that he could have been here for hours, but the people at this McDonald's know him and actually find him entertaining, so they don't care if he sticks around.
Jake practically leaps into the building and rushes at Amir's table.
"Jake!" Amir shouts when he sees him. He stands up and moves to hug him, but Jake drops his hands to his knees and pants, out of breath from the running. "What's wrong?" Amir asks, poking Jake in the chest.
Jake stands up fully and pulls the notes out of his pocket. All his hope is riding on this moment, this moment in which Amir has to consciously think about and recognize something he did. It looks bleak, Jake thinks sarcastically. But here goes.
"You wrote these," Jake informs him, laying the notes out on the table. "Didn't you?"
Amir looks and thinks. It's a tedious process, the scrunching up of his face and the squinting of his eyes. But finally he says, "Well, they're true, so I guess I did."
The entire restaurant is staring at them now.
"They're true?" Jake asks quietly. He's still short on air.
"Yeah," Amir says simply. "Also, I write like that when I'm asleep."
Jake doesn't bother pondering that impossible statement. Instead, he grabs both sides of Amir's face and crashes their lips together. It's sloppy and not at all eloquent, but Jake is desperate.
The restaurant collectively gasps. There is a noise like a suction cup being pulled off a window as Amir steps backwards out of the kiss.
Jake's face falls. "Oh my God, I'm sorry, I thought—"
But Amir turns around and speaks to the restaurant-goers. "It's okay, people, we do this all the time." He turns back around and grins.
Jake laughs. "You are ridiculous."
"Yeah," Amir says, "but I'm your ridiculous."
Jake laughs harder. Amir shuts him up in the best way possible.
The collective people of the Ds continue eating. Apparently, this is business as usual.
"Pasta is not made with nuggets," Jake will tell him. Or, "Nuggets are not a normal pizza topping." Or, Jake's personal favorite, "It's not really cereal if it's just nuggets in milk, is it?"
And Amir will just laugh at him like he's telling one big joke, of course I'm not going to eat anything but noogs, and Jake will cross his arms and act like a disapproving parent, and Amir will pull faces at him until they're both laughing, and then it's okay.
The thing neither of them counted on was actually having to go back into work Monday.
Jake rolls over and Amir is drooling all over the sheets. It would be endearing were it not so disgusting.
Jake pokes him in the chest. "Hey. It's Monday."
"Hmm," Amir sleep-mumbles.
"That means you have to wake up."
Amir smiles without opening his eyes and rolls so his back is facing Jake.
Jake sighs and contemplates what is likely to happen at work today. He and Amir will undoubtedly be made fun of, maybe even fired. I did storm out, Jake thinks. Hmm. Being fired doesn't sound so bad now that he has Amir on his side. Just two bros against the world.
"I want noogs," Amir informs him.
"First you have to get out of my bed."
"Also I don't want to go to work. Let's quit. Let's not even show up today. Protesting the injustice, or whatever."
"That almost made sense, but unfortunately, there's this thing called a two-week notice—"
Amir rolls over and slaps a hand over Jake's mouth.
"Mmph," Jake says. Amir cackles.
"We can go to work today, but you have to take me to the Ds afterwards, okay?"
Jake tries to say, "You can't decide that, I'm driving, you idiot," but all he accomplishes is getting a lot of saliva on Amir's hand.
Amir laughs, removes his hand, and wipes it on Jake's sheets.
"Dude, that's gross," Jake says.
"You liked it."
Jake can't exactly deny this statement, so he doesn't say anything.
After a lot of complaining and a few well-aimed slaps to the face, Jake finally reaches the parking garage. He shuts off the car's engine and sits there, fiddling with his keys.
Amir pokes him. "Hey, you're the one who wanted to go to work."
"Flawless logic," Jake says, even though that makes no sense.
Amir frowns. He grabs the keys, throws them on the floor, and pulls Jake by the face to his side of the car. "It'll be fine," he says in an uncharacteristically convincing voice, but Jake only half-notices the tone
because he's concentrating on Amir's breath hitting his face.
Jake closes his eyes. Amir doesn't move.
"…Seriously?" Jake whines.
Amir chooses this moment to perfect his skills in the being-evil department and asks, "What do you want?"
Jake's eyes snap open. Amir still has hold of his face. There's no escape. "Seriously?" he repeats weakly.
"C'mon, Jakey-boy. It's not that difficult."
"When did you get so evil?" Jake asks.
Amir seems to consider this. "I dunno. Doesn't really matter."
Jake starts to say "Rhetorical question," but is cut off.
After they move apart, Jake smirks at him. "You can't resist my charms."
"I can't resist your face!" Amir says.
"…Another failed attempt at a 'your face' joke; sorry," Jake says, laughing.
"Yeah, whatever," Amir says, and he gets out of the car. Jake does the same, and when they meet, Amir grabs Jake's hand.
And suddenly, facing their co-workers doesn't seem so bad.
The elevator doors ping open and Amir drags Jake by the wrist into the hallway. "Let's get this shiatsu over with," he says.
"You don't even know what's going on. You didn't come into work last week!"
"Whateva." And they step into the office.
Jake says, "Well then."
The office is totally empty.
"There's no way we could be early," Jake says. He walks over to his desk. There's a post-it note sitting on his chair. Sorry for being a dick. We're shooting in the building next door. It's from Pat. "Sorry for being a dick? That's the best apology I'm gonna get, huh?"
Amir is swiveling around in the chair behind his desk. "Why's he apologizing?"
"He and Jeff said some stuff and—well, whatever, it's actually not a big deal," Jake says. Why does it matter if they apologize or not? At least there's an effort being made.
"So, the Ds, then?" Amir asks hopefully.
"We're late, but we still have to work," Jake says, laughing. He turns on his computer. Maybe their co-workers will never fully understand them, but from the looks of it, they're at least trying to.
"I see you!" Amir says in a sing-song voice.
"This isn't hide-and-seek. This is me trying to read in peace." Jake is under the covers with a book above his head, attempting to read.
"Reading is stupid," Amir says, launching himself over Jake and onto the opposite side of the bed. He grabs the book and throws it across the room.
"Hey!" Jake cries. "I just bought that!"
Amir just smirks.
Jake is not giving in. He's not giving in. He's not…damn.
"And then we made sweet love," Amir tells him.
"That's not what happened," Jake says.
Jake just shakes his head and laughs. Amir takes a nugget out of the package on the table and throws it at him.
"Wait…give that back," he says.
"Or what?" Jake asks.
"I'll…uhh…eat your face. Or something."
"I'd be okay with that."
Jake doesn't count on Amir tackling him to the ground and making good on his threat, but then again Jake didn't count on a lot of things, namely Amir's largely hidden intelligence.
They think back on the weird dreams and things kind of make sense for the first time. Not because they suddenly live in a world where bridges float and people have laser-eyes, but because instead of having dreams, they now have memories, and a large portion of those memories is them being together.
And noogs. There are also a lot of noogs involved.