Three Days

by Joe Casey

Chapter 5

Bryce and I met downstairs about half an hour after we'd split up. Bryce was in a loose t-shirt and shorts over anklets and Vans; I missed the tight t-shirt from this morning, but the shorts showed off his smooth, coltish legs and I would have to settle for that. For my part, I almost considered putting on a pair of compression shorts that could, in a pinch, do double duty as cycling shorts … but I'd chickened out at the last moment, choosing instead an old but comfortable pair of battered cargo shorts. No need subjecting the kid to all of that business. As it was, I'd also chosen a thin cotton tank-top over which - for modesty's sake - I wore an unbuttoned plaid shirt. I didn't mind showing off a little bit to the kid, even if I knew it wouldn't be going anywhere. Part of the new me, I guessed.

Lyndon's bike had been a permanent fixture on the back porch for as long as I'd lived here; I don't think I ever saw him on it. Despite the disuse, it still looked pretty good. I pinched the tires; they still held air.

"Do you think it's okay?" Bryce asked me.

I gave it a quick once-over, trying to look like I knew what I was doing; what did I know from bikes? "I think it's okay … but try it out just to be sure. I don't think he ever rode it."

We walked our bikes down a narrow strip of concrete that ran between our house and the one next door, then bumped the bikes down a set of crumbling stairs to the street. I watched as Bryce mounted Lyndon's bike and gave it a quick, impromptu road test, going up and down the block, shifting gears, braking.

He came back over to me. "Seems okay."

We set off towards campus, me leading, Bryce close behind.

The day was perfect for this, not too hot, a little overcast, but there was no chance of rain. With classes nearly over, campus was all but deserted, and we seemed to have the run of the place.

I took Bryce over to the university's architecture building, which had been put up in the 1920's and was badly in need of restoration. Friends of mine were in the program and they'd complained of sweating onto their drawings at the start of school, in August, only to turn around in November and nearly freeze to death. The school had put forward any number of proposals for new digs, but in a state that was known for - not in any particular order - horses, tobacco, bourbon and basketball, programs that could make a case for furthering those things got the lion's share of the money.

We walked around the studios; much of the work was still pinned to walls, and I watched while Bryce peered at the work, some of which even I could tell was good. " I wish I could talk to somebody, " he said, when he came up for air.

"Well … I know some people in the program. I could give you their contact info, if you'd like."

"That … well, thanks, Omer. I'd appreciate that."

"Glad to do it, Bryce. It's supposed to be a really good program. " I gestured around the space. " I know it doesn't look like it, but …"

He chuckled. " Got it."

Next, I took him over to my college; our buildings were marginally better than the one we had just left. Ours dated mostly from the sixties and seventies, with some later additions.

"There's not much to show you, or I'd take you inside. But I don't think you're going to want to see a lot of math and physics calculations."

"Is it hard? Engineering?"

"It can be. But so is architecture. Ours is mostly a bunch of formulas and very careful calculations. You guys … I mean, you have to be creative on top of all of that. Almost like an artist."

"Well, that's where I started, I guess, " he answered. " Fine arts, stuff like that. I like to draw, but I don't know if I really want to be in fine arts."

I grinned." You any good?"

He grinned back." I think so. My teachers tell me I am, so …" He pulled a face. " You any good?"

"Almost a 4.0," I answered. " Just a shade off. 3.95, thereabouts."

"Wow. Impressive."

I shrugged. " Guess I just have a talent for it."

"Wrestling scholarship and engineering on top of it. You should be proud."

"Lucky, maybe."

"More than luck, I think."

"Well, I enjoy doing it. It helps. You think you'll enjoy architecture?"

"I think so. More than I would if I had to be a lawyer."

"Your dad want you to do that?"

"Yeah, of course … but I think he pinned all of his hopes on Lyndon. Who royally fucked it up."

I grimaced. "It … has not been a fun year."

He smiled. "I bet. Can' t wait to hear the gory details."

"Well … only if he asks me. I don't like talking like that about people. " We walked over to our bikes.

"So … what's next? " Bryce asked me.

"Well, are you hungry?"

He thought about it. " I … could eat. How far are we from your house?"

"Oh, we can just eat here, at the Commons."

"Okay, but I don't have any money."

"My treat?"

The Commons was still open, luckily, and fairly busy at this time of day.

"There's all kinds of choices, " I said.

"What are you going to get?"

"I' m trying to stay healthy. Salad, probably."

"Rabbit food, " he answered, with a smile . " Can I get a burger?"

I looked around. " You … can, I think. " I pointed out a short order station that cranked out hot sandwiches and burgers and fries. I pulled out my wallet, thumbed out a ten, gave it to him.

"You don't have to do this, you know."

"I told you, my treat. I really don 't mind."

"Well, then I owe you, Omer. Thanks."

We met up again with our orders.

"There's a table over there in the corner, " I said, looking around. " But … well, would you mind eating outside?"

"Not at all. Sounds great."

We found a spot underneath some trees, dug into our food.

"So, Omer …" Bryce ventured, after swallowing a mouthful of burger.

I looked up. " Huh? Yeah?"

"Nothing. I just … what kind of name is that?"

"Turkish." I grinned. " It means'noble and generous,'actually."

"Huh," he countered, his face neutral … but I could see the amusement in his eyes. " Who knew?"

I chuckled. " I know, right? Long way to go."

"Well, at least you're not stuck with 'Bryce Parrish' for a name."

"It depends on what your middle name is, I think."

"Baines, " he countered.

"Wow. Your parents, like, hate you or something?"

He chuckled; it could have gone either way. " I think it's my mother's way of making us look fancier than we really are. I mean, fuck … we're two generations away from West Virginia trailer trash on her side. It's not like we have a whole line of Bryces and Baines and Lyndons in our family tree."

"You could combine'em, you know. 'Brains.' How's that?"

"Makes me sound like a zombie. " He held his arms out straight, snarled. " Brains … brains … !"

I laughed. " Well, what about … oh, I don't know … maybe … uh,'Beau,'or something like that. It means … well …" I blushed. " I mean …"

He looked at me, made a face, smiled . " I know what it means, Omer. I … well, I took French in high school."

"Oh, " I said. " Sorry … I …" seemed to be having trouble extricating my foot from my mouth, felt like thumping myself on the side of my head.

"Beau Parrish …" he murmured, then grinned. " I like it. The perfect combination of redneck and high class. Sounds like a porn name."

"Well, if the architecture thing doesn't work out …"

"I' ll keep that in mind, " he quipped. " Thanks for the suggestion."

"Just trying to help, you know."

Another silence grew between us, a not-uncomfortable one; there seemed to be a kind of easiness between us, as if we'd been friends for a long time. I would have killed to have a friend like Bryce in high school. I forked another bit of salad in my mouth; Bryce took another bite of his burger.

When he swallowed, he gestured with the burger. " Not bad, actually."

"Yeah, they do alright here."

"I'm guessing that the food is not the only reason you're here ."

I shrugged. " Engineering school's good. One of the professors was asked to be an expert witness on the 9/11 thing. Plus, they offered me a scholarship, so that sealed the deal."

"And you're staying."

"Yeah. Won't be wrestling, though. I'll have to come up with some other way to pay tuition. I don't think I can wrestle and get a master's degree at the same time."

"So, the whole wrestling thing …" he started. " I mean, I get it, I guess, but …"

"With a face like this? " I quipped. " Not much good for anything else. " I shrugged again. " It's a Turkish thing, maybe. My dad and some of my uncles wrestled when they were my age. All my brothers did. " I have pictures of my dad and his brothers at various kirkpinar events … but Bryce might not understand the whole oiled up guys wearing leather pants thing. That wasn't the kind of wrestling I did, though.

"Were you born there? In Turkey?"

I shook my head. " No, here. But my dad was born there. In Istanbul. They came over before I was born, some time in the seventies. Ended up in Cincinnati, so … not too far from home."

"And you're staying to get another degree."

I nodded. " For a couple of years, at least. Unless I decide to go for a doctorate."

"And do what?"

"Teach, maybe."

"I think architecture's like, a six year program."

"Yeah, but you end up with a master's degree, so there's that."

"I've been comparing this program to others. It always seems to come out on the top, or near enough."

"It is. I've heard good things about it, at least. " I hesitated. " I … hope you decide to come here, Bryce. Despite your brother."

Bryce looked at me for a long moment, but I didn't mind having said what I said. I didn't know what he might have made of it, but it didn't hurt to try. " I' d like to go here, " he answered. " And I 'm … I' m glad you're staying, Omer."

After that, we ended up at one of my favorite places on campus. It was simply called The Grove; the entrance to it was an easy-to-miss path paved in asphalt that wound down from the main drive cutting through campus. At the end of it was a fair-sized lake bordered by trees.

"Wow," Bryce murmured. "This is nice."

"I come here a lot," I answered. "When I need some space."

He looked at me. "I can see why you would. This is great."

We chained our bikes to a rack, started down a path that circled the lake. On such a nice spring day, the park was crowded with people: a lot of couples and young families, but people out by themselves, as well. I wasn't going to tell him, but this park was also known for being a place where people like me could meet up. I had had some luck in this park, even though there was always a risk in it.

But, I watched Bryce out of the corner of my eye, could see that he noticed some of these young men - and some not-so-young men - as well.

Finally, we lucked out in finding a relatively private patch of grass, in a dappled kind of shade. We sat down; casually, I slipped off my plaid shirt, leaving me in just the undershirt. I leaned back on my elbows. Bryce sat down beside me, and we studied each other for a long moment.

Finally, he looked away. "So, Omer …"


"You … you say you come here a lot. When you have to think about things."

"I do."

"What things? If you don't mind me asking. Or is that too personal?"

I shrugged, as much as one could shrug in my position. "Oh, I don't know. When classes get to be more than I can handle, when I have to figure out how to balance wrestling with schoolwork with my part-time job." I grinned. "When I can't handle living with your brother any more. Little things like that."

He smiled. "I know what you mean. He was … maybe not the best older brother to have."

"That's too bad."

"You have any other brothers and sisters?"

"Yeah. Three older brothers."

"You all get along?"

"We do. It's not perfect, but we get along as we have to."

He looked around the little bit of greenspace, down to the lake. "I think I'd be coming here a lot, too."

"To think about things."

He looked back at me. "Yeah."

Of course, I wanted to ask him what things he thought about; if I'd read things correctly - not necessarily true, by the way - I think I knew what those things might be. But I didn't want to force things … not that there were things to force. Given his brother's disastrous career here, Bryce had to be facing a great deal of pressure from his parents to succeed where Lyndon had failed. I could easily see Bryce's dad bending his son towards the law as a career, but I was pretty certain that Bryce wouldn't want to do that, would probably fight it if his father insisted.

As to the other thing, I knew enough to leave well enough alone, chalking most of what I felt up to my overactive imagination.

Another silence grew between us, one that I didn't mind. The day unwound itself around us. I was just glad for the company; it struck me then how much of my life here had been lived largely alone. There was the camaraderie of being on the wrestling team, I knew … but that went only so far; I never really hung out with my teammates outside of practice and competition, although I knew that some of the guys did do things together. Whether or not that was due to my not-so-little secret, I don't know. I wasn't sure that I would come out to my teammates even if I thought they would be sympathetic and understanding, despite what I'd told Coach.

Bryce glanced over at me, looked away. "Omer …"


"Could I … well, could I ask you something? Tell you something?"

"Yes. Of course."

"I -" His phone buzzed. Of course it did. "Shit," he muttered, echoing what I whispered to myself. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, glanced at it, then at me. "It's my dad. I better …"

I nodded. "Sure." I watched as Bryce stood up, walked away, watched as the conversation played out between him and his dad; at one point, he looked over at me, then away, making me wonder if I was somehow being worked into the conversation.

When he was done, he came back, with a strange look on his face.

"Everything okay?" I ask.

"Yeah. They're going to be there another couple of hours, so …"

"How's Lyndon's day going? They have the talk, yet?"

Bryce grinned. "Not sure. Sounds like not. I could hear Lyndon in the background, yukking it up with somebody. He sounded like he was already drunk." He hesitated. "So, Dad wants to take everybody out for dinner."

"Okay. That's nice, I guess." More alone time for me.

Bryce took a deep breath. "Well, by everybody , he means you, too."

Even before Bryce finished speaking, I was shaking my head. "That's okay. I'll pass."

"Well, it really wasn't a request. More of a … well, a polite command. That's how he operates."

"Interesting …"

"He means well. He just assumes that everybody's on the same page as him, so of course we'll all do what he says. It's his way of saying thanks."

"For …?"

Bryce grinned, again. "Well, for babysitting me , I guess."

"You're not a baby. And, I … well, I was glad to do it. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the company."

Bryce looked at me for a long moment. Then, "I did, too. Thanks for doing it."

Another thing passed between us. I cleared my throat. "So … you wanted to ask me something?"

He frowned. "I did? Oh, yeah … well, maybe later. It can wait."

"Okay." I pulled out my phone, looked at it. It was nearly three. I knew enough about the track to know that racing went up to about five in the afternoon. I presumed that they would stay there until the bitter end. "So, we're pretty much done for the day, unless there's something else you want to see."

"No. I'm good." He looked away, looked back at me. "Maybe we should go back, get cleaned up before dinner?"

I stood up. "Sure. We can go through Lyndon's, uh … things, and get rid of them before your parents see them."

Bryce grinned. "That would be rude, Omer. I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you - that you would even consider doing that."

I shrugged, grinned back.

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