Like That

Debra Fran Baker

You try not to look at him. You sit next to him, as close as you allow yourself, which is not close enough. Never close enough, because if you sat close enough, it would be because you're like that, and you're not like that. You can't be like that. You are as your grandparents and father expect you to be.

He's looking at you. You do not shiver at his glance, which you feel on your face the same way you once felt his lips on yours, the same way you felt his blow to your jaw, your blow to his. You do not shiver.

"Well, Frayze, ol'buddy, looks like we've solved another one." He smiles at you, in the way you know he smiles at no one else. You are uncomfortable at this knowledge, but you find yourself smiling back. This is normal. This is what normal men do when their best friends and partners smile at them, especially when those smiles are so beautiful.

You shouldn't think of his smile as beautiful.

"Indeed, Ray. Another group of miscreants are now safely off the streets of Chicago. At least for the time being."

Ray snorts at your statement and punches you gently on the shoulder. You barely feel the blow as a blow, but you do feel it. "I'll go tell the lieutenant while you think about where we should go for dinner, okay? Unless the Ice Queen has something for you at the Consulate tonight?"

"No. I am not on duty tonight. Perhaps we could try a new place? Turnbull recommends a Thai establishment he and his...friend enjoyed." Turnbull has been seeing someone for several months - a young man. You were the only one surprised at that. You still aren't sure how you should feel, since he is not in violation of any regulations, but your father would not approve. You remember how he spoke about those changes in the regulations, how he and your grandmother reacted to the local Inuit shaman in one of the many small villages in which you'd lived..

Grandmother felt sorry for him. You never wanted your grandmother to pity you. And your father avoided his company, making strange faces even at his mention. You cannot reconcile all of it in your mind, but you do know that it's a good thing that you are not like that.

Ray shrugs and walks into Lt. Welsh's office, carrying the file. You watch him walk. You admire the grace and ease with which he moves. Ray is comfortable in his body, as he should be. You have seen him run, seen him try to swim, seen him dance in his ex-wife's arms. You sometimes wonder how it would feel to dance in another's arms.

You remember dancing with Ray Vecchio, the real Ray Vecchio, although, of course, this Ray Vecchio is very real. Sometimes, you think he's more real, although you never forget that he is playing a role.

You enjoyed your dance with Ray Vecchio, but then, you yourself were playing role. That dress and wig freed you for a time, made you into someone who could dance, someone who could dance with a man. Someone who could dance at all. But dancing for Ray, your Ray, the Ray in Welsh's office right now, or dancing with him would be dangerous. It would mean something you know i