Kissing Everything in Sight

Rory’s Story Cubes Mini-Story #5

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Photo by Jennie Coughlin

“The heart’s a funny thing,” Nelson said to his former partner, Alexei Bukharin.

In the days before gays had partners instead of spouses and before anyone had ever heard of a bromance, they had been partners in the old sense of the word, people who worked together. They had always been more than that, though. Nelson, an only child, and Bukharin, whose brothers were much older and much younger; one was dead; and all were a world away in the Soviet Union, had worked together, but they were brothers in every sense of the word.

“How so?” Alexei asked.

“Well, you resist its palpitations and flutterings for every woman who happens to walk by, but when one catches your attention and you think you might want something more than a one-night stand, that heart you’ve closed off is frozen and won’t thaw.”

“And where did this epiphany come from?”

“Oh, being on vacation and watching the sun rise over the ocean from an empty bed. Sometimes I envy you.”

“Me? Why? Because of Mai?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t look too deeply into that. Work is a bridge between us. There’s not much else there.”

Nelson looked at his friend, remembered the way he’d seen them look at each other, and decided Alexei was full of shit.

“Maybe we both need Madame Ruth,” Nelson said.

“Who?” Alexei asked, frowning.

“Ah, you must remember Madame Ruth, ‘you know, that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth. She’s got a pad down on Thirty-Fourth and Vine.’”

Alexei Bukharin laughed, and Nelson joined him. When the Russian had defected in 1964, a popular song by The Searchers had been all the rage, and Alexei had latched onto it, for its “jazz overtones” he’d claimed.

Alexei glanced across the operations center to where Mai Fisher stood with a group of analysts and studied an op in progress on the monitors. Nelson smiled when Bukharin’s grin spread.

“Selling little bottles of Love Potion Number Nine,” the Russian sang, a bit off-key, and crossed the room to where Mai stood.

Nelson began to hum.