Of Time: Chapter 4
SEATTLE 1990 / ADAM
Back in Seattle after the Loma Prieta earthquake, Paul threw himself into his work. He busied himself and the firm with reviewing all the designs they had pending, as well as anything built within the last ten years that might need structural review. In the midst of all this, Michael came to see him.
"Paul, gotta talk, man." Michael said, as he walked into Paul's office.
"Sure, sure." Paul said, closing the cover of the report he'd been studying. "What's on your mind?"
"Gotta hire another architect." Michael stated. "Got one in mind, as a matter of fact. Talked to him while you were helping out Star Fleet."
Paul raised his eyebrows. He didn't know if this was stepping on his toes or not. He checked his insides and didn't feel uncomfortable, so he nodded and indicated Michael to continue.
"This guy is brilliant, just brilliant. He's been working in Miami, but he's anxious to relocate. Name's Adam Paulson, young guy, glowing resume, glowing references." Michael tapped his fingers on Paul's desk. "Gotta have him. With all this earthquake update stuff we need more help."
The name sounded familiar, but Paul couldn't place it. "Miami? Does he know anything about Northwest architecture, building codes, earthquake safety?"
Michael put a folder in front of Paul. "The dude's resume. He got his BA at the University of Washington, and got his master's at UCLA. Think about it. Let me know." He stood up.
Paul mustered his best British accent. "I most certainly will, Number One. Dismissed."
So Marbanks hired a new architect, whom Paul didn't manage to see right away as he kept getting called to California to help his uncle with business down there. He wasn't happy about it, but he thought he owed his uncle for giving him the opportunity to go to India. It was some time before Paul caught a glimpse of the new guy, through the open door of his office, sitting at his drafting table. Two things caught his attention. First, many people seemed to come and go from his office, just to chat. The guy didn't seem to talk much himself, but listened intently to what everyone said. It was a wonder he could get any work done with so many interruptions. Second, beautiful sketches and colored drawings of buildings adorned his office wall. Paul wanted to get a closer look at them.
One day Francis came into Paul's office.
"Francis, what do you think of that new guy, what's-his-name?" Paul asked her.
"Adam? He's wonderful. Everybody loves him. He's so easy to talk to," she gushed, obviously quite taken with him.
"But do you know anything about him?" pressed Paul.
"Well, he doesn't drive -- that's his bike by the reception desk. He arrives very early -- before I do, anyway; he never seems to eat lunch, and he leaves very late. So I guess he doesn't have a girlfriend," Francis said wistfully. Francis was as old as Paul, married with three teenagers, but she could still dream. Like Paul, who could only dream.
Paul glanced over towards the new guy's office. "I think I'll go say hello." He got up and went through the maze of cubicles to the other side of the room, stopping a few feet from his destination. Through the open door he could see clearly the pictures on the wall. Each one had a bold signature: A. Paulson. Adam clearly was an architect in the old fashioned sense -- one who took artistic pride in his work. Most of the newer architects Paul had encountered were more preoccupied with pushing their projects to completion. They were the ones huddled around the office PC's that had the computer-aided design programs. Paul didn't think much of computerized plans -- they lacked feeling and depth. The buildings in Adam's pictures were breathtakingly beautiful, and the sketches were so intriguing Paul made a mental note to study them later on.
"Knock, knock." Paul said, standing in the doorway.
"Nobody ever knocks. Come in," Adam did not look up. About twenty-five years old, he wore jeans and a blue shirt, no tie. He had thick, brown hair and was a little taller than Paul. He finished ruling his line on the paper, put his pencil down and looked up. "Can I help you?" Intense brown eyes gazed at him expectantly.
Paul stared at him. He looked so familiar, but he couldn't place where. He reached out his hand. "Hi, Paul Marbanks, Sorry it's taken so long for me to see you. I just wanted to say, welcome on board."
A strong hand gripped his, and a funny feeling came over Paul as Adam shook his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Marbanks. Thanks for hiring me."
"Call me Paul. Oh, don't thank me, thank Number One, uh Michael." Paul said, nodding his head in the direction of Michael's office. "He's the one who recommended you, quite highly, I might add."
"Ah," Adam said.
Paul stood there, uncertain what to say next. He wanted to fill in the silence with a lot of talking, and realized why so many people visited this guy's office -- he was a born listener. Paul cleared his throat. "Ahem. I like to get to know the fellows that work for me, and wonder if you're free for dinner?"
Adam raised his eyebrows. "When? I kind of wanted to work late tonight to finish this phase of the Siegl project." He glanced at his drafting table.
"Adam, this isn't Microsoft," Paul chided. "We do let our employees go home at night. But I have some business to finish, too. So how about right from work, say at 7:00?"
Adam seemed to like this idea, and nodded. "O. K. See you then."
Paul walked back to his office, racking his brain for where he'd seen this kid before. Brown hair, brown eyes, tall... could fit any number of people. He traveled back to people he'd known in his younger days. For starters there was the kid next door when he was in nursery school in Connecticut. He had brown hair and brown eyes -- everybody had thought they were brothers they looked so alike. But that guy would have to be almost forty-two, Paul’s own age, by now. In college he was a Big Brother to a boy with brown hair and brown eyes, but the guy was fifteen in '68, so that ruled him out. The kid he was Big Brother to back when he met Maggie in '82, no couldn't be, that boy was only 12 then, way too young. Paul stared out the window at the ferries going toward Bainbridge Island. Interesting how all those kids seemed so much alike, but at so many different decades and ages. What were their names? He suddenly couldn't remember. Paul felt a pang of regret that he hadn't kept in touch with either of them. The phone interrupted his reverie and he promptly returned to the business at hand.
Seven o'clock rolled around and Paul flicked off his office light switch. He walked through the darkened cubicles to the only office that still had its light on.
"Knock knock," he said, outside the open door. Paul heard a low chuckle inside.
“Uno segundo, por favor," the young man's voice called out in perfect Spanish.
He was in Miami; he's probably bilingual, thought Paul.
Adam appeared in the doorway. He wore an Eddie Bauer™ windbreaker and had a bicycle helmet in one hand, a large portfolio case in the other. "Hokay, boss, we can go."
Paul smiled at the portfolio. "Get much wind resistance riding a bike with that thing?" he asked, wryly.
Adam grinned, "It takes practice."
"Well, you don't need to navigate Seattle streets tonight with that thing. I have a bike rack on my car, and you can throw the portfolio and the helmet in the back seat." Paul and Adam walked towards the elevators.
They went to Hiram's at the Ballard Locks, where the appetizers were the only thing interrupting Paul telling Adam everything about himself, as Adam intently listened. When the main course arrived, Paul stopped himself.
"Here I am talking all about me, and I asked you here to learn about you." The waiter placed identical platters of surf and turf in front of them. Noticing the guy only had ice water in front of him, he went on, "Here, let me buy you a beer."
Adam murmured that he really didn't drink, but Paul was too busy asking the waiter for "Dos Cervesas, por favor," using his best seventh grade Spanish, figuring Adam would appreciate Mexican beer.
When the beer arrived, Adam eyed it dubiously. Paul lifted the bottle up, ignoring the glass, "To your successful future at Marbanks Architects."
Adam followed suit, and had a swig of beer. A curious look passed over his face as he swallowed.
They both dug into their dinners, and Paul found himself talking non-stop between bites of steak and lobster. He'd finished it before he realized Adam hadn't said a word in the past half hour. Paul looked up to see Adam's head drooping over an untouched plate, gently snoring.
Paul chuckled to himself. "Well, you're only the second person I have known to have that reaction. I hope you wake up in less than fourteen hours."
He called the waiter for the check and a doggy bag for Adam's dinner, and tried to rouse the fellow without any luck. The waiter had to help Paul get Adam to the car and, not knowing where the man lived, Paul drove him to his house in Ballard.
Percy leapt on him as Paul tried to get out of the car. He obviously thought the doggy bag was for him. "No, no, old fella," he said to the cat. "This is for guests." He unlocked the door and fed the cat before going out to the car for Adam. With considerable effort he managed to get the deadweight inside and flopped face first on the couch, where Adam began snoring in earnest. Paul covered him with a spare quilt, and headed to bed himself.
The next morning, Paul came into the living room and started at seeing Adam sitting in a chair by the window meditating -- the exact place that Moira had liked to sit and meditate. Damn. Paul forced down feelings that he didn't want to remember and, in a strained jovial tone said, "Good morning! Did you sleep well?"
Adam opened his eyes and grinned sheepishly at Paul. "Sorry to conk out on you; I'm really not much of a drinker."
"That's an understatement," Paul said, wryly. "Do you want some coffee?" Then a thought occurred to him. "You know, I've an espresso machine, I could make up a latte."
Adam responded enthusiastically, "Great, I could really use one. I feel like my head's a used vacuum bag."
Sitting in the kitchen,
sipping the latte, Adam
looked around and said,
"Nice place you have
"Thanks. I'm trying to decide whether to sell it or rent it. I'm looking for another place." Uncle Stephen's bonus for the India job had been sizable, and the extra work the company had taken on while the San Francisco office coped with the aftermath of their quake was helping Paul pull out of the financial hole left by his divorce.
Adam nodded. "I might be interested. In renting, I mean. No way could I buy."
Knowing the twenty-five year old's salary, Paul understood. He liked the idea of holding on to the place for a while, although he no longer had the need to retain the address. Being the one to say good-bye to Moira in India had freed him from a certain level of anxiety that he'd experienced for years. He no longer needed things to stay the same, to have ties to the past, in order to hope to see her again. If he could meet her on a plane to India, he could run into her anywhere. It was preordained; she had said so. He would see her again, so he didn't have to do anything to force it happening. He just liked the house for the memories it held.
"Well, I'll let you know when I find something." Paul put his empty mug in the sink.
Adam finished his latte. "What are you looking for? In a place, I mean."
"A house on the water. Out of the city. I've checked Bainbridge Island, but the prices are a bit steep. I'm checking out Colvos Island this weekend." Paul pulled on his jacket.
"Colvos? That's a great place. I've biked it. It's very peaceful, and not as crowded as Bainbridge. Still has its small-town feel." Adam placed his mug in the sink.
Paul looked at Adam. He liked this guy. He had a good gut feeling about him. Michael had planned to go house-hunting with Paul this weekend but had to cancel because Michelle had a rehearsal of the Nutcracker Suite with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. House-hunting by himself was a drag because there was no one to bounce his impressions off afterwards.
"Would you like to come with me? " Paul asked. "I'll be driving, not cycling."
Adam paused a moment, considering. Slowly he answered, "Sure, it'd be fun to check out the beaches."
"Great, great. Hey, can I give you a lift home? Figure you'd like to change before you go to the office." Paul smiled.
Adam looked at his rumpled, slept-in clothing and grinned. "Think so? Well, I don't need a ride. We're in Ballard, right?" Adam peered out the window at the flat landscape filled with near little bungalows and postage stamp lawns. "I live down near 1st and Greenwood in Fremont. I can bike it in five minutes. But I'd better take off now. We've a staff meeting at 9:00AM, don't we?"
"Yes, but you have my permission to be late," Paul said, paternally.
"Thanks, boss." Adam put on his helmet and headed out the door.
Paul got to the office and met with Michael about the day's schedule, and then they both went to the conference room so they could have first pick of the fruit and muffins. Paul missed the Danish, but the Buzz Inn had gotten health conscious and discontinued anything with a high fat content. Adam amazed him by walking in a few minutes later, hair still damp and one pant leg rolled up to the calf.
"You must go 70 miles an hour on that bike to get here so fast!" Paul exclaimed.
Adam grinned and reached for a muffin. "I'll never tell."
Michael laughed. "You young guys have no fear. I bet you're also into that new snowboarding fad."
Adam shook his head. "Cross-country. A guy could break his neck with that downhill stuff."
The conversation ended there as the other staff members began arriving and Francis started handing out agendas. During the meeting Paul noticed how different Adam was from the other architects. Most had their ego invested in their personal projects and there was a lot of jockeying for attention. Adam said little, and listened a lot. Whenever a new idea was called for, he had one to offer, but didn't put any energy into whether his idea would be chosen or not. Each person brought with him or her something unique that enhanced the group as a whole. When Michael had come on board, he had given the company a boost with his enthusiasm and sense of humor. People responded by being more creative. Now Adam was here, Paul sensed stability, with people feeling more comfortable taking risks. He noticed more cooperation in the group, and better communication. People tended to hash things out right away instead of letting them fester. Adam seemed to contribute to that, since people tested out their ideas with him first, before bringing it to the group. Paul wondered how many peoples’ secrets hid behind those dark brown eyes.
The meeting passed quickly, and so did the rest of the week. Late Friday afternoon Paul stuck his head into Adam's office.
"Pick you up about 8:00AM tomorrow?" Paul hoped if wouldn’t be too early for him.
Adam, bent over some drawings, did not look up. "That's fine, it's not too early."
Adam's reply startled Paul. Had he implied his thoughts by the tone in his voice? "Uh, what's your address, Adam?" Paul remembered to ask.
Adam looked up and brushed the hair out of his eyes. "First and Greenwood. It's just a block up from the canal in Fremont, at the base of Phinney Ridge. It's a group house -- a big blue house. Has a van in front of it."
"Great. I'll be there. Eight sharp. Be there or be square." As he left, he could hear Adam chuckling at his comment.
Adam was waiting for him on the steps of the house when Paul pulled up the next morning. He climbed in the car and they headed to the West Seattle ferry terminal for Colvos. Paul tried out his ideas of the pros and cons of Colvos living on the way there.
"It's farther to drive than the downtown Colman Dock, but less ferry time than riding to Bainbridge Island. The boats are smaller than the Bainbridge boats but they have far less traffic." Paul thought aloud.
"There's a passenger ferry directly from Colvos to downtown." Adam looked at the ferry schedule. "It's not that far a walk from the waterfront to our office."
Paul chuckled, thinking of the 15-year age difference between them. A young guy who bicycles everywhere would consider a ten-block walk uphill as 'not far'.
Adam turned his brown eyes on him, "It'd be a good workout, I think."
Does this guy read minds? Paul decided to redirect the conversation.
"Is that why you don't own a car?" asked Paul, "I mean, because you like the workout?"
Adam did a little drum rhythm on the dashboard. "Nope. Cars and me just don't go together."
"Why?" Paul was curious.
"Oh, every car I tried had electrical problems. It wasn't the car; it was me. Even if I try borrowing a friend's car, it ends up with electrical problems. I can't even wear a battery-operated wristwatch. Just weird, I guess." Adam looked out the window, noticing everything that happened on the streets they passed by.
Paul glanced at Adam's wrist. He had on a simple, old-fashioned wind-up style watch. By this time they were coming up to Lincoln Park where there was already a line for the ferry.
"Ferry lines. That's not a plus." Paul muttered.
"Depends on how you use your time. It could be good place to catch up on paperwork, or read," Adam suggested. "Just compare commuting by ferry to commuting across Lake Washington. You can either drive in a traffic jam, or you can wait in line. And you can't get out to use the bathroom or have a coffee on the floating bridge."
Having spent several years in Eastside commuter traffic when he lived with Maggie, Paul found Colvos growing more and more attractive. The line moved quickly and they got on the ferry without too much delay.
It was a short but scenic ferry ride to Colvos. Halfway across you could see a perfect view of Mt. Rainier to the south, and, to the north, almost clear up the sound to Whidbey Island. Behind them the majestic Cascade Mountains loomed over West Seattle. Ahead in the distance were the snow-capped Olympics. It reminded Paul of the view from Whidbey Island the first time he visited the Northwest. The Colvos ferry dock was much smaller and less crowded than Bainbridge's. They took the one main road up the hill towards town. Paul immediately noticed the abundance of trees and wide-open fields. They passed cottages with goats in their pastures, old farmhouses surrounded by fruit trees, and several llama farms. Paul had picked up a real estate listing the last time he and Michael had checked out the island. Michael had recommended Colvos because he had relatives there, and had fond memories of summers picking strawberries and winters getting their Christmas trees there. The problem was, the addresses were hard to find, and hardly any of the properties had "For Sale" signs to distinguish themselves by. By lunchtime they'd managed to see only two places and Paul was thoroughly frustrated.
"We need a break. Let's grab a bite to eat," Adam said. "I'm starving."
They drove up the main road to the town of Colvos. There were no stoplights on whole island, just a four-way stop in the center of town. It had one movie theater, one bowling alley and two grocery stores. Adam showed Paul a little place that served old-fashioned malted milkshakes and good-sized hamburgers with homemade fries.
"This is a good place to refuel." Adam sank his teeth into his garden burger slathered with onions and mushrooms.
Paul smiled, wistfully thinking of those yesteryears when he was constantly hungry and didn't have to worry about cholesterol or calories. He ate his grilled chicken sandwich and studied the map on the back of the real estate listing.
"It's been a no-go so far today," he said between bites. "Where do you suggest we look now?"
Adam finished his burger and made quick work of his huge basket of curly fries. He licked his fingers and picked up the map.
"Here," he said, pointing the northwest side of the island. "The west side is more peaceful than the side that faces West Seattle and Federal Way. It's less populated and the Westside passage has less boat traffic. Since you'll be commuting to Seattle, you probably don't want to be too far down the island, I guess. Are there any listings for this area?"
As it turned out, there were several, so they finished their lunch and set out again. The first house had a tiny lot and the present owners were engaged in a property dispute with their next-door neighbor. The second had a beautiful site but a funky building. Both Paul and Adam looked at it with their trained architects' eyes.
"This place should be condemned." Adam pointed at its lack of foundation and sagging floor. "The next windstorm will send it into the Sound."
Paul agreed. "I wonder what this place is like as a potential building site?" he wondered.
A glance at the paperwork left by the realtor immediately answered that question. Everything about it was against code, but was grandfathered in. If they tore the house down, they could never build on the lot. The house itself was not worth renovating.
The third property was a dream house. It had been a country retreat for one of the leading Seattle families back in the 20's. It had a sturdy stone foundation, and was built of old growth timber impossible to get nowadays. It had been modestly renovated; the front porch extended into a large deck, and a second floor with picture windows had been added. The renovations had been carefully done to blend with the original design and feel of the place. Both Paul and Adam found themselves sitting on the steps of the deck, staring at the water, not wanting to leave.
"This is it," said Paul. "How much?"
Adam looked at the listing. "$325,000.00"
"Shit." Paul's heart sank.
"Too much, huh?" asked Adam. The twenty-five-year-old had no concept of real estate prices. Just then they heard a little voice calling to them from the beach.
Down on the beach a little old lady in a pale purple jogging suit and visor came strolling towards them. A very wet and sandy cocker spaniel followed at her heels.
"Are you two boys looking to buy this old place?" she asked, sweetly.
"I'd like to," said Paul, "but the price is a bit steep."
"Oh, this is a lovely, lovely house. I used to play here when I was a child." She rested at the bottom of the steps, catching her breath. "The McLarens owned it. Oh, they were such nice people. Mr. McLaren was a banker, you know." She started climbing the stairs. "Mrs. McLaren gave such wonderful parties, and they used to hang those Chinese lanterns all over the trees down to the boat dock. Oh, that's not there any more. It fell apart during the quake of ‘64." She came right up the stairs and sat between the two men. "Now, let me tell you this." She patted Paul on the knee. "This place has stood empty for the last year and a half. I bet you could buy it for a song."
Paul smiled, completely charmed by her -- the grandmother he'd never had. "Why has it been empty so long?"
"Oh, the death, my dear, the death! They say it was murder, but I don't believe it. It was the nicest couple you've ever met, except they were from California." This time she was patting Adam's knee, to make sure they both were paying attention. "He had a drinking problem and went missing. He washed up on the beach a week later. They said she pushed him off his boat and swam back to shore. But I think that's a load of hogwash. He used to go out by himself and drink himself silly. One time he lost both his oars, and my husband had to row out and tow him in. And my husband is seventy-nine years old." She leaned over and looked Paul right in the eyes. "I think this time he lost his oars and tried to swim back himself. People just thought she did it because she didn't get hysterical at the news he was dead." She shook her head. "I think she took it calmly because she knew the drink was going to get him one day, one way or the other. So she'd been prepared for it, you know?"
"Did she go to jail?" asked Adam, thoroughly interested.
"Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of the kind. No charges, 'accidental death' the coroner's report read. But this is a small island and rumors hold more weight than truth. She just packed up and went back to wherever it was, someplace in California. And it's been on the market ever since." The lady struggled to get up, so Paul rose and assisted her. She steadied herself on his arm, and patted his hand. "You seem like such a nice boy. You really should go see my good friend Beulah; she's a realtor. She'll take good care of you. Oh yes, yes, Nanna, "she said to her dog, who was jumping about, "let's go home."
The little dog bounded
down the stairs and over
to a path into the woods.
She stood there barking.
"What a sweet old lady." Paul stuck his hands in his pockets and jingled his change.
"Hmm." said Adam. "Believe in ghosts?"
Paul laughed. "No, of course not. Do you?"
"Oh, sure. But there aren't any here. The guy's gone. He was ready to go." Adam stood up. "Want to go see Beulah?"
"Sure, if she'd given me Beulah's last name." Paul replied, not quite getting Adam's comment about the dead man.
"Let's go to the nearest place in town and ask." Adam suggested.
They trekked back up the fifty steps to Paul's car parked on the road and headed back to town. By now it was getting late in the day, and Paul doubted that any real estate office would be open. But the local bookstore was, so they decided to ask there.
"Oh, you mean Beulah Parks. Oh yes, her office is just up across the street." The tall, thin woman with wire rimmed glasses pointed in the correct direction. "She may still be there. I usually see her walking home, and she hasn't come by yet."
Love these small towns, thought Paul, as he thanked her. Leaving their car parked outside the bookstore, Paul and Adam walked two blocks over to Beulah Park's office in a small old wooden building. Inside, a large woman with purple hair sat behind a desk full of papers.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" she asked, not moving from her seat.
"Yes, are you Beulah Parks? Aggie Nelson suggested we come to see you." Paul stepped in and extended his hand.
"Oh, Aggie, what a dear. I bet you were looking at the McLaren house. She's wanted that place occupied so badly." Beulah gave his hand a firm shake.
"I'm Paul Marbanks and this is my associate Adam Paulson."
"Oh, my goodness, I would have sworn you were brothers. I mean, you have such similar coloring. Cousins perhaps?" Beulah raised her eyebrows.
Paul glanced at Adam, who stared straight ahead, face betraying nothing.
"Really? No one's said that before. Adam is a new architect in my company." Paul explained. "I just asked him to come along for the ride."
Adam shook the woman's hand.
"Ah, what company is that Mr. ah -- oh! Marbanks, of Marbanks Architects?" Beulah fingered a large beaded necklace around her neck.
"Yes," Paul said, "you've heard of us?"
"Why, I've been in real estate for 45 years, I remember the first building in Seattle that Marbanks designed up here." She smiled. "Are you from California?" she asked, innocently.
"No, I've lived in Seattle for almost ten years, and originally I'm from Connecticut." Paul wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed. Disappointed, most likely. Californians paid more for real estate up here. Paul went on, "Yes, I'm quite interested in the McLaren place, but I think the price is too high." He decided either he could have the place, or he couldn't. He didn't want to waste a lot of time pussy-footing around.
"Oh, I like a man
who is direct," Beulah
said, coquettishly. "Let
me look in the book."
She rummaged among the papers
on her desk and produced
a big black binder. Inside
were pages of listings and
pages of photographs. She
flipped to the page that
had the McLaren house photograph
Paul again decided to be blunt. He was in no mood for negotiations at this time of the afternoon. "$250,000.00" He said.
"The seller may be interested in taking it. I see the mortgage is $200,000.00" Beulah paused, trying to size him up.
"I don't own my company." Paul said, trying to help her with her assessment of him (and his bank account). "Stephen Marbanks is my uncle."
"I see. Well, I'll call the listing agent and see what I can do. Here's my card, by the way." She handed him her card.
"And here's mine." Paul reached in his wallet and handed his to her.
"Are there any other places you'd be willing to consider?" she asked. "Do you want a copy of the listings?"
"Not at this moment, thanks. I've been looking for about a month, both here and on Bainbridge, and this is the first place I've really liked. I want to wait and see if I can have this place, before considering any more." Paul looked over at Adam, studying the ferry schedule posted on her wall. "We've been here since early this morning, and we're both bushed."
"Oh, yes, oh yes. I understand completely." Beulah gushed. "There's a ferry in twenty-five minutes. You should make it if you leave now." She rose and extended her hand to Paul. "So nice to meet you. I'll call Thea right away and see if her client will accept two-fifty. I'll call you as soon as I hear something."
Paul thanked her, and he and Adam walked back to the car.
"You might be getting the Ballard house sooner than you think." Paul remarked on the way back to the ferry.
"Yeah? I think so, too," Adam agreed. "I have a good feeling about this place."
Adam's feeling turned out to be correct. The trustee was eager to sell, as several relatives of the dead man wanted their share of his estate. He and the woman hadn't been married, and she had disappeared instead of returning to California. Paul told Adam these details at one of their daily morning 'latte meetings' which had replaced his morning coffee with Michael. Michael's daughter had skating lessons in the mornings now and Adam never ate lunch, so Paul and Michael usually walked to the Pike Place Market for a bite. Between his two friends, and the bounty of work, Paul's life felt pretty full.
"She didn't do it." Adam blew the foam off his latte. Paul had the impression he disliked having milk foam on his lattes. "Kill him, I mean. He drowned of his own accord."
"The murder at the Colvos house? How do you know?" Paul leaned against Adam's office door. They alternated offices for their morning ritual, though it was becoming rarer to meet at Adam's. People lined up early to talk to Adam and Paul felt pushed out of the way. "Do you mind?" Paul said to the new office clerk hovering behind him. He rarely used his authority, but she annoyed him. "We're having a meeting!"
The office clerk looked
mournfully up at Paul. "I've
broken up with my boyfriend,"
she sniffed tearfully.
"What is this? A
design firm or a therapist's
office? How do you get any
work done?" Paul demanded.
"If I had people dumping problems on me all day it would drive me up the wall." Paul exclaimed. "How do you manage it?"
"Simple." Adam took a final swig of his latte and pitched the empty cup into the wastepaper basket across the room. "Right where you're standing is an invisible recycling chute."
"What?" Paul looked down at his feet. "You're joking."
"Oh, no. You can't see it, but you can feel it. If you stand right there, and people don't seem to come in any closer, you can dump all you want, and it just goes into the earth and gets recycled." Adam sat on his stool, arms folded, studying Paul for his reaction.
"Doesn't all that negative energy pollute?" Paul surprised himself by taking this seriously.
"No -- it's more fertilizer than nuclear waste," Adam said, solemnly.
Paul decided he was joking and laughed loudly. "Well, whatever works. See you later." He started to go, and stopped. "Oh, Adam. Thanks for coming out to Colvos with me."
"No problema, senor." Adam, already pouring over a new set of plans, didn't look up.
"Man, this must have been a bitch to move into, all your furniture down these stairs?" Michael, one of the first guests to arrive, had said.
"And what about your groceries? You probably never want to buy more than one or two bags!" Coral said, coming in behind her husband.
Paul smiled, "Coral, I'm a bachelor; I never have more than one or two bags of groceries. And in answer to your question, my friend, you can drive on the beach at low tide. The movers just backed right up to the deck, smooth as, er, silk," Paul said, remembering Coral was present.
The other guests began arriving and the caterers were buzzing about. Paul saw Adam walking down the stairs with his bike slung over his shoulder.
"You biked here? Why didn't you carpool?" Paul exclaimed.
"I never carpool. Didn't want to leave the bike on the road. Too many parked cars. I was worried they'd knock it over in the dark. Hope you don't mind if I leave it here." Adam leaned his bike against the side of the house.
"No problemo!" Paul ushered him and the others who had arrived into the house.
The party was a grand success. The Christmas cheer flowed unsparingly, and all the designated drivers gathered around the non-alcoholic punch bowl with Adam. Paul noticed the several unmarried female employees approaching Adam throughout the evening to dance, or go out on the deck to talk. Adam was firm, but polite with each of them, more comfortable in a group than one-on-one with any of them. The more eggnog Paul consumed, the more he wondered about Adam's lack of interest in the opposite sex.
Late in the evening, he cornered Adam alone in the hallway outside the upstairs bathroom.
"Listen, Adam, I want to tell you that I consider you a friend of mine." Paul started off, very seriously. Adam blinked at him. The fellow looked pale and tired. "And I just want to let you know that you can tell me anything, and I will accept it. Anything about yourself. All right? I won't judge you, and I'll respect your privacy."
Adam initially looked alarmed, then relaxed. "I'm not gay, Paul." Adam stated.
"Well, if you were ... "Paul went on, not entirely convinced.
"No, Paul. I'm not gay. I'm not anything." Adam put his hand on Paul's shoulder. Slightly taller than Paul, and of equal build, his face and Paul's were about six inches away from each other. "I chose not to have personal -- uh - intimate relationships with any one. It's not my thing. It's not what I'm here for."
Paul found it hard to believe that any twenty-five year old would willingly choose not to have, or at least pursue, intimate relations. Maybe it was this AIDS thing? Paul hadn't had to deal with the safe sex issue. Since Maggie, the only woman he'd been with was Moira, and the only woman he ever intended to be with was Moira. A glimmer of a doubt ran through the back of his mind whether or not Moira had similar monogamous intentions, but he let it go. Maybe kids in their twenties are choosing not to have relationships rather than deal with AIDS, Paul thought. Or maybe Adam was gay and he simply didn't want it to get around the company. That didn't entirely make sense, as there were a few openly gay employees, with their same-sex partners listed as family members on their insurance forms. There didn't seem to be any reason to hide it. Paul suddenly got the strong impression that this was none of his business, and immediately backed off.
"Sorry, Adam, I didn't mean to pry. No offense."
"None taken." Adam shrugged. They stood in silence for a moment. Adam ran his hand through his hair, and looked around. They were still alone. "Uh, Paul -- are you?"
"What?" said Paul, confused.
"You know -- gay." Adam's stuck his hands in his pockets and shifted from one foot to the other.
Paul gawked at him. Then he realized, just as he'd never seen Adam with any woman or showing any interest in women, Adam hadn't seen him interested in women, either. His face turned beet red and he sputtered a little on his reply.
"No, c-certainly not." Paul said, wondering how he'd justify the comment.
"I mean, I heard you used to be married, but that doesn't mean anything." Adam looked at his feet.
Paul leaned against the wall. "No. It's just ... there was, is, only one woman in my life. It wasn't my wife -- that was a mistake." A twinge of guilt ran through Paul when he thought of Maggie. "I only get to see this woman once every few years ... it's never planned, it just happens. I never know when, or if, I'll see her again." Paul rubbed his eyes.
Adam shifted and stepped back. "Uh, that's okay. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"No, no. I don't mind. The only other person at the company who knows is Michael. My family doesn't even know. But I don't mind if you know." Paul opened his eyes and looked at Adam. "I'd like to tell you. You're my friend. I met this woman right out of architecture school. It was love at first sight. But we only had a weekend together, and when she left I had no way of finding her. I met her again here in Seattle right after I moved here, in 1980. We spent three weeks together. I was about to ask her to marry me when she vanished. I mean, really vanished. Without a trace." Paul ran his hands through his hair. It was so difficult trying to explain such a complicated relationship. "I found her again on a plane to India -- a month or so before you were hired. We only had five days together this last time. This time I had to leave her to come back and sort out the mess at Marbanks because of the earthquake. I've been able to accept that we may never be able to spend a lot of time together, so I've resolved that each time I meet her, I'm just going to focus on the moment and try to live it to the fullest."
Paul laughed at himself. "Listen to me. I sound like a beer commercial. I mean, I desperately want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to settle down and have kids with her. I want to know everything about her and have her know everything about me. But that hasn't happened, and doesn't look like it ever will. So I'll simply accept and treasure what ever moments Fate or the Universe allows us to spend together." Paul finished. He heard some voices calling up the stairs and almost replied when he saw Adam's face.
Tears were trickling down Adam’s cheeks. Paul had never seen the guy express much of any emotion except amusement before. He really must have struck a chord. Maybe that's why the kid doesn't date. He fell in love once himself and hasn't gotten over it.
Paul patted him on the back. "Hey, my story wasn't meant to be a tear-jerker," he gently joked.
Adam sniffed and wiped
his tears with his sleeve.
"Well, it was."
He turned to Paul and hugged
Abruptly, Adam released him and stepped back. "I gotta go. It's late."
"Sure, let's go check the ferry schedule." Paul said, and they went down to the kitchen.
They found the house deserted. Paul realized the voices he'd heard while he'd been talking to Adam were the last guests calling their good-byes. The kitchen clock read 1:06 AM. The ferry schedule on the wall showed the last boat leaving the island on a weekend at 1:05 AM. The next boat didn't sail until 4:30.
"I guess you're my guest for the night, Adam," Paul said. "And you didn't even have anything to drink this time."
Adam shot him a glance. "Maybe I should have. At first I thought everyone had left because someone saw us hugging up stairs."
Paul and Adam looked at each other with broad grins on their faces. Paul wanted to talk to Adam some more, to try to draw out of him what had made him decide to forego relationships but exhaustion overcame him. Paul just wanted to crawl upstairs to bed.
"You do that, Paul. I'll crash on this couch." Adam grabbed a cushion and his coat and heading for the couch. "Percy has enough food to survive until tomorrow." Adam had inherited Percy with Paul's house.
"Do what?" asked Paul.
"Crawl upstairs to bed. See ya in the morning." Adam lay down.
Paul walked upstairs instead of crawled, wondering if his thoughts were just especially easy to read, or if he unconsciously spoke things out loud as he thought them. He found an extra blanket in the closet and took it down to Adam. The kid was already asleep, softly snoring. Paul looked at him and wondered why he felt so strongly connected with this guy. Several people had said they looked like brothers. Perhaps that was it. Adam seemed like family to him; perhaps he was the kid brother he'd always wanted. Paul tenderly tucked him in and went upstairs.