Rip Part Two Tom let three days go by. Then he went down to the beach on the fourth morning around noon, and found Tom alone, in the same spot Tom had first seen him, in front of the grey rocks that extended across the beach from the land.
„Morning!“ Tom called. „Where’s Earl?“
Earl Jackson, Jr
Tom let three days go by. Then he went down to the beach on the fourth morning around noon, and found Tom alone, in the same spot Tom had first seen him, in front of the grey rocks that extended across the beach from the land.
„Morning!“ Tom called. „Where’s Earl?“
„Good morning. He’s probably working a little late. He’ll be down.“
„He’s a writer.“
„Where’ve you been keeping yourself? I thought you’d gone.“
„Really? Miss me?“
Tom laughed and caught the laugh, but too late. „I don’t know you well enough to miss you.“ He looked out at the sea. „And anyway, you’re not gone.“ He paused. „I can’t miss you if you’re not gone.“
„I’d like it if you’d miss me, anyway.“
„Ok. Act like you’re gone, and I’ll try.“
Tom sat down in a wicker chair and swung his legs over one of the arms. „Tell me more,“ he said, smiling. „What kind of work do you do?“
„Oh, I can do a number of things – one-man show.“ Tom was counting on his fingers.He could have gone on.
„What kind of one-man show?“ Tom asked.
„Well -“ Tom sprang up. „This for example.“ He struck a pose with one hand on his hip, one foot extended. „This is Lady Assburden sampling the American subway. She’s never even been in the underground in London, but she wants to take back some American experiences.“ Tom did it all in pantomime, searching for a coin, finding it didn’t go into the slot, buying a token, puzzling over which stairs go down, registering alarm at the noise and the long express ride, puzzling again as to how to get out of the place – here Earl came our, and Tom told him it was an Englishwoman in the subway [note: the real Tom or the real Tom would introduce Cole Porter here, or even sooner.]… Tom fainted gracefully on to the terrace glider.
„Wonderful!“ Tom yelled, clapping.
Earl wasn’t laughing. He stood there looking a little blank. Neither of them bothered to explain it to him. He didn’t look as if he had that kind of sense of humor, anyway, Tom thought.
„Dinner ready?“ Tom asked him. „I’m starving.“
„What’s upstairs?“ Tom asked.
The upstairs was disappointing: Tom’s bedroom in the front of the house was stark and empty – a bed, a hutchlike thing, wirebaskets in the walk-in closet in lieu of a chest of drawers, an overstuffed grey chair, looking lost. The other three rooms of the floor were not even furnished, or at least not completely. . . . There was certainly no sign of Earl anywhere, least of all in Tom’s bedroom.
„How about going to Naples with me sometime?“ Tom asked.
„Alright.“ Tom said.
For three or four days they saw very little of Earl except down at the beach, and he was noticably cooler towards both of them. Tom noticed that Tom was concerned, though not concerned enough to talk to Earl alone, apparently.
Finally, Tom, to show that he was not obtuse about Earl, mentioned to Tom that he thought Earl was acting strangely.
"quot;Oh, he has moods,“ Tom said. „Maybe he’s working well. He doesn’t like to see people when he’s in a streak of work.“
The Tom-Earl relationship was evidently just what he had supposed it to be at first, Tom thought. Earl was much fonder of Tom than Tom was of Earl.
Tom, at any rate, kept Tom amused. . . .
Tom wrote to Earl, amusing himself by writing in Earl’s style, and half-cruelly injecting a faint hope that they would see each other before too long. He wanted "to keep him his life." Of course he meant entirely on his own terms, and only when he found it useful, amusing, and when no one who mattered would know about it. There have to be boundaries after all. He hadn’t asked Earl to exist. Or to be so fond of him. Of course, he didn’t discourage the fondness. Who would? Who would turn down love and attention that didn’t require it in return?
Tom had to smile as he wrote suggesting he’d see Earl again, as he and Tom were talking of cruising around the Greek islands this winter.
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