They didn’t “meet cute.” Their eyes locked across a crowded smoky room that smelled of booze, sweat, and desperation, and after the requisite two drinks at the bar and exchange of basic information, Ad took Ben home.
“What the hell kind of name is Ad?” Ben asked, groping him in the taxi.
“Short for Adair. I guess Mom was hoping I’d be famous one day.”
“All parents hope their kids will be famous one day. So, are you?”
“Fuck, no…but you are.”
Ad had recognized him right away.
They spent the night rolling around in sheets from Walmart. They saw each other again the next night, and then Ben flew off to NYC, where he had meetings scheduled.
Ad was in bed watching a movie when Ben called. “How’s New York?”
“Great. How’s Chicago?”
“Cold. Why’d you call?” Hearing from Ben again was the last thing he’d expected.
“Was reading something that made me think of you: The Science of Love.”
“That reminded you of me?”
“It’s an article online. There are three stages of love: Lust, attraction, and attachment.”
Ad laughed. “Let me guess…we’re at stage one.”
“Actually, it’s an interesting article. At the end…hang on…it says, How to Fall in Love and then lists three things. Number one, find a complete stranger. Two, reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour. Three, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.”
“Are you serious?”
“The article is, yeah. A psychologist has been studying why people fall in love. Following those three steps, many of his couples felt deeply attracted after 34 minutes. Two subjects got married later.”
Ad said, “So you’re not just a pretty face.”
“Surprised to find I also have a brain?”
“Absolutely flabbergasted, and utterly delighted.”
The next night, they were on the phone again.
“What are you doing?” Ben asked.
“Putting on eye makeup.”
There was a long pause. “Do that a lot?”
“I’m going out. I was in the mood.” Peering into the bathroom mirror, Ad smudged the shadow under his left eye. “You’re an actor. You wear makeup all the time.”
“Only on a set. Send me a picture?”
“Sure. Gotta go now.”
Two days passed before Ad heard from him again.
“Nice picture. While looking at it, I revealed intimate things about myself for half an hour and then stared into your made-up eyes for four minutes.”
“Did you feel deeply attracted?”
“Depends. What would you call jacking off afterward?”
“I’d say you’re still in the lust stage.”
“Why don’t we change that. Come visit me in New York. I’ll be here for another couple of weeks.”
“I have work. Also, you and sharks, man.”
Ad almost heard him puzzling that out, and then Ben was laughing. “We both have to keep moving, true, but what does that have to do you with visiting me?”
Ad’s grin faded. “What’s the point, Ben? We had a good time and moved on.”
“What if there’s more?”
Ad hesitated. What if there was?
They talked every night for the next week. Their thirty minutes of revealing intimate things about themselves stretched out over days instead.
“I’m going back to Los Angeles tomorrow,” Ben said. “I could layover in Chicago.”
What the hell. “Okay.”
Ben was at Ad’s place for twelve hours. They barely left the bedroom.
They were eating delivery pizza out of a box, sheets pulled to their waist. Ad had turned up the heat but Ben was still chilled.
“Ever thought of moving?” Ben asked, thumbing tomato sauce off his perfect beard-stubbled chin.
“All the time.”
“Consider Los Angeles.”
Ad shook his head. “Not even on my list. Too expensive.”
“Chicago’s not cheap.”
“It is for me.” Ad gestured at the room. “I live simply.”
“I noticed.” Ben grabbed another piece, still hungry. “I know tons of people there. I could take care of you.”
Inwardly, Ad bristled. “No, thanks. I like taking care of myself.”
“I only meant that I’d introduce you to some people, get you started.”
“I know what you meant.”
They didn’t talk about it again that night.
The next morning, after breakfast and a shower, they crawled back into bed for a farewell fuck. Afterward, Ben made sure they were facing each other, their heads propped on pillows. Ad waited for him to say something. When he didn’t, Ad got it and laughed.
“You’re doing that staring thing.”
Ben’s grin was short-lived. “Let’s try it, see if it works.”
“Want me to set a timer?”
Ben fought a chuckle. “Be serious. We’re doing science here.”
Turned out, looking into someone’s eyes for four minutes without saying a word was a deeply intimate thing and very difficult to do. Ad never joked about it again.
Ben’s calls to Ad continued from the west coast. “Are you thinking about my offer?”
“What, about moving out there?”
“I own a production company. I could use someone with your talent.”
“You’re barely acquainted with my talents.”
“Well, I know you deep throat beautifully. I’m getting hard now just thinking about it.”
“Still in the lust stage, I see.”
Ad found himself thinking about Ben more and more often, and that was both exhilarating and disconcerting.
Apparently, Ben felt the same way. “I want to touch you,” he said one day.
Ad tried to joke his way past it. “Once they perfect holographic Skype, you can.”
Ben’s laugh was wry. “I’d rather have a teleporter.”
“That would be cool, but they’ll never do it. Airline lobbyists would scream bloody murder.” Ad was at work. He looked out the window. “It’s snowing.”
He sighed. “Too expensive.”
“What do you want, Ad? Tell me.”
“Peace in our time? The perfect steak? Underwear that supports without riding up the crack of my ass?”
Ben whispered it this time. “What do you want?”
Ad closed his eyes, and when that wasn’t enough, covered them with one hand. “Everything. I want…everything.”
“I can give you that.”
Ad swallowed hard. “Attraction phase, huh?”
Two years later.
Ad and Ben were sitting on the deck of their beach house, eating dinner and watching the surf roll in.
“You know,” Ad said reflectively, sipping imported beer, “this all goes back to that night you visited me in Chicago, when you made me look into your eyes for four minutes.”
Ben smiled. “Yup. We made it to number three.”
“Attachment.” Ad picked up his fork, his new gold wedding band flashing in the sunlight. “Science is a wonderful thing.”