Eli and Johnny shared their first kiss at a camp for the hearing impaired. Eli even gets Johnny to speak the word, kiss. They go their separate ways, but fate brings them back together on Valentine’s Day twenty years later, where happily ever after begins.
Or does it?
For much of the time between summer camp and Valentine’s Day, it was Eli and Casey, the best friend with benefits. Casey thinks things might be moving too fast for Eli and Johnny. Plus, the relationship has bumps from the start. Johnny’s family responsibilities mean his time with Eli is limited to the point of frustration. Suddenly happily ever after doesn’t feel as certain.
Is Johnny and Eli’s reunion just a moment, not a lifetime? Is there room in Eli’s life for Casey still? And then there’s Eddie ...
Rock Hard Café, a gay bar down in the village whose owner liked a good pun, was having a Sexy Leprechaun Night on St. Paddy’s Day Eve. Casey had dressed for the occasion in green shorts, shamrock suspenders and knee socks, and black shoes with big gold buckles. I’d gone with jeans and a green sweater. We both wore the cardboard hats. Still nursing my first drink thirty minutes in, I was glued to my phone.
Johnny: I miss you.
“How?” Casey asked. “You’re on the phone every five minutes.”
Eli: I miss you, too.
Johnny: Hope you’re having fun.
“We might,” Casey muttered. “If you two would stop texting.”
Eli: I’d rather be with you.
“Thanks a lot, Slick.”
Johnny: I feel your absence. Fate put us in neighboring towns, and now my body senses when you’re away. I might need you near to breathe.
“So, I suppose you ended up in an oxygen tent that St. Patrick’s Day your giver of breath was all the way in Ireland with me?”
I’d always heard leprechauns were pissy beings.
Eli: I’m not so far away.
Johnny: Unless I can touch you, you’re always too far for my liking.
Eli: Wish you were here.
“I wish you were, Slick.”
“I will be.” I turned to Casey. “Give me one more --"
Johnny: My eyes are smiling at the thought of you, although I’m not Irish.
Eli: Mine too. And me neither.
“Me nauseated.” Casey stood. “I’m going to the can.”
He was gone a while, so Johnny and I kept texting, twenty messages or more across too many miles.
Then an interloper interloped.
Johnny: I just got an email from Casey.
That had me a little nervous.
Eli: What does it say?
Johnny: It doesn’t. There are no words, just pictures and a couple of letters. When I saw there were jPegs, I assumed they were going to be pictures of the two of you.
My first thought, having known Casey so long, would have been dick pics.
Johnny: Then, I thought maybe he sent me dick pics.
Eli: Ha! I was just thinking the same thing. Though he does always ask first if the recipient would be interested in seeing them.
Johnny: Good to know. I’ll be sure to give my permission.
That surprised me.
Johnny: Why not find out what I’m up against?
Eli: What do you mean?
Johnny: My competition.
That surprised me, too.
Eli: You really see Casey as competition?
Johnny: He has many qualities I don’t.
While I paused to gather words, Johnny jumped in again.
Johnny: I know what this is. It’s a rebus, like in Highlights Magazine when we were kids or the puzzles on Concentration.
I would have said that a few texts back, had we not gone down the unexpected path.
Eli: They need to bring that show back. Casey could clean up on it. Do you know what it says?
I was also back to being nervous.
Johnny: Not really. There’s Johnny Depp, a shoe, a plus sign, the letter D, an L, a cookie jar, the number two, then Cher, Bette Midler from Hocus Pocus, and an R.
I figured it out right away and set a scowl on my face for Casey’s return.
Johnny: Ohhhh. I think the cookie jar might be an urn since it says RIP on it. Impressive. He’s good. And he’s right. I shoed learn to share better.
The angry face I sent Johnny was cheerful in comparison to what Casey got when he returned.
“What?” He had a lot of nerve.
“Johnny got your note.”
Johnny: Tell him I’m sorry.
I showed Casey the phone screen instead.
Johnny: It’s your special day, and I shouldn’t be encroaching on it. You’re important to him. He likes your company. I can’t blame him. Go and have fun.
“Listen to the man.” Casey twisted my wrist, so the phone faced my sightline.
“You could have just talked to me,” I said.
“I’ve been passive aggressing all up in your face for an hour. You don’t take hints.”
Johnny: We’ll talk later, Eli.
Eli: I guess.
Johnny: Enjoy, my Elf Leprechaun Imp.
And then, Johnny signed off.
“Finally.” Casey offered up his most ingratiating smile as I set down my phone, but I was bound and determined to ignore it. “And you’re welcome.”
“For what?” I was bad at the silent treatment.
“Do you two chat live often, or is it more texts he answers later?”
I managed to keep my mouth shut.
“The Big O found time to text live for close to an hour tonight, though, didn’t he? Because why? Because he knows he better put forth some effort, lest you choose door number me. Competition.”
There was that word again.