He leans casually against the wall in front of our loft door with key in hand. I stop on noticing him, the box heavy in my hands, attempting to catch my breath after climbing five flights on a dare from Ali.
I don’t like him the moment I see him. One, he’s an actor—a very propagandized one. I avoid his type. Cannot stand them. Two, he’s a spoiled rich white guy that gets anything he wants, surrounding themselves with sycophants that pander to guys like him. And three—he’s an actor. I don’t like actors, especially pretty, rich white boys.
Did I mention that?
And this is Nikolas West—the essence of rich white male entitlement. Everything I loathe. I have no desire to befriend him. He will not receive my adulation, respect, friendship, nor my time. He’s not worth my time.
“You’re not… transgender,” he says. His voice rough, low, dragging along pavement and up my spine. His blue eyes roam over my face and body before returning and fixating on my green ones.
This makes me immediately hostile and on defense. He looks over my shoulder at Alison coming off the lift. “She’s not transgender. Are you?” He aims the question back at me.
I curl my lip in dislike, frown at his rudeness, and decide not to play his game.
Reacting, I do anyway.
I come forward standing in front of him. “I’m sorry, can you not see my LGBTQ tattoo? Is it not blazoned across my forward? Along with a bright red A for atheist?” I drop the box, hearing the unmistakable crash of breakage, and turn around pulling down my shorts showing him my pale bare ass. “Is it not there either? Along with the American flag to prove my citizenship? Wow. Sorry. It must’ve disappeared when I attended that last protest and burnt the ‘merican flag. Some supernatural old white Evangelical Christian bigot riding a testosterone-fueled ideological cloud must’ve taken it from me.” I turn back around adjusting my clothes staring at him seeing the stupor on his face from my sarcasm. “Does it matter?”
He takes a breath before responding trying to shake off whatever has him irked and befuddled and the kick of laughter I see behind those explicit blue eyes and twitching of lips. “I—yes, it does. I give you a space and it’s one less space for LGBTQ kids.”
Hands on hips, I bristle at the you. It appears my feelings of dislike are shared.
His attitude towards me makes him less likable. Even if he does have a point. A very good one. I almost yell: YOU’RE RICH! MAKE MORE SPACES THEN!, but stop myself. His reasonable response deflates me, yet, I rise to my own defense. “What makes you think I’m not?” I snap trying to maintain a casual non-combative attitude, failing in the face of his insulting presumptions. The thought of me taking the place of someone else that needs it more? Calling me straight? The nerve.
Alison interrupts walking from behind us, moving to stand beside me. “Nik this is Willa. She’s my best bud and roomie.” She looks between us smiling, almost laughing. “She’s pansexual. She’d never admit it though. She hates to be labeled, especially straight.”
His lips twitch still staring at me: “Don’t we all,” he mumbles.
I glare at him.
“Well, yes, that’s the luxury and privilege you white people have,” she purrs while still smiling looking between us.
We both look at her for a shake then back at each other gliding by that statement while filing it in the something-to-philosophically-ponder category.
Ignoring Ali and her ability to overshare makes my life easier. Oversharing has always been a part of her charm and normally, it would make me smirk. However, I’m pissed and tired and not looking forward to the forty-some canvases and thirty-some boxes of books I have to drag up six flights in addition to all the other furniture and boxes.
And, I’m mad at my own presumptions.
Eyes locked, I see a flash of something move through his face. I dunno what. His demeanor changes and he shifts right before my eyes into a detached cordiality and shyness. I dunno why but I hate this transformation more. I still feel some kind of aversion beneath the pretense. “Apologies. I didn’t mean—I—sorry,” he stutters between looking sheepish and laughing outright. “Welcome. If either of you need anything, I’m on the top floor and Marilyn—our property manager—has an office and condo on the first floor, 101.” He unlocks the door leaving the keys hanging. I continue to feel his eyes roam over me experiencing an odd magnetic pull, making me even angrier. “Ring or text or visit her. She loves to chat.” He smiles briefly at Ali and I’m taken aback by it. “See you around and sorry in advance for the paps,” he directs at me and an ‘I’ll see you later, Al’ to Ali.
I roll my eyes at him while picking up my box of broken dishes. He sees this and I catch the pique and a hint of amusement from his lips and eyes. His circuitous emotions elude me and I turn away ignoring him, bumping his shoulder, walking past him while sending a withering wide-eyed get rid of him look towards Ali.
“Thanks, Nik,” Alison says looking between us, a puzzled brow arched and a wide toothy smile graces her face.
I don’t know why this makes me more annoyed and frazzled.
“‘Thanks, Nik,’” I mock under my breath, pushing the door open with my shoulder. Alison laughs at this. I stand in the doorway looking back. Nik has left. I hear his footsteps fade up the stairwell. I realize he’s right above us since his loft is most likely the entire top floor.
“I don’t like him,” I tell her.
“Yes, that’s obvious.” She chuckles. “Regardless of what you read or hear, he does buy, build, and support LGBTQ youth buildings, safe spaces, all over the city and country.”
“Hmmm,” I mumble sardonically.
“He keeps it quiet, but the evidence is there. Actions mean something, Willa. Lots of rich people say they’re gonna help, then nothing. He does the opposite and these small independent art projects he invests in and work on are making him a queer icon.”
“He hires lots of LGBTQ and black women. He’s also campaigning for Senator Obama.” She smiles. “He’s bisexual,” she practically sings.
“La di da,” I sneer singsonging. “Let’s give him a medal and I don’t read anything on him. Why would I waste my time? He’s an actor.” I pause. “I don’t care if he’s bisexual. He’s still a spoiled, rich, white, entitled male. He probably bought his identity—some Hollywood propaganda package pretty rich white boys get when they ride into town on their privilege and power thrones.” Why is she pitching him to me like an agent? “How do you know so much about him?” I ask smothering the nuisance of empathy.
“Your pop culture ignorance astounds me and why in the hell you want to live in L.A. when you hate actors and most of the Hollywood crowd is something I’ll never understand.” She pauses lowering her voice. “I did some … research.” She mumbles out research. “I couldn’t get into his family’s foundation. That place is locked tighter than the Pentagon, but I found out—surprisingly enough—he has an LLC that owns about thirty-five buildings in L.A. alone and not gentrification bullshit. They all support LGBTQ. And if you’d get out a bit more here in L.A., you’d find out he has quite the status in that world.” She pauses before dropping her actual news. “And I’m working with him.”
“What?” I ask dismayed.
“Yeah, I am. Get used to it.” Her wide smile irritates me. “That’s how I got us this place.”
I roll my eyes at her. “He’s rich and white and an actor. That’s all I really need to know.”
She chuckles. “Really, Willa? The stereotyping is unbecoming, love.”
I push through to our loft apartment and drop the box on the floor. “I don’t like him.”
“The lady doth protest too much…methinks.” Ali follows me through dropping her box. “I’ve never seen you react to someone like that. Well, yeah, I have and for good reason, but not like this. Do I sense an attraction here?”
I say nothing.
“It certainly felt like it. The chemistry was oozing off the both of you like gas fumes. I thought I was gonna pass out from a contact high.” She smiles and shimmies her shoulders in an exaggerated effect.
“Hardly. I don’t like him,” I mumble.
This makes Alison laugh out loud and I sigh loudly in annoyance. “‘Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs,’” she quotes.
“‘Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it,’” I clap back.
She stops in a sort of campy confusion stifling her giggles. “Is that me or him—or you, love?”
I walk out the door and back downstairs to get more boxes in a parade of huff and haze.
Half an hour later, while Ali and I laze on the floor, munching on goodies, avoiding the move, twenty-some people walk through our open door carrying boxes, furniture, and everything else we have packed in the small moving truck parked out front downstairs. Ali and I stand looking between us and the people parading into our loft one right after the other saying their hellos—a kiss-kiss here and there—and welcoming us to the building. The person, bringing up the rear, carrying our ratty brown sofa and dropping it in the center of the room, smiles and says: “Courtesy of Niky. Welcome to the big house.” She blows us a kiss, winks and exits. Another visitor and a delivery from the local department store. New dishes and a note: To replace the ones YOU broke. N.W.
© 2020 Pamela Gay Mullins