Chapter 5: Jake
So despite my better judgement, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and wandered off with a stranger. What was I thinking? Was I even thinking at all? I’ve rid myself of caution but my anxiety persists in jumping around my head in the manner of a pesky toddler... like Dylan. For a moment, I allow myself to think again of Dylan, his fluffy corn-coloured hair and round, pudgy face, his inky-blue eyes and sticky hands. He’s always been clever for his age and can, just about, work a knife and fork; however, he continues to shove his hands through his food before trying to hug me. Such is Dylan I guess. I never thought I’d miss having to wash mashed banana and the likes out of my hair.
I reluctantly drag myself back into this Joey-made-disaster which I suppose I have to call my reality. Jake and I wandered over to his apartment; lazily drifting in and out of conversation as we speed-date-style spilled our guts to each other. Favourite film, best read, preference of restaurant, birthday; that sort of thing. I chose to leave out the year of my birthday but as I’d thought, he’s a few years older than me. He’s nineteen. He’s an actor. As I had to remind myself earlier, not all actors are George Clooney or Johnny Depp-type-mega-stars. Jake’s not currently doing anything but he was staying with that friend he mentioned because of an audition in close proximity. We arrived at his apartment about an hour ago. A glance from my watch tells me that I’ve spent most of that time in his bathroom...great; I can virtually hear the clanging sirens in his mind making him aware that he’s just taken a constipated, frizzy-haired-freak to his home. Just to get a couple of things straight though, I’m not constipated and my hair’s not all that frizzy either! Although, when I first arrived, I caught sight of myself in the mirror in the hallway and hurriedly made my excuses to, “powder my nose” because I noticed that my tidy plaits had become unravelled and the grease factor of my hair wasn’t exactly the most appealing thing I’ve ever seen. I made my way into his bathroom, dumped my bag on the floor by the door and tipped my head forwards over the sink. In my rush, I hadn’t bothered to get any shampoo out of Jake’s little cupboard before drenching my hair in tap water. So, with sopping hair dribbling down the back of my neck and leaving teeny sodden footprint-drips across the bathroom tiles, I hunted out some shampoo.
It’s true, what they say about the differences between men and women’s cosmetics. My lavender and rose-petal scented shampoos of times from home seem to me like cherub-crafted items of dainty wonderment plucked from The Garden of Eden; all ribbons and flowers. I’m a tomboy but even I can appreciate some of the finer benefits of being the fairer of the two genders. I finally managed to dig out a half-used bottle of what I think, vaguely resembles shampoo. It’s massive. And grey. Everything about it bellows, “I’m a blokes’ shampoo. For blokes. Who like rugby and man-things like beer and...women and...beards...YARGGH!!”...maybe that last bit was a tad more pirate than over-masculine-man but the sentiment remains the same... So, I’ve lathered up and rinsed out as usual but having failed to uncover any conditioner amongst the modern-caveman’s hoard of belongings; can after can of Lynx, (I haven’t yet discovered what the attraction is between men and Lynx; none of the women I know appreciate that stench but what can you do about it, eh?) shaving gel, moisturiser and razors, I’ve resorted to sitting on the lid of the loo, waiting for my hair to dry whilst smelling like a man from using Jake’s shampoo.
Soon enough, my obligation to be a decent guest and refrain from hiding in the bathroom takes over and so I start on my way downstairs; bag-laden and my damp hair clad in a fresh towel from the airing cupboard. I wander into the living room (after miss-remembering my way and finding myself in the kitchen and cloakroom) to see that Jake’s kicked off his red Converse Allstars, abandoned his coat in the middle of the vinyl-covered floor and is now sprawled on the coal-black leather sofa; engrossed in a re-run of Doctor who?
I slip my shoes off next to his and then join him on the couch. We laugh together as David Tennant leaps erratically around the television screen with excited news of aliens and finding the solution to a grating problem whilst my worries have rambled off home without me. Leaving me to, just for a while, let myself drift away into the television programme, enjoying fighting odd creatures with The Doctor, a million miles away; elsewhere in the universe where my mobile isn’t vibrating every ten minutes with a terrified plea for me to come home, where I don’t have to constantly be thinking about Mrs. Finbury or my family, where I’m not trying to hide my nerves from the kind stranger I just bumped into, where I can just be. Be, without saying or doing anything I don’t want to, purely for the benefit of anyone else.
Jake’s feet and mine are leaning against each other on his foot-stool. Doctor who? Has long since ended and as I’m waiting for the next episode to begin, I amuse myself by playing footsy with Jake. My toes, all bound up in cottony socks jovially bump against his and then he returns the gesture. Once or twice, I can feel his gaze flit across me but not wanting to give off any, “signals” my eyes remain firmly glued to our toes. Childish, I know but it’s refreshing to be hanging out with a guy who is taller than me and has bigger feet. Being five ft. nine inches doesn’t help when everyone you know has already convinced themselves that you’re a secret transsexual.Fabulous. I’ve got size eight feet and although I know that if they were much smaller I’d probably fall over on attempting to walk; I would like to be able to buy dainty flat shoe s which didn’t make me look as though I was preparing to go diving...flippers. Practicality rules over fashion for me anyway though.
Back in the room, I continue nudging Jake’s size twelve’s. As I register this fact, the uncontrollable urge to give into the hysteria bubbling within me takes over. I laugh out loud as I can’t help thinking, “You know what they say about men with big feet”. Don’t make that face at me! Shoes; men with big feet have big shoes...what on Earth did you have going through your dirty, little mind, eh? Mrs Finbury once said that to me. Every week or so, she’d ask me whether I had a boyfriend and then at my constant, “No” she’d recommend that I found myself a boy with size twelve’s. She was the one who’d told me about, “men with big feet” she had a wicked sense of humour for someone of her age!
I’ve always been tall for my age and I’ve towered above any boy that I’ve liked but Jake? He must be well over six feet tall and we look...right, walking together. Calm down Joey or you’ll need a cold shower. You’ve known him for some, seven hours? As I force myself to get a grip I make my way into his kitchen to get myself a drink, forfeiting Jake’s and mine game. I pour myself a glass of water, straight from the tap and savouring the coolness as it pours down my parched throat, I lean against the sink and yawn wearily. Tired mentally, physically and filled with the strongest desire to sleep than I’ve felt in a long time. The remaining water is tipped into the sink, and makes a break for freedom on its way down the plug-hole.
As I walk back into the living room, Jake’s honed in on a re-run of Torchwood. Perhaps it’s a sci-fi special tonight or something. I snuggle back into the leather of the sofa and before I know it, I’m fighting aliens happily with Captain Jack; the best-looking space cowboy I know until he whispers in my ear, “I’d tell you to make yourself at home but it already looks as though you have.” Something warm’s been swathed around my arms and torso and as the cotton makes contact with my chilled skin, I’m aware of my eyelids flitter-fluttering open and closed and Jake wrapping his beloved leather jacket around me. I gaze up at him woozily but don’t realise his head dipping to mine and his lips tenderly gracing my forehead until he’s moved back and begun to leave the room. The echo of his footsteps, as he makes his way up to his bedroom, resonates as one with my heartbeat as I drift into the blissful slumber of a lifetime ago...when things were simple. Why did I meet you, Jake?