Exclusive Excerpt from A Pride Anthem
by Rob Browatzke
Jake was dead. There was no denying it. His funeral, five years earlier, had been standing-room only, and his ashes were in a black urn on the shelf. That was the only sign of Jake in the office though. No pictures of Jake could be found on the walls, either here or at home. His name wouldn’t be found on any of the papers that piled up on Ben’s desk, or on any of the awards and commendations framed on the walls. He was dead, and best forgotten. For the most part, Ben did remember to forget him, and so it came as a complete surprise when Ben woke up to find Jake standing over him.
Jake had died the way many gay men die. No, not AIDS. Many stories exist where gay men die from AIDS, but this is not one of them. No, what Jake had died from had been loneliness. Loneliness, you say? Yes. It is indeed deadly, and many gay men die from it. Sometimes, that manifests as overdose; sometimes, as suicide. In Jake’s case, it had been getting behind the wheel while stinking drunk and wrapping the car around a lamp post. Ben had identified the body, because even though they’d been broken up for two years, their lives were permanently intertwined in the club they owned together. Yes, Ben had gone down to the morgue, identified the body, and certainly never expected to wake up at five in the morning, years later, and see Jake standing at the foot of the bed.
Except, wait! Ben wasn’t in bed. He had fallen asleep on the couch in his office again, something that happened more and more often. Still, home or office, the long-deceased didn’t suddenly appear. Was he dreaming? Blinking and pinching himself didn’t change anything. Jake was standing there looking just like he had in life. Although much more translucent, and had he always had a blue glow? Probably not.
So, he was a ghost. That was clear. Ben didn’t believe in ghosts, or God, or much of anything anymore really. Still, he did believe in what he saw, and he was seeing Jake’s ghost.
Had he been thinking of Jake when he fell asleep? No. He never thought about Jake. Jake was long dead, and by the end of a Friday night on Pride weekend, Ben felt pretty dead himself. When the DJ cut the music at three, Ben had emerged from his office long enough to flood the space with light, sending all the gays scurrying for the exits. Just like happened every weekend. And just like every weekend for the past five years, Ben hadn’t been thinking about Jake when he did it.
He hadn’t been thinking about Jake’s chin dimple. He hadn’t been thinking about Jake’s sculpted torso. He hadn’t been thinking about the way Jake’s pale green eyes stared out from behind his black-rimmed glasses. No, when Ben fell asleep, after the last customer and staff went out into the night before Pride, Ben hadn’t been thinking about Jake at all.