It was at the beginning of August that I began to nurture my fascination with a man named Jay Gatsby. "Man," however, may be too simple of a word, as his influence over this small universe that we call New York resembled something more of a Roman god of old than a mere man. Crowds gathered to watch him saunter throughout both the East and West Egg, carrying himself with such an air of panache and verve that I found myself, as so many others had found themselves, enchanted.
Despite my mental admonishments, I couldn't help myself but to follow him about, like a puppy that's found itself entertained by a lion. Gatsby himself, however, seemed to enjoy the attention. He paraded me through the city in his lavish yellow Rolls Royce, finding any excuse to host one of our excursions. I'd dined with famed actors and poets, viewed plays and baseball games from extravagant box seatings, and enjoyed carnivals with as much popcorn and candies as a grown man could bear. Through all of this, of course, I was accompanied by Gatsby. It was within my own authority to consider myself utterly spoiled.
Though I had at first rationalized this extravagant treatment as a way to get closer to Daisy through me, I found myself utterly shocked upon hearing from Jordan that Gatsby spoke only of me to his colleagues. Oh, and the words he used! Elegant, he described me as. Polished, sociable, attractive even! It certainly didn't help the rumors that flitted through the crowds attending his parties. It was through this series of events that I allowed my enamourment for Gatsby to grow quite out of my control. One morning, upon waking and starting a pot of coffee, it hit me that I was attracted to him. This revelation had taken me by such surprise that I spilled coffee grounds all over myself and had to tread a walk of shame back to my closet to change. In hindsight, it really should not have come as such a shock. I'd shifted every aspect, including my housing, work schedule, even the most minute details of my appearance almost subconsciously. I, to be crude, was into him.
The problem with this was mostly the scandal it could cause. Even if Gatsby was similarly attracted to me -which I was quite sure he was not- our relations would have to be kept with the utmost secrecy. Though it was much less frowned upon as compared to, say, 20 years ago, sodomy was still sodomy. I had no clue how rumors of the two of us would affect his business, and I wasn't willing to possibly ruin everything he had worked for to chase a silly feeling.
Thus, I began to draw myself away from Gatsby. I accepted his invitations with decreasing frequencies. I stayed locked up in my house to avoid seeing him in the front garden. Though it was all in an effort to protect us... by god, how it stung. Never before had my heart known such longing. The worst of it was when Gatsby, with his soft, concerned eyes, would visit me himself.
"Hello again, old sport," he'd said, leaning in the door frame as though afraid I would shut it in his face. "Just wanted to check in... You've been cooped up in the house for so very long. Would you perhaps like to attend a party with me?"
Yes! I longed to say. How profusely I wanted to go with him if only to spend time in his presence. "I... I can't. I'm busy today, I'm afraid," I said plainly. "Thank you anyway." With that, avoiding meeting Gatsby's gaze, I stepped back and truly did shut the blasted door in his face.
Through my thin, cottage walls, I could hear Gatsby's sigh. The ache in my chest swelled with each of his retreating footsteps, growing so intense that it threatened to consume me. When I was quite sure he was well and gone, I allowed myself to collapse into my armchair with shaking hands and a mourning heart. The agony... in those moments, I made myself a quivering, cowardly promise that if I could not crush this... this rot, whose tendrils had wrapped their way through my heart, then I would leave. I would leave the west egg, and I would leave New York.
Several days later, a matter-of-fact knock resounded from my door. Drawing myself up from my resting place beside the lone window in the dining room, I called out a soft "who's there?" to the visitor.
"It's Jordan. You had best let me in Nick, you sorry sap, before I break down the door myself."
I winced as her voice reached my ears and opened up the door, squinting into the bright sunlight.
"You look awful."
"Hello to you too, Jordan."
Jordan is a friend of mine. Or, Jordan is a friend of Daisy's who decided we too were going to be companions, whether I liked it or not. A blunt, observant woman, it was no surprise Jordan had resounded to seek me out in my slump. She likely heard from Daisy (or perhaps even Gatsby himself) that I'd reserved myself to the life of a hermit.
"Now, what'd you do to the king, Nick? Everyone in New York is buzzing about it."
I shook my head and set to making tea for the two of us. "Whatever do you mean?"
She groaned in annoyance. "Gatsby, you dunce. He's acting like someone shot his puppy. Why, I've never seen a man look so downtrodden." She stopped her spiel momentarily to take in the state of my home. "No one but you, I suppose. It looks like you've drunk enough giggle water to glut an army. No way you had that much stashed." I flushed in embarrassment as she gestured towards the obscene amount of french wine bottles I'd drained that littered the floor near the sofa.
"Yes, well... we are in New York, after all. It'd be a lie if I told you I didn't know at least one man in Canada that was willing to share. So what?" I pulled the steaming kettle off of its spot on the stove. "I don't suppose you'll call the fuzz."
"I very well might, you dewdropper. You spend all of your time stuffed up with your curtains drawn, drinking, and have thrown all of New York into a tizzy!" She accepted the tea I handed her and primly settled into an armchair. "I can't walk a single block without hearing about Gatsby's low mood from some cake-eater."
Sighing, I settled in front of her. "I'm just a bit under the weather."
"Applesauce. You've not called in as sick a single day this month." She leaned in and rapped my forehead. "I know that mind, Nick. You can't lie to me."
A moment of silence came and went as we both nursed our tea.
"You fancy him, don't you?"
I spluttered, a bit of my tea spilling onto my clothing. "I- Jordan, you can't possibly-"
"Thought so," she interrupted. "Come with me, Nick, we're going on a day trip." Suddenly standing, Jordan seized my poor, undrunk Earl Gray and set it down on the table. She took my hand, and I allowed her to lead me out the door. Still reeling from my deepest secret being exposed to the open air, I let her lead me up the slight slope heading up to the grand driveway of an even more grand house. Gatsby's mansion loomed over me, the giant bayside estate which once felt so homely appearing to me like a ghostly promise. My stomach churned as reality set in, and I dug in my heels, allowing Jordan to pull me forward no longer.
"No. No, absolutely not."
"You're going to miss your chance," Jordan lamented. "You're pushing him away."
"Purposefully, Jordan! What do you think will happen if I tell him the truth? Happily ever after?" I pulled my hand from hers and fixed her with an angry gaze. "It's sodomy!"
"Oh, and you care so for sodomy. Please, Nick, don't make me laugh."
"I refuse to jeopardize the life he's created to chase a feeling!"
"You're jeopardizing your own life by not telling him! You've spent weeks in your cottage drinking yourself to nothing, wasting away behind closed doors. Did you stop to think even once how this might affect Gatsby? The man has gone years without a real friend, and he'd finally found someone who loves him not for his money, but for himself. By God, he'd finally stopped spending hours gazing across the water at that blasted light!"
"I will certainly no-"
The two of us froze, our bickering paused for the moment. That voice was familiar, and the last thing I would want to hear at the moment. Defeated, I turned to face my demons and looked into the cloudy eyes of Jay Gatsby himself.
"Hello, Jay," I murmured. Behind me, Jordan nodded a greeting to him before rapidly taking her leave, escaping back down the drive. In her absence, a stifling hush lingered. I worried at the hem of my shirt, and my eyes looked anywhere but up. He was the first to break the silence.
"I hope you are well?"
I nodded awkwardly. "Yes, um... and to you as well."
He shifted uncomfortably. It was evident that he was not, in fact, well. Just a glance up at him revealed a haggard face and dark eyes. His hair and clothing, usually impeccable, were tousled and rumpled with such disarray that he was almost unrecognizable. My brow creased with worry. "Are you quite alright, Gatsby?"
A moment passed where the only thing held between us was silence.
"Where were you all this time, Nick?" Gatsby asked quietly. Though his hands balled into fists at his side, his eyes betrayed no emotion.
I winced. "Just... ah, just busy."
You mustn't tell.
"Not so busy as to stop going to work."
You mustn't tell.
"Not so busy that you can't have Jordan over for an afternoon tea."
You mustn't tell!
"I'm busy enough that I must be getting back now," I snapped. Gatsby flinched, and my heart sank. "Jay, I... I'm sorry. I've had some very important matters weighing on my mind as of recent."
He ran one of his shaking hands through his hair and sighed. "Just... just tell me you dislike me. Give me that courtesy, at least."
Shocked, I gently tugged the hand that was pulling at his hair away to hold it. He seemed surprised, his brow lifting. The two of us were drawn closer together by an almost imperceivable amount, but after so long without contact, it felt more intimate than I care to mention. A blush began to grace my cheeks, and to my astonishment, Gatsby too started growing red. I looked away first. "I don't dislike you," I began tentatively. Static buzzed about in my brain. "Quite the opposite actually. I..." I paused, paralyzed as anxiety began gnawing at my stomach. Gatsby squeezed my hand in his.
Am I really doing this?
My secret burst forth from me. "I find you infatuating. Utterly so, in words I can hardly bring myself to express!" Gatsby gasped sharply and drew back. Shit. Shit! I can't stop now. "Your damned smile when you get excited, your passion for the things that interest you, it's intrinsic. I'm trapped in admiration for you." I pulled away, stepping back. "And I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you sooner. I know how wrong these feelings are. More than anything, I want to protect you, and I can't risk harming you or your work." I turned away, shame pooling in my stomach. "It hurts to be near you. I'm sorry, Jay."
I felt like I'd be sick. I could feel Gatsby's eyes boring into my back, and my heart sunk.
He hates me.
"Nick, what are you saying?" His voice was soft, rather than the harsh anger I'd expected. This gentleness made me hesitate for a moment before I made up my mind. I would wait no longer.
"Jay... I love you."
Between us, a thick tension grew, and neither of us dared to break it. I stood still with my eyes clenched shut, and Gatsby lingered behind me, frozen. A warm breeze graced my features, and slowly, I allowed the tension to drain from my body. It was as though a horrible, crushing weight had been lifted, and in its place, apathy grew. My sins were finally exposed to open air. What left was there to fear?
A sigh startled me from my resignation, and when I turned to face him, Gatsby held his arms open to me with a gentle smile and misty eyes. I stood shocked for only a second before rushing forward, colliding with him and knocking the two of us down to the grass together. I could feel his hearty, joyous laughter reverberate through his chest, and I grinned, burying my face in one of his broad shoulders. Through my mind ran nothing but unfettered happiness.
Gatsby pulled away to look me in the eyes. "I thought you'd figured it. That I like you, I mean. I thought that was why you were avoiding me."
I shook my head. "I had no clue you were a fairy. I thought you just liked taking me out places."
He chuckled sheepishly. "Well, uh..."
"Oops?" I offered.
I smiled, ducking my head. Even now, tendrils of worry tried to worm their way into my conscious. "What are we going to do? If word gets out..."
Gatsby shrugged and gave a lopsided smile. "The thing is Nick, the economy of our New York is quite, ah... dependent on the business I conduct. Johnny Law isn't going to give us any trouble," he said, resting on his back to gaze up at the clouds.
"And the rumors?"
"Damn the rumors. I just want to spend my days with you, old sport. Won't you allow me that?" He turned away from the clouds to stare me in the eyes, strands of his golden hair spilling over his brow. The tips of my ears went an obnoxious shade of pink.
"I will if you'll hold me."
And hold me, he did.