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Tiny Spaces

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Dan stares at the screen, the single line patiently blinking, waiting for Dan to imbue it with a sense of purpose. It waits some more. Dan thinks it might blink faster the longer he waits, so he types a few letters, then deletes them—trying to buy himself more time. Dan tries blinking in time with it, but it’s too fast and makes him feel even more anxious, trying to blink blink blink.

He closes his eyes instead. Who invented the cursor?

It turns out a man named Charles A. Kiesling likely invented it. Dan finds a comment from the man’s son on a long-abandoned thread confirming his father did in fact invent it. What a specific legacy—to be so invested in such a minor detail that is such a major yet insignificant part of so many people’s days.

Dan tries not to think about his legacy, how at this rate, he’s already done the only significant thing he’ll manage. Increasingly, it feels like he does nothing of note while feeling mounting pressure to live up to an invisible standard, a bar so high Dan isn’t sure how to clear it anymore.

This should be simple. He was brought in to polish up this script. It shouldn’t be hard. All he has to do is follow the producer’s notes and be himself. They brought him in because they wanted him—his voice, his perspective. Dan doesn’t even feel like he knows what that means anymore. It’s more about what people perceive his voice to be lately, which is a harder and more intimidating thing to match.

Dan reads some more about Charles A. Kiesling.

That night, Dan lies in bed, reading and rereading the same page of the screenplay while Steve sleeps next to him, snoring just a little in a way Dan’s grown used to—a human white noise machine. Except tonight, the warmth of Steve's leg pushed up against him, the steady exhales, aren’t enough to soothe Dan. He wants to wake Steve up, just so Steve can pull him in close and push away this—fear, stress, anxiety. Steve would, is the thing. Sometimes he wakes up and catches Dan, phone glowing over his face in the dark, and whispers tomorrow, half asleep. It’s usually enough for Dan to set his phone down and bury his face in Steve’s chest, matching his boyfriend’s breathing.


Dan looks over and Steve looks peaceful. It’s rare to see Steve this still during the day, and it still feels private and intimate. Tomorrow. Dan puts his phone down and wiggles into Steve’s arms. Steve stirs and his arms tighten around Dan. Dan can figure this out tomorrow.

The next morning, Dan realizes that was wildly optimistic. This script has a cadence Dan loves, it’s sharp and quick, deliberate in its rhythm. Dan wants to try to maintain some of that, while filling it out more—making it more sincere, more grounded. It feels a bit like a technical bake—you have all the ingredients, but no instructions. Dan needs to develop the recipe. He doesn’t know how to cook, this metaphor is not helping him.

He makes more coffee, in the same Obama mug he always uses here, since that first time. There was no coffee maker, and now there’s a coffee maker.

There’s a problem with the script, and now Dan needs to fix it.

Dan wonders if he can send Steve out to Bed Bath & Beyond for an idea to save him from himself.

Dan tries curling up on the couch with his laptop. When that doesn’t work, he moves back to the bed. A few minutes later, he’s back on the sofa. Maybe he should go to a coffee shop.

“C’mon, let's go for a walk,” Steve says, closing his own laptop.

“No, you’re busy.” At least one of them should be productive.

“It can wait.” Steve’s glasses are slightly askew but he’s smiling at Dan, big and hopeful.

“Okay.” Dan gives a tiny nod. Maybe a walk will help.

Steve buys him an iced latte and holds his hand and doesn’t ask. They walk past a tiny jazz bar and a brightly painted mural and a demolished building and a barbershop with an actual blue and red striped pole out front. Dan lets himself be led around this neighborhood Steve knows so well and Dan is still learning.

“I don’t know why, I can’t just seem to make myself do this. I’m stuck, and can’t unstick. I’m through like ninety percent of the notes—it’s just. Something is missing, like an order of fries that’s unsalted and soggy. It’s edible but not delicious.” Why are all his metaphors food today? And bad. He needs more than a walk, clearly.

“Do you want me to cancel the reservations?” Steve offers. “We can stay home.”

“No,” Dan answers immediately. “I don’t—I want to go.” Steve booked them three nights up in Beacon, some town he swears Dan will love, for Labor Day weekend. Dan has to fly back to LA after that, and he wants a few days with Steve without all this looming over his head. He’ll figure it out.

Steve gives his hand a squeeze. “You will.” Dan isn’t sure if he said that last part out loud, or if Steve just knows—but either way he’s reassured.

They keep walking, and Dan keeps trying out phrases in his head, hoping something will stick. Insatiably earnest. Frustratingly focused. Overt and somehow dense. He needs something that can sound both irritated and fond, something that begins to show the underlying affection between the two characters. Steve smiles at him, and steals a sip of his iced latte and still doesn’t ask.

They wait for a long minute to cross the highway—Dan thinks it's the FDR. They’ve biked along it, and driven on it, but Dan’s always left the details of where they were heading to Steve, happy to trust him and go along for the ride. He does know they’re looking at the East River, looking at Brooklyn or Queens, depending on which way they are angled. Steve tugs his hand gently and Dan sees the light’s green now. Steve navigates them to the right, a pair of bridges spanning the river—one is the Brooklyn bridge and one is blue.

“Want to sit, or head back?” Steve asks, stopping them in front of a clean enough looking bench.

“We can sit.” Dan looks around, he didn’t realize they were in a small park area, as far away from the traffic as they could be without being in the water. “Can you walk over the bridge?”

“Both, but the Brooklyn Bridge is prettier. We can, do you want to?”

“Not today. But yes. What’s the other one?”

“The Manhattan Bridge.” Steve points in the other direction at a stainless steel bridge. “And that’s the Williamsburg Bridge.”

Dan nods, he’s heard of Williamsburg, but he and Steve have never been.

“It seems like it would be satisfying to cross a body of water on foot. Mundane but extraordinary in its own way.” Dan realizes that’s what the script is missing—some common, ordinary moment that becomes something bigger than itself in the context of the script. Something small, innocuous the first time, until it’s repeated over and over, until it’s something bigger, until it’s not just a pierogi—it’s a way to be together, to make time. A way to span a river, without getting wet.

He turns to look at Steve. “How did you know this is what I needed?”

Steve leans over and kisses him, answering the question Dan didn’t even ask.

The cure for anything is saltwater — sweat, tears, or the sea. Not quite the sea, but. Better than tears.”

“I was rapidly approaching that point.”

“I know.” Steve laughs, but the look he’s giving Dan is full of affection. “Let’s get you home, you have work to do.”

Dan nods. “I do think I have an idea.”

For a few blocks, Dan tucks himself into Steve’s side, arm around his waist, Steve’s arm around his shoulders. It’s not an efficient way to walk, but it’s nice to be this close. Dan trusts Steve to navigate them, he thinks some more about tiny moments and unasked questions accumulating into a journey. Eventually, they move apart, coming together at corners, stealing kisses while waiting for walk signs, until they’re home.

Dan is tempted to drag Steve to bed, to thank him properly, but he knows he’ll be too distracted by work. Steve pulls him in for a kiss, slow and deep and thorough, his hand wrapping around Dan’s neck, the other sliding up under his shirt, fingertips pressing into Dan’s skin. Dan’s just about to give in—and give up on getting any work done—when Steve pulls back, lips pink from Dan’s stubble. “Later. Go ahead.”

Dan leans in for one more kiss, which turns into two, then three.

“Later,” Dan promises.