The daily serial fictional based on Chicago's Boystown neighborhood: Boystown series by Danny Bernardo

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14. Better Half

David's better half was in a mood this morning, but Other David had slept fitfully the night before so David chalked it up to that. It wasn't until after the morning shower, when they both got ready in their newly renovated His-&-His sinks that Other David's uncharacteristic taciturn sullenness star

14. Better Half
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David's better half was in a mood this morning, but Other David had slept fitfully the night before so David chalked it up to that. It wasn't until after the morning shower, when they both got ready in their newly renovated His-&-His sinks that Other David's uncharacteristic taciturn sullenness started to alarm David.

"What's up, babe?" David asked, as his better half lathered up the shaving cream.

Other David was thoughtful for a moment and then said, "Nothing."

David whipped up some quick scrambled eggs and bacon while Other David cut up some melon and brewed the coffee. For the first time since they'd been together, they ate in silence. David cleared his throat awkwardly behind his Chicago Tribune. Other David coughed behind his Chicago Sun-Times. They both reached the halfway point of their papers, which is usually where they traded because Other David liked the Arts & Entertainment section in the Tribune better. This morning, he just turned the page. David couldn't take it anymore, so he reached across the table and pulled down his better half's paper.

"Ok seriously. Babe. What's going on?"

Other David was thoughtful again for a moment before he said, "You really shouldn't have been such a dick to Charlie's new roommate."

"The go-go boy?"

"See, why is it such an issue? Why do you have to be such a prick about it?"

"C'mon babe, it was all in good fun. We even laughed about it at my birthday party. Charlie knew I was kidding."

"Yeah, but that poor guy didn't."

"Omigod babe, that was like a week ago. If it bothered you that much, why didn't you say something about it then?"

"I couldn't fully articulate it then. I can now." Though David didn't take much stock in astrology, there were some moments that it was painfully clear that his better half was a Taurus.

"I'll send over a muffin basket. Will that make you happy?"

"Fine," said Other David, going back to his Sun-Times, clearly not satisfied with David's sarcastic solution.

"This wouldn't be because of the arbitration we're about to sit in on, would it? Projecting our benign personal issues onto it?"

"Trade me the Tribune, will ya?" came the deflected response. And that was the end of that for the rest of the morning.


David had started representing Steve ever since he'd first moved into their building. Well, Steve and Bruce at the time. They were his first clients right after passing the bar and they gave him a cut in rent in exchange for his legal services. Even after David had moved out, Steve maintained the professional relationship after he and Bruce had split. It was just as well: David felt a stronger connection to Steve anyhow, so it was easier to go up to bat on his account. The ironic twist of fate that brought Bruce to Other David's firm and subsequently being represented by Other David was not lost on the four of them.

It was decided that the arbitration would happen on neutral territory, at a new gourmet coffee shop on Broadway and Oakdale. David had met Steve at the Wellington Brown Line stop and they prepped as they walked. When they arrived, Other David and Bruce were already seated at the long table next to the Pac Man arcade game. They rose as David and Steven approached the table.

"Counselor," said David, extending his hand to his better half.

"Counselor," said Other David, taking his better half's hand and shaking it. They all sat, Other David handing them all the proposed agenda. "Let's cut to the chase, gentlemen. My client feels... "

"I should have half of it! All of it!" Bruce blurted out.

"Compelling argument, counselor," smirked David.

"Let me handle this, Bruce," Other David said in his most calming voice. "The properties owned by our clients during the tenure of the relationship would never have been acquired had it not for the financial contributions of my client."

"My client's name is the only one listed on all the deeds," David rebutted. "To that end, your client has no legal claim to said properties, nor the earnings, nor is he obligated to pay any of the taxes on it."

"But I have! For more than ten years I have!" Other David had to place a calming hand on Bruce's hand to get him to quiet down.

"I reiterate, my client is the sole legal owner of these properties and your client has no claim... "

"Goddamit, Steve! We were together for twenty years!" Bruce rose, slamming his fists on the table.

"YOU were the one who ended it! And for what?!" Steve screamed in his face. Both Davids had to sit their clients down.

"The hope of this arbitration is to appeal to the empathetic nature of your client," Other David said to which Steve guffawed. "There is precedent in Massachusetts and California for couples who have registered as domestic partners... "

"Yes, Counselor, but unfortunately our clients never did. So while we can amicably settle the joint liquid assets... "

"Buy me out," said Steve. Everyone stared at him, mouths agape. "You want the properties so goddamn much, write me a check, buy me out. Every time I look at those buildings, all I see is our failure of a relationship."

"Are you serious?" Bruce was in complete utter shock.

"I know how much you've got and it's a renter's market. You'd be stupid not to buy them. As for the joint liquid assets, split them in half. If you're serious about wanting the properties, David will draw up the paperwork. Don't say I never gave you anything." Steve gathered his things and rose. "But after all is said and done, I never want to see you again. David, walk with me."

"Are you going to take him up on it?" Other David asked, as his better half walked Steve out the door.

"You bet your ass," said Bruce.

"I just don't understand. Why didn't you sign a prenup? Why didn't you register as domestic partners when you had the chance?"

Bruce chuckled to himself, full of bittersweet nostalgia. "It was a different time, baby. We were in love. It didn't matter. And we were radicals. Who wanted a civil union? We were holding out for marriage." It was a conversation that he and David had had and it scared him.

"So, what changed?"

"Who knows? I did? Him? Whatever we had, it's gone."

"Twenty years. Just like that?"

Bruce gave Other David a fatherly kiss on the cheek. "Whatever happens between the two of you, David, fuck love. That changes. Money doesn't. Get it all in writing first."


The dusty storefront on Belmont and Macondray, just west of Halsted and east of Clark, had lay empty since the recession. Before that, it'd been a boutique, a coffee shop, a sex shop. David wondered why Steve had taken him here and, moreover, how he had keys.

"You know, David, I had a dream once. I'm a product of my generation and all I saw for myself as an adult was the cozy double bed of Mr. and Mrs. Brady. Well, mister and mister anyway. I thought I had that. I wanted kids more than anything, but Bruce didn't, so I let that dream go. Now... it's too late. It's too late to keep that dream alive. So it's time to start a new dream." Steve went to the back room and retrieved blue prints and showed them to David.

"Is this... ?"

"A bar, David. I'm going to open the best, sexiest, hottest bar Boystown has ever seen. I've already started a down payment, greased the palms of the right people to get all the city clearances I need. And with that fat check Bruce is going to write me, I'll be able to open in a month."

David smiled. "You sly son of a bitch." Steve smiled back as he locked the place back up. He stopped David before he hailed a cab.

"Davey... when you draw up the paperwork? Leave out the building on Halsted and Roscoe. I have a certain fondness for the place."


Other David came home later than usual, without a word of warning. David sat worried on the couch, half a bottle of pinot noir downed. Other David didn't say a word as he came in, but simply put his briefcase down, pulled his better half up off the couch, and kissed him slowly and passionately. Then, they looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity.

David broke the silence. "We can get a prenup. We can make any arrangements so that we never have to be on the other side of the table from each other like that."

"The only agreement I'll ever sign with you," said Other David, "is that you'll let me love you for the rest of my life."


It was just a tad confusing. I would have understood it better had there been more detail in chronological order regarding the characters and their relationships with each other. Also, "Other David" and "David" as names is cute, but contributed to the confusion.

by WalksTheEdge on Sat. Oct 26, 2013

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