The Best Moves
Title: The Best Moves
Series: The Best Moves
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Rating: MA overall.
Summary: A young man named Matthew spends a month searching for himself in Toronto and finds an entirely new direction...
Notes: 2003's NaNoWriMo fic, now expanded and edited.
For reasons Matthew still didn't understand himself, he found himself staying up all night packing his bare necessities into a pair of suitcases. He was going to be gone for a month, but really didn't need more than a few days worth of clothing since he could do laundry at Quaker House or a laundromat.
He hadn't really told anyone at work aside from Tyler, mostly because he didn't want to keep answering questions. He didn't really have the answers, after all. And Tyler was quiet, but supportive. He seemed to be mid-reconcile with his girlfriend and well, Matthew didn't want to trample on that.
Most of what he was packing was toiletries and clothing. He packed two books that he'd borrowed from Tyler and pack of short stories from his sister. Beyond that he wasn't worried about being bored - there would be plenty of things to do and see. The more he thought about it, the more of a good idea Toronto became.
As an afterthought he grabbed a small boom box from his closet and set it beside the one suitcase he'd already filled. He decided to take five compact discs and no more. If he really wanted something else, he could buy it.
His mother had given him a checkbook and debit card for a Canadian account she'd set up in his name. The money in it was just for him while in Toronto and the zeroes following the amount almost blew his mind. He didn't want to ask where it had come from. But he highly suspected it was the college fund he wasn't currently using.
When he finally lay down to sleep, it was two in the morning. He should have been dressing for work then, but work was going to have to wait for nearly a month. And Tyler had promised to e-mail him the schedule for when he returned. Not that he thought it would be too different - he worked the same four days every week no matter what, unless he was called in for an extra shift.
Thankfully, Matthew had little trouble with Customs as he crossed into Canada. He had a sneaking suspicion his mother may have had something to do with it - or at least his relation to her. Though that was the American side, and likely most of the basic guards wouldn't know who she was by name - just the lady who spoke a lot of languages. He'd just been fortunate.
Now he was sailing down the freeway, his windows open halfway with the radio on. He didn't want to get sick of his choice in compact discs just yet, so he'd tuned in a local rock station that wasn't too heavy or too poppy.
His car was a later model, not new but still falling into the category of good looking and reliable. He had a couple of maps to help him get to Quaker House, and he had the phone number for the place just in case he needed to call for more help. He was supposed to call his mother the second he arrived too.
As he drove, he started thinking of all the things he should have done before leaving. He'd had two weeks, but they'd flown by and he'd barely been able to make a rudementary packing list - which his mother had just edited anyway.
Matthew decided he could find an internet cafe in Toronto though and he could call Tyler in a couple of days to check in. Hopefully Tyler would be available and not under the thrall of his girlfriend.
Somewhere either in his heart or stomach, Matthew found himself secretly hoping Tyler would get rid of the girl altogether. She just didn't seem to be his type, but he kept on chasing after her and she kept coming back.
"Friendly concern," he told himself, dismissing any remotely sexual feelings as quickly as he possibly could. He felt as though he was falling victim to everyone's suggestions that he and Tyler were a couple. Or should be. They weren't. At all. Besides being close enough to comfortably sleep on the same bed, there was nothing to suggest that they...
Matthew shook his head to chase the thoughts away and started playing a game with the license plates of the cars in front of him. Most of them had three random letters as part of the combination, so he started trying to come up with phrases to match the combinations.
It was a game he often played when he went somewhere with Emily. She was excellent at it, usually coming up with something seconds before Matthew even had a first word.
"TKN," Matthew said aloud, drowning out the radio announcer for just a moment. "Um... Tyler Knows... Nothing!"
He laughed a moment before passing TKN and catching sight of BBE.
"Big Baby Emily," he said without thinking, almost expecting to get a playful smack from his sister before realizing he was indeed alone in the car.
He was watching for the exit for highway 403 which would be the one to basically take him into Toronto, according to the directions his father had printed out for him.
The road seemed endless at the moment, stretching out before him like a ribbon of pavement. For a moment he pondered driving all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe another time, he decided as he was passed by a pair of semi trucks driving as though their drivers had gone mad. If there was one thing he didn't like about the trip so far, it had been the trucks driving recklessly around him. The sooner he was in Toronto and off the highway, the better.
Matthew reached over and grabbed a snack-sized bag of chips from the small bag of goodies his mother had packed. Mostly it was a couple of granola bars and three bags of chips - something to hold him over until he could buy food. Quaker House apparently had a full kitchen in which Matthew could keep whatever he liked. Not that he was entirely sure what he liked also included what he knew how to make. He supposed he'd just have to wait and see.
So far his to do list for Toronto included finding Quaker House first and a grocery store second. He hoped he was reasonably close to Chinatown too, so he could get Chinese at least once a week. Maybe it could be a reward for whatever he figured out during the previous week.
Also on his list of things to do was to buy a notebook and couple different colored pens. The different colors were originally to mark different events or ideas, but the more Matthew thought about it, the more it was tempting just to have fifteen different colored pens to spite Tyler.
In truth, he wasn't sure just how much he'd get worked out while in Toronto. Sure he'd have endless hours for reflection and to struggle through 'Faith & Practice', but he also figured he'd do all the tourist things and that doing the tourist things would take up a reasonable amount of time as well. And cooking. As Matthew was not much of a cook at all, besides frozen pizza, he was sure he'd spent hours in the kitchen trying to make something bordering on edible.
And, of course, make it look like his leave really was for something academic. His mother was calling it an educational retreat. Hopefully no one was going to ask for a transcript.
Smiling, Matthew realized his mother had packed his favourite kind of chips. She was almost too caring sometimes, Matthew thought before opening the bag and thrusting his hand in to get a handful. Or just knew him far too well.
All Matthew really knew about Quaker House, besides that the address and that it had a kitchen, was that he was to ask for someone named Daniel, or Danielle, he hadn't made the distinction if said person was male or female and since his mother had spoken to someone else entirely, she also hadn't know.
Daniel was supposedly the live-in Friend - 'Friend' being the term a Quaker would refer to themself as. He basically just lived at Quaker House so that someone was always there with guests and also led a handful of discussion groups in the evenings, apparently.
Not that he was on some sort of spiritual journey, Matthew thought. This was just a viable location for a little soul searching. That's what he needed. He was going to be free of his everyday life so he could reflect on it and look at it objectively. Except, well, maybe that would be a spirital journey. He wasn't sure.
What would he find? Would he find someone he didn't mind, or someone truly pathetic?
"Where do I begin?" Matthew asked himself before grabbing another handful of chips. "I guess I need to learn to accept that I talk to myself while driving. And in the shower. And..."
Clouds were gathering overhead as he passed as close to Brampton as the freeway allowed. Matthew hoped he wouldn't have to drive into Toronto in the rain. He was getting worried already about getting permanently lost in the city and never making his way to Quaker House.
He could see the traffic lights on the surface streets as he passed by them. Red lights, but he was going forward still. What would he think when he got to the city and was faced with glowing red? Would Toronto just be another stop for him, somewhere to sit until he could proceed?
Matthew had thrown in one of his compact discs to help him stay both awake and motivated. He always felt better when singing along to one of his favourite albums. His voice echoed slightly in the car, but he had a decent singing voice at least.
For a few moments, every time he put in this album, he pondered whether or not he could ever be a rock star. At first it had been the sort of idea that sounded like a fast way out of his small town. But the more he actually read about being a rock star, the less of a good idea it became. His resolve that he would not be a rock star was cemented when he saw a poster announcing one of his father's favourite bands would be playing at a county fair.
Still, it was a nice idea for a few seconds every now and then. The music, the excitement, the... lights. Red stage lights. Career breakdown. Bargain bins. Drugs.
"That's not where I want to proceed to," Matthew said during the next musical bridge.
As he drove on, he started making lists in his mind of all sorts of things before falling into the trap of sheer mindlessness that sometimes came with driving.
On autopilot, he drove on, not realizing where he was until he could suddenly see the CN Tower rising above the horizon.
"Toronto," he said softly before grabbing at the page of directions.
Matthew missed his exit and ended up getting off onto Yonge Street instead of Spadina as he'd been instructed. Yonge Street was a complex collection of stores and bright lights. Giant television screens towered above the street and people bustled about everywhere, many times holding up vehicular traffic long enough to miss lights altogether.
Matthew didn't mind though. His eyes were wide open and he was trying to absorb every detail. He couldn't wait to come back and see what all the stores were and what neat things they sold. Many of them looked to have state of the art electronics and all sorts of toys. Some of which were questionable in nature.
The red lights also gave Matthew a chance not to ponder on existence but to quickly scan the map for ways to get back to the where he needed to be.
After a few incorrect turns and making a dozen rights just to get back left, Matthew found himself circling the block trying to find the rear driveway to Quaker House.
There were three women standing in the parking lot but not a one of them looked more than once at Matthew as he stepped from his car. He decided he could come back to grab his things. Despite the notice he saw posted to the fence that told him he was leaving his car at his own risk, the neighborhood looked perfectly safe. At first glance.
There was a pair of gates to pass through before circling to the front door of Quaker House. The parking lot was off a different street and that was what had confused Matthew at first.
The front door was open and Matthew stepped into the entranceway only to find that there was another door keeping him out. And this one was locked. A little note prompted him to ring the bell of his choice to the wall on the side.
His options were limited. The first bell was for the Resident Friend (Daniel Zavitz), which was as far as Matthew bothered reading. A buzzer sounded deep within the large house and then there was silence. Matthew took the initiative to read every other bit of literature posted in the small entranceway. He was halfway through reading everything in French when he heard footsteps.
A man with long black hair and a beard was hurrying down the hallway to the glass-paneled inner door. He unlocked it quickly and held his hand out to Matthew.
"Forgive my delay," the man said. "I was in the back watering the plants and as I hurried to the door, I spilled the water I was using. Then I tried to grab a towel and..."
Matthew stared a moment, unsure what to say.
"Oh, I'm Daniel Zavitz, Resident Friend. You are Matthew Andersen?"
"Yes," Matthew said, shaking Daniel's hand. "I'm, um, staying here."
"Of course you are. I have a room ready for you, actually. Where are your bags?" Daniel finally let go of Matthew's hand and gestured for Matthew to come into the building. "I just need to remember where I put the set of keys I have for you."
"I'll bring my things in after I know where I'm taking them," Matthew replied, stepping in and watching as Daniel re-locked the glass-paneled door.
"Good enough," Daniel replied. "And make sure to keep this door locked unless there's a gathering here. We've had a bit of trouble in the past that it would be nice to avoid in the future."
Matthew just nodded as he awkwardly followed Daniel from room to room as the Resident Friend searched for the elusive set of keys.
"Now I know I had them in my pocket, but I took them out when I made lunch, I think..." Daniel rambled as he searched.
The interior of the house was no less impressive than the outside of the brick structure. Beautiful wood accented each room and even the simplest of decorations appeared most everywhere. The house stayed true to the Quaker simple ideals yet was aesthetically pleasant as well. Most of the fancy woodwork, Matthew realized, was the result of the house's earlier residents, most likely. There were plants all over as well, on most every table and windowsill. While Daniel may be a bit of an absent-minded klutz, he did at least possess a green thumb.
"So where are you from again?" Daniel asked as he searched yet another room fruitlessly.
"Michigan," Matthew replied.
"Oh, so you're an American. I think I'd heard that. I don't actually run Quaker House, I just live here as a sort of house-sitter and assistant," Daniel said. "And we have discussions in the evening, if you're at all interested. There are quite a few Friends your age who come."
"I'd like that," Matthew said, looking at a plant he was sure wasn't supposed to be blooming this time of year.
"You're welcome to come and go as you please," Daniel continued. "No one here is going to look after you, but if you're going to be gone for any amount of time, leaving a note is nice in case you get a phone call."
"I have a cell phone," Matthew replied. "And I'm not sure I'll be going anywhere but sightseeing."
"There are some brochures upstairs too," Daniel added. "For all the tourist things. Have you been to Toronto before?"
Matthew nodded before Daniel turned to dig through a drawer.
"I know where they are!" Daniel exclaimed suddenly.
"The keys, they're upstairs," Daniel explained before motioning to a heavy fire door. "Follow me."
That Matthew did silently, trudging up two flights of stairs to the third floor of Quaker House. The hallway was a bit confusing at first and Matthew felt disoriented. Still, he followed Daniel until they came to a door painted purple. Dangling from the doorknob was a set of keys.
"I came up to make sure you had towels," Daniel said, his voice expressing a bit of embarrassment at the whole fiasco.
The first thing Matthew did was flop onto his bed to rest once he'd finished getting a tour of the place and bringing his bags inside. He stared up at the ceiling of the tiny room where he was to stay for the next month. Unlike some of the rooms, which could accommodate whole families, his had just a double bed and small dresser.
True, he didn't really need more than the essentials to survive, but still, he almost felt as though he was in some sort of... institution. Like college.
There was a window beside the bed that looked out over the yard next door. It seemed to be some sort of business, but Matthew couldn't tell more than that from a distance. The bed was made up with two thick blue blankets, the top one of which resembled ugly curtains more than a quilt. There was a stack of striped towels and washcloths on top of the dresser, as well, which must have been the ones Daniel had delivered earlier.
After he slept, Matthew decided, he would shower.
Still, he couldn't sleep right away. The room was painted a bright white and with the window open, a soft breeze blew in from outside. It was noisier than home, but that was to be expected.
One of the white, gauzy curtains kept fluttering over him, almost ghost-like with its dancing movements. They were lacy at the bottom, and the design of tiny flowers had Matthew transfixed for a moment. The curtains seemed old and he wondered if the tiny flowers had all been created by hand.
Audra had sewn, but nothing more complex than bits of her own clothing, and that had been done with a machine. She was an earthy person, the type who recycled everything she could and was a member of the campus Earth Day committee.
Matthew hadn't been around on Earth Day. By then he'd been home, celebrating the night before Earth Day by silently being thankful the store he worked at managed to recycle at least the cardboard boxes they used. At least Audra had taught him a handful of things about the environment.
For a minute he thought about getting up and looking for an internet cafe so he could e-mail Audra and let her know he'd arrived safely at his destination. But that, he thought, would go somewhat against the entire point of his trip. He wanted to have as little contact with his normal existence in order to reflect on it.
"Shit!" Matthew sat up and grabbed his jacket from the end of the bed. His cell phone was in the right pocket and he quickly unlocked the keys and dialed home. He did, of course, have to call his mother.
It was evening by the time Matthew woke up. After talking to both his mother and Emily, he'd drifted off to the sounds of the city singing in through his window. His sleep had been light and dreamless - he felt more as though he was just blinking and suddenly it was hours later.
The lights were starting to come on outside, causing Matthew to look around cautiously for any that might be red. He saw none at the moment, but that meant little.
His stomach rumbled lightly, but after a quick sniff of his underarms, he decided he did need to bathe before going out into the world. Driving always made him sweat, and driving to a new location only made that worse. Especially in a warm car with the windows up in the rain.
After a moment to gain his bearings, Matthew stood up and started digging through his suitcases to find what he needed. A moment later he realized it would be easier to just unpack everything now, quickly, than to keep digging every time he wanted something.
As he looked at some of his clothing choices, he felt a little silly. Most of his clothing had come from the store he worked at, off of the clearance racks. It was all pitifully casual and Matthew hoped no one would think him too crass for wearing little besides jeans and plain-colored t-shirts.
When his bags were empty, Matthew stowed them under his bed and then picked through the dresser for clean underwear and his robe which he'd stuck in a drawer instead of hanging it on the bank of hooks he hadn't noticed at first. A striped towel and greenish washcloth quickly joined the pile and Matthew tucked it all under his arm and headed to the hallway.
Daniel had told Matthew to always keep his door locked, but Matthew wasn't concerned for the twenty minutes or so it would take him to bathe. He tossed his set of keys into his jacket and closed the door behind him.
The bathroom was four doors down, just before the kitchen and the communal lounge room.
Matthew winced when he got to it, as he'd forgotten it had only a larger claw-footed bathtub sitting to one side without a shower in site. The tub did have one of those detachable wand-like plastic things at the tap to make the process easier though, yet it did little to comfort Matthew. Well, he'd get used to it.
As he closed and locked the door, he started wondering just when the last time he'd taken a bath actually had been. He couldn't remember a time before showers, really. Emily had always liked baths more than he had.
Probably elementary school, Matthew decided, unless of course for some reason hot tubs count as baths. He'd been in a few of those over the years, but they weren't really baths. They were... hot tubs. At hotels, while on family vacations.
He turned on the water and ran it until it got warm enough to be a reasonable bath. Once he stoppered the tub, Matthew realized it would take awhile to fill.
Still, Daniel had told him that he was alone on the top floor for a few days, so Matthew knew he wasn't exactly hogging the bathroom.
The only reading material available in the bathroom was a copy of 'Advices & Queries', a Quaker supplement to teachings. At the moment, it was about the last thing he wanted to see. It wasn't anything personal, but... he didn't want to feel forced.
The room was getting warm despite the window being open, which was a bit of a surprise. Matthew set his towel, robe and underwear on a stepstool that sat beside the tub before throwing his washcloth into the water. There was a bar of soap sitting in a dish clipped to the tub and that made Matthew realize he'd forgotten to bring shampoo.
He mentally added it to the list of things to pick up when he went out for dinner and then started removing his clothing. With his shirt off, he walked over to stare out the window for a moment. It faced the opposite direction of his own window, so he had a new view of the cloudy twilight that was falling over the city.
With a slight sigh, Matthew undid his pants and stepped to the toilet. Once finished, he pulled his pants all the way off, removing his socks and underwear with the same motion.
Looking over at the tub before reaching to flush the toilet, Matthew realized it was not even a quarter of the way full.
What was he supposed to do now?
He put the seat and lid down on the toilet and sat down, thankful that it was covered by a fluffy teal cover.
The first thought he had was to do the usual - masturbate. However the idea seemed a little weird being as he was in a new place and not even currently in his assigned space. Still, before the end of the month he was bound to need to release a little bit of his strangely existent but non-sexual sexual energy.
Suppressing a shiver as he leaned back against the toilet tank, Matthew thought back to a time a few years ago when he'd tried to see if he could get away with masturbating in every room of his parents' house. The idea had come from some television show he'd seen where the lead couple was trying to have sex in every room of their house, only to be interrupted by madcap hijinks. He'd only been about fourteen, but it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
His room and both of the house's bathrooms had been simple. Those had been first. The living room had been easy too, achieved underneath a blanket while lying on the sofa half-watching a movie late one weekend. The dining room had almost gotten him caught. His mother had gotten up for a drink of water and found him sitting at the table with his robe open. Luckily he'd grabbed one of Emily's short stories from the middle of the table and had pretended to be reading it, oblivious to his near-nudity.
Afterwards, he'd been too shaken to continue and had slunk back to his room defeated. The next day though, with his mother shopping with Emily and his father helping a friend with some household project, Matthew found himself alone for the day with the entire house at his disposal. Instead of attempting to conquer the dining room again, he went for the potentially tougher rooms.
First off was his parents' room. He'd actually gotten rather aroused as he lay on their bed, naked and quickly stroking himself. It had nothing to do with his parents, he wasn't even thinking about them. Instead it was the sheer thrill of doing something so purely incorrect.
It was the first real time he'd thought about sex with another man, too. Or, more correctly, sex involving anal penetration. At the time he'd thought that was something only gay men did, so as he slipped a semen-slicked finger between his buttocks after he'd come, he figured he was doing something even more objectionable than it actually was.
He hadn't been able to actually penetrate himself, however he'd traced his fingers along the soft, puckered flesh and almost cried out at how downright good it felt. He'd quickly pulled his fingers away then and swore never to do that again. To have it feel so good - that certainly meant he was gay and he was at the age where that was just not a good idea.
Back in the present, sitting on the fluffy teal toilet lid at Quaker House in Toronto, Matthew realized he was working on a partial erection just from reliving some of his more bizarre adventures in sexuality. Bizarre? He felt weird thinking that. More than anything, he was inexperienced and unsure as to whether or not his experiences were normal. He wasn't just going to up and ask Tyler if Tyler ever played with his own ass.
That gave Matthew the beginning of a very delicious mental picture, but Matthew quickly shook it away.
"If I'm going to fantasize about guys, it can't be anyone I know." The words were quiet but firm.
Instead of conjuring another mental image though, Matthew stared at the half-filled tub and slid down just a bit so he could comfortably take his erection in hand. He used the few drops of moisture gathered on the end as lubrication to slide his hand back and forth.
It was almost automatic at times. When he did this, it was almost safer not to think, not to ponder things at all, not to think of Audra or Tyler or anyone at all. It was just a motion, just something that would make him feel better for a little while, make him not feel so lost. Or more lost. It didn't matter though as pleasure washed over him.
In a moment of spontaneity, he slid down a bit more and spread his legs, reaching the hand not wrapped around his erection down to touch the opening he found. It was as he remembered, soft and puckered, and Matthew closed his eyes as he traced the circle of skin, still unable to go farther but very much enjoying that he was able to get this far.
As usual, he snapped his eyes open in time to watch as he ejaculated. It wasn't so much a distance thing as his semen more poured over his hand for a couple seconds. The heat always surprised him for some reason. No matter how often he touched himself, the heat always surprised him. The tub was almost full by the time Matthew got to his feet and without bothering to clean his hands or thighs, he stood and went to the tub.
He reached down to turn off the tap and after it was secured down to a slight drip, he dropped his hand into the hot water to test the exact temperature.
It was warm, but not as scalding hot as he was possibly expecting. Somehow he'd gotten the water to the perfect temperature to bathe in.
Slowly, Matthew eased himself in, and once he was as submerged as he was going to get, he leaned back against the edge of the tub and closed his eyes. The next item on his list of things to buy was bubble bath. Not the girly kind, but something simple. That had to exist somewhere.
The tub wasn't quite big enough for Matthew to sprawl out. Instead either too much of his upper body or his knees had to stick out of the tub at any given time. That didn't bother Matthew so much as the fact that he was really going to miss proper showers, something he'd just realized.
Still, through some twisted logic, he simply assumed it was part of the process of reflecting upon himself. Yes, this was all just part of the process.
He cleaned himself thoroughly with the bar of soap and attempted to use it to clean his hair as well. With the detachable spray nozzle, he was able to rinse it decently well and actually, his hair didn't feel that bad for it. As long as he found conditioner soon, he didn't think it would even be an issue.
Back in his room, dry and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Matthew grabbed his jacket and one of the maps Daniel had given him. He didn't think he'd go too far this first night, but he was exceptionally awake and he'd already explained his usual schedule to Daniel.
Remembering to lock all the doors behind him, Matthew suddenly found himself standing outside Quaker House in the cool evening air of early fall.
For just a split second, it was almost as though the world lay before him, instead of just a sprawling city.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!