In the course of edits, things change. This scene at this length didn’t make it into the final book, though a much shorter version did. Dwight is a secondary character, although he does get a few POV scene, and good things happen to him.
But it’s still kind of fun and I thought I’d share. Jon and Ricky have just *coughbrokenupcough* and Jon needs to be somewhere else in the worst way when Dwight attracts his attention by being shlumpy and uncool.
Never in his wildest dreams had Dwight considered monopolizing Jon’s attention over Ricky.
Then again, he was only a pawn in Lover’s Spat 1.2, second level.
“First we find you some better glasses and a haircut,” Jon decreed in the elevator. “Is that prescription current?”
“Yes.” The optometrist had tried to get him to switch frames, but these fit his face so well, Dwight had resisted. He steeled himself to parting with them at last on the cab ride to Jon’s first destination, an optical shop.
“Try these.” Jon handed him another set of frames with small, rectangular lenses. “I don’t care if they feel weird; you’ll get used to them.” Dwight tried them on and turned. “Do you like the wire or the tortoise better? Because that’s the only choice you get.” He’d confiscated Dwight’s aviators and made sure the staff had run back to the lab to get the prescription from the lenses.
“Uh….” He had no idea which he liked better—they were both too strange on his face and he couldn’t really see himself in the mirror.
“Get both.” Jon handed the frames to the optician who waited on them with a slightly glazed look. Dwight understood exactly—Jon in “force of nature” mode was only to be obeyed. “Take care of this for us, please.” Dwight peered myopically at the credit card slip he had to sign. The total made him gulp but he wasn’t about to argue. “Ready in an hour? Fine, we’ll be back. Come on, Dwight.”
But his glasses were still back in the—too late. Jon had dragged him out the door and hailed another cab. “Haircut. Emil will fit you in.” Dwight had to trust Jon to get him to their next destination, a place he could only identify by the amount of time they spent in the cab; he couldn’t see anything at a distance. Jon’s guiding hand on his arm had to be for mercy—he’d bumped into a bicycle rack once—but the touch burned. Dwight allowed himself to dream that it was an affectionate hand, even if it guided him into a hushed shop that smelled of chemicals and screamed “expensive.”
“Ah, Jon, back so soon? Was all not satis—?” The slender man in the white smock did a double take; Dwight could detect motion quite well.
“A good styling for my friend, and a shave, please, Emil.”
With no more than that, Dwight was fed into the machine of the shop, tilted, shampooed, snipped, tilted again and his face wrapped in a hot, wet towel with only his nose showing before getting fragrant cream slathered on and dangerous weapons held to his neck. He tried to breathe shallowly and trust that the hand wielding the straight razor knew its business. He hadn’t noticed any blood on the floor when they came in, but he couldn’t see much, either. The incredible smoothness that greeted his questioning hand once he’d been returned to the upright and unmutilated position told him he’d been shaved by a master. The tab he signed meant he wouldn’t be treating himself to such indulgences often, but he could certainly get a sharper blade to use at home. Maybe that could entice someone—Jon, even?—to stroke his chin for the pleasure. As for his hair, he had to let Jon’s approving comments be the mirror he couldn’t see.
“Clothing now.” Jon dragged Dwight around the corner and into a storefront with screaming neon “SALE! SALE! SALE!” on the glass.
Surprised that the cut-rate store didn’t give Jon an asthma attack, Dwight peered at the racks. “Huh?”
“Shmatas for exercise—sweat goes on cheap shirts just fine.” Jon insisted Dwight buy shorts too. Dwight hoped Jon would never see him wear them. “Now for business wear.”
“Are you going to dress me like a doll while I’m blind, or can we go back and get my glasses?” Dwight objected when Jon stuffed him into another cab.
“Considering how you dress when you can see, we can do without them.” He took mercy and directed the cab back in the direction they’d come. “You do need to see details and what to look for on your own.” But Dwight’s newly restored vision through strange small lenses didn’t help him make sense of the racks and racks of clothing marked with names he associated with glossy magazines that he didn’t read. Jon had dragged him into a store he’d never entered.
“Look, now.” Jon pulled three shirts off the shelves. “Collar shape matters. This one’s too casual for your needs, this one doesn’t go with the sort of knot you put in your tie, and see how the points face on this one? Buy this kind. Size.” Dwight wanted to shrink under Jon’s critical inspection, aimed now at neck and down, only because from neck up had been sartorially rearranged to Jon’s satisfaction and Dwight’s inability to recognize himself. “Ahem!”
Dwight stood straighter—he’d let the very first injunction slip, but worked on owning his space. Jon nodded approvingly and motioned the sales clerk over. “A little help in sizing?” There would have to be some paybacks for that—the man whipped out a tape measure and applied it here and there, including to diameters that Dwight had never measured, figuring his waist would be calibrated in light years. Jon didn’t seem to notice, though, only consulting with the clerk about yokes and flare.
“The only reason we’re even looking at ready-to-wear shirts is because I saw your face back at the barber shop.” Jon piled another shirt into the stack Dwight was holding. “A custom shirt is about two and a half times the cost but it will look and wear infinitely better. I’ll take you to the tailor after the next bonuses come out, okay?”
Dwight nodded, grateful that his real estate dreams wouldn’t be pushed back more than a year after this shopping excursion. He’d consoled himself that it would only be six months, but that was before Jon led him to the racks of suits.
“There are custom suits in your future, Dwight, you are going to dress like what you want to be, which is successful hedge fund trader, right?” Jon pointed an arrow into Dwight’s aspirations. “You are no longer going to dress like a starving college student who doesn’t know which end of the iron to hold. You do have a good shirt laundry near home, right? And a tailor shop, for all those alterations you’re going to need?” He smacked a playful hand against Dwight’s upper arm. “You want cool, you’re going to sweat for it. Oh, and lose the computer tie.”
Great. Dwight had supple thumbs from the gaming, but sweating, ugh. That was the first real downer in getting Jon’s attention. And he liked that tie.
A fresh round of “dress-up” ensued; Jon and the clerk barely asked Dwight his opinions, handing him jackets and eyeing the results when he put them on, though Jon did give him a quick lesson in why the number of buttons and vents mattered. “No double breasted or four-button jackets for you—they’ll make you look like a tank.” Jon waved away a jacket with big points on the upper lapels. “At least one but better two vents to go over your butt.” He examined that area critically. Dwight cringed internally but refrained from changing his posture. He’d wanted Jon to inspect his butt, just not in public.
“These three.” Jon left Dwight in the hands of the tailor, to be marked, pinned, and relieved of large sums of money. He returned with handfuls of bright silk. “And these.”
“Jon!” Dwight protested. His credit card would surely go up in flames if he tried to use it again.
“You need them.” Pulling out his own wallet, Jon paid for the ties, earning a sideways look from the clerk. Dwight wondered if he should accept it as a gift or try to pay Jon back. He had no idea how to even broach the subject.
“I’m going to get mugged on the train twice a week dressed like this.” Dwight liked the new improved him he’d seen in the mirror, and grieved that the suits’ alterations wouldn’t be done until the following week, although it meant he had less to drag home at the moment. “Starting with tonight—all these bags with the fancy logos.”
“Own your space; the odds go down right there if you don’t look like a target. Or put the Barney’s bags inside the shmata bag.” Jon glanced at his watch. “I’m starved; if we find some dinner, you can catch a cab back later.
His belly had been making suggestions for some time; Dwight was ready to go along with that. “There’s a McDonalds one corner over.”
“Dwight, just because it’s there doesn’t mean that’s where we eat.” Jon shuddered. “Part of your new coolness is knowing about a lot of different things. Ever had tapas?”
“No….” Dwight had heard the word.
“You’re in for some education with dinner.” His mentor pulled a shirt out of the shopping bag to hand to the clerk. “Steam the wrinkles out of this for my friend.”
Redressed and knowing he looked almost good enough to be mistaken for Jon’s date, aside from some flab that he resolved to lose in the shortest time possible, Dwight strode out of the department store feeling like he might even come back without his escort.
Dinner was crisp mouthfuls of things he had no name for, velvety bites of tanginess and barely recognizable tidbits spiced in ways Dwight had never met. “This is quick coolness 101,” Jon explained, sending the waiter back for another couple of dishes that they’d share. “It doesn’t matter if you really understand what you’re getting, as long as you don’t try to talk dueling chorizos.”
“Not that I would.” Dwight mopped up some sauce with a bit of bread. “You keep ordering a couple things at a time until you’re full?”
“Pretty much,” Jon agreed and then shifted his lecture to their fellow diners. “See that man? He’s on an expense account—he’s here impressing clients; you can tell from the way he’s hemming and hawing, and oh, there’s his assistant, doing the bow and scrape, trying to please everyone, make them comfortable, and the clients haven’t decided to buy whatever those guys are selling.” Not a word of the conversation carried as far as their table, but Dwight agreed with Jon’s assessment.
“He’s not owning his space,” Dwight commented, his eyes on the set of the other man’s shoulders.
“He’s too low on the totem pole to have much space, but if he doesn’t start owning what little he’s got, he’ll never get more.” Jon ate another bite of something he’d ordered as “pulpo” that had a distressing number of suckers on tiny tentacles. Dwight hesitated before popping one in his mouth. Delicious.
“But you can tell a lot about what’s going on with other people from the body language, so you have to project what you want them to see.” Jon went on, “Your coolness goes along with it. It’s acting, but after a while you start believing it.”
Confidence and no trace of pain might be what Jon had been projecting all night, but now the little slump and unguarded expression broke his act. It was gone almost more quickly than it had come, and Dwight sat again with a man who had no further concern than that the beer and the tapas harmonized. They talked far into the evening.
Dwight at last looked at his watch. “I suppose I could catch a cab now, it’s late. The train will take me close to an hour to get home from here, and I’ve got all this stuff.”
Jon yawned. “You can stay at my place if you want; it’s about ten minutes’ walk.”
Hell yes! “Thanks, I will.” Of course Jon was too suave to make any kind of overt pass in the restaurant, but Dwight spent the one long block and three short blocks walking tall, unprompted, and hoping there might be more invitations once they were indoors again. If it was only a move to level three in Lovers’ Spat 1.2, he’d take it anyway.
But no, once they were at Jon’s apartment and Dwight had admired the night view, Jon tossed sheets, blankets, and a pillow at the couch. “It’s a little short, but comfortable enough for sleeping.”
All the confidence drained out of Dwight, slumping his shoulders. Jon noticed. “The offer really was for a place to sleep.”
“It’s okay, I just thought… maybe you had more to show me?” Dwight wanted to put his arms around Jon, kiss him, touch him, maybe demonstrate some skills that didn’t require coaching.
“Not in bed.” Pity was not the look he wanted from Jon, damn it! “Good night.” The door shut behind Jon, the click of the latch ending the evening.