Tell Me One True Thing
Isak likes Wednesdays because his shift ends at 20:00, which means he can spend at least four hours smoking on Jonas’ couch before eventually getting kicked out when Eva gets there — a warm thought currently keeping him going through a rather bleak and unremarkable day.
“Your total is 239 kroner,” he tells a tall woman with tired blue eyes.
Isak doesn’t usually pay attention to the color of random customers’ eyes, but he’s always had a penchant for blue, icy blue.
He watches her rummage through her purse looking for a wallet, a shallow and professional smile never leaving his face. He feels self-conscious about it at random times, wondering if others can tell just how fake it is, his smile, but he eventually drops it. Nobody cares. Everybody’s faking everything anyway.
“Found it!” the woman exclaims as she pulls out her credit card, prompting Isak to smile a bit wider.
“Take your time,” he says, briefly glancing at the following customer in line and wondering if they’re as annoyed as he is. He hates it when people wait until the register to pull out their cards.
She smiles at him before completing her transaction, and Isak can feel her features melt inside his brain, adding themselves to the list of countless faces he greets every day then forgets moments later.
He can count the ones he’s bothered remembering on the fingers of one hand. All very distinct or attached to some aggravating incident. Like that woman with the long nose who made a fuss a few months ago over an order he might have messed up due to exhaustion, almost getting him fired in the middle of exam season. Or that random American actor from some TV show Isak could barely remember who had been the subject of a quick accidental jerk-off session when he was too lazy to look up some actual porn after a long night of studying.
Isak shudders at the memory: stuttering in front of a B-list actor who probably didn’t get paid enough, at least judging by his carry-on tag which indicated that he flew with Norwegian Airlines. He was probably headed to some big city in Europe with a layover in Oslo. Why else would he fly to Norway?
Why am I thinking about this?
“Thank you,” says the woman whose features he can no longer discern, the blue in her eyes not nearly enough to linger in his brain for more than a few moments.
“Thank you for choosing Everyday Kitchen. Have a pleasant flight.”
Isak’s shift is almost over. Six more minutes. Einar is already in his uniform, ready to take over, and Hanna is almost done packing Isak dinner in the kitchen—which will end up in Jonas’ belly because his best friend is seemingly the only person in the world who actually loves airport food.
His coworkers always wonder why he insists on taking food home every night when he hates it so much. Isak shrugs, “It’s for my dog.”
Isak doesn’t have a dog. He has Jonas.
He feels bad now.
“It’s actually for my friend,” he says.
“We know, Isak. You may not talk much about yourself, but I’m sure the whole world knows about your friend Jonas.”
One minute until the end of his shift, and Isak is already daydreaming about the bus ride back home, about his forehead bumping against the hard glass when he ultimately dozes off with his headphones on.
One more customer.
Just one more.
“Welcome to Everyday Kitchen. What would you like today?” Isak delivers hastily, barely sparing the customer a glance.
The first thing that registers when he takes him in is the blue in his eyes. The second, the timber in his voice.
“Uh, hello,” Isak replies, feeling his throat tighten a little bit around the word.
The young man smiles and Isak has to look away for a moment. He is stunning. Isak doesn’t have a type, but if he were to have one, it would be this guy. His face is almost upsetting, too symmetrical, too perfect.
Isak scrambles to forget, but the young man’s features are branded in his memory now. It’s irreversible. Isak knows when a face won’t leave his mind. Perhaps he can add it to the “late night lonely self-pleasuring session” folder.
Einar nudges him and gets him out of his daze.
“What can I get for you today?” Isak asks the blue-eyed traveler with more confidence and cool in his voice. He notices that he’s carrying a large backpack and an additional small item. He’s only traveling with his carry-on, Isak deduces. He probably doesn’t live in Oslo then, and he’s probably only visited for a short while. Or perhaps he does live in Oslo and he’s one of those minimalistic travelers who roam the world with only a backpack, the ones that make Youtube videos about backpacking in Asia and who are clearly privileged but love to brand themselves as broke and adventurous.
Isak hates those travelers the most. Even more than the people on business trips in their tight expensive suits who never put their phones down, not even to order.
“What do you recommend?” the stranger smiles and Isak resists the urge to roll his eyes. He usually despises customers who try to chat, who think they’re important enough for an actual conversation at the register while others are waiting right behind. “I’m not a big fan of airport food. I’d like your sincere input on what’s edible in your kitchen.”
Isak blinks at him again. He can’t quite figure out if this guy is being condescending or friendly.
“I’m paid to tell you that everything is edible in our kitchen,” Isak replies, feeling Einar’s eyes burn into the side of his face. Whatever. His shift has technically ended twenty seconds ago.
“What if I give you a huge tip you to tell me what you really think of your kitchen, Isak?” he smiles again.
Isak is stunned. And it takes him a moment to recall that he’s wearing his name tag. What a dick, he thinks. This is probably some rich kid who thinks he’s funny and interesting and who gets a kick out of having random conversations with restaurant and retail workers by using their name tags. He probably has a blog where he’ll write about this later. He’s probably in some groupchat with other rich assholes. Isak won’t give him interesting answers. He refuses to be a quirky random footnote in someone’s exciting day.
“Thai Curry is pretty good,” Isak replies nonchalantly. He can’t risk getting in trouble with customers again, not after the woman with the long nose incident. He doesn’t exactly enjoy his side job, but he doesn’t really wish to get fired. Or worse, be placed back in dishwashing duty. Besides, Thai Curry is pretty awful. It will serve him right.
“Yeah?” the guy asks and he’s smiling again, his soft hair framing his face rather nicely.
“Thai Curry it is.”
“Excellent choice,” Isak replies as he punches a few buttons on the screen and prompts the young man to scan his card. “Take this buzzer with you. It will vibrate when your food’s ready.”
“I know how this thing works. I’ve been to food courts before, Isak.”
A smile. Condescending.
“I’m sure you have, sir,” Isak replies, leaving at that. He could think of something witty to say. But his shift has already ended and he doesn’t want to miss the bus he usually takes -- because he would then have to ride with Lars who always makes him sit too close and who keeps talking when Isak would rather be napping against the window.
The customer pays with a credit card he’s not used to seeing, and Isak has to keep himself from sighing out loud when the machine tells him that he has to collect this guy’s signature. It’s like the universe is conspiring against him and wants him to miss his bus. He can’t recall the last time he’s had to ask a customer for their signature. It’s probably an international card. This guy really doesn’t live in Oslo. But then who cares.
“Could you please sign here?” says Isak, not really looking at the young man before him but feeling him smile and stare. He’s staring at Isak so hard, it’s taking him everything not to call him out or roll his eyes, or worse: stare right back.
Isak doesn’t engage. He’s learned his lesson the hard way. Some people are simply pretty to look at, and they should remain just that: a pretty thing to look at. Isak gets turned off by almost everybody once they start talking, and this guy is already there.
“Thank you,” says Isak as he retrieves the receipt from the traveler who is now smiling wide, his head tilting a bit to the side. Isak does his best not to react when their fingers brush. “Your food should be ready soon.”
The young man walks away and Isak finally lets out a sigh before gesturing for Einar to come take his spot.
“What was that?” Hanna snorts, handing him Jonas’ packed dinner.
“Your occasional Asia backpacker asshole who thinks he’s better than us boring souls who have regular side jobs and go to regular schools,” Isak shrugs, making his way to the backroom to get out of his apron and uniform.
“I wouldn’t call Med school regular school. Besides, it sounded to me like he was flirting with you.”
Flirting with me? With that face? Right.
“Yeah, I’m not into those dicks who believe they’re saving the world by playing footie with kids from a foreign country for thirty seconds on instagram.”
“Wow. You got all of that in the short ten seconds it took you to take his order?” Hanna asks, amused. She likes listening to Isak profiling random customers the most.
“It’s like written on his forehead.”
“Right. I was too busy staring at the rest of him to notice.”
“Weirdo,” Isak huffs out a laugh then disappears into the changing room to gather his things before coming back out again. “Alright. I’m off, losers.”
“Uhm. Isak. I think you might wanna check the receipt your last customer signed,” Einar tells him when he’s about to dip, a visible smile on his large face.
“Did he forget to sign or something?” Isak frowns, annoyed.
“Not really. I mean. It could be his signature for all I know.”
“What are you talking about?” Isak sighs, making his way back to the empty register to check the receipt.
He blinks at it. Reads the words carefully scribbled where the signature should be a few more times.
‘You’re hot <3’
Isak’s cheeks flush instantly. And he’s not quite sure if he’s embarrassed about Einar reading the words, or if he’s flattered a stranger would call him hot, or if he’s angry a random rich kid assumed he would be interested in such advances in the first place.
Isak has gotten over the internalized homophobia plague, but some of it lingers underneath his skin. Do I scream ‘gay’? Would a guy do this to Hanna? Do guys assume I’m desperate enough for this? Why would he put me on the spot like this? Is he actually interested or is this some fucked up game to this guy? Does he go around the world hitting on guys working the register at 24/8 airport food courts?
Isak is still over-analyzing the situation in his head when Hanna snaps him out of it.
“Told you,” she sneers, looking smug and amused. And Isak hopes his face isn’t too red.
“I bet it’s for you,” Isak replies. “This screams hetero culture to me.”
“What does that even mean?” Hanna barks out a laugh.
“Well, if it were for me, it would have said something like ‘meet me in the restroom by the E Gates for a quickie’ .”
“A lot of words to put on a receipt.”
“Gay culture. We can make it fit,” Isak replies with a wide smile. He can’t help but laugh along when she does.
He’s not sure why he keeps playing out the gay stereotypes, but he figures he’d rather do that than have someone else do it for him. Granted, his coworkers probably think he takes part in gay orgies and goes out dancing every night—a stretch, given that he’s barely kissed a guy and is too busy studying and lying to everyone he meets to do anything—but he doesn’t mind.
“Well, I’m afraid you are very wrong, Valtersen,” Hanna says. “Because the backpacking asshole is picking up his food right now and he’s very much staring at you.”
Isak turns around so fast that he hears his neck snap, and he finds the stranger staring at him indeed. He looks amused, endeared. He knows Isak has read the receipt.
Isak looks down, his cheeks ablaze, his brows furrowed. He refuses to be toyed with.
He picks up his backpack and eyes the exit on the other end of the register. He waves goodbye at the other employees cleaning the tables and tries to focus on the fact that he’ll soon be on the bus.
He’s about to round a corner, and he knows he shouldn’t turn around and give that smug asshole the satisfaction. But he can’t help it.
Isak turns around and finds the blue-eyed stranger looking at him from a distance. He’s holding his tray in one hand and using his other one to wave at Isak with a smug and knowing smile.
He might be toying with him. He’s probably toying with him. And Isak promised himself, he will never be toyed with again.
Isak doubts he’ll see him again which is why he tells Jonas about him over weed.
“What the hell, man? Why did you run away?” Jonas frowns.
“Didn’t want to ride the shitty bus with Lars,” Isak shrugs, lets his head fall off the couch, his curls an even bigger mess when he’s hanging upside down.
“Are you sure it’s not because of something else?”
“Alright, maybe I freaked a little bit,” he says. “I mean what if he turned out to be a psycho? Or like what if he was a youtuber or some rich asshole experimenting?”
The silence is comfortable and Jonas’ thoughts are loud. Isak likes listening to Jonas thinking the most.
“Isak, not everyone is out there doing pranks and trying to make your life miserable.”
The words sting. They sting more than the burn around his throat, a self-inflicted conundrum when he inhaled too much. Jonas is referring to his unconventional coming out story. To Isak signing up for Grindr on one lonely night after a few beers, chatting up the first person who messaged him, revealing that he went to Nissen, sending racy pictures, then realizing the next day that it was straight guys from his class who thought it would be funny to sign up for Grindr and check who’s ‘ into dick’ at their school.
Amazing coming out strategy. Isak didn’t even have to say a word. Jonas came over with weed later when he stopped hyperventilating and punching the wall, and Isak let him in.
“I’m gay,” said Isak and he still remembers the relief that washed over him when the words were out.
By the end of the week, some girl asked him if he was gay, and Isak shrugged and replied with: “Yeah, so? It’s 2017.”
“I don’t want to risk shit biting me in the ass again,” Isak admits.
“It didn’t have to,” Jonas sighs. “All this guy knew about you was your first name. You could have hooked up with him and left it at that. You said he was traveling. He was probably looking for something light and fun. Nobody has time to scheme that much at the airport.”
Isak didn’t think he’d see him again. No, really. If he had, he would have never used his face to fuel and spice up his lonely time in bed.
He fantasized about him quite a lot if he’s being honest. But it’s not exactly his fault. The young man had a beautiful face and he did blatantly hit on him at the airport, and the fact that they could have hooked up in the restrooms by the D gates keeps him going late at night.
“Do you think Even Bech Næsheim will ever come back?” Hanna asks him a few weeks later. It’s quite dead during this time. Not many flights are scheduled, so they have time to chat.
“You don’t know that’s his name!” Isak protests.
“It was on his credit card receipt!”
“So? It could be his father’s card.”
“He looks old enough to have his own card and his own money.”
Isak shrugs. He won’t admit it, but he almost looked him up online one time after spending a daunting evening with Jonas and Eva. They were so loving and affectionate with each other that Isak couldn’t help but feel lonely and miserable. He doesn’t believe in love and romance, but he wouldn’t mind entertaining the silly thought just once.
“Whatever. We’re not seeing him again,” Isak tells Hanna. “The probability of him flying through Oslo Gardermoen airport, getting food at Everyday Kitchen again when the food is garbage, and all of that coinciding with our shift is almost nonexistent.”
Isak shoots himself in the foot again. Because a few minutes later, the very voice that calls him ‘perfect’, moans ‘faster’, and whispers the filthiest things into his ear in his wildest fantasies materializes before him.
“Hello,” says the blue-eyed stranger.
“Hello,” Isak replies coolly, digging his index finger into his thumb behind his back to anchor himself. “Welcome to Everyday Kitchen. What can I get for you today?”
The young man looks good, like really good. He’s wearing a white t-shirt, a snapback, and dark jeans. He’s not carrying as much luggage this time around.
Isak realizes that he’s forgotten how pointy his teeth are and how his eyes crinkle when he smiles. He’ll make sure to put these details to use in his mind.
“Anything but the Thai Curry,” the customer smiles. “That was kind of garbage last time. I’m still hurt, by the way.”
He remembers me.
“Oh, uhm. We’re sorry to hear that you haven’t previously enjoyed food here,” Isak blabbers, wracking his brain for the usual speech they give difficult returning customers. “We have suggestion slips that you can fill out to give our manager feedback on the food.”
“Suggestion slips?” Another smile. “Are you trying to get me to write you a poem this time?”
Isak feels himself getting hot again. He can’t quite believe this guy.
“Sir, I can give you some time to think if you’re not ready to order,” Isak retorts, looking away and hoping the next customer in line won’t make a scene or accuse him of flirting at work.
“As much as I like you calling me ‘Sir’, Even is fine.”
Was that a sexual joke?
Even—it feels weird to really give him that name now. Not that it doesn’t suit him, but Isak has spent weeks trying to convince himself that his name is NOT Even—smiles and Isak feels annoyed and hot all over at once.
“May I take your order, Even?” Isak puts emphasis on the name.
“I’ll have a Burger with fries,” says Even. “Thank you, Isak.”
Even walks away and Isak waits until he has his back turned to check the receipt.
‘When does ur shift end?’
Is this really happening.
Even comes back to return the buzzer and retrieve his burger with a giddy smile, and Isak doesn’t know what to do. He’s flustered but overjoyed that this is happening. He has exactly no experience getting it on with strangers in bathrooms, but he doesn’t think he minds the plausibility. Jonas says that he should experience things more, that comfort is good but doing something adventurous sometimes is good for the soul.
“So what do you think?” Even asks him at the register, both hands on his tray.
“My flight is in four hours.”
Four hours. His shift ends soon. He wouldn’t have to waste his break time. He could just ask him to wait for him.
“Why would you come to the airport four hours before your flight?” Isak asks.
“Was hoping I’d find you.”
Fuck. This guy came to the airport four hours before his flight just to hook up with him. Isak can’t tell if he’s flattered or freaked out.
“The airport is not that big. You don’t need four hours to find me,” says Isak.
“True. But I wasn’t sure you’d be working those hours. Besides, I figured you could help me kill some time. If you want,” Even says with a smile, and it still feels weird to refer to him as Even in his head.
Isak’s brain is melting, but this is a golden opportunity. He cannot pass on this. This will get him bragging rights with Magnus and the boys for at least a year. This is epic. Besides, he’s never had a boyfriend, and coming out has been nothing but disappointing so far in terms of prospects.
However, Isak can’t help but feel a little bit scared, too. What if this is actually a serial killer? What if this guy really is a blogger and this whole thing is one giant prank his friends are currently filming? What if he’s currently being filmed and recorded?
Fuck. Just live a little.
“Isak?” Even says his name softly like they know each other, like he isn’t asking him for a quick fuck in the bathroom right now.
“I’m done in fifty-four minutes,” Isak blurts out, hoping his face isn’t as red as he suspects.
Even’s face, on the other hand, lights up and it’s quite a sight.
“I’ll be at the table right at the corner,” Even smiles. “Feel free to join me.”
Isak might have lied a bit. His shift actually ends in twenty-four minutes but he figured he’d need some time to mentally prepare for whatever this is.
Hanna actually makes him take a shot in the kitchen when he tells her what he’s about to do, and he might have downed two or three more just to shake the nerves.
What if he was joking? What if he’s gone and not at the table? What if it’s a cruel prank and they film me looking for him? What if? What if?
The alcohol helps because Isak isn’t sure he would have walked out of the kitchen if it weren’t for the liquid courage.
And Even is there, as promised, on the table at the corner, with sparkling blue eyes and a bright smile.
“Didn’t think you’d come.”
“Anything to collect feedback on Everyday Kitchen, I suppose,” Isak shrugs before claiming the chair in front of Even’s. He hopes he doesn’t look drunk, because he sure feels it.
“You’re still in your work clothes. I thought your shift ended,” Even observes. Truth is Isak didn’t expect this visit today and his shirt might have a hole in it.
“Uhm. Would rather get my uniform dirty than my regular clothes.”
“Dirty?” Even laughs. “You think I’m gonna get you dirty? What kind of feedback session do you think this is?”
“The dirty kind?”
And yes, perhaps those three shots are starting to get to Isak’s head. Perhaps it was more than three. He can’t really tell anymore.
“Well, Isak,” Even laughs. He’s laughing. It’s beautiful. “If anything, I promise you I won’t get any stains on your uniform.”
Stains on my uniform.
This is already the dirtiest conversation he’s ever had with anyone ever.
“Thank you. I appreciate it. I’ll do my best as well.”
They talk, and it could have been awkward, but it isn’t.
Even eats his cold fries while Isak watches. They order a couple of drinks and Isak doesn’t have the heart to tell Even that he’s already tipsy. He doesn’t want him thinking that he’s only charming and flirty because of the alcohol.
Isak learns that Even goes to school in Copenhagen and studies art and film. He comes back to Oslo to see his mother every once in a while, but not nearly enough. He loves dogs and 90s rap and epic romantic movies and traveling. He’s been to eleven countries and he can’t wait to visit more.
Isak nods along and evades most of Even’s questions. He doesn’t really like to talk about himself, mostly because he thinks there’s nothing to tell. He’s nineteen, still a virgin, has barely made it out of the closet as he was robbed of making that decision himself, finally managed to get over his crush on his best friend, goes to med school, has a few friends he would die for, has no money to travel or see the world because he has to pay the woman currently taking care of his mother, and is cynical and lonely.
Of course, Isak doesn’t tell Even any of that. Honesty is not a prerequisite to a hook-up after all. And it’s not like he’s going to see this guy ever again after this.
Yes, he did seek him today, but he doubts he’ll stick around once he sees how inexperienced and weird Isak is.
So he evades his questions, tries to maintain his anonymity just in case it all backfires.
“What’s your last name?” Even asks.
“Escobar,” Isak replies with a grin.
“Isak Escobar? Really?” Even laughs.
“I take it you won’t tell me.”
“I take it you are right.”
Even doesn’t press, thankfully. He’s not offended either, which tells Isak that he’s made the right decision. This guy wants to hook up but probably needs some story to tell later, hence this little chat.
“Do you go to school?” Even asks.
“Here in Oslo?”
“I suppose,” Isak shrugs.
“You’re not gonna tell me anything about yourself?”
“Not anything self-incriminating at least.”
Even laughs again. “What do you think is going on here? Do you think I’m an undercover agent? You think I’m recording you?”
“I’m an Escobar. I always have to be careful,” Isak chuckles. “Nothing personal.”
“So you’re telling me that we’re gonna spend at least two hours together and that you won’t tell me one true thing about yourself?”
“Two hours?” Isak scoffs. “Impressive. I don’t think I can last that long.”
Well. The truth is that Isak is starting to feel confused about Even’s intentions. And while the idea of an attractive stranger simply wanting to get to know him is spreading warmth in his belly, he can’t entertain it for too long. He doesn’t wish to be disappointed later. He’d rather be disappointed now.
Even looks at him for a few seconds, clearly taken aback by Isak’s words which were rather clear: are we banging or what.
He even chokes on his food a bit. And for a moment, Isak wonders if it was all in his head, if Even simply wanted to talk and is now realizing that Isak is only chatting with him with the hope of getting some later.
“Isak, are you—” Even pauses as if trying to come up with the right word and Isak feels his pulse quicken.
“What? Am I what?” he blurts, panicking.
“Are you drunk?” Even’s face breaks into a smile.
“What?” Isak scoffs.
“I’m pretty sure we only had two beers, but I can’t help but ask,” Even smiles again, and Isak feels young and inexperienced again.
“I’m not drunk.”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“Okay, good,” says Even before kicking his chair back a bit and getting up.
“Where are you going?” Isak asks, a bit desperately but oh well. It makes Even laugh at least.
“Restroom,” Even says. “Be right back.”
And then he winks and walks away with his small backpack.
It’s an invitation.
Isak gets up awkwardly, his legs feeling funny and wobbly. This is it. Even is asking him to join him and Isak is going to stop being a scared little shit and join him. Hopefully no one is going to recognize him there. That restroom doesn’t get too much traffic after all. And even then, Isak doesn’t know too many people who work at the airport beside his colleagues at Everyday Kitchen, and they won’t judge him. Isak knows it.
Still, he can’t help but hold his breath as he makes his way to the restroom. This is it.
He finds Even at the urinal, and he only lets out the breath he’s been holding when he smiles at him.
“What are you doing here?” Even laughs, clearly amused while Isak is about to faint from the nerves.
“Figured you wouldn’t mind the company,” Isak says in his most seductive voice as he takes a few steps forward to get to Even, the alcohol in his blood providing him with a foreign sense of last minute confidence.
It’s just the two of them in the restroom. That also helps him calm down a bit.
“I don’t exactly mind it, but I can’t help but feel a bit self-conscious,” says Even. “You know, with my junk being out and all.”
Isak moves a bit closer, lets himself rest against the wall by the urinal—knowing very well that this is very unhygienic and that he’s probably gonna catch something— and takes a peek.
“Your junk is nice,” says Isak and he can’t help the giggle that escapes his mouth. Your junk is nice? Who says that.
“Nice?” Even laughs, now holding himself with his hands, which is probably a good idea given that his whole body is shaking with laughter.
“It’s impressive, actually. Nothing to be self-conscious about. I can assure you.”
“Yeah. It’s very very nice. I’m a big fan of your big junk.”
Fuck. Isak brings both hands to his mouth, covering it. He needs to stop talking.
“Thank you,” Even replies and he’s laughing so hard, Isak can’t keep it together. “Grew it myself.”
Isak bursts into laughter and Even joins him. And he can’t tell how long they laugh for, but next thing he knows Even is washing his hands at the sink and escorting him out of the restroom.
“What are you doing?” Isak protests. “Aren’t we gonna—”
“No, I am not.”
They walk through the Duty Free shop for the longest time, with Even leading the way and touching and smelling and trying everything, and Isak remaining close behind with his water bottle.
Even makes him drink the entire thing, then refills it for a second round.
“I am not a child,” Isak protests.
“Yes, but I’m responsible for two of the drinks you had tonight. It’s the least I could do.”
They curl up in uncomfortable seats around the A gates, in front of a SAS flight headed to Tromsø, and Isak can feel himself doze off a bit. Just a bit. He’s had a long day. He didn’t exactly sleep the previous night and he wasn’t expecting a visit from Mr. wet dream either.
“Do you have another job?” Even asks. He’s sitting next to him, his long legs stretched in front of him.
“You look tired,” Even shrugs. “Like someone who has another job.”
“Is it school? Lots of school work?”
“You won’t tell me a single thing about you? Really?” Even sits upright, moves close enough into Isak’s space that he can smell his cologne.
“Ask me something non-incriminating and maybe we’ll see.”
“Non-incriminating like what?”
“A How or Why question instead of what or where,” Isak explains, the leather of the seat feeling good against his cheek. He’s never downing four shots in a row ever again. “Something qualitative that will tell you about my character but that isn’t traceable or capable of backfiring in my real life. Something you can’t use to find me later, if you will.”
Even stares at him for a few seconds, and he’s spinning. Or maybe Isak’s head is.
“Why do you work at the airport?” says Even.
“Do you like it? Why not in the city? The airport is far. It probably takes you an hour to get here if you don’t take Flytoget.”
“Of course I don’t take flytoget,” Isak scoffs. “That shit is a scam for tourists and people on business trips.”
“Right,” Even chuckles. “Then why the airport? Do you like it?”
“I don’t know. I guess I do.”
“Why not work in Arrivals though? I bet it’s easier since people are less stressed when they land.”
“I don’t like Arrivals,” says Isak.
“Too many happy people reuniting. It’s depressing.”
I guess that counts as one true thing.
“Why is it depressing?” Even asks. “Some people go out of their way to watch reunion videos online because it fills them with joy. What’s depressing about it?”
“The happiness. I guess? The fact that I will never have that? Someone to hold me when I come out of those gates like they’ve missed me so much they couldn’t function. I don’t know.”
Even doesn’t press, thankfully. Isak feels like a broken faucet. He feels like he will spill anything if asked the right way.
“How about departures?” Even asks.
“People crying in each other’s arms and kissing and hugging before parting? No, thank you. It’s almost worse.”
Even is gentle in his silence, Isak realizes. Some silences can be full of judgement and pity. Even’s carries none of that. Empathy. It only carries empathy.
“What about the gates beyond security? Are people emotionally stable there?” Even asks after a few minutes.
“Yes, it’s mostly people waiting for a flight. People order food when they’re done crying or whatever. I deal mostly with people traveling for business, though. Not everyone can afford the shit food we make.”
“So you do admit that it’s shit,” Even laughs.
“Of course I do. It’s awful!” Isak chuckles as well. “I love those guys working the kitchen, but it’s not edible. I don’t get it.”
“Well, thanks for the heads up.”
“To be fair, all airport food is shit. So it’s your fault for waiting until you’re at the gates to eat.”
“Maybe I didn’t want to eat,” Even smiles. “Maybe I just wanted to talk to you.”
Isak only now realizes that they’re sitting quite intimately. Isak curled around the back of the seat, his head on the cushion and Even towering over him, his entire body turned toward him.
It’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to Isak, and he can feel his heart tripping inside his chest. He’s still squirming when they hear the announcement over the speakers.
“This is the last boarding call for SAS flight SK1477 headed to Copenhagen. Mr. Even Bech Næsheim, please proceed immediately to gate D4.”
It takes them both a second to make sense of the announcement, with Even jumping first.
“Oh shit!” he exclaims, throwing his backpack over his shoulder.
“How long have we been talking for? What the fuck?!” Isak stands up as well, helps him gather the random things they bought at Duty Free shop.
“I don’t know.”
They run to the D gates, and Isak isn’t sure why he’s running with him and why he’s so stressed in the first place. But it feels right.
Isak knows the airport like the back of his hand, so he grabs Even’s hand and leads them to gate D4 in record time.
“Mr. Bech Næsheim?” the flight attendant greets them. She looks visibly annoyed as tardy travelers are a crew’s biggest pet peeve.
“Yes, that would be me!” Even pants while he struggles to pull out his boarding pass on his phone.
The lady scans it and Isak barely has time to say anything before Even is being ushered away.
“Wait, wait!” says Even, still panting.
He makes his way past the two flight attendants and quickly throws both arms around Isak, hugging him tight.
It only lasts a second, but it’s the best hug Isak has ever gotten. Even is tall and sturdy and soft, so soft. Isak closes his eyes and breathes him in a little.
“Thanks for keeping me company.”
“You’re, uh, you’re welcome.”
Even leaves and Isak pines.
He doesn’t pine for long and a few months later, Isak gets himself a boyfriend. Nothing too serious. He’s not even sure he should be calling him his boyfriend. He’s just a guy he met through Eskild who sleeps over sometimes at Kollektivet and who helps Isak feel a bit more confident about his skills and his body. He’s not high maintenance either and will take what he can get, but leave Isak alone when he needs to lock himself in to study for exams. It’s a win-win.
Isak didn’t really use Even’s face in his late night lonely endeavors after that lovely evening at the airport. How could he. Even had gone from a mere face to an actual beautiful soul. Isak could never.
Still, when he sees him again, he can’t quite help the heat that engulfs his entire body.
“Even!” Isak exclaims, throwing himself at Even for a side hug without asking, his body acting of its own accord. His shift hasn’t started yet and they’ve just randomly bumped into each other by the ladies room. “How have you been? It’s been months!”
“Isak! How are you? I’ve been well. Thank you.”
The politeness should have been indication enough, but it’s not until a gorgeous blonde emerges from the restroom to press a kiss to Even’s shoulder that Isak understands.
“This is Sonja, my girlfriend.”
“Hi Sonja. I’m Isak.” I once tried to give your boyfriend a blowjob in the men’s room.
They stop by later at Everyday Kitchen and Isak digs his index finger into his thumb behind his back to keep a straight face, to keep the disappointment from showing.
Why am I angry? I have a boyfriend, too.
“We’d like two Burgers with fries please,” says Sonja.
Even insists on paying and it’s not until Isak is prompted to collect his signature that he gets it.
‘Missed u,’ the signature says, and Isak crumples the receipt and keeps it in his pocket.
Isak feels bad on the bus ride back home. He feels bad because his silly little story with Even had been nothing but perfect before this reveal. Has Even had a girlfriend all along? Did he hit on Isak while he was with her? Did he miss Isak as a friend or as something more? Did Isak imagine everything? Is Even actually a terrible person?
Isak doesn’t know but his heart closes itself once again. And the doubts Even awakened in him start making him dread and doubt his poor “boyfriend” as well.
They eventually break up and Isak is left with nothing but his books and his bus rides and his late night self-pleasuring folder.
“Hey Isak. Look who’s back!” Einar half-whispers, half-yells at Isak. It’s four in the goddamn morning.
And he knows it before he sees him. Even. He’s back. In the middle of the night. It’s been months.
“Welcome back. May I take your order—”
“When does your shift end?” Even asks, cutting to the chase with nervousness in his voice. And it’s probably good, because the kitchen is closed anyway.
“In thirty-seven minutes.”
“Meet me by Gate A6?”
“I didn’t think you’d come,” says Even.
“Are you always gonna say these words when I show up to things I already committed to?” Isak shoots back before taking his seat, the same one from last time, when he was a bit younger and a bit more intoxicated.
He’s not drunk tonight, but the exhaustion is wearing him out. He doesn’t usually go for the late shift, but Hanna asked him for this one favor and he couldn’t say no.
“You met my girlfriend,” says Even.
Okay. I guess we’re skipping the bullshit today.
“I did. She’s lovely,” says Isak. “Where is she today?
“I don’t know.”
That could mean many things. It could mean that they’ve just parted and that Even isn’t exactly sure where she is because she’s on her way home from the airport, or it could mean that they’re no longer together, or it could mean that they’re on a break. Isak doesn’t know, but it doesn’t even matter.
His mother isn’t doing so well. His grades have gone down. And Jonas is probably going to move in with Eva. Things haven’t been so great lately, and he doesn’t wish to add airport stranger drama to his troubles.
The silence is awkward and Isak is overwhelmed by a sudden sense of loneliness. He feels so lonely, it’s almost physically painful.
“Sometimes I forget that people are people before I meet them,” Isak blurts out. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but in the moment it does.
“What do you mean?”
“When I meet someone, I forget that they’re not a blank canvas. I forget that they had a life before me. That they have people in their life. That type of thing.”
“I don’t get it—”
“My life is so boring, I just assume that everyone is just like me, you know. A blank canvas waiting to be painted over. I forget that other people ran out of space in their canvas, that I can’t claim some space in theirs.”
Silence again. Except it’s comforting this time. Isak has no idea why Even is here, but it feels like an apology. He’s not sure what he’s apologizing for but it feels nice.
“You can claim space in my canvas,” says Even and his voice is gentle. It feels like a peace offering.
“For real?” Isak smiles. He’s tired but this makes him smile a bit. He’s tired of harboring negative feelings for Even. He’s tired of feeling his heart shrink whenever he walks past the A and D gates.
“Yeah, for real,” Even smiles right back. “You said my junk was nice and big. Of course, you get space.”
That night, they become friends. Isak learns that Even is traveling to Rome at seven in the morning for a film project and that his short films have become quite popular lately. Isak wants to watch them, but Even is too embarrassed and tells him to check it out later when he’s gone.
The airport is empty and strangely peaceful. And when they start walking along the domestic gates, it feels like they’re the only two people left at the airport.
They take the moving walkway once, twice, then start trying to walk on it backwards. It’s silly and stupid, and Isak once judged some stranded travelers who were doing the exact same thing in the middle of the night, but it actually turns out to be fun.
Even’s body is long and lanky, and Isak actually has to hold onto his knees because he can’t stop laughing at his backward walk.
“You’re hurting my feelings right now,” Even warns him, but he’s laughing too.
“I can’t! How do you manage that body of yours? Can you even run?”
Even ends up chasing him until the other end of the A gates, and Isak is sure security will intervene soon, but he couldn’t care less. They eventually go back to the International wing of the airport and Isak lets out a sigh when they cross the automatic doors.
“Why don’t you work in the domestic terminal? Heard the food there is better,” says Even, making Isak roll his eyes.
“Yeah, I might as well work at Oslo S if I work in the domestic wing.”
“What’s wrong with Oslo S?”
“Nothing. It’s just. I don’t know. It’s Norway. It’s Oslo. It’s not an International Zone. It’s boring,” Isak shrugs.
“Once you cross those doors right there, you’re in an International Zone. Meaning this space is governed by International law, not by Norwegian law,” says Isak.
“Huh? Are you sure?”
“Well, maybe after immigration control. But like, yes. This is why you’re in duty free and you don’t pay taxes and stuff,” says Isak.
“You like the International Zone because you like the idea of not paying taxes?” Even smiles.
Isak rolls his eyes again, turns around, shoves both hands in his uniform pockets, and waits for Even to catch up to him.
“No, it’s just that as long as I’m here, I’m nowhere and everywhere at the same time. If I say I’m not in Norway, it’s not a lie. And I think it’s cool. I don’t know.”
Isak would otherwise feel embarrassed admitting his nerdy thoughts to a guy he once fantasized about. But something about Even is oddly comforting, like a fluffy blanket on a cool night, like a journal or a diary, never carrying an ounce of judgement and always all ears.
“You’re the coolest person I know, Isak Escobar. I think you should know that,” says Even.
“Shut up,” Isak laughs, steals a glance then resumes walking again. It feels good to have someone use a superlative for him. He’s never been the “most anything” person for anyone else. It feels nice.
“How does the meme go? ‘Ugh, your mind!’”
“Ugh. I can’t believe I entertained the idea of giving you a blowjob once.”
“You did what?!”
They part by Even’s gate again. The sun is up and Isak is exhausted, and he’s probably going to have to take flytoget if he wants to make it on time for his lecture. But it’s worth it. It’s okay.
They don’t hug this time. They fist bump. Like bros.
“We’re friends now,” Isak jokes.
“Friends. I like it.”
“Have a safe flight, friend.”
They meet again, this time when Even lands, and it gives Isak a little more time. No deadline. No announcement over the speakers for Even to run to his gate.
Even says that he told his mother his plane lands in three hours which gives them time to catch up. And they do.
Isak takes him to one of those fancy airport lounges—a colleague of his hooked him up with an access badge after he took on his shift—and they spend an hour pretending to be brothers, enjoying complimentary whiskey cocktails.
Even bursts into laughter when an old lady asks if they’re twins, and Isak tells her that they are with a straight face, making him laugh even harder.
They do their usually Duty Free round and get a free massage—employee perks—at Lakkbar by Gate C2. They even try the Sushi Even has been raving about around the A gates.
“This is very average at best,” Isak shrugs.
“Average at best?!”
They part when it’s time for Even to go find his mother with another fistbump, and Even smiles before covering Isak’s fist with his entire hand.
“Don’t be a weirdo,” Isak chuckles.
“I’m flying back Friday night,” says Even. “Around 22:00.”
“Uh, okay,” Isak replies, feeling a little bit flustered all of a sudden.
“I’ll come a few hours early,” says Even, his hand squeezing gently. “We could see each other then.”
“Yeah okay,” Isak finally manages to smile, too.
“It’s a date.”
Isak won’t admit it, but knowing when he’ll see him again fills him with relief. Of course, he could know if he’d just give Even his phone number and his full name, but this is better. Not knowing what else is on Even’s canvas is better.
Isak is nervous on Friday. He’s already watched all of Even’s short films four or six times. He knows them inside and out and he’d like to talk about it, but he doesn’t know how to start the conversation without sounding like a creep.
Even is all smiles when he finds him behind the register. He’s an hour early. And when Isak asks him why, Even replies with, “I like watching you work.”
“So like are you two going out or?” Hanna asks when Even’s done placing his order and returned to his seat.
“What? No! We’re friends.”
“He literally just said that he came here an hour early to watch you work.”
“It’s just how we talk!” Isak groans. “It’s called banter.”
“Besides, he has a girlfriend. I think.”
“I’ve been working on this project for a while now, but I can’t really finish it. I don’t know,” says Even.
They’re sitting in front of Gate D4, the one they ran to their first weird night together. They’ve just had a few drinks and it’s almost 21:00.
“Why not? Are you feeling stuck? Director’s block?” Isak isn’t sure if Director’s block is a thing, but he figured he’d throw it in there.
“No, not really. I mean I know exactly which shots we have left, and what needs to be done, like collecting b-roll, and editing the existing scenes. But like, I feel like every time I think about getting back to it, I’m hit with, like, anxiety? I don’t know if it’s the right word. But it makes me feel like I’m suffocating.”
Isak listens and nods, his hand itching to maybe provide comfort. He doesn’t really know what it feels like but he can still empathize.
“Why do you think this is happening?” says Isak.
“I think it’s because of my break-up with Sonja? I don’t know.”
Oh. Isak holds his breath. They’re no longer together. Not that it matters. But still.
“Nothing really,” Even chuckles. “It wasn’t a bad break-up. It was actually pretty chill. We broke up so many times over the years. And when we got back together this time, it felt like we were both wasting each other’s time. You know? Like we were fighting to make it work because we had spent so many years together that it felt like a waste to just break up? But it didn’t really matter in the end, because some things just have to end. I don’t know if I’m making sense.”
Isak nods, keeps nodding because, again, he cannot relate to Even’s claims. He’s never really had anyone. He doesn’t know what it feels like to have someone like that, someone to fight for. His canvas is blank. There are only sketches in thin crayon on it. Always.
“But she used to tell me things like my films are the best. I used to be her favorite. Everything I did or made was her absolute favorite, and I thought that it was because I was actually good? But now that we’re broken up, she’s found a new favorite. And it shouldn’t hurt me, because I know that I’ve hurt her, and she shouldn’t have to stay faithful to my work or whatever. But my brain is tricking me into thinking that I was never good, that she only liked my work because we were together. I don’t know. So now I’m afraid of finishing my new project because what if it’s shit, you know?” Even sighs. “I probably sound like a whiny manchild. I apologize.”
“No, no, you don’t. You don’t. I promise,” says Isak. “We all want to be someone’s favorite. It’s human nature.”
“Yes, but I was and now that I’m no longer her favorite, I’m acting like a spoiled brat when I should be happy she’s not trashing my work.”
“A spoiled brat? You?” Isak rolls his eyes. “I invented the concept. Let me tell you. This one time, my favorite professor called me ‘one of his favorite students’ and it made me so angry and upset that I almost drank myself to death that night. Now that’s spoiled brat.”
Even looks both horrified and on the verge of bursting into laughter. “What? Why? What?”
“Because I didn’t want to be ‘one of the best’. Because by telling me that I was ‘one of the best’, he was saying that someone out there was better than me. I wanted to be the best.”
“Isak, that’s fucked up.”
“Why don’t you apply this competitiveness into your current job? The lines at Everyday Kitchen would be less long,” Even teases, making Isak shove him in the shoulder.
“The lines would be less long if assholes like you didn’t try to flirt with me instead of placing orders.”
“So now I’m an asshole?” Even pouts.
“Well, you’re this asshole’s favorite person in this airport. So here we go. You don’t have to drink yourself to death tonight.”
“I already knew that,” Isak smiles. And he doesn’t know when Even’s right hand curled around his left wrist, but he doesn’t mind. This feels nice. His hands are so large and so soft. This feels very nice. “I’m the only person you know in this airport.”
“Not true. I know Einar and Hanna. And I know the douchebags who work at Joe and the Juice after baggage claim.”
“Yeah well, since you’re being so nice and considerate by putting me above the Joe and the Juice douchebags, your short films are my favorites.”
“They’re the only short films you’ve ever watched,” Even smiles.
“Not true. They play short films before Pixar movies.”
“I guess they do.”
Even’s thumb brushes against Isak’s pulse, and it does something to him. It does something to him and Even has probably noticed because he takes his hand away almost immediately. Isak’s cheeks are probably flushed.
Isak has to put some distance between them again. This is Even, the sweetest guy on Earth, but also the guy who shamelessly flirted with him and lured him into a public bathroom while having a girlfriend.
“You watched all my films?” Even says, perhaps to dissipate the tension a bit. Maybe.
“Which one was your favorite?”
“Hm. I don’t know. Maybe the ‘Make a Wish’ one?” Isak replies.
“Really?” Even beams at him. “No one ever cares about that one.”
“Huh? It’s the best. I mean how the girl guesses her girlfriend’s wish every year. That was so cool.”
Even’s smile grows wider and fonder, and Isak can tell how much his work means to him. It’s so inspiring and Isak can’t stop smiling either.
“The kissing bit was a bit exaggerated, but I liked the storyline,” Isak adds, figures Even would want to hear.
“Exaggerated?! Are you perhaps lesbophobic, Isak Escobar?!” Even scoffs.
“What? No!” Isak frowns. “I meant the fireworks and stuff in the background when they were kissing, as in the visual effects!”
“You didn’t like my over-the-top visual effects?” Even pouts and Isak wants to shove him.
“That’s not what I’m saying! Like it’s just. I never really got the whole firework thing while kissing, so it always annoys me when I see it in movies. It’s not personal or anything.”
Even gives him a quiet smile and Isak feels a bit naked.
“I know nothing about you but I feel like I know everything all the same,” says Even, and it shouldn’t make sense, but it does.
“Non-incriminating stuff,” Isak says, bringing his hands up to make finger guns. He feels twelve.
“In the movie, Matilda doesn’t see fireworks when she kisses other people. She only sees them when she kisses Ruby,” says Even.
“So it’s like a metaphor?”
“Not really,” Even smiles again, his whole body turned toward Isak now. “You see fireworks when it’s the right person.”
Isak walks him to his gate. They’re boarding at 21:15 and he doesn’t wish for the entire airport to hear an announcement asking Even to go to his gate again. He doesn’t want Einar and Hanna assuming he was doing things with him in the bathroom again.
Even’s group is invited to board, but he lingers, pretends he’s in the last group. But Isak knows. He’s seen his boarding pass. It’s cute. Kind of. Isak doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Even is the last one in line and there’s a dozen people before him. So they have time for a proper ‘see you later’ moment. Maybe.
“It’s 21:21,” says Even, pointing at the digital clock by the gate.
“It is.” Isak looks down, because this feels similar to the big scene from Even’s movie ‘Make a Wish’, in which Ruby grabs Matilda’s hand and asks her to make a wish at 11:11 and— well.
Even grabs his hand, his thumb brushing against his knuckles.
“Make a wish, Isak.”
Isak closes his eyes to make a wish, the wish, same one from the movie. And when he opens them, Even is smiling at him, his face close, so close.
Isak is smiling too, and then he’s nodding because Even is asking him a question with his pale blue eyes.
Then they’re kissing. And the fireworks go off behind Isak’s eyelids just as Even hooks his free arm around his waist.
Even’s lips are soft and gentle and Isak revels in the sweetness of the last minute boarding kiss. He grabs Even’s face with both hands and opens his mouth until the fireworks reach his fingertips.
It’s dizzying. He can feel Even’s nose nuzzling his own. He never knew kissing could be so—so intense. Isak wonders what other feelings he’s missing out on.
They part a moment later, like they’ve both felt everyone’s eyes on them, like they both realized what they’ve just done.
“Did I guess your wish, right?” Even asks bashfully, a line from his own movie.
Isak shoves him in the shoulder playfully.
“And for the record, I didn’t know I was gonna do that,” says Even.
“Liar,” Isak smiles.
They smile, still holding one another.
“Have a safe flight.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
Isak has been dressing impeccably for the last few days—just in case Even shows up—and it’s beginning to prove cumbersome.
“Why don’t you look him up and find his contact info and ask him when he’s coming?” says Hanna. And she’s right. Why doesn’t he?
“We’re not like that. It’s just light and fun. It will ruin it.”
Not ready to take a look at his canvas.
Even shows up a week later with a smile and a flower, and Isak has to resist the urge to break into the biggest grin while taking his order. There are about seven people in line behind him.
“I’d just like a water,” he tells Isak. “Thank you.”
“You can get it for cheaper at the kiosk,” says a man behind Even, the kind soul.
“It’s okay. I like the water here better. Thank you, sir.”
And Isak knows that it’s not the water he likes better. It’s the receipts.
Isak mentally readies himself before reading what it says on the signature line, but he still flushes all the same when he does.
‘I want to kiss u again. So bad.’
Even crowds him into a bathroom stall—the same one Isak was planning on taking him to that first weird night—and they laugh for a good minute before the tension settles in again.
Even isn’t that much taller, but there’s something about his eyes and his hands and his mouth that makes Isak feel smaller, a bit weaker around the knees. His scent, maybe.
“Hi,” Even whispers and it makes Isak close his eyes and let his head rest against the stall’s wall.
“Hello,” Isak murmurs, finally opening his eyes, the thudding in his chest now the only other thing he’s aware of.
They stare at each other, neither of them moving, none of them really uttering a word, both breathing heavily until their chests begin to heave. And it’s silly, but Isak has never felt this naked from simply being looked at before.
He feels seen. He feels like Even sees him.
Even kisses him with a hand on his jaw and Isak feels like melting against the wall. It’s hot. So hot. Hotter than their kiss by the gate. Hotter than in his wildest fantasies. Even is pressing his entire body against the wall and running his tongue along his lips and Isak cannot breathe, never wants to breathe again.
Isak brings both hands to Even’s hair and grinds down his thigh hard enough for Even to let out a low groan. And it’s so hot. Both of them are panting one minute into making out against the wall.
“You’re so fucking hot!” Even mutters when Isak starts kissing his neck and below his ear.
“Our friendship sure was short lived,” Isak laughs against his skin, and he smells so good. He never wants to stop tasting his skin.
“Doesn’t have to end.”
“You’re right. It doesn’t.”
Isak shoves Even off of him and backs him up against the opposite wall of the stall. Even should get to experience this, too. Being pressed into the wall like this when anyone could just walk in. It’s dizzying.
They kiss until their lips are sore and buzzing, and Isak knows that if it were anyone else he would already be on his knees right now. But Even isn’t anyone. Even is Even. There’s a friendship behind all this kissing and grinding.
“This part wasn’t in your films,” Isak smiles as he reaches down Even’s pants, then watches his face fall.
“Fucking hell. Do you really want to do this here?”
“I’ve been wanting to since the day I took four shots to watch you eat cold fries,” Isak laughs, tugging harder.
“You’re after my heart. Aren’t you?! You’re trying to make me fall in love with you!”
“This is the part of the movie where I say that you cannot, under any circumstances, fall in love with me,” Isak laughs again.
“Oh dammit. What if I told you I was already halfway there?”
“Well, you better turn the hell around then.”
Even kisses him again, smiling against his lips and Isak can’t recall ever being this happy at the airport, not even when Jason Mraz supposedly landed in Oslo airport and almost walked past Everyday Kitchen, at least according to someone on his flight.
“I won’t fall in love with you,” Even repeats, pressing a kiss to his red cheeks, his hair damp all over his face. “But I might get close.”
“Close is fine,” Isak smiles before shoving his hand down Even’s pants, making him nearly squeal.
“Oh my god! Is 50% okay? Can I be half in love with you? I’m pretty sure I’m half in love with you.”
“Shut up!” Isak laughs, then drops to his knees.
It becomes a thing, a recurrent thing that fills Isak’s days with joy and anticipation. He never knows when Even is coming, but he senses a pattern. He suspects that Even learned his schedule by heart now, because he’s always there right before the end of Isak’s shifts.
Even’s visits go from once every two weeks to weekly. And Isak doesn’t have the heart to question it. Who flies this often? Is this just for me? For something else? Is his mother okay with his constant flying? Is he that rich? Does he ever need to study? Is Sonja a thing again?
Isak has seen her name come up on his lockscreen. He knows they’ve been texting. But it’s none of his business anyway. What they have is enclosed in this airport. It doesn’t have to go beyond it. Isak doesn’t care what Even does once he’s outside the airport doors. He shouldn’t and he doesn’t. They’re hookup buddies. It’s light and fun, as Jonas would say, and Isak wants it to remain this way, light and fun.
The uncertainty around when Even might show up to his register also adds a sense of anticipation and thrill to his rather dull life. And while he doesn’t see Even all the time, he feels like he does, because he’s always on his mind, always.
They hang out around the A and C gates because Isak doesn’t know anyone there, and they spend their nights on the moving walkway or in the VIP lounges after hours, eating old sushi from one of the kiosks.
Isak pulls strings, but he figures it’s the least he could do when Even keeps showing up every week to kiss him and hug him and blow him in the Everyday Kitchen changing room. Einar was pretty upset about that actually, but Isak couldn’t care less. They have to make do with what they have, and while bathroom stalls are exciting, they’re also very gross.
Isak spends his free time looking for empty hook-up spots, and when Even suggests the baggage claim conveyor belt one day, he almost considers it.
“They make it so hard to fuck in this place,” Isak jokes and watches Even’s eyes go wide.
Right. They haven’t talked about having actual sex yet.
Even gets him flowers again, this time with a card that says something along the lines of “You make me happy <3” and Isak rolls his eyes and asks him if he forgot to take out the card that came with the bouquet.
“Also what’s your deal with flowers? Am I missing the point or? Is there a joke behind this?”
“You know I love you, kid. But you’re kind of an asshole to your boyfriend,” Hanna tells him later that day.
“Huh? My what?”
“Your fuckbuddy who flies every week to see you and buys you flowers and writes you cute notes to tell you how much he appreciates you.”
“He’s not— he doesn’t! You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That’s literally his handwriting on the card. Everybody here knows because of all the cute shit he leaves you on receipts. What are you doing to the poor guy?”
I’m just trying to keep this light and fun and spare myself some heartbreak.
Even lands one Wednesday afternoon with nothing but a small tote bag and a few wanting kisses to spare, and takes Isak to Havsalt, a restaurant that serves signature seafood by gate E8.
“This shit is expensive,” says Isak once they’re seated.
“It’s okay,” Even smiles. “We’re on a date. Shit gets expensive on dates.”
Isak looks down, can’t quite interpret what he’s feeling. A date? Light and fun hookup buddies who know nothing about each other don’t go on expensive dates.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Even asks in a quiet voice.
Are we playing boyfriends today or? What is this?
“I don’t think you want to hear my thoughts right now,” Isak admits.
He watches Even’s face fall a bit, but he can’t read him. Isak can never read him.
“You won’t meet me outside this airport. So I guess I’m trying to picture what it would be like if you were to have dinner with me outside or something. Maybe.”
Isak melts into his seat. Even wants to meet outside, in the real world. He’s probably tired of having his body literally searched before he can see him.
Isak entertains the thought, them together outside, maybe. It’s random, but his mind suddenly pictures Even walking around in Kollektivet and getting on Eskild’s shitlist because he takes too much time styling his hair in the bathroom.
It makes his stomach flip.
Even gets a call from Sonja just as Isak is about to blurt out things he will later regret.
It feels like a blow to the face, like a brutal alarm at seven in the morning on a Monday, a brutal reminder of the monotone life that lies ahead.
Light and fun. At the airport.
They keep it light and fun. Strangers with benefits.
Isak only allows himself to be vulnerable when they’re too caught up in the moment, when it’s hot and foggy and he can barely see. When Even traces his neck with wet and wanting kisses while Isak threads his fingers in Even’s hair.
He only allows himself to look vulnerable when they’re cuddled up in one of the lounge chairs by the Exchange office at 23:00 or when Even makes him straddle his legs on the leather-padded booths of Peppe’s Pizza at one in the morning. They’ve mutually agreed that it’s their favorite spot now—the lights get turned off when the restaurant closes which makes it cozy and intimate— and they barely stop to comment on the fact that they both spend their nights at the airport before Even has to fly out now.
They don’t even talk about it, the hunger they have for one another, the need to spend every moment together when they can. Isak feels like a frenzied teenager. Even makes him feel things.
Even kisses his face and laces their fingers together before bringing their entwined hands to Isak’s hips and squeezing there, making him moan obscenely.
“Shit!” Even laughs when he realizes just how loud that was. “You’re gonna get me banned from the airport.”
But Isak is too intoxicated to laugh. He’s too far gone tonight, the kissing and the grinding filling his head with nothing but want.
“It’s just the two of us here,” Isak says, a hand on Even’s face. “It’s just you and me, here.”
Even kisses him again, gently this time, too gently. He kisses him so gently that Isak can’t help but curl into him, melt into his chest. It’s probably the exhaustion. It’s probably the fact that he hasn’t slept much these last few days and that it’s two in the morning.
“It’s just the two of us here,” Even repeats, before making both of them lie down on the leather-padded booth, Isak’s head on Even’s chest.
"Do you see fireworks with me?" Even asks him when he's about to doze off.
And Isak wants to tell him that the entire sky lights up in his brain when they kiss, but he doesn't know how. He can't.
"Of course not," he lies.
They sleep and Even misses his early morning flight.
And when he eventually leaves, he takes a part of Isak with him, for Isak feels empty and hollow for days.
It’s the middle of exam season, and Isak is exhausted and cranky and stressed and anxious. He’s so anxious that he can’t be bothered putting on an act for Even when he visits. The Sonja thing has also been weighing on his mind lately. The possibility of Even going back home to her after peppering him with kisses that linger on his skin for hours and days and weeks makes him feel sick. But he doesn’t have the heart to ask or complain.
Isak just lets himself be and look exhausted and stressed.
Even greets him with a tender kiss to the cheek, then sits at the table closest to the register, leaving him alone to work while he edits some film he’s working on.
When Isak snaps at Einar the third time after messing up the second order in a row, Even steps up and makes his way to the register.
“Even, I am working. Can we do this later?!” Isak snaps when Even comes up behind him at the register like he owns the place.
Even gives him a hurt look but he doesn’t dwell on it. He never does. He’s an angel like that. He disappears into the changing room and comes back in Everyday Kitchen’s uniform.
“What the? Whose uniform is that?! What are you doing?”
“Some guy named Alex or something. He seems like the closest fit according to Hanna.”
“Hanna!” Isak groans, but Even wraps his arms around his waist from the back and pulls him backwards. “What are you doing?”
“Einar is gonna take over for a second while I take you to the changing room. Yeah?”
“Because you look like you haven’t slept since last year and it’s beginning to show in how you treat customers,” Even replies calmly, an arm over Isak’s shoulders as he leads the way.
“Einar can’t cover for me. He’s worked six hours today.”
“I know,” says Even. “I’m going to cover for you.”
“What are you—”
“I know the menu like the back of my hand and I’ve watched you work for hours. I can do this. Besides, I work at the Joe and the Juice next to my school, so I know how to deal with customers.”
Isak doesn’t resist any further. He’s too exhausted to win an argument. And when Even tucks him in and covers him with a blanket in the bench he padded with other covers—an angel!—Isak finds himself oddly at peace, warm, like he’s slightly intoxicated, but not really.
“Sleep for a couple of hours, okay?”
“Why are you doing this?” Isak asks, his eyelids heavy and his heart full.
Even crouches in front of him and runs his large and gentle hand over his forehead and his hair. It feels so nice.
“I might be a little deeper than 50% now.”
Isak falls asleep before he processes what it means, but he feels Even’s lips on his forehead. And he feels himself melt into the covers.
Isak wakes to Even playing with his hair. They’re still in the changing room and Isak’s head is on Even’s lap. He’s smiling.
“Welcome back, sleeping beauty.”
“Shit!” Isak exclaims, sitting up abruptly. “ How long have I been out?!”
“Three hours, give or take?” Even shrugs with a pout. He always pouts when he shrugs.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Why would I?”
“Your flight is soon. Like! We don’t have time now.”
“Time for what?”
Isak flushes. Time for sexual activities. I guess.
“You came all the way here for nothing,” Isak mutters under his breath. Even flew here to cover his shift and watch him whine and act like an idiot.
“I came all the way here to spend time with you and look after you. It’s not for nothing.”
Isak feels his heart swell in his chest. And this is bad. This is really bad.
Even takes his hand and laces their fingers together on the bench, and Isak feels lonely all of a sudden.
The realization that he wants Even to stop leaving makes him feel lonely.
“Baby,” Even calls him and Isak feels something within him crumble. He barely has time to process it before Even’s lips are on his own. Sweet, so sweet, so considerate. Isak melts into the kiss. He melts into him. “I’m gonna miss you, baby.”
This wasn’t part of the plan. This isn’t fun and light. Isak’s heart is about to explode. This isn’t light and fun.
“Are you gonna miss me?” Even asks, his thumb caressing Isak’s face, his blue eyes looking into his soul and leaving marks there.
Isak nods and Even kisses him again until they call his name over the speakers to run to his gate.
Isak has never seen him this way. Not ever. He kisses him over the counter the moment he materializes before the register.
And while Even tends to do spontaneous things, disrupting Isak’s actual work to kiss him with tongue and cutting the line isn’t usually one of those.
Isak is flustered to say the least. He has been ever since the “making out in the changing room wrapped in what seems like lots of feelings” incident. But this isn’t how he pictured Even would act in their next meeting.
“I booked us a suite,” Even tells him when Einar finally accepts to take over.
“You did what?” Isak blinks at him.
“At the Radisson Blu by the airport. I got us a room there,” Even smiles then plants another kiss on Isak’s lips. “There’s a shuttle that takes us directly to the hotel if you want. But we can also walk or take a cab. I don’t care! It’s the best room in the hotel though. It doesn’t have a very good view because it’s at the airport. But I think you’ll like it! The pictures looked nice and—”
“Even, slow down!” Isak chuckles nervously. “What do you mean you got us a room at a hotel? Why? What are you doing?”
Even cups his face with both hands, his eyes wide and sparkling, his smile wide. He’s beautiful, always beautiful, but Isak feels worried. Something doesn’t feel right. Something feels off.
“Do you remember last time at the changing room? When we kissed, when I kissed you? Did you feel it, too? I felt it so much. It was so big in my chest. I couldn’t ignore it.”
“I want to know what it feels like to be inside you,” Even blurts out, knocking all air from Isak’s lungs. “I want to know how we can be together as one. I want to feel you and I want you to feel me. I want to make love to you like a man makes love to a man. I don’t want to hide in bathroom stalls anymore. I want to wake up in a bed with you. Can I wake up in a bed with you?”
It feels weird, being outside the airport with Even. It feels weird holding his hand in public beyond the Security point. It feels weird but nice.
The ride in the hotel shuttle is short but sweet, and Isak can barely remember anything, his brain too busy dealing with his nerves to register his surroundings.
Check-in is uneventful and Isak has to pinch his forearm when they get to the room. Even was not exaggerating when he said it was the best room in the hotel.
They kiss against the door. They kiss in the hallways. They kiss on the bed. They kiss everywhere and it’s always painfully gentle.
“I’m gonna shower,” Isak says, and his cheeks are flushed because he’s never done this, but there’s no one else he’d rather do this with.
“Okay,” says Even, and for a moment he looks shy, too.
Even joins him in the shower. He’s still fully clothed and Isak should have seen it then, the hint of a plausible spiral into madness, but he doesn’t. He smiles against Even’s lips and laughs when he joins him under the showerhead.
“Nice junk,” says Even. “Very very nice. I’m a big fan.”
“Shut up,” Isak laughs.
Even kisses him and it makes him dizzy. So dizzy. It melts away his worries, his doubts. Isak doesn’t have any experience beyond this point. but he knows Even won’t mind. He knows Even will be kind, always.
“I don’t want to be apart from you. Ever,” Even says, and Isak shouldn’t, but he stores it in his heart anyway.
“Is that why you’re in the shower with your clothes on?” Isak jokes instead of saying ‘me neither. me neither.’
Even grabs his face with both hands and kisses him so deep, his toes curl.
Even makes love to him like a man makes love to a man, and Isak takes it. He just takes it. It’s uncomfortable and painful at first, but Even is sweet and affectionate and the most attentive lover known to man, probably. He is patient until Isak begins feeling comfortable, until it starts feeling pleasant, until Isak can no longer have enough.
Isak can’t believe this started with a message on an Everyday Kitchen receipt. Can’t quite fathom how far they’ve come. Can’t believe this is better than in his fantasies.
“You’re perfect,” Even whispers in his ear and Isak smiles because he knew he’d say that.
“You’re perfect,” he tells Even and he means it.
“I’m so happy. You’re so perfect.”
Dangerous words when Isak is feeling his most vulnerable. He cannot go down that route. One more sweet word and Isak might cry. maybe.
“Fuck me,” he tells Even. And it’s crude and nowhere near as romantic, but he has to look out for himself, especially when Even is currently breaking him in two, buried so deep inside him, Isak can feel him everywhere. “Harder, Even!”
“I want you to take me, too,” Even asks when they’ve both finished heaving.
And Isak takes him. Or more like, he remains on his back and Even mounts him, rides him. Isak feels dizzy.
“Take me, baby,” Even says and it feels more romantic, his heart is back in the picture and it shouldn't be. It shouldn’t be like this.
Isak flips them around and when he burrows into him, Even lets out a strangled cry and holds him so tight and so hard that it hurts. Isak can’t even breathe. But he feels it then, Even’s “half” love for him, maybe.
“Run away with me,” Even tells him when they’re showering together. “I already bought us tickets to Nepal. We can go live there together. Just the two of us. What do you think? We can get married and have a big house. It will be perfect. I promise!”
Isak wakes up before Even. And he recalls his request ‘i want to wake up in a bed with you’. But Isak doesn’t have the heart to wake up in a bed with him. He is confused. He is beyond confused and scared. He feels sick. Can’t quite recall how he’s managed to fall asleep, too afraid to do or say anything while Even talked nonsense for hours.
Isak has been around his mother enough to recognize the look in his eyes, the speed in his speech, the delusion in his words.
Even is not lucid. He’s either on drugs or going through a psychotic breakdown. Isak isn’t sure he has the heart to deal with either.
Isak leaves before Even wakes up.
Light and fun. Keeping it light and fun.
Even doesn’t come find him at Everyday Kitchen. He doesn’t hear from him. And while he’s relieved the first few hours, Isak quickly realizes what he’s done and runs back to Radisson Blu.
“His mother came to pick him up,” the receptionist tells Isak. “He didn’t look too good.”
Even stops by three weeks later. He doesn’t look too good and Isak’s heart cracks in his chest when he sees the red in his eyes.
“Where are you flying today?” Isak asks without really looking at him, a little icebreaker as they settle into their seats at a table not too far from the register.
“Nowhere,” says Even and his voice sounds listless. He sounds sad and exhausted. “I bought the cheapest ticket that would get me a boarding pass and access beyond the gates.”
“You— what? Why?”
“I needed to see you,” Even says like it’s the most evident thing in the world. “I’ve done it many times before when I just needed to see you.”
Isak looks down again. His heart pinches around the corners. Oh.
“I just need to know one thing,” Even says, his eyes trying to meet Isak who is too crushed with regret and shame to look up. “Did I hurt you?”
Isak lifts his head immediately, the question making his heart hurt. Even looks like he’s about to cry. “What?”
“The night at the hotel. Did I hurt you? I remember everything but I don’t trust my memories when it comes to this. So I just—I’m so sorry if I hurt you, Isak. I can’t live with myself. I’m so fucked with guilt. I can’t believe—”
“Even, hey. Hey,” Isak frowns, moving closer to grab Even’s hands. “You didn’t hurt me. You didn’t. Okay? You were so gentle. You were amazing.”
“Yes. Really. You didn’t hurt me.”
Even takes a sip of his orange juice and it’s only then that Isak notices his dull hair and his pale skin and how his eyes don’t shine anymore. He looks down. Isak has an idea, but he still wonders what his diagnosis is.
“I’m bipolar,” Even tells him and it all falls into place in his head. He did suspect it after the night at the hotel, but it still feels weird to hear it in person.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Even continues. “But you won’t even tell me your last name. It felt weird baring my soul to you when you won’t give me anything in return.”
“I understand,” says Isak, looking down at his hands again. “You don’t owe me anything. I’m not mad that you didn’t tell me.”
“You’re not mad?”
“No. I’m not.” For some reason, it seems to make Even even sadder. He doesn’t say anything after that. And Isak feels like he has to do the talking for both of them. “You made my life very fun for a while. And I was the one who said that we shouldn’t know more things about each other, so—”
“Isak, can you please stop talking to me like I’m a child and be honest with me just once?”
Isak contemplates his next answer. His heart hurts and all his colleagues are watching. He cannot bear a public meltdown. He’s hurt Even enough. He needs to end this conversation.
“I think we should talk later when we’re both calm and stuff. You know.”
“It’s been a month, Isak. I’m as calm as I can get.”
“Maybe I need more time,” Isak says, looking down at his hands again, well aware of the cuts he’s inflicting on Even’s heart right now.
“Isak, are we over?” Even asks and his face is composed but his voice is full of raw emotion, like he’ll cry any minute now. “It’s fine if it is. I just need to know.”
Isak isn’t sure how to answer his question.
“I, I’m sorry,” he whispers.
Even wipes his face with the back of his hand, and to know that he’s made Even cry breaks his heart, shatters it.
“Even, I’m sorry,” Isak repeats, a little more panicked now.
Even stands up and throws his bag over his shoulders. And Isak wonders if he’s ever coming back. Isak expects him to storm out and never look back. But he doesn’t. Even reaches for his face with his right hand, cupping it while Isak remains seated, the chair his only form of support.
“Tell me one true thing, Isak Valtersen,” Even whispers. “Just one.”
Isak’s widen at Even speaking his full name. How does he know? How long has he known?
“All I want is for you to tell me one true thing, Isak. And it doesn’t have to be your last name, which by the way I got from your access badge which you carry around everywhere, or where you live, or who you live with, or where you go to school. I just need to know how you feel. Just one true thing, Isak.”
I can no longer tell if any of what we had was real.
“I’m sorry,” Isak repeats like a broken record.
Even’s blue eyes are sparkling with tears now and he’s never looked more beautiful.
“This is the part of the movie where you say that you warned me about not falling in love with you,” says Even, his hand still soft on Isak’s face as he crouches down to his level.
Even kisses him and the fireworks Isak sees are muted and in black and white.
Even leaves a crumpled signed receipt behind. And the date on it is from the day Isak took a nap in the changing room during his exams, the day Even covered his shift and kissed him like he treasured him.
“i love u. - Even”
Isak has never really liked himself before. He’s always been too selfish, too scared, too self-centered. He knows he’s not the kindest person out there. He knows it.
But after breaking Even’s heart, he couldn’t help but feel like he broke his own as well. Even probably thinks that Isak is heartless. At least, everybody else does. Working at Everyday Kitchen becomes daunting too, Einar and Hanna clearly shaken by Isak’s story with Even. Isak never realized that they had gotten close. He wonders if they’re still in contact, if they have a little groupchat to trash talk him now.
Isak tries to move on, tries to convince himself that he made the right choice. Even was clearly spiraling out of control those few months they spent in sheer bliss together. He flew to Oslo almost every week, sometimes twice a week. Isak was clearly not good for him. Besides, he was not equipped to deal with his condition, given that his mother’s meant that he was already prejudiced against mental illnesses, whether it was conscious or not. Even would be better off with someone else.
Isak tries to move on, tries to settle into the boring routine. He tries to walk along the A and C gates without feeling pieces of his heart rattle inside his chest. He tries to take the moving walkway and to go to the bathroom without remembering what it felt like to laugh against his chest. Isak tries. But it’s hard.
It’s so hard.
Isak can’t move on, can’t shake those teary blue eyes off his mind. He can’t get over what he did to him, how Even must have felt like waking up in that hotel room alone. Isak has never really liked himself, but this makes him drown in self-loathing.
Isak looks him up online, googles his full name and spends an hour watching his short films from high school. But it’s not until he stumbles upon a video capturing his face, that Isak finally cries. He just bawls into his own hand because he misses him so much, he can no longer function.
“I’m gonna miss you, baby.” The words echo in his head, along with all the other tender words Even reserved for him.
Even probably had nothing going on with Sonja. It was probably all in Isak’s paranoid head. And his suspicions are confirmed when he meets her at a random party and she asks him how it’s going with Even, as if he were his new boyfriend.
Isak wallows in his own self-inflicted heartbreak.
He kisses one person at a random party, just one. And the absence of fireworks makes his heart ache and fold around itself.
I love him, Isak realizes dumbly during his walk back home.
He loves him and misses him so much.
It feels weird crossing security with an actual boarding pass. It feels weird walking past Everyday Kitchen without his uniform. It feels weird buying snacks from the Kiosk and not just stopping by to chat with Eili. It all feels weird.
And Isak focuses on that weirdness to ignore the nervousness in his chest.
“We will now begin boarding Flight SK1471 with service to Copenhagen.”
Isak texts his mother once on the plane, just in case something happens. Isak knows flying is the safest means of transportation, but still. He sends his mother a cute text just in case it’s his last.
It doesn’t take long for him to find him. He tries two more Joe and the Juice joints, each time asking if they have someone going by the name Even Bech Næsheim, before he finds him.
And he’s— Well he’s working at the register.
“Welcome to Joe and the Juice. What can—”
Even’s breath stutters to a halt just as he locks eyes with Isak over the counter. He looks stunning in black. He looks younger, healthier.
Isak isn’t sure what he expected. For Even to jump over the counter maybe? Overjoyed that Isak is finally doing something for him. Maybe?
Even takes a deep breath.
“Welcome to Joe and the Juice. What can I get you today?” Even finishes the sentence this time. And it’s in Danish but it doesn’t hurt any less.
“A water, please.”
“Could you please sign here?” Even says and everything about him screams ‘hurt’, and Isak gets it. He really does.
Isak scribbles the words fast and crumples the receipt before Even can grab it.
Isak leans over the counter until they’re face to face, until Even can hear what he says even if he whispers, and he grabs his hand.
“You asked me for one true thing,” Isak speaks into his ear.
“Isak— I’m at work,” Even protests weakly.
“You said you wanted to know how I feel.”
"Isak, it's too late."
Isak leaves after handing Even the receipt, too worn out and devastated to watch his reaction.
‘I love u 2. so much. - Isak’
Later, when he’s cried for an hour in Departures next to a young woman who seems distraught and heartbroken as well, Isak realizes that at least he has this: someone to cry over and miss in the Departures hall. At least his canvas is full now. And it might all revolve around one person, but it's okay. At least it's no longer blank and empty.
He smiles to himself. At least he's known mad love. At least he's loved enough for it to hurt. At least he's—
Perhaps he feels him before he sees or hears him. Isak isn't sure. But when Even finds him in the crowd at the Departures and pulls him into his chest for a bone crushing hug, his body does not panic. His body feels at home.
Their lips meet somewhere between the second and third apology, and Isak has never been so happy to see the night sky weep in color as blazing shards slice it before darkness puts it back together, has never been so glad to feel his belly flip and turn to the rhythm of his racing heart.
Isak has never been so happy.
"When did you start seeing fireworks with me?" Even asks when they finally part, and his eyes are twinkling.
"The first time you kissed me."
And he promises himself to make it right, to mend Even's heart, and to prove himself worthy of his affections and tenderness. Isak promises himself to be all ears and to communicate better and to just be better, for him and also for himself. Isak promises himself to stop being so afraid of opening his heart for people who might one day break it. Isak promises himself many things. And he will get to every single one of them.
But it can wait until they're done kissing.
It can wait until after the fireworks.
101% in love with u