Mike and Danny: In Love
Note that these stories, including this one, are not an endorsement of unsafe sex. They take place many years before the appearance of AIDS and before it was standard practice to use condoms to reduce the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases. Remember always: that was then, this is now. Sex is precious, and so are life and health.
OK, the way this story is going, you're thinking either (a) it's about time, Danny, or (b) no, Danny, say it isn't so. All I can say is, trust me. For better or worse, this is the way it all happened.
As we got closer to Lincoln, Randy, grew quieter and more thoughtful, and I guessed it had something to do with knowing that with each passing mile he was getting closer to seeing his buddy Wallace again.
I'm not always good at reading another man's mindor his heart, for that matterbut I was pretty sure by now that Randy had both of those faculties, and what was going on there would fill several pages of a book. Not that I'm going to do that here, but putting myself in his place, I could see that a lot was at stake for him at the end of this cross-country trip.
He'd known Wallace long enough and well enough to think of him as a partnersomeone he'd planned to spend maybe the rest of his life with. And there's only one good wordloveto describe what he'd come to feel for Wallace, though he hadn't used that word with me. He was like any other guy in that respect, talking always about sex instead.
And he had to be wondering now if that love was still there. Would Wallace be glad to see him? Would he have changed? And what was the real reason why he'd stopped answering Randy's letters? Was Randy going to feel better or worse after seeing him? And if not better, just how bad was it going to be?
I could imagine myself being thirty and alone in the world. I had glimpses of it every night coming home from work to my apartment. Some TV for company while I opened a beer and maybe warmed up some leftovers, then graded a stack of papers until I was falling asleepand crawling into a bed that felt empty, even after I got in it.
At least I had the coming weekend to think of, knowing I'd be with Mike again for a day or two. But looking ahead and seeing nothingjust more of the sameI'd need to be made of tougher stuff than I was. I didn't know how someone like Randy did that. I understood how I'd be willing to hitchhike 1,500 miles to hang onto someone I wanted to be withif they'd still have me.
I'd be rehearsing my lines as the miles went by and the time got closer. I'd be trying to anticipate his reactions and preparing myself for every one of them I could imagine. I'd be thinking about what I wanted and the different ways of saying it so there'd be no mistakeand if he didn't want what I wanted, wondering what I could do or say to bring him around.
Well, that's the way my mind works anyway. Randy could have been way different, but like I said he got real quiet, like he was thinking and thinking hard.
In a way, this put my own mind at rest. My confused thoughtsconfused by whatever surge of hormones was having a heyday in my shortssettled a bit, and I could focus on just getting him to the penitentiary, where whatever scenario awaited him would play itself out.
I was glad now that I'd come back to the truck stop and that it was me helping him get to his destination, instead of some complete stranger. It was like the two of us had passed through a kind of shit-storm of lust, and we were now free to be friends and fellow travelers on the road of life.
Yeah right, you're thinking.
The afternoon was wearing on as we got to town, and when I was about to drop him off at the prison, Randy said he wanted to wash up and change his clothes first. So I took him to the university, and he walked with me from the parking lot to the dormitory where I was staying. We stopped in my room first, where he could borrow a towel and soap, and then he took his bag and headed to the showers.
Watching him walk down the hallway, still wearing his hat, the sound of his boots heavy on the tile floor, I saw how out of place he was there, his ambling stride better suited to a horse barn or a dusty corral. Maybe it was just me, but he seemed so far from home.
A while later, I walked to the head myself to take a leak, and he was stepping out of the shower, rubbing himself down with the towel. In the few seconds I saw him naked, he looked just like I thought he would, muscular and smooth. He had a thick dick drooping down over a pair of low-hanging balls, and a thicket of curly hair around them, all of which disappeared shortly into a clean pair of jockeys.
He studied himself in the mirror, carefully combing his wet hair, then lathered up his face from a can of Gillette Foamy and took out a razor to give himself a shave.
Something about watching a man do this always gives me a funny feeling. While men may be rough and careless with their bodies, or admire those who arethink about professional football, or boxing, or bull riding, and all their fansa close shave requires a gentle, cautious hand. It's a kind of self-regard men seldom otherwise have, except maybe touching themselves while they masturbate.
The blade in Randy's razor wasn't too sharp. I could hear it dragging over the bristles, but when he was done he stroked his jaw with both hands and seemed satisfied. Then he took his pair of stiff new levi's from his bag, shook them out, and stepped into them. In a minute, he was dressed and ready to go.
I drove him across town to the prison and left him at the gate. According to the sign there, bolted to a fence next to a guard station, there was still more than an hour for visitors, and he got out of the car, looking pretty good in his change of clothes. He'd put on a fancy western shirt with red and black stripes.
But he was clearly nervous. His grin when he shook my hand one last time was not the easy one he'd flashed to me so often during the day.
"Just remember," I said to him as he stood by the car. "You're a wild buckaroo."
He laughed a little then. "Thanks, pardner," he said, touched his hat with two fingers and then walked to the gate. He pulled out his wallet, I guess to show some identification to the guard, who studied it with a bored look and then let him pass through. Turning one last time, on the other side of the fence, he gave me a wave and then walked on.
I drove back to the university then, a strange feeling in my chest I couldn't pin down. It felt like I'd lost a friend, though I'd only known the guy for a few hours. Funny how the heart worksand what it thinks it wants.
The feelings quickly passed as I got busy and realized that I had only a few days to finish a film that was far from done. After returning the camera I'd used to shoot the last footage from the Sandhills and dropping off the film stock for processing, I went looking for Scott, my partner.
You'll remember that Scott was no serious filmmaker by any definition. I found this out only after we'd decided to work together. I'd quickly realized that it was all a kind of co-ed summer camp for hima vacation from his wife and family. Within a few days, he was working his way through the females in the class, and I'd never seen anybody work so fast.
Once he'd showed up at my doorwoke me from a sound sleepat some unholy hour of the morning and wanted to know if I had any rubbers I'd be willing to loan him. He was standing there in his underwear, looking sheepish.
"Rubbers?" I'd said.
"Yeah, you know," he said, "baby stoppers," and made this gesture over the front of his shorts.
"I know what they are. I'm just wondering if I had some whether I'd actually give you one."
"You don't have any?" he said, in disbelief.
"No," I said, and I told him to go away and let me go back to sleep.
He stopped the door with one hand as I was trying to close it, and he said again, "You don't have any?"
"You're married, Scott, remember? A wife at home?" I said. "You don't have any use for rubbers here."
"I do. This one ain't on the pill," he said.
"Then go find one who is," I said and tried pushing the door shut again.
But he was peering past me, like there must be someone else in my bedand I was holding out on him because I had just enough rubbers for myself. He seemed unable to think of any other possibility.
"Go away, Scott," I said and finally got the door closed.
My hunch about him was confirmed the next day, as he slapped me on the back with a "Hey, stud"and congratulated me for landing a bed partner with such stealth. He kept trying to guess who it was, and he wouldn't give up.
"Who you screwin'?" he'd say every day. "I can't figure it out."
"I'm not screwing anybody," I'd say each time. "Shut up about it."
Eventually, he sort of let it go. But if he had some idea of what a queer man walked and talked like, he never connected the dots with me. I was always "Stud" to him, and I began to wonder how crushed he would be if he ever found out the truth. Wondered and, frankly, didn't give a damn.
So I'm back from my trip out of town, looking for him, and I finally find him in his room, sacked out on his bed. The room has been tidied up, his handful of books lined up neatly on the shelf: James Michener, Kahlil Gibran, Rod McKuen, Catcher in the Rye. All calculated to impress the sensibilities of a certain kind of female. I'd wager good money he hadn't read any of them.
There were scented candles that were probably the source of the piney smell in the room. Or it could have been cheap air freshener.
I took another look at him on the bed, wondering whether to wake him, and then remembered the night he came to my door looking for rubbers. I didn't owe him any courtesy.
"Scott," I said. "Wake up."
He didn't move. Just lay there on his back, like he was in a coma.
He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of khaki shorts, his bare legs sticking out from them, hairy and pale down to the black socks pulled up neatly over his ankles. There was a pair of sandals at the foot of the bed, where he'd kicked them off as he lay down. The picture of a high school social studies teacher on summer vacationwhich he was.
Not to mention, small-town Casanova. There in the fat lump at the crotch of his shorts I could make out what looked like the blunt end of his overactive penis.
"Scott," I said again. "Wake up." And I grabbed a big toe and began shaking one of his feet.
I decided to try something else. I lifted the front of his shirt a few inches above his belt buckle and started rubbing his belly. He had a regular rug of hair there spiraling around to gather in a row that went from his navel down into his shorts. It felt almost like petting a cat.
He stirred in his sleep now, and I kept rubbing in circles until he opened his eyes. He blinked at me, smiling first like he'd been expecting someone else, and then he frowned for a moment as he let register what his eyes were telling him.
"Hey, stud," he said, brightening. "You're back."
He put his hand down on top of mine, like I was a long lost brother. Not the Prodigal Sonthose two brothers didn't actually get alongbut someone anyway who had returned from a heroic quest and had been sorely missed.
I had to pull my hand away from his, he seemed so pleased to see me. I wanted to ask him if he'd been working on our movie while I was gone, and he quickly said, "Yes, yes, yes," like he probably hadn't done a damn thing.
But he was eager to tell me something else. "You know Eileen, the schoolteacher from Omaha?"
"The one you got this extra-marital thing going with?" I said. I was so back on the moral high ground. Nobody would guess I'd just come from falling more than half-way for a cowboy from Nevada with a threadbare patch in his crotch I couldn't ignore and an old friend in the state pen.
"There's something I gotta tell you," he said.
I was expecting some new exploit of hissex in a broom closet, sex in one of the women's showers, sex under the goal posts at the football stadiumand when he finally said, "She wants to have sex with you," I must have looked like I'd just been hit by a bus.
"Stud, she finally told me. She's been after your ass all the while, and you won't even give her the time of day."
This triggered an odd memory. She had asked me the time of day and for a lot of other things over the past weeks, and I'd just been my usual courteous self. "It's almost 10:30." "Yes, you can borrow my pen." "No, I don't mind if you sit there."
"It all came out last night," he said, "And I'm kind of pissed off with her. I think she's just been using me all this time because I'm your sound man."
How dense can a guy be, I'm thinkingabout him, of course, not me. But I sat down on the edge of the bed to hear him out. He was all wound up anyway. There was no stopping him.
"And I told her what I suspected, you know. And you know what she said?"
"I can't guess."
"She said, maybe you'd be willing to do a three-way. Would I ask you."
He was way ahead of me. I'd defy anyone to think fast enough to keep up with all this. All I could do was repeat what he'd just said.
"You wanna know what I told her?"
"I give up."
"I said, that's the only way I'd do it. Can you believe it that she'd just dump me for you?"
"That's hard to believe," I agreed.
By now, my thoughts had caught up with this whole crazy conversation, and I saw plain as day that she'd figured me out, even if Scott hadn't. The only way she'd get me in the same bed with her was if there was another man in it.
I just shook my head. "I don't think so," I said. "No three-ways."
"Fuck, I knew it," he said. "You're gonna take her away from me. Well, buddy, I got just one thing to say to you."
I stopped him.
"No need for that," I said. "I wouldn't do anything like that to a friend. She's all yours."
"You mean it?" he said. "You really mean it?"
"One hundred percent."
"Aw, you are a real pal," he said. "I could almost kiss you." And I honestly think he wanted to.
"No need for that," I said, like just the thought of it was compromising my manhood. "Now let's get down to business. We got a movie to make."
And that's how the rest of the day went. We listened to the sound he'd recorded and decided what he needed to cut together for the section of the film I'd just shot.
Then, while he excused himself for some more recreational time with Eileenthere'd been a home-cooked dinner planned in the kitchen of the women's floor of the dorm, where I was to have been invited as the third partyI got some time on an editing table and worked into the night, looking again at what we had put together so far.
When I got back to the dorm, it must have been almost midnight. I climbed the stairs, carrying a pizza I'd bought, and as I got to where the corridor that went outside my room was at eye level, I could see someone sitting on the floor near my door, his back against the wall.
It was Randy.
He looked up when he saw me coming. So intent on getting him to the prison that afternoon, I hadn't thought much about where he'd be spending the night. I'd never expected to see him again, and here he was.
"Hey, Danny," he said, as he got to his feet.
He'd gone to the Y, he told me, but they didn't have a room for him, and since he was too broke to go to a motel, he'd tried the waiting room at the Greyhound station, but that hadn't worked out either. Some security guards had given him the bum's rush when he couldn't show them a bus ticket. Finally, he'd walked back to the university.
"That's gotta be a couple of miles," I said.
He just shrugged, and I handed him the pizza while I unlocked my door.
Inside, he sat down and pulled off his boots. "My dogs are sure barkin'," he said, laughing a little. The way he sat there, rubbing his feet, he seemed not just tired but completely exhausted.
I knew I could find a place for him to sleep. If not Scott's bedwhich would be empty if he was with Eileen in hersthen a couch in one of the lounges.
"Had anything to eat?" I asked, offering him the pizza.
He hadn't. And I let him eat most of it, which he wolfed down, sharing a mostly warm can of beer I'd bought at the 7-11.
I noticed he wasn't looking any too happy, and I finally asked him as we sat there, "How'd things go with Wallace?"
He sighed and just looked into the pizza box. "I didn't get to see him."
"There was this god-almighty rigamarole filling out forms and getting them all looked over and signed and stamped that took forever," he said.
Since he wasn't on the books as an approved prison visitor, he couldn't see anyone until all the paperwork had crossed several desks. And for that they'd kept him waiting a long time. Other people were coming and going, but each time he'd asked what the hold-up was, he'd been told to be patient.
"Finally this guy called my name," he said, "and we went, and he sat me down at his desk." They'd been running a check on him, the man had told him, and there'd been some problem, but he wouldn't explain what it was. Just that it was getting too late for visiting hours anyway, and Randy may as well go home and come back tomorrow.
Then, as he closed the file he'd been looking at, he told Randy that there was something he should know about Indians if he didn't know it already. Some of them had been getting funny ideas lately about causing folks trouble.
What kind of trouble, Randy wanted to know.
The wrong kind, the man said. With the U.S. government.
And since the wrong kind of trouble had a way of landing them in prison, it was a place where a young Indian serving time for another reasonand not too happy about itcould fall under their influence. If that was the case, he might not want them to know he was still friendly with anyone who wasn't Indian.
"He said it like he was hinting at something he wasn't telling me, and he was giving me a warning."
"He knew you were there to see Wallace?"
"Yeah, it was on the forms he was looking at," he said. "And he wasn't being a hard-ass about it either, just talking one white man to another."
"Do you think it's possible?" I said.
He looked at me like he was trying to find the answer in my face, and then he gave me a sad smile. "He's the one stopped answering my letters, and if he broke his arm, it should have healed up by now."
I didn't know what to say. I'm used to Mike, who is Mr. Even-Tempered. He modulates his feelings like he was balancing a spinning plate on the tip of his finger, which I've seen him do. I'd rarely met a man like Randy who could go through so many moods in one day.
"Looks like I could be really fucked," he said. "And not in a nice way."
Here he was, as dejected as a lost boy, sitting on my desk chair, slumped forward and leaning with his elbows on his knees. All spiffed up and looking fresh and determined the last time I saw him, he was in a kind of misery now, trying to lift his own spirits but failing.
"What are you gonna do?"
"I'm going back there tomorrow. That's for damn sure." He picked up some pizza crumbs from the box and popped them into his mouth. "I came all this way. I ain't goin' back till I see him."
"Didn't you say he had a sister in Omaha? If you called her, maybe she'd know something."
"She ain't there anymore. Phone's disconnected."
"Anybody else could help?"
He shook his head, and we fell silent for a while. We'd quickly run out of ideas.
"It's getting late. What would you say to some shut eye?" I finally said. "Might be the only thing left we can do."
He looked at me from under the brim of his hat. He'd never taken it off.
"I can find a bed for you, or a couch," I said, and I folded the pizza box together and got up to shove it into a waste basket.
"I wanna sleep with you tonight, Danny," he said, and he said it simply like it had been there on his mind the whole time.
"I dunno about that," I said without looking at him.
"I haven't slept with anybody I cared about since Wallace left," he said. "It's starting to get the best of me."
It dawned on me to ask myself what Mike would do if he were in my shoes right now. And tired as I wasit had been a helluva long day for me, toothere was no doubt in my mind that he'd say something wise and reassuring and then say no. Maybe even no thanks.
Of course, Mike would not have got himself into this situation in the first place. Once he'd dropped off Randy at the truck stop, he wouldn't have gone back like I did and with the lame reason I had for doing it.
I looked at Randy and shook my head, feeling like a jerk.
He stood up then and reached for me, getting both arms around me before I could move away from him. Which was easy enough, since I hadn't moved at all.
"Danny, please," he said.
His body against mine was urgent and alive with yearning, and he hugged me hard. The brim of his hat brushed against the side of my head and I could feel his belt buckle pressing into me.
I just let him hold me, and I held him, too, not nearly so fiercely, but with a kind of affection that had deepened as I'd listened to the sorrow in his voice. Then he pulled back to look in my face and with one hand took off my glasses.
"I have been wanting to do that all day, since I first laid eyes on you," he said. "But I figured you needed them to drive, so I didn't."
It was a little joke, and he gave me a little grin.
"You're not driving now," he said, his voice just above a whisper. "So this should be OK." He tenderly folded them together and set them on my desk.
Meanwhile, my heart was pounding, and all I could think of was that my damn dick was getting stiff.
He leaned toward me again, his lips parting, and gave me a big kiss on the mouth. And so help me, I kissed him back.
Continued . . .
© 2007 Rock Lane Cooper