Let The World Go By
This is a story that involves sex between males. If such a story is offensive, or illegal for you to read where you live, then do not continue, go and surf elsewhere.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental.
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Once again I want to thank all of you who have sent me comments about the story.
Fire In Winter
The early months of 1974 of passed quickly, James busy at work, and Mike busy too. They saw each other often, and were becoming quite comfortable in the relationship that was developing between them. They'd talked of trying to find a larger place, close to where Mike was living now, but when February ended, they had come up with nothing.
They had taken to staying at Mike's place on weekends, and meeting at the bar only occasionally, sometimes going to James' place afterward. Mike would take the bus to work when it was time.
It was a Thursday evening in early March, after James had his dinner, he was sitting reading a magazine he had brought home from work, dealing with some technical aspect of the project he was working on, and the phone rang.
"Hello," he answered.
"It's me," Mike said, "I can't talk long. Can you meet me tonight after ten?"
"Sure, what's up?" James asked.
"We'll talk then, okay?" Mike sounded a little down.
"Okay, see you then." James hung up the phone. He frowned, Mike never acted this way, he was puzzled, but went back to his reading. It had been raining all day, and he didn't relish the idea of going out in it, but he would.
At nine-thirty he put on his coat and drove to the city. He was glad he had taken his umbrella along, as he had to park three blocks from the bar. Even with the wet weather the place was still busy for a Wednesday. He inched his way to the bar and ordered a coffee, black.
When he got it, the bartender waved off his payment. He laid the bill on the bar, and walked to the booth in the back that he had spotted before. He sat down and sipped the strong brew. No wonder he didn't charge me for it, he thought, it's awful!
A few minutes later Mike came in, his hair dripping and his coat soaked. He spotted James, and stopped at the bar and got a beer on his way back to the booth.
"What's up?" James asked.
"I've got to go to Cleveland. My mother's quite ill." Mike said.
"I'm sorry, Mike," James said, "Is there anything I can do?"
"Thanks," Mike was trembling, "I'm not sure. My sister said that she's pretty bad. Apparently she's had a stroke, and is partially paralyzed."
"That's too bad," James put his hand on Mike's arm. "But she'll get better, Mike, don't worry."
"I hope so," Mike said, his voice trailing off.
"How long will you stay?" James asked.
"I don't know," he answered, "I don't know."
"What about your apartment, will you let it go?" James asked.
"I'll have to, I can't afford to keep it, since I don't know how long I'll be gone."
"I hate for you to do that," You waited a long time to get in there."
"Yeah," Mike said wistfully.
"Hey," James' eyes brightened, "Why don't I move in? I could take it until you get back, and then maybe we could find something bigger by then."
"That's a good idea, James." Mike smiled.
"You think they'd let me do that?" James asked, "There is a list you know."
"Yeah, but Ralph's a friend of mine," Mike said, his eyes brightening, "I'm sure he won't mind, as long as it's temporary. We won't say that we'll be moving out when I get back."
"Good." James said and then asked, "When will you leave?"
"I told them at work, that I'd have to leave on Sunday. They said that they could hold my job for up to one month, and after that I'd have to reapply when I come back. And if they had an opening them I'd get back on just like I was never gone, if it were less than six months."
"That's good," James said.
They sat there for a long while, each thinking the same thing, and neither wanting to bring it up.
"I'm going to miss you, Mike," James said at last taking Mike's hand in his.
"Yeah, it's going to be hard, not having you to come home to at night."
"Let's go, shall we?" James asked.
They left, and drove to Mike's place. It had stopped raining. Mike made a pot of coffee to help them get warm and they sat on the sofa and looked at each other. Neither could believe that what they had worked so hard to achieve was going to end so soon. Although it was supposed to be temporary, they each knew that it was over. It was Thursday night, and on Sunday James would drive Mike to the airport, and it was ended. It was that simple! How cruel were the gods that controlled their lives!
James held Mike tightly in his arms, longing to stay with him forever. Mike, his thoughts far away, sat motionless, his body savoring the tenderness, but his mind hardly aware that it existed.
"You'd better go," Mike said at last, "It's getting late, and you've got to get up early."
"I suppose," James said, and reluctantly relaxed his hold on Mike.
It was then that Mike became aware of how tightly James had been holding him; momentarily he felt he was coming apart. He turned to James and looked into his eyes.
"I wish you didn't have to go away," James said.
"Me too," was all he could say. James stood up and went to the door.
"Call me when you get up," James said.
"Okay," Mike whispered. James left and drove the lonely drive back to his place.
The next two days were filled for both men, each making the necessary preparations required. Mike was packing most of his personal things for shipment back to Cleveland; there weren't many, that he needed to take back with him. What he didn't need right away; he packed in boxes that James could send later, if he wanted them.
James had to get his thing ready to move into Mike's apartment. Neither had furniture that would make the move easier. Mike's flight arrangements were quickly made, he was leaving at nine o'clock Sunday evening, and James would take him to the airport. James could move into the apartment anytime, as Mike's friend, Ralph was just changing the records to show that James had rented it originally, even though Mike had lived there. It was a simple rewriting of the lease agreement with a different name, irregular but quite legal.
Neither looked forward to the weekend, Mike's boss, Mrs. Murray, had told him he didn't have to work his shift on Saturday, but he'd still get paid for it. James pulled up to the restaurant at ten o'clock Friday night and waited for Mike to come out. Traffic was light, so he just double-parked and let the engine run. Moments later Mike came out and walked around the front of the car and climbed in. James drove off.
"You okay?" James asked looking at Mike.
"I can't believe it!" he said, he seemed stunned. "You know what they did?"
"They all got together and took up a collection for me, as a going away gift."
"That's great," James said, "It was very nice of them to do that."
"Yeah," Mike said. "We had done that for other people who left, but it was never like this."
"Normally we'd get maybe twenty dollars tops. But look!" Mike opened the envelope he took from his pocket and took out the bills. "A thousand dollars! Count'em ten one hundred dollar bills! No wonder Mrs. Murray didn't want me to open it until I left.
"When I opened it, just before I came out, I almost died. I had to go back and kiss her; I know she put in most of it. She cried when I came back, and so did I. I don't believe it!"
"Wow!" Was all that James could say. They were silent as James drove to his place. They had agreed to stay there, and in the morning they would take some of James' things to the other apartment in the morning, things that James wouldn't need until he actually moved in the next weekend.
James had tried to make the place look nice, in spite of the fact that he was packing to move out. He had arranged the boxes along the wall in the living room and covered them with a blanket. Music was playing softly, and the lights were turned down. On the coffee table in front of the sofa two wine glasses stood. A small vase was filled with tiny pink rose buds; next to it sat a small package wrapped in silver paper with gold ribbons.
Mike looked at it when he walked in, he had been there before, and knew what the place looked like, and realized at once, that this was something different.
"Oh, James, you shouldn't have!" He turned and hugged him.
"Come sit down, and I'll get the wine. James was excited.
He thought a long time, before he decided what he was going to do for him. He decided that the best thing was to pretend it was just another party, a party celebrating someone's going on a trip.
James hurried to the kitchen and brought back the bottle of wine he'd bought. It wasn't expensive, but it was a kind that they both liked, a soft white wine. He'd opened it before he left, so that he wouldn't have to struggle with it when they got back.
When he returned, Mike was sitting on the sofa waiting for him. He saw down next to him and poured the glasses half full, handing one to Mike.
"To your trip," James said holding up his glass.
"Thank you," Mike said and touched James' glass with his own. They tasted the wine.
"Now," James said, "Open this," he handed Mike the small wrapped package.
"You know you shouldn't have done this," Mike said shyly.
His nervous fingers fumbled with the ribbon and paper. Finally he had removed them, and held the small white box. He cautiously lifted the cover. Inside lay an object wrapped in white paper. He picked it up and unfolded the tissue. Lying in the bottom of the paper lay a silver pendant and chain. He lifted it up and looked at it. On the topside engraved within a wreath was the word LOVE and on the reverse side James.
"How perfect!" Mike held it up. "Put it on for me."
James undid the clasp and put it around his neck, and re-hooked it. When he saw how it looked, he was pleased with his choice.
"Oh, thank you, James. Thank you so much." He leaned over and kissed him.
"You're very welcome, Mike," James said, "And when you wear it, you can remember that someone loves you very much."
Later as they lay in each other's arms, they listened to the sound of rain on the ground outside the window. The ground was still covered with frozen remnants of the winter snowfall. They made love again, this time with spontaneity and tenderness, each delaying until a moment in time when neither could restrain it further. They clung to each other in desperation not wanting it to end. At last they lay exhausted, and alone in the night, safe in the love they had created. Even when they were apart, they would have that one moment to remember.
James moved into Mike's apartment on the 29th of March, which left him two days to clean the other apartment. It didn't really make a difference how clean it was, he wasn't getting his deposit back, since he hadn't stayed the required six months. But they could have charged him more, if it was a mess, so he cleaned it well.
Mike sent him a letter the week after he arrived.
"Dear James, I arrived right on schedule, and my sister picked me up as planned. We drove to the hospital to visit my mother. I think that she recognized me, although it's so hard to tell. I feel so badly, that there's really nothing much anyone can do for her at this point.
"I'm staying with my sister until I can move into an apartment. She's located a nice efficiency for me, and I can move in the first of April. I have an interview for a job tomorrow, and with the glowing letter from Mrs. Murray, I shouldn't have any problem.
"I want to thank you again for everything you did for me those last days. Without your help I never could have done it all. And most of all, I appreciate your love and understanding. I hope that I will be back with you soon. Love, Mike."
James stood looking out to the street below. Traffic was moving slowly, it was the end of the rush hour, and everyone was heading home for the weekend. He had everything arranged in the apartment now, and it felt as if it were finally his own. The boxes that he would send to Mike were still standing in the corner next to the closet door, but other than that, everywhere he looked, it was his.
Marcy had called just after he arrived home, and wanted him to visit on Sunday, actually she wanted him to come out and spend the night Saturday, but he didn't want to tie up the whole weekend with her. He'd told her he had a dinner invitation for Saturday night and couldn't make it.
David had called once since Mike had gone, but that was before he'd moved. He told David that he was busy. David was still having problems with Norman, and James wanted no part of that. Even if that were no problem, David drank too much to suit him. If there was one thing that James had discovered since he had been living alone, it was that having no sex partner was better than having a drunken sex partner.
Tonight he felt lonely, and wanted to be with someone, to talk, if nothing else. He dressed in jeans and flannel shirt. It was warm enough now so that a heavy coat wasn't needed, and so he took at the jacket that hung next to it.
He went down to the lobby and out the back door to the parking lot at the back of the building. He climbed into his car and drove the short distance downtown to The Hour.
The usual Friday night crowd had arrived, as it was already nine-thirty when he got there. Several people greeted him as he walked in, and made his way to the bar. He had stood there just a few minutes when Jimmy brought him his usual, a screwdriver. They exchanged greetings and James walked to the back of the room.
There were no empty booths, and since he felt like talking to someone anyway, he hung about the edge of the crowd looking for someone he felt might be interested in just talking. He eased his way through the crowd headed for a face that looked vaguely familiar. It wasn't anyone he could say that he had meet recently, but rather from somewhere in his past.
When he nearly arrived at the location where the man was standing, he almost decided he was mistaken. This man was much older than the face he recalled, and then he told himself, "Go ahead, nothing ventured, nothing gained!"
"Excuse me," James said when he was next to him. The man turned and looked at him. He smiled but didn't say anything.
"I think I know you from somewhere," James said.
"I doubt it," the man answered thinking, That's an old line.
"It was some time ago, though," James said.
"Well," the man said, "I'm not from the cities anymore. I live in Chicago."
"That's it!" James brightened. "You're name's Randy, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." Randy looked intently at James for a moment and asked, "James?"
"That's right. It surely has been a long time. You were still in college, must have been 58 or 59!" James said eagerly.
"Shhh! Makes me sound old!" Randy laughed. "You haven't changed at all! How do you do it?"
"Hard work, and hard play." James laughed.
They shook hands warmly.
"You still married?" Randy asked.
"No," James said, "We split up in November."
"I'm sorry," Randy said.
"Thanks, it got to be too much for either of us to handle. How about you, did you get married?"
"Yeah, right after college. It's been fourteen years now. Two kid, a boy nine and a girl twelve."
"That's great, how's it working out?"
"Fine, so far." Randy's eyes sparkled. His hair had grayed around the edges giving him a distinguished business type look. He was in good shape from what James could tell.
"So why are you in here, then?" James teased.
"Ouch! It took a long time, but you got me back!" Randy laughed. "Where are you living then?"
"I have an apartment over on La Salle, you remember The Lexington?"
"That old hotel?"
"Yeah, I've got an efficiency there. Quite nice actually."
"No boyfriend then?"
"No, thought I was going to have, but he had to go home to Cleveland, his mother's ill."
"It works out that way, sometimes."
"Say, would you like to come over, and we can visit? The noise in here gets to me after a while."
"Sure, that'd be great. Got any wine?" Randy asked.
"Always have some, what kind do you like?"
"Anything but Burgundy."
"That I don't have. I drink white mostly." James said.
"Okay, anything light is fine." Randy said.
"Well, let's go then. You driving?"
"Yeah, but it's in the hotel garage, so it can stay if you don't mind bringing me back down later."
"Okay, we're off then," James said putting his glass on the bar. They left and rode the short distance to James' apartment.
"Say, this is nice!" Randy said looking around.
"Thanks. It's not too large, but I don't need a whole lot of space, that I'd just have to clean up all the time."
"You're right," Randy said.
"Have a seat, and I'll get the wine." James went to the kitchen and filled two glasses with the white wine.
"So, tell me, Randy, what are you doing in town?" James asked sitting on the sofa beside him.
"I'm in town on business. My company has an office here, and occasionally I have to come and do some work and meet with the chiefs here.
"Linda couldn't come this time, so I'm staying at a hotel instead of with her folks like we normally do.
"Right now, she's been looking for work, but since she doesn't really have to, she's gotten involved with volunteer work, and that sort of thing. It still keeps her busy enough just the same."
"So," James said softly and paused.
"I'm so glad you recognized me, I often wondered how you were," Randy said, "It's funny how when you meet someone you never seem to see them again. Like we did, I mean. It's been what, fifteen years? And it seems in some ways, like yesterday."
"Yeah," James felt uneasy, he was running out of things to say. And he didn't want Randy to think that he invited him over just so they could have sex.
"How long are you in town for?" James asked.
"I'll be here all week, I'll be flying back on Friday. The reason I came today is my folks wedding anniversary is Saturday, so I'll be going out to visit them tomorrow afternoon. 'Til then I'm free, and after Sunday too." Randy tried not to make it sound too blatant, but he wanted to sleep with James again. He wanted to know if he still could be with a man like that, for more than just a quickie like he was used to at home.
"You will stay the night, then?" James asked hesitantly.
"I'd love to, James. It's been so long since I've had the chance to be with someone as nice as you, someone who's not out for the buck, or just a quick roll in the hay."
They leaned together and kissed. Their bodies responded as they explored the inner reaches of their souls. James pulled open the bed and they undressed. For two men well past what was considered their prime, their bodies looked fit and trim. A bit more relaxed in the way they searched out their pleasure, but the intensity and desire had not diminished, nor their ability to arouse their partner and to respond to the sensations of desire. They were totally alive, totally vibrant, totally men, experienced in the art of making love to another man.
Long after the sensations had died away, they lay quietly in each other's arms. Awake, but content to be silent, and still, savoring the pleasure they had just taken and received.
It was Randy who broke the quiet at last. "I envy you, James, in a way."
"How's that?" James asked.
"You've broken away. I don't mean just from the marriage, but taken charge of your own life, and are living it the way you want to."
"It's kinda spooky, though. I wonder sometimes if I've done the right thing. My Dad's still upset by it. My ex-wife, rather soon to be ex-wife, decided that everyone had to know why we broke up, so she told my folks as well as her own, and the kids."
"How awful!" Randy said.
"That was hard to accept at first, really hard. I wanted to strangle her for it. But as time goes on, we'll all get over it. And she'll be the one who'll be stuck with it!" James said sadly.
"That's what I worry about most, the folks and kids. Linda would handle it okay, but not the others." Randy said.
"Well, at least, you're making out okay," James said. "Yeah."
"Say, are you hungry?" James asked.
"Yes, now that you mention it, I am."
"Shall I fix something then?"
"Naw, it's too much trouble. Let's just go out, and get something. My treat!" Randy said sitting up.
"Okay, where'll we go?"
"Is Lincoln's Deli still around?" Randy asked.
"Yes, in fact there's another one open now, out on 494," James answered.
"Really? I've always liked their food."
They hurriedly dressed as it was close to midnight. James drove the short distance to the Deli closest to them, out on the Belt Line. As usual, it was fairly crowded and they had to wait a few minutes before they could get a table.
"It's worth the wait!" Randy said. "They've got delis in Chicago too, and they're good, but somehow I always missed Lincoln's."
"My wife and I started coming here years ago, but I haven't been here since we separated. Her sister lives not far from here, and I guess I didn't want to chance running into them."
"I suppose that'd be touchy," Randy said.
Their order arrived and they talked as they ate, still commenting how good everything was. When they were finished, they sipped their coffee slowly, and would have stayed longer if the waitress hadn't come over and said that they were going to be closing soon.
They drove back to James' and climbed back into bed.
"Thanks, James," Randy said. "For a totally enjoyable evening. I haven't felt this good in a long time."
"You're welcome. I feel the same. It's been really good for me too."
They kissed and made love again, falling asleep afterward exhausted, but content.
To be continued
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