A little change of pace from my usual story-telling, but I think it's better style and more professional. Hope you all enjoy it and make sure to tell me what you think!


Copyright ©2001

by Derek Schachter

     His name was Paul, but just by coincidence. The first thing I noticed about him was the back of his head, then his shoulders, right down his back and then...well I was smitten from then on. As soon as my mind was made, as if he had some sort of detection system inside, he turned around and I saw his front. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but what I was expecting was what I wanted, and what I wanted certainly wasn't hanging around downtown at eleven at night. I was walking down the street, back to my dorm room, when it I saw him. I think I had passed Paul a couple times before; I never really noticed. We probably had. I just don't know.

     So he turned around and smiled, and I smiled back. My hands were in my pockets at the time, as I was walking down the sidewalk, before I saw him, that is. When he smiled at me I sort of crossed my arms as I smiled back, letting him know that I was interested. That's about all there was to it. Easy as pie. I was hoping it would be a good night for me. Maybe just one night with a guy would allow me to clear my thoughts. I certainly wasn't expecting to be vindicated, but I could still use my imagination to its fullest extent and possibly dream of what I really wanted.

     He had a delicious smile that made you feel all ooey gooey on the inside. I'm sorry, that's a lie. I forced myself to feel ooey gooey on the inside as we exchanged smiles, but I'm sure for any other sucker they would not have to fake it. To put it simply, he made me feel like shit, but I wanted him, bad. He was wearing an interesting necklace though, comprised of silver ball bearings, which glimmered as cars, having their headlights on, passed by. I just had my gimmicky Human Rights Campaign pendent on. I couldn't be blamed for that, though, as I was coming back from a late meeting. Some kid in the city, or near the city of Philadelphia at least, got snubbed by his Biology teacher when, during a class on sex education, insisted she teach safe sex for homosexuals. So now we had to fight for his cause. Did we have anything more important to worry about other than some kid and his stupid teacher? I mean who really gives a fuck? I'm sorry. Who really gives a hoot? Most of us had better things to do. That is, most of us. I, on the other hand, went to the meeting voluntarily, just for something to do.

     Paul was just something else to do, something else on my itinerary. Well, when you have an empty grocery list and you haven't shopped in a while, but you are hungry, might as well go shopping. Don't know what I'm talking about? Don't worry, you will, in time, but please, don't try and relate, it just makes the pain less bearable. I was actually going to pass him. I checked him out, he turned around, we exchanged smiles, and I was really going to pass him...then I saw his eyes. They were brown. He was a blond, lean, my height (average for a college junior, so maybe he was in college, as well), his name was Paul, and he had brown eyes. We maintained eye contact until he was almost out of my sight. As soon as he looked away, figuring I was just playing around with his emotions, I turned to face him. He was with two other buddies, neither of which I paid any attention to. We greeted each other formerly, exchanged names, and after some more small talk and dubious allusions to the obvious, I invited him back to my dorm room. It needed some liveliness in it anyhow.

     "This is your room? It's decent." Paul asked as he flung his jacket over his shoulder, looking around the place. I took his jacket and placed in on a chair. It seemed heavy for some reason. I wonder what kind of things he had in the pockets.

     "It's nothing much. It's what they give us, so you have to live with it." I responded.

     "I rather like it. Do you have a roommate..." He asked, fumbling with his words. "I'm sorry, you said your name was Chuck?"

     "I'd prefer Charles if you don't mind. And my roommate is on vacation. He's not going to be here for a while, don't worry." I said as I looked through my collection of CDs. I heard him sit down on my bed. I desperately tried to find something to put on, but I couldn't. Nothing seemed right here. Everything was wrong! What the hell was I doing? My face turned red with anguish, but I tried not to let him notice. "Do...do you like sports? Football?" I tried distracting him so he wouldn't be able to detect my despair. I pretended to search through my CDs more until I had gone through the pile three times. Fuck it!

     "We don't need music, that's ok. Sometimes I catch an Eagles game, I suppose. Some of my friends are into it. Are you?" I regained my composure and turned around with a weak smile. My head was beginning to ache.

     "No. I'm just making small talk." I lied, noticing that he was glancing over to my picture-frame on my desk. It wasn't the frame I was worried about, but the picture inside of it. He cocked his head to the side.

    "Who's that? He's cute?" He spoke in a wispy, feminine tone, while squinting his eyes, trying to make out the picture. I quickly ran over to it and turned it around so it faced the wall.

    "It's no one, don't worry about it. Just...it's just my roommate." I wish he'd shut up already. He had such an amazing voice.

    "You keep a picture of your roommate on your desk?" He asked, going too far.

    "Yes!" I yelled out. I quickly covered my mouth, apologized, and went to my mini-fridge across the room and opened it up. Tears were beginning to form in my eyes. I didn't want him to see. The cold from the fridge against the tears made my eyes feel as if they were going to freeze. I quickly wiped them. It was empty except for two beers. "Do you want a drink?" He seemed relaxed enough. Maybe if I stalled enough I could still get out of this. It wasn't too late. It would all be ok. It would all be over soon, but not soon enough. Talking was ok, perfectly fine. Suddenly, I noticed he was standing right behind me. I stood up, beers in hand, closing the fridge door, and turned around. He stood there with a grin on his face. It had to be ten times more magnificent than his smile, which made me feel ten times as worse. I was frozen in I don't know what. Fear? Anxiousness? He was so close to me that I could feel his breath on my face. It felt...good. I was getting weak in the knees. He was just beautiful. It was then that I noticed he had removed his shirt. To my lucky it was what I expected. Maybe if I didn't look at his face, then it would be ok, then everything would be ok. I would still have some sort of life to salvage. My eyes gazed at his smooth chest, from his dark nipples down to his bellybutton. Whatever I could do to keep away from his face, that was fine. "D...do you want a drink?" I asked sheepishly as I held up the beer cans. He gently ran his fingers over my hand and took them from me, placing them down on the top of the mini-fridge.

     "Maybe later, baby, ok?" Paul circled around me like a vulture. He placed his hands on my hips delicately as he moved behind me. Even that felt good. The bulge in my pants became apparent. I was enjoying this. I was enjoying this immensely. I didn't want it though! I didn't want it! But then his grip became less firm on my hips, and his hands were sliding under my shirt. Then he was behind me. "You just need to relax. Paul will take care of everything." He kissed my neck so delicately.

     "I know he will." I muttered as I let his hands roam my body. I closed my eyes but all I could see was pain and nothing else. The only color was red. I was afraid to close my eyes, yet how could I keep them open? His hands clenched my shirt and removed it, and then he started teasing my nipples.

     "Tell me what you want, Charles. I'm all yours." His body was pressed against mine. I could feel his cold necklace on my back, which sent chills throughout my body. Then I felt one of his hands groping me though my jeans. "Come on, tell me what you want."

     "I want...I want..." I was beginning to say it, but I was afraid I would break down crying. "I want Paul."

     "You can have me. I'm right here for you. Would it be better if you were in back?" He whispered in my ear. I seriously thought for a moment, then agreed. He spun around and come in front of me, pressing his back into my stomach. I could see clearer now. It was better, much better. But...still. "Is that better baby?"

     "I think so." I said softly, not in a whisper, but because I was weak. I was tired of fighting, but for some reason I just kept finding to quarrels. I wish I could do something and he would slap me, get back dressed and leave, but no, I was paying him. I could touch him all I wanted and pretend like he wanted it. I would molest him all night and he would still be begging for more and more and more. And the worst part? I'd believe it. That's right. I'd believe every part of it. And I was setting myself up for more now with this new position. I could only see the back of him, not his face, just his backside. If I didn't know any better I could have sworn...well that's why you picked him out, isn't it? Because of how he looked! Correct? Yes but...but...Chuck you think too much! But...!

     "Charles?" Paul asked, realizing I wasn't really doing anything. I was too busy battling with my emotions. I was just standing there, frozen again. This was too difficult. What was I trying to prove to myself? "If you don't want to do anything, that's ok. Look, I won't even charge you. That's what I'll do for you. I'm that nice. And I've only been five minutes anyhow." A tear dripped onto his shoulder. "Charles? What's wrong? Did I do something wrong?" Still silence. "Say something. Anything!" What could I say?

     "I love you Paul! Please don't die. Please don't die. I love you!" I screamed out as I broke down crying, curling myself into a ball on the floor.

     "Talking doesn't work, especially in a group." Beep. Silence. Beep Beep. "It's hard enough. I mean I have to compare myself to these other lowlifes? People who shouldn't even be there? Just whiney brats, all of them." More beeping, more silence. "Pills don't work. I hate being drugged, probably why I never did drugs, heh. I feel woozy, and dizzy, as if my whole life is one gigantic fantasy. Yeah, wouldn't that be grand, huh?" Silence still, interrupted by beeping on the monitor. "I can't concentrate in class if I'm on any of them, nor can I do homework, or have a decent night's sleep. Sleep. As if I can sleep well anyhow. I recently learned hookers don't work, either. Don't worry, nothing happened. He was polite about it, too. Nice boy, for a whore. Too bad he was a whore. He could have made someone happy. Maybe he is making someone happy, but they don't know about it. I'm sure you know what that feels like, when someone you love tries to be happy with someone else, but not you?" Silence. He wasn't responding one bit. I didn't expect him to, obviously. "Of course you do. I may have to repeat it later, but if you're paying attention, I'll tell you right now...I'm sorry, I really am. You're such a great person; if you were in my position, you wouldn't do the same...would you? I'd forgive you, I really would. You would be feeling a void inside of you, just as I am. Right? It's human nature. It's not your fault. I forgive you. I mean, you could forgive me." Beep. Beep. Beep. "You WILL forgive me, I know it. Just give it some time, ok? I still love you, that hasn't changed. It's just hard, because I know that when this is all over, you will still love me, because, well because you never stopped loving me. Does that mean I stopped loving you? No, of course not! It just means maybe I've been filling my void, not trying to move on, please don't get that idea, just trying to fill a void, a hole, a gap, something about me that isn't completed with you." Beep. Beep. "Hope. Forgive me for hope. Or maybe for not giving up on you, or for loving you, or anything! I'd forgive you, damn it! I'd forgive you!" Beep. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. I just came by to tell you that one thing...about the hooker that is. That's all. I wish you wouldn't just lie there like that and come out and tell me what you think about all this. Of course if you could do that..." Beep. Beep. Interrupted. Beep.

     "Is it ok to come in, Chuck? I hope I'm not disturbing you two." Jonathon said, peeking in and knocking on the door. I realized I had been crying and quickly wiped my face. Then I stood up, composed myself, and let him into the room. He limped on his right foot, using his cane for support.

     "No, of course not. I could use someone who I can actually talk to." I offered him a seat and helped him into it, then sat in the chair next to him.

     "Thanks a lot." He smiled warmly. I smiled back sheepishly. "I'm glad you remembered. Rorke usually..."

     "Helps you in, I know." I smirked.

     "But he'll be here, don't worry. Then he you don't have to be a worry wart about me!"

    "I will worry. And I see your hip has gotten better. Hasn't it?" I asked.

     "Oh, much better! Remember I was on crutches last week. Now all I need is this." He motioned toward his cane.  Beep. Beep. More Silence. Awkward. We half smiled silently, then, after a few moments, he spoke up. "And how is Paul?"

     "Good. Same as always. Good." I laughed to myself, shrugging.

     "And you...good?" Jonathon tried making eye contact on me, but I couldn't.

     "I...I guess. I haven't been able to sleep though..."

     "Did you stop taking your pills again?"

     "No! No! Yes...no...I'm not taking them. I...I don't want to. Please, I don't want to."


     "Please! Call me Charles! My name is Charles!" I yelled again. I didn't mean to. I was such a moron. "I'm sorry, Jonathon, I'm really sorry. I'm just so fucking..." I was on the edge of tears again.

     "Shh...shh...I know..." Jonathon put his arm around me and rubbed shoulder slowly. "We're all going to get through this."

     "Promise?" I started to break down and cry on his shoulder. I was such a baby. I didn't want to cry. I was sick of crying all the time, but I couldn't help it. I just couldn't. It was my natural reaction. I was glad that I was crying though, because it meant that I still cared. I did not want to stop caring. As long as I still heard those beeps, I would still care. What other humanity did I have left?

     "I promise, Charles. Don't worry." He gave me a tight squeeze and wiped my face with some tissues. I took the tissues from him and wiped the rest of my tears away as I calmed down, then pulled away from him.

     "I'll be alright. I have to learn to stop crying all the time." I cleaned my face and wiped my nose, then through out the tissues and sat back down.

     "You're a strong person, you know. If what happened to Paul two months ago, happened to Rorke...I just don't know, you know? There's a chance you'd be two friends short. I'm glad you're still here." He ruffled my hair and smiled again. I know he was trying to get a rise out of me, and he was actually succeeding. Maybe sex wasn't what the doctor ordered. I could rely on my friends more; they were more than happy to help me, though at times I think they were pushing more for my coming to terms with reality than my holding on as tight as I was. Fuck them.

     "Thanks. I'm just sad, that's all." I shrugged and smiled weakly again.

     "Well listen." Jonathon leaned toward me in his chair. "I have an idea for you then. You don't have to agree right away, but just think about it." His eyes quickly diverted behind me, towards the bed. I listened to the beeping of the heart rate monitor some more; hasn't changed, as usual. "Well, since I don't need crutches anymore, Rorke and I were planning on..." But before he could finish, the door opened and Rorke appeared behind it with a sullen look on his face.

     "Uh, hi Charles." He said, looking at me, then behind me, then on Jonathon, who spun around in his chair happily at the sound of his arrival. "Hey Johnny, can I talk to you outside for a moment, please?"

     "Of course, babe." Jonathon answered, then noticing his lack of emotion and eye contact with me. Something was up. "What's wrong?" He turned and looked at me with an expression as worriedly as mine at the moment.

     "Just come with me, please." He walked over to help Jonathon up, looking at me and giving me this look as if somebody just died. Well, no one was dead! I could still hear the heartbeat. Beep! Beep! Beep! See? No one was dead! Not in this room at least. The two of them left and spoke quietly behind the door. I couldn't hear much of what they were saying, but from the tone of their voices, I could tell it was something to worry about. Just be cool, Chuck. Be cool. Be cool. Nothing to worry about. See Paul? He's right there, right over there. His heartbeat is fine, because can hear the beeps. What could be the trouble then? Jonathon and Rorke's voices stopped as they entered the room again, Jonathon's expression having been assimilated by Rorke's. They both looked as if they had something drastic to tell me. Be cool Chuck, just calm down. "Chuck..." Rorke started, compassionately. He grimaced and scratched his head, obviously looking for the right words.

     "Whatever you're going to say, just say it, please!" I insisted. Jonathon limped over to me and held my shoulder.

     "We will, bud. You just have to be calm." Jonathon said.

     "I am calm, please, just tell me. If it's about Paul then just tell me. And my name is Charles, ok?" I pleaded with them. Rorke took a giant breath before he started.

     "Charles..." Rorke said strangely, as if it was so foreign to call me by my given name than by the nickname I have been going by for the last five years. Nothing odd about that at all. "I talked with Paul's parents in the hallway. They are talking to the doctor now." Jonathon's hand found mine. Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh. "Paul...he's...he's slipping. His condition is getting worse and...there's little to no chance that he's going to slip out of the coma. If we don't pull the plug soon, which his parents have always had the option of, then he's...he's most likely going to die anyway. They just thought it would sound better coming from me than from a doctor." Rorke took some breaths and stood frozen, awaiting my reaction. Jonathon was squeezing my hand now. I looked up at him and he looked down on me with a tear in his eye. Was what I was hearing true? Paul's coma was becoming unstable? No! His coma was stable! Stable! Not unstable! After two months all of a sudden? That couldn't be, it just couldn't! I looked over at Paul's bed. He looked so peaceful. How could this be? He looks fine! He's fine and he's not going to die! "Charles, do you understand?" Rorke asked condescendingly, crouching in front of me.

     "I understand. I understand perfectly." I said softly, then raising my voice. "There's obviously been some mistake!" I pulled my hand out from under Jonathon's. "Paul is not going to die." I stood up from my seat and hovered over Paul's bed, looking at him. "He's not going to die. He's just fine, better than ever." I bent over and stroked Paul's smooth, blond hair slowly. Paul's hair was nice to touch, marvelous to smell, and on occasion even tasted good. I leaned in and kissed his temple gently. "I love you, Paul. I know you'll come back to me." I whispered into his ear. I could have sworn I caught a smile on his face, but it was probably my imagination. I turned around and smiled at the two of them, who were looking at me blankly. "It's ok guys." I wiped a tear and sniffled. "He's fine. Just look at him." I turned around to look at Paul again and they joined around the bed.

     "Charles..." Rorke said, but Jonathon stopped him from saying anything.

     "Don't. He's not going to listen." Jonathon pointed out, and he was right!

     "Look at him. He looks like an angel just lying there. Always dreaming, probably of me, the dirty boy!" I chuckled. Jonathon and Rorke exchanged glances. Rorke then leaned over and whispered something in Jonathon's ear.

     "Oh yeah!" Jonathon smiled. "What I was going to tell you about before, Chuck...Charles?"

     "Yeah?" I looked up at them.

     "Well, we were planning on going to this club later tonight..."

     "Since he doesn't need crutches anymore." Rorke finished.

     "Silly, I already told him that part." Jonathon smiled. "Anyway, we thought you might like to join us? Just for a few drinks to get you active, you know? It would be around eight." Well, if it was only for a few drinks...

     "I guess I can go." I thought for a moment longer. What could be the harm in it? Paul was fine as I saw it, and he wasn't going anywhere. "Sure, why not?" I returned their smile.

     "Great!" Rorke said, putting his arm around Jonathon. "Well, we have to get going. We only wanted to drop in for that."

     "So we'll see you at the club tonight? It's called the Rainbow Room. You've seen it before. I need someone here to stay a little bit sober in case Rorke here passes out and can't walk me back to the dorm." The three of us laughed.

     "Yeah, I'll be there. See you guys later."

     "Bye." Rorke said, then kissing his hand and touching Paul with it. "Bye Paul, take care of Charles while we're gone, ok?" Jonathon then kissed Rorke on the cheek.

     "Pass it along for me?" Jonathon asked, smiling innocently.

     "You're just a twerp!" Rorke joked and touched Paul again for Jonathon.

     "Thanks, babe. Be good, Paul. See you tonight, Charles!" Jonathon said as Rorke led them out the door, patting me on the back as they passed me. I saw them out, closing the door behind them, then returned to the bed. I knelt before Paul's body, holding his hand tight and caressing it.

     "I have to go out later, but don't worry, ok? I know Jonathon and Rorke are going to bring someone along with them. They just want me to have a good time." Beep. Beep. Beep. "They think you're already dead, but I know better. As long as your hand is warm, you're still alive. No one has taken your place in your bed yet, and I won't let anyone, not as long as you are right here and we're still together. Don't worry, baby. Nothing is going to happen tonight. I'll be good company, make a few jokes, maybe buy him a drink, but that will be the end of it with whoever they bring. I know you'd do the same for me." I sighed as Paul's hand became wet with tears. Beep. Beep. Beep. "I wish I could hear your sweet voice again. I don't want to forget what it sounds like, I really don't, but it's getting harder and harder to preserve the good times we used to have. The only new memories I have of you now are the rhythmic beeps of that damned heart rate monitor!" I sighed again and wept into his hand. "I want you to hold me, to kiss to, to tell me that you love me. I don't want you to die, Paul. Please don't die! Oh, god, please don't die! Show me some sign that you're still here with me, any sign at all! I need you so bad, baby. I don't know how much longer I can go on for..." I squeezed his wet hand tight until I thought it would break. He didn't make a sound...

      "So, you know then?" Paul's mother asked me over the telephone. Why she couldn't see me in person and had to have a relationship vicariously through my friends was a mystery to me. She probably just couldn't bring herself to see me in my condition. She could see Paul in his condition, but me? No sir! She wouldn't have it. His father wouldn't either.

     "Yes, Rorke told me." I replied. I was sitting at my desk in our dorm room, caressing the framed photo of Paul and I, the one with that sporting team jersey he had on. My room was completely dark, being that it was half-passed seven at night. The only light source in my room was the glow of my desk lamp, which illuminated my photograph.  He looked so happy in that picture; his arm was around me. That had to be about six months old. His hair was different back then, though. It was short back then, and about a month later, he let it grow out a little bit.

     "I'm glad he did. We asked him to tell you though." She paused. "He's such a sweet boy. I'm happy that you and Paul are friends with him." Another pause. "He seems to attract the nicest boys." Was that a compliment? I wasn't quite sure. Better change the subject.

     "I'm sorry about Paul, Mrs. Stevenson." I said sincerely and tried to smile, even though she couldn't see it.

     "Chuck..." His mother began to say.

     "It's Charles now. I'm sorry, Mrs. Stevenson. I just prefer to be called Charles now. Okay?" Changing your name was a difficult thing to do.

     "Umm, Charles..." Another pause. No. A hesitation.

     "Yes?" I asked. People were so restrained with me these days.

     "You're a dear to give me your condolences, but truthfully, and I don't want to sound heartless on the matter, but really, it's been two months already. We've already mourned for Paul. We knew the time would come one day in which we would have to make a decision. I'm sorry you couldn't be the one to make it for him, but that's all legal mumbo-jumbo." She sighed. I could tell her frustration. I knew what she was saying, but I didn't want to hear it. The picture in my hand was squeezed tighter now against the glass framing. She continued. "I would hope that you would support us on our decision when to...you know what. It would be completely painless..."

     "But...but...Mrs. Stevenson!..." I stuttered, gripping the frame harder with both hands.

     "Charles, listen to me!" She demanded. "I love you and Paul dearly. You know that you're like a son to me. Why you never called me "Mom" is not important. What's important is that I know what's best for you both. He isn't going to get better, Charles. He's only going to get worse. Do you understand?" Tears were streaming down my face and hitting Paul in the picture.

     "Mrs. Stevenson...Mom...I don't...maybe if we waited just a little bit longer. Just a week, that's all. Or a few days, maybe?" I asked hopefully, pleading with her.

     "Charles, they say that in a week, his coma will be unstable and we'll probably lose him. There won't be any hope left!"

     "But there's hope now! There's still hope for him! He could be awake tomorrow morning, or in a few hours, or maybe right now! He could be awake right now!" I screamed into the receiver.

     "Charles, nurses check on him all the time. If he is awake then they will call us."

     "But you're tying on the phone line. They could be calling right now. Please let them call, Mrs. Stevenson!" My voice became squeaky as my throat was beginning to hurt. I was grasping the picture with all my might.

     "Charles, stop it! Just stop it! Why are you doing this to yourself?"

     "Doing this to myself? I don't think you understand that I love Paul, and I'm not going to try and hook up with someone behind his back." A lie, a half-lie actually.

     "Charles, sweetie, just calm down. We have to do this, ok? Paul might be in pain if his coma is unstable. His consciousness will begin to slip. He is having such wonderful dreams now, and he will be able to live out those dreams if we take action. If we let him become unstable, then there may just be darkness. Nothingness. I know you don't want that for him. He knows you love him, Charles. I'm sure he couldn't be more grateful that you have so faithfully stood by him the past two months. We are. But now it is time to move on, okay? He'll wait for you in Heaven. We all will."

     "I...I just don't know...it's so..." I was beginning to lose it. The thought was just so frightening to me. I didn't want him dead. I wanted him alive. I could be happy just feeling his warm skin on mine. I could live with that, but not him being dead...I didn't know.

     "Charles, I'm going to say two words to you, then say goodbye. You had better follow my advice or you won't ever be happy again." She paused again, then ended. "Let go. Goodbye." I heard the click of the phone from the other end when she hung up. I weakly let the phone drop from my shoulder as the picture frame broke in half, right down the middle, in my hands.

     The Rainbow Room, one of flashiest clubs in the Philadelphia area. It prided itself on its ostentatious sign, which was basically a large neon rainbow that hung over you, with the words `Rainbow Room' blinking on and off. Paul and I had never gone inside. We just weren't the party types. Jonathon and Rorke were big party-types, and they drank a lot. That is why they went clubbing so often. I know that they obtained a large number of friends just from going to this club, probably from dancing with them, or even taking them back home and doing God-knows-what with them, all together. I didn't want to think about it; Paul and I weren't swingers. I wasn't positive that Jonathon and Rorke were, either, but I wouldn't be surprised. They held plenty of parties in their dorm room. Yeah, we went to a couple of them. It was fun, but it could have been more fun. I wasn't one to dance with other guys while I was in a relationship. That's all. There's nothing wrong with that, is there? Paul never danced with another guy either, only me. He was a perfect gentleman when it came to issues like that. He was perfect in other ways, too.

     I walked through the large red doors, the entrance to the Rainbow Room. I had to show my student I.D. to verify my being of legal drinking age. I later found out that I received a 15% discount on drinks. No wonder this place was so popular. I entered a large room and was instantly overwhelmed by people, music, heat, and lights. There had to be at least three hundred people crushed together in this room. I mean, it was a large room, when looking in from the outside, but as soon as I tried entering the mosh pit of dancers, the dimensions of the room immediately shrunk to one-half its size. All of them were screaming but I don't think anyone noticed, because the music was so loud. It was supposed to be loud, but I wasn't used to it. I thought after being in there a measly two minutes that I had become hearing impaired. It was good dance music though, I had to give them that. It was really fast tempo music, something that would get anyone going and sweating. The heat in the room was enough to make one sweat though. I had a feeling I would have to remove my shirt, in due time though, because I was a little bit shy. A majority of the boys, whose ages ranged from twenty-one to probably thirty-five or so, had already beaten me to the point and were shirtless and sweating profusely. I saw dozens and dozens of bare chests, which were a wide assortment of colors, all the colors of the rainbow, due to the lighting. The lights were hot as well, and you could not escape them on the dance floor. It was cute though, because the lights were arranged like a rainbow. I was currently red. The other side of the room was purple. I didn't want to be on the dance floor though, I wanted to be at a table with Jonathon and Rorke, and probably whoever they brought to try and take my thoughts off of Paul.

     I was surrounded though, and couldn't escape. Everyone was dancing around me and I didn't know what to do. Some guys were even grinding and grinning at me. Of course, I just smiled politely and moved along. I had to get out of this mess, but I didn't even know where I was going. I tried jumping up to see if I could see Rorke or Jonathon, but I only saw rows and columns of heads of boys dancing, orange and yellow boys. It was a gigantic sea of people, with no way out. I pushed through the crowd as best I could, trying not to knock anyone over in my despair. I was starting to sweat a little. It was so hot. The hot bodies around me didn't help either. I made my way through with even more force, trying to escape this horde of people. What was I doing here anyhow? Why did I even come? Suddenly, I felt someone brush up against me, either by accident or on purpose. I turned around to see what it was, but I couldn't tell who. There were just too many people! Everyone was yellowish-green! I continued on my journey once again, getting lost and dizzy on the way. I was losing orientation with all of these people. Everywhere I turned there were just more and more. Come on, Charles. If you just go in one direction, you'll eventually hit the wall or the bars. Just follow the lights, that's all. I looked at my fellow dancers. Ok, everyone was blue. That means I must be almost there! I waded through the crowd a little bit more with new hope. I was thwarted once again when I felt my shoe, while in stride, knock into someone's leg, sending me tumbling down in the middle of the crowd. My reflexes kicked in just in time, allowing me to regain my balance before I fell flat on my face. I hope nobody saw that, I thought to myself. I glanced around, just more smiling faces, blue and green this time, some even turquoise. Smiling, dancing, sweating. Nobody noticed, or if they did, they didn't care. Right, I was in the gay community now, and no one is ever presumptuous in that institution. Everyone blue now. Almost there, just a few more steps. I strode through the crowd as it became less dense. Yes! I must be almost there! I'm in the violet, the final color in the rainbow, that magnificent rainbow in the Rainbow Room! Couple more dancing boys, yes very nice, thanks for noticing me. Some more smiles this way and that. You'll be out of this soon, Charles, don't you worry a bit. I took some more steps and...and...God! I was at one end of the room, in which there was a man behind a turntable, everyone looking in his direction. He had on sunglasses and a white muscle shirt. Great, I found the DJ, really smooth Charles!

     I cursed to myself and sulked. I didn't think I was ever going to be able to leave. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I spun around quickly and noticed Rorke dancing to the beat of the music and smiling at me. His shirt was off as well and for a moment, just for a moment, glanced down at his chest. I don't think he noticed, or at least probably assumed I was surprised he was shirt-less. Yes, that's all, despite the fact that he had a well-developed six-pack. Not bad, I thought to myself. I smiled back as he his lips moved, but I couldn't hear any words coming out. The music drowned out all speech that I could hear. I, of course, yelled "What?" back to him. He understood that and gestured for me to follow him. He turned and started dancing to the side. He seemed to know where he was going, and the crowd had the illusion of parting as he went by, as if just for him. Rorke seemed to have no trouble leading me out from dance floor, away from the music, away from the lights, away from the people. There was a defined breaking point as I followed him, which signified the end of the dance floor. I jumped out as he did, with a big "whew". I saw it now, table with people. That was more like it. Rorke put his arm around me and started leading me through the bar. The smell coming from him, due to the sweat, was strong, but not all that repulsive.

     "I'm glad you could make it." He said in my ear. His voice was clear and defined now. "I thought you might ditch us."

     "Who me? Never!" I joked and he poked me in the ribs, which hurt but I didn't care. He ran a hand through his slick, black hair and pointed to a table.

     "Johnny boy is over there with a couple other people." I noticed a large, round table with four people sitting around it. Glasses of beer, both full and empty, were placed about the table in a seemingly random manner. Two seats, not one or three, but two seats were open. Yeah, this had been planned all right. "Probably trying to pick up guys with a phony story about the origins of his broken hip." Just after those words flowed from his mouth, he took his arm from around me and kissed Jonathon on the lips, holding the back of his head. "We have a visitor." Jonathon looked up at me and smiled, everyone else then turned to look at me, making me the center of attention.

     "Glad you could make it!" Jonathon said, then looking to his friends. "Everyone, this is Charles, a friend of ours." Then turning to me and pointing to the three bachelors respectfully. "Charles, this is Rick." Rick was extremely skinny with a white muscle shirt on, accenting what little muscular body he had. His hair was shaved short and my best guess, with the obstruction of the bright lights and all, was that he was dark blond, maybe brown. He had on sunglasses and tipped them so I could see his eyes. Charming. "This is Nathan with the red hair here." Muscular with red hair. Actually they were red highlights once I got a better look. You couldn't really tell with these lights, only the difference between light and dark hair. He leaned forward to shake my hand. Extra charming. "And this here is Jerry." Jonathon finished off by slapping his hands on Jerry's shoulders. Jerry's shirt was off as well; it was sling over his chair. I could see small patches of sweat on its blue fabric.

     "I prefer to be called Jerome." Jerry, or Jerome rather, said, smiling widely, as he nervously shook by hand. "Nice to meet you again." Then sat down and darting his eyes downward.

     "Well, now that we're all here, I think I here my favorite song so...dancing?" Rorke pointed his thumb back to the dance floor while a nameless and arbitrary song was playing. The three agreed and stood up, starting to head towards the dance floor, but waiting for me first. Rorke turned, waiting for me as well. "Are you coming, Charles?" His eyebrows raised at me.

     "Maybe I'll have a drink with Jonathon first." I replied, sitting down next to him.

     "Really?" Rorke was surprised. "Okay, cool, if that's what you want, but I want to see you on the dance floor soon. Okay?" Rorke pleaded with puppy dog eyes.

     "Sure, sure." I caved. I'd rather agree than to have an argument. Rorke smiled and followed the rest onto the dance floor. I turned to look at Jonathon, who was chugging down a beer. I noticed his cane beside his seat.

     "Can you really dance in your condition?" I asked. He put down his mug.

     "A little, until it really starts to hurt." He sighed. "Rorke wanted to come here more than I, though."

     "And why am I here?"

     "Because we asked you!" Jonathon laughed. "Because we thought you could use a night out, to get your mind off of Paul. That's all."

     "Get my mind off of Paul?" I started to freak. "His parents are about to fucking pull the plug on him and you want me to forget about him?"

     "I don't want to sound heartless, but yes, that's exactly what you have to do." He took another drink.

     "Bye why?"

     "Because you will have to sooner or later. We care about you, and you still haven't accepted that there's no hope for Paul. The time has come, my friend, to move on in your life. You were a good boyfriend to him these past two months. I know you feel guilty, but I think you've atoned for all of your sins." He pressed his hand against my forehead and pushed like some deranged spiritualist. "You are free now, ok?"

     "I don't know..." I still had my doubts.

     "Please, Charles. Stop beating yourself up for one night and have a good time. At least have a good time for me, because I won't be dancing until a little while later."

     "So you're saying I should hook up. Is that it?"

     "You do whatever you want to do. This is your night."

     "And that's why you invited three available boys here, for me to choose from like the Dating Game." I stated as fact.

     "They are here because they are fun to dance and party with. If that's how you see them..."

     "Don't play innocent!" My voice rose to an angry level. "Just admit that you invited them for me!"

     "Ok, ok." He sighed again and finished his glass. "We invited them for you, just to meet you. They aren't hookers or anything. If you want to dance with them, get to know them, have some drinks with them, fine, and if not, then that's fine, too. No pressure."

     "No pressure..." I repeated mockingly as Rick came back to our table with three beers and a mug for me. I didn't recognize him at first because his sunglasses were removed and clipped to his drawstring pants, but his tight shirt was the giveaway.

     "This always gets me in the partying mood other than a cigarette." Rick snickered as he poured the beer into my glass and sat down next to me. I let it fizzle and swirled it a little, playing with it. "Come on, it's good for you!" He slapped me on the back.

     "No, wine is good for you, this causes liver damage." I corrected him and took a sip, wincing as I choked it down.

     "I was just joking. Bad joke, sorry. I'll try to do better." He said. I looked at him blankly. I felt a sharp pain in my leg at Jonathon rocked me from under the table. It prompted me to fake a laugh. I let some more beer slide down my throat. It was easier this time. There were a few moments of silence. I didn't really know how to pick up guys or flirt or anything like that. Then I hit myself mentally. Come on, Charles! Picking up guys? Who do you think you are? What are you trying to pull? Maybe spare some fun in my life? And cheating on your boyfriend is fun now? But what Jonathon said. The voices in my head were conflicting too much and I took another taste of the beer, but this time with a bigger gulp. I was feeling better by my minute.

     "Charles goes to the university, too." Jonathon broke the ice.

     "Oh, really, studying what?" Rick asked in a flirtatious way, putting one elbow on the table and staring straight at me.

     "Oh, umm, biology." I muttered. "I'm into genetics. I like studying crossbreeding and stuff like that."

     "Heh, you should studying me then!" Rick smiled and laughed. "I mean, because my mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is American. So you could say I'm a crossbreed!" I actually laughed back at that joke. I blamed it on the alcohol and had some more of it.

     "And what are you studying?" I asked back, putting an elbow on the table as well, seeming at least half-interested. I had to learn how to flirt from someone!

     "I want to be an actor!" He snickered and took a chug of his beer. "You might have seen me in the spring play, "Death of a Salesman."

     "Oh, who did you play again?" I inquired thoughtfully, even though we didn't see the play.

     "Happy. Not the biggest part, but I heard they are doing "The Crucible" next. I think I have a good chance at the lead. You should come see it. I bet I could get you invited to the cast party afterwards. Those things are great!"

     "Why, what happens there? Dancing and stuff?" I finished off my beer, feeling quite good and extremely confident at this point.

     "A little, but it's mostly music, videos, and lots and lots of drinking." He laughed again and I laughed back. "I don't know if that's your thing."

     "I don't know either." I grinned. What was I doing? My inner thoughts were starting to get pissy again.

     "Do you want to dance?" Rick asked with a smile on his face.

     "Yes. I'd like that, thanks." I said without hesitation. Yes, indeed what the hell was I doing? Having fun, that's what. Innocent fun. I wasn't having sex, or making out with anyone either!

     "Great!" He said happily as he literally pulled me out of my seat and towards the dance floor. I only had a moment to wave Jonathon goodbye and, looking back at him, could glimpse a smile on his face that seemed to say, "mission complete".

     We pushed through the large crowd of dancers until we were in the center of the dance floor. Green faces surrounded us and Rick's white shirt suddenly turned green as well, as if being assimilated by a higher power. Rick began dancing and I did as best I could to mimic his movements, so it would look like I had a clue how to dance as well. He kept moving and I kept moving with him. I turned and noticed Rorke, who was enthusiastically dancing with a timid Jerome, with the red-haired, muscular Nathan right next to them as well. It appeared as if Rorke was trying to coax Jerome into joining the rest of the dancers and remove his shirt, but Jerome didn't want to. That's what I could make out from the gestures and body movements, because I could barely hear their voices over the music. I turned back and found Rick closing the gap between us, and I didn't try to stop him. He had looks and a pathetic sort of charm, I'd say. What could I do? I could always blame it on the alcohol. Yeah, of course! The alcohol! Paul knows I can't hold my liquor, and I had a pretty big drink, even for a beer.

    So Rick got closer and I got closure. Still moving. Still dancing. Still music. Still green. Still extremely hot. Our eyes met momentarily and I looked away in a panic. I looked to the side, back to our friends, who were dancing right along side of us. I noticed that Rorke had convinced Jerome to remove his shirt, then I turned back, and to my surprise, Rick's shirt was now around his waist as well. I could see where this was headed. I had gone this far. Dancing. Drinking. Socializing in general. But I was still shy. What's worse was that I had the feeling that Rorke was trying to turn this into...well...something along the lines of polygamy. I had enough experience studying bean sprouts to know that anything more than two and then it gets complicated.

    Jerome still looked uncomfortable, even more than I was! I looked at his frame. It was young looking, yet had that adult look to it. I know Jonathon and Rorke only had friends our age and that went to our university, so I knew that he wasn't a high school student or anything. But still...there was something innocent about him. Maybe it was his blue eyes. He looked at me quickly then looked away, allowing me to see his eye color clearly. Actually it was more of an aqua, but with the disturbance of the green light, I just assumed that they were blue. He was nothing like Paul.

    Suddenly my attention got driven back to Rick as I felt his body in excruciatingly close proximity to mine. His movements changed from regular dancing to grind and his expression changed from fun to lust. He circled along the side of me and whispered in my ear. "Do you want to get out of here?" What did he just say? He said what? I turned to look at him in disbelief, but everything about him told me that he was serious. I froze there, not knowing what to say or do. I just stared at him. His face. His chest. His bellybutton. He was just pure...I don't know how to describe it...pure sexuality, I'd say. But I was out to have fun, not to have FUN. But then of course Jonathon told me that whatever happens is up to me. This was my night. Yeah right, Charles. You couldn't even do it with someone you paid for. But he isn't just that, not just a body. He is funny, too, witty even in a kooky sort of way. And it's worth cheating on Paul over? Cheating? Cheating! Enough with the cheating! Just forget about Paul for one night. How hard is that to understand? Rick wants you. He WANTS to have you. Maybe that's better than a male prostitute. Pull that goddamn rod out from your hole, Charles and do it! Do it! Do it! DO IT!

    My thoughts were in conflict, a moral holocaust, so much that I began getting dizzy again, and I don't think it was from the alcohol either. I didn't know what to do. I was genuinely scared and confused. Maybe even a little nauseous? Yes! Definitely nauseous. You can't do anything with Rick, no matter how much you want to rip off his pants, if you are nauseous. Things don't work that way! Bathroom, that's what! Bathroom. Bathroom.

    "Umm...excuse me." I started to speak after many moments of consideration and of having Rick await my answer. "I have to use the restroom. I think that alcohol is upsetting my stomach. Just...excuse me. I'm sorry." I started pushing through the crowd desperately, leaving Rick's indifferent face behind, until I reached the bathroom. At first glance it looked vacant. Surprising for a place that large, even with multiple bathrooms. When there is no need for ladies' room then the number of restrooms double. In disbelief, I checked the stalls and found that I was indeed alone. The music was blocked out as well. I muttered some vulgarity out loud and hovered over a sink, looking at myself in the window. I hadn't looked at myself in two months. I was different. I was thinner. I hadn't noticed that before, but I was thinner from not eating as much, or, at least, not having the necessary appetite. My face was red and I was sweating all over. I muttered again and removed my shirt and tied it around my waist. If this was what I was going to become, a serial monogamous, circuit-boy, then so be it. Paul would be gone eventually. I had to come to terms with that. Maybe Rorke and Jonathon had the right idea. Maybe Rick was my ticket to a new life. And tomorrow? Maybe Nathan. And the day after that? Maybe Jerome. Then maybe Rick again, or Rick and Nathan, or Nathan and Jerome, or Jerome and Rick, or Rick, Nathan, and Jerome! I splashed cold water on my face. My life was full of choices now. I had no direction anymore. I started to break down, but I didn't let myself. Goodbye, Chuck, the confidant, loyal, romantic. It was good while it lasted. Hello Charles, the young, fragile, but promiscuous circuit-boy. I buried my face in my hands and broke down. Fuck. This wasn't me. I couldn't do this to Paul. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

    "Charles? Are you..." I spun around quickly and noticed Rorke at the door. "...in here?" His voice trailing off, he quickly accosted me and laid a hand on my shoulder. "What's going on? Rick is out there and...I mean..."

    "Rorke..." I sniffled and my voice squealed. I swallowed and cleared my throat, wanting to speak normally. "I don't know if I can, you know, with Rick. I mean he's nice and all but..."

    "You don't want him?" He tried finishing my thought.

    "I...I don't know." I tried choking back tears. "I mean I know I have to get over Paul but...I don't think it would seem right with, Rick. Yeah, he's good looking, and charming..."

    "Then what's the problem?" Rorke asked, rubbing my back slowly.

    "Maybe...Rick isn't right for me." I sighed, starting to sound like a lost episode of 90210. "It sounds stupid, I know."

    "No, no. Dude, it doesn't sound stupid. You just have to look for guys you want. And when you find one of them. Well, you do what it takes to get him." He grinned. "It's hard at first and takes some getting used to. You just have to know how things work."

    "So...it's alright if I don't want, Rick?"

    "Of course it is!" He laughed and I found myself laughing back.

    "Just find someone that you can connect to. Maybe someone who you'd have something in common with, someone you could be friends with." Something snapped in my brain as his words rolled off his lips smoothly. Someone I could be friends with? It was then that I started paying attention to his hand motions on my back, which was getting stronger and faster. I stopped breathing. No, Rorke. Do not say it, don't say what I think you are going to say. I took a step backwards in hesitation. If you say it Rorke then I swear to God... "You know..." Rorke grinned. Don't do it! "Someone like me!" He giggled.

    "You know what? Maybe I should go and talk to Rick. He's been waiting for me and..." I turned towards the door but Rorke blocked my way and took a step forward, backing me into the wall.

    "Rick can take care of himself." His hands grazed my chest. Oh my God. It was really happening! His eyes stared at me with such flare, such passion. Shit! My mind started to race. I didn't know what to do. "Two months, Charles. It's been two months." My back hit the wall and I had no where to hide. His hand slipping down towards my thigh. My heart of racing so fast in fear I thought I was going to faint.

    "Rorke, please." I whispered, wanting him to back off. I knew that if I tried fighting him then I would lose. He was much stronger than I was.

    "Shh." He put his finger to my lips. "Two months. We're in the same boat you know. Do you know how hard sex is when you're boyfriend is unable to...have sex?" He laughed to himself. "Silly me. Of course you do!" He pressed his body against mine and put his lips close. I was too scared to speak. "You see, Charles. I know your pain. And you know mine. We can end our frustration right now. Just you and me."

    "B...b...but Jonathon!" I was able to sputter out.

    "Jonathon will be fine." I could feel his breath on me.


    "Charles..." He brought his lips to mine and started kissing me forcefully, but I pulled my head back and placed my hand in between our lips so he couldn't try it again.

    "Rorke!" I screeched at him and pushed him again. "Stop it! Just stop it! What's gotten into you? Jonathon is my friend and I wouldn't do that do him! I wouldn't do that to Paul either!

    "Paul is a freaking vegetable! And you're not doing anything to Jonathon. You're doing it to me!" He pushed me against the wall again with all his might and reached for my zipper. I couldn't get away no matter how I struggled. "It'll be fun, don't worry. Once you have me, you'll be begging for more." He licked my cheek. The more I fought his grip the more he pushed me against the wall. "If you skin tastes so good..." He began fumbling with my zipper. I mustered up all my strength and slapped him across the face, hard. He stepped back in shock and look at the mark on his face. He looked back at me in anger. "You little shit!" He tried to jump me but I ducked out just in time to evade his capture. I started running towards the door and he lunged after me, jumping on my back and sending me to the floor. My jaw hit the floor first, almost knocking me unconscious, rendering me too weak to get back up. I felt him on top of me and tried kicking off, but Rorke just put pressure on the crooks on my knees. Yelling for him to get off of me wouldn't help. Screaming for help wouldn't help either; the music was too loud. Nobody would hear my cries for help. I might as well give up. I'm sorry, Paul. I'm sorry, Jonathon. Heck, I'm even sorry, Rick, because I wouldn't be in this mess if I hadn't blown you off! His entire body was on top of mine. I could hear his hard breathing against my ear. "You'll like it, I promise." He began licking my ear and pressing his body against mine, reaching around my waist to try and loosen my pants. This was it. I wouldn't recover from this. Not ever. I'd never be able to look Rorke or Jonathon in the face again. He would swear me to secrecy, maybe even threaten to say I raped him. Maybe Jonathon knew about this and was allowing this. So many questions. How is this happening to me? Goodbye cruel world! I might as well be dead!

    Admitting defeat, I winced as I prepared to be stripped down and violated. I waited and prepared for it, and just when I thought he was about to do it. He stopped, and got off of me. I couldn't feel the immense pressure against my backside any longer. I opened my eyes and turned around. It was Jerome! He had pulled Rorke off of me! I looked just in time to see him uppercut Rorke in the chin, knocking him out. Rorke fell back, unconscious, into a toilet stall and I heard the flush of the toilet. Once Jerome was satisfied that Rorke was no longer a threat, he rubbed his knuckles in pain and caught his breath. I sat up, staring at this deus ex machina, this knight in shining armor, who had saved me. He turned and noticed me sitting there, in fright and shock of that close call, as if he forgot all about me. He smiled and said, "Last time some asshole makes me take my shirt off then ditches me." He laughed and waited for a response, some sort of reaction. I couldn't respond or react. I was too shocked by what had just happened.  He walked over to me and held out his hand, looking down at me with shining eyes. "You're lucky I came in here when I did. Are you hurt?" I took his hand and shook my head. "Are you sure?" He asked, concernedly. I nodded yes. "Can you say anything?" He snickered.

    "Thank you." I tried composing myself, catching my breath and shaking off my shock.

    "Anything else, Charles?" He stepped closer to me and I stepped back, thinking it was going to happen all over again. I quivered in fear.

    "T...Thank you, very much...Jerome. I smirked and pushed him away. He acted as if it was playful and laughed.


    "And...if you hadn't come in here when you did, then I don't know what would have happened to me..."

    "No, I knew that already. It was nothing. I meant...and do you want to get out of here?" He asked and I was once again quite surprised.

    "What?" I exclaimed and threw my arms up. "After that you think I want to have sex? Is that the cost of being saved?"

    "No, no, no!" He took my shirt from my waist and handed it to me. "I mean do you want to...I don't know...buy me a coffee? As thanks...that's all. Unless you'd rather be alone right now." He smiled at me innocently.

    "Oh!" I sighed in relief. "No. No. Of course not. I think I'd prefer to get out of this horrid place myself but...coffee? Not a beer? Or a gin?" I asked in disbelief as I put my shirt back on.

    "Yes, coffee. I'm not a drinker. I don't go clubbing much, but Jonathon invited me, Rick, and Nathan here tonight." He slipped his shirt over his head and glanced over at Rorke, who was still out cold. "I guess it didn't work out well for any of us...except Rick and Nathan, who I saw making out as I went in here."

    "I guess that really does leave us, huh?" I said matter-of-factly.

    "I suppose." He flashed a grin, then faded and looked down. "Umm...I'm sorry about what happened to you, or almost happened."

    "You don't have anything to be sorry for. I guess I shouldn't have let my guard down. I haven't really tried dating or getting guys or whatever in...well...ever. I guess I'm just bad at this." I began tearing up again and looked away.

    "No, you're not!" Jerome looked up again and said sternly. "Don't blame yourself because Rorke is an asshole. You had no idea."

    "I know I d...didn't, but..." I began to break down but Jordan pulled me in for a hug before I could.

    "I know you didn't, I know." Jerome stroked my hair lightly. "It's ok now. It's ok."

    "There's something you're not telling me." Jerome asked as we sat in an emptied Starbucks, both drinking lattes. I was on my second while he was on his third. He really did like coffee.

    "What do you mean?" I replied as I scooped some sugar into my hot drink. A Starbucks employee was sweeping on the other side of the café, getting ready to close up. I didn't realize it had gotten so late. Up until recently, we had only been talking about music, school, and basic small talk. I learned that he was an amateur boxer in the university. He didn't look the part, but his impressive moves on Rorke earlier made me a believer. Throughout our conversation, surprisingly, I had not brought up, or even thought about, Paul. As a matter of fact, I completely forgot about my problems while with Jerome; they just washed away. I could listen to him talk and actually pay attention. It was amazing!

    "Earlier in the evening, you seemed a little bit shy. Talking, dancing, whatever, you just seemed shy about doing all that stuff. My question, I suppose, is, why did you come to the club?" He raised his eyebrows and finished off his cup. I could see his eyes looking at me over the rim of his raised paper cup.

    "I was invited! Is that so hard to understand?" I laughed, but he wasn't convinced. "Look, I don't go partying much. I've never danced with anyone else except..." I caught myself before I said it. "...no one. I never danced with anyone before." I tried to sound sincere, but he wasn't buying that either.

    "Lying!" He laughed. "You really don't remember me, do you? Because I remember you." Now I was stumped.

    "Umm...did we meet before?" I smacked myself mentally. Of course we met before! I was so stupid! When we met earlier tonight, he told me that it was nice to meet me AGAIN. Argh! I was so wrapped up in my own emotions; I was too rude to notice.

    "One of Jonathon and Rorke's parties. And if I remember correctly, you used to be Chuck."

    "Yes..." I admitted. "I used to be called Chuck, but not anymore." I looked down and stirred my cup mechanically.

    "Why not?" I couldn't lie my way out of this, but if he knew I had a boyfriend, then maybe he would leave, and I didn't want him to leave.

    "That name is synonymous with a dear part of my past that I would like to forget." I said sincerely and vaguely.

    "You mean your boyfriend?" My head shot up. He knew that? Of course he knew. We met before.

    "Yeah...my boyfriend..." I said depressingly.

    "Oh, I suppose you had a nasty breakup..."

    "He's comatose."  I blurted out. Jerome's expression showed that he wasn't expecting that.

    "Oh. I didn't know. I'm sorry..." His voice was rigid. I was making yet another person uncomfortable. I expected him to leave, but he didn't.

    "Don't be sorry, it's not your fault. It's mine...he's going to be dead soon because of me." I looked at Jerome in the eyes and I didn't cry, but I could tell I had a lot of explaining to do.

    "I'm sure it's not entirely your fault..."

    "It is. Believe me."

    "Well, what happened then?" He asked, and I sighed. "Sorry, you don't have to tell me. It's none of my business." He smirked.

    "No, no. I want to tell you." I looked down at my full cup, then back at Jerome, who was just looking back at me, getting read to listen intently. I took a deep breath, closing my eyes, trying to remember that night two months ago. "It was a dark and stormy night. I know that sounds silly, but it was. It was at night and it was raining really hard. It was somewhat stormy, as well. This was two months ago, by the way; that's how long Paul has been in the coma for. The four of us were in the car, coming back from...something, I don't know, it doesn't really matter. We were going back to the dorm though. I know that for sure. Paul was driving; I was on the passenger side. Jonathon was riding in the back behind Paul, Rorke sitting in the seat behind me. He wasn't driving that fast, but I know he could have stood to drive the tiniest bit slower. It was late at night, barely any cars in the road. Maybe that's why we all felt so care-free, but the truth of the matter is that all four of us, in one way or another, were responsible for hitting that other car as it was turning. Paul was going too fast, Rorke and Jonathon were playing around and making noise in the back seat, and I was...well...I was also being an annoyance. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't...all I was doing was playing around with Paul as he was driving, poking him in the ribs and putting my hand on his lap to see if he could still concentrate on the road. He always boasted how good of a driver he was and I was only joking around. I really didn't expect all this shit to happen. We were approaching an intersection and a car coming in from the right was making a left turn. Paul noticed and tried to swerve out of the way. The car was already in the middle of its turn, in the middle of the intersection, and Paul made the right choice by swerving to the right instead of the left. If he swerved left, then it would have been a head-on collision by both cars, and probably would have killed the driver. Instead, he swerved right, but we hit the side of the car, just behind the driver. The corner of our car hit the back door on the driver's side, but then skidded and the car rotated, sending the entire left side of our car into the other one. Paul was already unconscious by then, but Jonathon's hip still broke when that happened. I was fine, except for some shock. Rorke was fine, too. I suppose. We weren't held responsible because the other person had a stop sign and didn't see us coming." I paused. Jerome was still listening intently, hanging onto my every word. "That's all there is to it really. Our lives haven't been the same since: Paul is in a coma and it going to be...let go soon, Jonathon needed a new hip and will probably need a new boyfriend, Rorke has become depraved and twisted, and I've just become attached to something I know I can't have and haven't been able to move on." I looked at Jerome, who was looking back at me compassionately. I know my story didn't fully describe the pain that I had been feeling these past two months, but maybe, just maybe, it was because I was starting to forget that pain. This boy, this gorgeous boy here, sitting with me, listening to my story, who saved me from complete ruin, was...here. He hadn't run, knowing that I would be mourning a loss and would probably not be worth his time. I was through mourning, though. If my friends were right about anything, it was that mourning was over. Paul was gone for good. I had to learn to love again, to fall in love again. I had the chance right here, not with a cheap hooker wanting to pay off his student loans, or with a trick, or with a friend who just wanted to get his rocks off, but with someone who was looking for something solid. I could fall in his arms and he wouldn't push me back out.

    "I'm sorry, Charles." Paul said, expecting a knowing nod from me, but instead I was going to do something completely different. My life had to change right now. So I just smiled back, and place my hand on top of his delicately.

    "Call me Chuck." He blushed and smiled back.

That's the end of it. Everyone please make sure to read my other stories and give me PLENTY of feedbac on this onek. Lots of love. Until next time!

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