Insert generic disclaimer here. I trust my readers know enough to decide for themselves if this is their kind of story.

If it is, let me know. I keep coming back to Aidan and Billy because I think y'all out there have discovered the pleasure of their company.

Please write. I'll get back to as many of you as I can.

"That's a true story that never happened."

Tim O'Brien ("The Things They Carried")

Fifteen 5


Leaving isn't as easy as you might think.

Disappearing is next to impossible.

Still, I've never let logic stand in the way of progress. I've decided it's time for me and Billy to leave, and once we're gone, to melt forever into the canyons of some strange city.

That's what Holden did, though that was before milk cartons, John Walsh, and Amber alerts. That's what Huck did, only he knew the River and he had Jim. I'm stuck with Billy, my LD boyfriend, and it occurs to me that running has to be harder for two.

But I have a plan. It's not fancy, and it only buys us a week or so out of the Glade. In a week, I'll know a little more. Then maybe I can do ol' Huck proud, vanish us into a wilderness of alleys.

If Billy's parents have called in the past 48 hours, my parents aren't talking. It's all pretty normal. My mom wants me to sign up for some workshop at George Mason; my dad wants me to get after the lawn. I protest, but not with any conviction. En mi casa, this is how to play it.

It's been really bad for Billy, however. He messaged me late last night, and all he said was: "this is killing me." I asked him what he meant, and he explained, "they've got a shrink lined up. In the District. And they want me to go to Asheville to hang with my cousins. They think maybe if I go squirrel hunting, it'll get my mind off being gay. Danny just shakes his head at me. He doesn't say anything, but that vein on the side of his head is about to pop."

That's what he said. For a minute, I thought, "they're just doing what they think is right." But I knew better. With a few intemperate confessions, Billy had shattered the china, carved obscenities in the mahogany, disturbed the tenuous peace reigning in his beautiful house. He had fucked things up for good, and they were going to make him pay. Set him straight. Take him away from me.

Not on my watch. "Get ready," I wrote. "Get cash, as much as you can. Don't pack. Just take the 2:30 Ride-On to Rosslyn. Buy a ticket to Baltimore. Wait for me at Harbor Place. By the railing. Delete your history. But save this: I LOVE YOU."

I leave a note for the folks, tell them I'm going to see Master and Commander at the Odeon. I tell them I'll be home around 6:00. I don't sign it, just draw a silly smiley face. Then I go to my computer, erase my recent history, access Mapquest for Manhattan, and click on websites for MOMA and the Strand. I toss in a couple of gay porn sites for good measure, twink stuff, nothing scary. My folks are going to know soon enough anyway, I figure, so why not give them something to talk about? It's pretty shitty what I'm doing to my mom, but Byron has some things to learn. Maybe I can scare him into something like caring. Then again, maybe not.

I've got stuff in my backpack for both us, though nothing I wear will fit him. And I've got $450 -- half of a savings account built on allowances, gifts from Auntie Colleen, and a little Ecstasy enterprise I run at Whitman. Just kidding. Beaver Cleaver got all the way to Landview on a dollar bill, but I'm smart enough to know that kid money like I've got won't get us too far in the new millennium. Cassandra Mitchell's mom gave her a credit card for her 16th birthday; Joey Levin got 300 shares of Park Place at his bar mitzvah; last time I blew out the candles, my mom handed me three tickets to Tosca at the Kennedy Center. They told me they'd drive.

It's muggy in Baltimore, more August than June. I'm wearing Madras shorts my mom bought at A & F and a Radiohead "Kid A" t-shirt my aunt got me in England. I remember this cheap movie I saw a while back: "Hide in Plain Sight." That's what I'm trying to do, look like every dorky tourist kid who's ever broken away from his annoying parents on the family vacation. Except that no dorky tourist kid would ever do what I'm about to do. Billy will be here in a couple of hours, and I tell myself it's all for him.

There's a Men's Room on the lower floor of the Harbor Place Mall. I've been in and out a few times in the past half hour, surveying the scene. Lunchtime traffic keeps the door swinging. It's not going to work unless the crowd thins. Finally, the place is clear for a few minutes. I walk in like I've got serious business to take care of, pull up to a urinal, mutter a prayer I remember from catechism, and assume the position. A couple of suits come in joking about the Orioles, wash their hands, and leave. They don't even look my way. A wrinkled fellow heads straight for the far stall. A French tourist holds his little boy up so he can pee, and I look away out of respect.

Then he's there, delivered to me by a twisted guardian angel. He could be my father -- which I guess is the point. He's about 45, with bland features and a comb-over, his eyes so pale that he looks blind. I think to myself as I try to catch his eye that he looks like an unfinished sketch, like somebody's taken a rubber eraser and smudged the edges of his face. When he finally looks over at me, I see that he's sweating, and he blinks away the vestiges of a tear. Then he exhales with exaggerated casualness and smiles at me. His teeth are white and regular. His eyes guide me down, and I see that his dick is half hard. He shrugs meaningfully. I look away for a second to gather my wits, to return the favor. My dick is still soft, an unresponsive tuber under the heat lamp of his gaze, but he understands. This isn't the place. And I know somehow that he wants me badly enough to sacrifice whatever shred of personal dignity he walked in with.

I take a seat outside on a bench looking across the harbor at the Aquarium and the ESPN Zone. He sits down beside me. My heart is throbbing and I feel queasy, but the man looks like he's in real pain. I remind myself that whatever I say and whatever I do, it's for Billy.

"You on vacation?" he asks. His voice is high and slightly pinched.

"I guess."

"Bored, huh?"


"Me too." Shame dashes any hopes of lucid conversation. If I didn't know what I was about to do, I'd feel really bad for the guy. But compassion is dangerous when you're on a mission.

"Can you help me out, mister?" I say it all street, like a runaway.

"Depends, my man. Where are your folks?"

"In Hagerstown."

"Oh. I see. You're not on vacation, then."

"Not that type, mister. I'm on my own vacation."

"Oh. Foot loose and fancy free!" Now where have I heard that before?


"Now what can I do to help? I've got a little Good Samaritan in me, I guess." He seems to be lightening up, now that he knows Mom and Dad aren't buying souvenirs in the Mall.

"I need a place to stay. A room. Just a couple of nights."

"I live here, uh, but. What's your name?"


"Gerald." I ignore the offer of a handshake.

"I live here, Anthony. In Baltimore."

"I want to get a room. I don't want to move in."

"Oh," he says, as it dawns on him that I won't be sitting down to dinner with Nadine and little Jerry."

He doesn't say anything for about thirty seconds. I can hear the gears grinding in his soul. It's a tricky script we're working from.

"You're really beautiful, Anthony."


"I can make you feel really good."

"I need a place to stay, man. I got no money."

"You want cash, is that what you're saying? You want me to pay you?"

"I want a room, man. Over there." I point to a nondescript Days Inn two blocks down Charles Street.

"I don't know, Anthony."

"Just register us as father and son. Two nights. You've got a car. I've got a backpack."

"Yeah. And what's in it for me, buddy?" He's dropped the pretense.

"An hour with me."

"An hour with you."

"I guess."

"And then?"

"And then you go."

I meet him in the parking lot on the backside of the motel. I follow him up the stairs to 223. It's a number I'll never forget. Then he hands me the key card and double checks the drapes. "Welcome home son," he says, distaste and guilt thick in his trebly voice.

"Thank you, Gerald." It's the first kindness I've uttered.

"Not yet, little man. Don't thank me yet." Again, the silence is heavy.

"Take off your clothes please, Anthony. I want to see you."

It's hot and still in the room. Gerald hasn't turned on the AC. The little bedside lamp casts an indifferent glow. I begin my striptease, the one he's paying me for. Aidan the ho-boy, taking it all off for love. I unlace my sneakers and slip them off. Then I pull the t-shirt over my head, and pause to touch my hardening nipples and lick my lips suggestively. Then I shimmy out of my shorts and yank down my boxers, cock my hips, and, heart aching with fear and regret, I whisper to this most ordinary man:

"Here I am."

He is momentarily stunned, paralyzed. He sees my dick, of course, but I think, it's more than that; desire has led him to a place he never imagined he'd visit, and he doesn't speak the language.

"You are amazing, Anthony," he manages to mutter. "Where'd you get that cock?" He sounds curious, amused, not lewd as I imagined.

"I don't know. You like it?"

"It's, well, bigger than most. Incredible."

"It's not hard yet. Can you make it hard?"

"I think so. I think so." I lie down spread-eagle on one of the two beds, my hands clasped behind my head, passive, a pose I got from the porn guys on the net. He pulls up beside me, still fully clothed, and gathers my dick in his sweaty hand. He studies it for a few seconds like a Ming vase or some delicate collectible, then gives it a few apathetic jerks like it's made of rubber. This just isn't working for me.

"Come on Gerald. Make it hard, please. It gets lots bigger, I promise." I run my hand through the cornsilk of his thinning hair. I try my best to tease him, to encourage him. Then he gently retracts the foreskin and licks around the rim. Better. He takes my dickhead in his mouth, but he doesn't do much with it.

"Yes. Do me. I like it." But these are stupid words. Nothing is happening. "What's wrong? You want me, don't you?" And for a few dramatic seconds he starts bobbing in earnest, and at last I feel my dick start to grow, and I close my eyes and dream of Billy, and it grows a little more, and I know that I can get there from here if I just concentrate.

Then the man gags. And pulls me out, spitting. And says only: "I'm sorry." He thinks I'm street and tough. But I understand, because I know all about fear, all about loathing. "I'm sorry. I can't do it." He pulls himself up off the bed and walks over to the window, anxious to recover some daylight.

"It's okay, dude. I wasn't helping you much."

"No, Anthony. You're amazing. I mean it. I've just never." He looks straight at me, and for an instant I see both the lonely, fucked up kid he used to be, and the gentle man I want someday to be. "I've just never done this before. Can't you tell?" And the game is over before it really started.

"You have the room for three nights," he announces. "Try not to get kicked out, okay."

"Come here, Gerald." He takes a few cautious steps in my direction.

I meet him in the middle of the room. I'm naked and sure. He's fully clothed and vulnerable. I pull him to me and hug him tight. There are tears in his blind man's eyes. I whisper: "Don't worry. You're doing the right thing. Billy thanks you."

I expect him to ask who Billy is, but he turns and closes the door behind him, and doesn't look back. I tell myself I'm a crummy whore. Then I take a quick shower and rinse the hour off like so much dirt.


I don't have to wait long, as it turns out. I'm feeding Cheetos to the ambitious pigeons on the concourse when I see him coming towards me. I feel like running to meet him, slow-mo, like in those shampoo commercials, but something tells me to play it much cooler. It's all I can do to keep from kissing him right there in front of America. So I settle for a buddy hug.

"Aidan. This is too strange."

"Don't I know. But we're here, and that's got to be better than where we were."

"Straight. What are we doing, Aidan?"

"We're running away, Billy."

"Well, duh. I mean, where are we running to?"

"I'll show you in a sec. But first, you gotta tell me something: did you have any trouble getting away?"

"Not really. Dad's at work, Delia has day camp, and Danny got bored giving me the evil eye and went to work out."

"And your mother?"

"She's there. Hovering. On the phone. Making plans for me. I asked her if I could go to 7/11, get a Slurpee. I was all sweet with her, and I guess she was busy thinking about something else. She just nodded and told me to come right back. And here I am." Here he is, all right. Here he is.

"They're not going to find us, anyway, Billy. Follow me."

"This is awesome. What do I owe you?"

"Nothing at all. It's ours for three nights."

"They gave you a room? Did you have to show ID?" He's thinking, too.


"How, Aidan? What did you do?"

"I'll tell you later. Which bed do you want?"

His face clouds over for a second, until he catches me smiling. "You're pretty cold, dude."

"I can turn off the AC."

"I can't believe I wrote all that nice shit about you, you know. I guess I was feeling sorry for you since you're such a loser."

"You're queer for a loser? What does that make you?"

"I don't know, desperate maybe. Fucked up. Dysfunctional."

"Too stupid to know better?"

"Too stupid. So here I am."

"How long we gonna last like this, Billy, beatin' on each other?"

"I don't know. Love hurts, I guess. Just ask Jennifer."

"You hungry?"

"Yup. Always."

"Let's walk over to Little Italy, get a pizza."

"Cool. Then what?"

"Then let's bring it back to our room. And eat it."

"Then what?"

"Then we watch Sports Center."

"Okay. Are we having fun yet?"

"Not yet, Billy."

"So when do we start having fun?"

"Well, after supper we can take a bath together. That's fun -- we can buy some bubbles on the way back."

"You are such a dork, Aidan."

"Then we can watch movies."

"I forgot my p.j.'s, dork."

"We don't wear p.j.'s anymore, Billy. Remember? We're almost 16. We stay naked all night long."

"Oh, I see. It's gonna be like that is it? My mom warned me about dudes like you." Before he can laugh at the silliness, he realizes for the first time the implications of what he has just said and what we have done.

"Dudes like us, baby we were born to run."


"Nothing. Don't you want to know what happens next?"

"What happens next, Aidan?"

"The honeymoon."

"You gonna pick me up and carry me over the whatchamacallit?"

"That would be the threshold, Billy. And no, I'm not. My back has to be in tip-top shape for the honeymoon."

"I could pick you up. But that would make me the husband."

"That's okay with me. I'm good with that."

"Aidan, I think I'm the wife. I want to be the wife."

"Why, Billy?"

"Because you take care of me. Because you saved me. And because I want you to fuck me."

Suddenly, I'm not so sure anymore where the game stops and the truth starts. I do what I always do when words fail me with Billy. I kiss him.

"Let's get that pizza."

"And the bubble bath."

I feel like skipping all the way to Little Italy. But somebody has to look out for the shadows.


We're sipping bourbon that I swiped from my parents' stash -- in the bubble bath. I know it's supposed to be champagne, but that would have meant further reconnaissance, and after Gerald, I wasn't up for any more scams. The bourbon tastes like medicine, but I like the way it burns all the way down. Billy's not talking much, really. He doesn't look sad, but I can tell this is all so new that he doesn't have a vocabulary for it. I love it that we're all tangled up together in the tub. I love the summer-brown hardness of his chest. I love his green eyes and those pretty-girl lashes. I love his dick, peeking up at me occasionally through the foam. God's in the room with us, I know.

"I guess this isn't bad," he says. "With anyone else, I'd say it was pretty damned fucked up."

"I like baths. I always have. Showers are so, you know, utilitarian."

"Aidan, you like words a lot, don't you?"

"Yes. Even more than baths. I like the way my balls loosen in the bath, the way the sac gets all wrinkly. But I really love the taste of a good word on my tongue."

"Yeah. I like that thing about the balls, too. It's like the opposite of shrinkage."

I take another hit of the bourbon, try to catch up with Billy, who chugged his first two glasses, and has been chewing on the ice. A disintegrating ice cube clings to my tongue, which I stick out at Billy. He presses his mouth to my tongue and wrestles the ice cube away with his darting tongue.

We dry each other off, respectful of our vulnerability. His dick is hard as always. Then we head to the bed, pull back the covers, crawl in, and turn off the light. The bedside clock says 9:34 PM. Early for a honeymoon.

"You're skin is still warm from the bath," I tell him.

"I know. I'm kind of warm all over."

"Me too. And pink. My skin gets all pink in the bath. Like a baby."

"Aidan?" He's whispering, though there's really no need.


"Why don't you want to fuck me?"

"I do, Billy. I want it. I want anything you want. But I don't know. It might not work, is all."

"I don't care if it hurts. I'm not blind. I'm not stupid."

"I know. I know. It's the honeymoon. What if you fuck me? Is that better?"

"No. I want to give you something, you know, that I can't give to anyone else."

"It's not a blood sacrifice, Billy. This isn't the Middle Ages."

"God damn it, Aidan. You don't understand at all. I want you in me. All of you. I want your big fucking dick in my hot steaming asshole! That clear enough for you?" He's not whispering any more.

"Okay. Fine. Who am I, anyway?" Then I pull back the covers and flip on the light, blinding us for a few seconds. "Let the honeymoon commence." And I'm all over him with my tongue, licking his bright red dickhead and his balls, nibbling on the grundle between them and that sweet hole, and then I'm prying open the hole and licking it, too, still sweet with raspberry foam. Billy's a mess right now, arching his back like an alley cat, twisting under my ministrations, lost in the apoplexy of love.

I look down at myself. For the first time today, I am hard. And deliriously, rapturously happy.

(terrible tease, I know...but I've got to go shovel some snow)