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Chapter 10 "The Last Detail"
Warm coffee between my hands. Cold tile under my feet. Turning to look out the window: the dazzle of an ice-storm. Ever look at the trees after one? They reflect every bit of light, brighter than a summer day. You can see the prisms of trapped rainbows in the winter ice. It was only a little past eight, and I still had the house to myself. David and Alan were still...
"Cool. Coffee. Urp."
I grunted. So much for waxing poetic on a cold winter's morn.
Alan shuffled in, this time in David's sweat pants and the same sweat shirt from the night before, but inside out. A pair of white socks were yanked onto his feet, one with the heel side up. His hair stuck up any-old-way, and I could still see the imprint of the pillow on his face. For being only seventeen, the guy had a pretty good morning beard on him. He looked like an extra from an old Miami Vice re-run. I tried to remember what Jamie looked like in the morning. Pretty damn good, I thought. He'd run a hand over his hair and look perfect. I was more like Alan in the morning, except for needing a shave.
Alan stumbled over to the counter and poured himself a coffee, ignoring the sugar, not bothering with the fridge for the Half-and-Half. He switched on the radio, but turned the volume down so that it was no more than a whisper. He was careful to clean up the heat rings on the counter plus the trail of crumbs I'd left behind. As he walked towards me, I realized he always seemed to walk on the balls of his feet, not making a sound. He settled in opposite me at the table, barely glancing at me, his eyes no more than slits.
"Regular morning person, aren't you?" I said, grinning.
He tried for a smile. "I bet you even bust nuts in your sleep. Gimme a break."
I sniggered, and pushed over my plate with a half-bagel covered with cream cheese. Alan opened one eye a little wider, and smiled more. I watched him nibble at it. I take good size mouthfuls. Jamie just crams stuff in. David, naturally, dines. Alan was funny about food. He never seemed to do more than nibble at things. No wonder he was the size of a toothpick. Even given the tiny bights he took, that seemed to be enough, and he was looking me over as he came alive.
"You need more bacitricin for the scrapes," he said after a quick inspection. "That'll keep 'em from drying up and getting itchy. How's your wrist?" Another cat-nip at the bagel.
I turned my hand slightly back and forth and waved my fingers, and he nodded his approval.
"Didn't think that was gonna be too bad. Can you raise your arm okay?"
"Just to about even with my shoulder before it starts to hurt," I answered, sipping at my coffee. "It's awkward, though."
He nodded. "Just go easy, but try to keep it moving just a bit so it doesn't stiffen up, and it should be okay. How's your side?"
He came around and gently lifted my shirt as I pulled my sweats down a bit. Ugly, still sore, but nowhere near as tender as the night before. He prodded it gently and I flinched, then he let my shirt drop and sat down again, this time beside me, and pulled his coffee and half-bagel over for more sips and nibbles.
"You'll be okay, Chris," he said, with a knowing nod. "The swelling on your face is way down over last night, and that's good. People are gonna know you had some big-time trouble, but you're nowhere near what you were last night."
I looked him over, and a thought crossed my mind. "I gotta know. What does David look like in the morning?"
Alan twisted his face up in a rueful look. "Like he's waiting for the close-up for his Big Hollywood Kiss."
I loathed David for that. "Lousy bastard. I knew it.".
Alan was coming a little more awake now, and he looked me over. There was some hesitation in his voice, and his eyes seemed to want to avoid mine.
"So..." he began, "Then you've never seen him in the morning before?"
I was confused by the question for a second, then I understood.
"Why would I?" I protested. "David and I are friends, Alan. That's it. Sure, we seen each other naked before, but that's just from gym class and stuff like that."
I took a long swallow of my coffee, and watched Alan from the corner of my eye. His eyes were focused on the table, and a small smile played over his lips.
I continued on. "If you're wonderin' that just 'cuz I'm available again I might be lookin' David's way, don't. It's an idea, and I like it, but he's taken." I paused, and Alan looked up at me with a questioning look. I smiled. "Big time taken, Alan. I don't stand a chance against that guy."
Alan stopped and smiled, looked over at me before looking away again, and turned redder.
"Hey, what does your mother think of him, anyway?" I asked.
He tilted his head to the left, looking quizzical. "No idea, man. She's been dead since I was, like, seven."
Now I was confused. "Saturday... David said you borrowed your mom's car."
Alan shook his head. "He just didn't know, is all. I live with my sister, Eileen - Lee. But Lee's like eighteen years older. David just assumed when he saw her. They didn't really meet or nuthin'."
I was impressed. "Wow. Talk about your second family."
Alan didn't see the joke, and when he spoke I understood why. "Unofficially, I'm called the Mistake. The Big Mistake, if you ask my Dad." He almost spat the last word.
Even in my morning fog, I could see the mind-field in front of me, and backed off.
Alan relaxed suddenly, and that quiet little smile came back. "It's okay, Chris. I been living with Lee now for almost two years, since... well, for two years, anyway. Pop's just pays my way... or else. At least 'till I'm done school, anyway. College too, if I could get into one. He made it clear that was pretty doubtful."
It was an awkward pause for both of us, and if it wasn't for David entering the room we might have still been sitting there quietly for some time looking for something else to say.
David came in wearing a white terry robe with a high collar. White. What kind of eighteen year-old wears a white robe around the house? Mine's a sort of dingy medium blue, once you got past the stains and stuff. David's was perfect, and as bright as the white ice hanging off the trees outside. With his olive skin, dark hair and eyes, it was perfect on him. And sure enough, he looked like he was ready for a photo op.
He came up to Alan and wrapped his arms around the guy's neck then gave him a kiss on the top of his head. "Hey, Toto. Missed you this morning."
We watched Alan redden, which seemed to please David to no end. "Hey," I broke in with a laugh, "I thought I was Toto!"
David grinned. "Nah. You're too tall to be Toto, now Alan's around. You've been elevated to Munchkin. Besides, Alan's got the fur for it." He plucked a stray hair from Alan's wrist. Alan jumped and swatted him playfully and David wandered over to the fridge and poured himself an orange juice before pulling up a chair close to Alan and claiming a mouthful of bagel.
I was afraid they were gonna start playing kissy-face in front of me, and that really would have been the limit, but they settled for just sitting close to one another, David with an arm slipped around Alan's middle. If he hadn't just been named for a dog, I think Alan would have purred.
Alan claimed his bagel back and David made a forlorn face. "You gonna let me starve?"
"Ah, Jesus," I muttered in disgust, watching this act. I struggled up and re-opened the bag of bagels, limped across to the counter and popped three into the microwave. "You guys are just so lame. You even let an invalid make your breakfast."
In a symbolic gesture of sympathy, Alan held up his empty coffee cup to me.
"You have to learn to do things on your own," David offered in a mock sincerity.
I dumped the bagels on a plate and grabbed two napkins for them. They watched me shuffle around a little bent over, using only my left arm. I dumped the plate in front of them trying to look annoyed, then took Alan's cup and carefully filled it and my own. I tried using both hands to carry them back, but my right sent out warning signals and I made two trips.
David watched me with a malicious glint in his eye. "Just so you know, even though I support the 'hire the handicapped' thing and all, the tip is already down to 10%. You forgot to offer me more juice."
My left hand was occupied with coffee, and while I couldn't do much with my right hand, I could gesture, and I made one at David as I sat down. He didn't chuckle, he cackled.
We ate and sipped, and I felt two sets of eyes on me. I was content to just let the morning slip by until David banged the table and finally spoke up in exasperation.
"Will you for Chrissake quit dickin' around and tell us what happened?"
I took a deep breath and sighed. I began, starting with the kitchen and my mother. Both Alan and David got all round-eyed with that, and relieved when they heard the outcome. David seemed especially nervous when I brought up the evidence in the bathroom that caught my mother's attention, and he gave Alan a quick look. Alan just shook his head. "I flushed it. Don't worry." David seemed relieved, and satisfied that one of my questions for later was answered, I filled them in on the after-movie confrontation, right down to the cop's warnings.
Dave leaned towards me, and looked me in the eye. "You are gonna press the charges, right? You're not gonna let his big mouth scare you off?"
I looked back into his eyes, and my voice was dead cold. "I am going to nail that bastard's ass to the wall. Maybe I smart-mouthed him, but that's no reason to do what he did to me... or to Jamie."
From Alan, "And if the gay stuff comes up?"
I tried to shrug, and let me tell you, if you've ever injured your shoulder, it's not a good idea. I settled for a grimace. "Then it comes up, and I answer it without perjuring myself and take the chances. Somehow, I think even the most conservative jury could take a look at me and Jamie, then at Dicky, and reasonably figure out that he was in no danger whatever from my wandering hands. But he's not gonna just walk away from this. I really don't see something like this making the papers outside of the 'Police Notes' log, in spite of what Sgt. Panatakis said."
"Aha - don't ask, don't tell," David said with a hint of sarcasm. "Very Clintonian. Very correct."
That caught me in the gut, almost as hard as Dick's foot did, and I glared at him. "Look, Dave. I'm not real eager to be the new poster boy for hate crimes laws, but I will if I have to. Besides, New Hampshire doesn't have anything like that. If it was here in Massachusetts, I might think about it because we do, and the penalties are harsher. Dick went after me because he's stupid and mean, and that's it. The rest of his crap is exactly that - it's just crap. I never did a damn thing to make Dickwad think I was cruisin' him. That's something he invented in his mind, and threw at us later when he was lookin' for some kind of excuse when the cops got there.
"And you know what?" I went on, happy to be on a roll. "They paid absolutely no attention to his bullshit, just cuffed him and took him away. The only reason Sgt. Panatakis even said anything is because of something I said. I know the guy meant well, he thinks he was doing a decent thing, and he is, really. But - I am not gonna be scared off this. Once we're done, I want us to get cleaned up and for you to give me a ride over to Salem. I'm going to make the formal charges and sign the complaint, or whatever I have to do."
"What about your family?" David began. "Shouldn't you -"
"No," I said, shaking my head firmly. "This has nothin' to do with them. Maybe I can't buy a beer, or even a porn mag, but I got some rights as a citizen and I'm going to make use of 'em. I don't need their permission for this, and there's no reason they should be involved in this part. Maybe we're off school for Veteran's Day, but it's just another work day for both of them and I'm not about to have them leavin' their jobs for something this easy to deal with. Tonight, yeah - I gotta tell 'em then, 'cuz one look at me and they'll kind of figure out something happened. And after that... well, I'll have a long, private talk with my dad." I felt a lump in my throat. "I don't look forward to that... and I hope my mother is right about him. There're better circumstances I can think for him and me to talk about this, but I'm not gonna walk a tightrope and play any more games."
David had a real meek look on his face, and backed off. Alan had been watching and listening to us both, eyes shifting between us. "There's still school," he added quietly.
I wasn't going to be cowed. "Screw 'em. People can believe me or not. Someone wants to try waling on me, let 'em try. I am not helpless, even if I'm not much of a fighter. That's one of the things Jamie and I had it out on, coming home last night. I'm not gonna be one of those guys who lay down and let themselves be used for a doormat."
Alan looked up suddenly and stared off to the left, at the window. Feline, he rose quickly from his chair, walking on the balls of his feet again, and peered out the window.
David and I both watched him. I was amazed at his speed and grace, but Dave seemed used to it. It didn't stop David's mouth, however. "You haven't told us what he said in the car, yet."
"Don't think he's gonna get the chance to, either," Alan broke in, still staring through the blinds. "Take a look at who just slid into your driveway."
I started to get up, but David placed a hand on my shoulder and joined Alan at the window. "Oh, shit. It's Jamie." Then he snickered. "And that's Jamie slipping on the ice and fallin' on his ass!"
I'd managed to get up and followed them to the window and looked out, but Jamie was on his feet by now and was scowling. Then he spotted us in the window, and his statement changed. He smiled at me, but it was a weak smile. His eyes had a sad look to them.
He's scared, I thought. He doesn't know what to expect from me.
David and Alan both ducked down, leaving me standing there alone.
"Should I let him in?" David asked.
I almost shrugged again but thought better of it. "Yeah, why not?" I said. No reason to put this off any more. Just... just give us some time alone, okay? I don't think either one of us wants any company for this."
David nodded and went around to the front door. I turned to Alan who was standing next to me, peering out from around the corner.
"Look," I said quietly. "I'm sorry about that shot about just layin' down and lettin' people use me for a doormat. That... that wasn't directed at you."
He bit his lip and looked down, but rolled his eyes up to me in a sideways glance, then gave me a gentle smile. "I know. Don't worry."
His head jerked up again, and I could almost see his ears prick up. Jamie was in the house. I could just make out his voice, just the sound of it but not his words, and his feet stamping on the marble floor, shaking off the ice and snow. Then they were in the kitchen door. Dave sidled over and put a hand on Alan's shoulder and the two of them started edging for the door. Jamie stepped fully into the room, looking nervous.
"Umm, where are you guys gonna be?" I asked, nervously.
"We'll be in the living room, practicin' a new game Alan and I were playing before you got here last night," David said, trying on a look of moronic innocence and nodding his head like a plastic dog in a rear window of a car. "He's damn good at it."
"Game?" I asked.
"Yeah. It's called Tongue Hockey. Well, call if you need us!" He practically dragged Alan out of the room by the hand.
And so we were alone. We stood there, wondering what to do next.
There was what I guess they call a pregnant pause.
I tried looking him in the eye, but neither one of us really wanted that. "I guess we should sit. There's - there's coffee on the counter. Mugs in the cabinet just above," I said quietly, and settled back into my chair. "I'd get it for you, but I'm a little slow this morning."
Jamie seemed grateful to have something to do and smiled. He unzipped his coat - not the letter jacket from the night before, but a deep blue down-filled coat. He slipped it over the back of the chair, then tossed his red Head gloves onto the table. He kept his cap on but pushed it to the back of his head. It was an old wool Patriots ball cap, and Jamie's new 'favorite thing'. He'd picked it up at a flea market a few weeks before. It featured the old Patriots logo, the wild-eyed Minute Man who looked more like a drunken sailor than anything else. I'd made fun of him for wasting twenty bucks until he showed me a catalogue. Jamie would make quite a profit on that cap if he ever decided to sell it. He poured himself a large mug of coffee and sat down opposite me. I just slid the plate of cooled bagels in front of him, figuring to save us both time. He smiled and began munching happily while I waited.
"How did you know I was here?" I asked, fighting to keep my voice even.
Jamie smiled, and washed down a half-bagel with a mouthful of coffee, then he shrugged. "I swung by your house first thing this morning, and when I didn't see your car, I figured you had to be here," he said simply. "I knew you didn't go into your house last night."
I hoped he hadn't called the house, and said so.
He shook his head. "No. If you went in, the last thing anyone would've wanted was me on the phone for another round. You had enough to explain, but I didn't go right home after. I drove by your house later and didn't see the car. When I still didn't see it this morning... well, how many places did you have to go? I knew Dave's folks were out of town." He smiled. "I didn't know about Alan, though. Cute."
"Yeah, he is, and they go good together." I swallowed, because I was about to bring it all home. "Kinda like I thought we did."
It did hit home, and fast. Jamie dropped his eyes for a moment, then looked up to my face. I could see a lot of things in those eyes. I saw pain and sorrow. And on the edge, I think I saw tears. I wondered if he could see all of that in mine... but with anger added in.
Jamie shook his head. "I know you're mad, babe. I let you down last night when that asshole got a hold of you. I never should've left you there like that."
I slammed my good hand down on the table. "Jesus Christ, Jamie, will you give that a rest? What happened with Dick and me had nothing to do with you - got that? You went to get the car, and I went to take a leak. I really can do that without you being there to hold it for me. He said something, and I wised-off at him, and he was drunk enough and high enough to come after me. He came up behind me and you had your back to us tryin' to get that old junk of yours going. That is not your fault!"
I stood up, my heart starting to race. "You drove me nuts all the way home last night saying that stuff. See, contrary to what you think, this isn't some fairy tale romance, and I'm not some helpless chick-with-a-dick livin' in some enchanted kingdom waiting for my Prince to come to my rescue. I'm a friggin' eighteen year old guy who's been hit before and who'll likely get hit again some day. I'm not ungrateful for the help, believe me, because I don't know if you realized it but his next kick was gonna be aimed at my head when you came down on him. Man, am I ever grateful for that! I really would be in the hospital now if that one connected. And I owe you for that - owe you really big, and I'll never forget that."
"You helped me out, too," he added.
"That's right, I did," I said, "And maybe it wasn't much but it was the best I could do and as fast as I could do it, just like you did for me. You don't hold it against me that I couldn't stop him sooner, right?"
Jamie shook his head.
"So why the hell is it so hard for you to believe that I don't hold it against you for 'not being there' for me like you keep saying? Or... " I paused, and here I prepared for what my mother had taught me to do, and what my own nature inclined me towards. I was about to move in for the kill, just a little flick of the tongue to draw blood. "Or maybe you're feeling guilty about something else? You can't be forgetting what I said to you when I slammed the door, can you?"
He shrunk into himself with that. I don't know how he thought we wouldn't be getting back to those parting words of mine, but I had the idea that he really thought we would. Jamie had kept hammering at me to stay with him that night, and I kept on telling him to take me home, but he kept at it, even when we were pulling into my driveway. I couldn't take it anymore, and I just blew up and named the names, leaving no doubt about what I knew.
"How did you find out?" he asked, in a muffled voice.
I locked my eyes on his, and didn't shift off when he did. "David and I followed you Saturday. And Alan, too. We tag-teamed you to that house in Methuen. Oh yeah, and David recognized Jeremy's car."
Jamie leaned down, hunching his chin onto his folded arms. "I didn't know he was gonna be there," he said lamely, looking at the floor again. "That was Steve's doing."
I paused. "Who's Steve?"
"Steve? Steve Rurak. You met him. He works at Old Navy with me."
I had a fuzzy notion of a tall, lean guy with spiked black hair and gray eyes. Until then I never knew his last name. Didn't know he was gay, either. Not the guy I remembered from Halloween, not the same body, anyway. That guy was built like Jamie. Steve was thin and reedy. Where did the other guy fit in?
I swallowed hard, glaring at him. "Okay, you didn't know he was going to be there," I spat out. "But you parked right in back of the guy, and don't bother trying to tell me you didn't recognize that car. That model is two years old, and I got a feeling that in Jeremy's family, they don't 'do' second hand cars, any more than Jeremy 'does' boyfriends. Unless, of course, it's someone else's boyfriend."
Jamie lifted his head, but slumped back in the chair. His voice was low, filled with pain. "Baby, I - I'm so sorry. I mean... yeah, I should have left as soon as I saw it, and -"
"Wrong answer, Jamie!" I was shouting now. What the hell, might as well make it that much easier for Dave and Alan. With Alan's hearing, he couldn't have missed much anyway. "You never shoulda been there in the first place!"
He slammed his fist down on the table. The plates jumped and the coffee sloshed out of its cup. "We never talked about us being exclusive to each other! I never promised anything like that!"
"And I thought it was part of the deal!" I snapped.
He leaned across the table, glaring at me. "Guess the fuck you were wrong!"
And I leaned in right back. "Guess the fuck you're right!"
Jamie's fists were clenching and unclenching. Let him strike out, I didn't care. I was fully conscious of the fact that Jamie could have broken me in half with very little effort, but I wasn't about to back off. I was entitled to my pound of flesh, and I intended to have it - all of it, and the blood that went with it, too. I wasn't Shylock. I wasn't about to be cheated out of what was mine.
I heard the clearing of a throat. David was standing in the doorway, still dressed in his white robe. "Jamie," he said quietly. "I think maybe you better leave."
"David, please," I interrupted in a controlled voice. "Nothing's gonna happen. Just... let him and me finish this out, okay?"
David leaned against the frame, arms crossed over his chest, looking from one face to the other. Finally he focused on me. "We'll be in the living room. I hear any more shouting, Jamie's out on his ass."
"You taking sides now?" Jamie snarled.
"Yes," he answered calmly, and turned an expressionless face to Jamie. "Chris is my friend; you're along for the ride. Usually you're a nice guy, Jay, and I really do like you. But if you wanna make me pick, I'll see you next Tuesday." He narrowed his eyes at him, but spoke to me. "He touches you, and I'm callin' the cops. I don't give a damn what you say. It's my house."
I got back in my chair, and we sat in silence for a few minutes. Jamie twisted his face around, twisted his whole body around in that small chair.
"I'm sorry I started yellin'," he offered. "I lost it, 'cuz I knew I was trapped."
"I shouldn't have yelled either."
He looked at the ground again, then back up to me. His eyes were all innocence. "I'll never go behind your back again, C. I promise. It was just that one time, and..."
I sighed, and leaned down, rubbing my forehead. I could feel the tension just building and building behind my eyes. "Jesus, Jamie - David was right," I said, disgusted. "Get the fuck out."
He sat there, blinking. "I don't get it."
"Yeah, you got it," I said sarcastically. "And so did I. I got a dose of the crabs from you a week ago! Haven't you noticed you got them? Hope not. Be nice for Jeremy and what's-his-name if they had a little reminder of your 'fun' on Saturday."
"Oh, yeah, and I met Kenny," I continued. "Remember him? Nice-lookin' guy from Lawrence, beautiful long hair. He goes to Merrimack. You got together with him after work the night David and I went to the Runner in Manchester. He was a little late because he and I ran into each other and had a little talk. But you probably didn't say much about that, since the two of you only got together like three or four times since the end of summer, so I'm willing to bet conversation was minimal. Hey," I said snapping my fingers, like it was a great revelation. "Isn't that when we got together? Wow, and you only got together three or four times? Talk about restraint!"
He sat there, lips open, but mouth puckered into a small 'o'. His jaw was slack, and I could see the color draining from his face. Nothing like the rat when he finds himself caught in the trap and knows there's no escape. Jamie's hands dropped to his lap, neither opened nor closed, just hanging limply. He lowered his head and stared at the table, like there was some secret door there that would let him escape. There wasn't though, and he knew it.
He looked up with a tragic statement on his face, his eyes all innocence and sincerity. "Babe, please! You gotta believe me!"
I cocked my head and scowled at him. "Believe what? You haven't told me anything."
His head bobbed back and forth, like he was C3PO in overload mode. "I never meant..."
"Never meant what? To get caught?"
"Honest to God, Chris. I broke it off with Kenny! That night! That's why I met him, to break it off!"
I sneered. "Yeah, but not 'till after you got a piece!"
"We didn't do anything but talk it out! I swear!"
"Bullshit, Jamie! He left two hickeys on your back. Kenny likes to leave his mark, just like Eric said!"
He stopped cold. "Eric? How the hell did you meet him? Eric's a slime bucket."
"David was trying to pick him up, not that it matters. And you are the LAST guy who should be calling someone a slime bucket!"
He glared at me. "Who the hell are you to call me names?"
"I'm the guy you been fuckin' more ways than one after you get done fuckin' every one else! And I'm the one that isn't fuckin' around."
Jamie stood up, and I think he wanted to kick the chair across the room, except he knew it would bring David back. His jaw was clamped up solid, and I swore I could hear the sound of his teeth grinding. Both fists were clenched, and he turned away from me and punched at the air, making harsh grunting sounds. Then suddenly I heard his breath rush out and he folded over, and stood there with his hands dangling at his sides. He turned back to me, with a tired, pained face.
"C... You gotta understand, babe. It's just sex! It don't really mean anything. It's... it's..."
"Yeah," I filled in with a soft, matter-of-fact tone, and nodded my head. "You're just like that guy on Queer as Folk. It's just fucking. And I'm just another fuck."
He closed his eyes, shaking his head while he lowered it. "No, Chris. I love you, man. I really do. All those other guys, they don't mean anything, it's just... sex. That's all." He looked up at me, and his eyes locked on mine. "I love you man. I really do..." his voice trailed off in a whisper, and he started to move towards me as if to take me in his arms. I pulled back, too fast, and I felt the stab in my side almost as sharp as the one in my heart.
Tell me what I need to hear, I thought to myself. Even if it's a lie, tell me what I need to hear...
Never take less than you deserve.
His voice cracked, and it lost it's throaty rumble, and was as high-pitched as a baby's. "I love you," he said simply. "I really do love you."
I wanted to reach out and grab him in my arms, and lock my lips on his. I was shaking, terrified of losing him, and of being alone again like I was last summer... When I thought all I needed was sex and I'd be fine, that sex was the magic answer to everything, that being gay just meant everything was just sex. I wanted things to be like everything was before the night David and I thought it might be fun to go dancing in a club, surrounded by other gay people. I wanted so badly to put this behind us, to have Jamie make me a promise even if he didn't mean to keep it for long.
When one person deliberately does something they know will hurt the other, then it's not love... never take less than you deserve.
My heart hardened, and so did my voice. "Yeah, Jamie. You love me so much you jump in the sack with everyone you meet. And sometimes you bring friends home with you when you leave, and give 'em to me."
Jamie's jaw clenched and unclenched. "That was Kevin, and that was an accident, Chris. He... he said he was with someone the night before..."
I blinked, not quite getting it. "Who the hell is Kevin?" I asked.
"Uh... well... he's someone I met last summer." He actually managed to look embarrassed. "I... met him in the South End in Boston."
"Great," I said mocking. "Nice to know you keep contact with your casuals."
"No, I haven't seen him since! Well..." He was desperately looking for words, but not finding them. I enjoyed his loss. "Well, I ran into him again at the Salem Festival - Halloween."
Okay, now I had a name for the athletic body I saw through the crowd. "So... I guess Kevin goes to U-Mass Amherst, now?"
Jamie swallowed. Hard. "Um, no, actually he works at a store in the South End... in Boston. The Marquis DeSade." He smiled. "That's where I picked up your... birthday present."
I kept a blank face. "Right. Then it's a jewelry shop? You got my silver bracelet there?"
He sniggered. "Um, no. They sell magazines and... toys." His eyes brightened. "I got the Johan there. You remember - "
I held up a hand. I remembered all to well. "So, let me get all this. You lied about going up to Amherst so you could spend the weekend humping this guy named Kevin who works in a dildo shop."
I nodded appreciatively, but added an edge to my voice. "You know, Jamie, that just makes things so much easier to deal with. See, I figured you went all the way out to the Berkshires to hang out with your cousin and maybe you guys got to partying and you sorta met something hot... well, you know how it is. Couple beers, maybe some weed, things go too far... nothing nasty, like it was something planned, and you had to lie to everyone to go through with it. Oh - and get others to help you lie, like your cousin. But then, you're used to that. Hell, you used to have your brother lie for you, so what's a cousin?"
Jamie sat there, shaking his head. "Man, you make it all sound so... dirty."
"That's 'cuz it IS dirty, Jamie!" I said, exasperated. "So, let's get down to it. When did you find out Kevin was serving up side orders of crab-to-go?"
"Man, you are making this out like I'm some kinda criminal!" His brows were knitted, and his forehead furrowed. "Okay, okay. Kevin and me got together, and in the morning we realized there was some... uh, wild life, and we washed our clothes and showered down with some stuff. I really thought we got everything... and... well, I did another shampoo when I got home..." his voice trailed as he saw my face filling with anger.
My face was stone. "But before that you decided you needed to drop another load, so you swung by to see me. Before scrubbing down a second time."
He hung his head. "I mean... yeah, they're gross... but it's not like they're anything serious, Chris... I - I got careless, is all. It was an accident."
I stood there nodding my head, like I was mulling it over. I fought to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, because I didn't want us to get side-tracked, and Jamie would do anything to find a switch on the rails, I was pretty sure.
I began to pace back and forth. "Yeah, just a few bugs, Jamie. And next time you get careless and something happens, we can go down to the Doctor's Center on Main and get his-and-his shots of penicillin. But what about the time after that, Jamie? Do we get together and compare recipes for HIV cocktails? Pick out a nice, friendly hospice aimed for the younger crowd?"
He shook his head and affected a big smile. "C'mon, C. All that's just crap, and you know it! I always play safe."
"That's great, Jamie, just great. But here's a hint: rubbers break, and you aren't always on top. And yeah, I know oral is relatively safe, or so they say. But they still just say 'relatively', because they aren't totally sure. And I know what an expert you are at head, and there's only one way you get that good."
He cocked his head to one side. "I only... you know..." he made a gulping sound, and jerked one shoulder up. "I only do that for you."
I was so tired of all this. Last night, now today... and oh yeah, a month of having my heart ripped out while the evidence mounted and I was desperate not to see it.
"Look, Jamie, if you wanna go out and play Russian Roulette with your cock, that's fine. But I don't wanna find myself catchin' a ricochet just so you can have your fun. I'm sick of this... stuff... and we're done. Now just get out. Tomorrow at school, don't talk to me. And if you come into Border's, it better be to just buy the new issue of XY. And don't come by my house anymore, ok? And that includes Sundays with my old man."
He glared at me. "No shit, Chris. Even I could figure that one out."
I drew my lips back over my teeth and spat out the words. "I just wanna make sure the big, dumb, football jock understands me."
I told you once about Jamie. He's eighty pounds of muscle heavier than me, stands eight inches taller. I've watched him bench-press 220 in ten fast reps. He can struggle his way through a slower set of ten at 275 lbs. His hands are just... enormous.
I watched his left hand and arm draw up high to his right shoulder. I could see the cuts and bruises in the flesh left the night before when he'd slapped Dicky Ward. I remember thinking that it was lucky he'd taken off his class ring, that his ring could have really done some serious damage.
I watched his left arm and the back of his hand spring away from his right shoulder, felt the hard hand connecting with my cheek, was conscious of the twisting of my head as my neck snapped to the left. I felt my teeth jarring in their sockets, and I am sure my feet left the ground. My head struck the wall, and there is a dent in the sheet rock to this day. Like I said, Jamie had eighty pounds more of muscle behind him than I did, and it felt like he'd put everything he had behind that back-hand slap.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a PE instructor who taught us a bit about boxing and self defense. He had an interesting philosophy. The way he explained it, if you punched your opponent with a closed fist, that was something manly about that - a fist was a sign of respect. But if you slapped him, it was to show contempt. Strange thing to be running through my head, I thought as I slid to the floor, while the blood ran out of my nose again and over my lips and on down onto David's sweatshirt.
I sat slumped on the ceramic tile floor. My eyes flew open and I saw Jamie standing there. I remember every detail of the animal snarl on his face dissolving to a questioning look, then the slow horror registered in his eyes and then his face of the full realization of what he had just done. I heard voices, but all I saw was Jamie's scared look, and the tears suddenly running down his cheeks, and he was shaking his head. Then there was a blur of bodies between us, and all I saw was white terry to my right and soft, red cotton to my left. David and Alan put themselves between the two of us. Alan snapped up a chair and swung it high to his shoulders like a weapon.
"Try something, asshole," he growled. "Took me fourteen years before I'd fight back, but I finally did - so just try something."
"Get your stuff on and get outta my house, Levesque. Now."
I could hear the confusion in Jamie's voice, and a strange sort of fear. "Guys... please, you don't - Chris, tell 'em - "
David's voice was almost a whisper, but whispers can still be steel knives flying through the air. "He's not your toy any more, Jay. And I'll see you in hell before you use him for a punching bag again."
I couldn't see him, of course. I wasn't really looking up. I was watching the blood running down the front of my shirt again, and somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking how I'd have to get David a new one. It was a light blue one, and the stain would never come out.
I looked up, and David and Alan had stepped back a little, and I could see him. Jamie's face was white, and his lower lip quivered. His eyes locked onto the blood flowing from my nose. "Oh, Jesus..."
There's not one doubt in my mind that he truly regretted what he had done. Or that if I hadn't needled him so much, maybe I wouldn't have pushed him over the edge. I blamed myself. But I blamed him, too. I pushed him with words, but he'd cornered me with his actions.
No good guy.
No bad guy.
"Jamie, just go," I said quietly.
I felt it inside me. Something just ripped to pieces and died, deep inside me. It hurt, more than the pain in my face, or in the back of my head. Then I remembered flying back and hitting against the wall.
I looked up at him, and I wonder to this day if my eyes showed either the pain or the coldness that I felt. "Just go home, Jamie," I said wearily. "But don't ever call me 'honey', or 'babe', or anything like that again, okay? I'll see you at school."
"Will - can we talk this out there?"
I took in the big, beautiful man that had dazzled me. He'd stood up for me, he'd made love to me, he'd told me he loved me. But he'd lied, and he'd snuck around, and he'd cheated and he'd lied again even when he knew I had the truth. Jamie just wanted what he wanted, that was all. Maybe he even did feel something more for me than just someone handy to drop a quick load with. But it just didn't matter any more. Everyone wants to be loved, or think they're loved, but how long do you trade off the truth just for an illusion? I'd spent a month avoiding the truth. Not ten minutes ago - no, more like five minutes ago - I was willing to settle for another lie just to desperately hang onto that illusion.
David was at my side, holding out some paper towels and I wiped at
my face again, bunching one up under my nose. Alan had put the chair down
but he hadn't released his hold on it. His alert eyes never left Jamie
for a second, with the intensity of a lion-tamer in a cage. His face was
hard and fierce, and his lips were drawn back over his teeth. He'd break
that chair across Jamie's head if he had to.
"There's nothin' left to say, Jamie. I don't need any more lies, any more fights, any more screaming. We got classes together, so maybe we'll see each other there. We might have to say something to each other, but that's all. Keep away from me in the halls. Don't come near my house again. Okay?"
"Chris..." he choked.
I was looking down at the blood-drenched rag. My voice was weary, dead. "Enough. I've had enough. Just get out."
Jamie was motionless, head hanging, and staring at the floor. Then he pulled on his blue jacket, grabbed the red-felt gloves with the black suede hand grips, and walked quietly to the door. I heard the front door swing open, and I half expected to hear a thunderous slam, but all we heard was the quiet 'thunk' as the heavy oak door was pulled back into its jamb, and the 'snick' of the latch set catching. My two friends did their best to help me up again and get me seated back in a chair. The same chair that Alan was ready to use on Jamie.
For a long time I stared down at the table, and the silent tears ran down my cheeks. I didn't whine or shake. The tears weren't from the physical pain, though there was enough of that: the back of my head still throbbed, and my nose didn't really need a second mauling in twenty-four hours.
It was the part that was ripped out of me that hurt. For three months, Jamie had been the center of my life. For three months, I was no longer alone. For three months, I had someone I thought I could share with, and I don't mean just our bodies. I tried to think what it was going to be like, just living inside my head again, and keeping everything saved up there. I'd been alone for so long... and now I had to learn to live like that again. Part of me wished I'd never been so horny on a night in August that I was willing to offer myself to almost anyone that wanted to use me, because that's what I thought it was all about. Maybe I would have been better off settling for an anonymous blow job in the bushes.
I felt a firm hand on my shoulder - the good shoulder, at least - and jerked my head up. It was David, smiling, or trying to, and speaking to me.
"Chris?" he said quietly. "We're here for you. You gonna be okay?"
I turned a little to my right, and there was Alan, hovering behind Dave. His eyes were big with terror and pain, set in that thin face. His mouth was a small red 'o'. Alan knew all to well what it was like to be hurt by someone you thought was supposed to love you.
I smiled then, and just leaned my head against David, and gestured to Alan to come closer. He did and I wrapped my arms around both of them. I realized that maybe I had lost a boyfriend, but I really wasn't alone. Thanks to the relationship with Jamie, I did have someone, or two someones really, who cared. And if it weren't for Jamie, they wouldn't be here now when I needed them. David and I would have been strangers who worked and went to school together, exchanging a couple of clever words now and then. Maybe David would never have met Alan, either; just gone on bouncing in the bedroom with Jeremy or someone like him when he needed a release. And little Alan, more lost than all of us... where would you be?
I felt the liquid on my chest and remembered again. "Jesus. I ruined another shirt."
David smiled. "Hey, don't worry. It's old."
I looked down at the logo. "Damn - A & F, no less. You got nice old rags."
"So you'll pardon me if the next one I lend you is a Champion. Fifteen bucks for a nose-wipe is better than fifty, ok?"
He helped me to my feet, and up the stairs again for a shower. I
had a lot of other things to do that day, like filing a criminal complaint
and then letting my boss know I wouldn't be around for a few days. Oh yeah,
and then there was going to be that long talk with my parents... especially
And that was it.
David and I drove back to my house, with Alan driving my car. It was one thing to drive to David's even on ice-slick roads slowly, with no traffic; another thing to make it through the busy streets of Haverhill on a regular day that really wasn't much of a holiday except for schools and some government offices. David was my chauffeur for that day. We had to take 213 to connect with Salem, so we stopped at The Loop and Borders. Daniel Prendegast took one look at me, heard the short version of what happened, and told me to take the rest of the week off. I'd miss the money, yeah, but I was glad he offered. Hell, I was going to take the time off anyway. I needed some time to heal, physically and mentally.
The Salem Police Department on Cluff Road was next, and everything was easy. I read over Sgt. Panatakis' report, and signed it. They took another statement from me. I stated the facts, from the time Dicky walked into the Men's Room and our conversation there until the police cruiser arrived at the Salem Tri Cinema. I just gave them the facts, and they asked no questions. I was curious about Dicky though, and they told me he was still in custody. He'd made his call, but curiously, no one from his family had bothered asking about bail arrangements.
When the case came to court, we were told there was a plea bargain. Dick admitted to the facts of the case in open court, and confessed that his attack was unprovoked. There was no mention of the possession and use charge; maybe that was what the Rockingham County Attorney used for a bargaining chip. The judge listened to the sentencing recommendations and added to it. There was no reference to me having tried to 'molest' him. It wasn't the heaviest of sentencing, but it was enough to give good ol' Dickwad a taste of the New Hampshire Penal System. They found him culpable as an adult since he was close enough to his eighteenth birthday. It didn't help that he was already on probation. He spent about six months in the Men's State Prison in Concord. I hoped Sgt. Panatakis' partner was right about Dickwad being considered prime meat once he lost a couple of pounds, and he got a taste of the penis system, too.
David and Alan just hung out with me for the rest of the day. I said they should go do something together, but Dave wised at me, saying they had to hang in for a suicide watch 'till my parents got home. Both those weasels beat their feet out the door when my Dad pulled up, though - the cowards. Frankly, I wished I could join them.
His first question was, "Did Jamie hit you?"
"No," I lied, or maybe not, since that was a separate situation.
Then he asked me the things he did the only other time I got beat up good in a fight: what happened, who was it, was I okay, and did I fight back? He was satisfied with the honest answers I gave him and he listened to the whole story, just nodding. He said he would be in court with me that day.
After that, we had another long discussion which continued after my mother got home. I told him about me, and about Jamie. I told them what Dicky claimed happened and that it might come up in court. He wasn't upset, but I knew he was confused and really didn't know what to say, so he did what he always did when he should have just shut up; he said the wrong thing.
"You're not gonna start wearing dresses and stuff, are you?"
My mother sat there and shut her eyes, shaking her head. "Jesus, Roland. Do you ever think before you open your mouth?"
He made some dumb faces and wobbled his head while shrugging, and muttered a "Sorry".
He never asked about Jamie; it would have surprised me if he had. He never asked about any of my friends after that, either. I mean, no personal questions beyond the occasional "You seeing him?" and letting it go at that. A couple of times when I smiled and said 'no' he just nodded his head and said, "Thank Christ." Well, that's the old man. He liked David, and God knows why, but he always seemed to roll out the red carpet when Alan came by. He pretty much understood they were a couple.
Which brings us to now: February, 2002. For five months I've sat in front of my monitor at odd times, recording three important months of my life. See, I took this course in psychology last semester when I started at U-Mass Lowell, and the instructor mentioned in a discussion that sometimes when a situation from the past haunts you, it helps if you can organize and record the events, to put them in some sort of perspective, and that's what I've done here. He felt that this allowed you to look at things with a little less passion, and think things through, rather than just act on an emotional response.
The whole thing is still with me, you see. Jamie was the first man to ever say he loved me, and I bought that blindly, even if I did fight the truth in front of me for a third of our relationship. Alternately, I told myself I'd expected too much, then that I'd put off the inevitable too long. I hated and loved Jamie for a long time after that. To make things worse, when I returned to school at the end of that week, I had to deal with him sitting one row to the left, just a few seats behind and just out of my peripheral vision. But I never felt his eyes on me again.
After Christmas break and the start of the new semester, I looked over my classes and realized for the first time in three and a half years, Jamie Levesque wasn't in a single one of my classes. I was relieved, but sad, too. We'd pass in the halls, but neither of us would make any eye contact. We'd speak if we had to, and make the pleasant sounds that are expected when others were around, but neither of us ever sought out the other again. Sometimes, I missed that ham-hock of a hand squeezing my shoulder.
Then a phantom pain would flash again in my mind, and I'd be on the floor looking up at the sorrow hidden behind blue eyes.
Maybe I didn't find the love of my life, but at least I had a warm memory of an early fall day at the shore and feeling the warmth of being with someone. There was more than a few nights of just two horny teenagers having sex; it really was an act of love - the only way Jamie really knew how to love, for whatever reason. And me, I came out of a self-imposed shell I had built around myself, and found that I could have a lot of the things I told myself would always be held back from me while I lead a shadow life. I could have friends, I could have intimacy, I could even have love in time, even if not at that moment. But you have to look for love, not just imagine it's there just because you're lonely. And love doesn't always mean a lover. Sometimes, it's just the guys you think of as your best friends - and I've got a couple of them, thank God.
After graduation I never really saw Jamie again. I heard he'd gone to some college in New York, but whether it was in the City or upstate I never knew. I'm betting the City. Jamie likes to explore, after all.
Today was an interesting day, too. See, a few weeks ago, just after New Year's when we were getting ready for the second term, I found an envelope in the mail. No stamp, no address, just my name. I knew the handwriting, of course - Jamie's. Inside was a photo of the two of us from Halloween - me in my angel costume, Jamie as the Demon Lord. His arms are around me and his nose is against my cheek. He's smiling. Me, I look startled but happy as I look into the camera, my mouth open as usual. It's a well-worn photo, like it was handled a lot. There wasn't much of a note in the envelope, just a single word.
But today another envelope arrived, with all the postal markings. Jamie had transferred to College of the Holy Cross, just in Worcester. Claimed he couldn't take the big city. He wants us to meet over Spring Break. I'm thinking about it, and maybe we will. It's something I'm going to talk to David about. Yeah, and Alan, too. Things will never be the same again of course, but... it's still unfinished business, so maybe it was a good idea to set this down and get a little perspective on the matter. I even dug out the ring I bought him for his birthday but never given to him, and looked at the inscription on the reverse of the heart:
JL & CStJ
I have to snicker at the date, "00". The big double nothing; that was us. Snake eyes.
I'm thinking maybe we can meet. It'll be in a public place though - very public. Maybe we can salvage a friendship out of this. I don't see much more than that, though. Even a friendship would be tough at first, never mind anything else.
I guess it's time to wrap this up and tuck it away in my special file again. I'm meeting David tonight, and we're going to yet another Under-21 Night, but at a Boston club this time. Hey, it's Tuesday night, and no one else goes out, so why not the young kweer kids? There's a lot of mark-up in coke and juice, just the same as in alcohol as far as the bars are concerned. The music will be good, and maybe... well, it's been awhile. I haven't been a monk after all, but I just don't go out and do it wholesale. I did eventually get a chance to play with Kenny's long hair hanging down in my face, but the three years between us might have been decades just then. He wanted the club life at least for awhile, and his options were limited with an eighteen year-old in tow. I've seen a few guys since I started at Lowell. I even met Jade again in Manchester. Believe me, that was a precious stone that was not cold to the touch, but he was in an exchange program at St. Anselm's, and had to return to his home. I can still see those almond eyes of his some nights.
College ain't high school, thank God, and the atmosphere is a little easier for those who ain't on the straight and narrow.
For once, Alan's coming with us to scope out the club scene. He's been nervous about that, and usually tells David to just go with me. He'll pay for it in the morning, since he still has the regular high school 8-to-3 schedule, and David and I have afternoon classes. David surprised everyone and decided to stay at home and do a local college. He likes Merrimack College.
Hey, next year for Alan. He'll be doing the community college in Haverhill, since his grades are so bad, but David and I are doing our best to coach him into catching up. Alan isn't dumb, but he spent his life being told he was, so he believed it, and just never did enough to convince anyone that he was anything else. Northern Essex is just the kind of place for him to catch up.
Hmm. E-mail from Dave:
"Instructions for tonight:
Do something with that damn hair.
You're meeting Colin from my Ethics class.
He's pre-law, and you make one crack about
what a lawyer needs with ethics, I'll leave you
Jesus, Dave. Cut me a break, okay? I am so not a bitch.
Copywrite 2002 by Keith Mystery
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