I first saw him from across two rooms. I was in the kitchenette and he was out in the living room near the couch. Our gathering place tonight was Jimmy’s, and you were assured of finding something, or someone to do at his gatherings. The house was old, brick and tastefully decorated. Not overly done with knick-knacks or other tacky things. He owned his own home, made good money and knew how to enjoy himself. He also attracted a wide group of friends, a real cross section of people. Jimmy could be seen here and there, checking on his guests. One group was huddled about the coffee table, doing a shot called the California car bomb. Yuck.
Jimmy’s parties always drew out people I didn’t regularly see. I had been talking to Uncle Brent, who was like the gay version of the Real seal of quality or approval. We were just catching up, beings because we see each other infrequently, at this gathering of our peers, more or less.
We had some wild company tonight, some pierced and some tattooed, some trashy and some local royalty, but all basically good people. This crowd included no druggies, at least not outside alcohol, Mary Jane and Vitamin V.
So Uncle Brent is telling me all about how half of the costume designers in the theater institute are gay, the male half, and about a new production coming up that they are working on non-stop. That’s when I suddenly tuned out and saw him across the room, next to a fellow who looked to be a little older than my thirty one years. The fellow was dressed casually, sweater and khakis with heavy soled shoes.
He was speaking to a couple of people, some of whom I knew and more of whom I didn’t. He struck me as little less than mediocre next to his companion, a dye job blond with a clear complexion. Sharp blue eyes moved around the room, but no smile touched his face nor was there any amusement in his eyes. If anything he looked wary, possibly uncomfortable.
“What caught your eye?” Uncle Brent asked as he turned to follow my gaze across the room, “Who?”
“Why do you assume it’s who?” I asked him without moving my eyes from the new fellow.
“Please, when isn’t it a who?” he scoffed and I chuckled. He had a point there.
“Looks like Ed has someone with him,” he said and I remembered the plain fellow’s name was Ed. Surely named for the talking horse.
“You know, Ed looks like he spent a few dollars on that outfit, too bad he didn’t wear a girdle too,” I snickered under my breath and we both chuckled.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say….,” Uncle Brent began.
“Come sit next to me,” I finished for him.
“Well, that bad bottle job next to him didn’t come cheap either,” he said in a conspiratorial tone.
“Well, besides the fact that it’s a dye job, there isn’t anything wrong with him,” I told Brent, defending this creature. The blonde’s eyes had never settled the entire time, and I noted that no one was speaking to him nor was he making the effort to speak to anyone. Ed, meanwhile, continued to bray to a diminishing audience. Wait, asses bray, right? How silly of me….
“Not what I meant, Sweetie, the curtain not matching the rug is just the beginning. Nico doesn’t come cheap, and Ed must have paid a small fortune just to have him here for a half an hour. Ever since Robert left him high and dry, he’s been trying to make everyone see how happy he is to be alone.” Uncle Brent and I looked at Ed as he postured and Nico continued to wait; like a man who is painfully near parole time, with the warden making a last minute speech.
“Rent boy?” I asked.
“A high paid one, Hon, you need a credit line to get him. At least for now, in a little time if his face doesn’t get cut or something, then maybe he’ll stop. I don’t think he really wants to do it, but the money can be a big lure,” Brent whispered.
“His eyes, they haven’t stopped sweeping the room since Ed opened his mouth,” I observed.
“Well, it’s not his environment, you know. I am sure he feels more at home in the shadows now than he does in a well lit party with us supposedly upstanding citizens,” he snickered.
“You sound like you know something you aren’t telling me,” I said to Brent with a pointed look. “Don’t tease me, Uncle.”
“Not teasing exactly, it’s just…Nico used to be a student once. He came from a middle income family, a nice Catholic family where only the priests could screw the boys,” he rolled his eyes for emphasis.
“When they found out, they disowned him of course. He stayed with me for a short time, but he needed money and…well, he ended up in the vicious circle that has him now. I’m sure Ed had to take a mortgage out for this kind of time, although that means that Nico will still have enough to shoot for the next guy, since this is a non-standard affair.”
“That is so sad. He’s beautiful,” I sighed as I looked at his restless eyes. They flitted from one face to the next, and I wondered if he was gauging the crowd for new customers or if he was simply hoping to avoid a drunken face that would make him feel small by calling him down in the crowd. He was an outsider by all counts, but I felt a tug none the less and for once it wasn’t in my jeans.
“Honey, that’s a broken heart waiting to happen. I don’t even know if Nico has feelings left anymore,” Uncle Brent sighed. Brent took in a lot of strays over time. Various roommates couch campers and sleeping bag dwellers as they got back on their feet. That's probably where his status came from, being so giving and offering a helping hand. Something of a savior to all those kids he had helped out.
“Do you really think it’s that bad?” I asked.
“Well, I think he’s been at it for about two years now.” He resettled himself in his chair to look more at me before he continued. “From what I can tell from these guys, you have to pretty much bury your feelings down deep. Survival demands that your human side can’t rule what you do, just business to get by. Your body is a commodity to be bought, or rented, by the highest bidder at any given time.”
“But that’s so sad, he can’t be that old,” I said to Brent. Nico’s eyes had settled on his shoes for a few moments, as if he was enthralled by his white sneakers. Perhaps the mysteries of the universe could be found on his laces?
“No, he’s not that old. But the business he’s in will use him up and throw him away. It’s a waste, really.” Brent sighed. I think his sigh was also because he could see me slowly detaching from reason as my heart began to move me to places my mind wouldn’t normally go of its own accord.
“Was he a good student?” I asked.
“Average, I think. He had a lot of outside distractions, worried about his parents and all that. I think he had a boyfriend at one time, too, but he lost that when everything else went sour.” Brent sighed. “You can’t save him, Christoff.”
“You bitches better have eaten some of my pie,” Sean admonished as he swept up, dropping hairpins intentionally as he went.
“Last thing I had from you was undercooked,” I muttered at him.
“But fully formed, Honey,” he laughed.
“Go on, whore! Ply your trade elsewhere!” I shooed him away dramatically. I had spoken before thinking, and wondering how far away I could be heard, I turned to look at Nico. Though he was painfully beautiful, he was also aware that his kind, the streetwalker, had been called to play as an insult. I felt very small, and could feel the heat rising in my cheeks.
Nico approached us slowly, sinuously, like a predatory animal. He looked not unlike a hunting cat, grace and sudden death promised in each step. His tight, ribbed black shirt was taut across his pecs. The definition was something a sculptor would have been envious of. His jeans weren’t tight, but they clung enough to show he wasn’t skin and bones under the threads.
Ed was still making someone yawn and hadn’t noticed Nico slipping from his side, but I saw his approach. I was trapped in that intense gaze, blue eyes flickering over me as they took stock of the man who had uttered the phrase that had broken his tedium.
That short walk from the living room to the kitchenette was so singularly erotic; it should be bottled and sold. He could have been a runway model, he was proportioned that well. His skin had a glow, a scrubbed look to it that spoke of freshness, and a radiant sensuality that was just beyond the scope of my vocabulary.
“Hi, Uncle Brent,” He looked down at Brent warmly, but nothing touched those distant eyes. Perhaps Brent was right; no emotions were left to this work of art wrapped about an empty shell. “It’s been a long time, how are you?”
“I’m good, Nico.” Brent stood, as did I, and Brent embraced the smaller fellow. Brent was about six foot or a touch taller to Nico’s five seven or so. “How have you been?” Brent asked.
“I get by, nothing to write home about,” he replied breezily, a practiced ease to his tone. He continued to ooze sensuality, a mysterious component that surely made his life easier in his line of work.
“Have you thought about going to go back to school?” Brent asked, making small talk.
“Maybe in the spring, I think I can afford it.” Nico replied.
“Are you serious?” Brent asked, a smile touching his face.
“Maybe,” Nico’s eyes, cold and proud all in one fixed on my own brown eyes. “No man’s fate is sealed from one day to the next, right?”
“Of course,” Brent replied, though it was plain that his comment was intended for me.
“Who is your date for the evening?” Nico asked Brent.
“This is Christoff, he’s just a friend.” I smiled and held my hand out to Nico.
“Forgive me if I don’t shake hands.” Nico fixed me in his gaze.
“Of course,” I replied as I tried to be gracious.
“Nico? We’ll be late for dinner, we have to go now.” Ed was suddenly at his side, though Nico paid him no mind as he looked at my face unflinchingly.
“Man is the only animal that blushes, or has need to, as Twain observed.” He allowed his gaze to move from my face, down my body and back to my face. I was unable to resist the urge to pull in my stomach when his gaze passed that point. “At least you have the good grace to do that much.” Nico gave me a small smile, perhaps knowing he had made a point.
“Good night, Uncle Brent, it was really nice to see you again.”
Nico turned from me with a final glance, flashing me a sly smile and allowed Ed to resume being in charge. Anyone who saw the exchange a moment ago knew that it was all a sham, Ed was no more in charge than I would be made pope. Nico movements indicated he knew eyes were on him, and he was used to that, but he refused to be cowed by it; grace under pressure.
“Well, that was Nico,” Brent said as he retook his seat and I with him.
“That was no person that was an event, an experience.” I sat and watched the entryway where Ed and his date for the evening had passed only moments before, and though conversation continued around me, I was not part of anything memorable for the rest of the evening. Nico ruled my thoughts; my mind liked his style and his apparently quick mind, what with his quoting Twain and all. What’s more part of me longed to know him as he had never been known before.
Dangerous thoughts indeed.
I pulled off my work clothes, exhausted from another day of retail drudgery. It seems that there was a never-ending flood of people that were convinced they were the most important thing going on planet earth, and if you weren’t aware of it they would happily explain it to you. I pulled on some sweat-pants and a tee-shirt before hitting the fridge. Just one beer before fixing something for dinner, I told myself.
Two weeks after the party and I was still thinking of Nico, wondering whose arms he was in at the moment. I wondered if his eyes were far away from the carnal acts his body participated in, instigated even. Where do those eyes look when the world outside is so ugly and interested only in the sweaty rush and the slap of flesh that you can provide? Does he have a happy place like the Pooh bear of childhood tales? Or was that squashed years before, lost with other childhood ideas and dreams?
It was in my nature to brood over events that I had no control over. I fancied myself something of a white knight, helping those who couldn’t or wouldn’t help themselves. It was largely a thankless job, but one that brought some satisfaction and meaning to my own view of the world. This guy was no different in that respect, but there was something more, something bordering dangerously on obsession.
I was under tight rein, I had not called Brent to see what other tidbits could be wormed out of him in casual conversation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the right reasons that I was under such control. I knew there would be lectures for my utter hopeless desire to do something about this beatific person, while I conveniently ignored reality. So if I were to gain any more information, where would it come from?
Logically, I didn’t have the technical acumen to hack my way into files at the school. Hey, I didn’t even have a complete name to work from, much less an address or anything like that. So, what do I do? I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to go looking for a rent boy, except to ask Ed since he obviously knew. I figured someone I knew would have an idea, but how exactly do you bring that up with someone? Is there any truly graceful way to enquire how to hire a whore?
I mulled my options, very few as they were, and sipped my beer. Eventually I got up and made dinner, a bachelor special of pasta with ground beef tossed in. A little Alfredo sauce completed my meal, along with another beer of course.
I thought into the night, oblivious to the squawking from the television and the occasional telemarketer. I slept that night wondering where Nico was, and still wondering what I could do to make a positive effect on him. Could I do that? Was I strong enough to have that sort of influence?
Days passed and I went to work, kept up the façade of a life being lived, but troubled behind my soft brown eyes. I know I don’t owe this guy anything, and I also know that my choice of words doesn’t warrant making an effort to improve someone else’s place in life. But I felt drawn, like an iron filing to a magnet. Check that, to an electromagnet. The pull on my thoughts wasn’t constant, but whenever my mind had an extra moment where it wasn’t otherwise engaged, I thought of Nico. When I closed my eyes, I saw his blue ones looking back at me. I imagined his surreal form moving. Smooth skin and toned muscle moving under clothes form-fitting enough to be applied with a brush. I felt a surge in my chest at seeing him in my mind’s eye, my pulse increasing. I wanted him, to hold him and soothe him until his eyes lost that faraway look, until he was in the world with me and somewhat happy. I don’t know why his happiness was becoming important to me, but it was.
I was going into my third month of wanting to find Nico, but being too embarrassed to do a whole hell of a lot about it. I won’t lie; I felt a little stupid since Chuck had put things so bluntly. There was a certain amount of truth in his words, I couldn’t deny that.
Unfortunately, this was not a quest based in being realistic or pragmatic. It was a quest of curiosity, of some inner drive to know someone that had captured my attention. He fascinated me like few others had before.
Sure, I’ve had crushes, who hasn’t? We all do silly things, get clumsy when that someone is around or maybe you dropped an anonymous note in their locker after school. This was adult insanity, though. Silliness carried out on a grand scale, and nothing brought that home more than the fact that I was standing in front of Ed’s house, just out of the streetlights reach.
I sighed deeply, steeling myself for having to deal with Ed, something I had hoped to avoid. I mounted the brownstone steps and rung the bell for the second floor apartment on the dilapidated building.
The light came on in the entryway, a naked bulb illuminating the bare wood of the interior stairs. The feet were the first to appear, moccasin style slippers on his feet, gray sweatpants and matching top to cover a rotund torso. He had grown a moustache and now looked much older than I had previously placed him. He was clearly in his middle fifties. Gray hairs dominated the moustache and poked through the unruly thatch on his head.
“Hi Christoff! I haven’t seen you in ages! How’s your father?” he asked me. In truth, he squealed not unlike a sick pig.
“He’s well, thank you.” I replied stepping into the entryway.
“Good, good. I haven’t seen him in a while, we seem to travel in different circles now,” Ed prattled.
That’s because he figured out you’re a piece of leeching trash. I smiled at Ed as we mounted the steps to his apartment. His apartment was what one might call distressed. The wallpaper was stained and a fine layer of dust seemed prevalent on almost everything.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” he asked.
After noting the general state of the apartment I declined.
“This place has gone to hell since Bob moved out. He had his own filing system and I can’t seem to find anything here,” Ed commented while directing me towards the front of the place, the living room I presumed.
“I am so much better off since that freeloader left! My God, you have no idea!” Ed scoffed.
“Are you still in touch?” I asked, more out of polite conversation.
“The bitch hisses if we see each other, he’s such a baby.” Ed sniffed.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I intended to mention that I had seen him at Jimmy’s party, but he picked up right away.
“Oh, don’t be Sweetie! He’s a bad penny through and through. I’m sure he’ll latch onto someone else soon enough. You know getting bill money from him was so hard.” Ed put his hand to his forehead to demonstrate just how bad it had been. “Of course if the Mary could have gotten a job that would have helped.”
“I thought you both worked with the disabled?” I replied, not seeing a polite way to get out of the conversation.
“I worked, he lounged. Our supervisor caught him smoking some Mary Jane out the back door one night, and he actually told the guy he was on his break, what did it matter? I mean, can you imagine?” he asked me.
“Well, I saw you at Jimmy’s a few months ago with a guy, did that dry up?” I asked.
“Oh, you must mean Nico. We just went to dinner and stopped at the party first. He has no personality, but a great body.” He shivered to illustrate the point.
I felt angry that this slob had his hands on Nico at some point. I realized, with some sadness, that a great many had put their hands on Nico over time.
“Yeah, he was quite a head turner. Where did you say you met him?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t even remember. We didn’t see each other after that. If you want the truth, he robbed me that night. A hundred and fifty dollars was missing from my wallet at the end of the night. I was pretty pissed, let me tell you. If I ever see him again, it won’t be pretty!” Ed warned.
The thought of this jellyroll threatening anyone was laughable, but I was pretty sure I knew where the buck fifty had gone to. Thing was, how could I get him to tell me where Nico was?
“That’s too bad; he seemed like a real catch.”
“No, not really. Men will ruin your life, just look at mine. My life,” he said dramatically, “should serve as a warning to others.”
To watch their diet and cholesterol intake, maybe. I was stymied; Ed wasn’t going to admit to anything. He was useless to me and being here any longer would be a waste as well. But I had to try.
“Ed, if you wouldn’t mind, I need to find Nico. Can you give me any hints?” I asked.
“Did the little bitch steal from you too?” he asked
“In a manner of speaking.”
“Oh, Honey, whatever it was just let it go. Leave it in the gutter with that piece of trash.” Ed sniffed for emphasis.
“Ed, your duplicity is astounding.”
He looked at me in confusion.
“You hired a rent boy. You want to act as though simply because you did the paying that you are so much better. I want to find him, will you tell me how?”
“I don’t have to pay for anything, get out of my house!”
I stood and walked to the door, and then turned to face Ed. He took a step back, as if he thought I would strike him. Not an unpleasant thought.
“Not many people have less class than you, Ed. Just know that Nico isn’t one of them. Bob maybe, but not Nico.”
“He’s a whore.” Ed grated.
“Yes, but ignorance can be taught, drunkenness sobered but stupid, Ed.” I looked at him pointedly. “Stupid is forever.”
“Get out! Get out!”
A few weeks later Brent called and we headed out for dinner in town. Downtown is like many cities all across America, sucked dry of most of its character by the sprawl of suburbia and the opening of million square foot mega malls. Jack’s Oyster House was a local landmark, with a solid wood bar and black and white checked floor tiles; a very classy place for the dapper and debonair to enjoy valued company.
“It’s been a long time since we ate here,” I said by way of conversation.
“Well, trying to get a reservation here is like pulling hen’s teeth,” Brent chuckled.
“I know; who did you sleep with?” I joked.
“The head waiter, of course, and several times, Mary.” he said casting his eyes heavenward. I gave him the groan the line deserved and we settled into the gossip I was missing out on, who was sleeping with whom and who was cheating on whom.
“So, Ed heard that Bob was looking for a job over at the Ramada as a night manager. I guess he called up over there, he knows someone in personnel I think it was. All of a sudden, Robert has no application on file.” Brent shook his head, “You don’t think Ed is bitter, do you?”
“Bitter is not even close to the term. It’s funny, considering that Ed and Bob have the collective intelligence quotient of mayonnaise, you’d think they’d get along better.” We laughed and I decided to gamble.
“Speaking of Mr. Ed,” I opened.
“What about him?” Brent asked evenly. Damn, he knew what I wanted to ask, but he was going to make me commit and broach the subject.
“Have you heard anything more of his companion at the party?” I asked, avoiding his gaze.
“Christoff, are you still thinking about Nico?” he asked with a measure of disbelief. I sighed and looked him in the eyes, feeling foolish, but determined to lay this to rest.
“I think about him in a lot of spare minutes. Maybe it is a mistake, maybe I am being a fool. Maybe I am setting myself up for a fall. But I want to find him, I want to help.” I said with a firm gaze that was hard like steel, but brittle as glass.
“There is no maybe about it! You should be old enough to know you can’t make change, they have to do that themselves!” he scolded me.
“Yes, but he needs a reason to change, doesn’t he? Why do we change? Circumstances allow or force us to, that’s why. His whole world changed and he fell into a way of living, if you call it that, to survive. Why should he change? If he stops right now, what is waiting for him?”
“Oh Christ, please don’t do this!” He ran his fingers though his hair before looking at me. “I tried to reason with him, told him he could stay with me until he was on his feet. He shot me down, couldn’t take the charity. He told me he was a big boy and that he had made this mess by coming out and he had to deal with the consequences. He is very independent, what do you think you could say to him that I didn’t?” He asked me with a demanding look in his eye.
“Maybe all I need to ask him is if he feels like he might have made a mistake,” I replied.
“It’s your funeral,” he replied.
“But I don’t know how to find him, Brent. I need your help.”
“What makes you think I can find him?” he asked, not meeting my eyes.
“You never lose a way to contact people you care about.” I replied.
He sighed deeply. “Do you have any idea how damaged a person you are going after?”
“I’ve never really talked to him, but I want to. Is that so bad?”
“That depends on what you want from talking to him.”
“I want to know who he is inside. I want to know if he wants to be someone else. Brent,” I leaned across the table, “I know you aren’t seeing what I am, the potential of a person in him. But I want to follow that idea; I want to give him that path. I want to let him choose.”
“I had a direct number for him, once. It doesn’t work anymore. If you want to find him, you’ll have to do it as a john. This isn’t his number, it’s his pimps.”
Uncle Brent handed me a napkin with a number on it, a cell number from outward appearances.
“You have to tell them who you want, they’ll do the rest.”
I looked at the number in my hands, realizing that I was on the cusp of this madness. Now, all I had to do was follow through.
I walked along the shoreline, the small man-made lake still in the gloom of the middle evening. I had an appointment here, time I would have to pay for. I trembled as a small chill cut through me, one of anticipation and fright rather than due to the temperature. The last of summer’s green grass grew beneath my feet. I had dressed carefully in khakis and a button up shirt that I hoped covered my middle in such a way that it wasn’t obvious how far the enemy had gotten in the battle of the bulge.
Twilight was descending upon the landscape, reddish-gold hues tinting the dying day. I stretched my back, which was tightening up from the complex medical condition known as anticipation.
The fading light allowed me to see a short figure cresting a small hill about hundred and fifty feet away. The radiant embers of the early evening hit the blond hair that I remembered, and the motion was unmistakable. The sinuous movement, he was graceful to the point of being hypnotic; confidence, sensuality and sex appeal rolled from him in palpable waves.
“Funny,” he said as he stepped in front of me, “Last time I saw you your face was a similar color. Never thought you’d call on a guy like me?” he asked. Nico’s head was tilted up to face mine, his blue eyes crystalline. They held sadness, those eyes, something I wanted to sooth from them.
His voice told a story that said he was glad to have me on some perceived lower level. His eyes flashed a pain that showed he was sad to have been on that lower level to meet me.
“Well, I am surprised I had the courage, that much is true,” I replied.
“So, clock’s ticking, you have the money?” he asked as he turned off his emotions, the glimpse he had shown me smothered completely; but it was proof that emotion still existed.
“Right here,” I said as I handed over three hundred dollars from my pocket. I had taken it out of my savings account earlier in the day. It was almost as much as I made in a week, so I suppose there has to be a certain amount of insanity involved here, right?
“Ok, good,” he said as he quickly counted the three bills. I looked him over, his tight black shirt with gold thread woven into the shape of a lion standing on its hind legs, his distressed jeans and white sneakers. I looked into his blue eyes, eyes that were now like mirrors; betraying nothing of the mind behind them. They were eyes that were used to people mentally feeling him up.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked me, a small hitch in his voice.
“Well, I thought we could go to dinner first,” I said quietly.
“Has to be walking distance, I don’t get into people’s cars,” he said firmly.
“Sure, Quintessence is just over the next block, I hear they have good food,” I replied happily to counter his businesslike tone. He nodded and we started to walk towards the diner.
“Have you ever eaten at this place before?” I asked.
“Johns take me there sometimes when they want to settle their nerves,” he stated, an unreadable expression on his sorrowful face.
“I see. What do you say if we take the bus up to Garcia’s then?” I asked.
“Why? You don’t want to be a regular john?” he asked with a sad chuckle.
“I don’t want to be a john,” I said honestly.
“You do realize you just paid me.”
“I paid you in order to see you.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t undress in public,” he replied caustically. I stopped.
“I don’t want you to undress. I paid you because there is no other way I can see you,” I replied in an unsteady voice.
“If you don’t want to fuck me, why did you want to see me?” he asked. “You aren’t one of those poor misguided individuals that want to try and save me, are you? You don’t have a Bible stashed somewhere, right?” he asked.
“Look, truth?” I asked. He placed his hands on his hips and nodded at me. “I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind. You are…beautiful, you’re intelligent and…I do want to help you. Paying you was the only way to get three hours of your time and I wanted to use it to get to know you.”
“If you want to help, you can be a regular, ok? Don’t preach to me about how fucked up I am,” He stated resolutely.
“I don’t intend to preach, and I am not very good at it in any case. I just want to know you, who you are really. I want to bring you some happiness,” I said. His eyes flickered for a moment, and I swear there was a glint of hope that was squashed with ruthless effect.
“I don’t like to make any attachments with my johns.” He said.
“I don’t want to be a john, I want to be your friend,” I replied.
“I don’t have any friends.” He replied stiffly.
“Yes, you do. You have at least two, Brent and me.”
“Uncle Brent…I’m surprised he talked to me. I guess he told you how I was a bright young mind that fell into corruption and is best left in the gutter, right?” He sighed, “…but some of us are looking at the stars.”
“Oscar Wilde,” I noted, “I figured out you were bright, and I can see where you are right now. The question is where are you going?”
“If I can get enough money I can quit this. Winter is coming though; things get slow then, can’t hang out in the park as much. Besides, the cops are getting worse down here.”
I started to walk again, towards the bus stop and I heard him fall into line with me. “You buying dinner?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“You are giving me money so I’ll go out with you?” he asked.
“Do you have any idea how weird that is?”
“I have an idea.” I smiled at him.
“So you don’t expect me to sleep with you?” he asked, as if he truly didn’t believe me.
“Wait a second, wait,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “There has to be more than that to it. Why?”
“Because I can’t forget you. I’ve been thinking about you for four months and I finally realized that I have to take a chance, I have to try to know you to see if those blue eyes of yours have any love in them and to see…. if I have any love left in me.”
“So you are buying a date that you want to find love in or something. You seriously don’t expect it to end in sex?” he asked me, incredulity on his face.
“I don’t want it to end in sex.” I replied.
“Then why pay me? Why not just ask me out?” he asked.
“Because, you need the money and I need to see you. More important, it’s the only way to get to see you. No one else knows how to get in touch with you except to go through that grease ball that sets up your appointments.”
“So what happens if you spend your money and never see me again?”
“I call that grease ball and get another date.”
“That could get expensive.” He said with a trace of a smile.
“Yeah, it could.” I looked into his blue eyes, and searched there for that little spark of hope I saw earlier. The eyes were wary, but not hostile; and maybe just a touch curious. “Sometimes, Nico, you have to believe in something. I have thought about you a lot, and I believe I have to take this chance. I believe that somewhere inside you is someone that says he made a mistake, and maybe he wants someone to love him. Maybe he thinks no one could love him again, because of what he has become.” Small tears began to form inside the corners of his eyes, making them shimmer.
“Nico, I agreed to three hundred dollars so I could see if my hunch was right. I have this…this need to take you in my arms and make all that pain in your eyes go away, and I can’t explain it. I am physically attracted to you, but I am also attracted to something I can’t define in you and I have to try. I just have to try for you as much as for me.”
“You have no idea how freaky that sounds,” he laughed while pushing a few tears back.
“Yes, yes I do. It’s the craziest, maybe the dumbest thing I have ever done, but I need to see you, I need to be a part of your life and…I want to make a difference in your life.”
Silence filled the space between us, his face slowly opening into a shy smile. It was truly a work of art, that smile. It was so genuine, so sincere that it almost hurt to look at it. His face showed a sign of hope that maybe something good would happen here.
We walked together to the bus stop and sat on the bench. He sat with one leg folded under him, facing me and I looked at him, beautiful as a sunset and more elegant than the dawn.
“I have a little confession to make,” he said, looking down at his shoes.
I waited patiently.
“I have been asking Brent about you for the last four months. When he told me you asked about me he said he tried to warn you off, tried to see if you were genuine.” His blue eyes met mine, set in that smooth face and framed by the dyed blond hair. “I made that connection with you too at the party, even though the remark pissed me off. I felt cheap, but I realized that’s how normal people are.” He sniffled. “I want to be normal.”
I reached out and held his hand, lightly rubbing the smooth skin on the back of his hand with my thumb, and he let me.
“I meant what I said; I have enough that I can go back to school in the spring. I stopped taking tricks three months ago and started working at a car wash over on Madison Ave.
“I lay awake at night and I wondered if the caring I saw in your eyes was pity or something else. I told myself I was stupid to think it was any more than lust but…” he laughed through a small amount of tears. “Here you are. You came for me, just like I hoped you would.”
He rewarded me with a breathtaking smile, one that no movie star could match. The genuine happiness, the realization of a dream come true was hanging in the air between us as the sun slowly went down on the landscape. I knew tonight I would dream of new beginnings, of love given the chance to grow, of second chances and redemption.
I hoped soon I would also wake with those beautiful blue eyes to greet me on a daily basis.
“So what do we do now?” he asked.
“Well, I can breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have to call that guy anymore to see you.” I smiled at him.
“That’s Dennis, he lives across the hall.” Nico smiled shyly. “I can’t afford the expense of a phone, but Dennis has a cell. I wanted to leave you a way to find me. I didn’t have the courage to find you.”
“I was set up?” I chuckled. “Uncle Brent! He was in on this the whole time!”
“Well, he works with actors; it has to rub off, right?” Nico smiled at me. I basked in that smile and the warmth of his soft hand in mine. He squeezed my hand lightly, chuckling and wiping a stray tear from his eye.
“So, what do we do now?” he asked again.
“How about we go to my car and get some dinner first,” I hesitated. He nodded at me encouraging me to continue. “Tonight, I want to find out if holding you for real feels as good as it does in dreams.”