Palouse by vwl






Chapter 28

Busking - Late August 1994

Sophomore Year



It was a Saturday before classes started at Whitman College in Walla Walla, just a few miles from College Station. The campus leaves were still a dark, summer green, but that would change as the term went on. David Stirling had finished unpacking. He was glad to be out of the dormitory and into an apartment this year. A senior friend and now roommate had found the place over the summer and had quickly called David to see if he was interested.


            “Does Eastern Washington grow wheat?” David answered. “But can we get out of our dorm contract, Dustin?”


            “We already did, but you have to send a letter to College Housing to confirm.”


            “Already did? You’re pretty sure that I still love you, aren’t you?”


            “Hey, David. I’m straight, but I love you, anyway. That means you have to forgive what I elect for us to do.” There was laughter on Dustin’s end of the line.


            The apartment took up the entire second floor of one of Walla Walla’s Victorian houses just off campus. The owner hadn’t been able to get it ready before the previous school year ended; as a consequence, he had planned to put it on the rental market in earnest when the new school year started. But Dustin was passing through Walla Walla and had seen the For Rent sign, had looked at the place and had put down a deposit – all in the space of a couple of hours.


            The house was typical Victorian, with a porch across the front edged with a white picket railing fence. The upstairs windows sat in rounded oriel frames, pushed out San Francisco-like from the wall.


            The owner occupied the downstairs. The upstairs was reached through a door from the alley side that opened onto a small entryway and stairs that led to the second floor.


            The apartment was really a large open space taking up the entire second floor. The space was about four times as big as their dorm room.  The only defined areas were a small, newly remodeled kitchenette (with a dishwasher, blessedly) that stood at the top of the stairs, a bathroom with a tub and shower that sat just past the top of the stairs, and two closets. The kitchenette was separated from the rest of the space by a kitchen table and a counter. The rest of the space was empty, with a gleaming hardwood floor, which could almost serve as a dance studio – and it once had been used for the owner’s daughter for dance practices.


            To have a living room and two bedrooms required some sort of room divider, and Dustin and David had found some nice screens to separate the open space into private spaces – at least visually. Across the center of the room, they hung a rope on which they draped fabrics that, like curtains, separated the large space into two bedrooms. They also had scrounged up some furniture and beds from their homes in Spokane and Tacoma and had borrowed Dustin’s dad’s truck to bring a load down to Walla Walla. It was a good start to David’s sophomore year.


            They had finished moving in on Friday, and Dustin took his dad’s truck back to Tacoma on Saturday morning. He wouldn’t be back till Sunday night, so David had the weekend free.


            It was a glorious Saturday morning, sunny and mild with schoolwork only on the horizon – a no-pressure time. David decided to take the short walk downtown to get a latte, orange juice and pastry for breakfast.  He heard the street musician before he saw him, but he immediately recognized the sound coming from the violin; only Micah Kingman played like that. He couldn’t believe the lift to his heart.


            Improbable as it was, it actually was Micah Kingman standing on the sidewalk, his long, glistening black hair pulled back into its pony tail, his baseball cap on the ground gathering tips, and a sweet sound coming from the violin.


            David’s heart skipped a beat, the benign feelings overcoming the harsh taste he had been left with before Micah’s departure from the Spokane Youth Symphony. He hadn’t seen Micah in five years. He had heard that Micah had stopped playing and was no longer soloing. So why was Micah now playing on the main street of Walla Walla? 


            Micah’s cap was partly filled with a few dollar bills, a number of quarters and some small change. Given the hour of the morning, it was likely that Micah was the chief contributor to his own charity, seeding the tip hat with some of his own money. David took his wallet out of his pocket and pulled out a $20 bill. He walked behind Micah’s back and threw it in the cap. “Play some Rachmaninoff,” he said as he walked on. Micah’s eyes opened wide at the size of the donation, and he immediately broke into some Rachmaninoff. David stopped, turned and smiled. “Hi, Micah.” 


            Micah smiled back, but he felt a tinge of embarrassment at the size of the tip. “You can’t give me that much, David,” he said, nodding his head toward the cap. “I don’t accept charity.”


            “I gave you that much so that you can buy me breakfast, Busker, and you can tell me all about yourself.”


            Micah was in a quandary. He didn’t really want to talk to David because David was part of the past that he thought he could leave behind. But he couldn’t just turn and walk off, and he couldn’t just stay where he was as if nothing had been given to him; the tip was much too generous. So, with a mental shrug, he finished the Rachmaninoff and then packed his violin and bow in their cases before picking up his cap. Pocketing the money, he walked with David across the street to Merchant’s Café, where they found a table near the front window. Micah dumped his cases on one of the extra chairs.


            They went back to the front counter where David ordered a latte, a croissant and a large orange juice. Micah looked at sea with the menu, standing with an uncertain look on his face. “He’ll have the same, Travis,” David said with a grin, “and he’s buying.”  Micah pulled the $20 out of his pocket, handed it to this Travis guy, and watched $10 of it disappear into the cash register. Still, not a bad start to his day on the street, Micah thought.


            Micah looked at a now-grown David. His nose had always been too large, but now the size of his face had caught up a bit. His eyes were wide-set; his chin was slightly akilter, his mouth crooked, his teeth visibly separated. His face was thin, filled with bumps and mounds of skin as if someone had formed it with dabbed-on clay. Nothing in his features really fit individually, Micah thought, but they all worked together to create an interesting and expressive face. Somehow, all the disparate parts came together into attractiveness, especially as he aged.


            They sat and talked for half an hour, reminiscing about their times at David’s house when they were so much younger.


            Micah suddenly changed the subject. “Do you know that guy – the guy that took our order? He keeps staring at us.” Micah nodded his head to where a tall, burly, broad- and open-faced man of about 20 was working. His hair was dirty blond, and the tips of his hair had been lightened with bleach. He obviously visited the gym often, assuming his main employment was being a barista and not pounding nails in construction or some other physically demanding job.


            “That’s my ex-boyfriend Travis.”


            “Oh,” Micah said, digesting the implications. Time to change the subject. “What…what are you doing in Walla Walla?” Micah’s dark-brown eyes didn’t quite meet David’s.


            “I’m at Whitman – a sophomore. What are you doing here, besides busking on the street?”


            “I’m at Walla Walla College. I’m a sophomore, too.”


            “Wow. We’ve been in the same small area for a year and haven’t run into each other?”


            “I’m mostly in the library – or working in my room.”


            David knew that Walla Walla College was a Seventh Day Adventist school, so he knew to tread lightly on his questions of Micah. “What’s your major?”


            “Right now, it’s business. How about you?”


            “I’m majoring in math and computer science, with a minor in music – cello, of course. Are you doing much with music, Micah?”


            “Er, not much, I gave it up. I just started doing some street music – busking – to make some spending money. In fact, I just started today. I’m always broke. I have my dorm room and my meals paid for by me and my folks; I have my books and tuition and about 50 cents more a month, it seems. I have some other savings, but I’m holding those for an emergency. I have a pickup to support, but it’s old. I worked for Dad this summer, but that was only enough to pay for about a quarter of college; the rest is split between my savings and my folks. I think they want me mostly off the farm.” Micah grinned ruefully.


            David toyed with his coffee as the conversation died down. Micah moved nervously as if he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to be there. Foot traffic on the street had picked up as the morning went on, and the door to Merchant’s Café opened frequently as students and older people lined up for their morning coffee and pastry fixes.


            “You disappeared from the music world,” David announced, finally. There was a tinge of sadness in the way he said it.


            “I…I burned out.”


            You what!!? David thought. You with more talent than most orchestras have in their entire complement. You’re not allowed to burn out.


            David said, however: “But…but you play so beautifully. I just heard you outside on the street.”


            “That playing doesn’t mean anything. That’s just for pocket money, and playing on the street will probably dry up when the weather turns cold. I’ll figure out something different to survive on after that. Heck, I spent three weeks in survival school and my senior year in a remote school in Idaho getting myself unscrewed up.” There was a sadness and uncertainty in Micah’s eyes that worried David.


            “Are you okay, Micah?” 


            “Sure. Of course. Why do you ask? Do you think something’s wrong?”


            David nodded, with compassion and sadness in his eyes.


            “There’s nothing wrong. Don’t worry about me,” Micah said, but he was moved more than he expected to be by David’s concern. His complacency with his current situation was being tested; he wasn’t ready to have it tested.


            I do worry about you, David thought. I worry very much about you, Micah, and I think I know why.


            “Hey, I’ve got to get back to work,” Micah said. “Thanks for the coffee and the breakfast.” Micah gathered up his violin, his bow and his backpack and stood, extending a hand while balancing a full load of baggage. He turned and left the café quickly.


            David sat for a while ruminating over the last hour. He was surprisingly happy to be in the same area as Micah. Knowing he was going to be nearby for the next three years gave him a warm feeling. He didn’t know what had happened to his friend, but clearly Micah was a troubled young man. Somewhere hidden underneath that troubled surface David could sense the passionate young boy who played his violin so seriously, so magnificently.  That former passion was suppressed, certainly, but David remembered Micah well, well enough that he could not imagine all of that emotion had been stripped from Micah’s soul.   Micah had been destined for greatness, and David was sure that whatever had been the font of that greatness was still there inside of him.  David wished he knew and understood the reason for the barricade that Micah had constructed for himself, separating him from what had formerly made his sparkle.


            The crowd in the restaurant had died out, and it was only he and Travis left in there. Travis came over to his table.


            “Hi, how are you doing, David?” 


            David sighed inwardly. There was something about Travis that always stirred his libido. Travis was definitely male but he had some softer traits that David also found erotic. He was big, tall and strong enough to man an oar on the University of Washington crew. Of course, Walla Walla had no rowing teams – no lakes and just a small river. Travis’s upper body and biceps were those of a male athlete – bulging, and with hairy arms. Yet he had feminine aspects – not sensitive-male feminine, but truly female feminine. His gestures were feminine-graceful, not athlete-graceful. Nellie, David remembered, was the term, but he was too big and strong a man to really be nellie. Though Travis’s face was large and broad, his lips were full, like the actor Brendan Fraser’s, but on a slightly smaller mouth, giving him a pucker look when he pursed them; with some bright lipstick he could be made up to look like one of the World War II pinup-girl posters – or a cross-dresser. His eyebrows were thin and highly arched and looked as if they had been plucked, though they hadn’t. His hips swayed just slightly when he walked. With his arms shaved and a loose blouse-sleeve over his muscles, he could easily pass for a large woman.


            Travis always turned David on. David felt his penis getting fuller as Travis stood over him – memories of past encounters flooding back.


            But David had been with Travis. They had dated for the last four months of his freshman year. They had bedded. The sex was…okay. They did everything two males could do with each other, except feel love. Eventually the college, term ended, and Travis moved on, but David felt no emptiness at his departure – at least emotionally.


            “Is that your boyfriend?” Travis asked, a little miffed that David had not answered his first question.


            David shook his head and cleared his reverie. “Hi. Oh, no, that’s just a friend I knew when I was active in the Spokane Youth Symphony. He plays the violin.”


            Travis stood next to where David was sitting, his crotch at David’s eye level. David had to turn away in order to keep his sexual feelings under control.


            “Do you want anything more…,” Travis asked, then paused before finishing, “…to drink?”


            “Thanks, no, Trav. I’ve got to go.”


            “I’m off at two if you want to come by my place.”


            David got hard immediately. He got up quickly, turned away from Travis and walked out the door. He surreptitiously adjusted his pants after he turned the corner onto the sidewalk. Then he turned around and went back to the coffee shop. “Okay.” He hadn’t had sex in two months, except self-styled.


            Travis lived in a single-story double garage that had been converted into (barely) livable space. The large outside doors faced an alley. They had been sealed shut and turned into permanent walls. The side entry door to the original garage had become the main entrance. It opened onto a hall off of which were two bedrooms, with, at the end of the hall, a communal kitchen of sorts between them. It could either be called a two-apartment complex with a shared kitchen or a single apartment with two bedrooms. As college living, it was a two-apartment complex.


            A threadbare Persian runner rug almost lined the hall, and another threadbare rug covered the cold concrete floor of Travis’s room. The kitchen contained a 50-year-old electric stove, a sink and a refrigerator that had seen at least 30 years of college six packs and not too many cleaning sponges. The large sink had enamel worn through to the black metal underneath, and a faucet that had a perpetual leak was leaving a stain of color around the drain. Dirty dishes lined the side of the sink and sat stacked on the wooden kitchen table. A bathroom with a small, dirty shower had been carved out of one corner of the kitchen, its curtain showing tears at the bottom from years of wear.


            David arrived shortly after two, knocked on the door and let himself in as he usually did. He walked down the hall to Travis’s bedroom and pushed on the door that was slightly ajar.


            Mixed memories flooded David’s mind as he entered: the tawdry room with a disheveled bed smelling of semen and sweat, posters of ancient rock concerts tacked crookedly on the walls with the edges of the older ones curling out. He remembered warm and liberating cheap wine drunk out of kitchen glasses, the feel of body against beautiful body, and the sex that set all judgmental thoughts aside


            David was horny. That is the only explanation he could think of for being there that afternoon. Travis greeted him while pulling off his work clothes. He was soon down to his t-shirt and boxer briefs which snugly enclosed his muscular torso. The boxer briefs showed a growing bulge. Travis came across to David, leaned his face down and kissed him. He held his lips against David’s as he unzipped and pulled David’s jacket off, then unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it off of David’s shoulders and let it drop  to the floor. He lifted David’s undershirt up, broke the kiss, and pulled it off, and then he followed by taking off his own t-shirt.


            David was helplessly mired in the moment as Travis’s lips met his again and their bodies pressed against each other. He could feel Travis’s hard and familiar cock pressing against his own. He could feel the skin of Travis’s chest pressed against his and the texture of the dusting of hair in the middle of Travis’s chest.


            They spent the next two hours wordlessly but not soundlessly exploring the familiar sexual places that they knew pleased each other. Used condoms were dropped into the waste basket on his side of the bed.


            It was strong, male, very physical sex that David always wished he wasn’t so attracted to. He wished he could bypass it in the future. David said this to himself seemingly each time, but when the invitations from Travis came, David usually arrived at the agreed time, and they had their fuck-buddy hours. Early on, David had wanted something more, but he realized eventually that Travis only wanted the sex part of their relationship. With Travis it was camaraderie sex at its rawest and most basic. He wondered why he couldn’t resist Travis, but his hormones and libido were too tempted.


* * * * *


            “Crabs.” The clinic doctor said. He was dressed in a clean white coat. “You have crabs.” David had gone to the college clinic after the itching in the crotch began to bother him. He didn’t know whether or not he’d acquired a disease, and he was embarrassed as the doctor examined his pubic area. He tried to look nonchalant, examining the charts and posters on the pale green walls, the cabinets and the various bottles, charts and paraphernalia that sat on the top of the counter.


            “Crabs are body lice, right?” David asked.


            “Yes, and they’re easy to get rid of. I’ll prescribe you some cream to eliminate them. Just follow the directions.” The doctor hesitated, before beginning again. “You should tell your girlfriend or whoever you had sex with about them so they don’t spread any further.”


            “I’ll tell him,” David said, and the doctor’s eyebrows rose almost imperceptibly.


            “You’re using protection otherwise?” the doctor asked.


            “Yes. Always,” David answered, and thank God I insisted and didn’t succumb to Travis’s pleadings that going bare-backed was okay because David was the only man he ever had sex with.



Chapter 29


Coffee Again  – September 1994


A Month Later



Time past and time future

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is the future

            – T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton


It was the following Saturday. David walked by Micah, who was surrounded by a group of sidewalk onlookers, on his way from his apartment; he dropped a $20 bill in the hat. Micah shook his head ‘no’ as he continued to play, but David tilted an imaginary cup to his lips and pointed across the street to Merchant’s Cafe, indicating that Micah was going to have to buy him coffee. David swept his arm around to acknowledge all the people there and then mouthed the word: “Tomorrow.” 


            “Why are you doing this?” Micah asked as he was scurrying to catch up with David the next morning. Micah hadn’t had time to pack up his violin as David paused and went past, so he held it and his bow in his left hand as his right hand grabbed his case, the backpack and the cap that still contained only his own change.


            “You know, the early bird doesn’t catch the worm if the worm doesn’t arrive till much later. How long have you been playing?


            “About 20 minutes.”


            “And how many people have gone past at 8 in the morning?”


            Micah looked chagrined. “Not many.”


            “Come and buy me breakfast.”


            “But why are you doing this?”


            “I have this affection for starving musicians.”


            “I’m not a musician anymore.”


            “Ah, but you are. You’ll always be the greatest violinist that Eastern Washington ever produced – or, at least, Endicott, Washington.” That drew a grin out of Micah. “You’ll always be the only great violinist that I had the opportunity to know. That’s worth a coffee and pastry from my inheritance money. That and the joy of getting to know you again.”


            They took the same table at Merchant’s that they had taken the day before after putting in their orders, mercifully, David thought, to a different barista. David brushed the hair away from Micah’s face and smiled at Micah.


            Micah looked uncomfortable. “I’m not a musician anymore. I’m done with that part of my life.”


            “So why are you on the street playing a violin and not washing dishes back there?” David asked, pointing to the kitchen.


            “I don’t know. It’s what I know how to do, I guess.”


            “You don’t know how to wash dishes?”


            “Well, I guess I do. I suppose I could do that at our dorm dining hall. I guess I kinda like the music, especially if I don’t have to perform – on a stage, with an orchestra.”


            “Because there’s no pressure,” David said.


            “No pressure.”


            “Was it the pressure? Was the pressure the reason you dropped out?”


            “Not really. The pressure never got to me. In fact, I enjoyed being pushed.”


            “Then why? Why did you quit?”


            “Why? I was missing too much. I wanted to be a teenager; I wanted to play basketball with my brother and have a girlfriend and make out with a girlfriend and go out and have a few beers with my friends. I didn’t have the energy for music after that, so I dropped out.”


            “From one extreme to the other.”


            “I know. I probably went too far, but I had probably gone too far the other way before.”


            “So where are you now, Micah?”




            “Is that what you want?”


            “Sure.” But the tone of Micah’s answer belied the certainty of his words. “Enough of me. Tell me about you and your music.”


            “I’m not in your league, Micah. I play the cello, but I’m never going anywhere with it except to the Whitman College and the Music Department’s string quartet. So, I’m studying something that I can make a living at. I wish I had your talent. I wish I could be a Yo Yo Ma, but I realize I’m not even close. I’m getting an education to make myself employable. How’s that for idealism? How’s that for being a romantic?”


            What started as a $20 bill in a busker’s hat on the sidewalk turned into an agreement to meet each morning for coffee, juice and pastry when class schedules allowed – one day David buying, the next Micah, from his hat earnings to which David surreptitiously contributed – in small bills and change when Micah was otherwise occupied. The conversations moved from music to school to philosophy to religion to Forrest Gump, as Micah and David began to become reacquainted, this time as adults rather than children – renewing their friendship after many years of separation. It was weeks later, when the barren trees allowed the sun to warm Micah’s chosen playing spot, that the conversation became personal, as Micah started to explain what had happened from the last time they had played together till their chance meeting on the sidewalks of Walla Walla.


            They had never really talked at the same serious level when they were younger and playing in the youth orchestra. They had exchanged pleasantries,  video-game banter and shoulder bumps, but there was always a teenage lack of seriousness that provided a distance between them. David had wanted to bridge that distance, wanted a closer relationship with Micah when they were younger.  But then Micah’s stardom had blossomed, making David shyer around him, and Micah’s occasional flares of egotism had appeared. David always felt such display were somehow at odds with Micah’s true self.  He thought the real Micah was the unpretentious boy he enjoyed playing video games with.  But, the displays happened, and they made it even more difficult for David to try to get closer to Micah.


            Now, things somehow had changed. For David, his childhood had been “normal.” His parents were professionals making good incomes, so David felt that he could have any material thing within reason that he wanted – a car when he turned 16, quality music lessons, vacations in exotic locales. David had done well in school all along and was accepted easily into Whitman College, choosing that over the larger University of Washington; it didn’t hurt that his father was an influential alumnus. He chose Whitman because he wanted a smaller college where he could have more interaction with his professors.


            David said nothing to Micah about his coming out to his parents at age 14 and their full acceptance of his sexuality. He knew that Micah knew that he was gay, but he didn’t want to dwell upon his sexuality for fear that highlighting it might turn Micah off – and he realized that he didn’t want that to happen. Too, Micah was going to an Adventist college which had strict views against homosexuality.  It seemed possible that, as Micah had enrolled at this school, he shared those views.


            Micah slowly revealed his life to David – in bits and random pieces . Micah had never laid his life out to anyone before, but David was a good listener, and Micah wanted badly to have someone to talk to – someone who might understand where he was and what kind of person he was – a screwed-up young man, maybe, but content, or so he had said to David with a forced smile.


            David asked a question that had been in the back of his mind since he had learned that Micah attended Walla Walla College. “Micah, why are you at Walla Walla College instead of somewhere else? Aren’t the Seventh Day Adventists pretty strict about religious matters.”


            “I didn’t really think about it. My folks agreed to help pay and some of the kids in our church had gone there – it’s our church – so I just sort of followed along.”


            “Is it very strict – in religion?”


            “Yes and no. They’re a lot of kids who are really devout, and then there are a lot who just want an education and aren’t really as religious.”


            David didn’t really want to ask the question, but he needed to know: “Which one are you?”


            Micah looked at David somewhat curiously. “The latter. Why do you ask?”


            “I just wanted to know.” David didn’t reveal how relieved he was. He could accept most people’s beliefs, but he had trouble with being close with fundamentalists who were often intolerant – of pleasure and particularly of gays. He had been fearful that Micah might have chosen to follow the tenets of the Seventh Day Adventists strictly, with a mind closed to those that didn’t follow the faith. Probably, there were gay Adventists who had formed their own self-defense organizations as part of their churches or colleges, but David certainly didn’t know if Walla Walla College had a student organization like that; he would check on the internet.


            “Do you want to come over to my place and play some music? Just for fun – no pressure.” David asked. David’s roommate, Dustin, was usually at the library studying.


            Micah was silent for at least a minute. “I think I’d like that.”


            David didn’t realize until later how important his invitation to play was. It was as if he was rescuing a drowning man who had fallen – or maybe jumped – off a river bank but was content to let the current push and pull him downstream, hoping for an outcome bland as water. It wasn’t an outcome that David was beginning to realize he wanted for Micah. That afternoon he decided on a mission to bring Micah back to serious music. Bringing such a talent back to the world would be his gift to the world.


            So on a Sunday in November, David picked up Micah at his dormitory. Micah was carrying his violin and bow cases. As the wind twisted the last of the autumn leaves off the trees outside David’s apartment, they began to play a violin/cello duet – some Boccherini to start. The afternoon began with fumbling attempts to learn the music. But with each repetition they put more feeling and skill into it. With the third or fourth try, late in the day, their play created a reasonably accomplished duet performance.


            Micah felt the sweetness of the challenge. Working with another on a peer basis was new to him. He was initially reluctant to take up the violin again seriously – playing on the street wasn’t really serious – but that attitude softened with the easy communality that grew with David and his cello, because it wasn’t he alone who was the focus of the music – no pressure, in other words. Both of them glanced up from time to time from the music on the stands to look at each other and smile. The November sky outside turned from dim afternoon daylight to soft early dusk, but the playing of the music was a fire that the two young men could use for warmth. It was the first time that Micah felt that kind of warmth in his music in years.


            The clock moved towards six. “Hey, I’ve got to go. I’ve got a test tomorrow,” Micah announced, reaching for his jacket.


            “What about some pizza before you go? I’ve got a freezer full, and it could be ready in 15 minutes. You’ve got to eat somewhere, right?”


            Micah stopped putting on his jacket, took it off and set it across the arm of the couch. “Sure, that would be fine.”


            David turned on the oven in the kitchenette and looked in the freezer. “I have pepperoni and I have veggie – and we could have one of each and split them. What’s your pleasure?”


            “Let’s split them.”


            David popped two pizzas into the oven on cookie sheets, opened the refrigerator and took out the makings for a salad as well as two beers. “Want one?” he asked as he tilted the beer label toward Micah.


            “I’d better not; I’ve got to study. Besides, it might break down my inhibitions without me knowing about it.”


            David laughed, wondering just what Micah meant, and turned to washing some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, peeling and cutting them up and putting them in a bowl. He took a jar of salad dressing from the refrigerator. He put place mats and two plates and silverware on the small table next to the kitchenette; the table served both as his desk and a place to eat. After finishing with the salad, he opened a beer and took out two glasses, pouring a small amount into one before putting it next to Micah’s place at the table. “A small amount won’t hurt you any more than the pizza will in putting you to sleep, and it will help the pizza go down.” David also put two glasses of ice water next to the plates.


            The timer bell dinged on the stove, and David pulled the pizzas out from the oven, placing them on a platter on the counter next to the table. After slicing them in sixths, he pulled a plate and salad bowl from the table and handed them to Micah. “Help yourself.”


            Micah took a couple of slices of each pizza, piled some salad in the bowl, topped it with bleu-cheese dressing and sat down at the table. David was right behind him. They ate in silence for a few minutes, taking swallows of beer between bites.


            “Why are you doing this?” Micah asked.


            “Doing what?”


            “Making friends with me, getting me to play music, feeding me.”


            “I’ve always liked you. Always. Starting in that airport when we were nine.  I wanted to know about you, about your life and what brought you here, and when you finally told me about that, it just made me feel closer to you.  We’re friends, Micah, and I like you. ”


            Micah tilted his head back and eyed David closely. He knew there was something missing from the answer, but the missing part eluded him. Though he knew that David was gay, David was putting no moves on him. So the explanation, he felt, was something else. The problem was that Micah had been beginning to feel content with his life until David came along. Now, he felt uneasy, as if a strange comet had crossed his familiar night sky, upsetting the order of the heavens he had established for himself.


            “Besides, you have bright eyes – and a sleek pony tail.” David said, trying to break Micah’s pensive mood. Micah’s cheeks burned red, and he took a drink of water as a diversion before taking a large bite of pizza. “More beer?” David asked.


            Micah shook his head, unable to answer until he finished swallowing the pizza, his Adam’s apple rising and falling as the food went down. “I really do have to study. Maybe another time.”


            They finished their dinner, took the dishes to the sink, rinsed them and put them in the dishwasher. David wrapped the leftover pizza in foil and put it in the refrigerator as Micah gathered his things and found his coat.


            “I enjoyed this,” Micah said. “Thank you.” 


            “I did, too. Let’s do it again. I’ll get some Locatelli from the music library.”


            David grabbed his keys and led Micah downstairs and out of the apartment to his car. They rode in contented silence downtown to where Micah had parked his pickup. “Good night, and good luck on the test. Hope I didn’t get you too soused.”


            “I had a third of a glass of beer. That’s not enough to even feel after all that pizza and salad. If I do poorly on the test, it’s not because of this afternoon. Besides, I know this stuff pretty well already. But I want an A, so I’ve got several hours of books and notes to study.”