Triptychs – Chapter 15



“Ohhhh . . . ohhhh, fuuuckk . . . ”


Saturday afternoon; Erik’s bedroom.


My voice.


It wasn’t what you might think.


“Uhhhhhh . . . ” I felt myself turning limp, under his hands. As they worked me over; my upper back, my neck – fuck me! Who knew, my neck muscles could be made to feel, like that - ?


Well, okay, it sort-of WAS what you might think. We were naked, on Erik’s bed; me lying on my stomach, Erik sitting up, straddling my thighs. And the heat of him, the feel of his bare skin on my bare skin, had me . . . hard. Pressing-my-dick-into-the-sheets, hard.


And yeah, duh, of course we were going to Do It. It was a date; even if it was just a mini-date, a few hours stolen out of a Saturday afternoon, before I had to get back to Berkeley, and Erik had to go off someplace to study.


But we weren’t Doing It, yet. No; Erik was giving me a massage. A hot-oil massage.


Have you ever had a naked, full-body, hot-oil massage - ?


“Oh, fuuccckk . . . !” And I couldn’t help it; he hit some spot on my upper back that felt so good, I just had to laugh at it, so I started to break up –


“Shhhh!” from Erik; and his big hands paused, for a second. His lips came close to my ear. “Just lie still. You need to relax . . . ” And he picked up the squeeze-bottle of oil, from the pot of hot water – I felt a couple of drops of water hit my lower back – and then a kind of squishing noise, and the warm of the oil hitting my bare skin, making me gasp –


“Shhhh!” from Erik, again; as his hands worked the oil all over my upper back, my neck, massaging muscles I didn’t even know I had. Relentlessly.




I hadn’t known we were going to do this.


He’d been nude, stark naked and still a little damp from the shower when I’d rung the buzzer and he’d opened the door, and THAT’d made me gasp, believe it.


He opened it wide, too; not embarrassed, not caring if somebody passing by on the street saw him.


Typical wrestler. It’s true, wrestlers were always the least-body-shy guys, in my high school sports experience; for some reason. I swear it.


Erik’s got nothing to be shy about.


And as he stood there, nude, and as I just, gaped at him – he smiled his Hollywood-smile at me, or maybe a version of it with a little more intensity, anyway, and he reached out and grabbed my hand, and pulled me inside –




“Ooooohhhhh . . . . ”


And so, now I was nude, too; facedown on his bed.


Wet with warm/hot oil, under his hands. His hands were working their way down, now, they were all over my lower back, and fuck-me, I was gasping, now, as much as I was moaning . . .


I THINK I’d made some sort of half-hearted protest, when he’d pushed me over onto my stomach, on his bed; his warm hands all over my bare skin, making me want to shiver.


“No,” he’d gone, softly. “I’ve got an old sheet on top; and I’ve got a waterproof sheet underneath that.” He’d craned down, and licked the side of my neck, slowly, thoroughly, and I really HAD shivered, then. “We’re both gonna get really wet, really oily, today . . . it’ll be fun.”


Ooooh, fuck . . .



And so, the massage went on; those big hands of his, moving lower, and lower. The backs of my thighs; the insides of my thighs.


My butt.


I’d arched my back a little, then, wanting him, expecting him to go between my cheeks . . .  I’d REALLY wanted him to go there –


He almost did; I felt him hesitate . . . and then his fingers were slowly, gently rubbing warm oil into my perineum, the smooth place right below my balls, the very root of my hard dick, and it sent me up the wall, I squirmed on the bed –


“Shhhhh - !” from Erik. Laugher in his intimate whisper. His hands went still, a moment, his fingers still pressing on my perineum; that warm pressure. “We’re not done, yet.” His fingertips began moving again, slowly, sensuously. “You be a good boy, and you’ll get what you want . . . ”


“Mmmmmmphhh - !” from me, sputtered, frustrated laugher, as his hands went back to my thighs, and headed lower . . .




I guess I kind of zoned out a little, after that; going a little crazy with frustration, and at the same time blissed out with the sensations. It was a weird combination.


Sensations like, Erik’s hands, working over my calf muscles – I thought my back was sensitive; have you ever had your calves worked over, really thoroughly, with hot oil - ?


And then he got to my feet.


I don’t know what you think about feet; if they turn you on, or gross you out, or if you just think they’re kind of funny, like most people seem to think . . .


The thing is, your feet have more muscles, inch-for-inch, than any other part of your body; and if you ever want to define ‘orgasmic’ to someone, without actually bringing them to orgasm – just give them a hot-oil foot massage. Honest . . .




We started getting a little wilder, as we went on; and at the same time, things began getting a little funnier.


Funny, as in the time Erik decided the oil was getting too cool; so he trotted out to the kitchen, carrying the hot-water pot, his hard dick wagging in front of him as he went . . . and he was still wagging when he came back, carrying the pot with a pair of oven mitts.


Naked, and hard; in oven mitts. Carrying a pot. He looked so ridiculous, I just totally lost it, then, I just doubled over in the bed, laughing, and I didn’t stop until he jumped on the bed and started tickling me, really mercilessly . . .


And then, after that, wild; as in, the time I was on my back, and he was straddling me, working on my pecs . . .


And I was totally covered in oil, by then, and he wasn’t, and I was so hard my dick was beginning to hurt – so I kind of lunged up at him, and tackled him, and pulled him down against me, both of us laughing, me trying to smear my body oil on him, him using his wrestler’s moves to try to trap me – but this time I was all slick and oily, and I was actually trying, so we just kept rubbing against each other, him getting oilier and oilier –


And pretty soon we were down to it. Doing It.




“How’s that?” It came from Erik, in a whisper.


“Fuuucckk . . . ” from me. Seriously, now; his fingers were up inside me, wet, slick, oily, massaging my insides, and I was real damn close to cumming.


“How about this?” Another whisper, and his fingers – two of them, three, I didn’t know – they brushed against that spot in me, my prostate, and I arched my back, pushing against his chest, and I think I almost wailed, and his big, wrester’s arm, his free arm, tightened around me.


“Shhhhh . . . Shhhhhh,” he went; and he went still for just a second as I panted, and made some noises; then his fingers were moving inside me, some more, and, oh, fuck-me, I almost, ALMOST came, and “Do you like this – ?” in a hot, intimate whisper from Erik –


I almost came right then. I don’t know why I didn’t; I wanted to.


Yeah . . . no. I know why. Because Erik was in control; he was so totally in control of me, erotically, he knew exactly where I was, and he wasn’t ready for me to come, yet.


He’d really figured me out, sexually; he’d figured me out, and he was using that, and I’d never felt anything like it with anyone else, before; I was shivering, constantly, now, as he worked me over with his fingers, with his lips, with his words . . .




When I did come – when we both came – it wasn’t with his fingers, inside me.


“Ohhhh . . . fuucckkk . . . ” from me, hissing.


On my back; my legs up around his waist, in the classic position, as he pushed his dick inside me, and PUSHED, and paused, and PUSHED again . . .


His face, hovering over mine; his lips on mine, wet, then back a ways, me breathing in his own breath, the smell of him . . . there’s a reason why it’s such a popular position, it’s so fucking INTIMATE –


Well, no; it wasn’t just the position, or the feel of him pressing against my hard dick, the way he so carefully hit my prostate with each push of his dick . . .


It was his eyes. Those green eyes, inches away from mine, watching me so close, watching every expression on my face, every gasp . . . those green eyes, slitted with his own pleasure, WATCHING me . . .


“Unnnnnnnngghhhhh - !” I felt it coming, I so fucking did, and I squeezed his waist with my slick legs, and I fucked myself back on his hard dick, frantically, and I was spurting, and spurting, and spurting –


And before I was even done, his face was down in the crook of my neck, and his hard, slick dick was pumping inside me so DEEP, once, twice, three times, HARD, and I felt him shuddering in my slippery arms, and I knew he was coming, too, inside me, inside his condom but still, INSIDE me . . .


“Unnngghh,” I sighed, softly. Holding him, as he panted; holding him, as he kept making short, gentle, jerking little thrusts inside me, just coming down from his orgasm, but still sending jolts through me . . .


“Oooohhhhh,” I hissed it out, low. “Fuucckkkk . . . . ”



*  *  *



When I left Erik’s house, I didn’t go home right away.


I mean, really. It was early, just mid-afternoon; the light was that beautiful, clear October-yellow, and the shadows were long and dark, and it was beautifully warm, out. And I was in the Haight, my other home; no, I wasn’t in any hurry to leave.


And I didn’t have to, for once; my mom was going out to see a movie, that night, with Jeannine; I didn’t need to be home ‘til late.


Actually, honestly, I’d rather have spent the extra time with Erik . . . in bed, preferably. But he had another study date out towards Ocean Beach somewheres, and he hadn’t done all his prep . . . so after we’d washed up together, washed each other together, and laughed at the complete ruin of the oil-soaked top sheet –


Yeah. Erik’s look of comic dismay, when he held up the soggy sheet had just, set me off, laughing, I’d lost it, and he’d started to chase after me with the sheet, and I’d dodged him, and then –


Well. There hadn’t been enough time for there to be much of an, ‘and then’, then. I wish there had been.


So, after that I’d gotten dressed, and Erik’d kissed me really thoroughly, really well, and as I was closing the door he was already sitting down at his laptop, still totally nude  –


I’d wondered if he’d done that just for me. Stayed naked, I mean.


I really hoped so.






So. Here I was, Saturday afternoon in the Haight; feeling . . . tired. Physically tired, I mean; and happy, in some complicated ways I didn’t want to think about too closely, right at that moment; and a kind of complicated-sad, too, wondering when I’d get to do this with Erik, again . . .






I wound up at the Cafe Reverie. Ordering food, actually; I was starving.


“Uhhh . . . I’ll have the chicken kabobs,” I told the guy at the counter.


“Sure,” he went, cheerfully; punching at the touch pad of the cash register. “Anything to drink?”


They’ve got the most interesting staff, at Reverie, they always have had. This one was a boy, wearing a beret, with a baby face and a Che Guevara t-shirt; and a totally smooth, adult, restrained way of acting. If I hadn’t just been with Erik, I’d have thought he was cute.


“Um – an iced double latte?”


“Sure. Coming right up.” A couple more touch-pad presses. “That’ll be ten-fifty.” And as I was hauling out my money, “ – So. How’s your day going - ?” He said it with mild interest.


And I had to look down, way down, to try to smother my laugh. “Okay,” I went, as I came back up and handed him the money. Thinking about the really great sex we’d just had, Erik and me. “Good, actually,” I said, as the Che-boy counted out my change. “Maybe a little – complicated, though.”


The Che-boy gave me a quick, knowing glance. “Yeah?”


“Yeah.” I grinned at him.


“A lot of my days are like that,” he went. “Hang in there.”






I took my coffee to a table by the windows, and settled down to wait for my food.


Reverie’s been one of my favorite places for years, now; it’s on Cole Street, actually, just a little bit down from the streetcar stop at Carl where I’d waited with Erik, three weeks back; you can actually see the stop from the windows.


And it’s really nice, and WARM, all kind of reddish and orange inside, with framed posters of Bill Evans and Thelonius Monk, and Charlie Parker, and the espresso’s good –


And the cooking smells make it. The food smells; the cooking. The kitchen’s right there behind a counter, in the same space, basically, and a lot of what they make is grilled meat and veggies . . . The good food smells make it.


There’d been times when I was younger, I’d been staying away from home, staying away from my dad, really, and I’d come here – and I didn’t have the money to buy the food. And wanted it, real bad. The cooking smells . . .


No; I thought, as I settled in at my table, watching the people streaming by, coming from or going to the streetcar stop. Don’t go there. It’s a beautiful day; don’t go there.




And then, of course, I couldn’t help but think about Erik, and what’d just happened, between us. What I felt. I tried not to, I tried to just stay in the moment, and stay happy . . . but I couldn’t help it.


I was getting deeper into Erik. And that scared me.


Well, he was getting deeper into me, physically; literally. The sex this time was the best yet, I’d never, ever been fucked like that before . . . and just thinking about it made me clench down on myself a little, back there, and I could so totally feel the afterglow, in my butt, and my groin –




No, the thing is, I really, really was liking Erik. A lot.


And yeah, things were definitely stirring in me, now, that hadn’t ever really stirred for anyone but Cole, before; and it was wrapped up in the really good sex, of course, but also in that goofy Hollywood-smile, and the way he’d tickled me, on his bed –


And the look of him, in profile, when he was concentrating on something else, like his laptop, just now –


Things were stirring in me. And I didn’t know when I’d get to see him, again. And that left me feeling . . . kind of hollow, inside.


“Chicken kabobs - ?” from the counter; along with a burst of good grilled-chicken, grilled-vegetable smells, and I hurried over to get my plate, my stomach all at once almost growling with hunger.






The meal really WAS good; skewers of chicken and vegetables, and a kind of bed of salad, and a whole lot of really good hummus, with pieces of pita bread.


I ate it slowly, feeling myself settling in, enjoying the food, and the homey warmth of the cafe, and the view outside. Enjoying the people-watching, especially; I mean, where else but the Haight can you see such weird, fascinating people - ?


Like the thin, young-looking guy in a business suit, talking away on his cell – I was pretty sure it was an iPhone – while coasting down the gentle slope of the street on his skateboard. Barefoot.


Actually, no – he was one of the more normal ones. There were a couple of gringos dressed like Buddhist monks, who I was pretty sure weren’t real monks; people dressed in Tibetan wool caps with earflaps and tassels, on this warm, almost-hot day; boys in skintight black jeans, and Mohawks, street-people with puffy, red, sunburned faces, a woman holding the hand of a beautiful little six- or seven-year-old blond boy, both of them in obviously-homemade clothes . . .


The street sign was right at the corner, really visible; ‘COLE’ it said in one direction, and ‘CARL’ in the other, above that. 


I grinned at the sight, remembering. A few years back, I’d made Cole pose for me, leaning against that very same pole, with his skateboard; and the joke was, I’d managed to draw an arrow on a piece of cardboard I’d found at the curb, and impale it on a bolt that stuck out of the pole, and it held there –


And it was perfect. The whole composition; the ‘COLE’ street sign, the cardboard arrow pointing down, (NOT photoshopped; that made all the difference), and then Cole, relaxed, leaning, holding his skateboard, with this priceless, enigmatic look on his face . . .


It’s still one of my favorite works, ever.




As I sat there, chewing on some pita bread, remembering, - something caught my eye.


In the little stream of people walking up the street, towards the streetcar stop – something familiar.


Two somethings familiar, actually; or two someones familiar. Erik and Jason to be exact; I’d recognize them, their walks, their postures, anywhere.


Oh, how hilarious! was my first thought; and I broke out into a huge grin, just watching them.


You can so tell they’re brothers; as long as I’ve known them, Jason’s sort of orbited around Erik, it’s like he’s the puppy, bopping and joking and all animated, while Erik’s the cool, adult, amused one of them . . . and I could see it there across the street; I could see Jason was making some kind of joke, his shoulders moving, watching for Erik’s reaction. And I could see, I swear I could see, Erik trying not to break out laughing . . .


And at the same time – I maybe, wasn’t prepared for the rush I got out of seeing Erik again so soon; when I’d figured it’d be weeks before I saw him again. It was a rush of feeling, and I wasn’t prepared for it . . . it was complicated.


But I went on watching anyway, smiling at the window, enjoying the joke of it –


And I noticed, they had a friend with them. Jason was playing off the other guy, too. They were all walking together.


Jason’s date-of-the-week? I wondered. Or maybe Erik’s study partner; hm.


I went on watching, still grinning, as they legged their way up the sidewalk, across the street from me . . . and then I blinked. Instead of crossing to my side of the street, and the outbound, Ocean Beach-bound streetcar stop – the three of them crossed Carl, to the inbound stop, and settled into the little glass shelter there, waiting.


That was weird.


Less than an hour ago, Erik’d been telling me all about this study-group date out on Forty-Fifth Avenue, real close to the ocean. In the opposite direction. He’d even bitched about Sara, the self-appointed group leader who pissed everybody off, and I’d been telling him how cool Kat was, in my own learning group . . .


The glass Muni shelter was close enough for me to still recognize them, still watch them; but too far for them to see me, sitting inside, behind a window, in the shadow. And I was beginning to feel really shitty about it – but I kept on watching them.


And noticing things.


Like – that Erik and this third guy . . . neither of them had a bookbag. No bags of any kind; meaning, no laptops, no papers, no textbooks, no notes.


I could feel myself start to put things together . . . and not wanting to. Not wanting to think, just yet.


Jason was still animated, still talking, still bopping around; I could tell, even at a distance. No surprise, he’d always been kind of hyperactive; growing up, we always used to tell him, ‘Take your ritalin!’, even though he was never on it.


The third guy? I couldn’t really see him all that clearly . . . except that he had really short, brown hair; and that he had a nice body. At least, he was wearing some kind of form-fitting shirt, and he had broad shoulders, and muscles . . . I could tell from here; he was a little older than me.


I looked at the piece of pita-bread-and-hummus I was holding, and I put it back down on my plate.


Yeah. Jason went on talking, and bopping; and I could see Erik answering him every once in awhile. And making asides to Other Guy, in between times.


And then, all at once – Other Guy kind of swiveled, he moved in back of Erik –


I couldn’t see all that clear, at first; but then I saw Erik’s face kind of screw up, and his head rolled back, a little, and I saw Other Guy’s white fingers as he massaged Erik’s shoulders, and then his neck, and I could tell Jason was laughing at it . . . and it went on for awhile; it seemed to go on and on and on, and I was really feeling something, although I didn’t want to put a name to it, yet –


And then, Erik was pivoting out of Other Guy’s grip, and using some kind of move on him that trapped his hands, and then he was kissing the Other Guy, on the lips – once, twice; not play-kisses, I could see it, really clearly – and then he moved away to stand side-by-side with Other Guy again, but now, I could tell, they were holding hands . . .


I dropped my eyes down to my plate; to the ruins of my lunch, the hummus, the lettuce, the pieces of chicken . . . but I couldn’t help it, I had to look again, so I lifted my head up, just as the N-Judah came rumbling down the hill like a gray metal wall, cutting off the view of the Muni shelter –


And when the streetcars whined away again, disappearing into the little corner park, and winding into the tunnel – the glass Muni shelter was empty.




I just sat there, for awhile, looking at the shelter. Eventually, a woman came up, and went into the shelter, and looked back down the tracks, waiting for the next inbound train; and I looked away.


Yeah; yeah.


It was another one of those simple moments, that changes your world.


Or no, actually. It was more like one of those moments, when your understanding of things shifts; and your view of the world shifts with it. And you know the world is still the same; but you’ve been a fool. A complete and total fool.


I still had food on my plate, but I didn’t want it anymore. Instead I carried it and my glass and my silverware to the plastic tub by the back counter, and I set them in the tub gently, and then I left. Trying not to look at anybody. Hoping nobody was looking at my face.



*  *  *





So, sometimes, you can’t help thinking about something, even when you don’t want to.


And sometimes, the thoughts just crowd in, chaotic, trampling on each other.


Yeah; that was me. Walking down Cole street, to Haight – no, there was no way I was getting on the streetcar, any time soon; I didn’t want to risk running in to any of them. And besides, the Haight’s always been where I go, when – well, at times like this.




On one level, on a whole bunch of levels, actually – I didn’t blame Erik, for having somebody else. Couldn’t blame him, anyway; we’d never talked about being exclusive, we were so not-at-that-stage yet, it was almost laughable. I mean, we’d just had a handful of dates, all this time. . . five, maybe?


Yeah, another part of my mind answered; after doing the math. Four dates, actually, all summer and fall. And now you know why . . .




I really didn’t even have the beginnings of a right, to expect Erik not to be dating someone else. I mean, I fucking grew up with Jason and Erik; I’ve been a serial dater for years, and I’ve been really open about it. Erik knows all that, he’s SEEN it, he knows it a lot better than any of the poor boys I dated, and slept with, and then never called again . . .


And this is different, my mind came back. You never strung somebody along for multiple dates, like this; you never pretended to like someone, more than you did – hell, getting to really like someone, was usually the trigger for you to move on, actually . . .


And underlying all that, the back-and-forth in my head . . . was an ache, a slowly-building ache.


I’d really thought Erik and I had something. I wasn’t sure, what; but I’d thought we HAD something.






Haight street, and I turned left, now, instead of right; headed west, away from downtown, by instinct.


“Hey, dude, can you spare a dollar? We’ve got to get our car fixed, so we can get back to Stockton.”


The ‘Stockton’ part actually made me stop for a second, without thinking; they were a boy and a girl on the sidewalk, with a cardboard sign, and if they’d ever been to Stockton, it hadn’t been in a few years. Judging by the way they looked, the way they were dressed.


“Sorry,” I started to say, mechanically; then I remembered, and I reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar bill, change from my lunch. “Oh . . . here.” I dropped it into the cloth hat they had on the sidewalk between them, with a pathetic scattering of coins in it.


“Thanks, dude! Thanks a lot!” The boy had blond dreads, and a scab on his face, and a big smile; the girl . . . looked kind of sick, or something.


“Yeah . . . good luck getting home,” I went, meaning it; out of myself, for just that moment; and then I walked on.




West on Haight; past Cha-Cha-Cha, the sangria-and-tapas place I’d been to with Cole and Jeremy, last year; past the fenced-in, boarded up bones of the Cala Foods grocery store, where I’d buy sodas and chips and shit when we’d first started coming to the Haight, years ago.


Yeah, it was hurting worse, now.


I kept thinking back to the dates, those really-physical, spectacularly-physical dates, starting all the way back in May, at the pool party . . .  


No; no, we DID have something. I was sure of it, we had SOMETHING, anyway . . . I remembered holding hands with him, walking back to his apartment on our last date. The way he’d looked at me, in the restaurant . . . the way he’d hissed out my name, in bed.


Yeah. I had to admit it to myself . . . something was there; something was real.


But that date was last month; weeks ago. One of just a handful of dates. And even then, at the end of the date, I’d wondered about him, there’d been something off, that moment at the streetcar stop when I’d seen it . . .




The end of Haight, now, at Stanyan; the rancid smells of the McDonald’s on the left, the green of Golden Gate Park ahead. I crossed Stanyan and followed the paths downhill, past the groups of sketchy-looking kids and street people hanging out on the grass, past the little lake with a tiny little fountain in the middle of it – then through the pedestrian tunnel, and into Sharon Meadow.


The Meadow, a lot of people call it; and it is a big meadow, with a grassy hill on one side, and a kid’s playground way off on he other side, and it’s kind of the counterculture epicenter for everything that makes the Haight, the Haight . . . There’s usually frisbee games, and lots of tie-dye, and dogs, and people with backpacks and sleeping bags who sleep someplace different every night, and there’s always, always a smaller or bigger group of people drumming . . .. Like they were, right then, drumming rhythmically, happily . . .




Maybe, I told myself, something’d come up? Maybe this Other Guy called Erik after I’d left, and there was a change of plan, or something - ? Maybe Erik had MEANT to go out on a study date . . .


Maybe Erik hadn’t lied to me; was what I was trying to talk myself into believing.


It wasn’t working.


No; the whole, I’ve-got-to-study panic . . . the whole thing had been deliberately emphasized, engineered, to get me out of the house; it was so obvious. Combined with what I’d just seen . . . combined with the weeks and weeks between dates, the ‘I’ll call you’ promises which really meant, ‘don’t push me’ . . .




Maybe it was a social lie, maybe it was a white lie – I’ve lied like that, more times than I want to remember. But it was a lie.


And you know what?


Maybe I could forgive Erik for a lot of things.


Maybe I could forgive Erik, or try not to care, anyway, that I only got to see him, only got to be with him, once every few weeks. Or months.


And maybe I could even forgive him for today; for picking me for a two-hour fuck-date, then going out on a Real Date with this other guy . . .


(I tried not to wonder, as I thought it – how many dates did they have together - ? How many days – and nights – did they spend, together - ?)


No; no.


No, what I probably couldn’t get around, I realized, as I wandered through Sharon Meadow, past the drummers, past the clouds of ganja-smoke and the kids eating pizza slices on white paper plates and the dogs running around on the grass, happily – what I couldn’t really get around, perversely enough, was the lie.


Because it meant, that there wasn’t really that kind of closeness, between us. We might have, ‘something’; but there wasn’t an ‘us’.


There wasn’t going to be an ‘us’.




A dog came running up to me; a brown-and-black streaked pit bull mix, trailing a thick, chewed-on red rope, his head down, tail wagging, sniffing at my shoes. He looked really sweet, so I reached down, cautiously, to let him sniff my hand; and he flinched and shied away like I’d tried to hit him.


“Hey, Tweezer!” came a voice. Then, “TWEEZER!!”, and the dog went running back to a clump of kids with backpacks, and outdoor gear. “Sorry,” called out one of the kids; a short boy with a wool cap, and a skimpy, soft-looking, blond beard. “She loves people, but she’s also totally shy. She’s kind of neurotic.”


“That’s okay,” I half-shrugged. “So am I.” That got a couple of smiles from the group, and I was just turning to go walking on –


“Hey,” called out the skimpy-bearded boy, and I looked back. “You want some smoke?” Then, “Tweezer, SIT!”


I looked at them for just a second, a clump of kids in a haze of marijuana smoke –


And it was tempting, it was so FUCKING tempting to lose myself in a group of new friends, the way I used to do when my dad was still around, and I’d had a fight with him, and I was feeling horrible . . .


But I couldn’t. Because my mom was coming back, tonight, and I had to be home before her in case my dad decided to pull something. Again.


Fuck me.


“Thanks,” I called back. “I gotta get going,” and I sideways-smiled, and waved.


And as I started back towards Haight Street, I could feel the dark, the emotional dark, just pressing down on me like a weight; the whole thing about Erik, and then thinking about going back home to Berkeley . . . Yeah. I could feel the dark, coming down.


And then, because I’m perverse – have I mentioned, that I’m kind of perverse, and perverted, sometimes? – a thought came to me, and I had to at least half-smile to myself, under the trees.


The thought was, that whatever else I knew about Erik, and his dating habits, his love life – whatever else I knew about Erik, I knew his libido. I knew it, up close and personal.


And, I thought, one thing I could guarantee; with all the things Erik and I had done that afternoon – this Other Guy, his real date, was going to be getting more uninterrupted sleep tonight than he maybe expected. Or wanted . . .