The further adventures of a 34-year-old socially awkward gay alcoholic. For other excerpts about this character, click HERE & HERE. For an excerpt from the POV of another character featured in the manuscript, click HERE.
The sunlight burns my eyes and hurts my bare skin. Maybe it’s because I used to get such bad sunburn as a little boy. I got everything bad. Wasp stings, bee stings, poison oak, mosquito bites. My dad used to joke that maybe I needed to live in a giant hamster ball. I wear dark sunglasses whenever I leave the house, and although that’s partially so people won’t see how hungover I am, it’s also because I’m so sensitive to sunlight. I used to take a lot of walks at night when I was a boy, especially when it was cool and just the right amount of damp and there were stars in the sky. One surprisingly cool night in late July when I was fourteen years old, I was sitting alone on a curb a few blocks from my house when a middle-aged man in a sports car pulled up beside me.
It was a little after one in the morning, and my parents would have killed me if they knew I had left the house without their permission. It had recently rained and I was crouching barefoot with my tennis shoes lined up neatly beside me, looking up at the stars trying to spot constellations and listening to the steady hum and chirp of crickets and cicadas. I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I didn’t notice the man until he spoke. His voice was husky but he spoke relatively softly to me as he asked me to come over and talk to him, which I did obediently.
“You’re a nice looking boy,” he said. “What are you doing out here at 1AM?”
“Thinking,” I said.
“Do you want to get in the car, turn on some music, and think in here?” he asked.
I didn’t like the look in his eye, like a hungry man examining a hock of meat.
“No thanks.” I said.
“Come on, I’m not going to hurt you, I’d really like the company. I’ve got some snacks and sodas and… some cigarettes. How old are you? Are you in middle school? Do you like to sneak cigarettes when Mom and Dad aren’t around? How about magazines? Do you like magazines? I think I’ve got one or two in the back. You don’t have to if it makes you uncomfortable. But I won’t tell anyone if you want to take a ride with me just a couple of times around the block. I’ll drop you off at home afterward if you’d like me to.”
My body felt clammy. “It’s late. I should really be getting home. Please leave me alone.”
“Well, that’s a shame. You’re a real nice-looking boy. We could have had some fun. How old are you?”
“That’s funny, I would have pegged you for younger. You’re a very sweet boy. What, you don’t like me?”
I went back to the curb where I had been sitting and grabbed my shoes and my rolled-up socks off the pavement. “No, it’s not that. My parents are just going to kill me if I don’t come home as soon as possible.”
“Do they know you’re out at this hour, sweetie?”
I made a judgement call and lied, even though I really didn’t like lying to an adult. “Yes, they said they wanted me home in less than twenty minutes.” I looked exaggeratedly down at my wristwatch. ‘My dad said he was going to go out looking for me if I stayed out any longer.”
The guy looked at me suspiciously like he knew somewhere in the back of his mind that I was full of shit, my parents weren’t going to come looking for me anytime soon. Finally he shrugged. “Hmm, some parents. Well, let me tell you, a cute little boy like yourself, you could do a lot worse than meet someone like me walking around at this hour of the night. You’re a little bit of a stick in the mud, aren’t you? Whatever. I’m not sure we’d get along too well anyway. If I see you around here again maybe I won’t ask you nicely to get in the car with me.” He rolled up his window and drove away.
I told you about the incident years later, just after we had sex, of all things, and you laughed and said “Wow. That is royally fucked up. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me. The closest thing would have to be this drunk guy coming onto me when I worked at Shoney’s waiting tables when I was seventeen. He slipped twenty dollars in my back pocket when wiping down the both next to him and mouthed at me to meet him in the bathroom. I told him I wasn’t gay and he said, “Five minutes with me and you’ll forget all about that.”
It was like a fucking line from a movie. Five minutes? Guy had a pretty middling opinion of himself, didn’t he? But I kept the twenty dollars, I think he was so drunk he forgot he stuck it in my back pocket about ten seconds after he did it. Yeah… that’s not a good example. A few years later I might have followed him into the bathroom and had a quickie. I don’t know. You definitely should have told your mother, Warren. I’m feeling kind of protective of you right now.”
I always wondered what would have happened if I had taken the pederast up on his offer. Would he have fucked me? Would I have had my photo put on a milk carton? My soft, androgynous face and floppy blonde hair and my startled expression, the one I always got when someone put a camera in my face and I realized I was expected to smile? Would my body have been dumped somewhere in unspeakable condition?
My parents didn’t know about my night walks.
Hannah knew and agreed to keep my secret, in exchange for me not telling our parents she was climbing out her bedroom window to meet her older boyfriend Andy and go to drunken parties. And I don’t think I ever really told you, Joseph, about how much I have always liked the nighttime, and the sense of peace it gives me. During the day there is too many people and too much commotion, and the sun beats insistently down on me, making things brighter yet somehow diminishing them at the same time.
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