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Billy got me back to the hotel in record time. He was clearly intent on getting home to Jerome. He opened my door and helped me out.
“You gonna be okay tonight, Jack?”
“Yep, I am, Billy. Have a great dinner with Jerome.” I smiled as I said it, hoping he knew I was sincere and not making fun of him.
“Guaranteed, Jack. And hey, I just want to tell you, you are one of the cutest guys I’ve ever met. It’s been great getting to spend some time with you today. I hope you find the man of your dreams someday. I know my ass belongs to Jerome forever.” He smiled and surprised me with a big hug, then went back around the car to the driver’s door. He winked at me with a grin, then drove away, leaving me standing there paralyzed, jaw hanging to my knees, wondering what just happened.
He knew? Billy knew I was gay? How? And he didn’t kill me. He didn’t even hurt me. He had spent his whole day helping me, taking care of me. But that meant he knew I was gay when he carried me to the couch after I fainted. He didn’t tell his mama, “I don’t touch fags. Let him rot on the floor where he is.” No, he picked me up and laid me gently down on the couch. Now that I thought about it, he had been watching out for me all day, noticing when I wasn’t feeling good or needed some rest.
I was so confused. Maybe he was nice to me because he was gay too, so he understood. I wasn’t a freak to him–I was just like him. Well, I could never be just like him. The man was huge, built like a tank and gentle as a feather. But I was gay like him. And I had a heart that wanted true love, like he and Jerome seemed to share. Billy somehow knew this about me. I suddenly felt all warm and mushy inside. It was the strangest, best feeling I had had all day.
I saw myself smiling in the reflection of the shiny elevator walls heading up to my room. I felt much better now and looked forward to an evening by myself. I liked being alone.
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Alone could be a good thing–tonight it was definitely a good thing for me. No more people telling me stories, freaking me out with huge numbers and generally rearranging my life. Tonight, I was going to relax, maybe take a walk, watch some TV, even get some dinner, if I thought my stomach could handle it. So far, things were quiet down there since I gave up my lunch. Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate right now.
I keyed into my room and the first thing I did was put Amanda’s letter on the desk in the living room. I still wasn’t sure when I was going to be ready to read her words. Definitely not this minute. I still wanted some mental and emotional distance from the whole saga.
I hung up my suit, threw my shirt on the floor in the bathroom–it needed some washing out from the vomit experience–and finished getting naked. I turned on the hot water in the shower to warm up, then went over to the sink and looked at the man in the mirror. My physical appearance was unchanged from what I was used to seeing: dark brown hair—a little too long and needing a trim—slight five o’clock shadow popping through, green eyes, which sometimes changed to a rusty brown color and a nose and mouth both unremarkable in their normality. My teeth were fairly straight–I had been spared the teenage horror of braces–and I had no piercings or tattoos altering my body. The rest of me was hopelessly average, I thought. Not fat, not skinny. Not tall, not short. Feet, size eleven. Just . . . average. Even my dick was average, I think. I had never compared myself to anyone in real life and I was pretty sure porn star guys were off the scale so, yeah...average.
For the most part, I was okay with how I looked. As I said before, I tried not to make a bad impression. And there was nothing about me that screamed “freak” from a physical perspective. I suspected I pretty much blended into the crowd, which was fine with me. I had no desire to stick out and invite unwanted attention, which from my experience was a negative more than a positive. Even in school, when you might win a scholastic award or a medal in a band or choral competition, other students could always find a way to make your success seem like the worst thing you could have done socially.
Unless you excelled at sports–then you were golden. No one would accuse me of being good at sports nor did I have a body which could be described as athletic. I had the normal muscles of any guy, they just weren’t toned and defined. I had a flat stomach, but I couldn’t discern any ab muscles–no six pack here.
Standing there, looking in the mirror, physically I looked the same as always, but I knew underneath the skin and muscles and sinew I was a changed man. Emotionally and mentally. And these were things I couldn’t really roll back. I was going to have to find a way to move forward with the changes, whether I liked them or not. How to do it was the 580 million dollar question.
I broke my narcissistic reverie and stepped into the steaming shower. The heat on my skin was wonderful. Bvlgari shampoo was a wonder all in itself. I followed the instructions on the bottle and shampooed, rinsed and repeated, just to experience it all twice. One of the best things about hotels is they never run out of hot water. You can stay in there as long as you want. I soaped myself thoroughly, hoping to rid myself of remnants of vomit and regrets from the day’s troubles. It was working.
I thought about jacking off there in the shower–it was a great place to indulge in my favorite pastime–but I wasn’t really in the mood. So I reluctantly turned the water off before I pruned up too much and dried off with a bath towel twice the size and thickness of mine at home. For a second, I thought about trying to fit a couple of those in my duffel bag for keepsakes but then thought better of it. I would enjoy the Ritz life while I was here, then leave it behind. Not my reality.
Back at the sink, I brushed my hair out of my eyes, did a quick teeth brushing as well, then got dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. Just getting clean and putting on comfortable clothes went a long way in helping me relax.
I flopped on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV, flipping channels. I watched a weather forecast for Denver on a local news program–thankfully, it forecast tomorrow to be sunny and warmer. I might even skip the jacket. The rest of the news was boring as always, and I tuned it out.
I kept seeing Amanda’s letter sitting on the desk across the room. I tried to ignore it but, after a while, it was like it had a voice of its own calling me. I still wasn’t ready to read it. I needed a distraction.
I decided on food. When in doubt, eat something—a growing boy’s mantra for life and happiness.
I assumed I was dressed appropriately for the restaurant. I had called the front desk and asked about the dress code. I was assured casual was fine. I rode the elevator to the lobby and walked into Elway’s, their signature restaurant. It smelled of spices and wood burning fires. I was seated in a curved booth along the side wall, which I liked because there was nothing behind me and I could look out at the entire room.
There was a bar at the front near the entrance with several patrons. The shelving behind the bar was well stocked with alcohol bottles glowing in multi-colored lights. It was pretty in an artsy kind of way but it masked the dangerous power of the liquid inside those bottles in the hands of alcoholics like my brother or father. I shook my head to banish such thoughts.
My waiter was a black-haired hunk. Trevor was about my age, and eager to please. He was a true natural at serving. Calm, humor and real skill flowed from his every description, from the specials to the desserts. I was so busy listening and watching him, I lost my concentration and had to ask him to repeat part of it. He didn’t seem to mind. Thankfully the restaurant was not yet crowded, as it was a Thursday night and maybe a tad early for dinner for most. But I was hungry.
Trevor brought me a glass of water and some bread and butter served with a smile and twinkling eyes. In the darker mood lighting of the restaurant, his blue eyes radiated amusement and his grin told me he was enjoying himself. Ah, to have a job you love. When he returned for my order, I asked a couple more questions just to listen to the sound of his deep voice, more melodious than Sinatra’s crooning. I hoped he didn’t notice I ordered something completely different from what I had asked about.
My Caesar salad, bone-in ribeye steak and Elway’s fried rice were superb. I ate a few of the green beans, but I am not a vegetable guy so I didn’t finish them. When Trevor came back to clear my table, he asked me if there was anything else I would like this evening. I thought about saying, yes, I would like him for the evening, but chickened out. It was never going to happen anyway. As he went to place my order for Crème Brulee for dessert, I watched his retreating ass and thought about what Billy had said to me earlier. Would I find my true love soon? Would my ass ever belong to someone forever? I sure hoped so.
I finished my dessert–it reminded me of a vanilla version of chocolate mousse–and waited for the check. Trevor had gotten a little busier. The bar area was filled with people waiting to be seated. He finally brought me my check in a fancy leather folio. When he tried to hand it to me, I miscalculated–I swear it was an accident, really!–and I grabbed his hand instead of the folio. Instead of pulling back annoyed, he held it there, smiling at me. I let my hand linger for two seconds, then let go.
“Sorry about that. You’d think I’d been drinking, wouldn’t you?” I tried to make light of it, but I think we both felt the electricity in our touch.
“No problem. It was a pleasure serving you this evening, Mr. Schaeffer. I hope to see you in Elway’s again sometime soon.” He smiled again and left me to attend to a nearby patron who had some issue with his steak being not done enough or too done or something. I wanted to go over there and tell the guy to leave Trevor alone. He didn’t cook the damn food–he just served it. But Trevor was a pro, and the offending meat was swiftly dispatched to the kitchen for correction.
I signed my name and room number and surrendered my booth to the next happy customers in line. I passed Trevor as I made my way towards the exit, and he winked at me. I was pretty sure it was all just flirting between us–neither expected it to go anywhere. But I decided flirting with a guy wasn’t as dangerous as I had once feared. Besides, if the other guy gets offended, I could always say he must have mistaken my intentions.
I was going to go for a walk but it was now dark outside and I didn’t really know the area at all. I would hate to get lost in a dangerous part of town, so I opted to return to my room. I was getting tired anyway and my heavy meal was pulling on my energy reserves as well.
I grabbed two water bottles from the Club lounge–I skipped any more chocolate mousse–and headed back to my room. I kicked off my shoes and tried the TV again. I watched some mindless sitcom which helped clear my head nicely. I laughed out loud a couple of times and it felt good. But then another news program came on and I couldn’t find anything else of interest. Amanda’s letter called to me from the desk.
I got up and carried the thick envelope to the nightstand. I used the bathroom, undressed, turned out all but the nightstand lights and slipped into bed. Propped up against the headboard surrounded by all the pillows, I reached for Amanda’s letter. It was time to hear the only words my birth mother would ever say to me.