January 9, 2006
by Matthew Haldeman-Time
I am writing about men having sex with other men. You must be eighteen or older to read my fiction. This site is for consenting, responsible adults only.
“How long has it been?”
“Seven months. We first met fifteen years ago. Fifteen, can you believe that? Almost half of my life. He was eighteen and stupid, and I was nineteen and even stupider. I was driving across the state to visit my brother, one summer, and he was hitching, and I picked him up. My mother always told me never ever ever to pick up hitchhikers, but he was my age, and I was an idiot, and I figured, hey, what can he do to me?” He laughed, shaking his head again. “What didn’t he do to me? I was in love with him before we got to my brother’s place. So in love I took him back home with me.”
“He felt the same way?”
“He did.” A fond smile graced his face, memory glistening in his eyes. “I never picked up another hitchhiker again after that, but when I saw you today, I thought… It seemed appropriate.”
“Where had he been trying to go?”
“New York City.” Quick smile. “I talked him out of going until I could go with him. We went together. It was hard, for a while. But we always had each other. Through everything. No matter how bad it got, even when we were furious with each other and just wanted to drop everything, we still loved each other.”
“Why did you come back here?”
“When my father passed on, he left the store - - it’s two stores, actually, appliance stores - - to my sister and her husband. After a few years of it, they wanted a change, so they offered it to me. I said that I’d only take it if Tommy got equal ownership. There was an argument or two, but I’ve never lost an argument with my sister yet. Tommy and I moved back here eleven years ago. Ran the stores, bought a house, became the boring suburban couple we never thought we’d be. But that’s what I grew up with, and after enough rough times in New York, we were happy to have the financial security.”
The hitchhiker spent a minute or two searching his brain for local appliance stores, trying to place the driver.
“What about you? Where are you going?”
“Uh…” The hitchhiker averted his gaze. “Philadelphia.”
“Anything interesting there?”
It sounded like a casual, conversational question, not probing or insinuating. The hitchhiker shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Nothing big. I just thought I’d check it out.”
“I’ve been there a few times. For the parades, with Tommy. His weird fetish for parades… Christmas parades, pride parades, we never marched but he always dragged me there to stand and clap for a few hours, either freezing our balls off or sweating like pigs.”
“I’ve never been to a parade.”
“Well… Not a real parade,” the hitchhiker admitted. “When I was a kid, in a local parade. A Halloween parade. I was a Power Ranger.”
The driver grinned. “Which one?”
“The blue one. It was my brother’s from two years before, and it fit, so…” His voice trailed off.
“I always wanted an older brother. I just had Cindy. My sister. She moved with her husband and kids to Phoenix, so now I’m the only one around for my mother to bring two dozen cookies to every Sunday afternoon. What am I going to do with two dozen cookies every week? I take them to the store on Monday, the staff loves them. Tommy loved them, he always devoured them before the next weekend rolled around. I think he’s the one she brought them for, anyway. I was just an excuse for her to feed him.”
“My mom’s not big on baking.”
“No?” the driver asked. “What’s she into?”
“Oh, uh…” The hitchhiker shrugged. “Reality TV, counting carbs, buying things at garage sales and selling them on-line. She dyed her hair again last week, it’s this nasty dark red now.”
“What about your dad?”
The hitchhiker snorted. “You know as much about that as I do. Greg says he used to send us cards at Christmas, but I never saw one. Either he’s lying or she hid them from us, I don’t know.”
“Greg’s your brother?”
“One of them.” The hitchhiker examined his fingernails. Picked dirt from under them.
“You have a girlfriend?”
The driver smiled. “You have a boyfriend?”
“Sometimes.” He didn’t raise his gaze from his hands. His scowl might have been from concentration. It probably wasn’t.
“Sometimes,” the driver repeated. “You know, Philadelphia’s still a few hours away, and the sun’ll be down soon. By the time you get there, it’ll be dark, and it’s already pretty cold.”
A shrug. “I can get a hotel room.”
“Or, you could stick around town tonight, and I could drive you up in the morning. Then you’d get there early enough to have all day to find a good place, maybe get a lead on a decent job.”
Suddenly, the hitchhiker’s gaze grew suspicious. “If you-”
“Relax,” the driver said. “You can stay with my mother. The worst thing she’ll do is make you take a tin of cookies with you when you go.”
“What are you saying, you’ll take me to your mother’s house tonight and drive me to Philly in the morning? You don’t have to do that, I-”
“I know that I don’t have to. But I suspect that Tommy would want me to. And I never built up any immunity to him. One look from those big brown eyes and I was defenseless.”
“Your mom doesn’t mind you bringing home strays?”
“Last time I did it, she got a son-in-law out of the deal. This time, at least she’ll get someone else to cook a big breakfast for in the morning. I’ll take you there after this, I just have one stop to make first.”
The hitchhiker chewed on his lower lip. “Listen, I - - this is… Thanks.”
“No problem.” Pulling to the side of the road, the driver parked. “Sit tight. I’ll be right back.”
The rush of memories… Even if he hadn’t stopped to pick the kid up, he still would’ve had to pull over. Too hard to drive with his heart in his throat like that.
“I know that you and I promised Mom that neither one of us would ever hitch or pick anyone up again, but I had to do it. She’ll forgive me. He’s you, baby, when he pushed that shaggy hair out of his face and I saw those big brown eyes, I had to wonder if you’d been using your sperm for something I didn’t know about. He bites his lips, too.”
He’d need chapstick. Philadelphia in December? Although David suspected that the kid would never make it that far. Not after his mom got hold of him. Maybe a job in the store…
“What do you think about me giving him Hector’s job? Rosa keeps telling me to move Hector to the front, anyway. If I make him full-time, Mom will charge him rent, but at about a quarter of what an apartment would cost. Then he can save some money, maybe get a place of his own, maybe take a few classes, depending on what he wants to do with his life. Maybe he won’t stay, maybe he’ll go to Philadelphia…”
“Maybe he’ll go to New York. Maybe he’ll find someone special there and live the fabulous life we used to have.”
That hideous first apartment. Sharing a can of spaghetti for dinner. Making love all night because they couldn’t afford to do anything else. Having the best time of his life.
“I’d better get back. He’s probably thinking about ditching me. I took the keys but he might know how to hotwire the car.” David kissed his fingertips and pressed them to the headstone. “I’ll see you soon, Tommy. Happy anniversary.”