Happy Friday! 

New Games People Play...

Starting Next Friday Havan and I'll be participating in a new group on Fridays, writing some Flash Fiction.  It's prompt writing from a picture, limited to 100 words. It won't be an every Friday thing, but when the picture prompts an idea for me... like next Friday's, then I'll play the game.

Meanwhile, take a look at what some other Flashers did this Friday:

Chris Power : http://chrispower.me.uk
Chris Quinton : http://chrisquinton.com
Gemma Parkes  http://gemmaparkes.blogspot.com/ 

Reader's Responses: Keeping House

Keeping House
Available at

Mischa knew his brothers were up to something.
  He didn’t know it would lead him to Donovan Holloway
 and change his carefree lifestyle forever.

What do the readers say?

"Keeping House is one of the best recent books I have read." 
          Read more at Amazon

"Th[e character's] strengths, conflicts, and emotions were genuine, 
and I became entirely involved in the outcome of the story."
                 Read more at Goodreads


Donovan Holloway, advertising executive, newly made vice president of the company where he’s worked for twenty years, grew up in a free love hippie commune taking care of the parents who should have been taking care of him. He’s worked hard to put himself through school and achieve the American dream- all he’s ever wanted was a normal family life- house in the suburbs, two cars, two kids, a shaggy dog. A family to come home to, to care for, to care for him has been his dream since he was a small boy.

Mischa Blake is the green eyed, liberally pierced, black haired, Mohawk wearing spoiled youngest son of a Hollywood producer and his actress wife. Mischa has made a terrible mistake. In a fit of childish pique he’s accepted a dare from his older brothers. The dare? Live on his own supporting himself completely for a year without accessing his trust fund. No problem. Except Mischa has never worked a day in his life, hasn’t finished college, and has absolutely no skills that he can bring to the table.

So when he sees Donovan’s ad for a housekeeper/gardener, he has nothing to lose by applying, because really...how hard can it be?

            “So, tell me why you want to work for me.” That should give him pause.
            “I don’t. My brothers dared me to get a job, and it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I just came from a McDonalds where the manager had a guy with a BS cleaning the toilets and an MBA flipping burgers. The economy sucks.” Mischa sounded dejected.
“Ahh.” He wanted a job on a dare? What the hell? Who told a prospective employer they didn’t want to work for them? “Let me tell you a little about the parameters of the job.”
            Mischa gazed at him quietly, waiting. Maybe the daunting aspects of the task would send the kid the way of the first applicant. “You’ll be responsible for preparing meals. I eat breakfast at six, daily, take a boxed lunch to work, and expect a minimum of a three course dinner. Sometimes I have guests, and occasionally dinner parties.” He didn’t really, but threw out the possibility anyway. For a moment he was distracted by the amusing vision of a room full of elegantly clad clients and coworkers staring in horror as a Goth-garbed Mischa, hair spiked and piercings glittering in the candlelight announced that dinner was served.
            “Got it. Cooking. I can do that.” Mischa seemed to be trying to convince himself as much as Donovan of that fact.
“You’ll have to do the shopping. I don’t have time for things like that. Then there’s the cleaning. I expect the house to be spotless at all times.” He assiduously ignored the fact that the house was currently anything but clean.
            Mischa wasn’t inclined to be so kind, though. He glanced pointedly around the kitchen, at the stack of dirty dishes in the sink, the debris from several takeout meals on the counter tops, and the unpacked boxes of kitchenware. “Ok. Clean. I can do that.”
            “I need the house put together, too. The boxes," he waved around, “unpacked and stuff put away. The walls painted, furniture ordered and assembled and put in place.”
            Mischa looked shocked. “You trust me to decorate your house?”
            “No. I have the plans here.” He thumped the red leather-bound album that held the dream house drawings he’d labored on over the years on the marble counter. “I need my housekeeper to coordinate the workmen, decorators, deliveries and so on.”
            More nods. “I can do that.”
            Donovan stared helplessly at the kid. Stop calling him kid. It’s too pervy. What else? “References? Do you have references?”
            Mischa bent over and the tight black t-shirt rode up as the skinny jeans inched down. Damn. All that creamy white flesh, hairless and smooth tempted him to reach out and touch, to examine the texture and resiliency. He wondered if there were any more shiny piercings hidden under that severe black garb.
            “Hey,” Mischa was waving a handful of papers in front of his face, and Donovan flushed slightly. Could Mischa tell he’d been staring inappropriately at his exposed skin?
            “I’ll, ahh, I’ll keep these. I need to call on them later.” He searched desperately for something, anything to turn the kid-man off the idea of working for him. Recalling the indignation and vitriol of the second applicant, he took a shot in the dark and threw it out there. “I’m gay.”
            No response.
            “I said I’m gay, a homosexual, a flamer.”
            No response. Just inquiring green eyes locked on his face. Someone must have told the kid–man that eye contact was important.
            “I sleep with other men?” Shit now he was making statements as questions.
            The pierced brow rose slightly at that in an enigmatic gesture, but no response was forthcoming.
            “This is a live in position. You don’t mind working for and living with a gay man?”
            Finally, Mischa smiled. Donovan’s heart lurched at the sexy sweetness of that smile. The tiny silver hoop in his lower lip glinted seductively. Wonder how that piercing would feel when he pressed his lips to Mischa’s? It certainly drew attention to the swollen plumpness of the full red lower lip. Yeah—he really needed to get laid this weekend.
            “No. I don’t mind working for a gay man, as long as you don’t mind hiring one.” Mischa’s smile was now a broad grin, and he settled back more comfortably on the barstool, as though he were suddenly making himself at home.         
            Sudden sympathy overrode Donovan’s concerns. Why not give the kid a chance? If Martin Weston hadn’t hired him to work in the copy room at his company all those years ago despite his being an underage gay hippie he wouldn’t be where he was today. He’d probably regret this, but it looked like the skater-Goth-boy/man had talked himself into a job. And the corporate advertising executive was sentencing himself to a series of cold showers.


Crawl into Bed with Eric Arvin and a Good Book

*crawls across bed to relax against pillows*  So, let's get through the important things first, are these sheets silk or cotton?

Cotton. Silk is too refined for me. I am unused to such luxury.

I see.  Refinement is over rated.   What are you wearing?

Retro boxer briefs. Trailer park blue. SUPASTAH!!

*blinks*  hmmm... What are we snacking on in bed while we read tonight?

A bowl of chilled dark chocolate chips.

Dark chocolate chips, awesome... If I open this nightstand drawer, what will I find?

A Peter North dildo. I'll conquer that beast one day, dammit!

*chuckles* Everyone else tries to hide the contents of their drawer.  You're pretty open about it, I like that.  Do you roll up in the blankets like a burrito, or kick the covers off during the night?

Kick 'em off.

Now, this is important, here... I have to get comfortable if we're going to read, so...can I put my cold feet on your calves to warm them up?


All right then, now we're set, what are we reading?
Woke Up in a Strange Place (attached cover art)


“I CAN see heaven,” Lou said. He was holding Joe, cradling him in his arms as they lay on the nighttime beach. They combated the crisp breeze with warm sweaters and a tight embrace. The sound of the water beating the rocks and the shore soothed them.

“You can see past the clouds?” Joe asked, playing along.

They had spent the month traveling the coast of New England—the Gay Grand Tour. They had rested at B&Bs that had been recommended along the way. Their golden retriever, Spooner, had been left with Joe’s mother. They missed him terribly but needed the time alone.

Things had been strained lately. They needed to focus on each other again. Joe’s position as a book editor—mostly tomes on mythology and folklore—had taken up a lot of time. And Lou’s mother was a bit of a menace.

“Absolutely, I can see it,” Lou replied. “Just up there. It’s not so far.” He pointed to a vacant patch in the sky. “It’s just past that star you can see shining through that cloud clearing.”

Joe laughed comfortably. “You’re a silly man, Lou,” he said, snuggling into Lou’s chest, smelling his cologne.

“What would you do if I died?” Lou asked. His voice took on a slightly more serious tone.

The question took Joe aback. He raised his head from Lou’s chest and looked him in the eye. “What kind of question…? We’re too young to be talking like that.”
“We’re not too young. I just turned thirty. People die every day.”

“Well, not us,” Joe replied bluntly. Granted, they hadn’t been taking terribly good care of themselves lately—lots of take-out and an expired gym membership—but talking about dying just seemed odd. Like an insurance commercial. “We’re together forever. I’d go crazy without you. Absolute bonkers.”

“You’ve got more courage than that. You would survive.”

Joe didn’t say anything, but he knew Lou was wrong. He couldn’t think of a world without him. Not anymore. Not after all he’d been through, all the disappointments and searching.

“Would you wait for me?” Joe asked quietly, his head resting again on Lou’s strong chest.


“In heaven. Beyond the clouds and the stars. Would you wait for me?”

“It wouldn’t be heaven without you. Of course I’d wait. I’ll always wait for you, Joseph. Waiting for you, the anticipation, it’s what drives me. You’re my life-force.”

Joe sighed, tears in his eyes. “Smooth talker. You always know just what clichés to use.”

“Go to sleep, baby,” Lou whispered. “I’ll be here in the morning.”

A Beautiful Place to Get Lost

VARIOUS echoes. That was all he heard until he opened his eyes.

With a last snap of his synapses like lightning charging back to heaven, Joe found himself in another place altogether. The stale argument of biology versus spirituality became moot. In the end, none of it mattered. One wonders why there needed to be a right or wrong answer at all. Joe realized then that love had only ever been about content, not form.

It was a repositioning, a new form of situating himself. He was lying on his back in a summer field of barley now. How he had gotten there, he had no idea. Maybe the sky had dropped him. However it happened, he was lucid. Everything still felt real. Still felt… tangible. Stalks surrounded him. In the afterlife, most people wake up in fields of gold. This has been so since death began because it’s what most humans know of peace, beauty, and ease. He knew the feel of the barley as it scratched his skin; he smelled the fragrance of summer as it blew past him, over him; he tasted the sweet humidity; and he hummed with the lulling sound of honey bees making love to nearby wildflowers. There was a perceptible heaviness to the smell of the breeze, though. Like a frost was soon to set in. A few of the stalks were dead and fallen.

There was no discomfort in the barley’s touch. It was a pleasant itch, like a tickle. In fact, there was a tickling sensation to everything, an almost untamable giddiness. He heard a giggle issue forth from his own being as he lay on the golden blanket, stretching his arms and legs out to their full extent.

He could remember nothing of before, our hero. The last vestiges of imagery had become sepia, like a dream, clouded around the edges. His memory was receding like the tide. This accounted for his lack of frantic anxiety, for his complete acceptance of an otherwise absurd situation. Only he existed in the barley, free of caustic worries. The few dead barley stalks were interesting but not worrisome.

Memory? What was memory? Me-mo-ree. A strange word. A distant concept. Laughable. Lacking in description. For all he understood, the whole ball of existence was set above and around him and had always been barley and gorgeous sky.

There was only one thing he was certain of, and that was simply because the thought had attached itself to him so fiercely, like a stubborn root digging deep into the soil. His name was Joe.

Joe. Was that it? Three letters? J-O-E. Three tiny symbols of some ancient script signifying an existence. There was more, right? There had to be more. There must be strength and vitality and vigor wrapped up in those letters somehow, for he was of the barley now, of the very same fortitude and determination. He felt it inside.

Joe (as he remembered his own name with some glee) lay staring at the sky. It was different than what he thought a sky should look like. Not a single solitary shade, but multi-layered, like a cake. Like sweet eats streaked and decorated with purples and pinks and oranges.

He lounged and gazed upward, feeling no need to move. There was no urgent call to stand and appropriate a functional demeanor. He felt only the impulse to melt or sink into earth or sky.

He was not alone where he lay but could sense curious rodents and lisping reptiles passing around him. Yet he felt no fear or repugnance at the thought of them. They were of the barley as well. Everything was one.

A wisp of some sweet redolence wafted over him as he relaxed hidden in the tall, thin stalks of golden grass. It was familiar, like an echo.

The sound of something wading through the barley raised Joe’s curiosity. He rose to his knees, peering over the tips of the stalks as they swayed lazily.

He saw a figure. Another someone moving steadily through the grain waves. The barley flowed around the form as it slowly approached.

Soon, it became clear to Joe that this new form was that of a young man. He possessed a slender face, a strong nose and brow, a cleft chin, and dark black hair that blew with the wind at his bare shoulders. He looked tired. His face was pale, and dark circles marred his worried eyes. Farther behind the Stranger (and even more curious), almost like an afterthought demanding to be seen, was a golden retriever that leaped high enough into the air to see above the gorgeous field, ears flopping and tongue hanging loosely.

Joe got to his feet and waited for the young man with a rush of excitement, though it was a mystery as to why. He ran his hand over the top of the barley that flourished hip-high around him, the tips tickling his tender flesh.

“You’re here,” the young Stranger said, looking quite breathless. A hint of expectation lay in his expression. It was as if he wanted to tell Joe something urgent. The muscles in his jaw flexed and striated. It was a lovely jaw, one that might have been carved from stone.

“I’m here,” Joe repeated. “But where’s here?” Joe’s eyes were wide, keenly observant. His peculiar feeling of intimacy with this mysterious man grew as the Stranger spoke. Joe felt a closeness, a need for this individual. Potent desire had now supplanted his previous complacency. His very breath quickened in this new presence and matched that of the Stranger’s own.

“Here’s where you’re supposed to be.” The man smiled with a shrug. His tired eyes were misty and full of emotion.

“That’s a stupid thing to say.” Joe grinned. “But it’s nice. It’s really nice here.” He looked around at the flowing field of gold and the ecstatic canine in the distance, if only to keep from staring so obviously at every tiny detail of the Stranger’s face. What lovely eyes!

“Well, it’s been waiting a while for you.” The Stranger couldn’t seem to take his sad eyes from Joe.

“I know you,” Joe said, drawing closer through the barley. He recognized that the Stranger was naked, but then, he realized, he was too. He hadn’t noticed this fact before but felt no disgrace in it now. “Who are you?” he queried softly.

“You’re right,” the man smiled with slight mischief. “You know me. You know me very well, Joseph.” He stared at Joe, swallowing a lump in his throat. Again, that look of urgency, of some tale to be told.

Without thinking, Joe put his hand to the Stranger’s chest. He felt as if it were an altogether natural thing to do. He felt the warmth of skin, but there was no rhythm beneath it. There was no beat or cadence in the toned chest. Joe gasped as a sudden maverick echo shocked him like a jolt of electricity. The chill of grief and loss rippled through him, and the image of a towering structure appeared in his mind, a lighthouse from a distant memory. It lasted only for a moment, passing quickly, but it made him draw his hand away. The Stranger grabbed it gently. A soft breeze sprinkled over them, birds in the cake-like sky, butterflies in the field just above the flaxen waves.

The Stranger smiled again. Nostalgia. His eyes brilliant blue hints of past joys. Memory.“I know you… who are you?” Joe choked out, all at once very moved.

“I have to go now, Joe,” the Stranger said as he let go of Joe’s hand. “I just had to see for myself if it was true. And it is: you’re really here.” With teary-eyed reluctance, he turned and began walking away. He appeared not to see the dog that bounded ahead of him.

“Please!” Joe shouted. In that moment, he felt the odd sensation of something being torn from him, something deeply cherished. “Where am I? Can I come with you?” He began trampling through the barley toward the Stranger. More of the stalks looked haggard and frostbitten.

The Stranger turned with a smile, a tear traveling slowly down his face. “You will. But it takes time. You’ve got to remember it all first.”

Joe felt that want, that painful need to be with this young man.

“I will be there when it all comes back, Joe. But it has to come back slowly, like these waves of gold.”

“And you’ll be waiting?” Joe knew he sounded desperate. But his desperation did not feel baseless.

“As long as it takes. You know I will,” the Stranger said as he lifted his hand to wave. “Have courage. Great courage.”

The horizon very quickly changed to a deep violet and seemed to draw itself around the young man like wrapping paper. His lovely form became a silhouette and then vanished altogether into the darkening air as if he had not been there at all. The golden retriever disappeared as well, with a reverberating call for play. The Stranger’s leaving brought the dusk.

Joe stood bewildered and shaken. A dim light shone on the stalks about him from the sky’s devastating moonlight. He felt he would cry, like a child ripped from the comfort of loving arms. He questioned what to do, looking about at the darkened field that now began to glitter with tiny bugs. It seemed colder now. That frost was settling in.

He perceived a penetrating restlessness in his core, a surge of ambition to get underway so that he might be with the Stranger once again. After all, he had said he would be waiting. This was no time to wallow in the tragedy of things lost. This was a time to begin a search for answers. Joe could not remain in the field. He had to walk on. And though there was no trail or path that he might follow, he placed one foot in front of the other and began.

His journey was now underway.

As he made his way through the violet night, his grief faded and was assuaged by the serenity he had first known lying in the tall grass. The tips of barley again brushed and tickled his hands, groin, and thighs as he walked. Every step he took gave him hope, though he was more aware than ever of the dead stalks.

Off on the horizon and high above him, indeed all around him, he saw thousands of glittering lights of all colors blinking and winking their way across the sky. Some left exuberant streaks to show their passage in the night; others were almost imperceptible. It was a hypnotizing show, and it delighted him.

Once he had decided to start walking, tokens of past experiences came more easily to him. Remembrances in little droplets, like dew forming on a leaf. He remembered now his dislike for ketchup but his love of hamburgers; his favorite color, green; and his favorite time of day, dusk. All of these tiny personal accents collecting now like little dewdrops finding their ways to the center of the leaf. And as he peered into the night, his earliest memories came back to him.

Find Eric out of bed over at


Refreshing Summer Drinks: Tequila Sunrise

One of my all time favorite drinks is the Tequila Sunrise.  I had no idea until just a few years ago that what I usually drank wasn't in fact the oringinal Tequila Sunrise. Once I knew that, well.. I had to look into it further.

So, I found this recipe and had to try it.  It's different, but just as good! I can't remember where its from as it's scribbled on a note card on the inside of a cook book in my kitchen.

1 1/4 ounces tequila
3/4 ounce creme de cassis
Fresh lime
Club soda
Crushed ice

Fill glass with ice.
Add tequila, creme de cassis, and a squeeze of lime.
Do not stir.
Fill glass with club soda.
Garnish with lime slice.


Crawl into Bed With Johnny Miles

Crawling Into Bed With Johnny Miles And a Good Book

*climbs into bed* So, important things first, are these sheets silk or cotton?
You know? I’m not sure. My partner and I got them when we were last shopping and loved the color so much, as well as the feel, we decided to get them. They feel so soft, don’t they? Very inviting. Why don’t you move a little closer?

 Well now, they are very nice and soft.  Thank you, I think I will slide over a bit. What are you wearing?
Well, as you can see, I’ve got a plain white tee-shirt on and a pair of black silk boxers. Underneath it all I’m completely naked.

 What are we snacking on in bed while we read tonight?
Chocolate covered strawberries.

 Chocolate covered strawberries... mmm.  Not afraid of a little mess, are you?  If I open this nightstand drawer, what will I find?
LOL! I don’t know that you want to do that. Not unless you want to see…never mind.

Well, now you've really made me curious.. but I'll be good.  Do you roll up in the blankets like a burrito, or kick the covers off during the night?
All of the above. If you spend the night you’ll find out for yourself. Like the Emcee in the movie “Cabaret” sang, “there’s room at the bottom if you drop in some night.”

 Can I put my cold feet on your calves to warm them up?
Why don’t you nestle them in my crotch and I’ll give you a foot massage instead?

 Now, who could turn down an offer like that? What are we reading? 
Believe it or not I’m re-reading my last book, “Learning To Samba” which came out last month. I like to give it distance after the editing process is over. If it still holds my attention then I think I’ve done something right. Would you like me to read one of the kinkier passages to you? Oh! I see, what’s happening there? No. There. I see movement. But I haven’t even started reading to you yet. Ohhhhhhh, I see now. Let’s see what happens if I press here…


An Excerpt from Johnny Miles's Learning to Samba

No matter where I live or how far I roam, New York was, is, and probably always will be the center of my universe. Even after moving away close to twenty years ago -- though I’d visit at least once a year -- I considered New York to be my home, despite the gloom and grime, the sticky summer heat, and the overwhelming sensory overload that family can be.
New York is where I get grounded. It’s where I reconnect when I’m feeling lost. Is it any wonder, then, I would come back here once I chose to take control of my life again?
The last time I’d come back was after my partner, Joshua, died. Seven years was a long time to be away, and as much as I loved New York, I admit it felt odd to be back in the city after traipsing through Europe for so long, almost as if I were a stranger in my own land. Much had changed. It had been a while since my parents had passed on, I no longer had friends in the city, and my sister and I hadn’t exactly parted the best of friends after Joshua’s funeral.
But I suppose there comes a time when we all want to go back to recapture something we might have lost along the way.
In Brooklyn I didn’t feel so painfully lost and without direction. I could remember who I used to be and where I came from. It was the one place that could remind me of who I wanted to become and where I wanted to go next. It was also the one place that never failed to remind me of why I chose to leave in the first place.
* * * * *
After the plane landed at JFK, I took the Air Train to Jamaica Station. From there, I hopped on the subway and went into Manhattan, then on into Brooklyn -- to Flatbush and the Borough of Kings.
The closer I got to home, the more nostalgic I became. Armed with my backpack -- which contained my laptop, e-reader, and a couple of days’ worth of clothing -- I allowed myself several hours to retrace some of the steps I’d once taken during my high school years: Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza, Brighton Beach and Coney Island, my high school which looked so much smaller than I remembered it.
When I got off at the train station near home, I walked down Newkirk Avenue, past my first apartment -- a one-bedroom, on East Eighteenth Street. From there, I walked to the bagel shop at the corner of Foster. The owner was ancient now, his face lined and furrowed, but he was still there. It didn’t surprise me. Some people never leave Brooklyn. They never dream for more than what they have beyond their four walls. Or maybe they do and think they can’t do anything about it.
Joshua used to think they lacked courage.
I ordered a heavily buttered bialy and a chocolate drink, the way I used to when I was in high school, then sat on the bench across from the store. The melted butter ran down my fingers as I sank my teeth into the bagel. I closed my eyes and savored the taste, being in the moment and breathing in the brisk air.
I opened my eyes and took a swig of the chocolate drink. It didn’t taste anything like I remembered, and I wondered if it was the flavor that had changed or me.
After polishing off the bialy, I took a final swig to wash it all down, then tossed the rest of the drink in the trash. I wiped my fingers with a napkin from inside the now almost see-through bag.
All that butter, I thought. Definitely not good for the heart or the battle of the bulge that had become increasingly more difficult to keep at bay. Once, I could eat anything and not worry about how I looked.
I was still trim and in decent shape. Not many men could say that at my age.
With a sigh, I wondered what had happened. When had my youth slipped away? I’d been so busy planning and doing that I hadn’t noticed I no longer had the spontaneity I once possessed. Or had it possessed me?
Nothing mattered then but my impetuous desires and the passions of life. Now I longed for simpler days when I knew everything and, without thought to consequence, would say, “Fuck it! I’m outta here. You’re all a bunch of douche bags.”
Everything had been sunny then. One continuous spring and summer I took for granted.
I looked up at the sky, and the weak autumn sunshine felt good on my face. It seemed as if it tried to assure me.
Something’s coming. All you have to do is wait.
I took a deep breath, exhaled, and cautiously hoped it was so. The last seven years had been far too painful being alone. Getting older didn’t make it any easier. Especially when all the beautiful young men I admired or who struck a spark in my loins all seemed to consider me ancient.
But there was more to it than that.
I hadn’t written a single word since Joshua died. Each time I faced the blank computer screen, each time I sat down to try, characters, scenarios, and plots escaped me. I’d become unmotivated, uninterested, and lacking in focus.
The worst thing was that I had begun to think I’d dried up. That maybe after a dozen books and a couple of movie options, I had no stories left in me.
And if I couldn’t write anymore, if I couldn’t tell a story and move myself while doing it, then what was the point…of anything?
* * * * *
I turned the corner onto Westminster Road and stopped suddenly. Would my sister, Kay, even be there? I hadn’t called to let her know I was coming, I hadn’t e-mailed, and I hadn’t bothered to send her a note via snail mail. She probably didn’t even know I’d been out of the country.
And what makes you think she wants you in her house after all those hurtful things?
No. Not her house. Our house. The house we both grew up in.
I pushed my fears down to where all the others lived and looked at my wristwatch. Three in the afternoon. There was a good chance no one would be there. Then I remembered Kay had chosen to continue a practice begun by our mother. She used to leave a key beneath a flowerpot beside the wicker couch on the porch.
Old, comforting memories. Funny how they always made me feel like a child again.
I shifted my backpack and started walking. Just a few more houses, on the right.
As I slowly made my way, a strange sensation -- something like a band -- wrapped around my chest and back. My lungs felt as if they didn’t want to expand. I forced myself to breathe. To relax. Everything would be fine.
What if I didn’t find what I was looking for? What if the direction I needed, what I had lost, remained in the distance and out of reach? Or worse yet. What if I never found it again? I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be like that. New York never failed me. Nor did it cease to amaze me. I might not get exactly what I wanted, but New York always gave me what I needed -- new experiences and a recharge, even if it sometimes came at a cost. There was always a give and take.
The thought made me think of Joshua, as the city always did, and a refrain from his favorite song -- Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” -- popped into mind.
It was so easy living day by day, out of touch with the rhythm and blues…
I started to cry, secretly ashamed that after all this time I wasn’t over Joshua completely. Unable to stop the tears that escaped me, I was at least grateful there were no witnesses.
Damn you, Joshua! Why did you have to leave me alone? Why didn’t you listen? Why didn’t you quit smoking?
But what was the point of asking such questions? He’d died seven years ago now. And no matter how many people said it got easier, that I’d get over him, I never had. You never get over someone being gone. You just get used to it.
I still missed Joshua. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day. On my birthday. On his birthday. On our anniversary. When the day dawned blue with promise and when it was gray and dreary.
Holidays were the worst. Kay would call months in advance, even after the fight we’d had. She always left a message in a tone that sounded almost apologetic. She’d invite me to come and stay with her and the kids, but I never did. Not just because of our fight. I just couldn’t be around people. Loneliness was sharp enough, alone during holidays. While in the company of others, however, it was so sharp it sometimes took my breath away.
Strange how one person can invade every single cell of your body with his essence, his scent, his spirit.
Something fluttered in my heart as I stood at the curb, and I could have sworn Joshua was near. Goose bumps broke out on my flesh, the way they did when Joshua so much as smiled at me. A tender breeze, like a soft kiss, caressed my skin.
Let me go, the breeze seemed to whisper. I leaned into it with longing, as if it could possibly stroke my cheek the way he once did.
I still felt lost without him, possessed by his memory. I knew it was time to move on, but how do you put behind more than twenty years of knowing and loving someone? Sharing your dreams, thoughts, and ideas. The good times and bad. The waxing and waning cycles of sex -- sometimes even the occasional third partner to help spice things up.
It was time to put myself back out there, but I was frightened and nervous. Except for the sometimes-necessary hookup, I hadn’t dated anyone since Joshua died. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to date again. My single days hadn’t exactly been fun-filled.
But I wanted someone to hold me at night and tell me everything would be all right. Someone who would keep the monsters from crawling out from under the bed. Only I didn’t look forward to sitting in a bar, glancing into my drink or off in the distance with a detached stare, avoiding another’s gaze for fear of seeing my own desperation reflected in his eyes.
There was also the gnawing realization that of the three men I’d met in seven years, none of them had been able to satisfy my sexual cravings.
“Excuse me. Can I help you?” someone called in an accent I couldn’t place. Surprised, I sucked air sharply into my lungs and quickly wiped my tears away.
A young man in his midtwenties stood before me. He was shirtless, his hands on narrow hips, groin thrust toward me. His skin, the color of brown sugar, was naturally smooth. It looked like it would feel soft under my touch. He was toned and defined with round sculpted shoulders, perfectly shaped limbs, and washboard abs. Two veins, one on either side of his belly button, ran down on a slight angle and hid somewhere beneath worn and faded, low-riding jeans that left much to my imagination, several inches below a flat navel.
“Are you…looking for someone?” The young man’s question forced me to glance away from his groin and up into his face. He had full and luscious red lips, slightly parted. They appeared as if he had been sucking on a cherry ice pop.
He had thick, incredibly dark hair, somewhat tousled, and an almost Roman nose.
But it was his eyes that caught my breath and refused to let go. They glittered and sparkled with much life, curiosity, and wonder. Yet something dark and tumultuous, almost broody and intense, lurked near the surface.
I knew on the spot he was trouble, or perhaps just what I needed.
“I…uh,” I started, then cleared my throat, unable to break his gaze. He cocked his head, raised an eyebrow, and recognition flittered in his eyes. He smiled suddenly, and bright white teeth with sharp canines flashed at me. I was reminded of wolves and vampires. I sensed a caged animal, yearning to be free and untethered, somewhere beneath the surface.
“I…know…you.” He spoke slowly, as if searching for a memory or the right words. This new and beautiful face looked like that of a boy. Except he was all man.
“I’m --”
“No! Wait. Let me see. I know this.” He scrunched up his face, and I dared a glance away to make sure I hadn’t stumbled onto the wrong lawn. The number over the door was correct. The porch swing was still up, and the rose bushes Dad had planted in front of the porch railing were still there. Even our initials -- Kay’s and mine -- still showed through on the riser of the front step, no matter how much paint had been used to cover them.
I was definitely in the right place, but who was he? And what was he doing here? A lawn mower sat a few feet behind him. Was he the gardener? Perhaps my sister had thrown caution to the wind and started dating a younger man?
Good for you, Kay. I wish I could…
“I’ve got it!”
I didn’t have time to reply. The young man was suddenly on me. He held me in his strong arms, squeezing me tight as if we were long-lost friends. He pinned my upper arms to my sides, and all I could do was touch his bare flesh, my hands around his small waist. It was enough to disturb seven years of longing. Seven years of desire welled up deep inside me.
I tried to pull back and get away before he could feel my growing erection against him, but he held me in place. I felt the heat on my face as I blushed, knowing there was no way he could have missed it. But he didn’t say anything.
“You’re Kay’s brother. I’ve heard much about you. I’m João.” The young man pulled away from me finally. He kissed my left cheek, then my right, and smiled broadly while he held my shoulders with strong, steady hands. I was glad. His grip was probably the only thing keeping me from collapsing, as I was suddenly weak in the knees.
Another breeze blew around us. I noted the goose bumps that broke out on João’s flesh. His tiny nipples engorged as if they had been tweaked, and I could almost hear Joshua’s surreptitious laugh.
A car door slammed behind me, and a shriek split the air.
João and I both turned to see Kay emerging from her dusty and dented car. She still wore her hospital scrubs as she raced toward me. A few feet away, she stopped abruptly as if she were uncertain. Then I opened my arms, and she ran into them. We embraced.
I felt good with my big sister again. Especially since it was just the two of us left now; Mom died twelve years prior, and Dad followed six months after. Kay lost Harold when the World Trade Center fell, and I lost Joshua two years later.
But no matter how tightly my sister held me, no matter how much we cried in each other’s arms, no matter how glad we were to see each other, nothing compared to the gratification of feeling a hot man’s arms around me. I’d suspected it, but until João touched me, I hadn’t realized just how cold I’d been or how desperately I’d wanted a man in my arms once more.
“Oh God! Where are my manners?” Kay exclaimed. “I’m so sorry. Brian, this is João. João, this is my baby brother.”
“C’mon, Kay. I’m forty-eight, for crying out loud.”
“So? You’re still my baby brother.”
“I didn’t know him at first,” João said with a grin. “Then I remembered his wedding picture. To…Josh. Yes?”
“That’s right. Josh. Joshua.” I smiled and nodded, feeling as if someone had just let the air out of my balloon.
“I am sorry for your loss.” João put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. The heat from his palm made my flesh tingle with excitement, and I nervously remembered that Kay stood beside me.
“Uh…thank you. That was seven years ago now, though.”
“Time doesn’t matter if the dead still live in your heart.” João placed his hand flat against my chest, his voice soft, deep, and strangely seductive. His gaze held mine, and I felt something spark between us. By the flicker in his eyes, the dilation of his pupils, and the flare of his nostrils, I could see he had felt it too. His lips parted ever so slightly, and one corner of his mouth lifted in what looked like a curious smile.
“Two years after I lost my Harold,” Kay added distantly.
My attention was pulled away from João, but I avoided Kay’s gaze in case she was looking at me. I was still confused by what I had just felt when the young man placed a hand over my heart, and I didn’t want her to pick up on my thoughts.
There was an awkward silence.
“Enough sadness!” João exclaimed suddenly. He clapped his hands twice in the air as if to proclaim the past as something that had ended.
“You” -- he pointed at Kay, then prodded me in the chest -- “are both alive. And life…is for the living. Now, go inside and have a drink to celebrate! Catch up and have a good time. I will stay out here and finish the grass.”
“Why don’t we go inside, and I’ll make us a pot of tea,” Kay suggested. She took my hand in hers, and we walked toward the house. I glanced over my shoulder at João. He stood and watched us with a lopsided smile and an expression on his face I couldn’t read. Then he winked and turned his attention to the lawn mower.



Where Were You?

Sept. 11, 2001

I was in a classroom.

Teaching kids to think instead of accept.

Teaching kids to lead instead of follow.

Teaching kids to understand instead of judge. 

Sept. 11, 2011

It's been ten years. 

America is still brought to tears.

Be Yourself

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955