"That was five days ago. When I woke the following morning, I was wearing one of my t-shirts, must've got chilly in the night and it had dried out, but I was alone on the beach - no Dave. I searched the beach for him, even went back to the arches, but I couldn't find him anywhere. I searched all morning, ending up back at the rocks where I started, but he never came back. I haven't seen him since. All I had to remind me of him was a tube of lube and four boxes of condoms, hidden under my other shirt."
Tony stood and lifted the oversized shirt he was wearing and reached into the pocket of the shorts I had put out for him when he had arrived. From them he pulled the packets of condoms and the lube, placed them on the coffee table and sat down again.
"So what've you been doing since then?" I asked.
Tony lowered his head and paused. I waited, patiently, for the answer.
"I came back into San Francisco and spent a few days walking around - sleeping in the parks," he said. "I felt so alone without Dave. Every time I turned to say something to him, he wasn't there. I guess I'd gotten used to him being around. I tried to find him as I walked the streets, but I knew there was little hope. That's when I decided I should call home, just to see how things lay.
"I found a telephone booth and made a collect call, but my Dad wouldn't take it. I cried and cried for what seemed like hours. Why wouldn't he take my call? Was I really that bad? Did he hate me so much? That's all I kept thinking as I walked the streets and I cried myself to sleep - what sleep I got. Being alone on the streets is pretty frightening, no one to look out for you, no one to look out for. I was lonely, hungry and feeling that my life was over - I wasn't a street kid, I knew I wasn't going to hack it. So far, I'd had money, made a friend, but now, with no money, no Dave, I was just another homeless kid and I felt myself sinking fast. I had to do something about it, but what?
"I went to another call box, but I couldn't bring myself to pick up the 'phone. I was afraid that Dad would reject me again and so I looked up your name in the directory and found your address. I was going to call you, instead, but I chickened out. Guess I was afraid. It was then that I decided to face my Dad."
"I wish you had called."
"Me, too, now that I'm here," he smiled, tears in his eyes.
"So, what did you do?" I pressed, gently.
"I kept walking - all the way back to Oakland. Despite everything, I still wanted to go home and my determination to face Dad, rather than call him on the 'phone, just drove me on and I just kept going until I found myself walking up to my house. The lights were on, but I couldn't see anyone inside. I wanted to go and knock on the door - confront my Dad and tell him I was sorry. But what was I sorry for? Being gay? Being me? Why should I be sorry for that? I suddenly couldn't do it. No matter how hard I wanted to, I couldn't do it - I was afraid again - his refusal to take my call brought those questions back into my head and I walked away, down the street, I just kept walking.
"As I walked, I passed by the houses of friends from school - I hung about one or two of them in the hopes of seeing someone I knew and I did - Pete - he didn't recognize me at first, I guess I was a little grubby:
"Jesus, man, what in the hell happened to you?"
"Long story and I really don't have the energy to tell it right now."
"But, man, look at you. I didn't even recognize you."
"I could tell he wanted an explanation, but I couldn't give one - I needed his help, not his questions.
"I asked if he could get me something to eat, maybe a place to sleep for the night and he got me some food and said I could sleep in the garage - he knew his Mom wouldn't have me in the house. The garage wasn't the warmest of places and I found the car inside was unlocked, so I slipped into the back seat and fell asleep. I was awake early enough to sneak off before anyone other that Pete knew I'd even been there, thankful to have avoided explaining the situation.
"I kept walking and again I found myself in a familiar surrounding. I could see Alan and Phil, two other friends from school and I called out to them. They were amazed to see me looking like I did, just as Pete had been; and they helped me with some food - hiding me in Alan's garage while his parents were out at work. They wanted to know what happened and were more insistent than Pete, so I told them that my Dad had thrown me out, but not why - how I'd been walking around San Francisco - about helping out Joe - about staying on Ocean beach, but not about Dave, or how Charlie had taken the last of my money. I told them how I'd slept last night in the back seat of Pete's Dad's car and they sat, open-mouthed, as I related all this to them.
"Alan said I could stay in his garage that night, if I wanted to, but to wait until his folks went to bed. Said he'd make sure the garage door was unlocked so I could get in, but could make no promises about the car being unlocked. He was as good as his word and he'd even managed to unlock his Dad's car. I spent another night on the back seat of a car and by morning, I had gone again. I was exhausted and I knew this couldn't go on. I had to do something about my situation; I just didn't know what - well, actually, I did. This time I really had to go home. I was frightened at the idea and I thought about it for a while, but I knew I didn't really have any other choice and so I began to walk and as I walked I began to think, but I didn't like the scenario that was going around in my head and I almost decided to abandon the idea, but I knew if I did I would be no better off, so I drew a deep breath and decided to go for it.
"Having made that decision, I walked back to our street and stood outside our house. I summoned up all the courage I could and walked to the front door. I knocked - I'd never knocked at our door in my life, but there I was, knocking hoping for an answer and I got one:
It was my Mom who answered. She looked at me as though she was seeing me for the first time.
"Hi, Mom." It was the best I could do.
I heard a voice from inside call out.
"Who is it?"
It was my Dad's voice. There was a look of panic in my Mom's eyes.
"No one," she shouted back.
No one. She'd just told my father that I was no one. I felt the tears well in my eyes and I could see them in hers, too as she looked at me, I saw her sadness and her pain.
"Go away, Tony - your father is home - go away."
And with that she closed the door.
"I stood there facing a closed door with tears streaming down my face. I turned from our house and walked away down the street, tears falling freely, rejected by my Mom. How could she do that? 'No one' she had called me. I was her son - her only child. I was Tony - I wasn't 'no one' - or perhaps, now, I was 'no one' - perhaps I would always be 'no one' from that moment. I was confused. I was tired and hungry and I was confused.
"I walked for ages, don't know where, I just walked. I hadn't got any plan in mind. I couldn't go home, I couldn't go back to Pete's or Alan's and Mikey was away. That gave me an idea.
"I found myself heading to Mikey's - he was away with his parents, maybe I could find refuge in his garage.
"When I got there, I walked to the front door of his house and knocked, just for the sake of the neighbors. I got no answer, but I expected that. I walked to the garage, but it was locked. Another idea out of the window and so I walked again and kept walking not even knowing where I was going - not even caring anymore.
"Soon it was getting dark and I had nowhere to sleep. I heard carol singers I found myself following them down the streets and then, suddenly, they were on yours. I had no other options. I deliberated what I should do - what would you do if I knocked at your door, would you let me in? Would you turn me away? It was a risk I had to take. I could see the carol singers getting closer and I had to make a move, quickly. I found your house and I knocked at your door. I thought you were never going to answer and I knocked again and that's when you answered. 'Hello, can I help you?' you said. Could you help me? I was screaming out to be helped and you didn't recognize me, but you asked me in and I knew I'd made the right decision. The rest you know."
I felt Tony's eyes looking at me, he was crying, soft tears were rolling down his cheeks and I looked back at him and smiled. He smiled back.
"Why me?" I asked. "What made you think I could help you?"
"I don't know, really. I just remembered you from school, the way you always helped me when I was having difficulty with something, the way you smiled at me as if everything was always going to be okay. You were the best teacher I had and...."
He stopped talking. I looked at him, waiting for him to continue. He didn't.
"And?" I queried.
"I can't say."
"You've just told me about your life on the streets and you can't tell me what comes after 'and'?"
Tony smiled - a beautiful smile.
"And, " he said. "I was in love with you."
What else could I say?
"Is that it?" he asked.
"Sorry, it took me by surprise. I mean, I was your teacher and, knowing now that you're gay, I guess you had a crush - all kids have crushes on their teachers."
"It wasn't a crush. I really did love you. I fantasized about you, wanted to be with you, you were the best teacher I ever had, always caring and helping me and that's why I thought I could trust you to help me now, to save me from whatever might be lying ahead of me."
I was at a loss for words. The most beautiful student I ever had had told me he was gay and that he had been in love me, even fantasized about me and I was at a loss for words. I took a deep breath. Dare I tell him that I felt the same? I wanted to, so badly, but I resisted. I couldn't do it. How could I? He needed my help, was asking for my help, had come to me out of desperation and poured his heart out to me, revealed his private feelings and I couldn't tell him I felt the same, I couldn't complicate his life even more.
"Tony, I am flattered, honestly I am, but I'm 23-years older than you - I'm old enough to be your father."
"But you're not. You're not even my teacher, anymore. Your John - remember? Anyway, it doesn't matter, does it? I mean - my being in love with you, doesn't matter. I'm gay - and in my fantasies I can be in love with whomever I want, right? You're straight, I know that - it's fair enough, I didn't mean to embarrass you, I just needed a friend."
He rose from the armchair.
"Where you going?" I asked.
"I don't know, but I guess I should leave."
Tony shrugged his shoulders, but didn't look at me. Instead, he walked over to the small pile of clothes on the piano stool and picked them up.
"Tony, listen to me. I am your friend and I am trying to help. I want to help. It's just that - well, Jesus, Tony, I never even knew you were gay before today, let alone that you were in love with me and I'm sorry if I made it sound like anything less than that. I didn't mean to be patronizing."
Tony looked towards me and smiled, tears in his eyes.
"That's okay, I guess I'm being a little over sensitive. And as for being a friend, you have been - a good one and I don't know how to thank you."
"You don't have to thank me - it's what friends are for. Listen, it's almost time for dinner we've been sat here all day. What say I rustle us up something to eat?"
"I wouldn't say it otherwise. I want you to stay, Tony. Stay as long as it takes to sort this out. I'm not kicking you out. You came here for help, right?"
Tony nodded and I could see the tears begin to fall.
"Come here," I said.
He replaced the clothes back onto the piano stool and walked over to me and sat by my side. I put my arms around him and held him close.
"It'll be okay, right? We'll be okay - we'll figure this out together."
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