Wide wedges of sun light pierce through openings in the giant cork tree, striking me in the face, making it impossible to sleep. I groggily grope for a pillow to cover my head and block out the blinding, pain-in-the-ass rays, but there isn't one. I sweep my arm over the naked bed surface searching for a sheet, but find none. It seems the tossing and turning night of tantric sex had stripped the massive pine log bed of linen.
Shielding my eyes from the sun, I roll to one side of the bed and look down at the floor - nothing. Rolling back across the moist, sweat-drenched mattress, I peer over the other side and spot the corner of a pillow, but it's way out of reach. The other pillow is still Missing In Action, not too surprising, but something else also seems to be missing this morning.
I'm too awake to go back to sleep. God, it's only 9:00 AM! No respectable person gets up this early here on Fantasy Island. I lay back for a moment longer, and stare at the slowly spinning ceiling fan. How large the dust caked on the edge of its blades has gotten impresses me. Suddenly, something darts across the wall and ducks behind the painting just above the makeshift pine board and milk crate dresser. It had to be the smaller of the two chameleons that have taken up residence with me. The fat ass one would never have fit behind the picture. They both try their damnedest to be Tropical Island White, but only seem able to achieve Designer Beige at best. I don't see the fat guy anywhere. What the fuck, guess it’s time to get up.
I hadn't the slightest urge while lying down, but sitting up I suddenly have to take a wicked piss. I stagger into the bathroom and catch Gary gecko scurrying out of the tub, up across the tiled wall, and freeze in place near the ceiling. His attempt to gain a vantage point from which to watch me is so pitifully obvious. He does the same damn thing every morning. One would think he'd have seen it enough by now. He doesn't so much as flinch as I shake off the last few drops, slide open the see-through shower curtain, and step into the tub. I have always wondered why the sudden movement of the clear curtain sporting a dozen large frogs on lily pads didn't spook him. As far as geckos go, Gary's turned out to be a pretty cool one.
I adjust the shower to as cold as it gets – tepid. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Gary slowly inching toward the spray. Like always, I slap one handful of water after another at him. He snaps and licks at them with great delight. Having lived here for two years now, I've come to recognize when a gecko's delighted. We first met right here in the shower, and in some strange way, just naturally bonded.
Gary watches with cautious curiosity as I lather up, ridding myself of last night’s gymnastic romp in the hay. I wonder how much of it this peeping reptilian Tom had been privileged to. Hell, why should I care? It's not like he hasn't seen my naked ass a thousand times. Besides, right from the start we made a pact: what happens at 1430 Thompson Street, stays at 1430 Thompson Street. I mean, what the hell; what's the world coming to when a guy can't trust a live-in lizard to keep his secrets? Besides, Gary knows all too well I saw him trying to get it on it with that fat, chameleon on the window ledge awhile back.
Making an attempt at towel drying, I walk buck naked through my studio apartment and swing the door wide open. The balmy morning rushes in, in a wave of heat and brightness. Nope, not out on the deck either. I'm forced to conclude that like the many others, last night’s little love bird has also taken flight. I quickly look around to see if Vicki, my downstairs neighbor, is out in the yard. Whew! Some days I forget to check. No problem really, other than she always gets a good laugh out of my attempt at modesty. The coast is clear, so I step outside and gaze through the great mango trees at the cloudless August sky. Yes indeed, it's going to be another sweltering, gorgeous day in paradise.
Droplets of sweat begin to bead and trickle down my chest and back - freshly showered Key West sweat. After last night's feast, I can't believe how hungry I am. First, I put on a pot of my favorite bean ~ Hawaiian Kona ~ then pour a tall glass of OJ. With the OJ, I swallow a horse pill-sized vitamin ~ a feeble attempt at feigning a healthy lifestyle. It's a cure all, at least in my own mind, intended to counter any negative effects of all my drinking and carousing. I've gotten so good at both, actually, since first arriving in the Keys. I promise myself with daily regularity, that I'll eventually get around to the book writing and painting that I told everyone back home was my reason for coming here.
With an artful flair, I prepare a plate of sliced mango and banana, scramble a few eggs with a touch of tarragon, and toast a stale Cuban roll. My, how nicely the yellows and oranges contrast against the cobalt blue of the plate. Considering how well last night went, I didn't expect to be eating breakfast alone. But hey, life seldom goes as planned, especially here on the island. With that thought, I pour another cup of coffee.
By now, the sun has risen over the tin roof and has heated the deck. My bare feet get scorched as I walk back outside to clear off the table. Fuck! My feet are burning! I hop quickly back inside to fetch my sandals. Like the fat chameleon, they're nowhere to be found. I check all known sandal hiding places, but to no avail. Slightly hung-over and feeling a bit famished, I opt for the sneakers instead. I've got to get some food in me.
Ah ha! They're right where I had left them ~ under the bed. Reaching for them, I discover the other missing pillow and an almost empty roll of duct tape. I must remember to buy some more. The posts of the huge pine log bed wouldn't accommodate the use of my overnight guest's handcuffs. Damn, those definitely were a pleasant surprise, when produced. And, thank god for duct tape. Whoa, what’s this? Behind the pillow is a second pair of sneakers ~ smaller and worn for wear.
I shake out a pair of shorts to rid them of any unwelcomed critters, slip them on along with my sneaks, and go back out for a third try at clearing a place to sit, relax, and enjoy what, by this time, is a lukewarm breakfast at best. What a sight! It looks like a war zone, a freaking disaster area! I roar with laughter at the scattered mess. Actually, it was more the aftermath of a passionate tsunami that swept over the two of us during our romantic dinner under the stars. Wow. Was it me, my gourmet cooking, the wine, the stars, or some magical combination? What does it matter? It was all so delicious and wonderful, and oh my... what a fine dessert! Okay, back to breakfast and reality.
In the center of the debris stands a half empty wine bottle. Conspicuously protruding from its opening is a rolled sheet of paper. At first I don't know what to make of it. With the cautious curiosity of a gecko, I carefully remove and unroll it. It's a note. My heart begins to race as I read it… and then read it again, and again:
"Hey tiger. Didn't want to wake you. Went for a swim. Hope for your sake you're well rested and ready when I get home! = )
btw ~ I took your sandals."
Home? Rested and ready? Forget about this brandy coffee. I need the bottle!
It's the middle of Happy Hour, and the place is practically empty. A quick look around reveals a surprisingly low patronage for this restaurant-bar, even for a Monday night.
"Hi, Greg!" comes a cheerful greeting, as I walk around to my favorite barstool. "Bud Light and Paul Masson tonight?" she asks. Damn, not only does she remember my name, but what I had to drink the last time. That’s impressive; very impressive indeed.
"Uh, no…just the beer, please," I reply. For the life of me, I cannot remember hers. She's a very pleasant girl, plain, but cute in the face in a wholesome girl-next-door sort of way. Okay, she’s lugging around more than a few extra pounds, but has such a genuine, effervescent personality. And, oh my, what ta-ta’s…quite generously endowed, if one is into such things. God, what is her name?
"Hungry tonight?" she asks. Swallowing a gulping mouthful of brew, I can’t utter a thing before she adds, "Would you like the chicken basket deal like you had last time?"
I intended only to stop for a beer or two, but her wide-eyed willingness to please me, makes me cave. That chicken sure was good, and that would save me from having to think up something for dinner later. "Sure, that would be excellent, uh…"
“Lynn,” she fills in, “My name’s Lynn.”
“Of course it is,” I lie, “I know that.” Judging from the big smile lighting up her face, I figure a little dishonesty can go a long way in situations like this. Without hesitation, she darts off to the kitchen to place the order. Bar orders, and especially off-the-menu options like the owner had offered me last time, have to be placed in person. God, it's been a hot one today. Stopping for the beer was the best decision I made all day. Another generous splash of cool, refreshing, carbonated libation rushes down my throat. Ahhhhhhh. That was so-o-o good!
Caught up in the throes of my beergasm, I didn't notice Lynn had returned. She wasn’t back behind the bar, but behind me now, with her a on my shoulder. Whoa. What’s up with this? I'm unsure just how to react. I played it cool, and pretended not to notice.
"So, how was your day?" she asks while scratching my back up and down, back and forth with her long fingernails. I’ve noticed those killer nails before and wondered how she was able to work the keys on the register. They’ve got to be fake. Her touch sends goose bumps racing in all directions across my upper body Jeeeezus, that feels good! So good, in fact, the initial awkwardness melts away, and I find decide to accept this pleasurable experience as nothing more than great bar hospitality.
"My day's been just fine," I tell her. "Thanks so much for asking. I'm finally all moved into my new place." As those words are leaving my mouth, I’m completely taken back by the sudden appearance of a cute, new server. He's tall - I would almost say: a skinny kid - with dark, curly hair. God, he's nice! Sauntering gracefully by, he looks at me once, and then a second time on the way to a table of newly arrived guests. Do I look odd, or interesting to him? Or could it be the back scratching that caught his attention? Pondering the possibilities, I realize that I've not heard a word Lynn’s been saying – something about moving, I think.
Lynn abruptly moves back to her post behind the bar when another server comes up to get his drink order, which she hasn’t filled yet. I return to my beer and studying the new curly-haired server as he does his thing. The back scratching has stopped, yet something in my direction still seems to be holding his attention. He seems to intentionally be making it a point to look over each time his duties bring him back out on the floor.
Lynn’s gone again. I didn't notice her leave. She must have gone to the kitchen to get my food. No, wait a sec, she’s at the entrance chatting with the hostess. Downing the last of my beer, I see the new cutie pie coming out of the kitchen with a food basket in hand. He takes it over to the hostess station. Lynn points my way, and sends the little darling on a beeline path to me.
Stepping up alongside, he places the basket on the bar in front of me. "Sir, I believe this is yours," he says, with the most melodic voice. The sound of it surprises me, being it was considerably manly for a slight, almost girlish looking boy. My god, he must be hung like a stallion, with balls gloriously hanging down to his knees! He remained standing there, a huge grin across his baby smooth face. What beautiful teeth he has, and so white. I’m half afraid to look straight into his piercing green eyes; afraid that if I do, he will know my thoughts.
"Yes, thank you. Thank you very much," is my very unspectacular reply. I'm so disappointed with myself. I know I could've done much better, had my mind not already been in his pants.
"What's your name, by the way?" I ask in the awkwardness of his still standing there.
"Chris," he cheerfully replies, very willing to share it, almost as if he was hoping I would ask. Pointing to his shirt, and with a bit of a laugh, he adds, “Same as the name tag!” Don’t I feel dumb.
"Well, Chris," I say, "I appreciate your taking care of me." Taking care of me? Did I just say taking care of me? I wish he were taking care of me! Am I being too obvious? God, I hope not. I'm so unskilled at this game.
"No trouble at all," he says, adding, "Looks like you could use some flatware. I'll be right back with some."
"While you're at it," I say, "it'd be nice to have some napkins and condiments also."
"Oh yeah, right," he agrees, quickly dashing off. Lynn is an okay bartender, and an excellent back scratcher, but seriously lacking in the serving department. Before completing that thought, Chris is back by my side. It took him no longer two shakes of a French fry.
"May I get you anything else?" he asks.
"No thanks, Chris,” I reply. “I’m good, for now." I like the way saying his name feels in my mouth. I would love to feel more than his name there.
"Well, just wave me over, if you do. I don't mind, really I don't," he says backing away from with a slight bow, as if I were royalty. Was he mocking or being respectful? Too early to tell for sure. Watching him walk away, a huge wave of goose bumps comes crashing over me. It feels almost as good as when Lynn scratched my back. I don't know, on second thought, maybe better.
Speaking of Lynn, there before me, are two of the biggest, most succulent, breasts - definitely Dolly Parton portions. As I sink my hungry mouth into the juicy tenderness of one of them, a hand touches my back.
"How's everything?" Lynn asks, running her hand all over my back in random circles. Struggling to chew, and swallowing to answer, I manage to get out the word "excellent" without spitting any food out.
"I'm off tomorrow," she informs me. "I'm thinking about going to the beach at Assateague. Busily chewing, I say nothing, but only nod.
"What do you have planned for tomorrow?" she follows up with. Uh-oh, I suddenly see where this is headed, or where she's hoping it will head. I allow my imagination to drift momentarily to the possibilities that might exist between me, her, and the word "head." I don't know. On second thought, it might be worth considering.
"Unfortunately, I already have plans for tomorrow," I find myself saying, feeling a noticeable sense of relief. At that, the back scratching immediately stops, and she walks back behind the bar ~ a metaphor, I suppose. I think she's beginning to realize there’s a barrier stifling her advances. She's not smiling, and busies herself with mundane bar tasks, which finally allow me some peace to finish my chicken, which is barely warm now...just like Lynn.
The unsettling silence begins filling me with guilt. Perhaps I shouldn't be so indifferent. She's really a sweet girl. Spending a day with her could be nice. She could become a good friend ~ nothing more than she probably becomes to most guys she meets. It's obvious she's looking for something more from me. Perhaps she would feel safer, more comfortable, having her needs met by an older man. But, hey…I'm not a social worker, and certainly don't ever feel I owe anyone a sympathy fuck. Now, the breasts have become dry and tasteless to me.
During the remainder of the meal, at least three separate times I see Chris peeking at way from behind a divider. I intentionally distract myself so as not to appear to notice. I take a five dollar bill from my wallet and fold it in thirds, so that only Lincoln's portrait is displayed, and tuck it in my shirt pocket for the time being.
"Lynn," I say, loudly, to get her attention back, "I'd love to have one last beer, if I may please…one for the State Police." I hope the joke might break the tension, no such luck. She remains expressionless, methodically pouring the beer, and uneventfully places it down before me.
"You know," I feel compelled to tell her, "If I didn’t already have plans, I’d love to hang out with you at Assateague - that is, if I were invited to. So, maybe another time." A small, cautious smile returns to her face. I couldn't bear to leave her feeling down. She deserves better. Anyone deserves better.
"Yeah, maybe another time," she repeats. "I'd like that."
"Me too," I say. "I'll be back on and off over the summer. If not for the beer and great food, you can bet it'll be for one of those marvelous back scratches." That gets an award winning smile. Score! I ask for the check. As she processes my payment, I look around for Chris, and spot him hanging out with other servers in the back by the to go orders.
"Here you go," she says handing me my credit card and a pen.
"Thanks for making this an extra special happy hour, Lynn," I say. "You're a sweet girl."
"I also wait at the Snow Hill Café on weekends," she quickly throws at me, taking full advantage of the moment. "In case you're ever in the area, stop in for happy hour there sometime. It's all day on Saturdays. I'll take good care of you."
Yeah, right. I bet you will, I think to myself. “Hey, thanks," I reply. "I'll definitely keep that in mind." I surprise myself with the level of genuineness in that response. Grabbing my keys and glasses, I push away from the bar and head toward the back of the restaurant. Chris has his back turned to me and doesn't notice me approaching. Another server alerts the bunch, stopping the conversation, and causes them all to turn my way.
"I've got a question for you," I say to directly to a visibly caught off guard Chris. "Who was the sixteenth President of the United States?" The unexpected, off-the-wall question brings a red blush to his cheeks. He's a good sport and rallies to the challenge. Like a contestant in a TV game show, he begins looking up and down, and all around for the answer; rolling his eyes, snapping his fingers, and stammers out, "Oh…oh…I know this one. Don't tell me. I know that I know this one!"
I give him all the time he needs. Thank god it's a slow night. The other boys do nothing to rescue him, but seem to revel in their buddy’s predicament.
"Lincoln!" he finally shouts out. "Abraham Lincoln!"
"Is that your final answer?" I mock.
"Yes," he responds with exaggerated poise and air of confidence.
"You're a winner!" I say, grasping his hand and shaking it, maybe a little too long. During the handshake, he looks down at the handshake, and then back up straight into my eyes, sporting a big grin, and his sparkling eyes penetrating deeply into my soul. I reach into my pocket and produce the portrait of Lincoln. Showing it to each of the boys, I hold it up before Chris and gesture that he take ie. He doesn't seem to know what to make of the whole affair, but graciously accepts the "five."
"Thanks, I think,” he says. “What's this for?"
"Even though I was sitting at the bar,” I say, “I consider you as my server tonight. You earned it. Sorry it’s not more. I just wasn’t able to think up a god question for Andrew Jackson. Perhaps, I’ll be better prepared next time.”
"You really don't have…," he starts, but I cut him off.
"I know I don't have to, Chris," I appreciate your thoughtfulness in making my dinner pleasant experience. I want to."
"Wow!" he says, waving the folded paper trophy in the air. "This makes my day. You have no idea how much this really makes my day!" You made my day, I think to myself, regretting not having the courage to say it out loud.
“Hey, I’m glad to have made a positive difference,” I say, reminding him, “it’s only a five. But, had you come by at least one more time and asked if everything was all right, you may have gotten another twenty five cents out of me." This absurd comment gets a hearty laugh out of the whole bunch. I could so easily get into the habit of making one of them laugh.
"Are you done at the bar," he asks. "I mean, are you leaving now?"
"Yes," I say. And, with my best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, I add, "But, I'll be back." Why did you feel you had to do that, Greg?
Turning, and walking away before I say or do anything else I might regret, I get no more than three steps before hearing Chris’ manly voice say, "I'll be here!"
I could’ve been out the door in under a minute, only I meet the owner, a friend of mine, on his way in. One minute easily turns into five. Finally, I head outside to my waiting car.
Driving home, I can’t get my mind off of that tall, curly-haired boy. I wonder if he’s eighteen. Shame on you, Greg! What are you thinking? He’s probably not even gay, let alone have an interest in an older man. All-in-all, it was a great happy hour – the kind of stuff that fuels the fondest of fantasies. I best leave it at that.
Walking outside, I’m almost to my car when someone yells, “Hey!” I turn around, and see Chris jogging toward me.
“Chris,” I say with surprise, “ did I leave something inside.”
“Yes,” he says nervously, “well, no, not really.”
“What’s in your hand? I ask, seeing he’s holding a folded piece of paper. “Something for me?”
“Yes,” he says, handing it to me. “Uh, this is not like me at all, but, uh…I thought you might want this. You know…just in case...maybe.” Before I can say anything more, he ducks back inside. Once in the car, I open the paper. There, to my utter amazement is a phone number. Beneath it is a great big smiley face – one almost as big as the one on my face.