When Terry turned eighteen, he became homeless, abandoned by family and friends for being gay. Though it took him years, he has found his feet again. Then, a man from his past knocks him right back down, dredging up a memory of the time Terry stood by and did nothing as that same man was assaulted for being gay, driving home to Terry that he will never be worthy of friendship or family.
Ishmael is shocked, angry, and hurt at seeing Terry so many years after high school. After Terry's apology, however, Ishmael realizes that Terry is hurting and scarred, too. He and Terry become cautious friends. Ishmael wants to help, but Terry is reluctant to trust anyone with his pain, let alone love.
Can Ishmael and Terry get over their past for a future together?
The next Monday, he cornered me outside Shoe Haven as I finished securing the roll up door. Great.
"Terry, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to freak you out like that. I'm just concerned, is all." I really wasn't ready to have this conversation. I looked at him, willing myself to speak, but the words wouldn't come.
I adjusted my backpack and headed to the bus stop two blocks down from the store, Ishmael hot on my heels. He was persistent, I'd give him that much. I checked the time. Ten minutes until the next bus arrived.
I finally said something. "It's fine, okay? Don't worry about it. I just didn't want you to feel uncomfortable around me while I was -- still am -- off-kilter, so I thought I'd just give you some space." I took a seat on the old, worn bench at the bus shelter.
He stood before me, clearly torn. "Okay. But you didn't need to. I wasn't uncomfortable." I could feel him staring at me, but I kept my eyes on the road, looking out for the bus. "I want to be your friend."
I looked at him then. "Why? What good would that do anyway? Don't you already have friends?"
"Yeah, sure, but that doesn't mean I can't have more. Everyone needs a friend." The only things I knew about friendships were from high school. Not a great place to start.
"Why do you care, anyway? Aside from the fact that we went to school together, and I was an utter failure as a human being back then, and now we have lunches. We don't really have anything in common. I'm the last person anyone would want to hang out with."
"Sure we have things in common. We're both gay, we work in the same district, I like cheap shoes and you sell cheap shoes. How's that, for starters?"
God, he was incorrigible. I rolled my eyes and returned to my vigil. He changed tactics.
"Hey, where do you live? Can I give you a ride home? I drove to work today. I don't always do that, but I had to run an errand before my shift started." He looked so hopeful, I didn't really have the heart to say "no."
"Okay, sure. Thanks."
Ishmael clapped his hands gleefully, and a huge smile lit up his face. I followed him as he led the way back over to the parking lot behind PharmX. His car was an old, white station wagon with lots of band stickers and peace signs all over it. There were even a few pro-gay logos. I laughed out loud when I saw the Grace Jones stickers. It must have been the hair. When he saw why I was laughing, he grinned at me.
"Yup, she's been my idol since I was a kid. I love her!" If anyone took him at face value, they'd have been totally wrong. There was a lot more going on underneath the tattoos and metal, but I was the last person to judge anyone.
"I can tell," I said. He unlocked the car and we both got in.
I placed my backpack on the seat behind us, and then secured my seatbelt. He started the car.
"You know," he said as he backed carefully out of the parking lot, "I haven't heard you laugh since we started hanging out. I like it. You should do it more often."
Feeling self-conscious, I replied, "Maybe." I gave him directions to my place. It took about half an hour to get there. I offered him a couple bucks for gas fare, but he declined.
He parked in one of the spots in front of my apartment complex. "How long does it take you to get to work by bus?" he asked.
"Maybe forty-five minutes? It's not bad, just depends on traffic and how many stops the driver has to make." I thanked him and got out of the car, grabbing my backpack before I shut the door. He got out too, so I turned to face him.
"What?" I asked.
"Well, you know, as a new friend and all, the least you could do is invite me up to your apartment." He stared at me with a straight face, trying to look innocent.
I huffed out a laugh. "You're silly. If I said no, would you go away?"
"Not likely. That's not what friends do."
"Fine. Come on, then, friend, but I hope you have low expectations. There's barely enough room for me in there, much less another person. The cockroaches get along just fine, though."