Cliff Allen gains some bad news when his buddy-crush and next-door-neighbor, Seb Rockfield, decides to move away. Cliff not only loses his evening drinking pal, deep conversationalist, and smoking-bro, but he also realizes he’s out his best friend and ... a special man he has fallen head over heels in love with.
It’s true. Cliff has unequivocally become heart-swollen for the adorable, younger, and sexy grease monkey, Seb. There’s nothing Cliff can do to stop the move. As the pathetic cliché goes: It is what it is.
Cliff attempts to pick his life up and ... stalks Seb. Why not? What does he have to lose? Then Seb is mugged on an evening run and resorts to Cliff for help. Cliff gains the opportunity to nurse Seb back to health ... until Seb turns up missing.
Where is Seb Rockfield? Cliff begins to panic and searches high and low for his pal. He becomes uncontrollable, determined to find his love. Numerous questions drive his hunt: Is Seb safe? Is he lost? Is he playing a game and hiding from Cliff? Is he alive?
As Cliff searches, his feelings for Seb only increase and he realizes how love can push his drive forward, through danger and devastation, closer to a forever bond.
The end of us is near. I’m not a fool and know this. The reality is quite evident and relevant. Seb’s a big boy who must move on. He’s not a baby bird anymore who needs to stay in the nest. He has Beefy Boy and his other four buddies. As I’ve already said, he’s an assistant manager at the garage where he works and he knows exactly what he needs and wants in life. For now his life entails being away from his father, 575 Rand Street, and me. He no longer needs the careful handling of Mr. Red Rockfield. Nor does he need my body, particularly my dick in his mouth. Bottom line: Seb is moving on. Here and now. It’s his time to drive away. So long. Farewell.
The five young men do not return for a second load this morning. Truth: I won’t see Seb for another two days. For now: He carries a box of books out of his father’s house and loads them into his Mazda. The heat rises above one hundred degrees and he’s shirtless. Perspiration drips down and along his bony spine. The cotton/Rayon rim at his waist near the nape of his spine is drenched in sweat. Even the fine, blond hairs on his legs are matted-wet because of the heat. Doesn’t matter to him. He still labors, moving. First a box of books, now a box fan, two desk lamps, and a computer chair. He stuffs it all into his compact car like making piggies in a blanket. Stuffs. Stuffs. Stuffs.
During this time, he doesn’t see me. Drives away. Across town. To the North Side. The Spanish War Streets. I know this because I follow him in my truck. Keeping a distance. Three or four vehicles behind him. I want to know where he now lives. I must know. Follow him as he makes a right on Espadar Street. Follow him as he makes a left on De Sol Avenue. Drives halfway down, and stops. Parks in front of an old bank that’s now a Neo-classical apartment building. Walks inside the building. Returns to the Mazda with Malcolm. And the two of them unload the Mazda in a matter of minutes, settling Seb into his new place.
No. I don’t learn if the young men are boyfriends or lovers, although I want to, and intend to. Who is this the beefy stud of a man who helps my once-neighbor? What is he doing in Seb’s life? How exactly are the two young men connected? They must be more than friends. And where do I fit into their mix, if at all?
They unpack the Mazda in record time and vanish inside the old bank. I calculate that Seb’s new place is located on the third floor, in the rear, because I don’t see his frame’s shadow in any of the bank’s front windows. Nor do I see Malcolm’s.
Comes down to this: How quickly Seb vanishes from my world. In one snap. Here today. Gone the next. Lost.
What do I do? Drive away? Don’t we all do this when love slips away out our inelegant lives? It seems the most appropriate action to take. The most civil. The sanest activity to protect ourselves from pain. Of course it does. Just drive ... drive ... drive away. And keep driving.
* * * *
A few days later I send Seb a text. Why not? What do I have to lose since he doesn’t live next door and he becomes harmless? The text reads: You busy? Have a second? Need to talk.
An hour slips by and he doesn’t respond. Two hours. Six hours. Twelve hours. It’s after midnight when he shows up at my front door in nothing more than a pair of running shorts. No shoes. No shirt. No phone. I don’t even see his Mazda parked next door or in front of my place.
A rainstorm leaves him about as wet as a dog and I can’t tell if he’s been crying or not. I do note that he shivers from head to toes. Not because it’s cold out, probably because he’s upset and in a state of uncertain anxiety. Something bad has happened in his young world. Something upsetting. Urgent. Sinful. I’m not sure. But I want to help him. At least as best that I can.
“Seb, what’s going on?” I ask, hold the screen door open for him, step aside, and welcome him inside.
He shakes his head, trembles. “I ... I can’t ... I can’t remember most of it.”
I see the cut on his right forearm: two inches long, a mere slice from a stainless-steel blade or sliver of sharp glass. Watery blood drips on the Oriental rug. As he stands on the rug, I quickly instruct him, “Stay here. I’ll get you a towel and a bandage ... I’ll get you cleaned up.”
Thunder cracks overhead. Lightning slashes through the neighborhood. And the three rivers rise and rise and rise as the drama inside my living room continues to unfold, layer by layer.
I bandage his arm first with gauze and medical tape. Next, I dry off his hair, shoulders, and chest with a towel. We stand face to face and it’s the first time I see his black eye: swollen, puffy, red- and purple-rimmed. There’s blood in his left eye, which leaves me say in surprise, “Jesus. You really got socked. Are you sure you can’t remember what happened?”
He sniffs snot into his nose, shakes his head. “Can I get a warm shower, Cliff?”
“Sure. We can put a fresh bandage on afterward. Whatever you want ... Whatever you need. I’ll get you a fresh pair of underwear, a shirt, and shorts. They might be a bit big on you, but you’ll survive. I’ll walk you upstairs.”