New York television soap opera heart-throb, actor Nathan Thorne, travels to Key West on an open-ended vacation from the pressures of the big city. He’s there to scout out the keys as possibly a new home where he can create the life he wishes to free him from the effects of a double tragedy in relationships and an even darker past he doesn’t want to face.
Having booked into the center of freestyle gay life activity on the key’s Duval Street, Nathan is immediately caught up in both the carefree gay male “whatever brings pleasure” atmosphere of Key West and in no less than four relationships offering him a widely divergent set of preference choices.
These are choices, however, that prove to be entangled with each other. Each offers both a release and a reconnection with the tragedies he is trying to escape. Only one man, however, the most incongruous and potentially most dangerous of those he links to, forces him to face his demons and points him to the path of satisfaction and healing. The question remains, however, which of these paths Nathan will choose to walk down.
He went out on the balcony and looked down on Duval Street, which seemed to be getting busier by the moment. He heard a cat call and looked down at the sidewalk to receive an offer to come up and join him. But he just smiled, waved the offer off, and withdrew into his room. He changed into swim trunks, pulled shorts on over those, shrugged on a T, grabbed a towel, and clattered down the stairs and out onto the street in his sandals. Smiling his way through the whistles and requests to know him better, he escaped to the Audi 4, headed east on Duval and then south on Truman.
The clerk had been right—about both things. The sun was going down by the time he got out on the beach and the beach was nearly deserted. As he’d driven out on Duval all of the foot traffic seemed to have been heading toward the Bourbon Street Pub area. The clerk had also been right that there were rock outcroppings on this beach, creating pockets of privacy. Nathan found such a pocket area from where he could go down to the water and then come back and lay on his towel and be entirely alone.
He wasn’t really alone on the beach, of course. The first couple of private areas between the rocks he had passed were occupied, by couples—coupling. He looked aside and moved briskly on from these. The memories were still painful to him. He was here to be alone. Wasn’t he?
Each moment as he sat, knees bent up into his chest, on the towel and peered out into the ocean, moonlight shimmering off the surface of the gently rolling waves, he thought that it would be his last minute here, that he was ready to stand and return to his hotel. But he lingered, as if he was waiting for something. Why had he come out here at all? Was it because of what he’d heard about the Key West beaches?
What had he come to Key West for? Was it some sort of last-ditch effort to end this numbness? To regain feeling? To somehow find life again? To somehow bypass the pain and guilt he felt whenever he was able to feel anything at all?
It certainly wasn’t to be alone. He could be alone in New York. He had been alone in New York for months.
It was time finally. Nathan moved to rise, but as he did so, his view to the water was blotted out. Someone was there.
“Oh, you’re alone.”
“Yes, no one else here,” Nathan answered, as if conveying that whoever the owner of the voice was looking for was not to be found here.
“Do you want to be alone?”
That question was much too fundamental for Nathan to respond to immediately, and the young dark-haired man took that as a “no,” entered the crevice in the rocks, knelt beside Nathan, and rocked back on his haunches.
“Hi, I’m Gene. You come here to hook up?”
Yet another fundamental question that Nathan didn’t know the answer to. It perhaps was what he had wanted subconsciously by coming to Key West at all, but he hadn’t openly considered the question.
“I just flew in today . . . from New York. Wanted to check the beach out.”
“This beach?” the guy asked. He seemed so fresh and alive—in a cheery curly dark-haired athletic way that made anything he said sound innocent and natural. “You know what sort of beach this is?”
“I’ve heard,” Nathan said.
“So, did you come to hook up or to be alone? Should I shove off?”