Tall, intelligent, and handsome, Hatch Lye is works for Ravenous, a company that tests cookbook recipes for publishing houses. At thirty-five, he’s pretty much settled in his ways.
Then unexpectedly, things change for him when he makes an afternoon coffee run. On the street corner, he meets a homeless man named Kevin Balk. They exchange smiles, a simple hello, and Hatch gives the man money. Without thinking through the consequences of his actions, Hatch invites Kevin back to his home for a meal, shower, and much-needed sleep.
What transpires between the two men over shared meals and the next few weeks of autumn? Can their different lives come together as a romance begins, and secrets of Kevin’s mysterious life are revealed?
That evening, following a late afternoon nap and light dinner, I found myself on Lincoln Street again; this time in search of caramel macchiato latte at one of my favorite downtown coffee shops, Grounds.
Sometime before seven in the evening as the heavens filled with ominous, earth-ending thunderstorms, lightening, and some minor flooding in Channing, I stopped at the corners of Lincoln and Dise. Unsurprised, a drenched Kevin stood there with his sign in hand, its Sharpie-printed letters bleeding together. He grinned, perhaps happy to see me. I do believe it was the first time I had noticed his good-looking smile: fully white and straight teeth, no gaps, real. He wore dirty, rain-wet jeans, a grease-stained T-shirt, and a jean jacket that had seen better days. Well-used, off the Goodwill rack boots protected his feet from the storm, maybe keeping them dry. A navy ball cap rested on his head, shielding his beautiful eyes and nose from the wet.
Strangely, I felt drawn to the man. The questionable and changing physics of the world pulled us together in its mysterious and unknowing way. A sense of magnetism had taken over my interest, and heart, because of him, and for him. Not only did I find Kevin intriguing and eye catching for all unfamiliar reasons, I thought of him as needing my help, one who bizarrely was reaching out to me for food, money, a place to sleep ... something ... since I had randomly and frequently bumped into him, again and again.
I pulled over to the curb as close as the Jeep could get, flicked on its four-way flashers, and opened the driver's side window. Then I called out the obvious to him, "You're soaked, guy. This storm is going to make you catch a killer cold."
His handsome grin grew wider and he semi-yelled through the pouring rain, "A man's gotta make a living through rain or shine."
Without thinking, spontaneity taking over my mind and body, acting upon my unidentified attraction to the man, I told him, "Get in. I'm sure you need a break from the rain."
Without a challenge he circled the front of the Jeep, climbed inside. "You're a risk taker, Hatch. I could be dangerous. The last thing you probably need in your life is to be mugged and end up on the evening news."
"I'll take my chance with you. My intuition is telling me you're a good man."
He nodded: confident, large grin, sexy. "I like a man who takes chances."
Truth be told, I wanted to reach out and wipe the grime away from his cheeks. Then, I wanted to fulfill some kind of misunderstood desire for the unkempt stranger and kiss him, bridging our worlds together as one. Confusion kept me motionless behind the vehicle's wheel. "What's your last name, Kevin?"
"Balk. My family's from England."
"You hungry? I'm sure you are. The rain always makes me hungry."
"I'm always looking for my next meal. Street life is like that. My stomach never stops growling."
"And you have nowhere to sleep tonight, right?"
"The shelter might be available on Hind Street, but it's after seven and is usually filled by now."
Off the cuff, no longer using the brain cells god had provided me, I blurted, "How would you like some food in your stomach and a warm bed tonight?"
Rather abruptly, keeping his stare locked on mine, he said, "I'm not a hustler. Even homeless guys have limits."
"That's not what I want from you, Kevin. Human to human, I'm reaching out to you, offering you the basics of survival, food and bed. What do you say?"
He thought of his opportunity for a handful of seconds, silent and dripping wet from being on the curb with his sign. Strangely, he looked in the side view mirror, possibly in search of witnesses to his presence inside my Jeep, maybe going over his next crime scene within his mind. He and I were the only two on Lincoln, which gave him the perfect opportunity to take advantage of me.
"You'll set me up a hotel with a restaurant?"
That wasn't my intention whether he realized it or not. "I was thinking about driving you to my house, feeding you, and letting you spend the night there."
Silence consumed the Jeep's interior.
He looked at me.
I looked at him.
"So, I get it. You don't have to do this if you don't want to. I understand unsafe this concept is for the both of us, but as you said, I'm a risk taker, and something tells me that you're can also be one when you want."
"Thank you," he murmured, settling into his set and becoming comfortable. "And God bless you for giving me a warm bed and food tonight."