For December 4th it was warm in Hyattsville. Fall hadn't been bad. Maybe a little too much rain in October but November was dry and we really hadn't hit a prolonged cold spell yet. There were cold days in November but there were also warm days. Whatever the weather was going to do, it hadn't done it yet.
You might ask, why the weather report? Who cares? Well, I'm a trucker and weather is the most important thing after picking up and delivering on time. I plan my route according to what the weather man says.
You make better time on dry pavement. A good trucker wants the miles behind him. If you're stuck in a snowbank or jackknife on an icy road, you won't be covering many miles.
A good trucker covers a lot of miles every day and he knows where the storms are coming from and where they are going.
The College Park Inn was easy to reach from Hyattsville or anywhere else in town. It sat a few hundred yards from the Capitol Beltway. It was probably in Beltsville according to most maps but before the Beltway it had been in College Park.
The Beltsville Inn didn't have the same satisfying ring to it. Regardless of where it was the steaks were sumptuous. The T-bone dinner for two was a bargain, rain or shine.
Tonight Rick took Joanne, his accountant, there for a long overdo dinner treat. It might have turned into a trick on Rick, after he saw his long ago lost love.
Rick picked up Joanne at seven and they were seated and placed their order by 7:30. They chatted until their salads arrived and then they ate. Rick was home for the rest of the month and he owed Joanne several sumptuous meals. She was a magician when it came to accounting. She saved him a lot of money each April when the tax man came calling.
“You know you don't have to do this,” Joanne said for the seventh time.
“Yes I do. I should do it more often, Joanne.”
“Except for you being on the road most of the time. You cover a lot of miles and when you do get home, you don't need to do this.”
“Yes I do.”
The steaks arrived and the conversation hit pause as they savored the excellent food.
“How long are you home for this time?” Joanne asked.
“This year I plan to stay for Christmas. I won't leave until after New Years. After five years the truck needs a good going over. I haven't had a major breakdown on the road and I don't plan to have one any time soon. Preventive maintenance works and I need to get another five years out of this truck.”
Before Rick finished the sentence he became distracted by something across the room. It took another minute for Joanne to realize she'd lost Rick to something that had his attention.
Finishing her steak she pushed her plate away and folded her napkin in her lap. Rick's eyes were locked on something across the restaurant. Joanne didn't need to be taken to dinner but when she was, she wanted the attention of the person she went to dinner with. She tried to get Rick back from where ever he'd gone.
“You going to have dessert, Rick?” Joanne asked.
If he heard her he didn't respond. Joanne enjoyed the apple pie at this restaurant but she didn't want to indulge herself alone.
Rick was staring at a couple near the entrance. Time and memories propelled him a long way from the College Park Inn. His past closed in on the life he controlled so tightly. He was powerless to stop it. His life was spinning out of control. He couldn't find the brake.
He'd seen a face from the past and he couldn't look away.
“Rick, you don't take me out often. The least you can do is pay attention to me when you do,” Joanne said.
She turned in her chair to see what he was looking at.
“Who are you looking at?” she asked.
“I heard you, Joanne. I just couldn't speak. Someone I knew once is sitting near the door. Seeing him is a shock.”
He looked at Joanne while he spoke but his eyes were soon back across the restaurant.
“Do you want to go or do you want to have dessert and keep looking at who ever you find so interesting.”
“I just ate a half pound of steak. No dessert, but you go ahead. I'll be right back,” he said, getting up from the table.
Walking between tables, he went into the men's room.
He stepped inside and looked around. Seeing no one, he went to one of the urinals and he peed. He heard nothing. He went to one of the two sinks and washed his hands. After drying his hands, he waited for a minute and he washed them again.
There were two sinks and one way out. He was waiting until David came out of the stall. If he didn't stop to wash his hands, Rick would tackle him before allowing him to get out the door. He'd made up his mind. They were going to talk.
He washed his hands for the third time. He was determined to come face to face with David. It might not go well but he was going to try. It had been a long time. There was no reason they couldn't talk.
After washing his hands the third time, he heard the latch on one of the stall doors released. What was he going to do if it wasn't David. For the first time he wasn't positive it was David.
The door of the stall swung open and the guy inside walked straight to the sink. They were standing six inches apart. Rick looked into the mirror to see his face. David was carefully washing his hands. He showed no sign that he recognized his love of five years. He continued washing them until he slowly looked up.
“You haven't gotten them clean yet,” David asked.
The bathroom door opened and a middle aged man came into pee. David stepped back from the sing, grabbing some paper towels. The man finished and went to the sink David vacated. David continued to dry his hands. The man looked at one of them and then the other. He washed and dried his hands and left.
“If you hadn't come out of that stall, I'd have kept washing them, David,” Rick said.
“You would. We don't have anything to say to each other. I'm a married man. I have a good life. I don't want to talk about old times.
“You haven't changed? Damn you look good,” Rick said.
“You going to wash them again?” David asked.
“Only if I need to. I chafe easy,” Rick said.
“I was hoping you'd leave. I should have known better,” David said. “What are you doing here, Charlie?”
“Having dinner do you think?”
“Why'd you follow me in here. You know I'm married. I have nothing to say to you,” David said succinctly.
“I thought it would upset your wife if I went to say hello to my former lover at your table,” Rick said. “You came in here and I thought you wanted to talk.”
“I came into the bathroom to go to the bathroom,” David said.
“I'm married. I left you and that part of my life behind. Why don't you go back to your table and I'll go back to mine?”
“I'm not ready to go back to my table.”
David said nothing as they stood face to face. Another man came in. David washed his hands again. He stepped back to dry them as the man stepped between them to wash his hands. He left.
“It was a long time ago. You left me,” David said.
“I beg your pardon,” Rick said. “Who left whom? 'I want to move home. I want to be with my friends.' You left. You don't remember that? Is your memory really that bad?”
“I was mad at you. You knew I'd come back. I always did. You left me,” David insisted.
“It's difficult not to leave when you're a truck driver, David.”
“You left me,” David said and the tears began to flow.
It was complicated and following his former lover into the bathroom wasn't a well thought out plan. Nothing Charlie and David did was well thought out. They'd been young and too much in love.
Having heard enough Rick took a step forward. He wrapped his arms around David. He fully expected an even louder protest and David would storm out of the bathroom.
David didn't storm out. He didn't pull away. He did get quiet.
There was only one thing to do and Rick did it. It was stupid. They hadn't seen each other in the last five years. What made him think that he could get away with kissing him.
David did nothing to discourage the kiss. He didn't kiss Rick back. That was something but he stood there and allowed himself to be kissed and that kiss was no polite peck. David knew that kiss meant serious business. He thought of pulling away.
He pulled away from Rick five years before. He had been angry and Rick disappeared from his life. He didn't pull away now. The kiss lingered until David was kissing him back. This couldn't be happening was the thought they shared.
He'd brought Joanne to the restaurant where he took David while they were in love. He never gave a thought to the idea that David might be taking his wife to the restaurant they favored over others.
The embrace loosened. Two men standing in a public restroom looking at their shoes. Made speechless by the meeting, they were kissing again. The kiss was no small affair. Their bodies clashed in an attempt to get even closer. It wasn't possible to get close enough.
“My wife!” David said, after the kiss ended.
Rick said nothing. He knew he was touching someone else's property. He didn't need to do that. He'd loved David too much. He hated being separated from him. He loved David first. He couldn't imagine loving anyone more.
They stood a foot apart. They were both shaking with passion that was running out of control. They couldn't stay there. They couldn't leave. What was happening to them?
“I'll never love anyone more than I love you, David. I don't even think it's possible to love someone more than I love you.”
“Don't tell me that. I'm married for Christ sake. I can't do this, Charlie. We can't do this.”
“I know,” Rick said.
Neither of them moved. Rick wouldn't move until David left. He couldn't move.
“Who's the lady? I thought you didn't date women.”
“She's my accountant. I'm gay. Don't you remember?” Rick said.
“Why'd you have to come here tonight? I was doing fine without you. You left me,” David protested again.
“No, I left your friends. You wanted to be with them. Remember? You left me to be with them. You were always with them and I wanted someone who needed to be with me,” Rick said.
“I was with you. We slept together every night,” David said.
“Wasn't enough. I wanted to be with you day time, night time, Saturdays too. You wanted to be with your buddies. I stopped trying.”
Rick kissed him again because he could. There was no reason not to, and David slowly wrapped himself around his lover. David initiated the next hiss. The passion in the kiss was evident.
David didn't want this. He wanted to say no. He didn't. They were transported back to a perfect time when they shared a perfect love. They couldn't go back but they could hold each other now.
“I love you, David,” he said. “I love you so much.”
David's tears told a story. He was born on the tough side of Hyattsville. He ran with a tough crowd. They weren't tough by design. They were toughened by necessity. You got tough or you died.
Loving a man was as foreign as fine art and summer homes. Falling in love with a man didn't mean you weren't tough. It didn't remove the motivation for getting tough. You got tough or you became one against the world.
There was no mystery in why David couldn't just walk away from his friends. They protected each other. They stood by each other. They knew everything about the other boys. They knew David spent most of his time with the Harvey Dairy milkman and David didn't care.
The tears in David's eyes told another story. It was the story of a torrid love affair. It was about mixed emotions and the desire to love and to be loved. He'd been tough enough to love a man and tough enough to leave him. When he left he went back to his friends.
The undercurrents that ran just beyond their control swept them away. Both were able to swim ashore. They swam to different shores. They looked at each other over an expanse of years. They were young and so much in love but no longer together.
The kisses weren't real. This was a dream they were having together. A dream they'd both had before. This was a fleeting moment being lived on the edge of reality and in a minute they'd go back to the lives that grew out of their separation.
When they go will they have a better understanding?
As they stood a step apart the bathroom door swung open. A man had come to pee. He couldn't help but notice the posture of the two men facing each other in front of the sinks. He shrugged and went about his business.
It was eerily quiet for the minute it took the man to pee. Rick stepped back this time. David couldn't move. The man moved between them after looking at their faces. He washed his hands. He went to the door, looked back, and left with a story he'd tell his wife.
“You can't guess what happened when I went to pee. Two men were in there crying. They're standing there still.”
“You know he thinks we're crazy,” David said. “I must be crazy.”
“I'm crazy. I've been crazy about you since we met,” Rick said.
“do you need to say stuff like that?”
“The truth?” Rick asked.
David was ready to leave.
“How long are you home for?” David asked.
“My truck's in the shop. It'll be after New years. I'm not usually home over the holidays,” he said.
“I know. That's why I asked,” David said.
“How would you know?” Rick asked.
“Richard tells me what you're doing,” David said.
“Your brother spies on me?” Rick asked.
“You two talk. He tells me what's said. He said you got a truck.”
“You left the day before New Years Eve. Do you remember? I prefer being on the road over the holidays.”
“I don't do golden oldies. You haven't been home at Christmas,”
“Did Richard tell you that?” Rick asked
“No. I have ways of finding out things,” David said, not telling him he parked in the parking lot wanting to catch a glance of him.
“The separation isn't as complete as I thought?”
“I'm married for Christ sake, Charlie,” David said.
“So the five years we spent together don't mean anything?”
David looked away but said nothing.
Rick felt something he hadn't felt in years. There they were a foot apart. Which one was going to walk away first. Rick already knew it wouldn't be him.
“Your wife looks nice. Are you happy, David?”.
“We do OK. We have a good life. She doesn't ask for much. She proposed to me. How's that for your All-American wedding?”
“Do you still spend all your time with your friends?” Rick asked.
David didn't answer. He only realized he spent all his time with his friends after he didn't spend any time with Charlie any longer.”
“As long as your happy, David. It's the only thing I ever wanted was for you to be happy. Lord knows I couldn't make you happy. When you said what you said to me, I let go. It was over and you wanted to be with your friends.”
“I said that to hurt you,” he said.
“You did pretty good on that score. No one ever hurt me more,” Rick said.
“I was mad at you,” David said.
“How'd that work out for you?” Rick asked.
“You never came back. You always came back before.”
“Nothing else broke the spell, David. You left me. I let you go. You weren't happy being with me. You weren't going to stay with me. I knew that,” Rick said.
“I was mad. I thought you'd come get me. You didn't,” he said.
“You were always angry with me,” Rick said.
“You slept with another guy,” David said.
“You were always with your buddies. You didn't think someone might want to spend time with me. The big difference between your friends and my friends, my friends are gay. Gay guys sleep together to be close to another human. So we don't feel like lepers.”
“You brought a guy into our apartment,” David said angrily.
“I'm sorry. I was stupid. It was the worst thing I ever did to someone. I was angry,” Rick said. “I wanted you to know you weren't the only game in town.”
David said nothing.
“You hurt me,” David said.
“I know. I'm sorry. The pain went in both directions,” Rick said.
“I have a good life,” David said.
“If you're happy, I'm happy for you, David,” Rick said.
“My friends call me Dave,” David said.
“My friends call me Rick,” Rick said.
“You'll always be Charlie to me,” he said. “I've got to go. My wife will think I fell in. I'm glad we talked.”
David walked around Charlie and put his hand on the door handle. He turned to take one more look and they were suddenly kissing again.
The passion in those kisses couldn't be denied. Their love remained buried below the surface of their lives. If asked, they could say it wasn't so, and so it was, until they came together at the College Park Inn.
“I'll always love you, David. Make no mistake about it. I think about you every day,” Rick said.
“Where do you live? Do you live in a truck?” David asked.
“I live right where you left me. It's the only connection I have to you. I won't leave there. It's my home.”
“I waited for you to come back for me,” David said.
“I knew you would,” Rick said.
“Why didn't you come back for me. I love you,” David said, wiping his eyes with the heels of his hands.
“You know why,” Rick said.
“I've got to go. Maybe I'll see you around,” David said.
“I'm sorry, Charlie” David said, opening the door and going out.
Rick turned to face the mirror. He turned on the cold water, splashing it on his face. He looked at himself again. Tearing off two paper towels he dried his face.
Leaning on the sink he said, “I'm sorry too, David.”
Joanne wasn't pleased Rick had disappeared for ten minutes. Rick paid the bill and drove Joanne home. He didn't want to talk about it tonight but he'd explain it to her later.
Rick drove home.
As he reached the third floor, the door in the apartment straight ahead opened and a hand reached out and pulled him inside.
“Rick, you look like you went ten rounds with Ali. What happened to you?” Norman asked as Randy stood behind him.
“I had the good fortune to run into David tonight,” he said.
“That's a blast from your past. I haven't seen David in years,” Randy said. “How is the lovely lad?”
“Get the Jack Daniels, Honey. I think this calls for some of grandma's old fashioned recipe,” Norman said. “Sit. We must hear every gory detail.”
After a drink he told the story of meeting with David.
“We're going to get a Christmas tree tomorrow. Come with us. Get a Christmas tree. We'll buy decorations at Santa's Workshop in Wheaton. They have some awesome decorations and we've got enough to decorate two trees. Every year we buy more.”.
“If you're going to be home for Christmas you've got to decorate your place,” Randy said. “We're more than happy to lend a hand.”
“Yes. We'll decorate our tree and then we'll go decorate your place. I refuse to celebrate the holidays in a place that doesn't reek of Christmas,” Norman said. “And it will make you feel better too.”
The next day they bought matching Christmas trees. Norman and Randy had extra decorations but they stopped at Santa's Workshop anyway. They bought mistletoe, icicles, yards and yards of garland, and a wreath with a big red bow for the door.
After lunch and some Christmas cheer they went back to decorating. They did their tree first and they found all the places where they'd stashed decorations over the last two years. After a dinner break, they started on Rick's apartment, and by ten o'clock they sat back to admire what they'd done.
“It's a masterpiece, Rick. You're place looks better than ours. We'll have to celebrate up here. The only thing missing is presents for under your tree. We'll take care of that too,” Randy said. “It will be just like old times.”
“You guys have done enough. It's really nice. It feels like Christmas. I thought I would have someone with me when I came home this time,” Rick said.
“What happened?” Randy asked.
“Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. It gets old. If you aren't built for it, it gets old. Troy finally said, 'Let me out here.” I let him out. It's not unusual. He just lasted longer than most. I thought he'd stick with me. I wanted to do Christmas with him.”
“Well you got us,” Norman said, hugging him.
On Christmas Eve Norman, Randy, and Rick went to a party given by Norman's best friend. Norman drove. Rick wasn't big on parties, but he didn't want to be alone.
The party wasn't bad. The people were friendly and all he had to do was say, “I'm a trucker,” and it was instant conversation. Even talking about trucking got old after a while.
They wanted to get home before Santa arrived. They'd plan to open presents at Rick's. He bought snacks to heat.
Before they knew it they were laughing and stumbling up the last few stairs to the third floor. Rick had his key at the ready before he stopped at the door.
“Music,” Randy said. “There was no music when we left. Your stereo on a timer?”
“Listen,” Norman said. “Happy Xmas. The War's Over. That's John and Yoko and hundreds of their closest friends.”
Both Norman and Randy moved to put an ear on the door.
“You two get out of my way and we'll find out what's going on.
That's my Christmas tape. The next song is Nat King Cole, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at you nose,” Rick sang, swinging the door opened.
Nat began to sing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost....”
“I've heard those words recently,” Randy said.
“Who's here?” Rick growled with menace in his words.
The Christmas tree was a blaze with color icicles and garland shimmered silver light as Nat sang on.
“I turned everything off before I left,” Rick said.
The three of them stood side by side as they inspected the living room for interlopers.
There was only one.
“Oh My,” Norman said. “David! How nice to see you. I've just never seen quite so much of you.”
“David!” Rick said.
David stepped away from the Christmas tree wrapped in silver garland and sporting a rather prominent erection.
“I couldn't find anywhere to hide. I didn't expect you to bring anyone home with you. Merry Christmas. I wasn't sure what to get you, so,” David said, holding his arms out to present himself.
“Hi, Norm, Randy. Long time no see,” David said sweetly.
“Why are you here?” Rick asked.
“Merry Christmas,” David said meekly.
“Howdy Doody,” Randy said. “You are looking... healthy, David.”
“Keep your eyes to yourself, Lover Boy,” Norman said. “I think we left the stove on. We'll get out of your way. Come on, Randy. If you kids haven't surfaced by noon, we'll bring food and drink.”
“Surprise!” David said, holding his arms up again.
“You didn't have any questions when we were in the men's room,” David said.
“Yeah! Couldn't get in a lot of trouble there. I don't understand,” Charlie said.
David moved closer to Charlie. He pulled Charlie toward him. Can we pick up where we left off? Not the big left off. That's ancient history but the left off where we left off at the College Park Inn.”
“David,” Charlie said, fighting the urge to grab him.
“Yes. My wife goes to her mother's for Christmas. I said I wasn't feeling well. If I am feeling better I might drive there tomorrow or or Sunday but I think it might be the flu. I probably should stay in bed. You do still have a bed, don't you?”
Everything David said sounded sexy as hell.
“David,” Charlie said. “David.”
“Charlie,” David said. “I'm starting to feel a bit awkward here. Either I should get dressed or maybe you could get naked.”
“What's wrong. Did I do something wrong?” David asked.
“I've had this dream before. I always wake up. You are never there after I wake up. I'm afraid to touch you. You might disappear.”
“I'm here, Charlie and I'm not going anywhere. Let's make the most of it. I know I must be out of my mind for thinking this stunt would work but it's all I could come up with. I'm sorry. Tomorrow we'll worry about tomorrow. I want to be here with you tonight.”
David gave Charlie a kiss and he followed the first kiss with a second. Charlie still hadn't moved. He had this dream a hundred times and every time he woke up and David was gone.
David unbutton Charlie's shirt, pulling it off.
Charlie reached for David and he pulled him into his arms. His mouth and David's mouth wasted no time. The kisses were tentative for a minute and than the passion began building.
The kisses were very real. Bare chest to bare chest the heat was on the rise. The Christmas tree twinkled, the stereo played, and the room shimmered with color reflecting off the garland and icicles.
“We need to sit down. I'm shaking,” Rick said.
Leaning his back against the easy chair, David didn't waste any time getting into Charlie's arms. This was the customary way they watched television or listened to music.
They were where they'd been on Christmas five years before.
“You're awfully quiet. Did I do something wrong, Charlie?”
“I told you, I've had this dream too many times. I'll wake up and you'll be gone. I always wake up. You're just a dream.”
“I'm sorry, Charlie. I was mad at you,” David said. “When you didn't come back for me I was really mad.”
“Were you mad at me or were you mad at yourself. What we once had seemed perfect to me. I may have been stupid, but I never set out to hurt you. I loved you so much.”
“I don't know. We were so young, Charlie. I just don't know.”
“You wanted to move home. You wanted to be with your friends. What part of that did you think I'd buy into? I let go. I didn't interfere with what you said you wanted. There was nothing to go back for.”
“Do you want to go to bed, Charlie?” David asked.
“I want to sit here and hold you. That's what I want to do. I want to hold you and never let you go. That's what I want, David.”
“You use to want more than that,” David said seductively.
“You don't understand why this can't happen.”
“Make me understand, Charlie. I'm listening now. I want to understand.”
“It's when I wake up. When we do more than kiss. Every time I have this dream, I hold you in my arms for hours. It's when we do more than kiss that I wake up. I don't want to wake up. I want to hold you and never let you go.”
“I'm not going anywhere. I'll stay until you know you aren't dreaming and then I”ll stay until you want to do more than hold me. Once we're done, we'll start all over again. I'm not going anywhere.”
The kisses became more passionate. Their fervor increased.
“Were dream kisses as good as mine?” David asked.
“Maybe if you kiss me some more, I can tell then,” Charlie said.
“You're awake. You always want more,” David said kissing him all over his face. David threw himself on Charlie, kissing his face, his neck, and his chest.
Charlie laughed. It tickled.
David realized what Charlie was reacting to and he tickled him some more.
“Are you awake yet. Wake up sleepy head. David's going to eat you up,” David said.
“Sop it. I'm awake. Cut it out.”
“Did I do this in the dream?” he asked, tickling Charlie more.
“No. Stop it. You know I can't stand that,” Charlie said laughing.
“Are you awake yet? Are you awake, Charlie. I'm still here. You can't get rid of me by waking up this time. We're going to make love all night. When we wake up we'll make love again. I've been waiting to do this for a long time and we're going to make the most of it.”
The kisses became more gentle more real. Charlie dismissed the thought this could be a dream.
They were together tonight and it may have been a dream come true. He'd make the most of it. Tomorrow would need to take care of itself. Tonight they were in love. It's all that mattered.
David lay in Charlie's arms.
“What do you want, Charlie,” he asked.
“You're driving this bus, David. I'll try to go along with you but don't expect me to play second fiddle for the rest of your life. My fiddling leaves something to be desired, as you well know.”
“Let me work on it, Charlie. I've worked out that we need to see each other. Working out how will require more thought,” David said. “Tell me your plan.”
“Me? My plan? I'm going to hold onto you until you decide it's time to go back to your life. Then, I'll go back to mine.”
“Which means?” David asked.
“My truck will be ready next Thursday. It's in the shop to get the maintenance done on it. Once I pick up the truck, I'll hit the road the Monday after New Years.”
“How long will you be gone?” David asked.
“April. I'll be here for a couple of weeks in April. I'll need to get with Joanne on my taxes. After I leave, I'll be gone until July. In July the truck will need maintenance. That means a couple of weeks here.”
“I'll be here in April. I'll be here in July,” David said.
“David, you're driving this bus, don't wreck your life for me,” Charlie said. “That's not what I want.”
“I know. I told you I'd handle it. You do what you need to do. I'll be here when you come home.”
“You're serious about this aren't you We're going to see each other?”
“Absolutely. Positively serious.”
The clock hit midnight.
“Merry Christmas, Charlie,” David said.
“Merry Christmas, David.”
Maybe they'd make it this time. Life hadn't gotten any easier but they were talking now.
Maybe they could find a way to make it work.
Happy Christmas Everybody!
Peace & Love,
I wanted to find a way to live inside this story. If I'd found it I wouldn't have come back. I bet you can't guess why. Love endures.
Writer's Note 2:
'Rick Beck Stories' in your google machine will get you a list of gay literary sites where my stories can be found. I've spent twenty-five years writing over 40 novels and dozens of short stories.
I hope you find one you like. I've attempted to put LGBTQ people in all the places we can be found.
Fight for equality. The battle goes on even at Christmas.
PS Mr. Louis Armstrong, and all you older kids remember Satchmo, left us with a gift before he died nearly 50 years ago. He recorded
Night Before Christmas.
You'll recognize the voice immediately. With the charm and panache that captivated audiences for most of the Twentieth Century, Louis does it again.