Seven – Sterling
“Halloween twenty-five! Halloween twenty-five! Hike!”
The snap was clean. I wheeled in reverse, drew back, and threw the ball to Keandre. A lumbering monster of a defenseman named Lawrence Albee barreled into me, knocking me to my ass. I’d not been able to see if my wide receiver had caught the ball or not, as I was lying under a three hundred and twenty pound gorilla. Given the cheers from the away crowd, I had to assume the pass had been incomplete.
“Sorry not sorry,” Lawrence said as he got to his feet and jogged off to congratulate his teammates for stalling us at the forty-two yard line. I glanced around as I pushed to my cleats. Fourth down and fourteen. Coach was calling for the field goal attempt, so I made my way to the bench, yanking off my helmet and whipping it to the frozen ground. It landed in a small pile of snow. I was tempted to leave it there and walk off. I hated playing in Portland. The fans were especially harsh, for some reason, or perhaps it was just my mental state this week.
I despised losing. It went against my competitive nature and every damn thing that I’d been taught as a young player. I paced the sidelines, hands fisted, watching the clock run down on the fourth quarter as our kicker booted the ball with all he had. It went through the uprights, but we still lacked the other four points needed for the win. That was on me and that last bungled pass. I’d seen Albee breaking through the line at the snap. If I would have stepped left or right, he wouldn’t have been able to pressure me as he had. The pass would have been more accurate. Keandre would have probably caught it. We might have won.
Sensing the eyes of those in the owner’s box on me, as soon as the game ended I stalked off the field, irate and disgusted at myself. I was one of the first into the locker room and took those precious few moments of solitude to get my head straight. My disgust and ire grew every game, and it was coming close an eruption. Yet, if I did erupt, that would mean the end of my career, at minimum. I suspected any mention of illegalities to the Feds would result in my body being found floating in the icy cold Colchester River. Sure, it would look like a suicide…
I avoided the press glut the best I could, but in the end, I gave them some sound bites. I showered, keeping my sullenness to myself. The team understood and didn’t push. No joking or talking about women. We were all subdued.
The charter bus was warmed and ready when we left the stadium. The bitter cold of a late December day in Maine tore through my coat with ease. Once on the bus, I slid some earbuds in, closing myself off from the other Colts, and let my eyes drift shut. John Legend’s All of Me worked its magic, filling my head with something other than football. The ride was a short one, barely long enough to finish the next song by Musiq.
My room was as I’d left it; tidy, my clothes hung neatly in the closet. I pulled out my earbuds, letting the songs on the playlist I’d named ‘Elsewhere’ bounce off the walls. Moving through the empty suite, I listened to men singing about love and faith and family. Three things that I’d never have or had lost. I’d drifted from God when I’d discovered what I was. My relationship with my family was built on a lie. And love was something that didn’t happen to men like me. Love was softness, tenderness. Things that one shared with a woman, not another man. I peeled off my long yellow sweater, folded it, and placed it in the suitcase balanced perfectly on the stand in the corner. Shoes off next, tie gone. I unbuttoned my dress shirt, placing the gold cufflinks into a small padded box of tie pins and other jewelry nestled deeply among my trousers.
The scotch in the minibar called to me. As did the memory of a man twelve hundred miles away. Whenever I found myself in this particular mindset, Garnet appeared before me, his blue eyes and easy smile haunting my thoughts. He’d never gone far since that night two weeks ago. In the quiet moments, when Alicia Keys was singing about Fallin’, as she was now, he appeared like a wraith, a tempting vision of soft ivory skin and red hair. Try as I may, I couldn’t exorcise him. Maybe I should ask my father to pray over me, as he did the fallen in his congregation…
I poured myself two fingers, tossed in two cubes, and fell into a low padded chair by the window. The burn of the scotch coated my stomach. Portland lay below, all covered with snow, pretty as a picture. People hustled around, many returning presents or hitting the after-Christmas sales. Loneliness settled over me like a scratchy old sweater reeking of mothballs. I wrinkled my nose, took a drink, and ran my finger over the front of my phone, idly playing with the apps, opening one, then closing it, until I was in my contacts list. My father was at the top, then a few college buddies, and two women that I dated on occasion when I had to have a date for a function.
There are times when you hear Satan, my father likes to preach. His whispers aren’t garbled and raspy like you see in horror movies, daddy would say. No, his words are honeyed and sweet. Tonight, he whispered that I could not be lonely if I only stepped from the path and embraced the queer inside of me.
Call him and find your salvation.
Perhaps I was a weaker man than I’d ever thought, or perhaps he’d found a way to slither in under my skin. I tapped the number that read Jewel. I’d tagged it that in case anyone ever somehow got into my contacts list. Jewel sounded like a woman’s name.
“Gems Escorts, how can I help you?” A youngish sounding man said. I had a moment where the battle over my soul waged hot and heavy. Then, the victor spoke up.
“I’d like to arrange a date with Garnet tomorrow night,” I said, my voice loud as Gabriel’s trumpet inside my mind.
“If you give me your contact info, I’ll send this request along to him and he can call you back.”
“Can’t you simply put me through to him?”
“I’m sorry, no, I can’t do that. If you’re uncomfortable with leaving your name and number, perhaps you could try our new website.”
“No, no, no websites. Just,” I blew out a breath the tossed back the rest of my scotch. “I just…this information is confidential, right?”
I rattled off my cell number and left a name that was not at all mine. I was politely thanked and told someone would be in touch. The phone rang when I was cracking open the second little bottle of Bowmore. A spear of white hot lust pierced me when I answered and Garnet was on the other end, asking what it was that he could do to please me.
Touch me. Hold me. Love me. Accept me.
“I think I need to meet you again. Same place, same time, Tuesday night?”
Please say yes.
“I’ll be there.” His voice was far smoother than the scotch I was drinking. “Is there anything you’d like me to bring to our date?”
“In that tartan duffel bag?”
“That’s the one.”
I stared down at the tiny cubes in my drink. My pulse was loud in my ears, my skin hot, my cock half-hard.
“No. I’m not…into that sort of thing.” Was I? “I just want some company. Over dinner.”
“I can do that. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.”
For some reason, I believed that he just might be the only person who could. And that terrified me.