I was no longer young enough to behold at every turn the magnificence that besets our insignificant footsteps in good and in evil. I smiled to think that, after all, it was yet he, of us two, who had the light.
Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim

-----

fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly
489-491

the bull of the dragon
492-497
498-501
502-507
508-510
511-514
515-517

oh sweet and lovely lady be good
518-520
521-526
527-532
533-536

goodbye, gemini
537-541
542-547

plenty of fish in the sea
548-550
551-553
554-556

and the cotton is high
557-562
563-569
570-574

-----

489

The morning after those fool moon's eyes. Absolutely classic.

"I can't believe it happened. I was all drunk and everything."

Poor fellow sat for a couple of smokes and some coffee, then said he'd better go. I was treading very, very carefully. Adjusting to a new phase in the long dance with the Sleeptalker is something neither of us can escape or ignore after that full moon night, and I know how difficult it must be for him.

He was apparently waiting outside the door of the State Library on Tuesday morning, appeared in the game just moments after the nine o'clock opening. He seemed in high spirits, after awhile asked if I could get some beer because he felt like drinking for the first time in weeks. I said I could try. He left the game and not long afterwards arrived on campus.

We played until early afternoon, then went down to the supermarket to get lunch. Sitting in the secluded grove, and with him at his sweetest, most coherent, I was able to say all the things I'd wanted to tell him. He seemed to have little or no memory of what he'd already told me, repeated much of the information but in extraordinarily direct, straightforward narrative.

His caseworker is trying to get SSI financial assistance for him. I had to smile when he said all he needed to do was go to the interview and act like Mondo. He may be right, Mondo did manage to qualify for a time. But what the Sleeptalker said and the way in which he said it led me to think much of his recent "craziness" has been inspired by the need to act "crazy". He said if he got it, he'd also get a place to live and that I could stay with him, then rather touchingly pondered how he'd explain that to his friends. But he also has the notion of moving to Maui if he gets SSI, a way to escape the "drug dealers". So much energy put into planning for something that might not happen.

He went back to the game, I went off to borrow money so I could get that beer he wanted. Another interlude in the secluded grove, drinking and talking. He pulled out a book from his backpack to show me what he's reading. Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. I felt faint. He wants to read all the "classics", he said. And he showed me that notebook he had been writing in. All phrases in Spanish, since he's decided he wants to learn the language. His handwriting is suprisingly neat, almost elegant.

Never a dull moment, never a shortage of surprises.

We went back to the game for awhile and then I set off on a snipe hunt. He was playing at the computer lab and since my hunt took me across campus, I stopped in Sinclair Library, logged into the game and asked him if he wanted more beer. Definitely. Another trip downhill and back, two bottles of Colt45 in backpack.

In the game, there are specific quests one can do, accumulating "quest points" for each completed one. The major prize for the effort is a special sword which the Sleeptalker badly wants. He said jokingly over the beer that I could have his body in exchange for one of those swords. It's a deal, I told him, but I get you first, am not giving you the sword until afterwards. I thought it was just one of his usual flirtatious gambits but he must have been pondering it further because as we opened the second bottle, he said, "okay, you can have it."

Tender, sweet, passionate, the birthday gift of my fantasies, a dream come true under that beautiful moon. Nectar of the gods.

I am a lucky man.

490

The Morning After interlude was, of course, only the beginning. The entire Day After was utterly, overwhelmingly dominated by thoughts of the Sleeptalker.

I have never experienced a more loaded aftermath of a sexual adventure, but then I have rarely experienced a more loaded sexual adventure. You can interpret that in any of the possible ways, since all apply.

Although he hadn't mentioned it before, the Sleeptalker had discovered a secluded place very near campus which is hidden by dense foliage, an ideal sleeping spot when it isn't raining. Mercifully, it didn't rain on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. He led me there when it was possibly too late for a bus to the hacienda and settled down to sleep beside me, feet to head.

I woke first, sat up and smoked a snipe. He stirred, smiled at me, and snuggled up against my leg. I gently rubbed his back as he returned to sleep for a little while, one extreme of the see-saw reaction during our morning interlude. On the other side was his disgust and disbelief that he had allowed it to happen, balanced by, for example, asking with a big grin, "I was very drunk?"

Yes, I assured him, he was very drunk. I feel almost certain that he had decided to let me have his body before the beer and the matter of the special sword ever entered the picture, but he is more than welcome to any rationalizations which make the decision more comfortable for him.

And it was a wise choice on his part to leave after that brief time together in the morning. We both had a lot of thinking to do.

There was, for me, the emotional sag. Wanting something so very, very much and for an incredibly long time, then finally getting it leaves something of a vacuum. Heaven knows it wasn't disappointing, it far surpassed anything I had been able to imagine. I played the memory tape over several times, making sure all the delightful details were fully recorded, as if there could be any chance of it being otherwise.

And as I am sure he does, I felt guilty. Even when he lay back, unbuckled his belt and unzipped his jeans, I had the thought that I should stop it there, assure him again, as I had earlier, that I love him for himself, not for his body. I didn't, of course. I wanted it too much. He had asked me earlier why that was the case, he really didn't understand. "There are plenty of fish in the sea." "You've never really been in love, then?" I asked. He thought for a bit and said "no". I told him I wanted something of him inside me, that was why I wanted it so much, and it could only be from him, none of the other "fish" would do.

Still, even if offered it as I was, there is the idea that it would have been far more noble to sacrifice my desire, to resist adding yet another burden to the poor fellow's already overloaded mental state.

He, I am sure, will feel guilty, if he allows himself to remember it, for having been so actively passionate. It certainly surprised me, I expected him to lay there like a zombie, never mind he's twenty-four years old with little outlet for that age's natural sexual desire.

And there is the suspense. How will he handle it? It could be the extreme of breaking off our friendship altogether, if it's too painful for him to accept what happened. I've always considered that as the major gamble. As I've said, I could never give up the notion that it could happen, even when it seemed highly unlikely, and so I've contemplated not only what it could be, but what the repercussions might be.

I don't think he'll go that far. I hope not.

But I would be surprised if he doesn't withdraw altogether for awhile, no matter how carefully I tried to act during the Morning After interlude. I would, of course, be delighted to be proven wrong, to get the opportunity sooner rather than later to let him know that no matter how much I treasure that night under the Full Moon, it doesn't change at all how much I care for him or how much we can both enjoy our unusual friendship.

What a long, strange trip it's been from Tale 165 and "As I said before, Rocky must have been the kind of kid who took stray dogs home. His latest puppy is such a cutie ..."

491

When you make the inner as the outer ...

Or was that the other way around, Saint Thomas? Whichever, Maundy Thursday dawned with a perfect match. A more gray, dreary sky one could not imagine, inside and out. But the cloud cover broke, the sun came out, and I cheered myself up with the naughty thought of the ideal solution to the Aftermath Dilemma.

The Sleeptalker had provided it. When he was talking about me sharing his SSI-provided quarters, he teased, "you could give me head every night." That's the solution! Do it again. And again and again and again. Do it until I finally say, "not tonight, sweetheart, I've got a headache." And it would happen, too. Just might take a LOT of agains.

I considered zapping 490 altogether. I just want to remember the wonderful night of the Fool Moon, not all the twisted thinking that followed it. But then I had considered not writing about that night, too. Not much point in writing these things, though, without making them as accurate as possible a portrait of the Artist as an Old Man.

By sunset on Wednesday, I was feeling utterly exhausted. Sleeping in a strange place is always a restless experience, made far more so by having the Sleeptalker snuggled up beside me. He seemed to sleep very soundly but I woke up many times, never really fell deeply asleep. And all that confounded thinking during the day was exhausting. I had tried to read to distract myself, with little success. I'd spent more time than usual in Seventh Circle. Got to get that sword for the lad. But as sunset time approached, I headed off to the mall.

The bankroll was down to a few pennies. Since the morning routine of coffee at McD's had been broken with the shared flask of coffee on campus that morning, I didn't much care if I found any quarters or not. But as I walked over to get the bus for the hacienda, I spotted a cart sitting there and returned it. In the corral was another with its quarter, that one firmly stuck in slot. Swiss Army knife to the rescue, coffee financing in coin bag, off to the bench.

The two Bicycle Boys were there having an argument. They've both apparently lost their wheels, and it seemed to be yet another broken buddy act since they hadn't appeared together in some time. Maybe the argument was a make-up one, because they eventually settled down on adjoining benches.

It was just as well I'd gotten there earlier than usual since it turned out to be more than a full house, every bench occupied and five bodies on the floor. The temperature had dropped considerably in the late afternoon after being a warm enough day to temporarily shed the sweatshirt, and it got quite damp during the night. Lucky me, lucky us, that hadn't happened the night before.

And I really should have put that solution into practice already, should have gotten him again the Morning After.

I'm so bad.

492

"There are plenty of fish in the sea." True words, my dear Sleeptalker, true words, especially in this town of brown-skinned young men.

On Good Friday morning, I went for the first time this year to sit by the seaside. Lest this be interpreted as a major expedition, I should explain for those unfamiliar with the terrain that Ala Moana Shopping Center, happy hunting ground for snipes, quarters and other goodies, sprawls alongside a six-lane "boulevard". Across that ever-busy thoroughfare is a pleasant park, a long sandy beach and the Pacific Ocean. One end of the beach is dominated by tourists, the other end by locals.

I walked down to the locals end and sat on a bench watching the early surfer dudes arrive for their romp in the waves. A fine young specimen of that breed walked past me, wearing only dark blue surfer shorts. This is not as commonplace as one might think. Surfing does not appear to be sufficiently strenuous exercise to burn off the results of those plate-lunch boxes and many of the surfer dudes are a little too Rubenesque for my taste. But in this case I had already reached the conclusion that he had a great body and a cute butt, there was really no need for him to take up position on the beach in front of me and do his limbering-up exercises, bending over and grabbing his ankles.

Not long after his entertaining exposition, two even-younger lads arrived with their boards. One was blonde, had a body which belonged on the cover of a twink magazine. His name was Michael, I learned from his father who told them he'd be back to get them at 11:30. Daddy left, two other lads walked up to join them. I told myself to behave, Michael was far too young for the thoughts I was having. One of his friends asked something about "Mark", and Michael said, "he gave me a blowjob". "How long did it take?" "Oh, just a few minutes," said Michael. I might as well have been invisible for all the notice they took of my eavesdropping. Just a few minutes. Gulp.

There's a new snipe hunter at the mall. I can't guess his ethnic origin, he looks more Caribbean than local. Young, very slim, very brown. Wears tan shorts and a lightweight tan jacket over a tee shirt, all quite grubby. Bare feet. He walks with a lilting little bounce which is so endearing I don't mind at all his being a competitor.

And I finally got a good look at that new young fellow who stays at the hacienda now and then, the one who had walked off with the Sleeptalker not long ago. He really is a sweet little guy and looks amazingly like a young (okay, even younger) version of Rocky. Absolutely no complaint whatever about him as a next-bench sleeping mate.

Yes, plenty of fish in the sea. None of this, of course, halted the ever-continuing thoughts of the Sleeptalker, but I reconcile myself to recalling at least once each day for the rest of my life the vision of him laying there under the full moon.

On Maundy Thursday evening, Helen R and I went to see the University production of "Summer Festival: A Mirror of Osaka". It was my first experience of Kabuki theatre so I can't say whether it was a good performance or not, but it certainly was fascinating and entertaining. Although in English, the program notes said they had tried to do it in a style authentic to its first production some 250 years ago. The only thing in my experience which is anything remotely close is Gilbert & Sullivan, and the only familiar moments were the classic frozen poses known from Japanese woodblock prints. As I told Helen later, I was grateful it had been explained before the performance that audience participation was welcome in the Kabuki tradition. Otherwise I would have thought some folks in the audience quite crazy for shouting out Japanese phrases now and then.

That evening of classic entertainment was followed by a double-feature movie expedition on Good Friday, starting with "U-571", a WW2 submarine epic. It was certainly well done although it seemed to miss the intense claustrophia of other sub movies I've seen and there was the almost-certainty the good guys would survive which weakened the suspense element. Unlike most Hollywood films these days, it did have a generous share of handsome men. With few exceptions (Brad Pitt comes instantly to mind), the current leading men in Hollywood films are really not very interesting physically.

After a quick lunch break at McD's, it was on to Friedkin's "Rules of Engagement". It, too, was well done but certainly not a film I'd want to see a second time. The Vietnam scenes suggest that Spielberg with his "Ryan" has set a new standard for graphic, bloody depiction of combat. Shudder.

Movie-going was followed up with dinner at Bubba Gump's, my first time there. No doubt about it, they do the best cheeseburger in town and their "Boiler" is my favorite menu item anywhere. A Boiler is a sixteen-ounce glass of draft beer plus a shooter of choice. Budweiser and tequila, my first taste of the latter since pre-hospital days. Yummmmm.

Then I did the "just hanging-out" routine until it was time for the bench and that little sweetie on the one next to me.

Take me down to Paradise City where the grass is green and the boys are pretty ... The Sleeptalker's favorite sing-along track at the moment. Okay, so I changed one word of the lyrics.

493

Three cheers for the Sleeptalker. He seems to be doing fine with it, appeared in the game on Saturday morning, playing from the State Library. I had expected him to stay away for at least a week. He reminded me that I owed him the sword. I assured him he'd get the sword. "I still need three thousand more quest points, my friend". I gave him a hug. He shivered. Heh. The first thing I did when we got up after that splendid evening interlude was ask for a hug. "You want a hug, too?!" Yep, a hug seemed the best way to say thank you. We had a few more amusing exchanges in the game before he left, presumably bound for free lunch. It would have been very much nicer had he made the trip to campus, but I'm sure it was easier for him via virtual contact. Certainly not for the first time, I was grateful for Seventh Circle.

I was very happy with the virtual reunion but after some debate decided not to tell him the surprise news that the computer lab on campus was going to be open on Easter Sunday. He would no doubt have been torn between wanting to play the game and being, I think, not quite ready to see me face-to-face. Maybe I misjudge his thoughts, but better to play it extra careful for awhile.

He returned briefly to the game in mid-afternoon. I had been playing almost continuously. To explain just what a price I've paid for that beautiful body of his, the sword costs 20,000 quest points. Each quest yields a random reward, can be anything from less than 50 to more than 150. Making it more difficult, or at least more time-consuming, there is a twenty-minute delay after completing a quest before another can be asked for, and the time is only measured while in the game, alas. We're talking a LOT of time. But it surely was worth it.

The lab was closing at 4:30, so I left and joined Helen R for dinner at that pseudo-Cajun place at Daiei. Helen played Easter Bunny this year, and did a most excellent, and much appreciated, job of it, too.

Little Rocky was already asleep when I got to the hacienda and settled on the bench beside him. He wears a dark jacket with a hood which hides most of his face, light-blue jeans which have been cut off at the bottom, sweet bare feet. While I was waiting for a bus in the morning, I saw him get up, take off the jacket and the white tanktop he'd been wearing under it, switching to a dark tanktop. What a fine body. I wished I had stayed on my bench a little longer to have had a closer view. Bring on the warmer weather!

Most unusually, the mall McD's was closed for Easter, as I'd found out the day before. So I stayed on the bus until we got to Waikiki and I saw an open McD's there, had my coffee and then walked through the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center on a snipes hunt. "Is this the place with shops they're all talking about?" asked a mainland tourist. Hmmmm, can't say I've ever heard anyone talking about the place, but I said, "I guess so, it's the main shopping center here in Waikiki."

It's such a mess along the beach. Rather than doing the "beautification" a bit at a time, they've extended the construction work from one end of the beach almost to the other, and they certainly don't seem to be making very speedy progress on it or the work also going on in Kapiolani Park. It will no doubt look quite fine when finished, judging by the illustrations of the plans, but right now walking through Waikiki is a stroll through demolition city.

After walking the length of the beach, I got a bus to campus. The dreary False Prophet was hanging around outside the computer lab. I can't imagine why he does it, he gets comfort from the proximity of forbidden computers? Checked mail, played the game for awhile, scoured the campus for snipes, washed my hair. I remembered some past Easters, the first one in London when it snowed, much to everyone's surprise. That one spent in an office way up in the Seagram Building, watching the sun rise. One at the Vanderbilt YMCA when a young fellow who was there with some church group became aroused in the shower and got an Easter present I doubt he had expected. "Happy Easter!" I said to him afterwards and he grinned broadly.

where the grass is green ... and the boys are pretty ...

Maybe I'm finally turning into a Dirty Old Man.

494

A charmed life, indeed.

Surprisingly, Thursday had been the first brew-less day of April. Saturday was the second because I'd nonsensically tucked away the funds for an Easter sunset beer. I had $2.06 for the beer, needed one more penny. But I also had a quarter, needed a dime and a penny for the next morning's coffee. I was prepared to sacrifice the quarter and the coffee for that sunset bottle. But I walked past a vending machine area on campus which is not usually a rewarding one. On the floor was one dime and two pennies.

That kind of thing makes me feel like I've stepped down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Of course, with such exactitude, once the coffee was purchased I was in the amazingly rare state of being utterly penniless. It's odd that after all this time, it makes any difference. But it does.

The beer was not entirely a success. I was feeling low. I went to the State Library to get reading material for what I thought would be more time offline than it turned out to be. Although I've grumbled about every book of his I've read, I spotted John Grisham's thick volume, The Chamber. No grumbles this time, it's a fine piece of work. But thoroughly grim and depressing.

And maybe I'm finally turning into a Dirty Old Man didn't help. Okay, I wasn't entirely serious (although in some ways I've always been one, no matter what age). But that's not what I really want, I think. I want to be the old guy the young lads can trust, confide in, turn to when in trouble. The one who gives them a cigarette or occasionally buys them a beer without strings attached, without sitting there hoping they'll unzip their pants.

One voice I've dubbed the Grand Romantic says quit, retire, give it up on the crest of the wave. You know there isn't going to be another that will mean as much as the Sleeptalker, just resign and give up sex, grow old(er) gracefully with the memory that the last time was one of the best ever.

A large chorus shouts him down. Get real! You know damned well if you end up in the beach shower with Little Rocky and he offers it, you're going to oblige and most happily so.

I do get weary of these confounded internal dialogues.

495

Tell me he's lazy, tell me he's slow
Tell me I'm crazy, maybe I know ...

The Sleeptalker knelt by my bench and asked softly, "where were you?"
"At lunchtime? Went Ala Moana to have a shower."
"Then you went back?"
"Yes, was there until about eight o'clock."

I rubbed my hand through his hair and he got that wonderful goofy dog expression on his face. Then he bounced off to an outside bench where I had a fine view of his sprawled body. I've never known anyone who so hates being on his own. Even with the game to occupy him, he hadn't been able to stay on campus by himself for a couple of hours.

And sound asleep on the bench beside me was "Little Rocky". BUT ... it isn't "little" Rocky at all, it's the Man himself! That boy must have located the Fountain of Youth. He looks at least three or four years younger. Little wonder I thought he looked "amazingly like Rocky". I suppose it's because I've gotten so used to seeing him when he's either totally wasted or recovering from having been so. And little wonder I'd thought the view from a distance suggested he has a great body. He does, indeed. I definitely should've stayed on the bench awhile longer that morning. He wouldn't have minded my admiring close-up gaze.

Old-timers night at the hacienda. Rocky, the Sleeptalker, even the Snorer stopped by. I guess he was just checking the place out, he didn't spend the night. No problem with that, there's another snorer there who is more than a match for him. The two of them together would have been horrendous.

Spring has sprung ... at last. Easter Monday was a sunny, warm day, perfect for the first beach shower of the year. Can't say the first shower companions of the new season were very interesting, but as my old friend Felix used to say, "even in New York City a naked body has some worth." In Honolulu, too.

On Tuesday, at midday, the Sleeptalker arrived on campus. Yet again I borrowed money to finance some beer. We played the game awhile, went downhill to get some food and a beer, sat in the secluded grove. We talked about early memories of our first encounters. It's funny how differently we remember some of those moments.

We went back to the computer lab and played some more, later took a smoke break together. The Cherub happened by, as those say who don't accept "no accidents". Off to the Garden to drink some more beer. A conversation which absolutely no editor would have accepted had it been part of a novel. I was well out-numbered. Two twenty-four-year olds against an old man. The Cherub utterly shocked me at one point when I realized I had lost contact, he simply hadn't understood what I had been saying, or I had done an even worse job of saying it than I thought.

The Sleeptalker had picked a fight with one of the game players earlier, one of the guys I most like. I tried through private chat to explain that the Sleeptalker was a bit drunk, that he really isn't the bastid he sometimes seems to be in the game, etc., and managed to calm the stormy waters. But of course the Sleeptalker fretted over the incident throughout the evening and it eventually turned into a shouting match outside the Garden. I walked off and left him and the Cherub, returned to the computer lab and wished I'd never met the Sleeptalker.

Love me or leave me and let me be lonely ...

After awhile I headed off to the bus stop, ran into the Sleeptalker and the Cherub. Apologies, bear hugs. Sigh.

The Cherub went on his way, the Sleeptalker and I walked downhill for more beer and took it to where we'd slept on that Fool Moon night. A light drizzle started, so we had to move closer together to take advantage of the small roof overhang and that meant sleeping very, very close to each other. An exercise, I guess, in proving we could get drunk together and sleep with constant body contact, nothing more than that happening.

If there is some other way to prove that I love you
I swear I don't know how
You'll never know if you don't know now


In the morning he decided to head off for the soup kitchen and an early appointment with his caseworker. I brewed myself a flask of coffee and sat there under a beautiful dawn sky.

And wished I'd never met him.

But probably didn't mean it.

496

My Tijuana backpack. My heavy Tijuana backpack. I stopped down on Wednesday morning to visit Kory K who was busy packing for a five-day trip home to Hilo, Merry Monarch Festival and all. He gave me a bottle of tequila. Damn, I should have birthdays more often.

Amazingly enough, I didn't open the bottle on Wednesday. That was partly because he also gave me the remains of a vodka bottle. Off to the supermarket for a ham sandwich, cottage cheese and a can of tomato juice. A Bloody Mary, even without ice and sauce, is a nice alternative to beer for lunch. If only I could manage to lug around one of those huge bottles of cheap vodka they sell at the drugstore.

Then later, in the game, I got the other component of my ammo for Sleeptalker Round Two. There's another sword he badly wants, this one special because it no longer exists. In the last major revision of the game, they removed the "Dragonslicer", so the only available ones are from old-timers who still have some. They are very reluctant to part with them, understandably, but I managed to complete a special quest and was awarded a "Gold Shard", valuable enough to trade for two of those swords. A Dragonslicer and a bottle of tequila ... what more do I need?

The Sleeptalker and I had discussed all this bribery stuff. I noted that I am generally very kind to him so there's no reason why he should have to be bribed to be kind in return. He agreed. Hmmmm. He lamented the fact that he just isn't a generous person, an accurate piece of self analysis. I noted the truth of it later when the Cherub gave the Sleeptalker three dollars for beer. Since I was buying the beer, he bought cigarettes. I was allowed to smoke three of the twenty, and he didn't even offer one in the morning before jumping on the bus for the soup kitchen. Nope, not a generous person. At least he's honest about it.

But he also complained about a friend who comes running everytime he hears the Sleeptalker has money and then when the money is gone, totally ignores him. I guess that's one reason the Sleeptalker always avoids me in the first few days of the month.

I had a quiet day on my own, trying to make more sense out of my jumbled batch of thoughts. There are some cliches of gay thinking I've always found repellent. One is the notion that all men are really homosexual and can be had. The flip side of that is trying to convince oneself the object of desire is really straight. I've seen some queens pull that one on themselves when the boyfriend was a blatant faggot.

Determined to avoid either of those pitfalls, I probably fall into another one by feeling convinced the Sleeptalker is bisexual. Maybe he's just a thoroughly repressed gay guy. I'm not sure, and it certainly doesn't matter to me.

Another pitfall I thoroughly dislike is the trophy one. Chase a guy until you get him, then go on to the next. Some readers may think that applies in this case, but not so. A reader wrote:

"It's so much easier to deal with desire that's never been quenched than to get a taste and then not be able to have your fill. (Somehow the metaphor seems apt.)"

Most apt, indeed.

And equally apt was:

"Given that you're going to have the ups and downs anyway, I guess being in love with a young drifter is not the worst thing that could happen."

Ain't it the truth.

497

As I do now and then, was reading an old Tale and came across this in Tale 99:

I'd gotten to the hacienda early and was relaxing on the bench, looking around me with the increasing admiration I have for that space, those noble arches, the esoteric elegance of the use of threes, the strange but wonderful blend of Moorish, Egyptian, Mughal, Mayan.

Oh yes, there is absolutely no doubt about it. The "hacienda" is THE greatest blessing of my life. I'd considered on Wednesday evening staying in the Fool Moon Spot, cuddling up to the phantom memory of the Sleeptalker's warm body, but decided instead to grab my bench next to the non-phantom body of Rocky at the hacienda.

The Sleeptalker answered my question, after I asked it three times. Rocky lost both his job and the place where he has been living. No details provided. My guess is, he's feeling pretty low and that morning recently when I saw him could well have been the first day after his losses. Every night he's already soundly asleep, so unlike him. Here we go again. I do wish I could help him somehow, he's really a very sweet guy.

Kory K said, "don't get too drunk." I told him what I really wouldn't mind doing was to get VERY drunk, but all by myself. As I've said before, alcohol is a lousy drug. I'd much rather be living with 30 milligrams of Valium and a couple of decent joints every day, but this wonderful society we live in won't allow that. So I have to make do with what's legally (and affordably) available. I definitely don't have the patience or perseverance to escape the utter boredom of a not-in-some-way-drugged state of mind by resorting to meditation, fasting and such.

And if one has to make do with alcohol, tequila certainly is one of the best methods of consuming it.

I didn't get too drunk, but I did take sufficient swigs from that bottle to reach a warm, wuzzy state of contentment. Wasting the ammo, I thought, but phooey. Talk about cliche attitudes, what about cliche scenarios. Get 'em drunk to get in their pants. A lousy classic, gay or otherwise, and a game I know I'd get bored with very quickly. I don't really want it that much. Of course, it was easier to reach that conclusion after two days without the Sleeptalker's presence and in that tequila glow. In vino veritas, nonetheless.

Katherine Kingsley's The Sound of Snow had caught my eye at the State Library. I figured anyone who could come up with such a fine title must be worth reading and even though it doesn't really live up to the elegance of the title, it's amusing enough and, woe is me, the sex scenes are very well done. Did I really need this, Dame Fortune?

No, but it did go well with the wuzziness and the pleasant afternoon in the secluded grove. Me, my bottle and book, and those fluffy little zebra doves. And no sexy young man for company.

498

Auspicious morning, the last Saturday of April 2000. I woke to see Rocky asleep on the bench behind me, the Sleeptalker on the one in front. He was laying on his back, that most desirable part of him standing tall and clearly outlined in his dark jeans. And he wonders why gay men are always hitting up on him. I left that enticing vision, walked down to the bus stop. A handsome young fellow crossed the street, said "the focking cops, they won't focking leave you alone." I assume he'd been roused from his sleeping spot. He had a wonderful nose which looked as if it had been broken at some time, adding significantly to his allure. He walked off toward the mall but got on the bus a couple of stops down, then oddly disembarked a short distance later instead of staying on until it reached the mall. Just as well. I probably would've offered to buy him a coffee just to spend some more time with him.

After enjoying my coffee without his company, I made my usual circuit to hunt snipes, then noticed one of the strollers hadn't been properly returned to the corral. An easy two quarters. Amazing no one else had spotted it.

Tequila certainly doesn't have the deep soul-cleansing power of LSD or mescaline, but it does have the power to break chains, sweep away lesser cobwebs. That bottle was a fine gift. I'd begun the process of finishing it off at lunchtime. A roast beef sandwich, potato salad, and a generous swig of tequila in tomato juice, accompanied by an interesting historical romance set in Victorian England and Spain, Came Forth the Sun by Elizabeth de Guise. I'd made a quick pre-lunch visit to the State Library, got it and another book, briefly went snipe hunting at the mall before returning to campus and the secluded grove.

The Sleeptalker had been in the game earlier, after two days' absence. He said nothing to me, so I followed my usual habit of saying nothing to him first, waiting to see what mood he was in. But I enjoyed dangling the bait, stood in the main square until he happened by, then made it appear that "Reting polishes his beautiful slicer." "How did you get that!" I smiled and walked away. A little later he asked again, I didn't reply, just said publicly "smoke break time" and left. Turnabout's fair play.

A major revision of the game is to be installed this weekend or Monday and it will enable me to get that other sword I owe him. Not only that, but I'll be able to get a second one of them. Hmmmm, three swords he wants and it's Fabled Pension Check time. Am I loaded for the hunt, or what? But that chain-breaking tequila had definitely shifted the balance. Thinking about it, I felt certain I would be getting his body again but there's no hurry. And I was very happy to feel that urgent desire fade back into a low simmer. Yes, that's much more comfortable. So I'd been pleased by my reaction to that morning vision of the Sleeptalker, grateful seeing him in such a totally desirable state hadn't turned the flames back up.

He didn't return to the game in the afternoon. I played off and on in between swigs from the bottle and reading. Pure Heart was playing for an hour in Waikiki but by the time arrived I was feeling far too mellow and content to leave the secluded grove until benchtime. I reminded myself I should make more of an effort to do things only if I really want to, and that includes seducing a cute guy from Waianae.

499

"You take it much too seriously."
"What?"
"Sex."

He quickly shifted the conversation back to the safer territory of the game, but he had been the one, as always, to open the topic. Once again he mulled over his difficulty in believing he'd let it happen, again used the exact same phrase, "I was all drunk and everything." Since he has been "all drunk" on numerous occasions, I guess "everything" is the key phrase. Maybe it's a euphemism for "horny"? That he was fully erect by the time he opened his pants was rather ... err ... solid evidence. But it wouldn't have been kind or politic to suggest he had actually wanted it.

"I'm not your boyfriend."
"I know, I wish you were."

But thinking about that later, I know it's not really true. I wouldn't want all the baggage that would come of thinking of the Sleeptalker as my "boyfriend". I'd thought on Saturday how good it would be to know a young man I cared about even half as much as I do the Sleeptalker, but one who would be casual enough about it to let me have his body now and then without it being such a fuss. Him, I could think of as a "boyfriend". The Sleeptalker is in another league.

That's the problem. The Sleeptalker and I both enjoy our friendship, but we both wish it were something else. He wants a buddy, one who doesn't turn authority figure on him when he misbehaves. Now and then he turns into a little kid, gets a big thrill out of spitting at the birds, rejoices when he hits one. I absolutely banned the game in the secluded grove, said I wouldn't drink with him there again if he was going to do that. I told him I think he just likes to push it, see how far he can go before I grumble. He admitted it, laughed, and said, "and you get all mad over nothing." Sigh.

He was sitting at a computer in the lab when I got to campus on Sunday morning. We played in the game until the outside connection from UH went down temporarily and we sat on a bench outside talking, now and then getting up to see if the connection was back. At one point we almost decided to go off to the beach together and if I hadn't been due downtown in mid-afternoon, I probably would have encouraged it. I quite like the idea of sitting on the sand with him beside me in just shorts, watching him go into the water and coming out with those pants clinging to his body. Yes, a nice idea. I must try and arrange that now and then this summer.

If ... he's around. He was due in court at noon on Monday. Since I still don't know why, I've no idea how serious it is. He didn't seem to think there was any chance of jail time since he said he'd arrive on campus Monday afternoon, but he has so little connection with "reality" sometimes, I won't feel relieved until I actually see him, either in person or in the game.

As Friday had been, Saturday was a wonderfully quiet day alone. I had scrounged the nickels and dimes from Kory K's change box so the coin bag was stocked for a lunchtime beer and another at sunset. That historical novel is fine reading, appears to have been well researched with sufficient detail to make it even more fascinating. And those quiet days alone are such an essential part of my life, time to sort and arrange, to sweep out, to just sit back and enjoy the sunshine, the trees, the birds, and to relax without worrying about whether I'm doing or saying the "right" thing.

499a

His "friend", the Sleeptalker told me without saying which friend (even though I think I know most of them), is going to get a "house" this week, and the Sleeptalker might move in with him. "I'm a two-timing guy," he said, with a leer that made me feel like slapping him. Okay, I gave it my best effort not to react to either statement. A minute or so later he said, "if I get SSI, I'll probably stay at IHS for another month or two."

Did I really have to fall in love with a madman?!

I had a restless night, had difficulty getting to sleep and every time I woke up during the night, had as much trouble returning to sleep. The Snorer had arrived somewhat later than I had, with a woman. I've seen her hanging out around McD's now-and-then in the early morning for several months. A woman of a certain age. Okay, so I'm utterly sexist, thought it was quite un-ladylike of her to cuddle against a man on the floor, never mind I'm more than happy to do it with a young man. But then I think it is tacky of any man to expect a woman to live that way with him, too, especially when it's an able-bodied man like the Snorer who is more than capable of making some money and treating the woman to a real bed. None of my business, I told myself, none of my business.

I woke again, watered the bushes, lighted a snipe. The Snorer was vigorously stroking himself, laying there beside the woman. Yikes.

At last, I finally fell asleep soundly enough to stay that way until morning. Was awakened by the Snorer yakking away to one of the other residents. I really dislike people waking up in motormouth mode.

After coffee at McD's, I took the bus to campus, logged on, checked email, popped into the game to see the new revision still wasn't there, and went off to the secluded grove to enjoy some leftover fried chicken from Sunday afternoon's lunch. Then I went to Sinclair Library and saw the Sleeptalker sitting there.

He was wearing a white tanktop. I'm not sure whether I'm most glad he doesn't wear those things more often or wish he wore one all the time. Local boys certainly do know how well that particular garment shows off their shoulders and arms.

He was in big trouble, yet again, in the game, had stumbled into a place where one loses all one's equipment. I've tried again and again to explain to him exactly how that particular area works. No success. So of course I went in and helped him as much as I could before time ran out.

He did have his court date. On a smoke break he finally told me, after I almost pounded it out of him, that he'd been busted for "drinking in public". I don't believe it. Maybe drinking in public, drunk and disorderly? And yes, he might go to jail. His lawyer expects a generous helping of community service time. The Sleeptalker would rather go to jail and get it over with, less effort.

Whichever way it goes, I guess I'll get a little respite.

499b

Well, maybe not much of a "respite" after all. And, of course, I'm far from sure I really want one.

All the charges were dropped except for "the bag of grass".

Like I said, I didn't believe it.

500

Word came that the Fabled Pension Check had arrived. I went downtown to get it, to Waikiki to cash it, bought beer and cigarettes and returned to campus. I was sitting in the secluded grove enjoying them and the book when the Sleeptalker arrived. He was seemingly in a happy mood and told me, after some prodding, that it had gone well at court. Three of four charges had been dropped and he had been given ten hours community service and probation for the fourth charge, the marijuana bag he hadn't mentioned before.

He finished off the beer and we went to the computer lab to play the game for awhile. I was outside later taking a smoke break when the Cherub came down the walk, so engrossed in a book I thought he was going to pass me without even noticing. Kierkegaard, as I saw when he did notice and walked over to say hello. I apologized for his having been a witness to the squabble the Sleeptalker and I had staged last week. "I just don't understand it at all," he said. "I don't think I do either."

I offered to buy him a beer at the Garden but he said he'd better not, he was just on his way to get a twelve-pack and get back to work on some required papers. I thought he might do better without those twelve cans of beer, but none of my business. Rather belatedly, with Finals Week just around the corner, he has realized he might flunk two courses and fall short of the total credits needed to graduate.

He went on his way, I told the Sleeptalker I was going downhill to get beer and would be back. When I returned, we sat at the table where we'd been on that fateful night. He was muttering about that "friend" he'd mentioned earlier who it turns out is not a friend at all, but someone the Sleeptalker had just met. The guy claims not to be gay. The Sleeptalker doesn't believe it. Can't say I do either, why else would he suggest he was going to ask the Sleeptalker to move in with him? And the Waianae Kid has had enough practice to spot a ringer.

He got more and more steamed about it as he was talking. As I observed a very long time ago, the Sleeptalker is a natural flirt, he flirts with everyone. It's a major part of his charm. But it's hardly surprising that when he meets a gay man for the first time his flirting manner leads to misunderstandings, and quite unfair of him to blame the other person.

I had been irked by the "two-timing guy" ploy earlier. Isn't our friendship cluttered enough without transparent attempts to arouse jealousy? So all his ranting reminded me of how annoyed I'd been and when it went on to a general outpouring of bitterness about gay men I thought again how he does like to push a person.

To make it doubly outrageous, he took off his shirt and kept striking poses, even lay back on the low wall behind the table at one point. Flirting is one thing, blatant cockteasing is another. Maybe if the act hadn't been accompanied by that quite tacky verbal outburst I might have enjoyed the show. The combination was too much.

I thought, if I didn't have this absurd, compelling physical desire for his body, I probably wouldn't like the guy at all.

And I was relieved when he decided to return to the game. "Will you be here when I get back?" "I doubt it."

I went over to the Fool Moon Spot and settled down, had been sleeping a short while when he arrived, woke me up asking, "you have more beer?" "Finished, finished," I said, and I didn't just mean beer. He walked off. I was wide awake then, smoked a couple of cigarettes. He returned. He had found someone's stashed bag with a pair of pants, a tee shirt, a blanket and whatever else was in the bag he didn't remove. I thought it was rather mean of him to have taken it, but didn't say so. "You want the blanket?" he asked. "Doesn't matter," I said. He spread it out near me and walked off again.

I thought about it for a few minutes, decided I just didn't want to sleep that near him, packed up my stuff and left, walked downhill to catch a bus. It was too late for one to the hacienda, but I planned to get as close as I could and walk the rest of the way. I'd been there about ten minutes when the Sleeptalker arrived, stood some distance away without saying anything. I turned and walked off.

Fortunately, it was a dry night, would have been quite miserable otherwise. I walked down to the beach park, was surprised to see a vacant bench in the large sheltered bus stop where the four benches are usually occupied by sleeping bodies. A couple of hours sleep, then a cop arrived and woke everyone up. Unnecessary, it seems to me, to bother people who are quietly sleeping at 3:30 in the morning. "Focking cops, won't focking leave you alone." Uh-huh.

I went over and sat on a bench facing the ocean, like all of them far too short and with iron armrests making them unsuitable for sleeping. I didn't mind, sat there for an hour watching the waves and then walked over to 7-Eleven to get coffee.

I'd written to Mme de Crécy earlier in the evening, "I have to get rid of him." But no, that's not really what I have to do. I have to regain my inner life without him being a dominating presence. The way it is now just isn't healthy for either of us.

500a

Mme de Crécy, understandably, wondered if I wished to elucidate on my wail about getting rid of "him". I told her it was mostly explained in Tale 500 although I had failed to capture the mood of the moment. That instant where the seesaw tilts from one direction to the other.

Another reader wrote: "You were teased thusly before the last episode. Be patient, your quarry awaits you, who are no longer master of the game. Sword or no..."

Ah, I may well be way ahead of the Sleeptalker in the game of Seventh Circle, but in "real life" I have never even come close to being Master of the Game. He has had the winning hand from the very first moment I saw him.

And yes, I was teased thusly on that Fool Moon extravaganza, but it was as different as any two scenarios can be which have one thing in common, his body bared from the waist up. The first time was delightful, charming, as if he were presenting me with a little thank-you bouquet for the beer I'd bought him. On Monday night it was more a drama of telling me what a scumbag I am, and just look at this, eat your heart out.

I wouldn't put up with a relationship that involved physical abuse, why should I endure one with a verbal equivalent, especially spiced with a wannabe-enticing peep show?

No. It was trashy. Maybe he was "all drunk". Maybe he was also even "all everything". Unlike the first time, I too was "all drunk". And maybe that helped tilt the balance so that I really didn't give a damn if I ever got his body again. I don't think so. I think his extraordinary performance would have done it even if I'd been cold sober.

Perhaps, consciously or unconsciously, that's exactly what he set out to do, be so obnoxious I'd stop desiring him. Again, I don't think so. I don't think he'd really want to gamble that far. I've been too useful for too long as a person he can turn to when everyone else has told him to get lost. And knowing that, of course, makes it even more difficult for me.

500b

Hey, will you guys stop it! How am I supposed to "get rid of" him when my readers encourage hopes of getting his pants down again, make excuses for his boorish behavior!

A reader recalled an incident many moons ago when the Sleeptalker had been ranting about gay men and one of the others (Mondo, I think) said, "he doesn't mean you." Yes, I remember that, the "I hate it when he cries" evening.

Monday's tirade, though, included too many arrows aimed directly at me. Both it and the fierce squabble outside the Garden last week were no doubt to-be-expected reactions inspired by that Fool Moon night and that, if there really is one, is the justification.

After the night of wandering and interrupted short moments of sleep, I was really, really happy to collapse on the bench at the hacienda Tuesday night. Rocky arrived later but some fat man had taken the bench between us, alas. The Sleeptalker told me that on the nights Rocky doesn't appear, he's staying at Mondo's place. Now that's an invitation I'd like to receive, even if it would be out of the frying pan into the fire.

It had been a quiet day on my own, alternating between time in the secluded grove with Conrad's Lord Jim and playing in Seventh Circle. Only about 800 more points to go and I can pay my debt to the Sleeptalker whether the promised revisions ever appear or not. No sign of him, in or out of the game.

I can't claim to have made much progress in regaining that control of my inner life I'm after. The stupid internal jukebox has been stuck on classic love songs since the Full Moon. I can force a change, but it sneaks back to them. Every time thoughts started to turn toward the Sleeptalker's so desirable body, though, I stopped them dead in their tracks.

Resist not evil? Uh-huh, I see how the effort to resist tends to feed the flames, the rebellious mind tries even harder to escape discipline. Oh well, gotta start somewhere.

501

Got it! Finally got that sword I owe the lad. Alas, he wasn't there to effect the transfer, but he will be. He had been in the game earlier on Wednesday, bragged that he'd been invited to a hotel party. "Lots of free beer." I resisted the naughty temptation to ask if he'd gotten "all drunk and everything", just replied, "cool".

Another quiet day, alternating between reading in the secluded grove and playing in Seventh Circle. I was on my way back to the computer lab after sunset when the Cherub spotted me, got my attention with an amusing bird call. A long evening of beer, wide-ranging conversation and a grilled cheese sandwich that produced all-night indigestion. I don't think I'll ever eat anything again at the University Players bar.

The Cherub is reconciled to returning in the fall, just isn't going to have the credits he needs to graduate now. He had told his father who seems, as always, to have taken it with goodnatured grumbling, and the Cherub plans to spend the summer at home on Kauai.

We talked about the Sleeptalker and our strange dance together. The Cherub said that during their time alone together last week, the Sleeptalker had referred to making me jealous. The Cherub either genuinely didn't remember the exact details or was sparing me. A pity, I'd like to have heard that exchange. He thought it beyond understanding. I suppose I do, too, but I also find it mysteriously intriguing. I said I had noticed on several occasions what seemed very transparent attempts to push me into feeling jealous, but that I had been firmly determined from the beginning not to allow myself that grim indulgence. Jealousy is one emotion (curse?) I want nothing more to do with.

Although neither of us had told him directly, the Cherub had reached the conclusion that the Sleeptalker had finally been seduced (or was it had seduced?). I told him his assumption was correct. He wondered if I had "swallowed it all"! Bizarre. And even more so since the Sleeptalker himself was much impressed that I had, indeed, "swallowed it all." As the inimitable Betka commented: "Besides, it wouldn't be Love if you didn't swallow it all."

The Cherub and I finally left the bar shortly after eleven. I waited awhile to see if a bus would come along to take me within walking distance of the hacienda, then gave up and went to sleep in the Fool Moon Spot. The blanket was still where the Sleeptalker had left it, a comfy soft cotton spread much too large to lug around. I wrapped myself up in it and aside from waking several times wishing I had some Alka-Seltzer enjoyed a rare night by myself, no snoring, no morning motormouths, no sleeptalking.

502

At his best, I can say with solid objectivity the Sleeptalker is as charming, sweet and affectionate as any man it has been my privilege to meet.

Did he wonder if he'd gone too far on that unpleasant Monday? I'm not sure. On my first trip to India, one of the most difficult adjustments to make was to the attitude of what seemed the majority of Indians. If in a bad mood, they were in a bad mood. No matter if you were a treasured, regular customer, they made no effort at all to be pleasant. I soon came to see it as far more healthy than our put-on-a-happy-face American method.

Maybe that, too, is the Sleeptalker's way. Or maybe he was mending the almost-burned bridge, making an unspoken apology. Or maybe it's my version of the battered wife syndrome, although not surprisingly, I like that interpretation least.

The Sleeptalker arrived on campus Thursday morning, wearing a white Corona teeshirt and tan corduroy pants which were cut in a way that showed off his cute butt perfectly. I was wearing the Corona teeshirt he'd had on that Fool Moon night. "The Corona Twins," I said.

He brought me a pint bottle of vodka, refused at lunchtime to share it, said, "no, that's for you."

I told him in the game to meet me at an out-of-the-way spot. He arrived. I said, "thank you again", handed him the special sword, and bowed to him. He returned the bow. Sweet.

Sweet, too, those "caught ya'" smiles when he knew I'd drifted into adoring reverie, especially at one point when we were taking a smoke break and he sprawled on his back in the grass beside the bench, his tee shirt riding up to reveal a strip of brown belly. And his utterly delightful rendition of the Oedipus Rex story. Sophocles would no doubt be much pleased that his work survived all those centuries and is still able to reach a Waianae high-school dropout.

Helen R had invited me on a "cheap date" when she got two free tickets to the first showing here of Ridley Scott's "Gladiator", so the Sleeptalker and I left campus a little after six, parted with a touched closed fist "handshake" and another of his wonderful smiles. It had been on all counts one of the best days I've spent with him.

I'm not sure these "freebie" films are really all that free, especially when part of radio station promotional extravaganzas. Packed theatres and lengthy pre-show routines of patter from dee-jays, trivia contests and prize give-a-ways are possibly a higher price to pay than purchasing a ticket. Then, rather incredibly these days, the film broke at one point, so there was an unplanned intermission, followed by two shorter breaks when the attempted repair hadn't worked.

The longest one would have been a good chance to step out for a smoke and that might have made me less impatient as the film meandered on to its conclusion. There are some brilliant, incredible sequences, one battle scene which is probably the best ever made of "primitive" warfare, and the more-aided-by-high-tech grand scenes of ancient Rome are fitting additions to the Griffith-DeMille tradition. But there were some stretches of the long, long film which were utterly boring.

Still, I'm grateful to have seen it and didn't mind finding myself on the streets at Waikiki after eleven at night, especially since a bus quickly came along which took me directly to the hacienda and a vacant bench. Rocky's usual spot. I guess he was with Mondo. Lucky Rocky. Lucky me, too, for that delightful day with the Sleeptalker, a day that made me more than happy I hadn't, after all, gotten "rid of him."

503

"Follow your heart," the Sleeptalker said. "I want you to follow your heart."

I'll follow my secret heart ...

I had a colossal hangover on Saturday morning but it wasn't because of the beer we'd drunk on Friday, it was an emotional and psychic hangover. He appeared in the game mid-morning on Friday, playing from the State Library, then disappeared again, then returned. I learned later that the guardians of the terminals there were giving him a hard time, strictly enforcing their absurd fifteen-minute limit. So he arrived on campus.

The next ten hours were soul-jerking. During breaks from the game, he talked and talked, more than I've ever heard from him in one dose. He loves his mother, he loves his father, he insisted, but a little later said he'd gone to see his mother and she told him he shouldn't be there, they had a TRO against him. He hates her.

A mother who would get a legal restraining order to keep her eldest son away is beyond my ability to understand, no matter how well I know what a problem child he is. But then she and I no doubt have in common the tremendous burden of wanting so much to help him but not knowing how, and she has carried it a lot longer than I have.

His caseworker isn't paying enough attention to him, he said, and it's complicated because he has something of a crush on her even if she is "old". I was keeping my comments to an absolute minimum but did remind him he'd said he wasn't doing what the caseworker advised. "I don't want to do all that stuff, I just want to play MUD."

He hadn't gone to his interview for financial assistance. He either has to, or wants to, leave the IHS shelter. I know nothing of how that place works, but apparently he has about a hundred dollars in an account there. To withdraw it, he has to "go off their books". And he doesn't care, except that he'd have no place to keep his stuff. I sympathized, said one thing I really disliked was having to carry my backpack around all the time.

As always, he started the sex game. "It's a sin," he said. "God told Moses that homosexuals and lesbians are sinners." So far as we know, I corrected, all "God" said to Moses is what's in the ten commandments, and there is no mention of homosexuality there. God made you what you are, he said. "I don't mind. You give good head."

"Thank you."

Yes, he decided, I could have his body again in exchange for that other special sword. Then he changed his mind. Jerk, jerk, watch the puppet on a string. "I'm getting tired of this game," I told him.

"I don't want to think about it," he said. "Go to bed, you'll wake up in the morning and I'll be gone."

"No, you'll wake up in the morning and I'll be gone."

And I was. My heart just had to follow me, it had no choice.

504

Don't think twice, it's all right ...

There was almost a full flask of beer left, so after our Dylan-ish final exchange I smoked a cigarette and finished the beer, got up and folded my half of the blanket over the Sleeptalker. He was asleep or pretending to be. I left, walked downhill and got a bus downtown, walked on to the hacienda. I was so exhausted I slept very soundly, didn't wake until it was a little after six, already full daylight. For a moment, I felt confused. No guard saying "it's time to wake up"? That usually only happens on Sunday mornings.

A bus to the mall, two cups of coffee, an abundant snipes hunt. The cleaning crew from the night before must have quit early. No quarters, no matter. Surprisingly, the Fabled Pension Check still wasn't fully spent (albeit close enough). And I did better this round with the foodstamps, too, having almost fifteen dollars to carry over. Those lovely free meals in April get the credit, not any feats of self-restraint.

To campus. Reading and writing email. A reader wrote: In short, the dictum "hang loose" is probably well advised. I wouldn't waste too much time with an obviously intractable person and situation.

Oh, I'm not at all concerned about wasting time. It's the one thing I have in abundance and I'm not going to worry about wasting any of it. I'm also not convinced the time I've spent with the Sleeptalker has in any way been a waste. What does deeply bother me is my inability to really be of any help to him, and my fear that I may actually be doing more harm than good to the man. I don't think I can possibly help him break out of his tormented sexual confusion, but I do suspect that is a major part of his overall inner difficulties. I could adjust to the idea that sex was just not going to be part of our friendship, I think. I've been careful to avoid the subject altogether. But he won't let it rest. I don't know if playing puppetmaster really is his motive. I doubt it's as deliberate and conscious as that. Whatever his intent, as I told him, I'm getting tired of the game.

Yes, "hang loose" is no doubt the proper prescription. Live for the day, for the hour, keep on trying to reduce the Sleeptalker's role in my inner life.

Joseph Conrad and his magnificent, almost intoxicating prose is not helping much. Despite the irrelevant dissimilarities, it is impossible not to associate his Jim with my Sleeptalker. And the relationship of an older man to a troubled youth, with such dense undertones of undefined sexuality, so beautifully narrated with so many profound observations -- a splendid book, indeed. But no, not in the least bit helpful when it comes to pushing the Sleeptalker into a less significant, less demanding niche in my world of thoughts.

Nor is Seventh Circle. "Where is he?" they ask, "why isn't he playing this morning?" I don't know where he is, maybe he's too hungover to play today. But yes, I enjoy that game and I enjoy some of the friendships that have formed in there. And yes, it must be admitted that it's a much better way to be friends with a sixteen-year-old lad who lives in New Jersey and seems to find me a warm shoulder to cry on now and then.

And the Sleeptalker's role in my outer world? I honestly don't know what I want. There's a part of me which would, if the means were at hand, simply go away. Travel to distant climes, as I did to escape the Dutchman, that other great Love of My Life. This is a small town. I could avoid the Sleeptalker only with considerable adjustments to my habitual way of life, including giving up life on campus. And I am not at all sure I want to avoid him, no matter how welcome the days of respite may be.

It would no doubt be wiser to give up drinking with him, though. Can I stick with that resolve when he asks, as he did on Friday, if I would buy us some beer and I have money in pocket? Probably not.

"Hang loose." Yes, that's even wiser. Waste no time fretting over what decision can or should be made until the time arrives to make it.

And read on. Read the online journals of other people, like Terri, whose touching essay on infertility took me for a time right out of my own muddy ponderings, or the author of Stitches in Time delightfully, in her latest entry (as of today), mulling over love, and panties left in the back seat of a car.

Dame Fortune, of course, waited in the wings, a book in hand to leave in my path.

Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf

505

A reader had written: You can't really be as old as you are, and as smart as you are, my dear Panther, and not recognize the functional dynamics of self-loathing, can you?

And then clarified in a follow-up mail: On reviewing my comment, I notice its ambiguity. I trust you understood I was referring to Mr. Sleeptalker's self-loathing, not your own. IOW, his arrows (how appropriate!) were aimed not at you at all, but at his projection of an aspect of his personality that he clearly dreads, fears, loathes, desires, needs, wants, and most of the time, manages to suppress.

That's a grimly accurate catalogue, I think. I had interpreted the original remarks as referring to the Sleeptalker but was certainly not going to quibble with any splatters that fell on me through the ambiguity of it. I am not blameless. And while "self-loathing" would be far too strong a term for it, there is dissatisfaction with self to deal with. As I wrote, right up to the last moment I was thinking I should stop it. I'm not fool enough to have expected him to take my attitude, "that was fun, let's do it again." I knew it would complicate our friendship and his inner life. Yes, I accept any splatters.

Saturday was the Dutchman's birthday, so the Sleeptalker had to move over, make room for the customary annual Meditation Upon a Dutchman celebration. In our last conversation together, I told the Dutchman that someday, when we were old enough that his beautiful body and cock no longer stood in the way, we could no doubt be the best of friends. I wonder if we've gotten that far now? Probably not. I've no idea even if he's still alive, it has been a very long time since I've had any news of him. But it wouldn't surprise me at all to meet him and find him as exciting and sexy as I did twenty-eight years ago.

It was a Sleeptalker-free weekend, as expected. I'm surely on his shitlist for abandoning him on Friday night. And it was a quietly pleasant weekend, a little time online, a little time reading, a lot of time thinking. Then it was that so-luxurious time of clean body, clean clothes, clean mind. Hmmm, okay, maybe just the first two. And ...

Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar?

Through the miracle of DVD, it was time to re-visit "Going My Way" for the first time in many years. What a sweet film it is. Life could never really have been so innocent and sweet, no more than Norman Rockwell's idyllic scenes could have been real. But our American Dreams are still touching and heartwarming, no matter how distant from our American Reality.

And now it's that most unusual time of the year on campus. Finals Week. A time of abundance for me. Discarded books, students so stressed they buy a lot more food than they can eat, light cigarettes and put them out after a few anxious puffs, leave more change than usual in vending machines. The feast before the quiet famine of the break before summer sessions begin.

I had expected Monday to be the first penniless day of May. I was saving the final chapters of Lord Jim and two dollars for a beer to enjoy while reading them. End of Fabled Pension Check. But when I got to the mall after a dream-filled night on the bench, I noticed the strollers hadn't been fully pushed into their corral. Shove. Clink-clink-clink-clink. Four quarters. Cool.

506

Terri's Saturday morning musings with its tale of a shirt brought a smile. I wrote about this not long ago, but a "crash" zapped it, so far as I can remember. If I'm wrong, and this is repetition, well, it won't be the first in these Tales.

In the late Fifties, there were two main gay bars in Atlanta, Wit's End and Mrs. P's. Wit's End was actually mixed, the bar side mostly gay, the tables side mostly straight. It was very near the Georgia Tech campus and was the hangout for a number of hunks from that macho school. Some of them had no objection to giving up their bodies for a little cash or, when the urge was upon them, for free.

It was one of the few times in my life when I was utterly smitten with the beefcake type the Sleeptalker thinks all us queens lust after. Ricky was just the cat's meow and when he walked into the bar, panting heads turned to watch. I'd been told, by someone who supposedly knew from experience, that he wasn't gay but could be had. And he'd only go with someone once, would never repeat it. I wanted my one turn badly. I finally got it, a delicious, still-memorable night with him. For a very long time, I kept that bedsheet without washing it, would now and then take it out to remember his body laying on it. Yes, I understood Terri and her treasured shirt very well.

I guess I'm less romantic in my old age. Although I can't wear it without awareness that it's the shirt the Sleeptalker was wearing at that moment, I have now washed it twice. It doesn't smell like him anymore, alas.

The things we do for love, the things we treasure because of it ... But perhaps I'm not less romantic, just romantic in a different way. In my current case, I admit the most treasured thing is not the shirt but the fact that he admitted he enjoyed it. Okay, so he had to get "all drunk" again to say so, but hearing it was a special gift even if he didn't know he'd given one.

The good luck which began Monday with that dollar from heaven shifted to the other extreme. I made a quick midday trip to the mall, saw a stroller which hadn't been put into the corral properly. Put it in. No clink-clink. The damned device was out of refund quarters. I hate it when that happens, but at least I hadn't wheeled the thing in from the boondocks to get robbed. Back on a campus-bound bus, stopping by the supermarket to buy some lunch. "Denied" said the little machine. My foodstamp allowance for this month hadn't arrived on my card on Friday when it should have. Sigh. I was in no mood to deal with it, did my best Scarlett O'Hara routine and said "tomorrow is another day".

The weather shifted from sunny and pleasant to gray, sultry and drizzly. The campus was a nightmare of hysterical students, shrieking at each other between exams. For some reason (maybe the weather), a lot of them picked the little computer lab for their hyper conversations. They weren't using the computers, just sitting around loudly overacting. And the whole place was so crowded. I suppose students who may rarely, or never, have attended classes can't fail to show up for those final exams.

Dame Fortune, that silent, elegant lady who can be so generous, with her three Fates spinning away, sometimes goes so far in her bitchiness it falls over the edge. We suicidals, as Hesse so aptly defined us, at the first frown from that Lady, wish we were dead. But then she goes on and on and it gets too silly.

I waited till near sunset. It was still very cloudy, but seemed to be breaking up a bit, moments of sunshine. So I went downhill, got that last beer, returned to the secluded grove and the tortuous last pages of Lord Jim. Nope, Madame wasn't having it. Drizzled a bit on me ... and the book. I persevered. She relented. With perhaps a half-inch of the flask still amber with brew, she let loose. I gulped the remainder of the beer, put the almost-finished book in my backpack and fled to shelter, laughing silently.

You silly cow!

507

Plenty of fish in the sea, uh-huh. There certainly is no shortage of attractive young men in this town. All the more unfortunate then, the Navy should pick such a poor specimen for their high-profile guardhouse at the gate to Pearl Harbor. With that beer belly, not even the sexy white uniform could compensate.

What, you may wonder, was I doing inspecting the potbellied sentry from a bus window passing Pearl Harbor? Well, I was sightseeing, of course.

Hmmmm. To tell the truth, I'd gotten lost. I had called the foodstamps hotline number when I got to campus. It was one of those "push x for doo-dah" kind of things, starting with "1" for English, "2" for Spanish. After I entered my card number and pressed "#" as instructed, the chirpy computer voice confirmed my lordly balance of just over two dollars. I explored the options further, jumping to a second set of them, but every time it got to where one might have hoped for a "press 1 for a real, live human person" it instead said "contact your local office".

My local office doesn't have a toll-free number, so I decided the best thing was just to go to the office. I got on a wrong bus. At a place very near where I would've wanted to get off, it rolled onto the H-1 highway and sped off past Tripler Hospital, the state prison, Aloha Stadium and finally to Pearlridge Mall. Okay, I knew my way back from there, so I got off and explored the mall for a brief time. It was my first visit there in a very long time and it will probably be an even longer time before I repeat it. Free strollers, free shopping carts! Not a quarter to be had. And no smoking in most of the (enclosed) mall, so snipe hunting limited to entrance ashtrays. Humbug.

By the time I returned to civilization, it was lunch time and that didn't seem to be a very smart moment to visit the office of government bureaucrats, so I returned to my Scarlett mode and said, "tommorow is another day."

I didn't mind the unplanned excursion. I had decided I'd avoid campus after an early morning visit, didn't want to repeat Monday's dose of hysteria. I'd had more than enough of squealing young men, far more than enough of squealing young ladies. So I had nothing special to do anyway.

I also felt it was better to avoid Seventh Circle during the hours when the Sleeptalker might be there. I definitely do not want to deprive him of his pleasure in playing that game, and if my being around makes it a less comfortable option, then I'll stay away. A bit of a conflict, because I know he actually feels more comfortable when I am around, I help him so much in that alternate reality.

My discretion was probably not necessary. I think telling him I was tired of his game inspired a major sulk. So far as I know, he has retreated for four days, both from me and from Seventh Circle.

Judging by Ryan's Monday entry, I wasn't the only one Dame Fortune had been spitting at. She wasn't exactly smiling at me on Tuesday, either, but I did score two quarters at the more-fruitful mall when I got back to it. That put me into the beer-buying class, but not the beer+next-morning-coffee level which is so much nicer. She did place a little food in my path, too, proving again that even without foodstamps and without resorting to the soup kitchens, one doesn't have to go hungry. May have to put up with over-fried chicken katsu that had been discarded for good reason, but don't have to go hungry.

Well, being the conservative person that I am, I counted my remaining instant coffee bags. Seven of them. Okay. If I would pay Conrad the honor of finishing his splendid Lord Jim with a beer, I could hardly begin Hesse's incomparable Steppenwolf without the same compliment.

If pushed into a corner and required to answer: "what is the most beloved book in your long life?", I'd have to answer, "Steppenwolf".

There haven't been nearly as many books abandoned on campus as there usually are this time of year, but I certainly can't complain when the two I did decide to acquire came from Joseph Conrad and Hermann Hesse.

I often dream of him at night, and the mere existence of such a man, much as I got to like him, has had a thoroughly disturbing and disquieting effect on me.

Uh-huh.

508

"Good morning," said the Duchess, and I was more than ordinarily pleased to hear it. She has become so withdrawn recently, acquired (probably found) a sun visor and very dark sunglasses, would sit with her head nodded as if she was in a shell. I missed our little waves to each other and her smiling encouragement when I passed by with a bagged cart or stroller. I figured she wanted to be left alone, so I stopped greeting her, walked by her as if not noticing. I was glad she came out of the shell, even if temporarily.

And I spotted the Homebound One for the second day in a row. He's a slim man, probably in his fifties, with an almost-shaved head. He never wears anything but white shorts, surprisingly clean, no shirt, no shoes, even in the most chill days of winter. He is, of course, very deeply tanned. For several years he has spent every day on a corner about a block from the mall, asking passers-by for a dollar to "get home". I doubt anyone believed he had a home to get to, but he probably scored enough change from kind strangers to buy those cheap bottles of wine I'd see him drinking near the 7-Eleven in the evening. Then he disappeared. He seems to have relocated to the McCully area. Maybe the passers-by are even kinder there.

Another too-long absent one turned up at the hacienda on Tuesday night, although I didn't know it until the morning when he sat up and I saw who had been huddled under a sheet when I'd gotten there. Angelo. He looked wonderful enough to sigh over. Slap Panther, down boy, life's complicated enough already on that score, leave it be.

As I had the evening before, I lingered on campus longer than was prudent for a man in quest of a bit of dinner and a quarter for next morning's coffee. The mall shops were all closed or closing, the place was rapidly becoming deserted. Eureka, a plate lunch box abandoned on a planter ledge. Generous helpings of stir-fried vegetables and rice reminded me again that I actually eat more without foodstamps than I do with them. Not knowing where, when or if the next food will arrive tends to make a person eat whatever turns up, hungry or not.

But I gave up on the quarter, reconciled myself to a caffeine-free trip to campus next morning. Then, walking to the bus stop, there it was, an abandoned cart with its quarter. Oh lucky man.

Terri and I seem to have something of a tennis match going. Her treasured shirt evoked memories of a cherished bedsheet, my memories of Wit's End (what a great name for a bar) prompted her to recall her adventures working at what sounds like a most amusing bar in Australia. And she wrote: "If nothing else, I'd like my ashes to be strewn over there at some sandy blue-water tropical spot. That ought to at least provide some entertainment for whoever gets the onerous job of dealing with my ashes! Then I want them to throw the urn as far out in the water as possible."

Not long after I emerged from that long hospital adventure and its false alarms, a reader asked if I had given thought to what I wanted done with the remains, when the time finally did arrive. Oh yes, scatter the ashes off the beach near Duke's in Waikiki, then hang out in that fine bar and drink a few to my memory. I'm not so sure about the urn, hadn't thought of that. There's already more than enough trash on the ocean floor off Waikiki. Hmmm, are there biodegradable funeral urns?

509

"Mrs I., your caseworker, did put the authorization through," the young man told me. "But I just put it through again and the credit will be on your card before seven in the morning." I thanked him and left, thinking he must be fairly new to the Bureaucrat Game. Never, especially about supposed positive developments, say anything definite. Far better to have said "should be", not "will be". Despite his confident promise, I knew I'd be checking that hotline first to see if the chirpy voice knows I have, in fact, received my handout.

I took that same hinterlands-bound bus again, but this time knew where to get off before it zoomed onto the highway, waited for another bus to take me within walking distance of the DHSS office. Getting there, I was told my case had been transferred to a different office. How kind of them to have informed me. Not! Oh well, at least it's now in town rather than out in the sticks.

The building number meant nothing to me, so I took a bus back into town and walked along the street until I came to it. The whole adventure reminded me of that day in New Delhi when Jonathan and I spent hours and hours arranging for replacements for stolen passports and travelers checks. I suppose one reason I so dread dealing with bureaucracy is that solid training I had with the Grandmasters of the Game in India. Well, even before getting there. As I mentioned in the India Notebooks, in London, at their embassy, I sat waiting a long time looking at my passport in a wire basket, wondering when someone was finally going to hand it to me. Of course, I was an innocent then. Had I left a five pound note discreetly hanging out of my passport when I'd handed it over for a visa stamp, I'd no doubt have had it back far sooner. At least in Honolulu, gratuities are not expected, although maybe even here things would move more quickly if they were offered. And no doubt at certain levels, invisible transfers of inducements are routine.

I took the bus back to the mall. No quarters, no free lunch. Onward to campus. Squealing young men. Sigh. Finals Week just wasn't as bad in previous years as it is in AD2000. Patience, patience ... it's almost over.

Helen R. kindly stepped into the role of Dame Fortune, replacing that other personage who has been so grouchy to me this week. Helen and I went to the fairly-newish Mexican place in the mall's Food Court for dinner. The food, even with their "hottest" salsa, was very bland for South of the Border cuisine, but the portions were generous and I was feeling thoroughly stuffed after consuming it all.

We talked about some on-liners, one of whom has mysteriously vanished into the woodwork, so to speak. I thought I might have offended him somehow, although I hadn't the least clue how I'd done so. Or maybe he's, I considered, one of those who expected something totally different to result from the hospital adventure. But he seems to be ignoring everyone and remaining totally silent even though apparently being on-line now and then. A mystery. Another one isn't a mystery at all, but did oddly disappear for a time. No regrets about that one, just relief to be spared his voluminous, vulgar tirades for awhile. He, alas, returned to the generally more congenial alt.music.hawaiian newsgroup, demonstrating yet again he has zero capability of carrying on a discussion without reams of irrelevant personal attacks.

What a disappointment Usenet is, thus far at least, what a hideous waste of potential.

In between my visits to the world of bureaucracy and going to meet Helen for dinner, I looked in at Seventh Circle. There was a new player named "Paniolo". Heh. Okay, that gave me the clue. I'll create a new player myself, then I can pop in to look over the scene, see who's playing and whether I really want to cramp someone's space by taking in Reting the Ranger. Thanks, my dear Hawaiian Cowboy.

510

Dame Fortune went a bit wacky later on Wednesday evening. Of course, she's a very old lady, as old as Time itself, so must be forgiven her bouts of grouchiness and looniness. Her first, unusual, gift was an ID bracelet. It's made of what I assume is stainless steel with black leather thongs, has a very handsomely designed clasp even if it apparently wasn't very reliable. The ID bar says GUESS in big block letters. No trouble "guess"-ing what shop it came from. It's a bit weird for an old guy like me to be wearing, but what the heck. If the lad ever stops pouting and comes around, he'll probably want it.

Then Madame offered half a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. I declined, still more than full of Mexican food. So she put a Sanrio-type bus-pass folder in my path. It did have a bus pass in it, but last month's, alas. Had it been the current one, I would have given it to Angelo. It also had the noble sum of forty-four cents in it, two phone cards, and some postage stamps. Not exactly major treasure, but an amusing find.

Another dream-filled night, as most have been in recent weeks. I remember very clearly one scene on board a small ship, sailing along peacefully when suddenly we came upon a very high waterfall and went right over. I felt absolutely no panic or distress as I watched the water below coming up to meet us as we fell, and even though the ship did a perfect nosedive, there was no trouble in standing. Talk about over the edge ...

I suppose it was the closest thing to a flying dream I've had in years. My favorite of those is still one I had in New York City. I was going to end it all by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. I did jump, but about halfway to the water, I started flying instead, swooped downriver a ways and landed on the Jersey shore. My most elegant failed suicide attempt.

Much to my surprise, when I got to campus and dialed the foodstamps hotline the chirpy voice said you have two hundred and one dollars and some-forgotten-amount-of cents. That young fellow at DHSS must have known better what he was doing than had Mrs. I., assuming she hadn't simply forgotten to do it altogether. If only I could buy beer with the thing, I thought (and certainly not for the first time).

I'm almost always willing to drink a beer, it's true, but the times when I really, really want one are surprisingly rare. Such was the mood on Thursday, a day which began with another surprisingly rare event, getting drizzled on when walking from the bench to the bus stop. A thoroughly gray, damp dawn it was. And although it eventually cleared, it was one of those days when light drizzle could be expected at any moment. Naturally one of those moments had to be while I was enjoying lunch in the secluded grove. And just as well I hadn't brought a beer along in my backpack. A security guard was sitting on one of the benches. I wondered if he'd been detailed to find out where all the empty Colt bottles in the trashcan were coming from, but it's more likely he was just enjoying his lunch break in what is, after all, one of the most peaceful places on campus.

If, as I suspect, the Sleeptalker is playing the new character "Paniolo" in the game, I'm proud of him. I've long tried to get him to understand the fun of role playing in the game. There's not much point in playing several different characters if you play them all the same, might as well just concentrate the effort on one of them. He has, briefly, managed once before to play a new character in a totally different style, and I'm pretty sure he's doing it now. The fact that Paniolo logged in shortly after the State Library opened and left in time for soup kitchen lunch bolsters my suspicion.

And I'm having good fun playing my new one, as well. It's refreshing to play without people constantly asking for assistance, and it has been so long since I've played such a lowlife, it's doubly amusing.

And in the mailbox:

Hmmm, are there biodegradable funeral urns?
"Umm...yeah. I think they call that a paper bag?"

I like it! Going out in the proverbial Plain Brown Wrapper.

511

For the second day in a row, Bla and I went in at the same time for our McD's refill, handed Victor our cups together. Who knows if we got our original cups back? Certainly didn't matter to me, I wouldn't mind in the least drinking from Bla's cup. Although his chin is lined with a neatly trimmed beard, he keeps the sides closely shaved, up above his ears. He'd gone further than usual with his trimming, had a large shaved area on either side which looked even more strange with the whiteness contrasted to his darkly tanned face.

"You need to get some sun on that," I said. He admitted he'd gone further than he'd planned with his razor, said it was okay. "Got to keep the women away. Too good looking, and they come around," he said, and laughed. "You poor man," I teased, and thought it would surely take more than a weird haircut to keep me away. Although not "good looking" in a conventional sense, he is an incredibly sexy man. Even if I have to spend all day sitting in the park and waiting for it, I must have a shower with him sometime. I want to see all of him.

And speaking of sexy men, Dame Fortune may be old, but she still knows how to rock.

When Helen R and I had been debating whether to have Mexican food or go to Arby's, she said we should try Mexican and do Arby's the next day. So I went down to the mall to join her for dinner again. No matter how much credit may be on that foodstamps card and how many luxuries like French pate, Dutch cheese and chilled Starbucks mocha it can provide, it won't produce one of my favorite things, the lowly baked potato. So Arby's remains a treat. Leaving Helen, I returned to campus, read Hesse for awhile and then spent the last hour before Sinclair Library closed playing Seventh Circle.

Going back to the mall for a final snipes hunt before heading to the bench, I was walking along so engrossed in thought I didn't even notice until he grabbed my arm. Mondo!

What a sweetheart of a madman he is. Even without those beautiful eyes and those long eyelashes, just his soft and gentle voice would make me melt. He asked if I'd seen the Sleeptalker, and I told him not since last Friday. He asked who was staying at the hacienda these days. I said Rocky was there sometimes, and Angelo, but mostly it was people I didn't know. He'd be talking but now and then he'd look to the side, drift off into whatever reality it is he lives in, and it was as if just the shell of his body was standing there, he had flown off somewhere. No complaints, I'd be more than happy just to have the shell.

He said he had to go, he had to get up very early in the morning to go downtown about a job. I cannot imagine him getting an ordinary job or, if he did, keeping it very long. I told him it was good to have seen him and urged him to take care of himself. You do, too, he said, and went on his way.

Yep, the Old Lady does still know how to rock.



512

The Three Jewels. How strangely interwoven our lives are. All the young men whose paths have crossed mine in this odd new life but it's always Rocky, Mondo and the Sleeptalker who come and go, mix and match, disappear and reappear.

Those so-rare moments alone with Mondo on Thursday evening, the Sleeptalker bringing his Main Man into the game on Friday afternoon, the night sleeping on a bench with Rocky on the one behind me. He was already asleep when I got there. I was feeling weary and frazzled from (thank heaven!) the last day of Finals Week, settled down and only woke once in the night to look over at him. When I got up in the morning he was sprawled on his back, one knee up, his stuffed crotch all the more provocative for knowing exactly what was causing that bulge. How not to start a day in a serene state of mind.

It's Rocky I should have an "all drunk and everything" party with, I thought. After all, the one time when we were alone and shared two quarts of brew, he quite voluntarily showed it to me, enjoyed my admiring inspection. Another round, who knows, he might well give it to me. And I'm certain he'd do so without all the fuss and angst of the Sleeptalker. I can't imagine Rocky ever having had the need to say, "I'm not gay."

In any case, it was refreshing to have a sexual fantasy without the Sleeptalker being the star. He hadn't known I was there, of course, in the game. And he was playing in such an unusual way, so quiet and subdued. I wondered if his often outrageous antics are part of his habitual routine of pushing me to see how far he can take it or, more likely, feeling free to misbehave because he knows I'm there to help pick up the pieces if someone kicks his butt. I was happy to see him playing, anyway. He needs that game a lot more than I do.

And I don't really need all these sex-fantasy games, either, or at least a large part of me thinks I don't. For all his problems, the Steppenwolf is largely spared such nonsense. Of course, the book deals with a time of deep crisis in his life, and when I've been in that dark place I, too, had little time for such games. If you're thinking of cutting your throat, stuffed crotches are rather insignificant.

I never thought of cutting my throat, actually. It never seemed a viable method. Two small bowls will do for the sacrifice, the I Ching says, matching that wonderful image in Fellini's "Satyricon", slashed bleeding wrists held over two small bowls. I read that the more practical method is to slash them while sitting in a tub of warm water, since that will be more certain to keep the blood flowing for the necessary time. Of course, that's all rather primitive considering the arsenal of pills which can do the job with less mess, more efficiently.

No, I'm not feeling in the least suicidal, although the weather continues to be dismal enough to inspire such thoughts. I'm much too interested in stuffed crotches to be thinking of giving them up just yet. It was, after all, that Fool Moon night with the Sleeptalker when I finally stopped, once and for all, regretting that I hadn't died in the hospital. That was worth living for. And maybe there are more such magical moments ahead, why not stick around and see ...

513

The libraries at the University are closed on the weekends preceding and following Interim Week but surprisingly, the little computer lab is sticking to its usual schedule. That does mean, though, early closing on the weekend. So shortly after four, I left and went to play Mall Rat for the evening. It was not as crowded as usual despite some elaborate production at Center Stage, taping segments for the Disney Channel. The first part of the thing was "kiddie karaoke" which was quite unbearable. A little girl of perhaps eight or nine years pretending to be Celine Dion tests my patience well beyond endurance. The second part featured teenagers doing the same thing and was no better. One rather cute young man simply couldn't sing although one had the idea his family has for years considered him a major talent. Dismal stuff.

Eleven quarters, one dime and two pennies. Not a bad haul for a few hours at the mall. There were no odd finds aside from a rather elegant black leather coin holder, empty alas. It had probably been quite expensive but was too bulky to be of any use to me. A plain plastic bag does quite well enough for my supply of coins. I'd had a late lunch, wasn't at all hungry, and when I came across two sandwiches, individually and neatly wrapped in plastic, there was no need to consider the other options which turned up, much less hauling out the foodstamps card again. Two egg salad sandwiches. Just fine.

I'd had a beer in the secluded grove earlier, continuing Hesse. Although I identify in many ways with the Steppenwolf and certainly have great sympathy for him, there is one thing we just don't share. Every time I read the book, I again carefully examine my thinking but, no, I simply don't fear death as he did. I fear the idea of death arriving painfully, a fear that has more than once made me hesitate about jumping off a tall building. Just those few seconds of pain are a major deterrent. But death itself I don't fear at all.

Perhaps that's at least partly because I don't believe there's any "final judgment" awaiting. Judgment, perhaps. But I am not too worried about that. There are without question some things on the negative side of the scale and I may well be blamed for having wasted too many opportunities in this life, but all in all, there's nothing to be overly worried about, I think. And I seem to have become more and more convinced another life, another chance, will follow. So even if the Tibetans are right and the interim is something of a wild rollercoaster ride, there's nothing really to fear. Poor Steppenwolf.

I got to the bench a little earlier than usual, settled down and fell asleep quickly. Later I woke and saw the McD's Bicycle Lad was on the bench next to me. His shirt was up far enough to reveal a strip of brown belly, quite a sweet vision. Angelo was several benches away, laying face down and doing a gentle bump-and-grind in his sleep. I hope it was as good for the bench as it was for me.

The weather had, at last, shifted and Saturday afternoon had been sunny and pleasant despite a few light drizzles, even in the sunshine. And it was a welcome change to wake at dawn and see a clear sky, be able to walk to the bus stop without getting damp. Summer is upon us. I stashed the heavy cotton sleeping shirt, retrieved the light nylon windbreaker which has seen two summers as a pajama top. I hadn't looked in that stash box in so long I'd forgotten there are four tee shirts in there, one which once belonged to the Sleeptalker. And there are quite a few books. Maybe toward the end of the month I'll read the seventh volume of the Robert Jordan epic again, then buy the eighth, still unread. Now and then someone gets into that stashbox but rarely takes anything, and I never put anything in there I'd mind losing.

It felt good to have the backpack reduced in weight, even if only by one heavy cotton shirt. Now it's time to find a summer "blanket", since I insisted the tablecloth I'd been using be thrown away when in the hospital. Summertime, and may the livin' be easy.

I'm a-livin' on the easy, with a bottle of whisky. Ain't got no money, to see my honey .... Well, I've got ten quarters, but that's not enough for my honey.

514

"Truth seekers are forbidden to escape life's experience through suicide. However, in cases of terminal illness, under strict community regulation, tradition does allow fasting as a means of mors voluntaria religiosa."

Mors voluntaria religiosa. Cool phrase.

I resisted the (strong) temptation to spend my mall loot on a Sunday lunchtime beer, saved it instead until late afternoon, enjoying the brew and Hesse in the secluded grove. Consequently I didn't get to the mall until almost sunset time. Given such a late arrival and the early Sunday closing, I had little hope for anything but a box of decent snipes. With some effort, I did get that but also, much to my surprise, I bagged five quarters. Those fifty-cent-refund strollers are such a welcome addition to my life.

Food offerings were again abundant but I wasn't hungry, didn't even inspect the abandoned plate lunch boxes. I spotted a severely overweight nomad wolfing down the contents of one I'd declined, thought I would have been doing him a favor had I eaten it. It's a mystery to me how so many of the street people maintain their obesity, even given the frequent largesse at the mall. My own abstinence was tested, though, when I saw a white box from Leonard's Bakery on a bench. Looked inside. Half a dozen fresh malasadas! I would have preferred to tuck them in my backpack for Monday's breakfast but I long ago learned those delectable pastries just aren't as delicious held over to the next day, so I sat and pigged out on four of them, leaving two for another wanderer. Yummy stuff.

On Saturday night I'd taken the bench Rocky had been sleeping on the night before. Of course, every bench there has at some time had one of the Three Jewels sleeping on it, but I enjoyed knowing that bench had so recently had Rocky's body sprawled on it. When I got there Sunday, though, I had a hunch I should take the middle of the three benches. Good intuiting. I woke up later and saw Rocky had taken his usual one behind me. I never see them without being amazed at what delicate feet he has.

Feet, legs, now shoulders. I go through phases when a particular body area fascinates me and shoulders right now rule. That is no doubt partly because the Sleeptalker has such fine ones. I can walk along behind him quite happily entranced by watching his shoulders move under a tee shirt, even more happily when they're exposed by a tank top. And on both Sunday and Monday mornings, I sat equally happily gazing at a pair of shoulders on the campus-bound bus. A new young man, tall, slim, very brown. I can't guess his ethnic mix, although I suspect it is partly Filipino, partly Hawaiian, but his darkness is mostly tan as I saw on Monday when he removed his glasses temporarily, revealing narrow white strips where the earpieces blocked the sun. He has too severe a haircut, would be even more lust-provoking with less shaven sides, but his long, thin neck and broad, wonderful shoulders more than make up for the less attractive haircut. I won't complain at all if every morning finds us on the mall-to-campus bus.

The Steppenwolf may not have grumbled on his solitary walks about wanting to cuddle up to a desirable body, but in such a profound tale of the human condition, sex could hardly be entirely absent. And he did have his wonderful gift, Maria. Even if he knew it was a fleeting gift, he had it, and I'm always a bit jealous of that sequence in his life. I paused in my reading, as I usually do, at the beginning of the Magick Theatre adventure, and smiled again as I reminded myself I was NOT going to fall into the trap I'd seen lurking from the moment I picked up the book. The Sleeptalker is not my Hermine. That Fool Moon evening was not Magick Theatre, delightful though it was. Nope, ain't gawna do it, not falling into that trap.

Going with the Steppenwolf into that special place might not have found me with the glasses of exotic drink and the special smoke he'd had beforehand, but then I've gone through that door with him having had equally splendid refreshment. The best I could hope for this time was a full bottle of brew. But I needed three more quarters for that.

Monday was too beautiful a day to sit inside at a computer, even if the Sleeptalker was in the game, so I left campus around ten and headed for the beach. At the mall bus stop, there was a cart-with-quarter waiting. Two more quarters ...

One soon turned up, but the daytime competition was too intense, several other possibilities were snatched. I gave up, decided it was time to have a shower and sit in the sun for awhile. On the floor of the shower room was a quarter. Ha! I love it when stuff like that happens.

A smiling young Japanese lad joined me in the shower. His equipment was so tiny, it barely peeked out from the bushy hair. Despite that [cough] shortcoming, he had a fine body and it was fun to be naked with him. I had a tee shirt to wash, so was still there when he left and a forty-ish Korean man, equally ill-equipped, came in. He obviously wanted to play. Erk. Well, after my endless dance with the Waianae Coquette, I'm more resolved than ever. If anyone is crazy enough or desperate enough to want me for a playmate, they've got it, no matter how uninterested I may be. In this case, the disinterest was so complete, I doubted I'd be able to even get it up. Rescued. An old nomad who I was not in the least bit interested to see naked came in. So he had a huge one, big deal. I finished my laundry and went over to sit in the sun. My face and arms are very brown but my still-hospital-scrawny chest looks as white as a Minnesota tourist in January. I should spend more time at the beach, not just for the tan but for the amusing shower adventures.

The campus had been very crowded on Sunday. The formal graduation ceremonies were being held in the sports arena on the lower campus, but the entire place was pressed into parking service, so there were people everywhere. I'd thought Monday, the first day of the Interim Break, would be less populated but not so. The small mob of people waiting all day at the parking permit office didn't surprise me, but the others roaming the campus did. I suppose they're the incoming summer people, and a fine, fine crop it is. I saw one young man in black tee shirt and white trousers walking toward me and said to myself, "ohmygawd."

Summertime, and the livin' is easy ...

515

The prior-to-penultimate Tuesday of May 2000 certainly got off to a rousing start. I was sitting on a bench enjoying my refill cup of coffee. A quite hunky Filipino fellow sat down on the other end of the bench, slouched down with his knees wide apart. He pulled up his tee shirt and rubbed his brown belly. The front of his shorts clearly indicated he was in need of service. What am I doing, I wonder, sitting with a sign that says "get your head here"? If so, don't take the sign out of the window, please.

Never mind resolutions about always saying yes, this time there was no need to consider such things, I was more than happy to oblige. It was most amusing that he was such a close match to the Sleeptalker in size and shape, and he was even more passionate. After he exploded, he waited a bit while I softly rubbed his body, then withdrew, ruffled my hair with his hand, wedding band and all, and said, "that was good." I certainly agreed.

He went on his way, and as I set out on my usual morning snipes hunt, I laughed aloud when the music system started playing "Livin' on the Easy". A fine cosmic jest.

Two splendid intimate encounters with handsome young men in the space of one moon. Is this to be a Summer of Debauchery? No complaints, if so.

"What's up, dog?" asked the Sleeptalker on Monday afternoon in the game. How romantic, what a follow-up to "you'll wake up in the morning and I'll be gone." Hmmmmm. I'd used my stash of quarters to buy a bottle of Colt on my way back to campus, sat in the secluded grove with it and Hesse. By the time I returned to a computer it was quite late in the afternoon. I looked in on the game, no sign of the lad, so I took Reting in. The measure of wealth in the game is the gold coin. For a high level player like Reting, it's an easy matter to pick up ten or fifteen million coins in a few minutes of play. Since there is little to spend them on, he had accumulated quite a vast fortune. However, more than 150 million had been invested in the new character, so it was time to replenish the treasury.

The Sleeptalker entered the game. There are Guilds for the peaceful types, Clans for the killers. He had long been a member of a Clan called the Suicidal Stalkers. The leader of that clan, about whom we often had heated arguments, hasn't played for a very long time. After asking that a warning be sent to him via "real life" friends, the managers of the game replaced him ... with the Sleeptalker. A dream come true for the lad. He was very happy about it, and I was happy for him.

Later he proved his sulk is over and that he has adjusted his perception of our last meeting sufficiently to treat it with humor. The suggested price the little whore had offered for Round Two was one of the special swords and twenty million gold coins. I had, of course, not the slightest difficulty with that, he could easily have said 100 million and I would have agreed. But then, as I said, he changed his mind. I auctioned off a special item I had no need for. He lamented publicly that he had only two million gold, couldn't join in the bidding which went to ten times that. And he said, "but Reting owes me fifty million." Ha! I just replied, "[cough]". So the price has gone up? No problem, but shall we wait until the Fool Moon on Friday?

Meanwhile, Betka tells me Asteroid Albert was "re-found" on May 10th.

516

I am proceeding very, very carefully and slowly through the Magick Theatre with the Steppenwolf. And despite the unusual scarcity of discarded books on campus at this time of year, another volume did find its way into my backpack: Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium, in a revised and expanded edition since I last read it. This classic has, of course, little connection with the absurdities the arrival of 2000/2001 has subjected us to, but is, as the subtitle says, a study of "revolutionary millenarians and mystical anarchists of the Middle Ages". And it is providing most excellent intertwined reading as I walk with the Steppenwolf.

From that fascinating text comes: "And to anyone familiar with anthropological findings concerning mana, or indwelling power, and the ways it can be transmitted ...".

Indeed.

And some of the more obscure Taoist alchemists hinted at that so intimate method of mana transmittal which led me in the Acid Years to the conclusion that the "Fountain of Youth" was that fountain which only young men can provide and that drinking from it was a certain method of retaining youthfulness. Romantic and fanciful as that may be, I see no way to discount the certainty of its transmitting mana.

How the luck of the hunter varies at the mall. Since we both have some discount movie tickets which will expire at the end of June, Helen R suggested on Monday that we make what is a relatively rare visit to the Varsity Theatre to see "Deterrence". What a weird movie. Its weirdness was matched by the taxi driver we found asleep in the back seat of his vehicle afterwards, Helen having decided to splurge and ride home in a car. We agreed that should we come across that taxi driver again, we'd let him sleep on. Then I made a quick trip through the mall hunting snipes where the harvest was slim indeed.

It's odd that competition for snipes is generally heavier than for quarters, but I suppose if a man is getting foodstamps, smokes but doesn't drink, snipes are more important than quarters. And then there are the youngsters who can't legally buy tobacco anymore so will grab any extra-long snipes. But I finally managed to get enough for at least the next morning's senior coffee time and went on to the bench.

On Tuesday night, though, it took only a stroll through one-eighth of the mall to bag two boxes full of long snipes. As I was heading to the bus stop, I ran into Helen who was doing some late shopping, asked if I wanted something to eat. My appetite has been exceptionally low recently, maybe because of warmer weather's arrival, so I declined but was more than happy to have a Gloria Jean's chilled mocha instead of food. I enjoy those little bottles of Starbucks chilled mocha, but Gloria J's are in another class altogether. If I make it to SocSec time, I'll be a regular customer at that coffee emporium.

Coffee that late, of course, did nothing to ease me into sleep. As I was walking up the path to the hacienda, I was surprised to see Rocky on the first of the three grouped benches rather than his usual spot at the back. Getting nearer, I saw why. There was a huge mound of blubber on the floor behind the back bench. We already have one Fat Man staying there, a regular for some weeks now. He's so big it's a mystery how he can sleep on those narrow benches without falling off. The new one, I guess, just can't manage it so has to make do with the floor. And I had to make do with the view of Rocky through the back-slats of the bench, but at least had the pleasure of sleeping beside him.

The Sleeptalker had been in the game earlier and was in a very strange mood, ignored me directly but said things publicly which were clearly directed at me. And he now and then, out of the blue, said weird things like, "can any man save his brother?" and "I guess I don't have any friends anymore". Honey, if you're trying to make me feel guilty, too, forget it. Aint' gawna do it.

A Summer of Debauchery? Bring on the mega-vitamin pills, please, I'll need them. Wednesday morning's unexpected playmate didn't want help. He wanted to do it himself, but with an audience. I was happy to provide one. Fascinating.

517

They are tearing up the mall sidewalk near McD's in preparation for the opening of a huge new Old Navy store and as part of that, have demolished the planter box which has long been my spot for the first cup of morning coffee. So I relocated to a bench further away, waiting until I get my refill to move even further to the Orchid Walk. On Wednesday, before the amusing autoerotic display, I was sitting with my first cup. The Bicycle Boy arrived, walked back and forth several times as if looking for someone. Then he came over to me, asked if I'd buy him a cup of senior coffee. I declined, with the rather lame excuse that I didn't want to walk back down there.

It wasn't, of course, that I minded cheating McD's for a cheap cup of coffee, I've done it for the Sleeptalker and Rocky. But after having observed the Bicycle Boy for a long time, I know he's very much a creature of habit and I just didn't want to establish a precedent. I treasure the quiet solitude in the morning with those cups of coffee. He then asked if I had a cigarette. I said I only had snipes and didn't offer him one. After all, we were in the mall, he could go find his own. He said, "sorry" and walked off.

Okay, I'm a slut, I want his body but I don't want to get involved. And since he has become such an established regular at the hacienda, that doesn't seem a very feasible combination. Oh well, I thought, you've surely messed up any chance of getting those flowery surfer shorts off him now, haven't you.

But when I got to the hacienda that evening, he was still sitting up on one of the facing benches, getting ready to settle for the night. He had his back to me, turned around, smiled and nodded. I returned the gesture. He walked over and asked again if I had a cigarette. I again said I only had snipes, but offered him the box to select one. He needed a light as well, then went out to smoke on an outside bench. His expression, smile, and the way he stood in front of me very clearly suggested he is available, he can be had.

I considered moving over to the bench facing his but said, no, take it easy, go slow with this one. You'd think I would be delighted to make contact with a cute young man who is so obviously lonely and is no doubt willing to give his body in exchange for company. Instead, I see it as something of a dilemma. Shine on, Fool Moon, shine on.

Meanwhile, trouble in paradise. A sweet little tiger tabby cat, just beyond the kitten stage, evidently thinks I share my lunch with the birds in the secluded grove just to lure in his own luncheon options. He's delightful to watch, lurking behind a bench, his tail twitching madly, his little jaw chattering. He gets especially excited by the fat ringneck doves and I'm so irked by those greedy pigs I wouldn't mind if he did ambush one of them. The zebra doves cluster closer to me and keep a wary eye on him, but don't seem terribly concerned. I don't suppose I can buy cat food with the foodstamps card but maybe I'll get the little fellow some tuna fish now and then.

Cute little cats are much easier to think about than cute little Filipino lads.

Seventh Circle was down when I tried to login. The Boss had explained the day before that the revised version of the game would be running on a new machine and that was causing the further delays. Old-timers in the game know it's more likely the fact that he stays stoned out of his gourd much of the time which is causing the delays. And his enthusiasm for running the game, which he has done for many years, runs very high when talking about what will happen and much lower when it comes to sitting down and making it happen. But with it totally unavailable, I thought maybe he was finally getting on with it. He was. But ye gawds, what a mess. I knew it would be, but it surpassed my worst expectations. He is putting in stuff piecemeal, so when I logged in late afternoon, only the main town of that alternate world was available, all roads out of it were missing. The other towns were there, okay, but you had to have a special teleport spell to reach them. Rangers don't have that capability. So there wasn't much to do but sit and bitch about the mess.

Since it hadn't been available, I'd left campus in the early morning and headed to the beach. I took it a step further this time, actually changed into shorts and lay on the sand for a couple of hours. I'd drifted into at least semi-sleep for about half of that time. Just as well, since laying in the sun on the beach is something I get quickly bored with despite all the interesting distractions to watch. A young woman with a little squealing girl brought me out of my semi-consciousness. Why, with all the vacant options, she had to settle so near me, I don't know. It was obviously one of those parents who think their offspring is so adorable it's quite unthinkable that everyone else in the world couldn't agree. Fortunately, they didn't stay long. And I lingered longer than I would have, hoping there would be a break in the nonstop parade of old nomads using the shower. No such luck, so I gave up and showered with one of them.

That end of the beach is populated by locals, all right, but the park alongside the beach there seems to be the main hangout for the more loony nomads. The Behemoth was striding around, his loud speeches accented by aggressive gestures with his arms. He's a shaggy, incredibly dirty man with a huge, hairy potbelly, usually wears only a pair of grubby tan trousers. One morning recently he was standing right in front of McD's, stripped stark naked and turned his undershorts inside-out (or vice versa) before putting them and his trousers back on. The one blessing is that I don't have to fear sharing a shower with him. It doesn't look like he has been in one for a very long time.

The Orator was there, too, at his usual picnic table. I don't think he has ever forgotten the day when he parked himself too near me and I grumbled, "shut up! who's listening to you anyway!" If a man could commit suicide by boring himself to death, the Orator would be a prime candidate. He absolutely never shuts up and just as absolutely has nothing of interest to say.

Maybe I should recommend that he become an online journal keeper.

518

Cohn writes: "The Brethren of the Free Spirit did not hesitate to say: 'God is all that there is.' 'God is in every stone and in each limb of the human body as surely as in the Eucharist bread.' 'Every created thing is divine.'

And what is "heresy" about that, Professor Cohn?

Looks like Dame Fortune has also decided to take it slow and easy in the case of the Bicycle Boy and let the perfect set-up pass by. When I got to the hacienda on Thursday evening, all benches were taken except the two facing ones. So I settled on one of those, Rocky already asleep on the bench behind me. There was a rather rough looking guy sitting on the steps. I wasn't very keen on him as a sleeping companion and I guess he felt the same way because he settled on the floor. The facing bench was still empty when I fell asleep, surprised the Bicycle Boy hadn't arrived to occupy it. I opened my eyes later and saw it had been occupied, but by a stranger, a quite handsome fellow in a Hugh Grant sort of way. Oh well, I still hadn't reached any conclusion about the Bicycle Boy, anyway.

Nothing new under the sun, a phrase which often comes to mind while reading the Cohn book. I had to smile over the strange, charismatic itinerant preachers, especially a few who had such devoted followers it was considered a great honor and blessing to drink the water they had bathed in. Now I would deeply enjoy watching the Sleeptalker take a bath but the idea of drinking the water afterwards? No, that just doesn't turn me on in the slightest.

That brought to mind the bizarre evening with the Sleeptalker and the Cherub. At one point the kinky Cherub asked if I'd let the Sleeptalker piss in my mouth! I said sure, confident they wouldn't call my bluff. They didn't, but the Sleeptalker was obviously intrigued by the idea. Heaven knows where the Cherub got it from. I'm afraid neither bathwater nor urine are quite the means of mana transmittal I'd prefer, but sure, I would've gone through with it if those two rascals hadn't backed down.

I had somehow completely forgotten the weird Flagellants, crowds of crazed pilgrims who wandered Europe staging public self-whippings. That, too, does absolutely nothing to turn me on. After some discussion of the subject, during an acid trip I let my friend give me a sound whack on the back with a belt. It just made me angry, very angry. [wave to Daddy].

I'm not sure what role I would have played in the Middle Ages (or did play), but I don't think I would have been following some "prophet" around, drinking his bathwater, and I don't think I'd have been standing outside a church using a cat-of-nine-tails on myself either. But I suspect burning at the stake, for whatever reason, might well have been the conclusion of such a life. And yes, I no doubt would have been [or was] a member of the Free Spirit.

Cohn really tries hard to be objective, but every time he talks about the Free Spirit movement, he says "heresy" with it. Odd. He abandons it after awhile, but not until after having made it strangely obvious.

Thursday was a luckless day for mall hunting. That was partly because, alas, the Whore was back. After a blessedly long absence, there he was again, rushing around with his little clutch purse. I doubt he managed to bag enough quarters to acquire his aimed-for pack of cigarettes. There just weren't that many people at the mall and the stroller and cart corrals were all pretty full. I found only one quarter. But at least the snipe hunting went fairly well and during a midday visit I'd found a plate lunch box with half an enormous club sandwich in it along with a generous supply of fries. No need to haul out the foodstamps card for lunch, and I was sufficiently satisfied that a late afternoon beer sufficed for dinner as well.

On Friday, the Sleeptalker asked in the game in a rather cryptic way, wording of which I don't exactly recall, if he came to campus, would I "be good"? I replied, "say what?" Silence. A bit later he asked, "should I go there?" "No," I said, "not if I have to 'be good'". "Oh, Reting," he said, "be fair." I assume that comes from some comedian I don't know, it has long been a stock turn of the Sleeptalker. He says it in an exaggerated faggy voice, with flipped wrist, which is quite amusing.

Then he said he was going to make the journey and I fled out, went over to an already pre-arranged meeting with the Banker, and then downhill to get myself a beer. I sat in the secluded grove and enjoyed it with the Cohn book. If I have to 'be good', the Sleeptalker can find someone else to hang out with. He wasn't at the computer lab when I returned, and wasn't in the game, so if he did make the trip to campus, he must have been, as usual, unable to stay on his own until my return.

It has been two weeks since I've seen him, and it's the "lunaversary" of that special evening, but I really did mean it when I told him I was tired of his game.

Yes, I would've very much liked to see him. Yes, I would have bought him beer, food, and shared my tobacco. But c'mon, dude, let's stop the crap, okay? I'll share my all-too-limited resources with you. You give me the one thing I want the most which won't cost you a penny. Okay, maybe a lot of spiritual anguish, and I truly do feel sorry that you have to go through that shit. But like I said, and meant it, I'm tired of that game.

519

"Oh Reting, be fair." Standard patter, but I'm sure the Sleeptalker was quite serious and from his point of view, I'm undoubtedly not being "fair". On that night when he said, "okay, you can have it", he'd added, "I hope you don't turn into a monster afterwards." Odd thing to say, I'd thought. But then, I did. I'm the Cookie Monster and you're the Cookie, my boy.

I'd treated myself to a second beer, the bottle I would've bought him if he'd stuck around, enjoyed it and the sunset and continuing the Cohn book. Then I went off to the bench feeling quite satisfied with how things had gone (or not gone) with the Sleeptalker, pleased I'd had the fortitude to send the right message, so to speak.

But in the morning, in that always second-thoughts time with my two cups of coffee, I wondered. Did I have as good a time as I would have had in his company? Or did I just spare myself the frustration of another evening with him dangling the bait and then saying no? And was I being fair, to him or to myself? Wasn't, for a very long time, just the pleasure of his company, the delight in looking at him, enough? Had I really turned into a monster, insisting I wasn't going to be his friend if I can't get in his pants?

I can't say I'm certain about any of the answers.

-----

That much of this Tale was written early on Saturday morning. I took a smoke break. The weather was delightful so I strolled around campus for awhile before returning to the computer. The Sleeptalker was in the game, playing from the State Library. He seemed in a very good mood, was bouncy and friendly. After awhile he offered me 20 million for that sword he wanted so much. I declined. "How much then?" he asked. "Gold can't buy it."

Eventually he left, without saying anything, and I thought he'd probably headed off to free lunch. But no, he arrived on campus. He said something teasing about getting that sword. I thought, "oh, not again, I'm in no mood for cockteasing." I left, said I was going to get something to eat, went downhill and got a sandwich and beer, returned to the secluded grove. I bought an extra sandwich for him, just in case I'd been wrong about him going to the soup kitchen. I wasn't sure he'd still be at the computer lab when I got back and I didn't really care.

He was, and when we took a smoke break together, I offered him the sandwich. "So you did think about me?" he said with a smile. Lord, child, when aren't I thinking about you, I didn't say.

We played until it was nearly closing time. I said I'd go downhill again to get some beer and he could meet me in the secluded grove. Again, I wasn't sure if he'd show up. It certainly wouldn't have been unusual for him to just disappear at that point. But he did come strolling down the path and I thought once again as I watched him approach that he really is one of the most physically desirable men I've ever known.

He told me about his community service, did a delightful pantomime acting out the task of loading rocks into a crusher. He's such a natural comic actor. On the last flask of beer he said, "where shall we go?" Okay, he was serious, he wanted that sword.

There is always something very special about the first time having sex with someone when it has been rewarding, but in this case the second time was perhaps even better. His bodily reactions are seemingly unforced and on the surface. It's possible to read him so well. I've never known anyone quite like that before. Early in the encounter, too early, I'd brushed my hand across his butt and could easily sense the slight resistance. But later, toward the end, there was no problem at all grasping it gently in my hand. He does indeed have a classic "cute butt", such soft skin, so perfectly formed.

And his timing is absolutely perfect, enough staying power to make it thoroughly interesting but not going on so long it gets boring. He almost lost it earlier but again I could sense he wasn't really ready to let go yet, so slowed down until he subsided a bit. A totally delightful dance. He said later he'd held back "to make it more interesting for you." Sweetheart!

That was, too, one thing that made the second time special. This time we shared another beer afterwards and talked about it a little. He obviously had a more difficult task coming to terms with it than I'd thought, but was much easier with it the second round. "See, it's no big deal," I teased. "You're going to let someone suck it or use your hand, so why not me?" Again he did one of his pantomime turns, a mock jerk off and making funny orgasmic noises. "It spilled all over my hand," he groaned. "Such a waste, such a waste," I said. Uh-huh.

He got up to piss against the wall, discreetly turned away from me. Hey, I said, no need to hide it anymore, let me watch. He teased. I said, okay, I'll give you 50 million for a look at it. "50 million!" I'd already planned to give him that as a bonus with the sword, anyway. He turned around to face me, his pants still open, and said, "but it's all small." Errr, maybe it was about half the size it had been when I'd last seen it, but "all small?". No, I couldn't agree. A funny interlude.

He left to get the bus downtown. I told him, "thanks, that was sweet." And indeed it had been.

He arrived on campus again Sunday morning and we spent the day together. I'd found enough quarters to finance one beer, only if I'd foregone morning coffee, and I'd decided to do that. But I woke up a little earlier than usual so walked to the mall, something I used to do every day but haven't yet this year. On the way I found seventy-two cents, exactly the amount for two mornings of coffee. So freaky when stuff like that happens. So the Sleeptalker and I shared lunch and the beer in the secluded grove. It was very warm and he took off his shirt, grinned at me now and then, but didn't complain about me enjoying that fine body of his. No, the belly isn't as flat as it used to be, gazing at him laying there shirtless on the bench, but it's certainly not flabby either, and the extra flesh on his arms and shoulders is most appealing.

The conversation leads me to think we've reached an unspoken understanding about our friendship. Yes, he'll let me have his body now and then. It won't be as often as I'd want, but then there are many otherwise happily married couples with that problem. And at this point, I'm greedy enough I'd want it every day. As the reader told me, "you're being too impatient." Yes, quite true. I have to be content with waiting until he's in the mood and with knowing he will be in that mood eventually. I'm happy with that.

We played until closing time, then he decided he'd go with me to the mall to hunt snipes. As it turned out, he was just hunting on my behalf, wouldn't take any of the bounty with him. It was quite funny at one point when he was walking a little ahead of me, pointing at an ashtray if there was treasure in it. A man was sitting on a planter ledge watching us and the Sleeptalker did his pointing in an exaggerated way, I dutifully retrieved the snipes. The man had such an odd expression on his face. I wondered if he was thinking I was the slave or something, following my master. The Sleeptalker and I laughed about it afterwards and he said he'd done it just because the man was staring so at us.

We sat for awhile outside the ArtLines shop which has a statue of Ganesh and one of Siva in the window. An Indian or Pakistani couple walked past, both slightly bowing their heads as they passed the window, something the Sleeptalker spotted. "What's up with that?" he asked. So I told him a little about Ganesh and Siva, admitted that I, too, nod my head when I pass them. We walked over so he could inspect the figures more closely. He bent down looking at Siva and when he straightened up, bumped his head quite hard on the bronze, flaming halo. Another good laugh. Siva the Destroyer.

He went off to the shelter and I lingered at the mall until time for the bench. A fine weekend, the Weekend of the Sleeptalker, Round Two.

As he had the first time, just at the moment of climax he made a gentle gasping chuckle. It's the sweetest sound I've ever heard. I'd trade all of Bach and Mozart for it.

520

The reader I had expected to challenge it didn't, but another reader did. Oh yes, I was totally serious. Playing Faust (as I am wont to do now and then), the Devil appears and offers a deal: "You can play that magic flute once a month for the rest of your life, hear that wonderful sound. But in exchange, you will not hear a note of Bach or Mozart."

I'd reply, without hesitation, "where do I sign?"

Monday and Tuesday were those ordinary days the Steppenwolf and I so despise. Let us be ecstatically happy or suicidally miserable, but don't just leave us in utterly unexceptional times. The Sleeptalker was briefly in the game late on Monday morning. I expected him to be in a strange mood and he was. He'd had a meeting with his Caseworker earlier. She may be old, but she has "wonderful eyes". Poor boy, probably he sat there thinking, "if only it had been her instead of Reting." Silly woman should go for it.

He left without saying anything, didn't reappear in the afternoon. He'd lost that so-desired sword he had deliciously earned, fighting a nasty critter who disarms and trashes any swords. (I thought he knew that could happen there.) I started working on getting two more of those swords. The old-timer who finally was persuaded to part with them must have wondered why I was so keen to get them. It's especially funny because he told me some time ago he is gay and would have enjoyed knowing why I wanted them (if he hasn't already guessed). It's hardly a secret in there that the Sleeptalker is a very favored friend of the high-life Reting.

So, okay, I have the bait again. What a funny game. I almost feel guilty. Almost, but not quite. In Seventh Circle, this is costing me quite a lot. Like I care, considering what it's "buying"?

But it's a time to be patient again. The lad was absent on Tuesday, too. A reader compared it to fly-fishing. I never was much good at fishing, always got bored with the wait.

And the strange recent dance with Rocky is also making me impatient. After weeks of being already asleep after I arrived at the hacienda, Sunday he was sitting on the outside benches with the Fat Man and a young fellow I hadn't seen before. I was tired after the weekend with the Sleeptalker, only wanted to settle down and go to sleep. Their conversation was just loud enough to keep me awake, but then I noticed Rocky and the stranger stroll off together, saw them sitting at the bus stop. Uh-oh, a bad sign, a reminder of the old days. And just as then, indeed, they returned with beer and continued, inside, yakking for a very long time, were still at it when I finally fell asleep after rejecting the idea of simply leaving and taking my chances sleeping in a park with no overhead shelter.

Monday night the stranger, who hadn't stayed overnight on Sunday, was missing, but Rocky was sitting on his bench eating from a plate lunch box, totally ignored me when I arrived. How very odd. I wondered if perhaps the Sleeptalker had, in his initial dismay over being "all drunk and everything", said something to Rocky about it. Doubtful, they seem to have had a quite serious split and it has been difficult to get any information at all out of the Sleeptalker about Rocky. Maybe it's just that, a serious split, Rocky thinking I'd be on the Sleeptalker's side. Whatever the reason, there's something weird going on, and I revert to my decision, long ago, to treat them like cats. Be kind to them, stroke them, when they come around, ignore them if they don't.

But with Rocky, I'm not sure. I think I need to make some gesture at this point, even if it's just showing up at the hacienda with a bottle of beer in my backpack and offering to share it. And if he's already asleep, what the hell, drink warm beer the next day.

Not sure.

The Cohn book certainly stirs my soul. This is indeed a very boring time in the history of mankind. There is much cause to be thankful for that. No major disasters, no major war. Undoubtedly there must be dumb folks somewhere on the planet killing each other for territory, wealth, prestige, power, etc. But nothing major. I thought about it in the secluded grove on Tuesday at sunset and came to the conclusion there has been nothing truly dramatic in "history" since JFK was murdered.

No doubt about it, something to be grateful for, never mind a certain yearning for those turbulent Middle Ages.

521

No, never any shortage of surprises from the Waianae Kid, and Dame Fortune is always ready to stir things up, too.

The long-awaited revisions to Seventh Circle arrived on Wednesday morning. I was in the game when the Boss said he was going to re-boot, hoped we didn't all lose our characters. Gulp. We didn't, although there were lots of glitches and was a great deal of moaning, especially by the old-timers. I didn't have any reason for complaint.

The Sleeptalker appeared, playing from the State Library, but when he realized it was the "new code" he left and soon arrived on campus. The bus pass had been stolen, or he had lost it, but he also got a job working as an assistant for a veterinarian. It sounds like quite an amusing job but, of course, he's tired of it already ... after a day and a half! He gets paid daily, which is a wise move, so maybe the immediate reward from putting in the hours will keep him at it for awhile. I told him if he doesn't want the job, I'll take it. He gets weekends and Wednesdays off, hence the day on campus (and the dollar for bus fare to get there).

He was much surprised to see I'd acquired two more of those Dragonslicer swords, was most eager to get his hands on one. "Sucking dick to get a sword is weird," he said, when we took a smoke break. Errr, you've got that the wrong away around, I pointed out. "I think you should just give it to me," he teased and I said I felt the same way about his "sword".

The time together had begun in one of those limbo-like intervals which have been a familiar part of our friendship, when his mind is just off somewhere else altogether and there's no point in saying anything to him at all, much less asking any questions. But when we went downhill to get lunch and beer, his mood switched to being very lively and quite sweetly flirtatious. He bought his own beer, but didn't offer to buy mine. No problem.

Writing about the actual process of having sex is something I find quite difficult and I can well understand how writers of romance novels often fail miserably at it, and admire those who are able to do it well. In our Third Encounter, the Sleeptalker especially touched my heart with, again, the moment of climax. One lover I remember with great fondness had a habit, when he was particularly enjoying his orgasm, of grabbing my head and holding it still while that "throbbing erection" did its thing. So when the Sleeptalker gently placed his hands on either side of my head at the crucial moment, it was sweet not just in itself, but also because of the memories it evoked. Ten out of ten, for the third encounter.

I certainly had not expected it so soon. Saturday-to-Wednesday was a much shorter time than I thought would pass before he was going to be in "that mood" again. But if that was a surprise, it was nothing compared to later in the day.

We played until almost seven in the evening. I wanted another beer, suggested he go on playing while I went downhill and got the brew. Just before I left, he'd asked in the game if I could give him some gold since he was flat broke. I gave him a million. It was gone by the time I returned with the beer. If you're impatient in the game and rich enough to buy special potions for healing and such, you can run through a lot of gold very quickly. In the past week of playing, I've gone through 250 million, much of it spent on my new character.

We went off to drink the beer and talk more about the game. He was again being bouncy and flirtatious, did some delightful pantomimes about his work with dogs that day and how he had managed to astound some of them with his antics and counter their aggressive approach. I can well believe it. Poor dogs must have thought they'd gotten stuck with a total loony.

Then he fretted over the shortage of gold he was suffering. He said, "I don't know if I can get off again yet, but you can try. What's your offer?" Okay, I was totally surprised and caught offguard. I told him 100 million gold for the chance to "try" and two good swords if he actually produced. A deal. It took a little more perseverance than usual but he really did get into it toward the end and was obviously enjoying himself. He got the gold. And the swords.

We played on until after eleven, then went to sleep together in the Fool Moon Spot. Sleeping close beside him, when there's no one else around he has to worry about, is an interesting experience. Once he's soundly asleep he will snuggle up very close to me, usually waking me (no complaint). At one point, I could feel his hard sword pressing up against me. But then he wakes, at least partly, seems to be horrified he has let himself get so close and slides over to make sure our bodies aren't touching at all. Only to snuggle back again when falling deeply enough asleep. Touching and very sweet, if also a little sad. I wish, for his sake, he could better come to terms with his body and its desires.

He well lived up to his nickname, several times waking me by saying things in that unique voice he has when asleep, so unlike any of his waking voices (despite the wide range of them he puts on).

So I didn't sleep all that well. Who cares? Two very touching interludes with him in one day, the warmth of his fine body now and then pressed up against me. Who needs sleep?

522

In the latest of what seems like neverending construction projects at the mall, they have boarded off the parking area directly in front of the supermarket. This holds great promise for the Quarter Hunt since people will be forced to park further away. Many will no doubt be sufficiently lazy not to walk the shopping carts back to the corral. A welcome development, since June is going to be an exceptionally empty-pockets month. Almost half of the Fabled Pension Check has already been hocked to finance May's fishing expeditions and twenty of what's left needs to be tucked away for the lad's birthday. No matter, never have I made better use of borrowed funds.

Jonathan Cainer, writing about the week bridging May and June, synchronistically raised the subject of the Fountain of Youth. He sees it as "happiness" and said: For we're talking here about happiness. If this week's changes bring you all that they have the potential to bring you, you'll soon need to carry ID if you want to be served in a bar. A good laugh. Thank you, Jonathan. Happiness is a warm sword ...

The Sleeptalker's job must be near enough the State Library to allow him a quick fix at lunchtime. He popped into the game for about half an hour on Thursday. I'd gone to lunch myself at that time on Friday, so don't know if he repeated the exercise. Then the game went down in the afternoon and remained unavailable all evening. I played for a little while in another, very similar, MUD where several other Seventh Circle players were also taking refuge, but then went off to get a beer and finish the Cohn book. I decided his final chapter, the Conclusion, merited a fresh beer but didn't really want it just then, so tucked the book away.

For the first time in months, I came across a recent copy of The Economist. It really is a fine magazine, with some of the wittiest journalism to be found anywhere. Reading it along with Cohn's book reinforced the certainty that there is nothing new under the sun. What fools we mortals be, indeed.

There are not many male-female couples amongst the urban nomads, at least not in the areas I visit. The Snorer and his scraggly woman appear to be sticking together, evidently staying in the park. But there is one couple I've seen for some time now. He's quite cute, a young blonde fellow. She looks to be at least ten years older than he. Every morning they arrive at McD's, he sits on a planter ledge outside while she goes in to get their coffee and brings it out to him. She finally said good morning to me on Thursday. Given the utterly profane avenues of thought I've been traveling lately, fantasies turned to having a little adventure with the two of them. Two males and one female was for a long time my absolute favorite combination for sex. Dream on, Reting, dream on.

Helen R and I went to see "The Big Kahuna" on Thursday evening. What an awful film. The Weekly says about "Battlefield Earth" that it's the "worst film of the year ... thus far", but that writer may not yet have seen Kahuna. I had a very difficult time just staying awake through it and certainly would have walked out about halfway through if I'd been there on my own.

After the relatively sleepless night on Wednesday and those dull moments in the theatre, I collapsed on the bench and almost instantly fell asleep, waking only once during the night to see Rocky on his usual bench behind me and the Bicycle Boy on the bench in front. He walked down the path the next morning and sat beside me on the bus stop bench, saying nothing. I handed him the box of snipes and lighter, also without saying anything. He took one, lit up, and handed them back to me. We boarded the same bus but he stayed on it when we got to the mall, evidently bound for Waikiki. Again on Friday night, both he and Rocky arrived after I was already asleep. Back burners, back burners.

Yes, happiness is a warm sword, and the memories of it.

523

When we were at the mall, the Sleeptalker said he wanted to smoke but he hated people "staring" at him smoking snipes. I've tried again and again to convince him that some people "stare" at him for the simple reason that he is a cute, sexy young man. So I just pointed out that people might well look if they saw him taking a cigarette butt from an ashtray, but could hardly know, once he was sitting and smoking, whether it was a snipe or a virgin cigarette. And I suggested we go to the Orchid Walk to smoke, where there would be less people. Once there, I told him that's where I sit in the mornings with my coffee. "You're here every morning?" Yes. He had complained because he'd looked for me twice during the week and hadn't found me, so I was happy to add a possible checkpoint where he could find me if he needed me. And the more so since he seems to be avoiding the hacienda, I think because of Rocky.

The Sleeptalker isn't the only one who knows about that morning spot of mine. The hunky Filipino playmate remembers, too. "I like it, but my wife won't do it," he explained this time. Her loss is my gain. Amusing though it was taking care of a repeat customer, I have to admit it's just in another league altogether when you really care about the playmate.

A reader deeply touched me by writing:

Most humans need love and intimacy. You and [the Sleeptalker] seem to have found that. It is obvious that he is fond of you - being your puppy whilst pointing out ashtrays is a tell-tale sign. Perhaps you provide some guidance, caring, and motivation for self-esteem that was apparently missing from his early life. In doing so, you may find that the lump of rock with a few sparkles actually houses in its depths a diamond of great beauty and rarity. Be careful...

I did not without thinking quote Conrad's line from Lord Jim: "I smiled to think that, after all, it was yet he, of us two, who had the light."

The Sleeptalker had talked again of reading Oedipus Rex, said he'd come across passages where he felt such deja vu, he'd jumped up and paced around awhile before settling back down to read that passage again. Extraordinary. And while he's sharing such thoughts from his head, I'm sitting there admiring his cute toes. Oh yes, it is "yet he, of us two, who had the light."

A quiet Saturday on campus, the first really hot day of the season. The campus was peaceful and deserted, the game was still down so there was less reason to stay inside and on the computer. I spent most of the day in the secluded grove. It's berry-dropping time, again. Those trees are so damned prolific it was amazing I only got hit once. I went down to the mall in the early evening, on my way to join Helen R for dinner. The mall was packed with people, body heat and vehicle exhaust making the breezeless sultriness even worse.

The powers-that-be there got the not-so-brainy idea of sugar-coating the inconvenience of the parking lot construction project by dubbing that tunnel-like stretch of sidewalk the "Mauka Walk". Almost half of the sidewalk had already been blocked off by the construction wall so cluttering another quarter of it with a mini "sidewalk sale" was a pretty dumb idea, never mind the free balloons. As Helen said, it might not pay off with increased quarters because some people may just decide to shop elsewhere for the duration. Despite the crowds, I only scored one shopping cart all day, but did get lucky with three strollers on my pre-bench snipe hunt.

Helen and I had dinner at a place called "Gourmet Express" which instantly got added to the list, along with the University Players Bar, of places NOT to eat again. The turkey meatloaf and two scoops mashed potatoes might have been passable drowned in some decent gravy. The lukewarm brown water which masqueraded as gravy just didn't cut it. And the salad was inedible. The place would be more accurately called "Indigestion Express".

It was the first uncomfortably hot night of the season, too. No need at all for a cover and I was slightly envious of Rocky sleeping there in his white tanktop and shorts. I can't go that far toward comfort, the mosquitos love me too much. I got nabbed twice on my hands before giving up and keeping them tucked under the blanket. Why the hell those stupid little vampires go for an old man's blood when there is all that exposed young flesh available is a mystery to me.

After Round Three with the Sleeptalker, we'd been back in the game for awhile when I took a smoke break. He didn't join me. I was just about to return to the lab when he came out, gave me a playful poke and said, "you're a funny old man, give me a hug." Yes, he's fond of me, and I'm deeply grateful for that.

And yes, I'll "be careful".

524

I was enjoying my refill cup of coffee on Tuesday morning when the Young Husband came hurriedly down the path. He stopped and said, "hi!" very cheerfully. I bid him a good morning. He grabbed his crotch and said, "I wish I had time, but I'm late to work." I laughed. "Another day," I said.

"Thanks for the last time. It was really good."
"It was good for me, too. You're a sexy man," I said, "now go to work before you get a hard-on."

He grinned. "It's too late, but I've got to go." He moved his hand so I could see it was indeed too late, and he scurried off with a little wave. What a sweet fellow he is and, quite true, very sexy. I'm glad our paths crossed and that I can provide him with something that's missing from his marriage (if it's as simple as that).

The holiday weekend was pleasant enough. The game remained unavailable on Sunday. Of course I mind its being down more because of its link to the Sleeptalker than for the game itself, and I was happy to see it back in operation on Tuesday when I got to campus. I had planned, on Memorial Day, to beat the anticipated beach crowds by having an early shower and washing the tee shirt I'd been wearing all week. The weather foiled those plans, the day starting off with gray skies and rain. But it cleared by ten and I was surprised to have the shower all to myself.

I'd met Helen R again on Sunday evening for dinner, this time at one of those all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. There was an interesting selection of dishes and it was quite tastey, although it is a bit silly for someone with my sparse appetite to go to such places. I ate enough that, as I told Helen on Monday, I felt my body was still processing it, had no desire for food. But I did manage a hotdog during the Monday matinee of "Mission Impossible 2" and had a baked potato at Arby's afterwards. The entire recommended daily diet for the holiday.

Just as well, too. Despite the allowance arriving late, the foodstamps card is going to be running on empty this week. Two simply cannot eat as cheaply as one, not when dependent on foodstamps-eligible options at the supermarket and with no kitchen to play in.

The movie? Well, I was expecting it to be silly and it was, but for the most part it had a certain charm. I've never been much of a Tom Cruise fan, but okay, it was fun inspecting his oddly heavy but unusually spaced five-o-clock shadow and his naked torso has a definite visual interest. I only felt bored during the final fight between Saint Tom and the Evil One which went on far too long. Amusing enough and no doubt a wiser choice than the other option we'd considered, "Battlefield Earth".

I'm, as readers know, a devoted disciple of Dame Fortune, never more so than when it comes to books she puts in my path. So even though the large print and heavy paper irked me, I tucked away Nicholas Delbanco's Running in Place when I found it abandoned on a bus. He would probably not be pleased to hear the book described as "charming" even though he seems to work too hard at making it just that. Sometimes he succeeds but, overall, the book is a mess.

Silly holiday movie, silly holiday book, amusing exchange with a sexy young man to start the post-holiday week. Who could ask for anything more?

525

June is bustin' out all over ...

The Fabled Pension Check arrived. Along with it was a letter from the firm of insurance brokers which swallowed up the firm of insurance brokers I had worked for. Federal law obligated them to honor the pension agreements of the firm they took over. But nothing, except the fine work of Dame Fortune, forced them to write that letter. We've been given a raise. As if that wasn't amazing enough, it was retroactive to March, with the catch-up funds attached to the June check. Knock me over with the proverbial feather.

In my case, it looks to be about an extra ten a month, so the unexpected bonus covered the part of the FPC I'd already hocked. Incroyable!

I promptly made the first responsible shopping expedition. In May, I'd neglected to buy new razors and I'd been using a much-worn-out one for almost two weeks. Razors on the top of the list. Then there was the problem with mosquitos. Terri wrote to say that taking a B-vitamin complex would dissuade the critters, but it didn't take effect for two weeks. Sounds like an idea worth trying, but they are so bad this year I didn't relish letting the little bastids feed on my hands for two weeks, so bought some Deep Woods stuff that is like a little deodorant stick. Seems to work, no bites for the first time in over a week.

Forgot earplugs, as I was promptly reminded when I got to the hacienda and the New Snorer was sawing away. Those little cotton-and-wax objects are wonderfully effective for a week or so, then gradually lose their magic. Another shopping reminder more amusingly came on Thursday morning. I remember reading once that for most men the peak of sexual energy is in the early morning, around seven. Never seemed to be the case for me, maybe my Southern genes are responsible for my love in the afternoon preference. But rarely a morning goes by without seeing someone stroking away on the other side of the wall with that peephole. There's one nomad who carries a small bottle of baby oil for the purpose and was making use of it. Ah yes, time to get a new bottle myself. Although, yes, I do use it for the same activity, I also use it to soothe dry skin after a little too much sun exposure. It's a good indication of how little stroking I do and how little sun I get that the smallest available bottle has lasted since leaving the hospital.

There was never much need for such artifical supplements in my younger days. I was always much irked by my body's tendency to go way overboard with the "lubricant" production. On the first trip to India, I'd get the hotel massage boy to do his thing in the afternoons and would be much embarrassed by the floods of that pre-orgasmic liquid. He took it quite in stride, would mop up the excess with a towel he kept just for that purpose. But of course, in those days the orgasm itself would also arrive, just from the backrub.

I stopped by the State Library on my mail-collecting trip downtown since my backpack is, unusually, completely without reading material. Confounded place was closed for "Library Institute Day" or somesuch thing. No wonder the Sleeptalker hadn't been in the game earlier.

And the game was an absolute mess. It seems everything the Boss fixes breaks five more things. It's almost unplayable at this point, but at least it's up and running, makes for an amusing "chat room" and provides that much-desired link to the Sleeptalker, or will when he eventually appears. I'm not the only one, though, who is saying they should just put the old game back up until all the glitches in the revisions have been eliminated. They usually run a new version on a different port for brave souls to help debug and test. This revision was moved from the experimental port far too prematurely.

Angelo and Rocky had the facing benches at the hacienda. Angelo was wearing a dark shirt with "Old Navy STAFF" in white letters on the back. Good boy, got a job. He surely has a cute butt, too, as I noted again when I woke up and saw him laying there face down.

526

I went down to the State Library again to harvest some reading material. They have reduced their "honor collection" to one three-foot shelf but I trust Dame Fortune will nevertheless manage to put some decent books in my path. Stopping back by the mall, I was surprised (and delighted) to see the Young Husband. He said, "I don't have to be work till three, wanna go beach for awhile?"

Of course, "sure." And we walked over to the beach, went into the shower house. He took off his shoes and socks, stood up and very provocatively removed his tee shirt, slid down his jeans. Boxer shorts underwear. Cool. I left my tee shirt on, was just changing into my surfer shorts. "You have a big dick for an old man," he said.

I laughed and corrected, "It's not that big, but it doesn't shrink as you get older." Of course, it doesn't as often reach its full potential, either, unless faced by a young hunk taking his clothes off. The boxers went down. He was standing tall. But okay, he's almost as easy to read as the Sleeptalker, he was just working up to it. At least in the case of the Young Husband, there was no doubt whatever that I would be getting it eventually.

He put on a pair of shorts made from that slinky synthetic fabric which is enough to make any old man's heart beat faster, especially when no underwear is worn under it. His little bag with trousers, tee shirt, boxers and shoes hiding the evidence, we walked across to the sand. He went into the water immediately. Didn't cool him off all that much, I thought, when he came back and lay down beside me.

He and his wife have been married a little over a year, he told me. It seems to be a marriage which was more or less arranged by the parents. "I like her a lot," he said (I noted the absence of the word "love"), but "she stays like a virgin in her mind". I assume from the rest of what he said that she only does it "missionary style" and then only once or twice a month. She doesn't want children yet. (Or perhaps she just doesn't want to do what's necessary to have a child?). Poor fellow, he's a sweetheart, really deserves something better.

A friend of his came along, wearing only surfer shorts, carrying a board. They greeted each other with one of those elaborate handshakes young local men exchange, and the Young Husband introduced me. The friend grinned broadly. He stood near us to do the usual limbering up exercises. I watched admiringly. "You like that?" the Young Husband asked. "I told him about you, but I don't think he'll let you do it, he thinks it's a sin."

Sigh. Tell me about young men who have been conditioned to think it's a "sin".

His friend went off to the breakers way out beyond the shallow coral reef, the Young Husband again headed into the water. Then we lay quietly in the sun for awhile. He told me he'd known his friend since "we were St. Louis together". [St. Louis being a local high school. High school seems to remain a lifelong link here, and one of the rituals for two young local men meeting each other for the first time is always asking, "where you went school?"]. As I know, alas, not all St. Louis grads are as congenial as the Young Husband. Alas, indeed.

It was time to go. In a private place, he removed his shorts and was again standing tall.

I don't use the term "fock" out of any reluctance to write "fuck", but because fock more closely matches the way most young local men say the word. Conversation is generously sprinkled with "fock" or "focking", so much so it hardly has any meaning or significance. But now I've heard it in a totally different tone.

Once when the Sleeptalker and I were talking about the possibility he'd go to jail, I told him to make friends with a BIG guy who had a little dick. That way his cute butt would only get used by one and it wouldn't hurt as much. The Young Husband isn't a big guy and he surely doesn't have a little dick, but he does know how to use it. I should probably be feeling sorry for his wife, not him. She doesn't know how lucky she is, or could be.

We went to have a shower, the showers fortunately deserted. I thought, had it been the first time I'd seen him, the Young Husband would've rated mention in the Tales just for the shower. I soaped his back, rubbed my hand over his butt as a conclusion.

"No one has ever done that to me," he said. "I don't think I'd like it."
"It hurts at first, but then it feels good."
"You liked it, didn't you?" he asked. I admitted I had, indeed, liked it. "I got off, didn't I?"
"I couldn't see it," he said, "but I could feel it when you spermed."

I can believe it. The only problem I had, much to my surprise, was making sure I hadn't "spermed" before he went first. And that invoked a memory of the Sleeptalker. After our extraordinary double feature, laying in the Fool Moon Spot, I thought he'd fallen asleep, decided it was time to relieve myself. He wasn't asleep. "Are you playing with yourself?" he asked. "Yes, you had it twice," I said, "but the pressure builds up." Silence. I finished. "You spermed?" he asked.

New term for my local lexicon, and what fine teachers.

And the Sleeptalker was in the game in the early evening. I gave him an unusual scroll I'd found. I had cast a spell to see what it did. When he "recited" it, the message said his "body radiates warmth". "So, what's new?" the rascal asked, and laughed.

Cainer was right, it's a special week.

527

Dame Fortune is working overtime.

I never look at the receipt slips from the supermarket until the last few days before the foodstamps allowance is due. After buying Friday's frugal lunch, I looked at the slip. The June allowance had arrived, wasn't due until the following Monday. Whatever that young man did to "re-authorize" me, I'm grateful he did it.

"I hope you're starting to get bored with it," the Sleeptalker said on Saturday evening. That's his strategy, let me have it so often it will cease to be interesting? Although he'd teased earlier, said he was "feeling horny", I don't think he was. His body suggested that Round Five was just to please me, or perhaps it really is strategy.

I'd arrived on campus about fifteen minutes before the computer lab opened, saw the Sleeptalker standing outside. He walked down the path to meet me. New shorts. Nike brand, slinky light gray fabric gridded with tiny diamond-shaped holes, black strips down the side of each leg with snap-open buttons. He was very happy about them, happy too that I admired the choice.

He had to leave for his re-scheduled appointment with the welfare psychiatrist but returned in the early afternoon. Looks like he passed, and will be getting foodstamps and a monthly SSI allowance, although he doesn't yet know how much it will be or exactly when it will start. The "voices" did the trick, apparently.

We played in the game for awhile, then took a beer and sandwiches break, Round Five for dessert. When the lab closed he wanted more beer, tried to persuade me to get a couple of "quarts" and take them to the hacienda. I refused, telling him it just isn't a party place anymore. Later I wished I'd gone along with it.

Instead we stayed in the Fool Moon spot and as he got increasingly buzzed on the beer, he talked at length about his family. He's incredibly bitter about his mother and was especially vehement about their last meeting. I don't know if he really said the things to her he claimed or if he had just thought them and wanted to say them. If he did, I can't help but feel sorry for the woman.

Despite his angry memories, he was very sweet and affectionate, delightfully flirtatious. He'd fallen asleep, I smoked one more cigarette and lay down beside him, drifted in and out of a light sleep. Then there were several flashlights visible through the bushes. For some reason the external security lights on the next building had gone out, and the police were called to investigate.

Well, they were quite nice about it, checked to see if we had bench warrants and discovering we were "clean" let us go on our way. One of the policemen recommended the cloisters and was surprised when we told him they weren't allowing people to sleep there anymore, was equally surprised to learn the IHS shelter closes at ten in the evening.

We walked down to the beach park and spent the rest of the night sweetly close together.

I'd told him earlier that one of my favorite fantasies was, when those SocSec checks start to arrive, getting a hotel room in Waikiki and spending a weekend together with him once a month. "It has to have internet," he said, and then told me his version of the dream ... getting an apartment together with two net-connected computers. It surely would have been fun having him around when I had just that in London. I like his dream even if I have serious doubts about whether it would work and wonder how long such an arrangement would last.

We spent Sunday morning on campus and then he wanted to go to IHS to do laundry so we parted company, I got myself a beer and sat in the beach park wondering if I really would "get bored" with it. After a delightful hour listening to a Pure Heart gig, I got fairly drunk and continued to think about it.

Yes, I suppose I would. Having sex with the Sleeptalker isn't as important as it seemed before actually getting it. What's even sweeter is just being close to him, mentally and physically, and that I don't think I'd ever get bored with. Tired, exhausted, maybe, but not bored.

528

"I hate bums," the Sleeptalker said.
"What?"
"Never mind, I'm just being silly. I'm still all drunk."

We were sitting outside McD's with our senior coffees and I suppose his remark was prompted by the usual morning crowd there, although it's hard to believe they are worse or even as bad as his shelter companions. I've shuddered the few times I've gone there to eat. Not only is the place drab and dreary, it seems filled with the dregs of humanity. I don't know how the Sleeptalker has endured it for so long.

He went to the bathroom and when he came strolling back, I said, "oh you sexy thing."
"Don't say shit like that," he growled.
"Never mind, I'm just being silly. I'm still all drunk."

He laughed. Poor fellow, I'm sure a part of him really does wish I wouldn't say "shit like that", but clearly one part of him likes hearing it. There had been a litany of "I hate ..." the night before, but I fear the worst thing is that he hates himself at times. I guess we all do that, certainly dislike ourselves anyway, but his version is so intense.

My mood shifted into some strange, weird place on Sunday, especially after the music gig, sitting under the stars with one-too-many beers. The Monday morning hangover was horrendous. One of those death-warmed-over, "I'll never drink again" kind of hangovers. But of course, by mid afternoon I had a beer and felt a little better physically, if still in that weird mood.

I didn't stay on campus very long, returned to the beach park, had a shower and washed some clothes. Draping them over the bushes to dry in the sun, I sat and continued Anne Rivers Siddons' Up Island, a mildly interesting, well-written book.

I wasn't at all happy with Tale 527, which failed miserably in capturing the specialness of the weekend, and I thought maybe I should take a break from writing, spend more time reading folks who can do a better job of it ... or who at least make a living from doing it.

529

After many a summer dies the swan ...

Not sure if Aldous coined that phrase or was quoting someone else. Beautiful title for a book, either way. And it was the death of a swan, so touchingly portrayed in the Siddons book, which somehow shifted me out of that weird mood. It did, true, put me in one almost as strange, first bringing me to the verge of tears and then making me intensely want to see the Sleeptalker. Just see him, talk to him for a bit.

Up Island went from being a "mildly interesting" book to completely capturing my attention and I spent the day in the beach park reading until I'd finished it. A fine novel, indeed.

Cute Butt's Wife is visiting from California and Helen R asked me to join them for a movie on Tuesday afternoon, dinner afterwards. I first said perhaps I'd just join them for dinner, then declined altogether, saying it was better I kept to myself until the weird mood passed. But I guess it was a meant-to-be gathering because I was walking through the mall, debating whether or not to have dinner at IHS, when I ran into Helen, waiting for CBW to emerge from the Ladies'.

That quite yummy hot roast beef sandwich at Likelike Drive-In is undoubtedly far more delicious than anything IHS might have offered, but of course it didn't provide the chance of seeing the Sleeptalker. An amusing meal, though, catching up on what's happened, here and in California, since CBW's last visit.

I left them when they stopped to check out Tower Records and went down to the State Library, open late on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I did want to pick up some more reading material but that could have waited until the next morning, the main reason for the trip was the chance of seeing the lad. He wasn't there, alas, but I was cheered by a note explaining the "honor collection" was limited to the one shelf until "new racks arrive". I hope they weren't ordered from the mainland.

I checked email, looked in on the game just in case the Sleeptalker was playing from another terminal in the building, and gave it up, went to get a bus back to the mall. It had been such a pleasant, sunny day it was a major surprise to see it had shifted dramatically while I was in the library. Heavy, low dark-gray clouds covering much of the sky, a light rain falling. It was muggy, warm, sultry, and stayed that way all night, no help at all with the unusual bout of sinus crap I've been having.

Teeth and sinuses have been the major plagues of my life (aside from minor insanity) but the sinus problems have been much less frequent here in the islands and not usually as severe. It's especially odd for them to act up at this time of the year, more often happens in spring or fall. Although it doesn't bother me at all during the day, they start their dreary postnasal dripping soon after I go to sleep and the first hour of the day is spent hacking the junk up. Bleugh.

"Are you getting bored with it?" asked Kory K when I stopped over to see him on Tuesday morning. Ha! I guess that's THE question of the season.

I'm still thinking about it.

530

His erect, throbbing penis stood between his legs like a cobra ...

Sheez, either the woman has never seen a naked man with a hard-on or she's never seen a cobra. I've seen both, close-up, and I never saw a penis which looked anything like a cobra. Silly book, A Glimpse of Stocking. The cover fell off and I threw it away, don't remember the author's admitted pseudonym.

It reminded me of long ago, so long it seems like another life altogether. One of the most disliked tasks as a lab tech in the Medical Corps was taking a microscope-slide sample from guys who thought they had the clap. More often than not, they didn't. The doctor said most of them were just irritated from too much jerking-off. Some of them, too, were just using it as an easy way to avoid a few hours' duty. Well, I was one lab tech who didn't dislike the task in the least and since I never complained about it, they left me doing it for my last year in the Army.

I'd sit on a chair, the patient would come in and hand me his paperwork, stand in front of me. The ones who had been through the routine before knew what to do, would drop their pants and give their cocks a few tugs to produce (or try to produce) a drop of fluid which I'd capture on the glass slide. For first-timers, and it was always easy to tell since they were invariably embarrassed, I'd tell them to drop their pants, grab their "cobra" myself and try to squeeze out the sample. I'll certainly never forget one young man. A few tugs produced no results. Two more and he shot his load all over me. He was mortified. I was pretty embarrassed myself, mainly because I didn't know what to do next. I told the doctor who laughed and said tell him to come back after lunch, maybe have a cold shower first.

When I say I've never had a job I really enjoyed, I'm forgetting about that one. Of course, those were the pre-plague days. The job now would no doubt include protective clothing and all that. Back then I was just told to wash my hands between patients, didn't even wear gloves. And I surely did see a lot of penises, many of which indeed got erect and throbbing from the exercise. But nope, not one of them looked like a cobra.

Three days off, no one requiring my services, although it's probably inaccurate to include Sunday. Just being with the Sleeptalker, looking at him, is sometimes as sensual an experience as having sex. On Wednesday, though, I was in the shower, had washed a tee shirt and was about ready to leave. A local man came in, very solid and muscular, a tattoo on the back of each shoulder. He looked like he might be part Japanese but his equipment was considerably larger than would be expected if so. If I'd seen him on the beach I would have thought, what an interesting body. But I wouldn't even have considered him as a possible playmate. Can't judge a book by its cover. He almost immediately got hard, let me hold it for a few moments and then said, "suck my balls". Now I've known men who liked that as a preliminary (including the Sleeptalker) but this fellow was the first I've encountered who wanted only that. He did the rest himself, and he did it very, very quickly, too.

That, without question, I'd soon get bored with.

I had continued my routine of an early morning trip to campus, an hour or so on-line, and then returning to the mall and beach park. I tried to get myself to chill out about wanting to see the Sleeptalker. He told me once he felt like he could sometimes hear me calling him. I wouldn't be at all surprised if I had been and he did. So don't bug the guy, I told myself. I guess part of my desire to see him is knowing the balance of our friendship is going to shift somewhat because of his increased affluence, wanting to enjoy more time together before that happens. And I want to tell him my new routine in case he needs to find me.

Cainer wrote: Just tread lightly but steadily in the direction of what you find most appealing. And then let Mars and Jupiter pleasantly surprise you.

Okay.

531

I checked the Moon Calendar on Thursday to see when the next full one was due. Gulp. The 16th. Fool Moon and Quarter Century mark for the Sleeptalker. I'm going to be totally useless on that day.

Wouldn't it be nice if a rich Japanese tourist lost his wallet in my path so I could take the lad somewhere special for dinner ...

The Whore was rushing around the mall on Thursday, clutch purse in hand, looking utterly frazzled. I hope he did better than I, only scored two quarters during snipe hunts. There was a cart in the parking lot on Friday morning, so I guess he'd given up too early. But it was a dud. When I returned it to the corral I discovered it had been jammed by some idiot thinking they'd get their quarter by sticking something else in the return slot, couldn't get it unjammed either. I wondered how many people that cart would disappoint during the day. Then I spotted another in the far corner of the parking lot, thought I'd retrieve it after I'd had a shave. Too late, someone else had gotten it, even at that early hour. He who hesitates may not be lost, but he may well be out a quarter.

I told CBW Thursday evening that I'd been feeling some withdrawal pangs from the sharply reduced time on-line. I'm enjoying the new routine, though, staying outside in the park all day with brief snipe-hunting excursions to the mall. No intimate adventures on Thursday although there could have been one. I saw the BallsMan headed to the shower. No doubt he would have welcomed a repeat performance but, like I said, just too boring.

CBW had asked me to join her at the Regent for Aunty Genoa and crew, only the second time I've been there this year. It's always a warm pleasure to be in that wonderful atmosphere Genoa creates around her and CBW kindly nudged me into talking about the Sleeptalker. Some of my favorite songs in the background, the favorite topic of my mind under discussion ... who could ask for anything more. We got up to leave during the final break of the gig. Genoa had greeted us as she walked by to sit with the people at the next table, then as I was about to precede CBW departing, she told me I was being called. Genoa beckoned me back, said, "I want to give you a kiss." And she did, on my right cheek. "God bless you," she said, "take good care of yourself." A special woman, Genoa Keawe, a very special woman.

Despite the early morning jest of the dud cart, Friday turned out to be a bountiful day. I needed two quarters for a beer, found them immediately upon returning to the mall after a brief time on campus. In the early afternoon, the usual debate began. Have the beer now, or wait until sunset? As is often the case, I decided I might as well drink the thing instead of sitting around thinking about it. I crossed back over to the mall, bought the beer. As I left the store I saw three young men walking toward me. One of them was the most beautiful man I have seen in my six decades on this planet. Indeed, Mister Blake, the human form divine.

He took off his tee shirt. I could have fainted or, better, could have fallen at his feet and begged to be his slave, at least be given the chance to lick his toes. Apollo, Adonis incarnate. I felt sorry for his parents, for his brothers and sisters if he has any. Imagine watching a tiny infant grow into that amazing man. Most of all I wished for a camera. Just a photo of him would have been instant treasure.

Thanking the gods for having made our paths cross, I went back to the park and enjoyed the beer with the final sections of A Glimpse of Stocking. What a wild bit of plotting. Matricide, incest, every form of sexual perversity imaginable. Weird stuff.

Time for another snipe hunt, then. There's a new competitor in the Quarter Hunt, a young fellow with a fancy Mongoose bicycle. He whizzes around grabbing treasure and wheeling it back riding his own wheels. Maybe he's one reason the Whore is looking so frazzled. The Whore certainly is losing it. I rounded a corner and saw him coming toward me, thought the stroller corrals I was headed for would be useless if he'd just passed them. But even from across the street I could see one stroller hadn't been properly returned to the corral. Pushing it in and reaching for my two quarters, I found two more already in there. Incredible the Whore had let the opportunity escape his notice.

Despite his presence and the Mongoose zooming around, I had enough quarters for another beer even before I'd finished my snipe hunt. Sunset and beer and a group of Samoan ladies, all in long muu-muus, standing in a group singing and occasionally doing a slow circle dance. It was so beautifully alien.

When I returned to the mall for a final snipe hunt, the Queen Mum passed me, handed me a white plastic bag. It had a heavy plate lunch box in it, stir-fried beef and vegetables with rice. Sweet lady.

I'd been asleep awhile on my bench when I felt someone sit down beside me, put a hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and looked into those beautiful dark brown ones. For the first time ever, I felt a desire to kiss him. It would have been such a natural thing to do at that moment. But instead I put my arm around him, rubbed his back a little and told him it was good to see him.

"They ripped me off," he said.
"Who?"
"Everybody."

As expected, he hadn't returned to his job although we had joked about it on the previous Sunday, that he'd be "back to the dogs" the next day. He offered some absurd excuse that his boss kept nagging him about his addiction to computers. "I bought cigarettes," he said, "got no more money." I didn't know if that meant he had started getting his welfare allowance and had spent it all already or what, didn't think it wise to ask.

His talking woke Rocky who sat up on his bench, two away from mine. The Sleeptalker rushed over to talk to him. Fickle fellow, I thought, and lay back down. But he's so hungry for anyone who cares about him, and if the moment meant a reconciliation between him and Rocky, I was happy for him. Their conversation didn't last long and the Sleeptalker took the bench facing Rocky. I would liked to have switched benches with Rocky, but that would have meant no sleep at all. As it was, I slept very lightly, waking often to gaze at the enticing glimpses of the Sleeptalker through the back slats of his bench.

At one such point, I saw a wallet on the floor under him, a new one. I picked it up, woke him and told him it had been on the floor. Later his cigarette box fell out of his pocket, I retrieved it and tucked it away to return in the morning. Then I noticed a folded piece of paper he had also dropped, looked at it and saw it was a receipt form from IHS. He had closed his account there, $210 worth, and by doing so, the notice said, he understood he was giving up "all or some services" offered by IHS. It was dated two days ago. Damn.

He went through $210 in two days? Considering he was dressed in new clothes from top to bottom, not all that improbable.

Around four in the morning, he woke me again asking if I had his wallet. Evidently it had fallen out of his pocket once more and this time someone had grabbed it. He sat and grumbled about that for awhile, again waking Rocky who muttered something, turned over and went back to sleep. The Sleeptalker noticed one of the fellows sleeping on an outside bench, his head covered by a sweatshirt. "Who's that?" he asked. It was Angelo. He'd said on the weekend that he wanted to talk to Angelo and I was surprised he didn't jump up and wake him. Maybe I'm the only one he feels confident about waking and finding himself welcome nonetheless, because he just settled back down again.

Had Rocky and Angelo not been there, I would have waited on Saturday morning until the Sleeptalker woke up, but I figured with the two of them he'd have no need of me. Yet.

532

I can't believe it happened. I was all drunk and everything.

Well, I did try to stop it. I said no. He insisted. I didn't even want to think about how he'd feel in the morning, slipped away quietly after gently rubbing my hand through his hair.

The Sleeptalker threw quite a party at the hacienda on King Kamehameha night. I'd only been on the bench a short time when he noisily arrived with Rocky, Angelo, a local fellow I hadn't met before, and the Russian. "You can't have him," the Sleeptalker told me later about the Russian [!]. I said I wasn't trying to. Not that I'd mind, he's tall, lanky and quite handsome, seems like a really sweet young man, but the idea of having him honestly hadn't entered my mind. Funny fellow, the Sleeptalker.

They arrived with a bunch of 40oz bottles, sat on the outside benches. I pretended to be asleep. Then the Sleeptalker walked up to my bench and patted me, said, "here, drink this, I've had enough." A few minutes later, Rocky also walked over and handed me his bottle. Sheez.

They wanted something to smoke. The Sleeptalker pulled out three twenty dollar bills and gave them to Rocky who went off on the bicycle which belonged to the local stranger. "No more money?" I hadn't believed it, but it's surely going to be true soon. We sat and talked, laughed at the Russian when he did some classic dancing for us, and then Rocky came back. Off into the bushes. The Sleeptalker at first told me no, then changed his mind and gave me a couple of minute crumbs for the pipe. Junk stuff, I thought, but they seemed happy enough with it.

We went back to the steps but the Sleeptalker disappeared. The Russian was worried about him, but we assured him it wasn't at all unusual. The others settled on their benches and I talked with the Russian for a little while, then he headed off toward Waikiki. I was smoking a cigarette and finishing off the last beer when the Sleeptalker came back, beckoned for me to follow him into the bushes. He had kept a little bit of the smoke for himself, lit up, lay back and pulled that lovely sword of his out from his shorts leg, pulled my head down and held it there while he did a slow bump and grind.

He stopped, took another hit from the pipe and pulled his shorts down. I went for it again. Then he reached down to open my pants. That's when I said no. He insisted, switched to the seventy-minus-one position I never, ever would have expected to be in with him. I was actually relieved when he interrupted the proceedings again for another hit on the pipe. Then I told him, "just lay back and let me get you off." He did. I did.

No, there's never an end to the surprises from that young man.

533

As expected, the Sleeptalker didn't show up at the hacienda on Tuesday night. I figured it would take a little time before he could get over being embarrassed about our mysterious sixth round. I hoped he was with the Russian. Judging by what both of them told me, they like each other very much, and if the Sleeptalker is coming out of his shell, it would be good for him to have a hunky playmate his own age. Remembering "you can't have him", I have to admit that adjusting to the Sleeptalker in the role of jealous lover is just downright peculiar.

Weekends always throw a wobble into the usual rhythm of life and the Kamehameha Day holiday weekend does it big time. The parade on Saturday meant the beach, park and mall would all be extra-crowded. And it also means the beginning of the annual "Matsuri in Hawaii" festival. Although billed as a Pan-Pacific event, it's mostly Japanese, albeit sometimes Japanese playing ukeleles or doing the hula. With performances all day at the mall's center stage, the place was swarming with an older-than-usual crowd of Japanese. Did absolutely nothing for the Quarter Hunt, but turned it into snipe hunter paradise. I quickly graduated to a three-box mode.

Sunday morning was the usual wasteland, though. I was about to score a cart when a woman rushed past me and grabbed it. Damned Sunday amateurs. Later she gave me a filthy look when she saw me returning a cart. With the exception of the Mongoose, the competition for those quarters is always quite congenial. Not on a Sunday.

I guess Dame Fortune got fed up with the short supply and said, "forget the damn quarters, here's some beer." Two 20oz bottles of cold, imported beer in brown bags. I wondered why someone would have bought and abandoned them, then realized they probably expected twist-off caps and had no bottle opener. No problem, that has long been essential backpack equipment. That amusing gift from heaven was matched in the evening when I was sitting outside the Food Court taking a smoke break. A rather large lady came out carrying a covered plastic dish. "I overdid it," she said, "would you like this?" I said sure, and thanked her. It was a huge, thick slab of real lasagna, delicious stuff.

Rocky was there when I got to the hacienda, on one of the facing benches, listening to his Walkman, ignored me as he had earlier in the mall. I'd been asleep for a short time when the Sleeptalker arrived and the sound of his voice woke me. He wasn't getting much sympathy from Rocky. "I lost all my clothes," the Sleeptalker said, "they threw it all away." I suppose he'd thought he could close his account at IHS, get the money, and continue life as usual there. Evidently the locker was one of the "services" no longer available to him and when he disappeared for a few days, they'd cleaned it out. Not likely they discarded anything, they have a donation bin for used clothing.

"Your problem is," Rocky said, "you keep going away." Well, exactly. For years the people at IHS have obviously tried to help the Sleeptalker and he has no doubt broken many dozens of commitments. Worse, he just disappears without any warning. I'm sure they tried very hard to persuade him not to close out his account and it was crazy of him to do it. I've never seen a better example of welfare assistance just not helping at all, destroying what little incentive he had to work and encouraging him to break the link with IHS.

Despite the grand party on Monday night, it doesn't look like either Rocky or Angelo want to resume a buddy relationship with the Sleeptalker, so I do hope it works out for awhile with the Russian. And I have to admit, the idea of a threesome is quite intriguing.

I ran into Angelo on Tuesday morning. Looks like that bicycle belongs to him, a new acquisition. He said, "you look wrecked." I laughed and said I felt wrecked, too. "It was quite a party," he admitted. And you don't know the half of it, I thought, but then he probably guesses. It couldn't much stretch the imagination to figure out what I'd been doing in the bushes with the Sleeptalker all that time.

And I was indeed feeling wrecked, more from the emotional hangover than from the beer and pipe. I've been plagued recently by a foreboding feeling that this whole thing with the Sleeptalker just can't have a happy ending. It doesn't seem at all likely to be a "they lived happily ever after" love story. But, as I told myself, thinking such thoughts is absolutely stupid. Take it a day at a time, an encounter at a time.

Be here now.

534

Haunted by a memory. Out of the now quite sizeable catalogue of intimate moments with the Sleeptalker, it's odd that the very beginning of our encounter on Monday has firmly lodged itself in first place. Him laying back, pulling it out from beneath his shorts legs and giving it a few tugs by way of invitation. The image of that returned to mind again and again on Wednesday. I was ready to shout "knock it off!" to myself.

Why that moment? Perhaps it's partly because it was the first time when he candidly offered it, with no excuses like swords from the game, etc. But I think mainly it was just that he looked so wonderful there, a slight grin on his face, holding that beautiful thing in his hand. Yes, it's a haunting memory. Please stop bringing it to the foreground so often, though, dear mind.

And please stop missing him so much. Sheez, it was Monday night when all that happened, Tuesday morning when you rubbed your hand through his hair in a quiet farewell, and it's only Thursday now.

But I missed him intensely on Wednesday, wanted so much just to see him.

After a brief time on campus, I returned to the mall, passed Rocky. I held up my hand in greeting, he smiled slightly and made a little nod. I'd hoped our exchanges during the party had broken whatever it is that's going on with him, but I guess not. I can't help but think the Sleeptalker did tell Rocky about our first time and can imagine the version would have been "he got me all drunk and took advantage of me". Even if Rocky seems to be feeling very cool toward the Sleeptalker right now, his long-time adopted role as big brother would still make him unhappy about my "seduction". Maybe I've got it all wrong, but it seems the most likely explanation since certainly nothing took place between Rocky and me to have brought about such a shift in his reactions.

Later I saw him again, entering the men's room as I was leaving. Angelo was waiting outside for him and we exchanged greetings. Then I saw them head off together to get the bus to Waikiki. Sweet guys, both of them, and I'm happy they're hanging out together. Happy too, for the second night in a row with Rocky on the back bench of the group of three, me on the first, Angelo in the middle. Even if I do lose a little sleep now and then when I wake up to see Angelo has pulled his tee shirt way up and has his hand stuck down the front of his shorts, he's a good man to have around.

The Quarter Hunt was amusing on Wednesday. I was starting from zero. Well, almost. I did have the seven cents tax money. Luck was with me again and I'd scored enough for a brew by early afternoon. When I'd gone to the State Library on Saturday, I was delighted to see the new racks had arrived. From the consequently generous collection once again available, I'd picked Peter Straub's The Throat, a much better than average multiple-mystery epic, so I went back to reading it while enjoying the beer.

I returned to the hunt since I didn't have anything else I particularly wanted to do and my head was so damned stuck on thoughts of the Sleeptalker that even reading wasn't an easy distraction. By sunset I was exactly one penny short of a second bottle. Naturally, it turned out to be easier to find another quarter than that one little brown coin. Back to the park and the book, reading until it got too dark to continue, looking up now and then at a group of splendid brown-skinned lads playing soccer. If the Chelsea Football Club had played barechested, I would no doubt have spent more time on my London balcony watching them play. But it's not likely they would have been as charming a sight as those lads in the park. I certainly did pick the right place to spend the final years of my life.

And I did pick the right man to love during them, too. So just get it together and exercise a little patience, okay?

535

Uncanny. Absolutely uncanny.

I have stepped down that rabbit hole, I am living in the Magick Theatre. But then I was more struck than ever before, this time reading Steppenwolf, by his being banned from the Theatre for twenty-four hours. Doomed to one of those common, ordinary days he so despised. And the crime? Taking the Theatre too seriously.

Please remember that, my silly mind.

I was sitting on a bench at the mall, taking a smoke break. Thinking about the Russian (again), I wondered if I'd even recognize him if I saw him. I had at first forgotten his name but during our final chat alone I'd asked him again, remembered it. An Apostle, not one I'd ordinarily associate with Russia. But I wasn't sure if I'd recognize him.

Moments later, he walked past me!

He was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt, black trousers, black leather shoes, carrying a small new-looking backpack in one hand. Ah, he has a job in one of the fancy stores requiring such gear or, more likely, as a waiter. I checked California Pizza Kitchen later, where that is the uniform, but didn't see him. Not yet counting it out, he could have been on a break.

He hadn't noticed me. I followed him. He went into the department store where the men's cologne counter is just inside the doors. I sat and watched as he sampled things. I think, although I'm not sure, that he bagged a bottle. If I'm right, he's very good at it. There wasn't a chance the ladies at the counter would have noticed, unlikely anyone watching a security monitor would have. I only saw it (or think I saw it) because I was so intently watching him. Then he walked on into the store. I waited a minute, then went in, too, but didn't see him.

Well, there went my theory that the Sleeptalker and the Russian would be hanging out together at the beach. It was the most likely explanation for the Sleeptalker's continued absence from the game, and they had been doing that earlier on Monday. The Sleeptalker had a blood-stained bandage around one foot, said he'd been bitten by a "little shark". Rocky and I laughed. I said had it been a shark, he'd be missing his toes, and Rocky said the coral had gotten him. Naturally it brought out my Mother Mode and I cautioned the Sleeptalker about guarding against infection, etc.

Seeing the Russian also confirmed my feeling that he wasn't just a tourist here. I'd asked him how he happened to end up in Honolulu, but he'd said only that it was a complicated story. Oddly, I'd also asked him if he'd let his parents know he was okay. He admitted he hadn't and promised to send them a postcard the next day. I should have walked up to him in the store and asked if he'd done it.

Never mind the Sleeptalker's ban, if I got the chance to "have him" I'd certainly, happily "have" the Russian. He's even more of a hunk than I'd thought and he's taller than I am. Now that I am an absolute pushover for. Well, I'd "have" him unless I knew he and the Sleeptalker were "a couple", then I would abstain. If I interpret the Russian's remarks correctly and he likes the Sleeptalker as much as I think he meant, then the Sleeptalker has struck it rich. A young hunk, employed, undoubtedly with a place to stay, and with a fondness for exotic drugs. If there's room for two, it may be quite awhile before the Sleeptalker is seen again. But I somehow doubt it. It seems too likely the Sleeptalker had disappeared on Monday just waiting for the Russian to leave before seeking relief from me.

Ponderings, ponderings. Earlier in the day, every time my mind started to say "Sleepta...." I said "shut up!" When I'm with him, I usually call him by his game name, that of his main character, and he often calls me Reting, even Panther sometimes. When I talk to the few friends who know his real name, I use that. But in my mind, it's always Sleeptalker. And he's almost always in it, sometimes exasperatingly so.

I tried to divert the attention at one point by thinking about the now number-two great Love of My Life, the Dutchman. With him, there have always been two moments which most strongly register in my memory, the alpha and omega, the first and last times I saw him naked. And it's the last time, I think, which is strongest. He had candidly told me some time before that it was nothing personal, he liked me very much and enjoyed being with me, but sexually he just didn't get off once the novelty was gone, it always required someone new. He'd been away with some strange American magician in Wales, returned to London and stopped by to see me. He spent the night, sleeping on the floor, and we sat together in the morning drinking coffee, him so casually (and beautifully) naked. A sweet farewell, as it turned out. I fled to India.

Can't run away this time, probably wouldn't if I could.

A reader kindly consulted the Tarot about me, the Sleeptalker and our strangely wonderful friendship. The symbolism of the cards seems absolutely on-target. I told her I'd given up using the Tarot in my thirties because it freaked me out with its accuracy. It does again, a little, by such pertinent references to me, him, and our relationship to each other. And it certainly cheered me with its optimistic outlook about where we're headed.

Oddly, I've not once consulted the I Ching about the Sleeptalker.

Today is his twenty-fifth birthday. Like me, he tends to hide out so I probably won't see him. But I send him deepest wishes for happiness in his year of being twenty-five and a love stronger than I've ever felt for another human being.

536

If you can't be with the one you love ...

I saw Angelo at the mall early in the afternoon of the Sleeptalker's birthday. He beckoned me over, so I sat beside him and we discovered that by pooling our coins we could buy a bottle of Mickey's, did, and went over to the park to drink it.

He isn't working. That Old Navy Staff shirt was given to him by a friend. But he is in a similar routine as the Sleeptalker, sees a psychiatrist once a month and gets foodstamps and welfare assistance of some kind, an arrangement which has another three months to go. He throws the medication away, didn't remember what it's called.

Angelo is twenty-three, was born in San Francisco to a Filipino father and a Japanese mother who relocated here when he was three years old. His parents divorced and his father is back in California. His mother re-married but that husband killed himself with an overdose several years ago. His mother moved out to Makaha and kicked Angelo out when he was sixteen because he kept stealing from her. After a year or so, she told him that maybe he had learned his lesson and let him stay at home again. Then she moved to Kauai which was too "quiet" for him, so he returned to Oahu and life on the streets. He has two sisters who live in Waianae and he goes there for occasional visits, had been there the day before which explained why he was missing from the hacienda.

He may look sweetly innocent, especially when asleep on that bench, but he's probably the baddest Bad Boy of the bunch. He picks up money by bagging stuff from stores and hocking it. After we finished the beer he said he'd bag some vodka if I'd buy some food and juice. Back to the mall where we did just that and returned to the park. When that was finished, he said we should go to Waikiki and he'd get another bottle if I'd get the mixers. Once there it started to drizzle so we sat at a covered table outside a Starbucks, their cups filled with vodka and orange juice. The staff occasionally looked our way but didn't bother us.

We talked a lot about the other guys, Rocky and the Sleeptalker especially, and I heard far more about the infamous Vegas trip than I'd yet been told. As I'd suspected, it was a drug run and they'd been paid $500 when they got to Vegas and another $500 when they returned. Little wonder the Sleeptalker went so close to going off the rails.

Angelo said the Sleeptalker has returned to the dogs and is staying there at night. The Sleeptalker had pointed the place out to me last week. It isn't a vet, but a dog-grooming service, and he'd said he could sleep there but was nervous about the possibility of ticks or fleas. Angelo said the Sleeptalker was now getting paid weekly, rather than daily, and he had tried to persuade Angelo to fill in for a day or two each week but Angelo didn't want to. It sounds like quite an ideal arrangement for the Sleeptalker, even more so since it isn't that far from campus so he could use the computers in the evenings. Not likely, he hates being on campus by himself, and it must be difficult for him, too, sleeping on his own. I hope he sticks it out for awhile even if it does mean I'll see much less of him. And if I do get too desperate to see him, I know where he's at. Not wise, not wise, I remind myself. Wait till he comes to you.

Angelo and I were pretty smashed after the second bottle. He's such a sweetie, is very tolerant of my pats and hugs, but I think he definitely prefers not to let it go any further, probably not because he'd mind it, but to keep the relationship uncomplicated. Drinking buddies. Okay.

When we got to the hacienda it was full up, and we slept on the floor beside each other. He woke up shortly after I did and showed me a men's room nearby which was open that early, much to my surprise. Then we walked to the 7-Eleven and I bought some coffee and sandwiches for us. He eats a lot, that lad, goes through his foodstamps in the first week and went through a quarter of mine in two days. Now mine is going to run out, too, but I'm not complaining.

He's very fastidious about his clothes, fretted over his shorts having gotten a bit smudged from the floor. They looked so clean it really wasn't noticeable but he wanted to wash them, said he knew a hotel in Waikiki where the driers ran a long time on one quarter and wanted to go there. I tagged along, added my jeans to the washload. Incredible. That drier did run long enough on one quarter to dry them. Never mind the signs boldly stating the facilities were for the use of registered tenants and guests.

Then it was time for more vodka and orange juice, more to eat. We first did a snipe run through the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and then sat at a table with our loot. I'd only had an egg salad sandwich in the morning but wasn't at all hungry, so the vodka thoroughly zapped me and I just don't remember how we came to separate. It's the first time I've had one of these blank-outs since pre-hospital days. The next thing I remember, I was sitting back at the mall waiting for a bus to the hacienda. A young local guy sat down beside me, cute little fellow, and asked if I'd go with him to Waikiki and buy a bottle of rum for him because he didn't have his ID. We got on the Waikiki-bound bus and an even younger friend of his got on, sat with us. The rum-seeker sat snuggled so close to me all the way it was delightful. But when we got to the store the clerk spotted us talking outside and refused to sell me the rum because I was buying it for a minor. Naturally I insisted I was buying it for me, but I think she'd seen him hand me the money. Oh well, try another store. But no, the lad wouldn't believe me, thought she'd refused to sell it to me because I was too drunk. So I told him to find another shopper and went on my way to the hacienda muttering to myself about what an old man like me is doing getting mixed up with all these Bad Boys, but not at all displeased by it.

No one was at the hacienda. I settled on a bench and slept awhile, woke up and saw Rocky sitting there looking at me. "You got here early," he said, and I told him it was all Angelo's fault, he had gotten me "all drunk and everything". Rocky laughed. I was still so smashed I thought it was morning already, left to get some coffee and only then realized it was getting darker, not lighter. Sheez, I am being corrupted.

So I returned to the hacienda and settled again on the bench facing Rocky, always a sweet arrangement. I woke later to see Angelo asleep on the most distant bench, two surprisingly empty ones between us.

I must ask him what happened in Waikiki next time I see him awake.

537

Most of the time I'm content to be on my own, often very much prefer to be. But sometimes I feel like being with someone, and Sunday was that kind of day. I'd enjoyed the two days with Angelo. He's easy to be with, physically desireable but not in the overwhelming way the Sleeptalker is, a fine drinking buddy who just gets a little more quiet as he gets zonked. I looked for him throughout the afternoon at the mall but didn't see him. Just as well, as I discovered later. He'd started drinking "very early in the morning" and had continued all day. I didn't really need an all-day binge.

He told me later we had returned to the mall together after our time in Waikiki on Saturday, that blanked-from-memory link. He said I'd just wanted to go on to the bench, he stayed to do a shop-and-sell expedition which had been successfully completed, was surprised and amused to hear I'd ended up returning to Waikiki again.

So it had been an on-my-own day, wandering the mall hunting snipes and quarters, getting enough of them to take an early afternoon break in the park with a beer and continuing my unusually slow progress through the Peter Straub book. I stopped to watch some of the Father's Day entertainment, was especially delighted when a group of young ladies did a dance to the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want". The dancing wasn't very impressive but it surely was good to hear that great track on the big sound gear they have at the mall's CenterStage.

I thought perhaps someone had stolen the Mongoose's bicycle but saw him with it later, so I guess he had just spotted me too many times returning carts and decided footwork was the way to go. He reminds me of the Whore in the early days. He'd see me heading off in a direction, would rush past me as if he thought I'd somehow known there was treasure ahead. All I was doing was embarking on a snipes run. Then he got really desperate and switched to sitting outside the supermarket waiting for someone to emerge with a cart, then followed them. It's one way to play the game, but a very boring and frustrating method with far too many wild goose chases. I've sometimes spotted what I thought was surely a person who wouldn't return the cart, followed them for some distance, only to see them unload the stuff into their car and plod back to return the cart. And he's too new at the game to know the habitual shoppers who simply take the cart home with them. He didn't do too well, I'd guess.

When I got to the hacienda in the evening, Angelo and the Sleeptalker were waiting for me at the bus stop. They wanted beer. The Sleeptalker was stoned, drunk and acting rather crazy. I talked with them for a bit, thought the Sleeptalker had already had enough of everything, said I was just going to hit the bench, started to walk to the corner to cross the street. Angelo came after me, tried again to persuade me to go with him to get beer. I only had $1.50. He said he had four dollars, no problem. The Sleeptalker had claimed to be flat broke.

Maybe he was, but these guys are so funny about cash you can never be sure whether to believe them or not. Even Angelo. When we got to the store he decided to buy three bottles of Colt, was digging through his backpack looking for change and then rather blushingly pulled out a ten dollar bill I guess he hadn't wanted me to know about. He still took my six quarters, though.

We got back to the hacienda, sat on the outside benches drinking and talking. I was probably wrong, hoping the Sleeptalker would hang onto that job for awhile. The man just cannot handle having money. It was clear he had spent the whole week on his own and was wound up to the point of explosion. He'd gotten paid, immediately went to buy more clothes (he was again dressed in all new gear) and the rest had gone on drugs and booze. He's better off being broke.

He zapped back and forth between being sweet and amusing to the most intense angry bitterness I've yet seen from him. He's mad at everyone and everything and I naturally get a place of honor on the list. At the same time he was making it very clear he wanted me to get him off. Poor guy, what an utter mess. With both Angelo and I trying, we managed to swing him back from the most angry tirades. My beer was almost finished, he finished his and grabbed mine, started ranting again. I gave up, grabbed my backpack and said I was going for a walk. "Fuck you!" he shouted after me.

I walked over to a nearby park and sat for about an hour, figuring he would have passed out by then, as he had. They were both asleep, Rocky having also arrived and fallen asleep. When I woke in the morning, I looked down at the Sleeptalker and wished so much I knew what I should do, or not do, to give him what he needs.

538

After those sweet moments looking down at the sleeping Sleeptalker, I walked slowly through the almost deserted streets to the mall. It was already very warm, even in the pre-dawn hour, and despite my slow pace I was sweating by the time I reached the mall. My tee shirt stayed damp with sweat all day, right up to late evening when I again headed to the bench.

It was the first morning this year I didn't have the thirty-six cents for McD's coffee. That had been true on Sunday, too, but I'd found the coins on my walk to the mall. Not so, Monday. Dwindling foodstamps balance to the rescue, providing a can of chilled capuccino. I thought I'd better hold the rest of that allowance in reserve for just that purpose.

After a brief visit to campus, I returned to the mall, did a snipes run and passed by Sears just as a woman abandoned a stroller. Pocketing the two quarters, I went over to the park for a shower, washed my shorts and tee shirt, sat in the sun while they dried and continued reading. Back at the mall I saw Rocky and Angelo but they didn't see me. I was grateful they hadn't, I wanted a day without the Bad Boys, time to recover from the emotional hangover left by the stormy time with the Sleeptalker.

Later I saw Rocky at a picnic table in the park. He's easy to spot from quite a distance. Angelo was still with him and there was someone else sitting there, back to me. Erk. It was him. He had been so wasted the night before I wasn't much surprised to see he hadn't made it to work. But I think he's right about his boss being gay and so he'll no doubt be able to keep the job despite no-show days. The boss will just be happy to see him return. Poor man, I'd feel just the same way.

Moth and flame. I returned to my vantage point several times, keeping an eye on them. Then I saw the Sleeptalker there on his own, sprawled on the picnic table. A little later, he was still alone, sitting on the grass. It was very tempting to walk over and talk to him but I decided against it. Later Angelo returned and on my next walk to the viewing point, I passed them walking toward me. Angelo didn't notice me, the Sleeptalker did. I smiled, waved, and kept walking. Perfect. A way to say "no hard feelings".

And I didn't have any. The Sleeptalker is trying to re-write his life. He's being pretty silly about it, working on things that don't really matter or maybe shouldn't be changed, ignoring the truly difficult ones that could make a definite positive improvement. Like laying off the glass pipe, for starters. But no, he's "never going to play the game again", even said I could have his characters and told me the password. I was touched and a little shocked by the password. It suggests so strongly a certain contempt he feels with himself about his long-time involvement with the game.

He's even trying to re-write his heritage, switched tribes from Cherokee to Apache. Silly man. Sweet, confused, silly man.

He and Angelo stayed in the park all afternoon, occasionally making re-supply trips to the mall. That was one long drinking session. Our paths crossed one more time. The Sleeptalker was staring blankly into space, I don't think he saw me. Angelo did and gave me one of his beautiful smiles.

I waited until late afternoon to spend my day's findings on a bottle of Mickey's, crossed over to the park and sat at a table some distance from theirs, enjoying the beer and continuing the Straub book. I had thought at one point, "get off my turf" but didn't really mean it. Fun spending the day with the lads, even at a distance. Indeed, perhaps more fun at a distance than it would have been close-up.

Summertime, and the livin' is easy ...

539

Certainly not for the first time, I told myself on Tuesday morning that there really was more pleasure in walking around with beer money in my pocket than there would have been from drinking a second bottle the day before. Since the lads had been drinking all day, I had waited until later than usual on Monday night to head to the bench, hoping they'd have passed out by the time I got there. Consequently, I did "clean-up duty", making one final sweep through the mall returning stray carts and strollers. Enough money for another beer, but money stayed in pocket.

None of the lads were at the hacienda. The Sleeptalker had said in one of his tirades, "I don't know how you can sleep here, it's so dirty." I resisted the temptation to say, "no fleas, but." He was too volatile to risk teasing. Never mind the hundreds of nights he has slept there, it's now "too dirty". Fine with me if he stays elsewhere. It really is. He had been rather obviously unhappy with the idea that Angelo and I had spent two days together without him, and I suspect he took Angelo back with him to the Doghouse. That's fine with me, too. He needs Angelo more right now than I do.

Problem is, Angelo is going away soon unless he decides to turn fugitive. He has a court date upcoming on Kauai, charged with breaking and entering. He knows he'll be found guilty because the "friend" who was with him squealed. Maybe he'll get away with his usual defense when busted for anything, claiming he hadn't been taking his medication and did it in a moment of craziness, but he thinks it more likely he'll get at least ninety days in the lock-up. One reason he's drinking so heavily right now is trying to decide whether to go and face the music or just hang out until he gets busted again for something.

Difficult to imagine what the conversation had been like between the two of them, given Angelo's heavy choice to make and the Sleeptalker's desperate attempts to get a new life.

Tuesday was a day free of Bad Boys, too. Again none of them showed up at the mall or at the hacienda that night. There had been a new young man on Monday night, very much in the Sleeptalker mode, so much so I had thought it was him from a distance. But this one had a light beard and his clothes were more grubby than the Sleeptalker could tolerate. He didn't return on Tuesday. I wasn't sure whether to sigh from disappointment or relief.

The Mongoose is a first-class prick. The vast majority of the Quarter Hunters are younger than I, there's never any question of guilt about scoring a quarter instead of letting them get it and, as I said, the competition is generally very congenial. There's one heavy-set local man, probably in his forties, but so heavy he uses two canes to help him hobble around. And he goes after carts! He limits his area to a place covering a taxi stand and one bus stop, an often rewarding "cart mine". He only hunts one or two afternoons a week and when I see him there, I cross the area off my list. Not so, the Mongoose. I saw him dash past the poor hobbler to score a cart the man was headed toward. Nasty fellow. He's still in his twenties, could without much problem get a job which would certainly yield a lot more income with a lot less effort, hardly necessary to grab coins from near-cripples.

Happily, he has only been around in the early afternoon this week, dashing around frantically. But I had the harvest pretty much to myself on both Monday and Tuesday evenings except for a couple of fortuitous grabs by total amateurs.

The problem with that money-in-pocket pleasure is the tendency to buy the beer earlier than I otherwise would and then, of course, by sunset I'm wanting another. So it was on Monday and I enjoyed the sunset beer while continuing Morris West's The Lovers. I'd finally finished the Straub book with my morning coffee, had begun the West with lunchtime brew. It's pretty weak stuff after that solidly fine writing by Straub but sufficiently silly in style at times to be rather amusing, in the way a really bad film can be.

And in some ways, the same can be said about life in general at this moment of Summer Solstice 2000.

540

There but for the grace ...

I saw two men on Wednesday who were literally falling down drunk. The first was in the beach park, an old man sitting at a picnic table. He got up, staggered one step and fell on the ground. I was about to go over and see if he needed help when a younger man arrived on a bicycle. He stopped, helped the man back into a sitting position at the table. Apparently they knew each other and the young man appeared more interested in getting a bottle out of the old guy's backpack than in making sure he was okay. He swigged a couple of times from the bottle, then took off his tee shirt and strutted around in front of the old man.

Thank you. I know the scenario and was grateful not to be a cast member.

Later I saw what seemed to be an abandoned cart near a bus stop in the mall, went to collect it. But there were some bags in it and I noticed an old guy talking on a payphone nearby, thought the cart probably belonged to him. I sat on a bench for a smoke break, waited to see if he'd leave the cart. He finished his phone conversation, took a few steps toward the cart and fell onto the sidewalk, his glasses flying off and landing unbroken several feet away. Japanese tourists looked horrified. I walked over to help him up and with considerable effort managed to get him on his feet, retrieved his glasses and wheeled the cart over to him, suggested he sit on the bench and rest awhile. I returned a little later to see if he was all right but he had gone on his way, evidently with the cart.

Yes, there but for the grace ...

A reader noted that I have titled this section of the Tales goodbye gemini and correctly surmised I was not just referring to the travels of the Sun through the Zodiac. The reader also complained that I had been too vague in my accounts of Kamehameha Night and its Aftermath six evenings later, said they seemed to be more significant than I was revealing with what I'd written.

The first five sexual encounters with the Sleeptalker were, on the surface at least, simple business arrangements. I had something he wanted, he had something I wanted, we made an agreed-upon trade to the apparent satisfaction of both sides. Yes, there was an (in comparison, minor) added aftermath price to the first time, having to endure a barrage of verbal abuse. But overall, I think the sexual aspect of our friendship was amusing and interesting for both of us and quite possibly helpful to him as he grew more comfortable and relaxed about it, allowed himself to participate a little more and gave up the after-the-fact agonizing.

The sixth encounter went too far. There was no agreed-upon "commercial" justification. He initiated it, and he directed each part of it. He was doing with me what he wanted to be doing with the Russian. There's no problem for me with that. I had told him from the beginning to close his eyes and pretend it was whoever he'd most like to be with. If he were able to see it, to admit it to himself, that delightful hour with him would be an amusing memory for both of us. That's impossible at this point. It went too far and it was too soon, shattering the rhythm which had been established in the two months since our first time together.

The aftermath explosion was, of course, expected. It was beyond unpleasant, far too high a price to pay for an hour of sex play. I am perhaps being too vague, as accused, but I don't want to record that ugly side of the Sleeptalker in greater detail. It's enough to be stuck with the unwritten memory of it.

Like Kansas City, it's gone about as far as it can go. The Sleeptalker needs a man his own age to experiment with further, if he's able to continue his emergence (which at this point looks highly doubtful). Any further with me and he would be left with little alternative but to kill me. That certainly wouldn't bother me. Killed by the man I love is not an exit I could see as anything but a delightful ending to the Tales, and to this weird life. But it would not solve his problem and would burden him for the rest of his life even if he escaped any legal penalties.

Too melodramatic? Perhaps. But perhaps not. Methamphetamine is a dangerously volatile drug. I did many things, even violent things, under its influence I never would have done sober. It makes you outrageously paranoid and totally skews your grasp of reality. The Sleeptalker is already on the edge, that stuff could push him over it.

So, yes, goodbye gemini. I have to withdraw, at least for a time, put the friendship on the back burner. Or it might be better to say "put it on ice", relevant in more than one sense. The Sleeptalker and I have forged a link between us in these two years which I am sure will never be broken and I will be there for him if and when he needs me. But it is time to withdraw. In our conversation about it that recent evening in Waikiki, CBW asked me if I thought I was doing the Sleeptalker any "good". I considered it a moment, said yes, I thought so. Certainly, I said, if I felt I was doing him any harm, I'd be out of his life in a flash. The balance has shifted, though, because of Kam Night and its Aftermath and he may be better off without me in his life for now.

Wednesday could have been a three-Colt day. I declined the third, having no wish to join the falling-down-ers, but I was grateful for those bottles in the early afternoon and at sunset, grateful, too, for the continued absence of the Bad Boys and the peaceful atmosphere at the beach.

When I woke on Thursday morning, I saw Angelo asleep two benches away.

541

"There are plenty of fish in the sea," said Angelo and laughed when I told him that's exactly what the Sleeptalker had said to me.

Angelo, at 23, has more street smarts than I'll ever have but he is surprisingly naive about gay men and gay sex. I think I'm probably the first gay man he has talked seriously with. "I like it that you're honest about it," he said. "Most of them pretend they aren't until they think you're drunk enough and then they try to grab your dick." I assured him he never had to worry about that, I never made a move unless I was invited to. Sorry, dear Sleeptalker, if that wrecks your "he seduced me" version.

When I realized Angelo was serious about it, I answered his sometimes very specific questions as candidly and honestly as I could. We were sitting with two bottles of Colt near the beach at Fort DeRussy and after awhile he said, "you like sucking dick?" I assured him I did at times, with the right person. Like so many straight men, he has the idea that a gay man wants every man he sees and I explained why "plenty of fish in the sea" may be true (especially in this town), but it doesn't include all of them. "And you like the cream?" he asked. Yes. Throughout the afternoon he asked those questions again, as if trying to absorb the fact that someone could truly like such outlandish activities.

He had been with the Sleeptalker on those nights he was missing from the hacienda, but not at the dog grooming place. The Sleeptalker finally started getting his welfare payments and, since he had first applied almost three months ago, the first payment included back-pay. So he got nearly a thousand dollars and permanently abandoned the job. Sigh. He had immediately moved into a Waikiki hotel and that's where Angelo had been until the Sleeptalker "got too crazy".

That's Angelo's monthly routine, too. He gets his welfare money (a bit over four hundred) on the fifth and gets a hotel room in Waikiki for two or three nights, kicks back drinking beer, watching tv, and having hot showers. Can't say I blame either of them for it. I'll probably do the same when SocSec checks start to arrive. And in the Sleeptalker's case, far better the money goes to a hotel. That much less for the glass pipe.

I had to promise not to tell Rocky the Sleeptalker has money, not that I would have anyway. Ironically, the Sleeptalker is hanging out with the Iceman, one of those "dealers" he was going to Maui or Kauai to avoid. I've never met the Iceman, but I've certainly heard a lot about him. And I'll be just as happy never meeting him. Poor Sleeptalker.

After a last look at the sleeping Angelo on Thursday morning, I'd walked slowly to the mall, bought a can of chilled coffee taking the foodstamps balance below the $10 level. A brief visit to campus, then down to the State Library to pick up a couple of books. While on campus, I'd gone into the game for awhile and they made me Leader of the Guild of Rangers. If the Sleeptalker were playing, it would have been a big deal. As it was, I just thought "about time", since I've long been the highest ranking Ranger in the game.

I saw Angelo from a distance when I returned to the mall, dodged him. I'd planned on a quiet day by myself, had money for one brew and was well on the way to financing a second. But fate had other ideas and a little later I ran into him again before spotting him in time to duck.

He still had a little money, offered me a dollar if I'd buy some poke (raw fish) for him. One dollar cash in exchange for three dollars foodstamps, a worse deal than the Chinatown places which reportedly give twenty cash on a forty dollar "purchase". I had refused that notion when I first heard it. Too greedy. Give twenty, keep ten, maybe, not fifty-fifty. But if it's helping to feed a hungry young man, different story.

He bought himself some Budweiser, I got a Colt and we went over to the park. Then he wanted me to go with him to a discount clothing place called Savers. At first I said I'd just stay at the mall, hunt snipes and quarters, and meet up with him when he returned, but he wanted me to go with him. "I'm not like a woman," he said, "it won't take me an hour to shop." Ha! It did, too. He had to look at every tee shirt in the store before finally settling, after lengthy debate, on a nice Ralph Lauren dark blue one which he got for the princely sum of two dollars. We were in the store for at least an hour. Still, it was fun watching him agonize over the purchase and nice to learn about the store. I won't mind spending a few dollars there myself when the FPC arrives, will enjoy the novelty of wearing something different.

We bought two more Colts and went to Aloha Tower Marketplace, sat at a table upstairs with our paper cups and straws. Then I said we should walk past Gordon Biersch so I could say hello to one bartender if he was working. He was. We drank some more beer. Only the next morning did I realize I hadn't even put my plastic teeth in. I hardly ever do anymore. It's so totally a matter of vanity except for the rare occasions when there's food that really needs them, and it's so much more comfortable without them. Must have been something of a surprise to the folks at GB, though.

To the hacienda and side-by-side benches. I woke up first, waited until it was almost time for the "time to get up" man and roused Angelo. We walked toward the mall, stopped on the way so he could buy himself some breakfast. I declined his offer to buy me food as well, but accepted a can of cold coffee. He bought cigarettes, too, then moaned about being almost broke, having to do another shop-and-sell expedition so soon.

A stroll through the mall for me to gather some snipes, and then he went to campus with me, waited while I checked email. We stopped up to see Kory K and I had to explain to Angelo later that, no, Kory is definitely not gay and, no, I don't have "a crush" on him, that gay men do actually have straight friends. Funny stuff.

Then to the hotel laundromat again. The lad is a fanatic about having clean clothes. He wears very light tan shorts and if they get the least little smudge on them, has to head to the laundromat. I contributed a small box of soap powder and added all my stuff, except the shorts I was wearing, to the washer. He wanted to wash the tee shirt he was wearing, too, but was bashful about sitting there barechested with me. Such a silly sweetheart.

Helen R had asked me to join her in the evening to see "Chicken Run" and I'd told her Angelo might be along, since he'd tagged after me all day. But when we got to the mall, he telephoned the Iceman, learned the Sleeptalker was there and decided to head off to Waikiki instead of the movie. He said the Sleeptalker was "throwing money around like crazy" and I can't blame him for wanting to be around to get his share of the fun while it lasts.

We shook hands and he walked off. I sat there amazed at how utterly schizoid I am at times about these lads. I love their company, love listening to their stories and thoughts but on the other hand find myself thinking I really should just be off somewhere on my own enjoying a beer and a book. Then we separate and I'm feeling sad we're no longer together.

I am a simple man, and I sing a simple tune. Wish that I could see you once again across the room ... like the first time.

Angelo gets a big kick out of me referring to the Sleeptalker as "the man I love". I'm glad he enjoys it because there certainly isn't much joy in it for me right now.

Patience, patience ...

542

I should have called him Silas Marner instead of Angelo. He is just so weird about cash. If we're buying something together he makes certain he gets my share to the exact penny but is, of course, more careless when the pennies should be going the other way. It backfires with me. I catch the miser fever from him and feel determined to keep it strictly even. I buy him a beer, he buys me the next one or he doesn't get another from me.

When he'd gotten to the Iceman's apartment on Friday, the Sleeptalker had gone "all crazy" and wasn't there. Angelo and the Iceman spent some time bitching about how the Sleeptalker will throw his money around to impress strangers but didn't want to know when it came to his friends.

"Hell," I said. "For two years I've been buying the guy food, cigarettes, beer ... he throws an all-week party and I don't even get one drink. That's the way he is."

"Yeah, he feels guilty about that, too."
"Too?"
"He felt really bad about the night he got all mad at you, went on and on about how you've always been good to him and then he treats you like shit."

Sigh. Of course I knew that would be exactly the reaction. Just what our friendship needs, more layers of guilt.

I'd made my usual trip to campus on Saturday morning, then sat with a lunchtime beer in the park and began reading Robert Ludlum's The Matarese Circle. When I went back to the mall I saw Angelo sitting at a table with a very young guy, probably not more than sixteen. Angelo was jumpy and nervous. He had been trying to sell his Aloha Airlines ticket coupon, then gave it to Rocky who was trying. Rocky had left his backpack there but Angelo was still worried. "He's not going to run off with it," I told him, but he stayed twitchy until Rocky returned, coupon still in hand.

Rocky sat down beside me and said, "Don't you ever touch my hair again. Are you buying me a beer?" That night I woke up thinking it was morning, with Rocky sitting across from me, I'd rubbed my hand across his head when I left. "Buy you a beer and I can't even touch your hair?!" "I was just kidding, just kidding," he said with a big grin.

I told Angelo he'd probably have more luck trying to sell the coupon at the Aloha Airlines ticket counter in Sears, so we all went there. The ticket agent told him he couldn't get a refund but it was okay if someone came up who wanted to buy it. Rocky took the coupon and tried to sell it to a mainland black guy who was sitting by the Delta counter, a weird choice. I don't know what happened between them but the black guy was really mad, followed Rocky back part of the way, threatened to beat him up. Wrong move, with Rocky. Meanwhile a woman did arrive to buy a ticket and Angelo sold her the coupon. Rocky was going back to the black guy, I told him to chill out, Angelo had made the deal, but he wouldn't listen and he and the black guy started shouting at each other. I left, noticing a security man arriving as I hightailed it out of there.

Angelo and the kid came upstairs after me and we waited around for Rocky. I teased Angelo about it being his round and got some splutter, splutter back. "Phooey," I said and walked off, ignoring his call to go back, bought a beer and returned to the park, didn't see them for the rest of the day until I got to the hacienda where Rocky was already asleep. Angelo had spent the night before at the Iceman's and had probably gone back there, still hoping to get in on some more of the Sleeptalker's grand spree.

He admitted he'd done better than I. On the nights when he stayed in the Sleeptalker's hotel room, the Sleeptalker had provided the beer. And I didn't say so, but it seems pretty obvious the Iceman has gotten his share of the Sleeptalker's loot, too.

543

Cainer wrote about the last weekend of June: You may well encounter a wave of chaos and confusion at the weekend - but then what's so unusual about one of those? You'll survive it, as you always do. You may even enjoy it if you remember not to take certain people (and situations) too seriously.

A reader recently complained about my faith (?) in such things as the Tarot, the I Ching, and Cainer. Well, in the case of Cainer, he is a witty and frequently amusing commentator on the human condition, whether or not there is any genuine truth to astrology. And I do most definitely have "faith" in the absolute concept of "no accidents". Thus any message which meets my eye is relevant. And, of course, it's always amusing when one of them, especially from Cainer, turns out to be so apt.

When I returned to the mall after a Sunday morning visit to campus, there was half of a very large pepperoni pizza from Sbarro's abandoned at the bus stop. Food problem solved for the day. After snipe hunting and returning a few carts, I went over to the crowded park for pizza, beer, and more of the rather weird Ludlum book. Angelo walked up, said he'd just gotten out of jail.

All my children, all my sweet crazy children ...

After I'd left him and the kid the day before, they'd met up again with Rocky. As a result of his squabble with the black tourist, Rocky is banned from Sears for a year. He and Angelo had gone to JC Penney where Angelo had put on a pair of display shoes and walked out of the store wearing them. Busted. Silly fellow, he had been itching for a new pair of shoes (although the ones he's wearing are in fine condition). But he only had nine more days to wait until he could buy them.

It used to be that if you got sent to the downtown jail on the weekend, you had to wait until Monday morning to go before a judge. It's too crowded now (four men in a two-man cell), so a judge goes to the cellblocks on Sunday mornings. Angelo had been let out on a hundred dollars bail, which one of his sisters covered.

He finished off the beer and we walked over to the mall. He asked if I'd buy him fish, no offer of a dollar this time. Oh well, kill off the foodstamps balance for the month. On the way to the supermarket we passed the Sleeptalker.

"He's still got money," Angelo said. Yes, we agreed that had the Sleeptalker been broke, he would have stopped to talk, if for no other reason than the possibility of free beer. "He didn't even look at me," Angelo grumbled.

No, he hadn't. The Sleeptalker had looked at me, directly in the eyes. It was, as they say, one of those looks that spoke volumes and I was very, very happy to read them. He's over being mad at me, he looks fine (so damned fine I would have become smitten on the spot if I hadn't been already). And he was very proud of himself, walking through the crowded mall on his own. It was extraordinary, something I've never seen him do before. I was genuinely relieved and so happy for him.

Angelo and I sat at a table while he ate his fish. The kid showed up, Angelo told him the jail story. I said I was going to hunt snipes, would meet up with Angelo later maybe. I was returning two carts when I saw him talking on the phone, waved as I passed and held up two fingers to note I'd just found fifty cents. He grinned. He said later he'd told me to wait, but I hadn't heard him.

Back to the park and the book with another beer. Again Angelo walked up. He wanted to go to a nearby store for a shop-and-sell exercise, asked me to put his Old Navy Staff shirt in my backpack so he'd have more room in his. We had talked about all this on that vodka-soaked evening in Waikiki. He seemed concerned that I would disapprove of him because of the shoplifting, assured me he only stole from stores, never from people. I told him I didn't really disapprove, had done it a lot when I was younger, but that I wouldn't do it now if I had money to pay for the stuff and I wouldn't do it unless it was something I really needed. That wasn't altogether true, but seemed the wiser thing to say and is the way I should feel about it.

We headed off to the store. As with the Sleeptalker, I never raise the subject of sex with Angelo, but he remains fascinated and frequently brings it up totally out of context from what we had been talking about.

"Rocky has the biggest dick?" he asked again.
"Yes."
"The Sleeptalker's is smaller?"
"It's big enough," I said, "but Rocky's is bigger.
"You haven't seen mine."
"No."
"You'd like to see it?"
"Yes, I'd love to. But I have seen it hard under your shorts when you were asleep."
"I was dreaming of a girl."
"Nawwww, you were dreaming about me."
"Pervert!" he said, laughed, and gave me the little punch on the arm which is his acceptable way of showing affection.

And there was Rocky, sitting on a bench in an unusual area of the mall for him. We sat with him, Angelo told him the jail story, and then said he'd get us some beer. I thought he meant he was going to buy it, but when we got to the store he was plannng to bag three large cans of Bud. "No need for me," I said, "I'll get myself a bottle of Colt." I bought it, left and waited outside for them. Despite bagging the beer, Angelo had given Rocky three dollars to get some food (and I refused to use the remaining $2.50 on my foodstamps as partial payment toward more fish for Angelo).

I'd walked over to put the Colt in my backpack, saw Rocky and Angelo leaving the store. A big guy walked up behind Angelo and grabbed the strap of his backpack. Yikes, busted again. He made Rocky open his backpack for inspection, too, then let him go, took Angelo back into the store. I sat with Rocky while he ate and we waited, both expecting that since it was Angelo's first bust at that store and only two cans of beer, they'd let him off with a one-year trespass ban. No doubt the mall security keeps a list, though, and his having been caught just the day before apparently got him arrested ... again.

We waited quite some time, then Rocky said he had to go piss, to tell Angelo he'd be right back if he did come out. I waited. A young hunk sat down at the table with me. He pulled out a wad of bills and counted them. Forty dollars, all in singles. Then he checked a plastic holder full of quarters and dimes. "The YMCA is about forty dollars?" he asked. I said the last I'd heard, that was about right, but it was such a warm, clear night, why bother spending money on a room? I got up, gave him a pat on the head and told him to take good care of himself. He grinned.

When I got to the hacienda later, Rocky was already asleep. I wonder how long I'll be carrying around this Old Navy Staff shirt ...

544

I went to Waianae on the last Tuesday of June. In terms of my past lives, it's like going New York to Washington, London to Brighton. In this one, more like a pilgrimage to the home grounds of the Man I Love.

But let us go back to Monday ...

After my usual early morning visit to campus, I returned to the mall, did a round for snipes and quarters, bought a beer and went over to the park for the lunchtime brew and continuing that (increasingly weird) Ludlum book. There was a young, very brown man sprawled in the shade of a nearby tree, shirtless, wearing jeans. He looked somewhat like Mondo. I was reminded of Desmond Morris (wasn't it?) who wrote that very useful book on body language.

I finished the beer, decided with such a fine show I might as well have another, not wait till sunset. When I got back to the park, someone was sitting at my table. So I went to sit in the shade of that tree, too. Yes, very much in the mode of Mondo, ruggedly handsome. I filled my cup, noticed him looking my way now and then. He got up, pulled it out, and pissed on the tree. He didn't bother at all to turn away from me. I thought it was a very sweet gift. He said something about how he shouldn't be so lazy, should walk over to the not-very-distant toilets. "It's okay," I said, "the tree needs water."

I moved over beside him, offered him some beer. He was thoroughly zonked, on something stronger than beer, but accepted my offer with a big smile. He drank the rest of that bottle. He's Filipino, has been here four years, has two daughters still in the Philippines (no mention of the wife). Maybe I should just move to Manila.

He had been quietly singing to himself earlier. I asked him what he had been singing, and he sang the song for me. A very plaintive Filipino ballad, a most pleasant voice. I was deeply touched, and grateful, even if I didn't understand a word of it. After awhile, he said he was going home. I asked him to be careful crossing the road to the mall, to wait for the light, and got up to leave before he did.

As I was waiting for the light, two young Japanese ladies got my attention and pointed back to the park. Angelo was waving at me.

Time served, he got, for his second night in a row in jail. I gave him his Old Navy shirt, told him it was almost time for the Krishna truck to arrive with free food, but I needed to have a shower first. Then the Filipino lad got up, started staggering over to the road. "I have to help him," I said to Angelo, and went off to help the fellow to the bus stop. When I got back, Angelo was gone.

I walked over to the shower house and there he was, naked, in the shower. He quickly put his boxer shorts on, still under the water. Sheez. I had my shower, we dried off standing next to each other, went out. The Krishna truck had arrived, a short line waiting for the free food. He walked a bit ahead of me and started talking to someone he knew who was also waiting. I was really pissed off with Angelo for his "innocent virgin" act in the shower and left for the bus stop.

Helen R had asked me earlier to join her for "Titan AE". I had said, thanks, I'll see you there, with the qualification that, if I didn't arrive by showtime, she should go in without me. With the Bad Boys, who knows ...

Brilliant animation, that film, but it did have its boring moments. On the other hand, the Disney studios should never have let Bluth escape their team. Disney just cannot create a real hunk. "Titan AE" achieved it, the sexiest young animated male lead I've ever seen.

When I got to the hacienda, Angelo was already asleep, so I took the bench next to him. Next day, he asked, "that was you next to me, in the blue jacket?" Yes, I told him, it was. He had still been asleep when I left, caught a bus to the mall, drank my two cups of coffee and was going into the mens' room for my shave when I saw him. I waved, he grinned. I looked around for him when I'd finished my morning routine, didn't see him. He was at the Waikiki-bound bus stop.

Laundry, yet again! Oh well, I went with him. He says he'll have to leave for Kauai on Monday if he's going to face up to the court date, so I might as well spend whatever time I can with him before he vanishes, maybe for months. Then he asked if I'd go with him to Waianae, where he wanted to borrow some money from his sister. I said I'd think about it, did, and, of course, said yes. Waianae. Sleeptalker territory.

I've only been through there once before, hadn't stopped that time. It was so long ago the "new town" of Kapolei, which we passed through, wasn't even there. My head started playing "Nanakuli Girl" when we passed through Nanakuli. And then we were at the Waianae Mall.

Angelo's sister works at the Burger King there, but it was her day off. He called her house, she was at the doctor. I looked across the street, asked if we could get to the beach there, we could share a bottle of beer. He suggested, instead, we walk up the hill to see if a friend of his was home. The friend was. The friend was so damned cute. Hmmmm, Manila or Waianae? The three of us walked back down to the mall, got three bottles of beer, and went back up to the house to drink them, me happily gazing at that sweet, skinny, brown body, him knowing exactly what I was doing but being very sweet about it.

Waianae boys, no ka oi.

545

"He's got a new boy," Rocky said about the Sleeptalker. "Young guy. They been living together in a Waikiki hotel five days now. He's gone all style, got his tongue pierced and paid for his boy to get, too."

Guess I was wrong about the Sleeptalker's continued "emergence". But I was right, he had told Rocky about us. No bluff, either. Rocky knows more details than I've written here. I can understand why the Sleeptalker would have wanted to circulate his version in case I said anything, but I am a bit puzzled about him going into such detail. And I was wrong about why Rocky was treating me with such coolness. It wasn't because he minded me having the Sleeptalker. He was jealous because "you never offered me money for it". The Sleeptalker's version was that I'd paid for it. I just said "no comment" to all questions.

Things had gotten complicated in Waianae. Since Angelo's sister wasn't working at the Burger King, he needed to get someone to drive him over to Makaha to the hotel where she also works. I decided to leave, returned to downtown and made a brief visit to campus. Angelo was on the bench next to me when I woke up Wednesday morning, later told me he hadn't gotten back from Waianae until eleven-thirty.

I saw him at the mall after having my coffee and doing a snipe hunt. There have been a few quarters every morning lately, carts left way out in the parking lot, but none on Wednesday. There were three bottles of Corona beer, though. Angelo had promised me in Waianae that if I bought beer, he'd pay me back as soon as he saw his sister. "So what's it going to be?" I asked him, "you paying me back or you dropping your pants?" Ah, he had gotten money from his sister, spent it all on "laced joints", was flat broke again.

He was hungry, had heard a Catholic church nearby would give out a big box of food once every three months to anyone who asked, so I walked with him over to the church where he did, indeed, get a large box of food, mostly canned goods. Soap, toothpaste, shampoo and stuff, too. But no can opener. He put the cans he wanted into a bag, left the rest, telling an old lady at the bus stop to help herself.

Over then to the beach park, where we ran into Rocky and got updated on the current status of the Sleeptalker. Rocky and Angelo then had another long grumble about how the Sleeptalker is ignoring his friends, I just sat, listened and thought, "my job is done."

A guy came along with a can opener so we had a picnic of Alaskan salmon, baked beans and a big can of pork chunks which I didn't taste. I brought out the three bottles of Corona. Rocky had done some kind of one-day job, still had three dollars and asked me to go to the mall and get more beer with it. My first of three trips to buy beer on Wednesday. After that beer was gone, Angelo decided to go on a shop-and-sell expedition. We walked with him, let him do his thing on his own, this time more successfully than on the weekend. To the pawn shop. Again I reminded him he had sworn to pay me back. Well, I could have half of what he owed me if I went downtown with them to score a "doob".

Phooey (again). I declined, went back to the mall, used the last of my quarters for a Mickey's and sat in the park enjoying it while reading a recent issue of The Economist I'd found the day before. Rocky and Angelo returned, Angelo handed me two dollars. "It's a miracle," I said, "he actually handed me some CASH." And he offered to buy a round of beer for us if I went to get it. The loan two-thirds returned.

We drank the beer, smoked the "doob" which was damned harsh but quite strong stuff and I heard even more stories about the fabled trip to Vegas, more about the Iceman, and more about the Sleeptalker. Angelo decided to buy one more round. We're even.

I'm going to miss that lad if he goes to jail on Kauai.

546

I get two kinds of major hangovers. One is the "I'll never drink again" version, the other is "I need a drink". It was the second trashing which started the last morning of June, but I bought scrambled eggs and hash browns instead of beer. Eating breakfast is certain proof I was in bad shape.

Too much, too much on Thursday. The Fabled Pension Check arrived.

For awhile, I thought it was going to be a day without the Bad Boys, didn't see Rocky or Angelo all day. But as I was having my sunset beer, they arrived. They went over to eat the food provided by a Christian organization I won't eat from because they insist on preaching before feeding. I drank my beer and continued the Ludlum madness, Rocky and Angelo returned. We walked through the park, I got us beer at the 7-Eleven and we went to the hacienda, sat on the outside benches to drink. I was zonked, went to lay down, had to get up again to upchuck most of that final beer. Angelo grinned.

That boy really is crazy. He missed his monthly appointment with the psychiatrist, so they increased his foodstamps but cut off his cash. He has to re-apply next month. He agreed when I said anyone who would throw away four hundred a month by failing to spend half an hour with a doctor is nuts. I wonder how long it will be before the Sleeptalker does the same.

I figured sooner or later the Sleeptalker would stop by the hacienda to show off his pierced tongue and latest new batch of clothes, and he did. Rocky and I raised our heads, saw him sitting outside, put our heads down again. Angelo went out to talk with him. If the fellow who was with the Sleeptalker is his "new boy", the Sleeptalker has lousy taste in men. I was asleep (or passed out) before they left, too smashed to care.

The big surprise of the day was seeing my former co-worker at the mall. It has been a long, long time since I last saw her. I looked at her and thought how strange it seems now that we worked together five years, and certainly she gets much of the credit for me having stayed at that job so long ... and getting that Fabled Pension Check every month. Such a sweetheart, she is.

I told her my life has become "The Old Man and the Bad Boys". And so it has.

Maybe I should hide out until the FPC stash is gone.

547

I stayed on campus for most of Friday morning. When I returned to the mall, a cart was at the bus stop and as I was wheeling it to the corral, heard Angelo call my name. He was with C-Two, another Waianae lad, same name as C-One whom I'd met when we were out there. This one not as cute, but a very pleasant young man, hair cut short but with a thin pigtail, about a foot long, hanging from the upper back of his head. No, I told Angelo later, not my type, but a nice guy.

We went over to the park for lunchtime brew, ended up spending all afternoon there. I was surprised Rocky didn't spot us. His friend, The Doc, did, though, and sat with us for awhile. The Doc is totally smitten with Rocky, who had said the day before that he'd let The Doc give him a blowjob for fifty dollars. I doubt he's told The Doc that.

We ate the Krishna food and then walked with Angelo while he did yet another shop-and-sell expedition. He has to switch to some other merchandise ... the pawn shop man said he had too much, wouldn't buy any more for awhile. I'm not surprised.

C-Two headed home to Waianae, Angelo and I sat in the park until it was dark, then walked to the 7-Eleven where he got some food and I got a nightcap bottle of Colt. We sat on an outside bench at the hacienda while I drank it and he told me I'd just missed seeing his little brother earlier at the mall. "How old is he?" Fifteen, but "you can't meet him". Odd thing to say. Even odder, I asked why he always puts on two pairs of shorts when he's ready to sleep (making three pairs, including his boxer shorts), and he said it was "confidential".

The first morning of July was gray and damp, very damp on campus. It stayed mostly cloudy all day but was dry at the beach park. I finally finished the Ludlum book with my lunchtime brew. Last week I'd found a bag from the mall's bookstore, Steve Martin's The Judge in it. So was the sales slip. Angelo tried to get me to return it, see if I could get a refund. I said no, when I found a book like that, I read it. After about twenty pages, I wondered if Angelo hadn't had the right idea.

I crossed back to the mall for a snipes hunt, saw Angelo. I guessed right, he had been at the laundromat. I've never known such a laundry fanatic. The Kid spotted us, walked over to ask Angelo for a cigarette. Angelo gave him one, didn't offer one to me. Silly fellow, the pack was so nearly empty, I would have declined and he'd have gotten credit for being generous without it costing him anything. The Kid wanted to go to McD's so I went off on my snipe hunt, answered Angelo when he asked where I was hanging out later, told him our usual table was taken by people at a very large picnic so I was at the alternative further down the park.

Back to that table with a full box of snipes and a second brew, but two old nomads were at the table so I sat under the tree where I'd been with the Filipino fellow. Angelo walked up, C-Two and C-Two's girlfriend with him. I had just refilled my cup with Mickey's, offered some to Angelo. "No, I like Bud," he said and I told him he has expensive tastes. After awhile, he asked, "you gonna buy beer?" "I bought you guys beer all day yesterday," I said. They waited around for awhile, Angelo forced himself to drink a little of the Mickey's, then they left.

Like I said, Angelo has plentiful street smarts, but when it comes to handling old gay guys, he could use some lessons from the Sleeptalker. You don't show up two days in a row with a friend, especially having learned he's "not my type", and you certainly don't show up with the friend's girlfriend! I didn't see them the rest of the day.

Earlier I had returned a cart from some distance. It was so hot and humid I said to myself that was just too much sweat for a quarter and retired from the game for the afternoon. The Mongoose had been rushing around, first on wheels and then on foot, and I figured he'd wilt before long. Guess he must have, had disappeared by late afternoon.

I was returning a cart when I saw Rocky. He was in a very grouchy mood, so I didn't offer to buy him a beer. Another one who could use some lessons from the Sleeptalker.

I'm sure the Sleeptalker has bragged about what an easy mark I am, but then he's different, isn't he? Or, for two years at least, he was.

548

Angelo is such a tease. He'll say "I've got to stop this" and a few minutes later be right back at it, describing all the things I'd like to do to his body. Or that he'd like me to do? Probably. Eventually it has the supposedly undesired effect and I end up actually wanting him. He stood up, took off his shirt, put on a new one to get my opinion of it, and while he was standing there shirtless I really wanted him.

He's also such a liar. I don't know why these guys all lie, especially about things that don't really matter. He missed the court date on Kauai. The debate isn't about whether to get there for it, but whether it's best to turn himself in. Amazing he could get arrested twice on this island and they didn't discover the pending business on Kauai.

The entire dance with him is one of the most puzzling I've ever known.

I crossed over from the mall to the park, brew in backpack, saw C-Two, his girlfriend and Angelo just sitting down at our usual table. They had been to Savers, had then done a shop-and-sell expedition but hadn't yet gone to the pawn shop, wanted a beer first to celebrate. C-Two is incredible, just picks up some big thing and walks out of the store with it. He even went back, on his own, for seconds but first went for another round of beer, including a Colt for me. I enjoyed talking with the girlfriend and we had a good laugh about Angelo taking so long to decide on a two-dollar tee shirt.

Second round of beer finished, Angelo wanted to shower. I promised I wouldn't go in, talked to the girlfriend again while C-Two did his shopping. He's not quite so good at the selling part. Angelo told me later he'd only got a bit more than ten percent of the value.

When they both returned, Angelo went all grumpy and surly, first time I've ever seen him like that. So I declined joining them for the trip to the pawn shop, said I was just going to hang out at the mall for awhile. Some time later, I was back in the park and Angelo came walking over, on his own. He explained that he'd been so gruff with me "because I didn't want them to think you were sucking my dick". Sheez.

Well, he made up for it by being absolutely delightful all evening.

In his message for July, Erick Francis said "passion's fires reach into the heavens of perfection".

Oh, brother.

549

"He's always been like that," C-Two told me. He'd asked if I'd seen Angelo, I said yes, we had been hanging out together, had gotten separated. Then I ran into him again. He was with a young guy I didn't know who had told him the Iceman was having a party in Waikiki. Angelo asked me to go with them but the other fellow clearly wasn't keen on the idea, so Angelo just said "see you later" and they left for the bus stop. I was walking around muttering about people who are your buddies until a better offer comes along when I saw C-Two.

He had persuaded his girlfriend to stay in Waianae and had come in for the day to do some more shopping. He said his girlfriend liked me a lot and he was still impressed that I'd bought him beer all day the first time I'd met him, wanted to buy me another one. So I ended up spending the evening of America's 224th birthday with a young man from Waianae, and a fine fellow he is, too.

I'd been with Angelo much of the day before. After a brief visit to campus, I went to the State Library to pick up a book, returned to the mall, saw Angelo who said he had been looking for me. We spent several hours trudging from one pawn shop to another because he wasn't satisfied with the offers. How he finally sold the merchandise I won't say. I certainly am getting a crash course on the stranger side of life in Honolulu, but some stuff is better left unwritten.

We sat in the park for the rest of the day talking and drinking beer. I'm grateful to Angelo for this taste of what it's like being part of a buddy team, and I can understand why so many of the guys on the street form them. Right now the oddest team definitely is the Fatman and the Cowboy. The Fatman is just that, probably in his forties. The Cowboy is possibly still in his teens, wears a big black cowboy hat and a belt with an enormous silver buckle. When I first saw him, on his own, I thought he was a soldier. They're definitely the most improbable couple in town, but I suppose Angelo and I run a close second.

By the time I got to the mall on the morning of the Fourth, the park was already crowded with people staking out their turf for the day and the lines were so long at McD's I went to the supermarket and got a can of chilled coffee instead. Sixty-five cents left to carryover on the foodstamps card for July. But once again, the confounded money didn't arrive. I was glad I called the number to get my balance instead of finding out in the store. Very weird, how it arrived on the first of June, when it wasn't due until the fifth, and then didn't come at all this month. Back to the bureaucrats ...

Angelo found me just before noon, by which time the mall was packed with people. I had already scored three dollars in quarters, but all the stroller corrals were out of money so there was no more to be made on them for the day. So Angelo and I sat for awhile, then strolled around. He wanted to go in to sample some cologne at the department store, I told him I'd walk around outside and meet him at the entrance to the men's department, but he didn't show up for quite some time. I left, got myself a beer, drank it and was starting a snipe hunt when I ran into Angelo and the Iceman's friend.

C-Two and I had been in the park for a couple of hours when Angelo, the Iceman's friend and another fellow arrived. They didn't say anything about the supposed party at the Iceman's. It was amazing they found us, given the size of the crowds in the park. Angelo had a big bottle of vodka. I declined the offer, was already on my third beer and hadn't planned on drinking more. But C-Two gave me his beer and switched to vodka. I had said I wanted to get out of there before the big fireworks show started because it's such a madhouse afterwards when thousands of people rush to get home, but I ended up staying. Angelo and C-Two went to the mall for something to eat, came back with a 12-pack of Bud Lite as well. Angelo handed me two. I said, thanks, I'll save them for breakfast, put them in my backpack and ended up giving them to Rocky later. Once the fireworks were over, Angelo, C-Two and the Iceman's friend started talking about what to do next. I said I was just going to the bench and staggered down to the hacienda, gave the beer to Rocky and collapsed rapidly into sleep, didn't hear Angelo and C-Two arrive later.

Yes, I'm enjoying this taste of the buddy team system, but have to admit the pace is a bit heavy for this old man.

550

I saw Mme de Crécy on Wednesday, first time in weeks. She was very upset about me hanging out with "thieves". It brought to mind that highly overpaid job I did in London for two years. Most, sometimes all, of my salary was indirectly paid by a then-eminent CEO of an Arizona Savings & Loan. Later he got too greedy, too careless, or both, and ended up behind bars. Now that was "hanging out with thieves".

The Bad Boys are just petty gamblers, taking risks to score fifteen or twenty bucks.

She was also worried that I'd get pulled into the game, but those are groundless fears. I wouldn't be any good at it. And my needs are not as great as that. I'm content to score two dollars worth of quarters a day, delighted when it's double, and pleased I can do it legally.

Angelo and C-Two were still asleep when I left the hacienda on Wednesday morning, told me later they hadn't gotten there until one in the morning. I had my coffee, went to campus, then downtown. At the welfare office I finally saw my caseworker for the first time. No chit-chat, no introduction. I told her my foodstamps money hadn't arrived. She told me to wait a minute, went to her computer, came back and said "you'll get them tomorrow." No explanation.

Back to the mall for a snipe hunt, over to the park for a shower. I had found a very new backpack at the mall earlier. Someone had apparently rifled through it already and the only things of value were a few coins, mostly pennies, and a phonecard I later gave to Angelo. But my old backpack, veteran of more than ten years, was definitely worse for wear and it was kind of Dame Fortune to replace it like that. So I shifted my stuff to the new one and bid my old friend farewell.

A beer and continuing the Steve Martin book. I had looked for Angelo and thought one drawback to the buddy system is getting used to it and then feeling somewhat lost when the buddy can't be found, even if a part of me was quite happy with the break. The Krishna truck arrived, so I left a second beer in my pack and ate their generous feast. Walking back toward the mall, I saw Angelo, C-Two and RedEye heading to our usual table, twelve-pack in hand.

RedEye is also a Waianae fellow, gets his nickname from his utterly bloodshot eyes. He looked a wreck on the Fourth, looked even more of one the day after. Once he has a few beers he turns into a major bore, telling one lousy joke after another. Angelo had already sold some of his foodstamps for cash but asked me to go half on another round of beer. I declined, but said I'd buy my own and go get more for them, too, if he put up the money. He did. C-Two and I walked over to the mall together. He went to call his lady, I did a round for snipes, bought the beer and returned to the park. C-Two eventually came back, having done a side expedition to their favorite store.

I suppose one reason I have so little moral concern about their shop-and-sell gambits is the feeling that the burden is really on that stupid store. They must be aware of the pilferage from one of their areas, should have the sense to tighten security there since it's well known amongst the lads as an easy target.

Most of my beer went to keep C-Two's cup filled since he'd bought mine on the Fourth and if RedEye, a major mooch who never forked over a penny on either day of drinking, hadn't been there, I would have bought C-Two's bottle instead of making Angelo pay for it.

Then they decided to do another shop-and-sell run. I reminded C-Two what both his lady and I had said the day she was in town with him: don't be greedy. And I said I'd had enough of waking up in the morning with only a couple of snipes in my box, was going snipe hunting and then to the bench, would see them later.

I didn't see them later. I wonder if they spent the night in the "Outrigger HPD"?

551

The seventh of the month and still three paper dollars in my pocket, not bad considering the Fabled Pension Check arrived two days early. And what a luxury it is having that foodstamps bounty again, being able to get a sandwich and some chilled coffee whenever the mood strikes. Not that I can complain. Except for the Fourth, Dame Fortune was more than kind with food during that time when the foodstamps card was empty. On the Fourth, it had been just one tuna fish sandwich and chips, a large luxurious sandwich but not exactly Minimum Daily Requirement of the good stuff.

I saw the Waianae threesome at the usual table on Thursday morning. It was only a bit past eleven o'clock, too early for them had they slept the night in jail. On the contrary, their expeditions had been so successful the day before, they had spent much of the night in some club. They were vague about where they'd slept, quite possibly didn't remember.

As it approached noontime, C-Two said he had to go to the mall, call his lady. Angelo gave him two dollars to buy a Mickey's. I left shortly after C-Two saying I had to hunt some snipes. I did my snipe run, bought myself a Mickey's and returned to the park. C-Two came back, having once again done a shopping expedition. I don't think that boy can enter the mall without hitting that same store. Rocky arrived with a smoke, such a tiny one that when he offered me a hit, I declined. It would have taken more than that bit of weed to even give me a buzz. Sometimes I wonder if these guys know what a real marijuana high is.

There's no doubt that I enjoy the Buddy Team act but the Pack thing is just not for me. Even with the Sleeptalker and Mondo, I much preferred being with one or the other on our own rather than together. The same is true with Angelo and C-Two. RedEye, I could happily do without altogether. So when the beer was finished and Angelo had smoked half the snipes I'd collected, I again excused myself for a snipe hunt, didn't go back.

In the late afternoon, I saw they'd gone so I bought myself another beer and went over to the alternate bench to enjoy it and finished Martin's The Judge with its cleverly contrived, unanticipated surprise ending. Then I began Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, a very thick volume. She caught my attention right away. One of the main characters was so like me in childhood and it is described beautifully. I read until it got too dark to continue.

The sunset was one of those postcard-perfect Hawaiian varieties. Not for the first time during the day, I was more than happy to enjoy being on my own.

552

I was sitting in the park on Friday morning, reading and waiting for a break in the steady stream of people in and out of the shower house, when Angelo came along. I told him it was good to see him, that I'd missed being with him on his own. "I missed you, too," he said. C-Two had gone home to Waianae earlier and RedEye had "just disappeared". He seemed somewhat puzzled by that. Didn't appear much of a mystery to me, with C-Two gone and Angelo broke, not much reason for RedEye to hang around.

Angelo said he wanted to shower. I told him I'd been waiting to have one, too, but he could go ahead and I'd have mine afterwards. "We can shower together," he said, "it's okay, I'll keep my shorts on." So into the shower we went. I washed my Sleeptalker-owned tee shirt, finished my shower, had dried off and was putting my clothes on when Angelo took off the boxer shorts to wring them out, turned around and grinned, giving me my first full look at his body. Such a silly sweetie.

While we were waiting for stuff to dry a bit, he gave me a tee shirt. Nice one, dark blue with the Surf Designs Hawaii logo on the front. I didn't ask how he came to have it.

He wanted to go shopping, asked, "are you spinning for me?" Was I doing what??? Ah, "spinning" is walking along behind him blocking the view from that direction. I said okay, but I was keeping some distance, that I thought two guys with backpacks would get more attention than one. I saw him select an item from a stack conveniently (if stupidly) located right near the exit, then noticed two salesclerks coming down an adjoining aisle, walked over to the counter to distract their attention. Later Angelo told C-Two I had saved his ass. Hmmmm.

We went back to the park, had a smoke while he calmed down from what he thought had been a narrow escape. Then we went on to a pawn shop, one we'd never been to before because both of us thought that shop only dealt with gold and jewelry. Wrong, a quick sell.

We walked back to the mall and I sensed that Angelo's mood had shifted sharply, no idea why, except of course that he had gone from empty pockets to having money. He bought a card so he could mail a letter to his mother. On his last visit to Kauai, he'd had a minor accident while driving her car and she needed proof for her insurance company that he'd only been visiting, that he lived in Honolulu, and did not ordinarily use the car. He'd gotten a letter from his caseworker and had been carrying it around for a week, me nagging him every day about getting it sent. I gave him a stamp and had to tell him how to address the envelope properly. A high school graduate who doesn't know where to write the address on a envelope? Touching. A little sad, but touching.

That chore accomplished, he said he'd buy me a beer if I'd buy him some of his beloved raw fish. He'd sold almost all of his foodstamps. I had treated him to a tub of that fish the day before, but said okay, and he insisted it had to be four dollars worth. Double the money. Shrug.

It was almost time for the Krishna truck to arrive in the park. We started to walk through the mall and again I muttered to myself about how he strolls grandly through, never glancing at the ashtrays but will then sit and smoke my snipes with no problem. Then he said he was going to buy something to eat, came back with a big slice of (expensive) Sbarro's pizza. Crazy. I said I was going to eat Krishna food. "Well, go ahead," he growled and walked off.

So I stuffed myself with the usual heaping plate from the neo-Hindus, went back to get a second beer and settled down to enjoy it, returned to the equally enjoyable Witching Hour. Soon I heard someone say "boo!" behind me. It was C-Two, back in from Waianae. He grumbled at length about RedEye and how he had leeched on them three days in a row without ever once contributing. He was especially pissed off because RedEye had bought himself breakfast that morning but hadn't offered to buy Angelo anything. I said I was surprised by Angelo, who is always so tight, wondered if he and RedEye had been especially good buddies in school. No, Angelo had only met RedEye awhile ago, at IHS. Well, then, that is a mystery.

C-Two had the interesting theory that RedEye is gay but "in deep denial". RedEye had wanted to go in the showers with him the day before. C-Two had said, go ahead, I'm waiting till later.

C-Two had already been shopping, so I walked with him to the pawn shop, telling him about the one Angelo had been to earlier. We were standing outside the shop while he finished a cigarette and the man came out of the shop, asked C-Two "you want to sell that?" I guess the guy is eager to become their Main Man. C-Two was happy about the sale and we went back to the mall where he insisted I had earned a beer. He'd told me earlier that his lady had chewed him out about buying stuff for RedEye, that he should only spend his money on me or Angelo. [!]

Back to the park to drink the beer and talk some more. C-Two really is the sweetest one of these guys, a truly good-hearted young man. He told me his lady was coming in the next day, was looking forward to hanging out with me some more. It was starting to get dark when Angelo strolled up. C-Two had been annoyed because he'd told Angelo he was coming in at four-thirty, was surprised Angelo had been missing. Angelo wanted to go on to a bar. I declined the invitation to join them, said I was doing a snipes run and heading to the bench. They walked off, C-Two stopped and turned around, asked "are you sure you won't come with us?" I waved and said no, I'll see you tomorrow. "I'll see you at [the hacienda]," he said, and so he did, taking the bench next to me as I saw when I woke later in the night.

A full frontal nude look at Angelo, amusing hours with him and then with C-Two. Lucky Friday.

553

The Boys went way overboard on Saturday. We had our usual table in the park all afternoon. I'd go over to the mall occasionally for more snipes or to lug beer back and each time I returned, one of them had gone off to the favorite store again. By sunset time there was so much stuff we took a taxi to the pawn shop. Then, as always with money in his pocket, Angelo went weird, started walking off without saying anything, C-Two and me tagging along behind. Angelo went into a Korean bar, I waved goodbye to C-Two and returned to the mall and park for a final beer before heading to the bench.

When I got off the bus on Sunday morning, I saw C-Two sitting at the table, Angelo sprawled on the grass nearby. Later Angelo told me they had only just gotten there. He had spent all his earnings in the bar, then taking a taxi to fill the glass pipe and they'd smoked all night. Burning the proverbial candle not just at both ends, but in the middle, too. He was moaning about how stupid it had been. I couldn't disagree.

I didn't go over to say hello, just wanted my coffee. After shaving, I looked and saw they had gone. Then I was doing a snipes run and came across Angelo on his own, sitting on a bench in not one of the usual areas. He was in a very strange mood and I thought perhaps he just wanted to be on his own but he asked me to walk with him to the 7-Eleven. I bought him some juice and we sat outside the Border's bookstore drinking and smoking. I was running out of snipes since there had been so few of them at the mall, said I had to go look for more but he stayed there. Back at the mall, I saw C-Two who said Angelo had just wandered off earlier without saying anything. "Yes, he's in a weird mood," I said. Life after the Ice Age, or at least Ice Night.

C-Two's lady hadn't come into town on Saturday because of a "family conflict" and he was on his way to call her, so I went on my snipe hunt, didn't see either of them for the rest of the morning. I was sitting in the park in the late afternoon reading when Angelo found me. He hadn't seen C-Two again either, thought maybe he'd gone home to Waianae.

So we spent the rest of the day together, drinking and talking. He asks so many questions and wants detailed answers. I think by now that young man knows more about me than anyone ever has before.

554

When I woke on Monday morning, Angelo was asleep on the bench behind me, C-Two on the bench in front. Both of them look so young and innocent when sleeping. It was a very warm morning so I went for chilled coffee instead of the usual two cups from McD's, then made a brief visit to campus. Back at the mall, I was taking a smoke break near the bus stop, saw the Fatman and the Cowboy walking over to get a Waikiki-bound bus. Every time I see those two, I soon see Angelo. Never fails. And yes, there he went, headed off to the pawn shop, as he told me later. He didn't see me.

I had enough cash for two bottles of brew after having found four quarters in the mall that morning, so a little after noon I bought a bottle and went over to the park. I sat in a different area than usual, but C-Two spotted me. He'd been in the shower washing tee shirts, spread them in the sun to dry, asked if he could have "a sip" of my beer, so I shared the rest of it with him.

He said he and Angelo had an argument about buying the ice. C-Two has been trying to stay away from the stuff and he hadn't wanted to waste his money on it. But Angelo had persuaded him and he was still annoyed that he'd weakened, even more annoyed that he'd spent all that money. I told him Angelo had also been grumbling about how stupid it had been. C-Two also thought Angelo had taken eighteen dollars from him. I thought it unlikely, but certainly not impossible.

When Angelo found us, though, all was well again. I provided the fish and the orange juice, Angelo the vodka, and we spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and talking, got so engrossed in it that I didn't even notice when the Krishna truck arrived, missed out on the free food.

An absolutely dreadful woman came along, latched onto C-Two with her Jesus Saves routine. I loathed her, was later truly surprised at the depth of my reaction. I got up from the table and stood far enough away that I could no longer hear her. Angelo joined me. The woman gave C-Two a big Bible and twenty dollars, told him she could help find him a place to stay and a job. Somehow it felt like watching history re-enacted, those wretched missionaries who came here to "civilize" the natives. But I'm not sure just why this particular evangelistic dame so thoroughly irked me. I just knew she was a phoney.

C-Two went shopping, came back with three big boxes! He and Angelo went off to the pawn shop, I said I was staying at the mall to collect some snipes and was then making an early night of it, heading to the bench. But when I got back to the mall, I realized I was actually drunker than I'd thought, didn't do much snipe hunting. Off to the bench, waking later to see Angelo again on the bench behind me, C-Two on the inner row at my head.

This time reminds me so much of that first summer in Delhi, hanging out with the hippies and dealers in the juice bar and the club. Better refreshments than vodka in those days, but otherwise it's remarkably similar.

555

The eleventh day of the seventh month, the Downfall of C-Two.

He had said the day before that he planned to join me on campus next morning to play on the computers for awhile. I stayed around longer than usual, waiting to see if he'd show up. I'd told them I wouldn't be around in the afternoon since I was joining my friend Helen for a movie. So finally I left campus, went back to the park for a shower and on to Dole Cannery to meet Helen.

It was the longest, slowest bus ride I've ever had from the mall to Dole. A rather large local lady was a "Driver in Training", her trainer sitting in the front seat nearest her. She was a nervous wreck, slowed down for a stop long before she should have, took eons to pull back into traffic again. One time she opened the doors before the bus had fully stopped. Several times she announced the wrong information for the next stop. When I got off the bus, I wished her good luck. She's gonna need it.

I was expecting to see a beautiful film, and that's indeed what I saw. Mel Gibson in "The Patriot". Long, elegant, beautiful. Last time around I didn't take much interest in the annual Oscars extravaganza because I hadn't seen any of the major nominations. Next time, I suspect "The Patriot" will garner quite a few of them.

Helen and I went back to the mall, ate at Sbarro's. That lasagna is really classic stuff. I picked up a beer, walked over to the park and saw Angelo sitting at the usual table. He was wearing new shorts (I didn't ask) and had a new Walkman, said the man at the pawnshop had just given it to him. Such a good customer. He had given C-Two money to buy beer, was waiting for him to return.

As usual, C-Two hadn't been able to go to the mall without hitting the favorite store. We saw him walking across the street from the mall to the park. Alas, he soon wasn't alone, had three security men on his tail. One of them pushed him face-down to the grass while they handcuffed him. Another one picked up the three boxes C-Two had been carrying, and they escorted him back across the street to the mall.

Well, I had done all I could the day before to persuade C-Two that he was pushing his luck. Not only was he being too greedy (he had scored ninety dollars from that day's haul), but they were being dumb, always taking the same stuff from the same store. If the displays were being depleted like that every day, someone in the store was bound to wonder why they had to re-stock so often when there was no memory of having made any sales. I tried.

Angelo spotted RedEye across the street, got his attention. Sigh. As RedEye was crossing over, I told Angelo I was not going to hang out with the guy, would soon be on my way and see him later. He urged me not to go, said RedEye wouldn't stay long. "He'll stay as long as he thinks there's a chance of free beer, smoke or food," I said. After telling RedEye about C-Two being busted, he decided he'd take C-Two's bag over to the security office and give it to him, since he didn't want to lug it around until the next day. I said I was going snipe hunting.

I saw them sitting outside the drugstore awhile later. C-Two had asked Angelo to keep the bag and to call his lady. Angelo hadn't written the number down, couldn't remember it. I was sorry I hadn't followed my feeling the day before that I should have asked for the number, just in case.

Leaving them, I got a sunset beer, went back to the park to a different table. But they found me. Angelo said he could really use some fish. I ignored it. He asked if I'd buy juice if he got vodka. I said no, seeing one friend get busted was enough for one day. "I won't get caught," he said. I didn't remind him of his recent weekend in jail. He accused me of being in a grouchy mood. I was about to get in one. I'd made it VERY clear I was not going to hang out with RedEye and Angelo clearly thought he could get away with forcing me to. He was wrong.

Eventually he said to RedEye, "let's go to 7-Eleven."

"See you later," I said and finished my beer while enjoying the sunset and the young soccer players. But I certainly didn't enjoy the memory of seeing C-Two face down on the grass, surrounded by those security men, being led off in handcuffs. Not at all.

556

Angelo tried again on Wednesday. I had been keeping an eye out, hoping I'd see C-Two with him, but hadn't seen him. I waited until mid-afternoon for my beer-and-book session, had been there awhile when he walked up with RedEye.

He had remembered the number, had talked to C-Two's lady but there was no news. At that hour, it seemed certain C-Two had been taken off to "Oh-Triple-C", the county prison. Angelo thinks it is the first time C-Two has been arrested and we both thought he'd get off with community service. Maybe had it been only one box, that would have been the case. Three boxes must have pushed the value over the limit, requiring time behind bars. It may be awhile before we see C-Two again.

Angelo said he'd go to the mall to use the phone, see if there was any news, asked me to look after the bags. RedEye went with him. They returned, hadn't talked to C-Two's lady. Angelo had bought a bottle of beer, sat up on the table with his back to me, sharing the beer and a cigarette with RedEye. Then he put his Walkman headphones on, effectively leaving me isolated with RedEye. I walked off, sat nearer the beach and watched the ocean for awhile. I didn't see them again for the rest of the day.

After the Krishna feast, I went for a sunset beer, returned to the park and the excellent, thoroughly engrossing book, read until it grew too dark to continue.

I went to the hacienda early, had been asleep for some time when Angelo woke me up, asked if I wanted some vodka. I said thanks, but I've had enough for the day, went back to sleep. He and RedEye were sitting on an outside bench. When they had evidently finished off the drink, Angelo woke me again. He wanted to know why I was being "such a grouch".

"I told you," I said quietly, "I am not hanging out with that guy."

He was mad. I know he wasn't really angry with me but with the failure of his power to persuade. He's very pleased with that power and, indeed, it works almost all the time, not just with me. But I've warned him several times that he's at a disadvantage. I studied for two years with a Master. The Sleeptalker taught me well, and I'm deeply grateful for it.

And, of course, the Sleeptalker was not only much better at it than Angelo, he had the enormous boost of my passion for his body. Except in very rare moments when Angelo manages to fan the flames, I just don't want him physically. And again, the Sleeptalker's lessons suggest that even if Angelo did offer himself, it would be another round of guilt-after-the-fact nonsense. Just not worth it.

There are plenty of fish in the sea.

557

Two pennies at the mall in the early morning on Friday, not a single quarter. Oh well, the day before there had been four quarters just waiting to be retrieved from a stroller corral, two more from a stroller which hadn't been properly returned. Can't expect such largesse every day, not being a Mayfair Witch.

A glance at the sleeping Angelo when I left the hacienda Thursday morning was the only contact with the Bad Boys all day and none of them showed up that night either. I had walked out on Angelo's tantrum, stayed away until I thought he'd be asleep before returning. Deja vu, deja vu. I suspected he'd just disappear for awhile.

So I spent the day feeling a little lost. As with the Sleeptalker's far nastier version, I had the sense that Angelo's tantrum had in a way broken his power over me. Maybe Anne Rice is affecting the way I'm thinking about things, but that's how it seemed with the Sleeptalker, too, and that was before her influence.

I was grateful for her fine book because it allowed me to totally escape my own thoughts for a time, but it also seemed important to examine the two friendships, the Sleeptalker and Angelo, with particular attention to what they have in common. It's likely most, if not all, of the friendships I form with these young street guys will share those themes and the better I understand them, expect them, the more help I am likely to be to the boys, the more likely I am to enjoy it, too.

Certainly sex plays a major role. They are fascinated by and curious about my, to them unorthodox, preferences. At the same time they are disgusted by it, probably more by the hidden desires it arouses in them, consciously or unconsciously. Both the Sleeptalker and Angelo admit to having dreams about me, the Sleeptalker even admitting to one in which we were having sex together (before we actually had). And the drunker they get, the more their repressed desires surface, with all the backlash that involves the morning after. It's a difficult dance, particularly when I'm feeling how much more sensible it would be to either totally avoid the subject or to just relax and enjoy whatever you want to happen. I'll be surprised if I meet one of these young men who is that well-adjusted and self-secure.

Along with examining the friendships there is also, of course, the need to examine my own adjustment or lack of it. As I've said before, there is always some conflict in my mind between enjoying their company versus the pleasures of the lone wolf life, and there is definitely some difficulty in maintaining inner balance when it shifts from days of a buddy team to being on my own again. There shouldn't be.

Be here now, be here now.

558

"Do you really like me?"
"Yes, I like you very much."
"You're not just trying to get in my pants?"
"You're a sweet man. I enjoy your company, enjoy listening to you talk. If you wanted me to suck your dick, I'd be glad to, but I'm not trying to get it."

Although I was deliberately sitting in a not-usual place, Angelo found me in the park early Friday afternoon. He'd just come from jail. On Thursday, he'd gone to Waianae. He, C-One and two other guys had gone shopping. At the second store, Angelo had been busted. Three times in one month, but still, the judge gave him time served next morning.

He told me about the expedition and the bust, about the guys he'd been in jail with. Also, that the Sleeptalker's youngest sister had only just discovered she is pregnant. The father is in jail for "domestic abuse" (whether she was the target or not, he didn't say and I didn't ask).

His strategy for dealing with his Wednesday night tantrum was apparently to pretend it had never happened, but eventually I said I was puzzled, wondered why he'd gotten "all mad" with me because I didn't like RedEye. "But you were mad with me," was the excuse. Okay, I knew the real reason already, no need to push it. But like I said, it broke his power over me and I wasn't unhappy about that, was instead pleased that being with him again confirmed it.

Had I drunk a beer yet? No, I was short three quarters but the mall, thanks to one of their infernal "Sidewalk Sales", was so jammed I'd taken a break. He offered the three quarters for a three-dollar tub of fish. I said that was a far worse deal than I'd get in Chinatown. "But I only have a dollar," he protested. All right then, I'll get you the fish.

We walked over to the supermarket. Since he's banned from there for a year, he waited outside while I bought the fish and the beer. The woman at the fish counter is beginning to think of me as a regular customer, would no doubt be surprised to learn that I never eat the stuff. When I left the store, Angelo was talking to some young local woman, totally ignored me. I smoked a snipe, waited to see if he was coming back to the park with me. Continued to ignore me, talked on. So I put the beer in my backpack, walked over and handed him the bag with the fish, and went on to the park, again muttering about "buddies until something better comes along".

On the other hand, I had told him I was leaving before long to join Helen at the movies, so there was no reason for him to leave his apparent friend. He could, of course, have said something. But as C-Two said, "he's always been that way." No point in expecting him to change now.

"No more stealing for me," Angelo had said. Uh-huh, and the sun is gonna rise in the West tomorrow, I thought, but said, "it does look like your luck has run out."

I took the bus out to Dole Cannery, fortunately driven this time by a veteran driver, and met Helen to see "X-Men". Weird movie. If I were a fancy critic I'd write, "a masterpiece of the Cinema Bizarre". Of course, having had no contact at all with the comic books the thing was based on, I knew only what Helen had told me beforehand about the X-Men and what each of their special "powers" were. Still, I wasn't bored and my only grumble about it was the extremely bombastic, ugly music. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own the soundtrack recording which was, as usual, plugged in the (very lengthy) end credits.

Back at the mall, we had a snack at Arby's and Helen went on her way. I hunted snipes, picked up four quarters and then had an unusually long wait for a bus to the hacienda. RedEye spotted me, asked if I'd seen Angelo, was he staying at the hacienda? No idea, I said, haven't seen him since early afternoon. RedEye wandered off. I got the bus at last and Angelo was on his usual bench, already asleep. I left one vacant between us and was quickly asleep myself.

I'd told Helen I hoped I didn't dream about the movie, but if I did, hoped it would about "Cyclops". He was cute. Instead, I dreamed about Angelo.

Sigh.

559

The romance with Angelo is really heating up (he says sarcastically). We showered together and ... he did it without shorts!

The mall was absolutely packed all weekend, more so on Saturday than I've ever seen it, even in the pre-Christmas madness. I don't understand why hordes of people go to these "sidewalk sales", why they stand around dazed by junk on tables outside the stores, stuff they could have gazed at inside with far less hassle. It isn't because the price reductions are all that marvelous, they aren't. A mystery.

It certainly made the Quarter Hunt a matter for great patience, weaving those carts back through the mobs. I guess it was just too much for the Mongoose whose dashing-around act would have been utterly impossible. He was missing both days, only showed up (too) late on Sunday evening. I'd already done the "clean-up" rounds.

As soon as I had the quarters for a Mickey's on Saturday, I headed over to the park which was also crowded. I had made my usual visit to campus in the morning, thought I'd probably finish The Witching Hour before the weekend was out, so went down to the State Library. I'd hoped to find another Anne Rice novel, but no luck, instead got Sidney Sheldon's The Stars Shine Down after rejecting the rather novel possibility of the Penguin edition of Canterbury Tales.

I was just finishing off the beer when Angelo found me. No more stealing for him? I guess the bottles of vodka had just miraculously appeared in his backpack. Would I buy juice and fish in exchange for sharing the vodka? Oh well, since he already had the stuff, I said yes. He wanted to go to Waikiki. I didn't see why that was necessary, but I'd certainly had enough of the mall for the day, so off we went. A snipe hunt through the shopping center (and he actually picked some up himself!), and then he got two cups with ice from Jack-in-the-Crack and we sat drinking orange juice and vodka, watching the people walk by.

When we'd killed the first bottle, he said we should go to the hacienda for the second one. Good idea, so much easier to get up from the steps and collapse on the bench than to make the trip after two bottles of vodka. He didn't make it through his final cup before hitting that bench. I finished it off for breakfast on Sunday morning, waiting for him to wake up after I'd slept past seven myself.

Fun walking with him, feeling slightly buzzed from that spiked orange juice, down to the 7-Eleven where I got us sandwiches and coffee (chocolate milk for him). Then to the shower. I thought, looking at his naked body, that if he'd been a stranger and that had been our first encounter, I wouldn't have been much interested. But as it was, yes, a great pleasure to be naked with him. I think he was worried he'd get a hard-on, and he did partially, kept turned away until it subsided. Funny fellow.

He asked to borrow my bus pass to visit his little brother. Brother sounds like a real terror, is confined to a "house for juvenile delinquents" and isn't allowed to leave it without one of the guardians in attendance. What a job that would be, living in a house with five really bad boys. Their mother and grandmother live together on Kauai and little brother is allowed to make a day trip there occasionally, again with a guardian along. Angelo said his grandmother is very scared of little brother, won't have him in the house without protection. He had made the day trip to Kauai earlier in the week and was bringing back a pair of shoes for Angelo. So I gave him the bus pass to go collect them.

Later I saw him at the mall, alas with RedEye. He gave me the pass, thanked me for the use of it. I admired his shoes, and then said I was continuing the quarter hunt. He and RedEye sat on the bench for a very long time and I detoured around it until they left, didn't see either of them for the rest of the day.

I soon had the quarters for a Mickey's, bought it and went to the park, finished The Witching Hour. Turning over the final page, I saw the advertisement for the sequel. Hmmmmm. Back to the mall, continuing the hunt until I had enough for two more Mickey's, but tucked away the coins for one on Monday. The second of the day at sunset time, though, beginning the Sheldon book which is irksome because of the continued flashbacks, each time jumping back further. It would have been more enjoyable reading had he just written the story with straightforward continuity. And it all seems twice as weak because of picking it up just after the Anne Rice book. She's a writer I much admire. Sheldon I only admire because he's managed to make such a success out of so little talent.

Picking up a few more quarters during the after-closing clean-up, I went on to the hacienda. Angelo was already asleep, RedEye was mercifully absent. I took the bench next to Angelo and enjoyed the memory of that shower.

He's leaning again toward the idea of returning to Kauai to face the music. "Will you miss me?" he asked.

"Yes, I'll miss you," I said, adding silently to myself, "even if life will be easier without you."

560

"Yes, I'll miss you," I said, adding silently to myself, "even if life will be easier without you."

Is that true? Well, the first part certainly is. As for the rest, it looks like I'll soon know. She sent him money for a ticket. He spent it. She sent a coupon for a ticket. He sold it. Now Mama is flying here herself to take Angelo home to Kauai. She must be a very patient and generous woman. And in twenty-four hours or so, he'll be gone.

Cainer writes about today: "You were confused before we started anyhow. You'll remain confused till you decide what you really want. The truth? Or a story that will pass for the truth?"

What I really want? Sigh. If only I knew.

A couple of hours on campus to begin Monday morning, then a trip to the State Library since I'd almost finished that inconsequential Sheldon book. I do think The Stars Shine Down is the weakest one of his things I've yet encountered. I'd looked at the display in the bookstore, yearned for the new Maeve Binchey paperback, too new to expect in the library's donated collection. I settled instead for Danielle Steel's Thurston House, not expecting much but at least knowing it would be more entertaining than Sheldon.

Back at the mall, I saw Angelo sitting alone on a bench, sat down beside him. He barely smiled in greeting, said nothing. So I sat there quietly, too, waiting for him to give some sign of his mood. Eventually he told me about his mother's pending arrival. Little wonder he was quiet. Well, it's certainly better for him that she is coming, better for him to return to Kauai and find out what is going to happen rather than be living in dread of it all the time.

We talked for awhile, he brought up the subject of our Sunday morning shower. He was transparently pleased to be the only one of the Bad Boys I'd showered with. They all seem to use the Sleeptalker as some kind of a yardstick and love to go one up on him.

The Doc came along, asked as always if we'd seen Rocky. No, neither of us had seen him in over a week, had wondered in fact if he was staying with The Doc. The Doc protested, said he didn't even want Rocky to know his address, but clearly didn't mean it. I said I'd thought all Rocky would have to do was let The Doc see it once a day to pay the rent, and he laughed. We all wondered then if Rocky was in jail. He wasn't, I saw him from a distance in the park later, walking along and apparently arguing with a young, heavy-set fellow I've seen Rocky with before but haven't met.

Angelo and I wandered around the mall for awhile collecting snipes, sitting now and then for a smoke break. He was itchy, kept asking, "what's the plan?"

"I don't know. What is the plan?"

He didn't know, either, just wanted to party until his mother arrived. But he was broke and I had less than three dollars, not much chance of a party. Finally he pulled out his Walkman and sat there listening to the radio. I waited awhile, then said I was going to hunt quarters, it made more sense than just sitting there.

I didn't see him again all day and he didn't arrive at the hacienda. I wonder if he spent the night in jail yet again?

561

One of the sweet things about the Young Husband is the way he lingers for awhile after finishing. So many men quickly withdraw, put it away as if nothing had happened. I'm sure the Young Husband lingers for his own pleasure, but it seems an affectionate gesture, a way of saying he enjoyed it and, more importantly, wasn't ashamed of it. On Wednesday morning, though, he lingered even longer than usual, his hands on my shoulders, and then began slowly to move again. Twice in a row! He's a sweetheart.

He and his wife had been on vacation in California. He said he had looked for me the day before. I explained that with these warm summer mornings, I was getting chilled coffee and sitting near the supermarket to drink it, told him I was glad I'd walked through the mall at just the right time to meet him.

But Tuesday, too, was a day of frequently walking just where it was most profitable to walk. A Japanese lady was sitting on a bench at the bus stop, a little boy sprawled asleep beside her, a stroller sitting behind her. Of course she attracted all the Quarter Hunters, waiting for her to get on a bus. I sat on the bench next to her for awhile, then had a strong feeling that I should check the other side of the mall. I walked over there, found a cart, found a second one as I was taking the first one back to a corral. I returned to find the lady and stroller still there, sat again. And once again there was that urge to check the other side. But I was just there, say what?! Oh well, I'd be a fool to ignore these nudges from fate, walked back over there. A stroller hadn't been properly returned to the corral. I pushed it in, reached to collect my two quarters and found two more already there. Sunset beer financing in hand, after having already enjoyed a mid-afternoon one.

But I wasn't sure. I'd felt all soppy and sentimental after the second beer the day before, wondered if I should cut back to one-a-day until adjusting to Life After Angelo. And I reminded myself how much happier I'd be the next day with beer money in pocket rather than the worst state of all, starting from scratch. I decided I'd only get the sunset beer if I found at least a dollar towards the next day's. Setting off on a snipe hunt, I saw a dollar bill laying in the middle of the sidewalk. Talk about a Mandate from Heaven ...

I don't know what finally happened to that stroller. The woman sat there for at least an hour and everyone gave up waiting for her to leave, including me.

I didn't see any of the Bad Boys all day and none of them were at the hacienda again. It's possible that Angelo had gone to the Iceman. Since he was leaving, that should have been enough to justify hospitality and some free tokes on the glass pipe. But it was unlikely he'd spend two nights there and I fear that his Mama got a collect call from the county jail telling her not to bother flying over, he wasn't going anywhere. I hope I'm wrong.

The end of an era, in a way. No one knows just what Rocky is doing and it doesn't matter, I could never really form a buddy team with Rocky. It would take too much emotional energy and too much capital investment. Mondo, I'm told, has become a total hermit and rarely leaves his apartment. The Sleeptalker is lost to welfare largesse. C-Two in jail, probably until October. Angelo vanished. No more bad boys, for now.

I was walking through the mall, had just lit a snipe. A young man rushed up to me. I thought he was going to ask for a smoke, was preparing to apologetically refuse. He just wanted a light. I spotted a lengthy snipe in a nearby ashtray so stopped there to smoke, waiting till he left before picking up the snipe. But he didn't leave, stood beside me smoking. He explained that his girlfriend didn't like him smoking, so he'd dashed out for a quick one while she was in a shop. Then he reached in his pocket and was dismayed to discover he had no chewing gum left to disguise the smell on his breath. He said, "oh, and my shirt will smell of it, too," lifting up his shirt and giving me a look at his sweet flat, brown belly. You weren't very well prepared, I told him, should have made sure to have chewing gum and should have taken your shirt off first. Especially the latter, I thought. He grinned. I finished my snipe, went ahead and grabbed the one from the ashtray and started to leave. Wait, he said, and handed me the rest of the one he was smoking. I told him just to tell his girlfriend the truth, he'd been standing next to an old man who was smoking, and he laughed, waved goodbye.

What do I want? I want contentment. I don't wish for happiness, that's too volatile. Just contentment, the pleasure of a beer under the open sky with a good book to entertain me in between my own thoughts and memories, encounters with cute young men whose girlfriends don't want them to smoke, and yes, now and then with sweethearts like the Young Husband. Who could ask for anything more?

562

I was sitting at a table in the park, had just finished my early afternoon beer, had run out of snipes. I was so near the end of the Steel epic, I thought I'd complete it before nicotine craving set in. An old drunk staggered over, asked if he could sit. I said, "sure," and returned to the book.

Another one came along, saying loudly, "I need it! I need it now!" I've no idea what "it" was, but doubted I could be of any help. He sat down, too.

"Don't you just love Jesus?" he asked me with a slur.
"No."
"You hate him?"
"I don't care one way or the other. He doesn't bother me, I don't bother him," I said, and got up to leave.

Half-true, anyway. He does bother me now and then, or the thought of him does. And his followers certainly do, even more often. But I don't bother him, never think of calling on him. I thank Ganesh for every coin I find, even a penny, and if I come even close to "praying" for something, it's to Ganesh the thought is directed. But then he is, for me, the symbol of fortune, and I do believe in the power of fate.

And that other symbol of fortune, the eternal Dame with her three spinning handmaidens, smiled on me Wednesday by putting a senior bus pass in my path. It was blank, hadn't been filled out with a name and other info on the back, and it's valid through April of next year.

She wasn't quite so kind with quarters, although there were enough for that afternoon beer and I wasn't at all sure I'd have a second anyway. Yes, there's definitely some adjusting to do. It felt very, very odd to be sitting in the park without feeling one of the Bad Boys would eventually arrive, and by the end of the day my mood was sufficiently unstable that a sunset beer seemed both irrelevant and ill-advised.

I was only one quarter short of that sunset bottle, though, and no doubt could have found it had I put in a little more effort. The Mongoose had been around briefly but I guess the pickings were so slim he'd given up, so there wasn't any formal competition, just a few scores by amateurs who happened to be in the right place at the right time. I didn't care.

One final run for snipes before heading to the hacienda.

There was Mondo, sitting alone on a bench, a skateboard beside him. If he hadn't spotted me, I would have turned around and headed in the opposite direction. Since he did, I sat down beside him, told him it was good to see him. It was, too. Young, dark, sexy, handsome Mondo. How I do love that man. He asked for news of all our mutual friends, didn't even know the Sleeptalker had gotten his welfare largesse. "It'll wreck him," Mondo said.

"I hope not, but you're probably right."

After awhile, much of it (as usual, with Mondo) spent in silence, I said I was heading off to the bench. He said he'd stopped by there recently but I was asleep and he hadn't known any of the other people. And he said he'd probably stop down this weekend, if he got "some buds". By the time the weekend arrives, I know he won't even remember saying it. And I don't mind. After that long, long "affair" with the Sleeptalker, especially its culminating months, and the funny, odd dance with Angelo, I'm tired. I want a rest.

And there wouldn't be any rest with Mondo for company. Not at all.

563

Wtf? I woke up during the night, had to water the bushes. Asleep on the bench next to me was Angelo. Not in jail, not on Kauai, on the bench next to me. Sigh. And I had done such a good job during the day convincing myself that his absence was for the best.

That wheel of fortune, keeps spinning around ...

Thursday was gray, dreary and wet for much of the day. I had to cower under shelter with my afternoon beer, reading Barbara Delinksy's Three Wishes. Good thing I'd taken two books at the State Library on my last visit, because that one certainly didn't take long to get through. She has written sixty-five books (or had at the time this one was published). Quantity ain't necessarily quality.

Fortunately the weather cleared in time for a sunset brew.

I was fed up with the quarter hunt, negotiated a loan so I could take a break from it. Once again I told myself I really should have the discipline to tuck away a twenty dollar bill, not spend it until the last third of a month arrives. I always get weary of the quarter hunt, always want a break from it. I'm lucky the Banker is so understanding. I'm stupid not to get it together on my own.

But even as on the day the Fabled Pension Check arrives, I don't pass up a quarter if it's in my path and without making the least effort, I still scored eight quarters on that dreary gray day. Om Ganesh.

For the first time this month, I returned to campus in the late afternoon. Ah, if only the Sleeptalker were playing the game. I'd have his pants down in a flash. The Boss gave me an Elvenbane, that very special sword which got me the Sleeptalker's body the first time. Walking around wielding two of the things has long been one of his dreams. Well, honey, c'mon back, old Albert can make your dreams come true.

564

Tami Hoag's Cry Wolf was a fortunate choice from my most recent trip to the State Library. A bitch of a Southern mama, worthy of Tennessee Williams or my own. Of course, this one has the life mine always thought she deserved, a house grander than Tara, cossetted by a small army of "colored" servants, as if the Civil War never happened, Martin Luther King never lived. And, like mine, the least little disturbance would bring on one of her "spells", especially if the ripple was caused by her child misbehaving.

I caught the fever for awhile in my early teens, especially after my first time through Gone With the Wind. Two of my best friends in school were black, although our friendship was strictly limited to the long bus ride from Darmstadt to Frankfurt-am-Main. My parents certainly wouldn't have approved and theirs probably wouldn't have either. I would put on a Southern drawl and tease them about how not so long ago they would have been my property. They'd play along, saying "yes massah, yes massah". I can't even remember their names but I'm grateful to those two kids. They completely changed my thinking about black people, thinking which until then had been dominated by that of my Grandmother and Mother.

It was surprising not to see Angelo on Friday, after a last look at him sleeping on the next bench in the morning when I left. I regretted a little that he hadn't, after all, gone to Kauai, would have been happier without that constant expectation of him showing up. He did, finally, as I was enjoying my sunset beer. And Rossini was with him! Oh yes, that wheel keeps on spinning.

I hadn't seen Rossini in a long time and when he's not on the glass pipe, he's a mellow, funny man. As I had thought might be the case, Angelo told me he'd stayed at The Doc's those two nights he was missing. "So, does he give good head?" I asked, Rossini looking somewhat surprised. The Sleeptalker had always been very nervous when Rossini was around, almost always putting a lid on his flirtatious dance.

Angelo denied anything had happened. I didn't believe him, but then I wouldn't have expected him to admit it if it had, especially not to me.

As it always does eventually, the subject of the Sleeptalker came up. Rossini told us that their greatest adventure used to be making the trip in from Waianae and "raising hell" in Waikiki ... when they were in the eighth grade. The thought of the fourteen-year-old Sleeptalker raising hell in Waikiki was a sweet one, although I'm sure I would have thought him a total brat.

"I always wondered if you had the hots for him," Rossini said.
"It was love at first sight," quipped Angelo.
"Yes, it was," I admitted, "but I loved Mondo first."

Rossini laughed. "He probably never even thinks about sex."
"Lucky man, if so," I said.

He asked me if I remembered that night in Chinatown when we were all walking together and the Sleeptalker snapped at me for "staring" at him, Mondo later warning me that the Sleeptalker is crazy. Oh yes, I remembered, and I told Rossini the next time I'd seen the Sleeptalker, he'd told me Mondo was crazy. "It's true," said Angelo, "but then you're the craziest of us all." I couldn't deny it.

Angelo's mama had been here. He didn't give any details, but obviously had decided not to return to Kauai with her. She must have given him some money (as expected), because he had cigarettes and they arrived with a twelve-pack of beer. Rossini may have bought that, since he offered me one. I declined, still had half a Mickey's and didn't plan to drink anymore. Then Angelo persuaded Rossini to buy fish for him, so I watched their stuff while they made the trip to the supermarket. Angelo is so incredibly mercenary and so successful at persuading people to buy things for him.

When I finished my beer, I said I was heading off to pick up some snipes and then to the bench, told Rossini it had been good to see him. Angelo was already at the hacienda by the time I got there, said Rossini (who usually stays at his mother's) had gone around back somewhere to sleep, leaving Angelo and me on our side-by-side benches.

If it's true that "nothing happened", I feel a little sorry for The Doc. It wouldn't be easy sleeping in a one-room apartment with Angelo there, unable to touch him. Not easy at all.

565

Be careful what you wish for ...

He did come back.

I stayed on campus longer than usual on Saturday morning. Two old-timers were in the game for the first time in months. They are both local lads, only one of whom I've met and referred to long ago in the Tales as "Plato". They were playing at the State Library, asked where the Sleeptalker was. "He's got money now," I said, "no time for mud."

Not quite true, as I soon discovered. I left campus and went to the State Library to pick up a book. As I was leaving, the Sleeptalker walked in. Despite a rather silly thatch-roof haircut, he looked adorable. We sat outside and smoked, I brought him up to date on what has been happening in the game. He wanted us to go back to campus to play but the computer lab was unfortunately closing at noon. So he asked if I'd stick around while he played for a little while there at the library. I sat outside and read until he re-appeared. It had been an unfortunate time to play, someone had managed to steal his Elevenbane sword in a fight. Poor fellow.

What a set-up, me having just acquired another one and him losing the first one I'd given him. But I didn't want to pursue that line of thought in my head, much less mention it.

I offered to buy him a beer, so we went to the mall, bought it and went over to the park. We had seen Angelo and Rocky sitting at a table at the other end as we'd passed on the bus. I asked if he wanted to walk down and join them but he said no, we'd have to share the beer. So we sat at the usual table drinking and talking.

He is living with a partially disabled Vietnam vet who rents him a room for fifty dollars a month in exchange for help in the kitchen and with household chores. Of course, the guy is gay. And naturally, he wants the Sleeptalker. He's a recovering alcoholic, so won't allow the stuff in the house, giving him a serious disadvantage when it comes to seducing the Sleeptalker. And the Sleeptalker "hates" him, "hates" living there, wants to get out. Something is amiss with his welfare status, though. He gave no details but said he had to go to IHS and sort out the problems, then quickly moved on to another topic.

He was being his most delightful and charming, put on one of his little shows telling me about a film he'd seen the night before, jumping up to emphasize the story and his reactions to it. He was much amused at the idea of me having spent an afternoon in Waianae and asked a lot of questions about what Angelo and I had been doing together. "No, he just lets me look at it," I assured him. He grinned.

The beer finished, he said we should walk down and see if Angelo and Rocky were still there. "You're my family," he said. Considering what I know about how he treats his real family, I suppose I should have considered that a storm warning. Angelo and Rocky were coming down the path. We returned to the table. Rocky offered the Sleeptalker ten dollars for his Walkman and he accepted (!), asked me to go over to the mall with him for more beer and cigarettes.

When we got back, a white-whiskered fellow had sat down at the table. I've seen him around but have never spoken to him before. He's from Wisconsin and has incredible pale blue eyes. He also had a little pipe fashioned from a ball-point pen and it was loaded with the best weed I've smoked in years. A couple of hits and I was thoroughly zonked, as was the Sleeptalker. Two bottles of Mickey's and strong smoke ... another storm warning.

Wisconsin somehow managed to get the Sleeptalker to take his shirt off so he could rub his back, using the old "you're so tense" gambit. Rocky snorted in disgust, said he was going off to get some buds and would be back. Angelo and the barechested Sleeptalker protested, made Rocky promise to return. I didn't say anything, sat happily stoned looking at the Sleeptalker's pale body. He doesn't seem to be spending any time at all out of the house, said he only gets Saturday off each week. It sounds like a pretty rotten deal for someone who is paying rent, even such a small one.

The Sleeptalker seemed to be enjoying taunting me but I could tell he was also getting mad at himself for letting the other old man touch him, and he rather huffily put his shirt back on and went back to the beer. Wisconsin passed the pipe again. Lordy, that was good stuff.

Then he went on his way, leaving me, Angelo and the Sleeptalker to ourselves. They began to fret about whether or not Rocky would return, the Sleeptalker getting quite angry about it. Finally, Angelo said we should go to Waikiki and drink some vodka (he hadn't been hitting the pipe, oddly enough). I said they should go ahead but I'd had enough, was just going to wait till it got a little darker and head to the hacienda.

The Sleeptalker flew into a tantrum, picked up my backpack and threw it across the walk, then went over and kicked it until it landed in the drainage canal at the edge of the park. Sheez, what a brat. I stood there looking at it, happy it seemed watertight enough to float, hoping it would drift over closer to the edge. One of the citizen patrol people came over, asked if I wanted him to call the police. "No, definitely not," I said, "I don't want him getting into trouble, just want to get the backpack."

"They're bringing him back," he said. And indeed, a large local man had the Sleeptalker by the arm, pushing him in our direction. I told the man I didn't want the Sleeptalker to get into any trouble for it and he said, "keep out of it." He made the Sleeptalker get down into the canal and fish out the bag. The Sleeptalker handed it to him and stomped off without a word, Angelo tagging along behind him. And I went off to the laundromat to wash and dry my very dirty, somewhat soggy backpack.

When I woke later in the night, I saw Rocky had taken the bench next to me, no sign of Angelo.

I was puzzled by Cainer's message for the weekend about some "plan" I supposedly have and would be more determined to carry out because of the weekend's events. If I intend to get anywhere near the goal of contentment, the "plan" may have to be restructuring my life ...

... without the Bad Boys.

566

I thought of C-Two at sunset, remembering the day he'd told me Angelo had stolen eighteen dollars from him. Although he'd mentioned it to me, he hadn't said anything about it to Angelo. After the dreadful Jesus lady left, C-Two held up the twenty she'd given him, grinned at me and said, "what goes around comes around."

I wasn't angry with the Sleeptalker but I was rather irked by having to spend beer money on a laundry session I had planned to postpone until next month. Standing in the drugstore waiting to buy my sunset beer, I saw some neatly folded green paper on the floor, quickly slipped it into my pocket. Examining it after leaving the store, I saw it was a five and two singles. Dame Fortune covering for the Sleeptalker. What goes around comes around.

No, I wasn't mad at the Sleeptalker. I understand him too well and love him too much. And I've thrown worse tantrums myself, even when older and more self-aware than he is. But I'm not willing to play punching bag for him, or to let my backpack play it, even if Dame Fortune covers the laundry bill. Like the rest of his "family", I'll just have to wait until he grows up a little more. If he ever does.

No Bad Boys all day. No complaint.

Sunday got off to an odd start. I walked through the quiet, predawn streets to the mall. I had a feeling something was wrong with my earring, reached up to touch it and discovered the little ball which held the two ends of the ring together was missing. Then the ring itself slipped out and fell to the sidewalk. I couldn't find it. Oh well, the piercing and the ring were a symbol of celebration, leaving the life of a worker behind. The symbol lasted for some three years, did its job well.

The park was so crowded all day it was difficult to find a vacant spot in the shade anywhere and I'd had my early afternoon beer-and-book session in a less than ideal spot. The book had gotten wet, no point in returning it to the "honor collection", so I ripped off each soggy chapter as finished and threw it away. Tami Hoag is good, but I was really bored by the too-lengthy descriptions of sex play, skimmed those quickly after yawning through a couple of them.

I finished the book with my sunset beer and sat there in the deepening twilight, watching the reflection of lights on the water and those wonderful, elegant palm trees swaying in the gentle tradewinds. There are no doubt many which equal it, but there cannot be a more beautiful place on earth than here.

When I woke later on the bench, I saw "Mickey" was on the one next to me. He's such a sweetie. I see him now and then at the mall or in the park, but it was the first time he'd been at the hacienda. I was grateful he'd taken the bench next to me and wouldn't mind in the least if he became a regular.

And the Monkey was on the floor near the head of my bench. One day when Angelo and I were talking about the people who have stayed at the hacienda, the subject of the two Bicycle Boys came up. He said the one I knew first was gay. He didn't think the Hawaiian lad, the McD's Bicycle Boy, was, but he could be had, and was being during their Buddy Team time together. I said I thought the Hawaiian lad was cute, without really being cute. "He looks like a monkey!" said Angelo. Well, monkeys are cute, I said, and renamed the McD's Bicycle Boy the Monkey.

Mickey and the Monkey. Good company. Sweet dreams.

567

"He's like a fourteen-year-old kid," Angelo said.
"A fourteen-year-old brat," I corrected.

The Sleeptalker had been afraid to go home on Saturday night, thought he was too drunk and his landlord/boss would be angry. So he took Angelo to a friend's place in Waikiki where they spent the night. Angelo said he was awakened by the Sleeptalker yelling "stop trying to touch my dick".

"Typical Sleeptalker," I said. "Give me a place to stay but don't touch my precious penis."

Angelo laughed, said he just didn't understand the Sleeptalker, "all he talks about these days are men who want his dick." I said I thought it was basically a power game. The Sleeptalker gets off on having power over people and old gay men are easy targets. And the power is greater when he doesn't let them have it, one reason he's so angry with me even though he certainly still has more than enough hold on me.

I'd gone to campus, then to the State Library. When I got off the bus at the mall, Angelo was walking toward the bus stop, waved. As with Mondo last week, had I spotted him first I would have ducked, was quite happy with the thought of a second day on my own. Too late. Angelo said he was feeling very down and stressed-out. I asked what was wrong. "I'll tell you about it when we're drinking," he said. He had bottles of vodka, as usual, asked if I'd buy orange juice. We caught the bus to Waikiki, I got the orange juice and he got cups of ice.

The main problem he has is that he lied to his mother, didn't confess that he'd sold the ticket coupon. He had put her off, saying he'd make the trip in "about two weeks", probably intending to sell his foodstamps to get the ticket. I'll be surprised if he does.

And he was down "about life in general", being homeless, being jobless. I said I didn't think he really wanted a job, that he could certainly get one if he tried, and reminded him that especially at this time of year being homeless in this place is not so bad.

The first bottle finished off, we walked over to Fort DeRussy Beach. He got two more cups of ice and we tackled the second bottle, continuing the conversation. The subject of C-Two came up and I said I missed him most of all. He couldn't understand how I liked C-Two so much but didn't want his body. "It's chemistry," I said, "he's just not my type, but he's a very sweet guy."

"What about me?"

Heh. It's so touching how these lads want to be wanted and don't want to be at the same time.

After finishing the second bottle, we went back to the mall and as we were walking toward the park, we saw C-One and two other guys just about to park their car. Angelo made a bee-line for them. Buddies till something better comes along. I should get a tee shirt printed with that for him.

Shrug. I went on to the park, ate Krishna food and started Philip Friedman's Grand Jury which I'd gotten at the library earlier. As sunset approached, I went over for a Mickey's even though I wasn't at all sure it was a good idea. Back in the park, The Doc walked by, asked where my young friends were. "Haven't seen Rocky since Saturday," I said, "but Angelo is over in the mall." I told him I'd heard he had Angelo staying with him for two nights but "nothing happened". He laughed and said, nope, nothing happened, went on his way toward the shower house which I think must be his main cruising ground.

When I got to the hacienda, Rocky was on the bench behind Angelo and I took the one in front of him, woke later to see Mickey settled in front of me again. Damn, he's a cute lad.

And Tuesday morning's Merging with Siva lesson says it all about the dear Sleeptalker:

It really hardens a person to live in the conscious mind all the time, because he has to build an ego shell around himself for protection, and that makes him insensitive and rough. One of the biggest protective influences of the conscious mind is anger. Anger makes a person cunning in his thinking, and of course the predominant underlying quality of anger is fear. He is always afraid of something. It is generally something that may happen or is going to happen. He is always in conflict with someone. These are the motivating forces of the conscious mind: anger and fear.

568

"Will you buy me three dollars worth of fish for a dollar cash?" begged Angelo. Sigh.

He had gone shopping with the Waianae boys after I'd left him on Monday but claimed he had only gotten twelve dollars, had spent almost all of it. Dinner on Monday (too grand for free Krishna food), cigarettes (too grand to hunt snipes and not having my box available), breakfast and lunch on Tuesday. He should just hang out at IHS and get his three meals a day.

I'd had a peaceful day on my own, had stayed on campus until almost noon playing Seventh Circle. The Boss kindly bumped me up a level, only the second time in the two years I've played that he's done that. Level 97. Plato had overtaken me, now we're tied for top-ranking Hawaii player and for fifth-highest in the game. I even played my lowly cleric, Caduceus, for awhile, got him up two levels to 51.

Back to the mall and park for an early afternoon beer while reading the quite fascinating Friedman book, a shower (all by myself for a change), more reading. It was when I was going for a sunset beer that I saw Angelo sitting on a planter ledge near the supermarket.

Okay, I took the dollar, bought my beer and his fish. When I left the supermarket he was, as usual, busy talking to someone I didn't know. I think he knows every street person in town. I put the beer in my backpack, handed him the bag with the fish and walked off. Rocky was sitting on a bench not far away. I told him Angelo was nearby, he jumped up and went to find him. Good. Two Bad Boys to look after each other so I could return to the park and enjoy the beer, the book and the sunset.

At the hacienda, I took the middle bench in a group of three, woke later to see Angelo on the one behind me, the Monkey on the floor in a corner. No Mickey. Just as well, just as well.

I had to smile earlier, reading some Tales from this time two years ago, coming across: "Only Thomas Mann, with his outrageously beautiful descriptions of Tadzio, could do the Sleeptalker justice. But I only have eyes for Mondo."

Maybe I should have kept it that way.

569

"Sausage and cream," Angelo said, "sausage and cream."
I laughed. "You sure have that on your mind a lot."
"Can't help it. When I see you I think there's a guy who likes sausage and cream. And beer," he added.
"Cigarettes and beer first," I said.
"Then sausage and cream?"
"Yeh, I guess so."

I hadn't seen him or any of the others all day until I was sitting at the bus stop waiting for transport to the hacienda. Angelo came walking up, wearing a new tee shirt. He'd spent the day with Rossini who, I'd guess, had given him some money. Rossini is reportedly very generous, especially when business has been going well.

When it comes to disapproving of how people get money, Rossini scores high on my list. It's not that I disapprove of drug dealers. Like they say, some of my best friends ... But I can't help feeling an aversion to people who know what they are selling is bad stuff, fight hard to stay off it themselves because they've gotten too fucked up by it. And yet they sell it, even to people they supposedly care about, knowing it is going to screw them up, too. None of your business, I tell myself, and say nothing to any of the lads about it.

Angelo had cigarettes and a 40oz bottle of Bud in his backpack, offered to buy me a 40, too. I thanked him but said I'd had two, didn't really need any more. We got the bus, sat on an outside bench and smoked. He even offered me cigarettes. I couldn't help but think, uh-huh, you little rascal, you know the Fabled Pension Check is just around the corner. I accepted a few swigs from the beer as well.

He had seen his caseworker who'd told him he could re-apply for financial assistance on the first, and he was already busy dreaming of how he'd spend the loot. "Three or four days" in a Waikiki hotel room, a cellphone, a watch, etc. No mention of a trip to Kauai. He again brought up the idea that we should get a place together. He knows about my English shares, thinks I should sell them and with that money and his welfare largesse, get an apartment together. I told him I'd been there, done that, and that I was much happier living the way I am now than I had been during that seven years with the Waikiki apartment, the computer, the teevee, etc. And I said the only time I'd been seriously tempted to sell those shares was when I wanted to take the Sleeptalker to India. "You're crazy," he said. Uh-huh, but not crazy enough to have actually done it.

It had been one of those ordinary days the Steppenwolf so hated but that I'm beginning to welcome more and more. I felt like I'd finally gotten over the emotional hangover from the last encounter with the Sleeptalker and that the dance with Angelo was more or less under control. I stayed on campus until late morning, then went to the mall, did a snipe hunt, bagged a few quarters and bought a beer.

Grisham must hate Philip Friedman. (I may be wrong, but I can't imagine Grisham being the kind of person who would wallow in admiration for a colleague.) Friedman's not only just as good at plotting, he's much better at actually writing the story, especially in making his characters real people one can care about. Grand Jury is fascinating stuff.

I made another round through the mall, picking up more quarters on my stroll. I was surprised. Usually this late in the month the competition heats up, but no one was active and the Mongoose didn't arrive until late evening, didn't stay long. I went back to eat Krishna food, then bought my sunset beer and returned to the book.

As I was making a final snipe round through the mall, I ran into Ryan and Jen. I must have terrified their poor daughter by squatting down to have a closer look at her, tucked in the sanctuary of her fancy stroller. I was just amazed at how much she has grown, how big she is. It must be one of the most incredible things about being a parent, watching a tiny baby so quickly become a small adult. Ryan said Jen is writing her journal again which I was happy to hear. There's something very special about a husband and wife both keeping public diaries.

Of course, we're probably all crazy to be doing it.

570

I was so lost in thought I got on the wrong bus, ended up in Waikiki at seven o'clock on Friday morning. As I got back on a bus to the mall, I hoped it wasn't an omen for the day although it didn't really matter. Got plenty of time, no hurry to get anywhere.

I was, of course, completely serious when I told Angelo the Sleeptalker has been a great teacher and that I am grateful for it. But Angelo is doing some fine work in that line, too. He isn't as subtle as the Sleeptalker, indeed is often so blatant I spend more time muttering (and/or fuming) about him than I have over the Sleeptalker.

Either I'm learning all this for my next life, or else I really am going to survive seventeen more months to make the transition to the more affluent membership of this strange street community. And if I do, the lessons will have even greater value than they do now.

Angelo's classes all revolve around his unspoken motto, "buddies till something better comes along". And $130 definitely qualifies as "something better". We'd heard that people getting financial aid had been given a raise and it was retroactive, suddenly turned up on people's plastic credit last week. Rocky had already gotten his. But Angelo had left his wallet in Makaha, didn't have his EBT card and wasn't sure he'd qualify for the bonus. He told me he had to get the wallet on Thursday because he'd need it for his re-application for aid on the first, thanked me again for having given him the bus pass which was making it so convenient to get around.

After I'd had my early afternoon beer-and-book session in the park, I walked back to the mall, saw Angelo and Wisconsin sitting on a bench. I walked up behind them, rubbed my hand across Angelo's hair. He bagged some hair gel a few days ago, invited me to touch his hair. "Porcupine," I said, and said it again after the second touch. He had gone to Makaha, still hadn't checked to see if he had any credit on his card. I told him to call the toll-free number which would give him his balance. He went over to make the call, came back and said no, nothing. I knew he was lying and was pleased to see I've finally mastered the ability to know when he's telling the truth. I didn't say anything.

A few minutes later, he said he had to go piss, would be right back. Again, I knew he was lying. Such a rascal. He left, I told Wisconsin I had to find three more quarters for my sunset beer. I walked through the mall at just the right moment to see Angelo taking money from an ATM machine.

"You're such a liar," I said, with a laugh.
"I didn't want that old man to know I got money," he said.

Uh-huh, and you didn't want this old man to know it, either, I thought, but just grinned and went on my way. He vanished, as expected. I knew his agenda: a forty-dollar room in Waikiki, a twelve-pack of beer and, of course, the glass pipe. He'd sit back and wallow in luxury, all by his lonesome, not having to share a drop or a crumb. Poor baby, all that sweet, if utterly and transparently contrived, attempt at "generosity" the night before blown out of the water.

His business, of course. And there's no way at all to convince him I don't want anything from him but his friendship. He thinks everyone is like him.

Well, he'll be flat broke again by Monday and I'll have the Fabled Pension Check. Now have I learned my lessons properly? Could I get through a whole month without spending one penny on that little bugger?

Stay tuned to this station ...

571

Well, I made a start, of sorts.

Much to my surprise, Angelo found me in the park at sunset time on Friday. I told him I hadn't expected to see him before Sunday, thought he'd be in a Waikiki room. "I only got forty dollars," he said. Hmmmm. Okay, he had only withdrawn forty from that ATM, but that's the limit one can take on the EBT card from one machine. I'm pretty sure he had gotten more credit on the card than that, though, and one confirmation was the certainty he had been at the glass pipe. He never talks about getting off the stuff except on the day after he has been on it.

He assured me that if he got a room, he would look for me to share it with him. I think he meant it, but with Angelo it's never possible to be sure. I don't think he is, himself.

He'd been with Rossini in the afternoon, drinking beer at the Kakaako Waterfront Park, and his little brother had been there, on a "supervised outing". Whatever happened between them wasn't defined but it seems to have impressed Angelo with the fact that his little brother looks at him as a role model. I said that wouldn't be surprising. Without a father figure, it would be natural for his little brother to look to Angelo as a guide. He agreed and was distressed that he provides such a bad example.

"I'm a sad person," he said. Gently seeking clarification, I understood he meant depressed. I urged him to tell the psychiatrist about it on his next visit, said there really were drugs that could help but that he'd have to take them every day, not expect to swallow a pill and instantly feel better. He said Rossini was on medication and it seemed to be helping him a lot. I agreed that Rossini appeared to be in better shape than I've ever seen him, suggested it was also because he's staying off the pipe. It's difficult talking with these lads in this way, trying to gently nudge without nagging, trying to be sure not to leave them feeling guilty if they fail in their own dreams of a better life.

When the subject of money arose, as it always does with Angelo, I told him I didn't want him spending his money on me, reminded him I had declined the offer of a beer for that reason, and that all I wanted from him was his friendship. "You've got it," he said.

Eventually he asked his usual question, would I get him three dollars worth of fish for a dollar cash. I laughed and said, no, the rules have to change. I should get at least as good a deal as I'd get in Chinatown, so it's got to be fifty-fifty. He reluctantly agreed that was only fair, gave me the $1.50 and we went over to the mall. I bought his fish and a beer for myself. While I was in the store, he'd decided he wanted a beer, too. He dug a dollar out of his pocket, then poked around in his backpack for change. A quarter short. Would I put in the quarter? "No," I said, "dig out another dollar". He pulled out a five. I bought the beer.

We returned to the park, continued the conversation. He's trying to get his mother to find out if there really is a warrant out for him on Kauai, since everyone tells him they would have found out about it during his arrests here. I'm inclined to agree, but really don't know how such things work here. But I definitely agree that he should find out, one way or the other, since it hangs over him like a cloud.

We finished our beer and took a bus to the hacienda, settled on side-by-side benches. When I woke a little later, he was gone.

What a strange young man he is.

572

"Did you make it to the meal?" asked the Old Guitarist, as he often does. I should get him and Angelo together. The Old Guitarist is a walking Homeless Man's Guide to Free Meals, seems somehow always to find out about every possible offering.

"No, what meal?"
"Christmas in July", at some church.
"Ugh," I said, "who wants to think of Christmas on a hot steamy day like today?"
"They sang carols afterwards."
"Ugh," I said again, but had to laugh at his description of an "old, toothless woman" who did such a mean, scarey version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town he was certain the children listening would think they surely had "better watch out."

I only saw Angelo briefly. I was sitting on a bench near the bus stop, taking a smoke break, heard him say "hello". Angelo, Rossini and a fellow I've never seen before. I waved. I thought they were headed to get a Waikiki bus but they kept on walking. Second best guess, they'd been shopping and were on the way to the pawn shop. "Mister Role Model in person," I said to myself, then scolded, "you shouldn't even think that way."

The lads always seek my opinion and, more importantly, my approval, about haircuts or clothes or the things they do and the way they think about things. I have to keep a lid on any negative thinking. The only way to exert any influence is to be very, very subtle about it, without openly disapproving. So just knock off the smartass thoughts, I said.

I spent a lot of time, as usual, thinking about the Bad Boys, especially Angelo. I do value his lessons but I certainly don't want to become such a good pupil that I end up being like him. Definitely not. I don't even enjoy having the miserly thoughts his own inspire. Being generous, sharing whatever I have to share, makes me happy. I don't want to give that up or to lessen it by thinking in terms of what I'll get back in exchange.

It was, indeed, a hot, steamy day. I was sweating from the time I got to the mall at dawn until I reached the bench late in the evening. The tides of fortune went from very high to unusually low. Starting the day with only one quarter and tax pennies toward a brew, I wondered just how much progress I'd make and how long it would take. Late morning turned out to be fine quarter hunting, though, and I was a little late getting to the lunchtime gig at CenterStage because I kept finding carts to return on my way there.

Mickey's money in pocket, I took a break and listened to the Island Riddim Band. This is the first time in my life I've been a fan of musicians for several years without hearing a note. That's partly because of reports from friends in California, IRB's homebase even if they are local folks, and even more because of their on-line presence. But I think most of all it's just one of those "I've got a feeling" kind of things. They seemed like such good people, I couldn't imagine them not making good music. I certainly wasn't disappointed, haven't enjoyed a gig that much in a long time.

I bought the beer afterwards, went over to the park. I'm reading Peter Straub's Mystery, in many ways the best of his things I've yet read. I like the way he uses the same characters in his books, not in a direct sequel fashion, but as participants in other time frames, other situations. And this one is especially good reading.

Back at the mall, there was a long, long time without so much as one quarter. I was much surprised. Saturday afternoons are usually pretty good and I had expected extra shoppers because of the hurricane possibly on its way here. The Mongoose was dashing around, sometimes on foot, sometimes on wheels, but I only saw him score one cart. Like I said, I don't care how many he gets, but I'd just as soon not witness it. I guess he got fed up, though, because he disappeared until much later.

Well, I thought, every day this month you've had two of those 40oz bottles, sometimes three, certainly not going to complain if this turns out to be a one-brew day. Then, wham, two strollers abandoned together. Now that is a rarity. Difficult to wheel back two of them at once since they don't interlock and you have to keep hold of the front one to stop it from rolling off on its own. But for a dollar, worth the effort, especially since the path back to the corral was through the parking lot and the distance wasn't great. Returning those, pocketing my dollar, I walked toward the best snipe-hunting area and there was another stroller. No trouble finding two more quarters for that sunset beer and continuing Mystery.

I stayed around for the clean-up at the end of the day, scored enough for Sunday's first beer, especially welcome since I knew I'd be in Waikiki until mid-afternoon for the annual Ukelele Festival.

None of the boys at the hacienda. Angelo told me that the first night he'd been missing, he'd stayed at another nearby building. I used to sleep there sometimes when the Rocky Social Horror Club made the hacienda impossible, but you have to be up very early if you don't want to get chewed out by a security guard arriving in the morning. That's probably where Angelo disappeared to the night before. My guess is, he has the glass pipe and is staying on his own to smoke it. And I also guess I'll be listening to another "got to get off it" wail before long.

I hope the Fabled Pension Check arrives before Daniel. If I have to hunker down and be a mall rat until the storm has passed, it would be nice to have that money in my pocket.

573

Yes, I do lead a charmed life. I was sitting alone at a table in the park behind the Hale Koa. Angelo and I had been there most of the afternoon and early evening. He not only had vodka but also a huge sirloin steak and a bag of charcoal. All I had to do was get orange juice. He cooked the steak for us, even cut it up into little pieces and made me eat some of it.

I got him to talk more about his life and his family. His parents divorced when he was six and yes, he said, it had been very difficult for him and his sister. His mother divorced his father because the man was addicted to gambling and went through any money the minute it hit his hand. "Well, we know where you got that from, then, don't we?" I said.

His mother's second husband didn't die of an overdose, as he'd told me before. He lay in the bed, put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Angelo's brother found the body. He was eight years old at the time. Little wonder he's in that house for "juvenile delinquents".

Angelo said the next morning I had eventually asked him to leave. I don't remember it, or him leaving, just remember sitting there alone and wondering why he'd abandoned me. A strikingly handsome young man came and sat beside me. His nose had been broken at some time, adding to his attractiveness. He was such a kind, gentle man and I greatly enjoyed talking with him although I can't remember much of what we said. He knew about the hacienda, asked if that was where I slept. I was just going to collapse on the table bench for the night but he said the military police would eventually make me leave, offered to help me to the bus stop. Once there, he tried to chat up a young Japanese woman who talked to him but wasn't interested in anything else, silly woman. When the bus came, she got on it, I hugged him and said "thank you", followed her onto the bus.

I could fall in love with that young man very, very easily.

Angelo was already on the bench asleep, the first night he'd been there for three days. He told me that night he had disappeared wasn't, as I'd thought, because he had a pipe. The Sleeptalker did, and he'd come to wake up Angelo. I said I was very glad I had slept through it. The Sleeptalker has left the disabled vet's house and is living with "a friend" in Chinatown. I didn't ask for details, figured he's latched onto yet another poor gay man.

I had just finished shaving in the morning, was thinking all the time about Angelo, turned around and there he was. As usual, he was hungry, said he had nothing but a quarter. I bought him a sandwich. We walked through the mall on a snipe hunt. I said I wanted to have a shower, he was going to use the phone and meet me afterwards in the park. He didn't. Disappeared again. Maybe something better?

I'm really in something of a muddle about Angelo. Unlike that young man the night before, I do not want to fall in love with Angelo. But maybe it's already too late.

574

Hurricane Daniel, after looking so big and so scarey for days, fortunately veered north and weakened instead of slamming directly into us. But it did bring along with it a most unpleasant day. It was so steamy and muggy I was reminded of the day in Bangkok when I set out to see the enormous Sleeping Buddha and the humid heat was so bad, I thought I might faint before I could get back to air-conditioning. If I had gotten that damned check on Monday, I think I would have gone to the longest movie in town, just to enjoy the cool comfort.

After spending most of the morning on campus, just waiting until mailman time, I stopped back at the mall to pick up some snipes, saw Rocky sitting alone on a bench. I waved to him, intending to keep on going, but he beckoned me over. "Have you seen Angelo?" I told him I hadn't seen him since around eight o'clock when he'd said he was going to make a phone call and meet me in the park but had just disappeared.

"He's always doing that kind of shit," Rocky growled. "It's the focking pipe, focks up his head."

I thought that rather funny since Rocky's quite fond of that glass pipe, too, albeit with a preference for crack rather than ice. But then I suspect much of the time these guys don't know what they're smoking, it's just some chemical concoction or another. Still, who am I to talk? In the Acid Days we never really knew just what was in the pill or wafer we were swallowing, either.

I told Rocky I was sure that was true but that a schoolfriend of Angelo's had told me he's always been like that. "I just can't figure that guy out," he said. That makes two of us. I guess it's at least a comfort to know I'm not the only one.

Going on my way, I went to check mail. No Fabled Pension Check, much to my disappointment. I didn't learn until next morning that it did actually arrive, just minutes after I'd checked. Just as well, I needed more time to think about it.

I had a very serious talk with myself for much of the soggy afternoon. I don't care if it happens, or has already happened, but I will NOT allow myself to fall in love with Angelo, not actively. Deny it, squelch it, suppress it, whatever. Do nothing to encourage its deepening. It helps a lot that there really is not any strong physical desire involved. It's difficult enough being sometimes buddies with him without starting to yearn for him. The Sleeptalker Experience was enough of that stuff for awhile. A long while.

It got completely gray in the early afternoon, rained off and on for a couple of hours. I had the daunting task of locating six quarters, made harder by the probability that most people had done pre-storm shopping on the weekend and complicated, too, by the Mongoose spending much of the time doing his rush-around routine. He's such a greedy bastid. The parking lot is littered with two, or even three, carts joined together and I'm sure much of it is his doing. I don't think it's mainly because he's too lazy to wheel them back to a corral, more that he's afraid he'll miss out on one while doing it. "Well, honey," I thought, "you're about to get a real bonanza because I am out of this game for a week or so."

It cleared in late afternoon, I finally found the brew financing, bought it and went to the park, continued reading Mystery. But it started to rain again, so I filled my cup and went back to the mall, sat in the orchid walk reading. Angelo walked up, his eyes bright red, obviously zonked out of his gourd. I thought he'd been at the pipe but he told me later it had just been weed. I said I'd seen Rocky earlier, told him what Rocky had said. He echoed my thoughts, saying "but he loves the pipe, too!" And he complained that Rocky would just disappear for days without any warning.

He went on his way rather quickly, surprising me since I hadn't told him my check didn't arrive. Later I saw him sitting at a table near the supermarket, turned and walked in the opposite direction. Then later still I saw him at the bus stop, waved, and kept on walking, thinking I'd read a little more before heading to the bench. After awhile he came by, sat down. He'd been with Rossini all day, repeating our grilled steak adventure from the day before. Rossini had evidently given him some money, as well. Can't blame Angelo for preferring Rossini's company to mine or to Rocky's, not with cash handouts, free beer and smoke. But it would have been a little nicer of him to have met me in the park as he'd said he would before going on his way to Rossini. Oh, well.

He didn't believe me when I said I hadn't gotten the check. "Hey, if I'd gotten it, there would be another cup of beer sitting here beside me," I said. I wondered if I really should, this month, just go into hiding for awhile with that cash, give him a taste of his own medicine. Or would it just serve to confirm his belief that everyone is like him?