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Edited by: Pretty Randy
It is strongly recommended that readers check out chapter one before reading this continuation.
The next several months saw Jeff and Howard settle into a kind of exploratory phase. Though nominally they maintained separate bedrooms, they were often together overnight. Their sexual interactions were satisfying, but not confining. Jeff had not taken other lovers since they met, but Howard had; (one of each sex). On those occasions, Howard and Jeff behaved as roommates, not lovers, though their affection for one another was obvious to everyone.
Jeff quit his position at Topel, Foreman, taking a much more responsible and demanding position at one of the companies owned by Howard. He felt no shame in this, for, though he was an incurable romantic, he was also a realist who knew that success in life, especially in business, often depended largely upon who one knew. Likewise, he had also given up his efficiency apartment on the near west side, content for the time being, to share Howard’s posh digs. He had chosen to continue biking to work on clement days, needing the exercise to stay trim.
About one A.M. on a frigid December morning, Jeff and Howard sat close beside one another before the roaring gas fireplace, enjoying a snifter of Felipe II, talking gently about their future, touching one another affectionately, kissing now and then. Suddenly, Howard’s phone rang sharply; an unusual occurrence at so late an hour.
“Hello,” Howard said. “Wait. . . What?. . . Who? Neal. . . Neal Downs? Yes? My god! What happened? Is he?. . . Yes. What? Take it easy. Nice and slow. Do you need me to call 911, an ambulance? You sure? Yes, okay. Wait for me. Don’t let him leave under any circumstances. I will be there in about twenty minutes.” Howard held up a hand like a traffic cop, halting the barrage of questions Jeff was about to fire off. He switched to the in-house com line to buzz Roger. “Hello Roger. Sorry to disturb you at this hour, but I need the Escalade right away. And, Roger, could you please accompany me too? I may need your help. Yes. Yes, it’s an emergency. I’m sorry… I can’t tell you anything, just that it is very urgent. Yes, okay thanks Roger. Five minutes? You are so great Roger, thanks a lot.”
Turning to Jeff, Howard began to explain, moving swiftly to get his coat, hat and gloves; all the accouterments necessary in Chicago in December. “Get dressed if you are coming along, no time to waste. That was the manager of a local club, a sort of friend of mine. Neal has been attacked; mugged I guess, at the least, beaten up. I don’t know exactly what has happened, and I don’t care. He sounded as if Neal could barely talk. I’m going. You coming?”
Jeff hopped around on one foot, then the other, struggling in his newly awakened fog, to don enough clothing for the Chicago Loop in December. In November, Harold had bought him a genuine Borsalino fedora to wear with his thirty-five hundred dollar topcoat. The hat fit him perfectly and provided protection from the harsh Chicago winter. He had not told anyone how debonair he thought he looked in his matching topcoat, hat and leather gloves; he thought everyone would think he was old fashioned, but he found it hard to pass his reflection in a store window without grinning.
Jeff assumed, but did not ask, whether Roger’s presence foretold trouble, perhaps violence, but he was game for whatever happened. Now that he was an important member of an important firm, so well dressed that everyone admired his good looks, Jeff’s self-confidence had gone into overdrive. He also, in a sort of twisted way, felt responsible for anything that might happen to Neal; his beloved David. After all, his David could not be having problems if he hadn’t been rescued.
The Escalade pulled up in front of what was a night club called ‘Berlin’. Howard and Roger jumped out of the SUV and walked rapidly through the door, leaving Jeff lagging. He scurried to catch up, but was stopped by the bouncer and asked for identification. He was also told he had to check his precious Borsalino “Look,” he tried to tell the huge doorman, “I don’t even want to drink. I am with those two men. We have come because a friend has been hurt, beaten up I think.”
“Oh, I see, you are . . . with Howard, uh, all right then…okay, fine, trust me then. My name is Murray. Before you leave, find me and I’ll return your hat. I’ll make sure to take good care of it. Go ahead on in. If you can’t find your friends, tell the bartender to take you to Max, tell him Murray said so. Go on.”
Jeff pushed and bullied his way through the dense crowd, searching for any sign of his friends. As he reached the far end of the bar, he saw a small cluster of people gathered in one corner. Pushing several people rudely aside, he worked his way quickly to the center of the crowd. Suddenly the last resistance vanished and he found himself at the epicenter of a small circle. He turned and there was Neal, his David, lying on a table. His face looked like chopped meat. His ‘David’s’ normally pale complexion was gaziantep escort now ashen, nearly purple. His lip was split and his eyes were rapidly blackening. Jeff felt a cold evil plant itself inside him. He made a silent vow. They had tried to destroy his ‘David’, and if he ever found them, he would destroy them totally. Jeff couldn’t hold himself back, he leaned to hug Neal close.
“Ow,” Neal groaned, take it easy will ya Jeff? I am only human you know.”
Howard and Roger were tied in a tight circle with the manager. Jeff, not about to be left out, pushed his way into the circle. “I didn’t see the attack, but my bouncer saw several men running away immediately afterward, so he can probably give you an accurate description. Are you sure you don’t want me to notify the police. You really should, for insurance purpose and legal matters.”
“We’ve spoken to the victim,” Howard said. “He has made it very clear. He wants as little publicity as possible.”
“Well this sort of thing has been happening with disturbing regularity all over Boy’s Town. Bringing charges would help catch these guys and put them out of business.”
Howard looked at the man as if he had just sprouted horns. His voice calm, but low, menacing, he said, softly, “You needn’t worry about that. Whoever did this will soon be out of business. Count on it!”
Jeff could see the tension in Howard’s cheek muscles, clenching his teeth tightly together. He bent over Neal’s still form. “Neal. . . Neal,” he whispered softly. “You have to stay awake. Are you okay to walk to the car?” He turned to address Howard, “I think we should carry him to the car, I don’t think he should try to walk until he has been thoroughly checked. Also, he probably should not go to sleep right away. Someone needs to be with him all the time. That would be me! No discussion, no alternatives, and Howard?. . . “
“I heard something in your voice. Whatever you are planning, if you find these guys, I need to be a part of anything you do. Don’t fuck with me on this, please.”
“I promise to include you. Now please, this is not the time or place to discuss it.”
Turning to the crowd and speaking loudly, Howard declaims. “I need four strong men to gently carry this young man to my vehicle, the job pays one hundred dollars apiece.
When Howard’s words sunk in, there was no dearth of volunteers. He chose the four he wanted. “Okay, gently now lads, don’t drop him. My car is right out front.” Turning to the manager, he said, “Thanks for your help and for calling me. Here is my card. Would you please give it to your bouncer Murray? Have him contact me as soon as he rises in the morning? I will compensate him for his time and trouble.”
Jeff stayed close as the four big burly gays slowly and carefully, carried his wounded ‘David’ to Howard’s Escalade. He was close to puking at the thought of the pain and humiliation Neal had suffered, vowing to himself once more, that someone would pay the price for this brutality.
Once in the vehicle, Buddy was busy on the phone while Roger drove. In the approximately nine minute ride back to Howard’s place, Jeff heard him make arrangements for a hospital-type bed, a visiting nurse and consultation with a Doctor.
Except for four broken ribs and a mild concussion, Neal’s injuries proved to be miraculously minor. Over the next three days, Jeff did everything for Neal; never leaving his bedside. He took short cat naps so he could watch Neal’s progress. The nurse checked in twice daily for vitals; otherwise Jeff took care of Neal. The thought stayed forefront in his mind that Neal had tried to kill himself once already and that they were on the 69th floor. Jeff tried to gather as much information about the incident as he could, despite Neal’s reluctance to speak of it. The broken ribs, he had so far been able to ascertain, were the result of multiple kicks, delivered to Neal, curled in fetal position on the blacktop alley while two men attacked. Jeff’s balls retreated into his body at the thought; his mind went black with ire.
Neal, inert for several days, was left to stew in his own juices, trying to reconstruct what had happened to make him reject this warm and safe place. It seemed to him that he had merely asked a simple question, one designed to protect himself, to decide if Howard were a predator. Life was so goddamn complicated. A little more than a year ago he had been in high school, rambling along without a care in the world. “Be honest with yourself,” his inner voice scolded, “in high school you lived in fear. Remember those shower room erections you became so adept at hiding? Remember all those sneaked looks at other (“Damn it! I am not fucking gay!”), men? At their cocks? The fear of being caught and branded a cocksucker? Remember all that fitful jerking off to half remembered dreams?”
Howard had been right. It was only himself that Neal had to fear. That’s why he had thrown himself in the lake. Suicide is the only way to run from one’s self. The quick way he had attempted, the slow alternative was alcohol and drugs and risky behavior. Certainly no one here would hate him, fear him for his urges. The only person to fear was himself. “It’s worse than that,” his conscience spoke again, “you are making others fear you; acting like a dick to people who have only tried to help you. You owe Jeff an apology. For Christ’s sake, Neal, the man saved your life! And maybe you owe Howard an apology too; especially Howard. And now. With this. Talk about self-destructive behavior.” Now he had also to forgive himself. “Why oh why had I gone to that damned bar?” he kept asking himself, though deep down he knew the answer. “What had drawn me there?” Neal put his face in his hands and wept then, wept loud and openly. Wept for lost childhood, lost innocence; long, hard, wracking sobs that shook him until his sore ribs ached with the effort, until his sorrow held no more tears.
The sound of Neal’s weeping carried down the hall to where Jeff sat sipping coffee, taking a break from his caregiver chores; a break from Neal’s obdurate silence. His arms ached with the desire to hold Neal, to comfort his pain, but, understanding the need to fight one’s personal dragons, he suffered separately, silently.
Neal spent two more days in obdurate silence.
It was late on a Saturday night. Howard had convinced Jeff to leave Neal long enough to catch a quick meal at Ditka’s. Neal had been asleep when they returned so they had retired to Howard’s enormous bed for some frenzied love- making. Jeff was distracted by Neal’s moaning. The session proved unfulfilling for both partners. Howard was angry that Jeff was not taking care of himself as he should. They nearly had a fight. As if to spite Jeff’s attentions, Neal slept on under the influence of prescribed pain medications.
In the dead dark of a moonless night, Neal limped from his bed, struggled down the short hallway and stood peering, trying to make out Jeff’s sleeping form.
“I hear you there,” Jeff’s voice suddenly cut through the darkness.
“Help me,” Neal’s disembodied voice replied.
Sudden brightness made Neal flinch as Jeff switched on his small bedside lamp.
“What is it? Are you hurt?” Jeff sat up, nearly jumped up, but Neal motioned him back down.
“I’m not hurt, well, I mean. . . I’m okay. Well, not okay, but not physically worse. May I come in?”
Jeff threw back the covers and made a motion inviting Neal to join him.
“Well, I didn’t actually mean in your bed, I. . .”
“Take it or leave it,” Jeff said.
“Okay, okay, I’m coming.”
Neal limped slowly over to lie beside Jeff, facing him on the small bed. “Can we talk? I need someone to talk to.”
“I thought you’d never ask. You know, Neal, my beautiful ‘David’. . . ” Jeff said, touching Neal’s face with the back of his fingers, “you can tell me anything. I have been waiting for you to come around. Do you want to tell me what happened last week at that, uh, bar?”
“I was so stupid. I don’t, can’t, figure out why I went there. No, wait. That’s not right, not true. I’ve made up my mind. I want to try to be honest with you, with Howard, most of all with myself. If, that is, I can figure out what the truth is. So let me start again. I went there, knowing it was a gay bar. I felt. . . compelled. I wanted to. . . to. . . to throw myself to the winds as it were, get drunk, maybe forgo responsibility and let something happen to me. Something. . . gay. To see. . . To find out. Then this guy well, picked me up, came on to me, sat next to me, put his hand on my thigh.
I was so scared I couldn’t breathe, and yes, I was terribly excited. It’s hard to describe. It was like an addiction, I was enthralled, overcome with compulsion. I would have done anything. He leaned over and kissed me. I thought I would die. His kiss felt so weird, so eerie, scratchy and totally unromantic, but god I was so excited. He said he wanted to go to his place, invited me. When we got to his car he, he, oh god he took out his. . . his penis. God help me I wanted, wanted, something, anything. I reached to touch him.
“That’s when the second guy popped up from the back seat, called me a fucking homo and smashed me in the face. They dragged me out between the cars and started hitting me, kicking me, took my wallet, my watch, my ring, my phone, everything. They kept on. For a long time. I was sure I was about to die, like that guy, Mathew somebody, out in Wyoming.
“A boisterous crowd came out of the bar and started toward the lot. My assailants got scared and ran off. Someone in the crowd heard my feeble cries and came over. I was hurt, but I was so ashamed. I just wanted to crawl away. Someone called the bouncer there. He helped me inside. I didn’t know what to do, I was nearly unconscious, fading in and out, but I didn’t want cops and all that trouble. You were the only person I could think of to call, you and Howard. God, Jeff, can you ever forgive me? I have been so stupid.”
Jeff reached to draw Neal into his arms and for once Neal did not withdraw. Rocking softly, Jeff repeated, “Poor Neal, my poor, poor ‘David’. You stupid idiot. You could have been killed, that’s what worries me. Maybe you were just looking for another way to destroy yourself. What’s next? Heroin? Crank? Neal, Neal, Neal. Whatever am I going to do with you?
“How can I help, Neal?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Is it really so horrible, so terrible?”
“The idea that you might be gay, or bi, or. . . whatever?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I was certainly excited enough about what I thought would happen.” Suddenly he was racked with sobs, “. . . in, in that, c, c, car.”
“God Neal, lighten up on yourself. Why must you be so hard on yourself? Who taught you to be so hard on yourself? Why can’t you just be Neal, enjoy whoever and whatever you are?”
“You, you, you make it, it sound so, so easy.”
“Well it could be, it can be. Something tells me, now that you are talking to me, that things are about to get a whole lot easier for you.”
“Why does life have to be so tough, so difficult, so, so confusing?”
“So what are you so confused about? Are you really confused or are you merely denying who and what you are?”
“I don’t even know who I am, what I am.”
“To me it seems impossible that you don’t know whether you are gay or not. I knew it. I struggled against it, but I knew it.”
“But that’s just it. I don’t know.”
“Well, did you enjoy sex with Alicia?”
“Anice. Yes. No. Well, you see, we never. I mean we made out, like, a lot, but never, you know. . . We said we were gonna wait ’til we were married and then, all that shit happened.”
“Wait, wait! Are you saying what I think you are? That you are a virgin? You’ve never had sex of any kind? Never with a guy either?”
“Well. . . I. . . uh, no! I mean yes, I mean, yes I am a virgin. I have never had sex. There, I said it!”
“Well, for Christ’s sake, no wonder you are so confused. But listen. Listen to me my poor, poor misguided ‘David’. You are doing all this, stuff, er, torturing yourself, and you don’t even have a reason? Jee-sus, somebody has really fucked you up.”
“My dad,” Neal blurted without thinking.
“I hear that! I remember, you mentioned something like that once before. I, uh, I have the same problem. The son of an alcoholic dad, especially an abusive one, can never be good enough. No matter what he does. I know. Believe me, I know, and for cryin’ out loud, no wonder you are so confused.”
“Well, how are you supposed to know what kind of sex you like if you never have had any at all? Okay, let’s think this out. You at least know that you are sexually attracted to women. At least at this point or think you are?”
“Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. And how about men? Do you know for sure that you are attracted to men?”
“No. Yes! Well, shit, I went to that damned bar, didn’t I? I guess I can’t deny it now, can I? At least I can’t deny my, uh, my attraction to, to. . .”
“Well the diagnosis is somewhat difficult without empirical evidence, but, on first insight I’d say you are bisexual, or ambisexual. But it could be you are straight but very sex oriented and merely curious. Here is the important thing. I have known gays and bi’s and straights. Most of the gays and straights have known their preference early. My brother played with dolls like a girl until my dad threw his doll in the furnace when Tim was eleven. He knew he was gay, even then. Later he tried to date girls, but he knew it was no use. But guys like me, who like boys and girls; we are often filled with doubts about ourselves, never knowing which way to turn, if you know what I mean. I was very confused for a very longtime.”
“What helped you get over it?”
“A person who loved me, helped me.”
“How did they help you?”
“By loving me, making love to me, being in love with me. By showing me that what I wanted, what I needed, was not hideous or shameful or ugly, but merely a different way of making love to a different kind of person.”
Neal’s eyes were dry now, his breathing more regular. A sly smile crossed his face. “You know what Howard told me?”
Jeff saw his ‘David’ again as every visible part of Neal flushed a bright pink. Neal stammered, “He, he, he, he said you were in love with me.”
“Did he? What do you suppose made him say that?”
“I dunno. Are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Are you in love with me?”
“If I said yes. . . Suppose I said I crave you like water in a desert, what good would it do me? It would only make you sick, disgust you.”
Jeff turned toward Neal once again. Suddenly the closeness of Neal’s alabaster body made Jeff very uncomfortable. “What do you mean, David?”
“Like before now, before today, I. . . well I never. Oh hell! It is so hard to know what I feel, how I feel, let alone how to say it. I don’t know what to feel, what to say. I never thought of it as love. But, but, you kissed me, just that once, so quick, but I. . . so, so tender, so loving. . . “
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