And So It Goes...
Detective Conner let out a low long whistle. Not only was the apartment empty, it was immaculate. It had been freshly painted and the carpet cleaned. We all stood there staring into the room. The last time I was here it was a mess. A real bachelor pad.
“What happened to your buddies?” Detective Dick asked Kelly.
“I don’t know,” Kelly responded somewhat angrily. “I’ve never been here before.”
Conner grunted and was about to step inside when a voice behind us asked. “Are you and your sons here to rent the apartment?”
The three of us whipped around. Sons? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’d be hoping that my mother had an affair if this guy was my father. I heard Kelly mutter under his breath “If this guy was my father, I’d shoot myself…”
Detective Dick just grunted and pulled out a business card and handed it to the little old woman. She had to be in her eighties. She had white hair pulled back into a bun and wore a faded flowered dress. She had a white apron over that. She definitely had the look of a Grandmother. She took the card and read it over.
“What can I do for you Detective? If you’re here about the two boys that rented the apartment all I can tell you is that they just up and disappeared a few days ago.”
“What can you tell me about them?”
“They seemed like nice boys when they rented the place. They never gave me any trouble and always paid the rent on time, in cash. But they kept the strangest hours. Always people coming and going at all hours, or they were.”
“Could they have been dealing?”
“That’s what I thought but I never found anything. That apartment has the access to the main water shut off valve for this part of the building and I had to get in several times with a plumber to shut it down for repairs to other units. They knew about it and knew that I went in, but not until after the fact. I never saw anything that indicated drugs.”
“What about prostitution?”
“No, I don’t think so. They didn’t have very many girls over. It was mostly boys.”
Conner pointed at Kelly. “What about him? Did you ever see him come over here?”
She turned and studied Kelly for a minute. “No, not that I recall.”
“See, I told you I’ve never been here before,” Kelly said interrupting the landlady.
She pointed to me. “But I did see him here a few times.”
Conner raised an eyebrow and looked at me and nodded, as though he was putting together a puzzle and just found a piece that fit. He reached into his rumpled trench coat and pulled out a small piece of paper. “What about him? Did you see him here?” He showed her the picture. It was a picture of Kyle. My heart skipped a beat or two as I realized once more that I’d never see him again.
“Oh yeah, I saw him here quite a bit. Quite often with him,” She replied pointing to me again. “And many times without him. What’s this about?” This isn’t good. I’ve got to get out of here. But how?
“Just doing follow up for a case. Thanks for your time,” Conner responded putting the picture away. “If you think of anything else, give me a call. Good day ma’am.”
The landlady walked off, leaving us with the detective. I knew what was coming next. He was going to start questioning me about Kyle, and then Mark and Steve. That would of course lead to questions about my relationship with Kyle. The last thing I wanted was to get into my orientation with Detective Dick.
“See,” Kelly started before I had a chance to do or say anything. “I’ve been telling you that I don’t know Kyle Usher. It’s as much a mystery to you as it is to me as to why he was in my car.”
The detective looked at Kelly and just sort of grunted. It was obvious that he’d figured out something about me and Kyle. Fortunately for me, just as he was getting ready to speak, his cell phone went off. “Conner,” he said into it rather gruffly. He paused while he listened to the voice on the other end. I couldn’t hear it. “I’m just following up some stuff on the Usher case.”
As soon as he finished speaking, I could hear the voice on the other end, and the voice didn’t sound happy. He tried to speak a couple of times but couldn’t get in a word in edge wise. “Yes, sir, I’ll be there shortly,” He was finally able to say when the bellowing voice on the other end stopped. He slammed the phone shut and shoved it back into his pocket. He turned to face us. “I’m not done with you two yet.” And with that, he stalked off to his car.
We started back to my car shortly after the detective left. We had just settled into the car when Kelly punched me in the arm. “DRUGS?” He spoke rather loudly.
“Are you into drugs?”
“What? No, I’m not, you know that.”
“I thought I did, but I also heard what the landlady said and I’m starting to put stuff back together. It was obvious that Kyle was either dealing or using.”
“He wasn’t using, Kel,” I replied defensively. “I never saw him use, and I never saw him deal.”
“What were you doing over here then? Some big gay orgy or something?”
“What? No, it was nothing like that. It was a safe place to go. A place we could be ourselves. We’d hang out with Mark & Steve and watch movies, talk or whatever. They were just friends of Kyle’s. Nothing more.”
“What do you mean a safe place?”
“Well, think about it Kel,” I turned more in the seat to face him. He’d put the key in the ignition at some point but hadn’t bothered to start the car. “I wasn’t out to anyone at that point. It wasn’t like I could bring Kyle home and we could curl up on the couch together. And it’s not like I could exactly hold his hand in public, not without being harassed or possibly worse.”
Kelly sat there for a couple of minutes, obviously in thought. He started the car and we headed back for the house.
“Wonder where they went?” Kel asked after driving for a few minutes.
“I don’t know. I’m surprised they disappeared so fast. They had a ton of crap in that apartment. There was trash everywhere. Pizza boxes and empty beer cans littered the kitchen and the living room. The trash was always overflowing. It was kinda gross.”
“So why did you keep going over there?”
“Cause I told you, it was a safe place.”
“Did you ever have sex with them?” Kelly asked me. “No, wait, I don’t want to know,” he spit out before I got chance to respond.
“No, Kelly, I didn’t have sex with them. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m going to sleep with every guy I see, even if I think they’re cute.”
“You thought they were cute?”
“In a certain way, yes. But they weren’t as cute as Kyle.”
Kelly didn’t have a response to that. What he was thinking about, I don’t know. We rode in silence the rest of the way home. Kelly must have been doing some heavy thinking because there wasn’t even any music playing and that was always on.
Kelly got out of the car and I followed him. Kelly punched in the code to the garage door and we stood back while it opened. Neither car was in the garage, which meant we had the house to ourselves. We entered the garage and Kel hit the close button as we passed through to the mudroom and laundry area. We came out into the kitchen. Kelly opened the refrigerator and grabbed a couple of sodas. He motioned me to follow him into the TV room attached to the kitchen and I did. He turned on the TV to one of the music channels and sat down on the couch. I sat on the other end of the couch, facing him.
“Tell me about Kyle,” He started.
“Why do you want to know?” I asked, a little wary. Even though Kel seemed to be handling my being gay a little better, I was still cautious. Considering his reactions the first time I told him. He might have memory loss, but that couldn’t mean that it would come flooding back.
“Because I want to know about the guy who stole my little brother’s heart. It’s my role as big brother to make sure the guys you date are worthy of you. Of course, I always figured it would be girls.”
“Yeah, well, I guess that won’t happen,” I responded as I repositioned on the couch. “What about him?”
“How did you meet? What did you like about him? What kind of person was he, what kind of things did you guys do, and I’m not talking about sex, either. That I don’t want to know.” A nervous laugh escaped as he said that last part.
“We met at the video store.”
“The video store?”
“Yeah, I’d stopped in there to get a movie for Jer and me to watch one night. The store was kinda dead so I took the opportunity to check out the gay movies. I figured nobody would see me. So I’m checking out the movies, when all of a sudden I realized that someone was standing beside me. I started to panic, figuring that I was going to get harassed or worse. The guy was big, bigger than I was. He has muscles. I was about ready to drop the movie and take off when he spoke. He said ‘That’s a good movie, but I like this one better.’ And he pulled a movie off the shelf. One that I’d heard about but never seen. I told him thanks and he introduced himself. We talked for a little bit before I realized what time it was and that I had to get to Jeremy’s house. I was definitely interested in getting to know him and he seemed to be the same way. We exchanged cell numbers and went our separate ways. I called him the next day.”
“Did you know he was older than you?”
“Yeah, I figured he was, he definitely looked older, but I don’t care Kel. I like older guys. I’m definitely into guys who are in their mid twenties. I ended up calling him the next day and we met for ice cream a couple of days later. He knew of this place in the next town where we could get ice cream and just sit and talk, and we did. We probably sat there for a good three hours. We just sorta clicked. Even if there hadn’t been any sort of physical attraction we would have been friends, and probably best friends at that.”
“What about Jeremy?”
“What about him? Jer and I have always been best friends and always will be. But remember, at this point I wasn’t out to anyone, not even Jeremy. Hell, I hadn’t even admitted to myself that I was gay. I was pretty certain that guys were my thing, but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure. Or maybe I was still trying to convince myself that I was straight, I don’t know. But after that first meeting with Kyle in the video store and the date at the ice cream parlor I was pretty sure I was. We had a lot in common, from growing up to how we figured out things about ourselves. We also shared a love of the same type of music and books. To look at him, you wouldn’t think that he was reader, but he read more than I did. I did visit him at his apartment a couple of times when his roommate was gone for the weekend and pretty much every free inch in his room was taken up with books. Stacks of books everywhere, from fantasy like Lord of the Rings to Science Fiction by Arthur C. Clarke. I thought I read fast and read a lot. He put me to shame. And those areas of the apartment that weren’t covered with books were covered with CDs, and vinyl. He’s a big vinyl buff. His favorite artists were Billy Joel and Hootie and the Blowfish. We were going to see Hootie this summer too.”
“Was Kyle out to anyone?”
“Just Mark and Steve. At least around here. He’d told his best friend back where he grew up and his best friend took it like you did the first time. Kyle hasn’t been back there or talked to him since.”
“Why did you decide to tell me?”
I was about to answer Kel’s question when all of a sudden my cell phone went off. I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at it. The number was one I didn’t recognize. Kelly looked at me and raised an eyebrow as if to say “Who is it?” I gave him a shrug and opened it. “Hello?”
“Turn on the radio to QUR…” CLICK
That was it. “Turn on the radio to QUR” and a click. I hung up the phone and stared at it for a second before getting up.
“Who was it?”
I grabbed the remote to the TV and shut it off. “I don’t know,” I replied getting to the radio. I turned it on. It was already set to the station, it was my favorite after all, and we listened as a commercial for a local car dealership came out of the speakers. “The voice on the other end just told me to turn on the radio and then hung up.”
Kelly was about to respond when the voice of the DJ came on. “Well this is a strange one. I just got a call asking for a song and to make a dedication. But there was no from. Just a to. The caller didn’t even tell me their name. So here it goes. This goes out to Toad.”
In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along
I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self-defense
And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose
But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break
And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows
So I would choose to be with you
That's if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows
As the song ended I dropped to the floor bawling my eyes out. I knew whom the dedication was from.
“And So It Goes” © Billy Joel All Rights Reserved. Used without permission.
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