Once I began picking David up on my days off, Wednesday, our routine was set for over a year. My life revolved around the polite young man I'd found in the midst of my milk route.
David had been raised in a semi-tough neighborhood and I saw him change if we ran into one of his buddies. As sweet as he was around me, he talked and acted tough around his friends. It was an act because I saw enough of David to know him pretty well. It was another lesson I learned from him.
On one Tuesday before I took him home, I changed our deal. It's something I'd been thinking about for a long time.
“I'm off tomorrow,” I said.
“I know,” he said and he expected me to pick him up.
“You want to go to the drive-in tonight?”
“What's playing?” he asked.
“I don't know. I thought you might like to go to the drive-in. You can stay over at my place so you won't go into your house late after the movies.”
“Sure,” he said.
“Shouldn't you check with your mother?”
“No, I'm not a child. I do what I want,” he said.
“Ask your mother if it's OK. It'll make her feel better about it. Do it for me.”
“Sure,” he said. “What time.”
“I'll pick you up at six. That'll give you time to clear it with your mom and not be rushed.”
“Sure,” he said.
I dropped him off as usual later Tuesday afternoon and I went home, showered, changed my clothes and I took a nap because we'd be out late.
At six I pulled up in front of David's and a minute later he came out of the house and he came to the car.
“What did you tell your mom?” I asked right away.
“We were going to the movies and I'd stay at your apartment tonight,” he said.
“What did she say?” I asked.
“She didn't say anything. I told her what I was going to do. It's what you asked me to do. I do what I want,” he said perturbed with me.
Yes, he told me that but he was living at home and I didn't want to cross swords with his mother over seeing so much of him. So far there hadn't been a word said about it and David and I were together all the time.
Now I'd climbed way way out on the David limb and I don't think I was more worried about anything as I was worried about David spending the night with me.
I have a good memory but I can't remember the movies we saw that night. My mind wasn't on the movies. My mind was on David and what the sleeping arrangements were going to be.
I usually knew what David would say before he said it. He was a predictable kind of guy. He liked doing the same things and change not so much. I had no idea if we'd end up in the same bed together or not. I know what I wanted but David had a mind of its own.
After the movies we drove to where I lived. David had been there before when I went home for something while we were together and he was right on my heels when I unlocked the door and went in.
I stopped in the living room.
“You can sleep on the couch or you can sleep with me. I've only got a single bed. There won't be a lot of room,” I said, holding my breath.
I was worried and apprehensive I might be ending the best friendship I ever had. I couldn't have guessed what David would say. When he said it, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I wasn't wrong about what I thought had been going on between us for the last year.
“I'm sleeping with you,” he said without hesitating.
David slept in my arms that night and every night we spent together after that. The final piece of our relationship was put into place. My love for David was returned in ways I couldn't have imagined. If there was great love, this was it.
I'd been in love with David since shortly after he came over to my truck the first time. It's one of those things that is. I had no control over it. I did my best to be his friend. He worked for me because I liked him. I didn't need to tell him how much I liked him and how much I loved being with him.
At times, while we were at work or while we were shooting pool or bowling, I was unable to take my eyes off him. He was the most beautiful person I'd ever known and he amazed me.
“What?” he'd say when he caught me staring.
“Nothing,” I said and I'd force myself to look away.
David knew what. I knew what. I did my best not to allow it to get in the way of being with him until the night he stayed over the first time. Nothing else needed to be said after that.
I was in love with David and he wasn't opposed to it.
Now that we'd opened the door to a physical relationship, I decided it was time I met David's people. He was spending most of his time with me and I'd never introduced myself. David wouldn't allow it.
This took some thought about the situation. I finally resolved how to meet David's folks so they'd know who he was spending so much time with.
“Don't you drink milk?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said with a smirk. “Of course I drink milk.”
“Did you realize I was a milkman?” I asked.
He laughed at me. He had no idea where I was going.
“No, I had no idea. Do tell,” he said.
“How much milk does your family drink?” I asked.
“A lot,” David said. “I'm always going to the store for a gallon of milk.”
“I'll deliver your milk. Tell your mom that I'll charge her whatever she's paying at the market. My milk will be fresher and no one has to go to the store and carry milk home.”
David had to think about it for a minute.
“OK. I'll tell her. She'll take you up on it. I guess it's OK with me. I like your milk,” he said.
“You better,” I said and he laughed.
The next time I saw David, he gave me a list of what they wanted. I added it to the next day's order.
David introduced me to his mom the first day. She was quite pleased to finally meet me. I met Grandma and Granddaddy. I saw his little sister but she wanted no part of the milkman. David had an older brother he'd told me about but I didn't meet Richard for a while.
Within the first week instead of me putting the milk in his fridge, David took the carrier and he sat me down in the living room where Granddaddy usually sat.
Granddaddy had snow white hair. He was a good looking man in his late fifties or early sixties. He talked to me like he knew me and I enjoyed talking to him. There was no mention of David's father and I didn't ask why. It was obvious that this was his family minus his brother.
Grandma was large and in charge. She was feisty, funny, and she had a heart as big as all outdoors. I enjoyed her banter and when she asked about what this service was costing her, I said, “You tell me. I told David I'd give you the price you pay at the market. He works for me. You get it wholesale.”
I may lose a little money on the milk I sold them but I didn't mind. What David added to my life was worth it's weight in gold. Being able to reassure his people that I was an ordinary guy was important to me. They needed to know who David was spending all his time with.
David's mom was polite and soft spoken. I could see why David got to do what he wanted. As long as her son stayed out of trouble, he did what he wanted.
It was easy to see how David got the way he was. There was a lot of love at his house.
As quick as the milk was put away, he wanted to go.
“Come on,” David would say impatiently.
If his grandfather and I were talking, I'd say, “Wait a minute,” and finish our conversation.
I'm not sure David wanted me at his house but the ice had been broken and it made me feel better. David got his way in every other situation. As independent as he was, he'd grown up well.
David lived next door to Jimmy. The difference in those two houses was remarkable. Jimmy's house was barren. There was no carpet. The furniture was a mess. The house felt empty inside.
David's house was immaculate. The furniture wasn't new but it was well kept. The carpet was clean and the house looked like a family lived there. Pictures were hung with care and little touches made it feel like a home. It was small for six people but it was a pleasant place to be.
We added a drive-in movie on Saturday night to our schedule. David started sleeping over on Friday night and Saturday night. Once we got up on Sunday, usually around noon, we ran until I dropped him off on Sunday night at about eight and the routine started all over again.
Each time I left him at his house, I got a knot in my stomach as I watched him jog up the front stairs and disappear inside. On Sunday night I would need to go without him for the next thirty-three hours. It had to be a little like heroin withdrawal. I couldn't wait for Tuesday to arrive.
Our weekends changed almost immediately. David and I went to the drive-in Friday night, he stayed over and went to work with me on Saturday morning. We ran my route, went home to eat and sleep, and we got up in time to hit the movies and then we slept in Sunday morning.
I let David drive my car. He was a good driver and we'd head down to Southern Maryland and he drove the back roads. We ended up at the 301 drive-in, Oxen Hill drive-in, or the Indian Head drive-in.
There were a dozen drive-in theaters and we could go every night and not see the same movie twice. We loved 007, anything with John Wayne, Paul Newman, or Steve McQueen ad there were a hundred new movies made every year, and that was just Hollywood productions.
My life was perfect. I loved what I was doing from sun up until midnight. I loved my job, I love the things we did together and who I was doing them with. I loved David.
One day while relaxing in front of the tube a friend of my roommate came in to do his paperwork. Big Mike worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. He worked on computers. He learned his trade in the Navy. When a Goddard computer anywhere was on the fritz, they called Mike.
That was impressive. Mike was my roommates friend and he asked me if I minded Mike coming by to do his paperwork. I didn't mind. It wasn't my apartment.
As I was watching an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Mike was ready to leave. We didn't have a lot to say to each other, but he had something on his mind.
“How's David,” he asked.
“David is spectacular,” I bragged.
“I need to go over to Goddard. Want to go along? I'll show you the space center's computer set up. I don't mind telling you, it's pretty amazing,” he bragged. Few people realized how fast computers are advancing everything in our everyday lives.”
“Sure,” I said.
Common folk couldn't get onto the Goddard Space Flight Center and it was all about space, “the final frontier.”
Mike flashed his badge at the gate and the military man waved him through. Greenbelt wasn't far and the Baltimore Washington Parkway took us almost to the gate.
That was the only sign of security and he took me into one of the buildings on the complex. He sat at a desk in an office and put the final touches on his paperwork and we were going to the main computer room a few doors away.
The room was twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside the room. It was maybe a room thirty feet by thirty feet with very high ceilings. The ceilings had to be high because each computer went nearly from floor to ceiling. They had big disc inside of plastic windows that turned in jerks. Every computer had the discs that were constantly turning. There were about thirty computers in that room.
Mike leaned on a box in the center of the room. He pointed out the Nimbus computer first.
“I work on this one most often. It takes meteorological data on atmospheric conditions. In layman's terms, it's taking data from a weather satellite.”
As we stood there chatting, Mike explained what each computer in the room did. It took thirty minutes for him to finish his presentation. I could tell he was proud to know the things he knew. Mike was plugged into the space program.
Once he finished, he stood up straight. He looked at the rectangular box he'd been leaning on the whole time. The box was three feet high, a foot wide and three feet long.
“This computer does everything I just told you all these computers do. By the end of next year we'll have a computer the size of a pack of cigarettes and it will do a hundred times more than this computer does,” he said, indicating the box he leaned on. “Technology is moving so fast we can't keep up with it . That gives me job security.”
The punch line was worth the time it took to learn about all those computers. The idea that all that activity would be done by a computer the size of a pack of cigarettes was earth shaking.
I thanked Mike for allowing me to see that. I had no knowledge on computers and Big Mike talked about them. He talked about his work. It was fascinating. He was smart.
“I live in New Jersey, near the shore, and I'm going to New York City this weekend. I'll leave Saturday afternoon and I can have you home by Sunday night. Want to go to New York City, Rick.”
I explained to David that I was going away for the weekend. He took it in stride. He'd stay over Friday night and I'd take him home Saturday before I met Mike.
The trip was so great that I immediately wanted to go back. Mike showed me the highlights. He took me to some street fairs inside New York City and we saw Broadway and things nearby.
On the way back from New York City, Mike had more to offer me.
“I'm renting a place near Dupont Circle on 19th Street. It is in the center of the action in town. I hate living alone. Why don't you move in with me. It's small but it's a place you can bring David and feel comfortable and the entire city is at your feet,” Mike said.
I visited DC from time to time. I'd been to gay bars. I knew where Dupont Circle was. I immediately liked the idea.
Mike was one of the good guys. Why he was taking me places and asking me to move in with him, I never asked. He was older and certainly smarter than me, but I liked what he had to offer. I would take him up on it.
“Are you sure?” I asked, ready to give Duncan my notice
“You're clean. You're quiet. You're a nice guy. Yeah, I'm sure. I don't know anyone else I'd want living with me. That's about the size of it. I need to be near Goddard. It's too far from New Jersey. I needed to move. I want someone around when I'm not around. I travel a lot for my job.”
“Yes,” I said. “I liked the city. I'd love living there. you know I'm in love with David. That isn't going to change.”
“It's part of why I asked you. You are a stunning couple, Rick. I enjoy seeing the way you two look at each other. You can live there and move David in if you want.”
“No, we have a good thing going. Moving in together isn't what I want at the moment. That's subject to change.”
I had nothing but a few changes of clothes where I was living. I moved my stereo, my Beatles collection, and my television into Big Mike's hat weekend.
David helped me move. I showed him the apartment.
“Kewl,” he said. “I like Mike.”
This represented a change. On weekends we'd do the things we routinely did and if we felt like it we could walk down to Dupont Circle and watch the people. There were endless places to go and great places to eat.
As places went Dupont Circle was the most cosmopolitan place I knew. I got a lesson on computers that talked to satellites. I'd gone to and was impressed by New York City and I was living in Washington DC.
Life was good.
A few weeks after the move I turned the corner onto David's street at five one morning. He was sitting on his steps and he tossed the cigarette he was smoking on the lawn before jumping on the truck.
I'd usually accelerate and head for where I began my route. This time I pulled to the curb and I looked at David's face.
“Fight?” he said.
David had a fat lip and his left eye was swollen closed.
I'd seen David go into his macho persona. Never in front of me, except if we ran into one of his friends. The change was immediate and it was obvious to me.
“Times a wasting,” he said, wanting to go.
“Let it waste. What happened?”
“It was nothing,” he said.
“Your face isn't nothing. You look like you went ten rounds with Ali,” I said.
“It does not.”
“Tell me about. We've got plenty time,” I said.
I was with my buds and a car cut us off. Then we stopped at a light. I jumped out thinking we were all going to give the guy what for. No one else got out and I got my ass kicked. End of story.”
“No. That isn't the end. You need some new friends, David. If your friends leave you hanging out to dry, they aren't your friends.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Are we going to deliver milk or what?”
That was the first time I was angry with David. He couldn't see that his friends were losers. They stood there and watched while he got his ass kicked. They probably laughed about it later. That wasn't OK with me. I didn't like violence and I didn't want the man I loved liking violence in spite of some of the movies we went to see.
There was a line that came to mind that morning and I quickly rejected the idea of, “It's your friends or me,” but I considered it. I didn't like what was done to David's face, but it was the world where he lived> I got no say.
His face healed quickly and he went back to being the same beautiful David I knew. I couldn't hold his hand. I couldn't be with him every minute and it didn't take much time for us to hit the same stretch of rough road yet again.
“What's wrong with your arm,” I asked when I picked him up the following Wednesday.
“We put a lit cigarette between our forearms. The guy who pulls away first is a chicken,” David said with pride.
He showed me the other arm and it was exactly the same. He had burned a half dollar size wound on both of his beautiful forearms. It looked terrible.
“What's wrong with you?” I asked horrified.
I'd met tough David.
I suspected there were two Davids. He was different when he was with his friends. His gentleness was what he felt while he was with me. That was the David I loved.
Tough David was tough. He was the boy who grew up in a tough neighborhood with his tough friends. I'd seen signs of tough David. I loved sweet David. I didn't like tough David.
When he spent a lot of time with his buds the more evidence I saw of tough David. If I couldn't get him away from the guys he grew up with one day he'd need to decide if he was sweet David or tough David. I wasn't sure I'd like the decision once he made it.
My fear was that tough David would be the boy I picked up one day and sweet David would be gone for ever.
“This is because of me isn't it? It's because they talk about queers and you've got to prove you're as tough as they are no matter who it is you're sleeping with,” I said alarmed. “You're running your beautiful body.”
“I am as tough as they are. Tougher. I never pull my arm away first. They know it. It has to do with me not you.”
I was angry he'd purposely put scars on his beautiful body. I almost told him what I thought but I was dealing with tough David. That David would walk away in a minute.
One morning as I held David close to me, waiting for him to awake, he found a way to surprise me yet again.
In a very alert crystal clear voice David said, “If it wasn't for you I'd be dead or in jail.”
I knew that sweet David was in a struggle with tough David. I held him tightly. I held him closer. I couldn't hold him for the rest of time.I also realized that I had to be careful not to arouse tough David. I'd seen all I wanted to see of him but I hadn't seen the last of him.