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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. September 16: A couple of people have mentioned to me that my responses to their e-mails have been flagged as spam by their filters. If you were expecting to hear from me and never did, please check your spam folder or let me know directly. I’m not sure what can be done exactly, but I do try to respond to all of the e-mails I receive except those that are spam or nasty.
Arizona was different.
It was heat without the humidity, landscape without the trees, and baseball without the fun.
I had never really been aware of the Arizona Invitational until Grady told me about it, but the whole thing seemed obvious the minute he explained it to me. Every fall the thirty teams that make up the PBLA send some of their hottest prospects to Arizona to play exhibition baseball for a month at six stadiums scattered around the Phoenix area.
Tickets are cheap, the weather is great, the hot dogs delicious; and that being the case, those who love warm weather and baseball flock to the state every autumn. It’s a kind of baseball nirvana for them, but for me it was something entirely different.
For me Arizona was the place where the loneliness kicked in full time, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I mean, here I was, thousands of miles from home, thousands of miles from everyone I loved or cared about, playing a game I had first started playing more than a decade ago. Yeah, sure, I liked playing baseball. But I wasn’t sure I liked it enough to give up everything else important to me.
On the flight out to Arizona I had once again thought about whether I should give up the dream of playing major league baseball so I could enroll at the University of Delaware the following January and be closer to Hunter. I was miserable without him and yet the chance we would ever be more than best friends seemed even more implausible now than making it to the major leagues.
Once I arrived, I put the idea out of my mind and tried to concentrate on baseball.
Grady had been right. The facilities in Arizona were better than anywhere I had ever played back east. Mark and I had been working out on a couple of machines and lifting a few weights at Lloyd H. Fisher Stadium, but in Arizona they had row after row of machines and enough weights to service two or more teams at the same time. The playing fields were immaculate and were serviced by ground crews that worked to keep them that way year round.
Grady had also been right about the guys I was competing against. There were less than two hundred of them on eight teams and they viewed one another suspiciously. All of them were fiercely competitive, none of them willing to cut you a break. I knew I was in trouble the very first day I arrived when I overheard a couple of my soon to be teammates talking about me.
“I hear our shortstop comes from the Delmarva Heat,” the one said, laughing. “Do you believe that? I can’t believe they would send someone from a bunch of Class A losers like that out here.”
“You should be grateful,” the guy he was talking to responded. “They did you a favor. This league crushes guys like that and spits them out. It just means less competition for guys like us who know how to play the game.”
Most of the guys playing in the Invitational outweighed me by thirty, forty or fifty pounds, some even more. They were taller than me and stronger as well and that made me feel out of place. In some ways I knew I was still a boy, but here I was playing the game with men who had worked their way through the minor league system over a period of several years.
It didn’t help when I got off to a horrendous start. In the first four games with the team I had been assigned to, I went 0 for 15 at the plate. I had played decently enough in the field, at least after muffing the very first ball hit to me. That had been embarrassing as hell; it left me feeling kind of like how every kid does after muffing one during Little League tryouts.
I had settled my nerves after that. I had even helped turn a double play in the third game; but 0 for 15? There was no way of rationalizing that as just a case of opening day jitters. That was bad no matter how you tried to spin it.
I was stinking the joint up at the plate and everyone knew it. Our coach had moved me down in the lineup, from the leadoff spot to sixth and then down to eighth. Despite my defensive play in the field, I was expecting to be pulled from the lineup entirely before very much longer. Playing solid defense only carries you so far in baseball. You have to be able to hit the ball too and I wasn’t.
You don’t belong here, Ethan, I remember telling myself back at the hotel after still another disastrous day at the plate. This place is for guys who’ve paid their dues, guys on the verge of breaking through right now, not for someone like you just starting out. Maybe in a couple of years you’ll be ready for something like this; but now?
There’s no way you’re ready now.
Sitting there alone in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at, I was getting into feeling sorry for myself big time.
It isn’t your fault, I told myself. Someone in the upper reaches of Baltimore management had made a mistake, a big one. Surely they knew that by now? If I was lucky, maybe they were already making plans to replace me, to bring in someone better, someone who could hit this pitching.
It was right about then that my little self-pity riff was broken by a voice that sounded vaguely familiar.
“Ethan? Isn’t that right? Your name is Ethan, right?” the voice said softly.
I looked up and saw a guy in his early thirties staring down at me. He was a good-looking guy. If I hadn’t been in such a funk, my dick would have probably started twitching just looking at him. Truth be told, it was pretty much twitching at any guy I looked at these days.
But for the moment all I wished was that the dude would go away and let me wallow in my misery.
“Um, yeah, that’s right,” I finally responded, “Ethan Williams. And you are?”
“Ken,” he responded, smiling down at me. “Ken Freeman. I’m the hitting coach for the team. Do you mind if I join you here?”
I wanted to say yes, that I minded, that I would appreciate it if he went away and just left me alone. But that would have been rude and my mother had drilled into me never to be rude to anyone.
“Be my guest,” I responded, looking up at him. “It’s not like I have any big plans for the evening; and as you can see, no one else is chewing my ear off.”
With that invitation, Ken sat down on a couch across from me and looked over.
“I know what you mean,” he said. “This is all new for me as a coach too and it’s not like anyone is going out of their way to help me get better at my job either. Not a single one of the other coaches has said a word to me. I guess it’s like with the players. Everyone considers everyone else the competition.”
“So where are you from, Ethan?” he asked.
“I’m from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware,” I responded, “but I’m here out of the Middle Atlantic League. After I was signed last June, I was assigned to the Delmarva Heat and played the rest of the season there. In case you’re not familiar with the Heat, we came in last in our league.”
I figured that would shut him up real quick and encourage him to focus his attention on someone else, someone who wasn’t beyond redemption like me.
“Wow,” he responded, “now I really am impressed. You’re here from a last place team in a Class A league. You must be a hell of a prospect to get assigned to the Invitational.”
I wanted to snicker, but stifled the instinct.
“Either that or someone made a hell of a big mistake,” I countered. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m 0 for 15 at the plate so far, Coach.”
“I noticed,” he responded. “That’s my job, to notice when someone’s struggling.”
“So why do you think you’re 0 for 15?” he added.
“I dunno,” I responded. “I guess I’m not used to facing pitchers as good as these AA and AAA dudes. I mean, they bring a lot of heat on every pitch. They have a bigger variety of pitches and they have better command of their pitches, a lot better command; and they’re able to spot their pitches a lot better and a lot more consistently.”
“You’re right about that,” he replied. “They’re definitely good pitchers, Ethan, no doubt about it. Some of them will probably make it to the majors next spring. But you wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t have confidence you were ready to face them. So what’s your plan?”
“What do you mean?” I responded. “What’s my plan? You’re the hitting coach. You tell me.”
“I probably could,” he said. “But I’ve always found it better for guys like you to come up with your own plans. You didn’t get this far because of your coaches. You got this far because you have some natural talent, skills and abilities; and also because you’re a pretty smart dude.”
“I mean, it’s not like I’m going to get you out of this slump you’re in. You’re going to have to do that yourself. What I see is someone who’s just missing, who’s getting around on the ball just a little too late.”
“There are different ways of dealing with that, of course. Can you think of one?”
“I dunno,” I responded. “Maybe I’m just tired, but I can’t at the moment. I guess I’m clueless.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “You don’t look like the clueless type to me. The thing is, everyone in baseball is always looking for just a little more, Ethan; a little more bat speed, a little more power, whatever. Sometimes you get to more with less. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure,” I said. “Are you suggesting I try a lighter bat or something?”
“Now there’s an idea,” Ken replied. “What size bat are you swinging these days?”
“I’ve been using a 34-ounce bat since around the middle of August,” I said. “I thought it might help me power the ball further. Before that I was using a 32-ounce bat. Do you think I should go back to that?”
“You could try that,” he responded. “All things being equal, heavier bats can probably power the ball further than lighter ones. Back in 1962, Roger Maris participated in an experiment in which he batted for distance with five different bats weighing between 33 and 47 ounces. He hit five fly balls with each bat and the distances were measured and correlated to bat weight.”
“On average, the heavier bats resulted in further distance. However, the bat Maris actually used to break Babe Ruth’s home run record back then was the lightest of the five. He felt most comfortable with it at the plate even though it powered balls the shortest distance on average. The bottom line is you’re not going to power a ball further if you’re not swinging it properly and never hit the ball squarely.”
“A good rule of thumb is to find the heaviest bat you can swing comfortably and effectively without any trouble. Age, height, and weight will all factor into that. Did you bring any of your own bats along with you when you came out here, Ethan?”
“Not really,” I replied. “It was going to be a hassle and I didn’t want to chance losing them so I figured I would use whatever was available when I got here.”
“That could be part of the problem right there,” he replied. “Bats are an intensely personal thing, just like gloves. Finding the right one is a job in itself. How about we do this, Ethan; how about we meet down here an hour earlier than usual tomorrow morning. I’ll drive you over to the stadium and you can get in some extra batting practice while trying out some different bats.”
“Do you think that would help?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said. “I don’t know. The only thing I know for sure is that all of these teams are putting together scouting reports on the players their pitchers are facing. Right now the report on you says you can’t hit the fastball. And you know what? That means these pitchers are going to be throwing nothing but fastballs to you until you prove to them you can.”
“Once you do that, they’ll start mixing in some of their other pitches and that’ll be good for you too because you need to see more than just fastballs to get better.”
“Okay,” I responded. “It’s worth a shot. I’ll meet you down here early tomorrow morning, Coach.”
“Great,” he replied. “I’m looking forward to it.”
With that Ken got up and left, leaving me alone by myself again.
I remember thinking that maybe he was right, that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help. There was really nothing I could do about being in Arizona except try to use the opportunity to improve my game. The better I did that, the better I would play and the more fun I would have.
I remember feeling better about things when I finally crawled into bed later that evening. Reaching down, my dick responded instantly. I conjured up Hunter’s image and it wasn’t very long after that before I was producing a gusher.
I remember being a little embarrassed about the whole thing. Here I was, eighteen years old, thinking about my very best friend and jerking off. I wondered whether I would ever grow up. I was lonely and being alone in Arizona was only making things worse, not better.
As promised, I was downstairs early the next morning. Ken was already waiting for me when I arrived and the two of us drove out to the stadium where my team, the South Valley Devils, played their home games. The stadium we played in was the spring training facility for the Chicago Fire. It could accommodate almost 14,000 fans and had the largest scoreboard of any of the teams in the Invitational.
Some of the local boys were hanging around the park awaiting the start of the game later that day. While Ken enlisted them to shag fly balls in the outfield, I worked my way through an assortment of different bats he had brought along until I found the ones that seemed most comfortable. Ken started tossing batting practice for me, slowly at first and then gradually increasing the speed of his tosses.
We spent more than an hour doing that. I tried a variety of different bats at several different weights before finally settling on a couple I liked the best. At Ken’s suggestion, I also tried choking up on the bats I liked until I found the position where my hands were most comfortable.
By the time the hour was up other players began drifting into the stadium and it wasn’t long before the whole team was there warming up for our game that day against the Sand River Ravens.
Just before the game was scheduled to start, Ken pulled me aside.
“You’re kind of small, Ethan, at least compared to most of these dudes,” he said, looking over at me. “But like a lot of small guys who play this game, you make up for your size with quick hands and excellent hand to eye coordination. You have a natural swing, one that’s really fluid, and your bat speed is excellent. It’s been fun pitching batting practice to you today.”
“Look, the bottom line is that your mechanics are solid. But, the thing is, baseball is mental as much as it’s physical. You can’t play good baseball if your mind is elsewhere and if you’re not having fun; and once things start to go bad, you begin putting pressure on yourself and you can’t play baseball under pressure like that or if you’re nervous. That only compounds the problem.”
“Do you understand what I’m saying, Ethan?”
“I guess so,” I responded. “I mean, this is the first time I’ve been so far away from home and from everyone I care about. I’ve been thinking about them a lot.”
“I understand,” Ken replied. “That’s perfectly natural. But nothing’s promised to you in this game, Ethan. It’s not something you can just turn on and off like a light switch, at least not at this level. You need to be completely focused. If you do that, you’ll be just fine.”
“Okay, thanks,” I responded. “I appreciate the advice; and thanks for letting me pick your brain and for taking the time to come out here early today to pitch me extra batting practice.”
“That’s what they pay me the big bucks for,” Ken responded, chuckling; “or something like that.”
It was the third inning when I finally got to the plate for the first time that day. The Sand River pitcher was blowing guys away with his fastball and no one from our team had reached base up to that point. I was definitely nervous when I stepped into the batter’s box. But I tried to take what Ken had told me to heart, breathing out deeply and trying to relax and stay focused.
I worked the count to 2 and 2. Then, on a hard fast ball to the outside corner, I managed to get my bat around just in time to make contact and blooped a single into right field. It wasn’t pretty to look at, that was for sure, but I had never felt more relieved than I did at that moment. I had my first hit.
I guess that at bat must have broken the ice because I got a solid single in my next at bat and flied out deep to center field in my third trip to the plate.
Within a couple of days our Coach had moved me up to sixth in the lineup, then back to leading off for the team. As the month progressed I found myself enjoying the games more. I didn’t make the All Star team they selected and our team didn’t make the playoffs either. Still, I felt like the whole thing had been a success on balance and that I had improved my game just from having to deal with the tougher competition.
I ended up hitting .294, the first time my average in any league had dipped below .300, but not especially surprising given the terrible start I had gotten off to. I had played well in the field after that initial error on that very first ball hit to me. The coaches seemed pleased with my play; and by the last evening before I departed, I remember thinking I could head back east feeling good about the experience.
It was hard to know what difference it would make for me and my career, but I felt like I had given it my very best shot.
Eating dinner alone that last evening before heading back east, I remember thinking I had squandered my time in Phoenix. Because I was younger than most of the other guys, I couldn’t join them when they headed off to one of the local pubs to unwind; and a lot of them, more than I expected actually, had no interest at all in hanging around with someone younger like me from a Class A team. It was below them I guess.
Grady had been right. I hadn’t made any real friends and that was hard, but I had tried to keep myself entertained in various ways.
I had taken in a movie by myself one or two times. I had spent some time reading books. I had tried just about everything I could think of to take my mind off of the loneliness. But none of it had worked. I had spent too much time alone by myself up in my room watching television, listening to music, and jerking off.
I had always been a superstar when it came to jerking off. But just like my baseball game, I had taken it to another level in Arizona.
I remember being disappointed with myself. I had never been west of the Mississippi before in my life and the thought of spending that last evening alone in the hotel room was more than I could handle. I was tense and irritable and that was the last thing I wanted to do.
Do something, Ethan, I recall telling myself. It’s your last night here for crying out loud. Get out of this freaking hotel even if it just means taking a long walk and looking at something other than a baseball diamond.
The weather in Phoenix that fall had been especially pleasant, warmer than usual during the day and comfortably cool in the evening. I slipped into a pair of jeans and a polo shirt and then went back down to the lobby. Exiting the hotel, I crossed the street and turned north.
I didn’t have any particular destination in mind. I was just hoping to clear my head and perhaps fix a memory of something about the city into the back of my mind in case my mother asked me what Phoenix was like. I was pretty certain she would
I walked and walked and eventually I turned off the street I was on and headed into a park. It was quiet in there away from the street noise. I found a bench near a fountain and sat down and then allowed my mind to drift off. Occasionally, someone walked by, but as the evening progressed what had been a trickle of people dwindled to none.
The scenery was definitely better than my hotel room and the cool air refreshing. But just like the hotel, I was alone by myself and that was kind of depressing. Maybe that’s why I looked up when he passed by; no one else had passed by for a long time by then.
He was about the same age as me, the same height, the same weight; and I remember thinking he was cute, very cute. His clothes weren’t much to look at though. It looked like they hadn’t been washed in a while; a long while actually.
I was going to say hi, but he walked by briskly without even looking at me and disappeared into the distance.
Great, I recall thinking. He didn’t even see you. You’re invisible, Ethan, totally insignificant, just about as important as a speck of this Arizona sand in the scheme of things.
And then, perhaps five minutes later, he reappeared and walked by me again. That seemed kind of strange and I wondered whether he was lost; not that I could help if he was.
The third time around he stopped and looked over at me.
“Looking for some company tonight, dude?” he asked.
To be honest, it caught me by surprise.
“Um, well, not really,” I said. “I was just out for a walk, trying to clear my head. This is a nice park. It’s in the middle of the city, but really quiet. I like that.”
“Is this your first time here?” he asked.
“It is. I’m from the east coast. This is my first time west of the Mississippi.”
“I see,” he responded. “So you wouldn’t know then, would you?”
“Know what?” I said.
“You wouldn’t know this is a special park after a certain hour; a park for special people if you catch my drift.”
“Are you special?”
He hadn’t hit me over the head with a hammer, but suddenly I realized exactly what he was talking about; that we shared something more in common than the just the park both of us were in at the moment.
I remember thinking what I said next would be important; that I should tell him no, I wasn’t anyone special, just a stranger in a strange city about to head back to my hotel.
“Am I special? Um, I dunno,” I replied. “Maybe; I’m not sure.”
“Not sure or not interested?” he asked.
By now I was beginning to have trouble breathing. I wasn’t sure what to say.
I mean, I didn’t know this dude from a hole in the head, but he was cute and I was lonely and for some reason I didn’t want him to leave. But I wasn’t sure what to say or do. This was something entirely new to me.
“Not sure or not interested?” I said, repeating his question.
“Um, well, I think maybe I’m interested,” I continued, “but, the thing is, I’m kind of a stranger to this city and the truth is I, um, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do exactly or how all of this works.”
Hearing me say that, he smiled.
“I see; kind of new to the whole thing, not just to Phoenix. Is that it?”
“Yeah,” I whispered.
My mouth had gone dry by now and I was having trouble getting words to come out.
“Yeah, I think so; maybe.”
“What’s your name?”
“Ethan,” I said.
“Mine is Donnie. And the thing is, I need to go to the bathroom, Ethan.”
“Do you see that building over there on that little hill?” he added, pointing.
“Yeah,” I responded. “I see.”
“That’s a public restroom, but there’s no one around at this hour. Sometimes they lock it up, but tonight the lock is broken so I’m going to head over there now. I thought I would tell you that in case you need to go to the bathroom later.”
“Uh-huh,” I said. “Thank you. I think I might need to in a little while.”
What are you doing, Ethan? a voice from within demanded.
Donnie smiled at me, then turned and walked away briskly. I watched until he got to the place. Then he looked back in my direction, pushed open the door, and disappeared inside.
You need to go back to the hotel now, Ethan, the voice cautioned. What would your mother think?
By now I was practically hyperventilating.
At some level I knew what the voice was telling me to do was the right thing to do.
It’s just that it’s been so lonely out here in Arizona, I responded. It would be nice to make at least one friend before I have to go back east; and besides, I think I need to go to the bathroom.
Standing up, I looked around in all directions. There was no one around; and then the next thing I knew I was walking toward the little building on the hill.
When I reached the door, I hesitated for a moment and looked around in all directions again. As far as I could see, there was no one around. I remember being nervous, incredibly nervous; and then I pushed open the door and went in.
The place was dark and I couldn’t see anything.
“Over here,” a voice whispered.
Looking in the direction from which it had come, I spotted a figure leaning against the wall. As my eyes slowly began to adjust to the darkness, I could see it was Donnie.
“Come over here, Ethan,” he said again softly.
I looked back at the door, then walked over quickly and stood there facing him.
He leaned over and kissed me; gently at first, then he embraced me tightly and pushed his tongue into my mouth roughly.
I remember thinking there was more passion in that kiss than there had ever been with Mark; and because there was passion, I responded with passion and the two of us just stood there kissing for several moments. Then I heard someone cough and Donnie backed away from me.
Looking over, I saw another boy standing in a corner near the front door. To me he seemed to be a little younger than Donnie, a little shorter; but he was cute too, very cute. And yet, cute as he was, I remember being suddenly frightened.
It occurred to me that maybe I had been set up; that maybe the two of them were going to beat me up now and I wouldn’t be found until sometime the next day and then everything would come out and my baseball career would be over and, worse still, my mother would be ashamed of me. It was scary.
“That’s my friend Tyler,” Donnie said. “He’s here to help in case you were interested in picking a fight with me or whatever; and also to make sure no one catches us by surprise. But I can tell him to wait outside if you want.”
That’s when I realized none of the things I had been worrying about were going to happen; that Donnie was trying to reassure me everything would be okay,
“No,” I responded. “I don’t mind him being here with us. He seems nice, just like you.”
“He is,” Donnie responded. “We’re best friends.”
“Listen, Ethan, do you happen to have any money on you?” he said. “I mean, the thing is, we’re kind of hungry. Neither of us has had anything to eat for more than a day and we don’t have any money to get something off of the dollar menu over at the McDonald’s on the other side of the park.”
“Do you think you could help us out?”
I had left most of my money back at the hotel as a precaution and I recall feeling bad about that.
“Um, well, I don’t have much, Donnie; ten bucks. That’s all I have. Would that help?”
“It would,” he replied. “That would help a lot.”
“Okay,” I said, pulling out my wallet and handing him the ten dollar bill it contained.
“Thanks,” he said, tucking the bill into the pocket of his jeans.
“I knew you were a nice guy when I spotted you over by the fountain.”
He took my hand into his, brushed it against his cheek, and smiled at me.
“Do you know what you want to do, Ethan?” he asked, staring into my eyes.
It was funny, kind of, almost absurd.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I hadn’t actually thought about that at all and didn’t have a clue what to tell him. I figured he would know what to do and I would just do whatever he wanted, but here he was asking me.
Thinking about it, I realized what I really wanted him to do was to talk to me for a while and then come back to the hotel, come up to my room and hold me tight all night. But I realized he couldn’t do any of that, not with his friend waiting there patiently for him to finish up so they could get something to eat.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Honestly, I don’t know, Donnie. I’m sorry.”
“Okay, I understand. Maybe I can help you figure it out. Would you like me to, um, give you a blow job?”
He was trying to be helpful. I realized that. But, honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted so I didn’t say anything in response.
“I see,” he said; “something else maybe.”
He turned around and the next thing I knew he was dropping his pants, spreading his legs, and pressing his hands against the wall. He just stood there like that waiting patiently while I stared at his butt.
“Does this help?” he asked.
I didn’t say anything. I just took two steps forward toward him. I remember touching his butt with my hand. It was so smooth, so round, so nice. I liked it.
“Give him a condom, Tyler,” he said, and the other boy quickly pressed one into my hand.
Reaching down to my zipper, I realized I was already hard. I guess it had happened without me even being aware it was happening when he dropped his pants like that. And then, for some reason, I pulled my hand away from the zipper.
“Would it be okay, um; I mean, uh, I was wondering . . .”
And then for some reason I couldn’t say anything more.
“Wondering what, Ethan?” he asked.
“Um, well, I dunno . . . I guess I was wondering if I could . . . I mean, if I could be the one . . . I dunno.”
I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get the words I wanted to say out of my mouth.
“He wants to switch positions,” Tyler whispered to his friend. “He wants you to fuck him, Donnie.”
He walked over and held out his hand and I gave him the condom back, which he handed to Donnie.
Donnie took it, then pulled up his pants and looked over at me.
“Is that what you want, Ethan?”
As he said it he reached over for my belt buckle and started to tug at it gently.
“I, uh, I think maybe . . . .
And then all of the courage I had summoned was gone and I was afraid.
“Um, I . . . I . . . I can’t do this, Donnie. I like you, but I can’t do this; not here, not like this. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
And with that I turned around and headed for the door as Tyler just stepped aside.
“Do you want your money back, Ethan?” Donnie’s voice whispered across the darkness.
“No,” I responded. “You can keep it. You and Tyler need it more than me. I’m sorry, Donnie. I like you. I like you a lot. But I can’t. I just can’t.”
“I understand,” he said.
Emerging from the restroom, I looked around quickly. There was still no one in sight. For a moment, I thought about turning around and going back in. But then I just started running, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Soon enough I could see the hotel up ahead. Dodging a couple of cars, I raced across the road and into it.
An empty elevator beckoned and I raced in. I pushed the button and it quickly sped me away to my floor. Making my way to my room, I inserted the key card, walked in and collapsed on to the bed.
There was room for more than just me in that bed, lots of room; and for a moment the bed seemed to taunt me for having squandered the opportunity to share it with someone else.
And then the darkness offered me its companionship and I allowed myself to surrender to it.