December 31st 1999
There wasn’t a way. Weeks turned into months, seasons changed, and time continued moving forward relentlessly. Michael sat on the windowsill, looked into the darkened night and smoked pot that Jack had given him.
”Do you think that the world will go mad now at the turn of the new millennium?” Michael asked, smiling crookedly. There was a loud bang, the sky brightened with the shades of purple, green, blue and gold. Jack approached, lowered his chin on Michael’s shoulder for a moment.
”Perhaps the world will end? Computers come to life and kill us all.” Jack grinned and took the joint when Michael offered it.
”If we are lucky.” Michael laughed without joy, outside the banging grew louder; it was nine in the evening. ”Three more hours.” Michael took note. ”In Europe the millennium has already changed though, I suppose we would have heard if things would have suddenly exploded there.”
Jack kissed his neck and gave the joint back to him. ”Perhaps. It would be pretty cool though, if all kinds of robots would suddenly come to life.”
”You know what would be really cool, Jack?” Michael asked, turning his gaze to him.
”It would turn out that Ricky and Joe and all those men waiting for us tonight, would be robots and as the clock would hit twelve they’d all experience short-circuit and then they’d explode all over the place!” Michael laughed.
Jack raised his brow and tapped his lips with his index finger, looking thoughtful.
”It would be…interesting,” Jack concluded.
Michael took his hand and kissed his palm. ”We would take their money and buy the whole Disney World.”
”Can one do that?”
”If they would really be robots, we could do anything, Jack!”
”That’s true,” Jack whispered, leaning closer to kiss the crown of Michael’s head. ”We could start our own amusement park.”
“I don’t want to be Mickey Mouse,” Michael chuckled quietly.
”You don’t have to be.”
”You know what I would really like to be?” Michael lowered his head on Jack’s chest looking up.
”Well?” Jack grinned.
”Genie, with my own magic carpet. You could be Aladdin and I’d fly us both far away from here.”
”It’s a pretty small lamp, are you sure we’d fit into it?” Jack wondered.
”Of course, because I’d be the genie and I could do anything. It would be really spacy and no one would ever find us.” Michael’s voice weakened as he looked outside at the fireworks. His hand shook slightly as he brought the joint to his lips hoping it would affect him faster.
Jack gave him a worried look; Michael seemed more and more depressed with each week.
”Jack,” the younger boy finally whispered. ”I don’t know how long I can do this anymore…”
Jack kissed Michael’s forehead, suddenly alarmed.
”Don’t talk like that…”
”I hate those men, Jack, I don’t want to be a whore… I can’t do this… I can’t keep on pretending… At times I feel like my head would explode… The walls collapse around me and I can’t breath… Tell me there is a way, tell me that we’re going to find it?”
”We will find a way, Michael. This isn’t forever…” Jack whispered. ”I promise,” he assured. ”Tell me more about that magic lamp,” he asked, wanting to distract his lover’s mind away from these dark thoughts. At the same time he promised himself one more time to find a way to free Michael.
Michael sighed with a smile and started telling him about the lamp. He told a dreamy story of another dimension where there was no evil, no pain, where they were alone and finally the marijuana did its job, leading him to the cotton world with colors, a world where he found laughter with Jack.
Jack was behaving restlessly, he trembled, going through his stuff and Michael sat on the bed watching him worriedly.
”Fuck!” Jack cursed. ”Where are they?!” He yelled and threw everything down from the table causing Michael to startle.
”Jack, calm down. Joe will go mad if he sees this mess,” he said, stepping closer to clean up.
”That fucking asshole has taken them!” Jack roared, breathing tensely, opening cabinets and drawers, throwing things around. Michael looked at his boyfriend helplessly. Jack was looking around frantically, he trembled even more. Jack’s addiction had seemed to grow and he had been taken drugs more often, Michael was afraid. He was afraid of losing Jack, afraid of the amount of drugs and these withdrawal symptoms.
”Jack, here, I-I have them here…” Michael said finally handing the small plastic bag to the older boy. Jack looked at him with overwrought gaze, took the bag from his hands, shoving Michael harshly from his way, so harshly that the brunet fell onto the floor. Michael whimpered and looked at his loved one with shock, Jack had never before been aggressive towards him. Trembling, Jack sat in front of the table, did the preparations and finally shoved the needle in his arm closing his eyes and smiling somewhat relieved. Slowly the boys breathing calmed as his body relaxed.
Michael had gotten up and quietly he started to clean up the mess that Jack had made. It had been foolish to hid the drugs, but he hadn’t thought of anything else. He felt the tears in his eyes, seeing where life would lead if it would continue on this track. He could just as easily become addicted, in a way he already was on marihuana, feeling like he needed it every time that he was forced to have sex. It couldn’t continue like this, they’d both die young and although suicide often crossed his mind Michael knew he wanted to live, but not like this. There had to be a way, some way… Jack would have to get treatment and he… Michael decided to cut down his own smoking.
”Michael…” Jack called quietly. ”Forgive me,” he whispered. Michael glanced at him, tried his best to smile and nodded.
”We have to clean, Joe will go mad if he sees this mess,” Michael said and continued what he was doing. Jack felt ashamed, keeping control felt harder and harder, life without drugs felt hard, yet Michael deserved better.
A few weeks later they took a walk together. Jack seemed to know where he wanted to go and looked around nervously as they reached the remote streets of the city.
”Michael, wait me at that coffee house,” Jack said after a while, stopping him.
”Why, where are you going?”
”I won’t be gone for long, half an hour, an hour at the longest, wait for me,” Jack repeated and Michael frowned.
”Tell me where you’re going,” he insisted. ”I’m going with you.”
”No you’re not!” Jack hissed, breathed quickly and he touched Michael’s shoulder. ”Wait for me, okay?” He tried to smile, kissing Michael’s cheek. ”Please, please do as I say, wait at that cafe, I’ll be there when I am ready.”
Without waiting for a reply, Jack hurried forward on the street. Confused, Michael obeyed, crossed the street and stepped inside the small cafe that only had a few customers. He ordered a café au lait and sat by the window, wondering where Jack had gone off to.
Michael twirled his spoon nervously in his mug, glancing outside every five seconds. When the door of the cafe opened with bells ringing ten minutes later, Michael glanced at the one who had entered. A man wearing a dark leather jacket lifted the sunglasses from his eyes, looking around and smiling as their eyes met. Michael quickly brought his gaze back to the window, minutes seemed to run slowly.
He heard footsteps, heard the feet of a chair dragging against the floor somewhere close which again brought his attention away from the window for a moment. The man in the leather jacket had sat in front of a table nearby with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, his face towards Michael. The man smiled when he glanced up at him and opened his paper. He had short black hair, a lean face and light bristle. Michael estimated that he was around thirty years old. Michael answered with a smile, feeling somewhat abashed before he brought his gaze back to the window. He heard the rustle of the paper, the even knock that the porcelain cup made when hitting the wooden table, and he sensed the occasional glances that the man cast to his direction.
Michael didn’t dare to look back at him anymore. He felt his interest, knew those looks, the place was just so peculiar to them. Finally when thirty minutes had past, Michael got up, his anxiety growing. He passed the man’s table, glanced at him quickly and almost startled when the man grinned at him. The grin wasn’t nasty though, or lewd only… friendly curious? It was confusing,
Michael hurried outside, ran across the road and waited for Jack on the spot where they had parted. He stayed still, hands wrapped around himself trying to calm down, only something made him look back towards the coffee shop where the man sat next to the window looking at him, still holding his coffee cup between his hands. Michael quickly looked back to the alley that opened in front of him. Why was the man looking at him so? Did he know that he was a whore? Michael pondered but forgot his thoughts immediately when he spotted Jack. He smiled at his boyfriend, relieved.
”I told you to wait at the cafe!” Jack lashed at him, seeming tense.
”Where were you?”
”Drugs,” Jack replied. ”Let’s go.”
He continued and put his hand in his pocket feeling the bill tuft at the bottom. He didn’t want to tell Michael about his desperate attempt to raise money so they’d have funds for escaping. It was taking too long, one didn’t get that far by whoring and he couldn’t handle so many clients on top of those that Joe was arranging. Even if he got enough money, still it would be risky to escape from Joe and Ricky, if they’d get caught… Jack knew that the punishment could be death. They’d have to figure something else out, but until he’d think of what it could be, he would continue collecting money.
A week later they were again at the same place, Jack wouldn’t have wanted to take Michael with him, but the boy could be stubborn. ”This time wait at the cafe!” Jack said observing Michael sternly. ”You don’t have to meet with those dealers, okay?”
Michael nodded though he suspected that there would be something else, because Jack had been behaving s strangely for a longer period of time and Michael had thought that Joe was getting the drugs for him.
”Go inside the cafe!” Jack pointed. ”I’ll wait here till you listen.”
Michael’s lower lip quivered defiantly. It felt somehow wrong that Jack was ordering him, the other didn’t usually do that.
”I’m older than you, now obey me!” Jack snapped with frustrated tone, he didn’t want to start explaining to Michael what he was doing. Finally the younger boy turned resignedly and walked towards the cafe. Jack waited until he saw him going inside and then turned to run towards the meeting place. He was already running little late and hoped that the men wouldn’t be too angry about it.
Michael stepped in, sulking and ordering a cup of coffee. Drowned in his thoughts he walked in front of the same table where he had sat the previous time. He looked outside wistfully. What was Jack really doing?
Michael startled to the sound of the newspaper pages being turned, and the familiar feeling of being observed. He turned his head and found himself looking at the same black-haired man who had been there a week earlier. The man smiled at him.
”Hi,” he said and Michael took a quick glance around him before returning a shy smile.
”Hi,” he replied abashedly. The man tasted his coffee, observing him for a moment.
”Can I come and sit at your table?” he asked already getting up, collecting his paper and coffee cup with him.
Michael gave him an insecure look, he was still smiling, standing by at his table.
”Can I?” he repeated and without knowing what he should do, Michael could only offer him a nod.
”You look familiar,” the man spoke after taking a seat on the opposite chair and sipping his coffee. He had beautiful gray eyes, long eyelashes, and a French accent.
”We saw each other here last week, I think.” Michael gave the embarrassed response.
”I know and you looked familiar to me then. Perhaps we’ve met before?”
Michael’s heart started beating faster; he didn’t remember all the men he had been with.
”I don’t think so…” he responded carefully and glanced outside in hopes of seeing Jack.
”Perhaps at some club?” the man suggested carefully and Michael brought his gaze back to him.
”I’m Jean,” the man introduced himself, reaching his hand out over the table. Michael hesitated for a moment before taking it, was this man worthy of the name Anthony or Michael? On the other hand he had already forgotten to speak with Anthony’s voice.
”Michael,” he finally whispered hoping that he wasn’t making a mistake for speaking with this man.
”Where from Britania are you?”
Michael again felt his heart beat speed up, he hadn’t remembered to cover his accent, it was because of Jack, because he was nervous and now he was afraid. Had he made a mistake? What if Ricky would find out? If this was someone that Ricky knew.
”Um… here and there.” Michael shrugged. ”My family… we moved a lot,” he tried to explain and the man gave a friendly grin. Michael glanced at the paper that the man had with him; L’Equipe, sport news. ”You’re French?” he asked shyly.
”Oui,” Jean smiled. ”Parlez-vous français ?”
Michael smiled at him and shook his head.
”Well, there’s always time to learn.” The man winked.
Michael gave a light chuckle and brought his gaze back to the window. The situation felt odd somehow, he usually avoided talking to strangers when he was out.
”How long have you lived here Michael? Or are you on a holiday?”
Michael again glanced at him, hesitated. “A few years,” he replied quietly. ”Listen, I think I should go…” he said then, about to stand.
”Stay for a moment, please? I’ve been here on business for a few months and… well, it’s nice to talk to another European for a change.”
Michael still hesitated, glanced towards the street where he had last seen Jack, but there was no sign of the other.
”I’ll buy you another cup of coffee?” The man tempted him. Michael again looked at him quickly, he was still nervous, but… Michael wasn’t sure in the end what it was that had made him sit back down. The man smiled widely. ”Are you hungry? Do you like sweets?”
”I don’t need anything,” Michael responded quietly.
”Wait and I’ll get you more coffee,” the man said and got up. Michael felt a pinch in the bottom of his stomach, this had to be forbidden in Ricky’s eyes. What on earth was he doing? He should have said that he waited for someone or… anything other than allow the man to buy him more coffee!
Jean returned in a few minutes and lowered a chocolate muffin and a cappuccino down in front of him. ”Not quite the ones that one gets from Paris, but it will do.” Jean grinned.
Michael cocked his brow and shook his head feeling somewhat amused. ”Of course, a French man would say that, everything is better in France in your opinion.”
”Of course it is!” Jean chuckled, looking at him with curiosity. ”How old are you Michael?”
Michael took a small piece from his cupcake. ”I’ll turn twenty next month,” he replied again feeling his heart beat madly from nervousness.
”Oh, you’re so young… You’ll think of me as an old fart when I tell you that I’m thirty-two.” The man grinned and Michael glanced at him, smiled and shook his head shyly.
”You’re not that old.”
”Are you studying?” Jean continued and Michael nodded. ”And your parents live here as well?” Michael shook his head. ”You live alone?” The man was asking too much and increased Michael’s nervousness.
Michael glanced at the time. ”I’m sorry, I… I really must be going,” he said and got to his feet.
”You haven’t tasted your coffee yet, you can’t be in such a hurry?” Jean wondered. ”Am I asking too much?”
Michael hesitated. ”I’m sorry,” he repeated. ”Thank you, but… I really must be going…”
Michael didn’t wait for the response, he hurried to the door, then across the road and to the street where Jack had gone. Michael walked with hurried steps and hoped to find his boyfriend soon. The street was secluded, the buildings on the side of it turned more and more sordid the farther he walked. Michael wrapped his arms around himself, tried to calm down.
The people walking by peered at him, and his heart beat all the faster. He soon realized he was being foolish, for there was no way that he could find Jack without knowing where he went. Michael stopped by the street corner gazing at the tall buildings surrounding him. On the opposite side of the street stood two young men smoking cigarettes and looking at him.
”Hey, kid,” one called. ”Come over here.”
Michael glanced around insecurely and shook his head, then continued forward with slow steps. Where was Jack? What was this place? Soon he heard hurried steps behind him and turned. The other man walked by his side and smiled.
”How much?” he asked with low voice. ”For two?” he added, placing his hand on Michael’s shoulder to stop him.
”We’re a couple, clean, if without a condom, then how much?”
Michael glanced at the other, who still stood at the street corner looking at them and smoking his cigarette nervously. ”Me and my friend, we have a place, how much are you charging?” They wanted to buy sex, Michael felt stupid for not having realized it straight away.
”Listen, I don’t…” Michael started.
”Give me a break,” the man hissed. ”What other reason would you have to walk around here for? Give me your price? We have a place, near here, how much for one hour?”
”I’m just looking for my friend…” Michael said quickly and tried to leave, the man grasped his arm and the other one drew closer. Michael felt panic gathering inside him. ”Let go!” he shrieked.
”Don’t play innocent, whore!” The two men tried to drag him to the back alley and Michael tried desperately to break free, most of all he worried for the possible bruises… how he could ever explain them to Ricky?
”Let go,” Michael sobbed.
Suddenly he heard the French man’s voice, and running steps. ”What’s going on here?”
The men glanced at each other, letting go of Michael and hurrying away from the spot. Jean came closer and Michael rubbed his arms, clearly upset.
”What on earth are you doing here?” Jean asked.
”I was just looking for my friend,”, Michael explained, his voice quivering slightly.
”I think you mistook the street, come.” Jean smiled comfortingly, lowering his hand on his back and guiding him in the direction that they had come from. Michael noticed few young boys, pale teenage boys walking to their direction and peering at them. A car drove slowly by and stopped next to the teens, who immediately went close to the driver-side window. Jean lowered his hand and observed Michael while they walked.
”In certain circles one hears what makes this street known. You don’t look like a typical… hm… typical street boy. If I were you I’d avoid going back to that place, you’d only get yourself in trouble like now.”
Michael looked at the man and nodded seriously, at the same time he understood why Jack had gone there, though on the other hand it didn’t make any sense. Why would Jack sell himself now? Had Joe told him to come here? Something was off.
”Certain circles?” He finally decided to ask quietly. Jean sighed.
”I haven’t personally been here to buy sex, if that’s what you’re asking, but I’ve heard some people talking at the clubs where I’ve been. Not very recommendable; those boys often do drugs and might carry all kinds of diseases and on the other hand many men are stupid enough not to use protection with them. If one wants to use whores, it’s better to pay for something more upscale and… It’s just better that you don’t go there anymore. A pretty boy like you…” Jean looked at him and smiled.
Michael wrapped his arms around himself, feeling uncomfortable. He was worried for Jack, worried and at the same time upset that he hadn’t told him what he was doing.
”Can I ask you something?” Jean asked when they neared the cafe. Michael glanced at him and nodded. ”Are you straight?” Michael was quiet for a moment.
”No,” he finally whispered. Jean smiled and opened the door to the cafe.
”Good.” The man smiled and guided Michael to the same table where they had sat the previous time. Jean observed him. Michael was still nervous and upset because of Jack. ”I hope you don’t find me rude, but… I’d like to see you again. I’m interested in you, Michael. I know I’m a lot older than you, but…”
Michael startled slightly and looked up; he tried to smile. ”I’m flattered,” he whispered. ”But… I already have a boyfriend,” he continued. ”Thank you anyway, I would have been in trouble without you.”
Jean nodded. ”It’s a shame,” he said.
Michael glanced outside and saw Jack on the opposite side of the street.
”I have to go now! Thank you Jean,” he said and got up.
”If you change your mind… I’m here often…” Jean smiled. ”It was nice meeting you.”
Michael gave a careful nod, said his goodbyes and hurried to meet Jack.
”What on earth are you doing?” Michael asked tightly when getting to Jack who looked exhausted.
”I already said– drugs… Let’s go.” Jack sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets before continuing forward on the street.
”I tried to look for you… I saw that place… You were selling yourself,” Michael whispered with low upset tone.
”I told you to wait Michael, why didn’t you listen?” Jack got upset. ”Do you realize how dangerous it was for you to follow?”
”As dangerous as it was for you to go there! I don’t like this! Why didn’t you tell me?! I’m your boyfriend in case you forgot!”
”I haven’t forgotten,” Jack replied tightly, looked around and he guided Michael little farther from the possible curious eyes. ”I didn’t want you to know,” Jack said. Michael leaned against a tile wall and wrapped his arms around his chest.
”I deserve to know!” Michael said tightly. ”I love you and I want to know what’s going on!”
Jack sighed, looked down somewhat embarrassed, until finally he took out the tuft of money and showed it to Michael.
”One needs money to escape, a lot of money…” Jack shrugged. ”I can’t think of anything else, I promised you, I promised that this isn’t forever, you deserve a better life.”
Michael felt his lower lip quivering, he wrapped his arms around Jack and hugged him tightly.
”You’re always thinking about me, but you deserve it just as much, Jack! Don’t hide things from me anymore, we’re together on this, if we do this we’ll do it together, we take the risk together!”
Michael brought his hand up to Jack’s cheek. ”If I collect money as well, we’ll get enough faster.”
”No, Michael, it’s too big of a risk. Ricky is much more strict with you than Joe is with me, if he sees any marks… No, I can’t let you do that.”
”You may be older than me, Jack! But you can’t boss me around! I know the risk, damn it, of course I do! I want to try though, I’d rather run for the rest of my life than stand another whole year with Ricky. We figure something out, right? Together.”
Jack sighed, he felt restless, he hadn’t wanted Michael to know for this very reason and felt afraid that the younger boy would take too high a risk. ”I’m scared for you,” Jack confessed. ”You’re everything to me, Michael.”
”We can do this together,” Michael repeated stubbornly.
Now that Jack had voiced out loud that he was planning to escape, he too dared to start believing its possibility. It wouldn’t be easy and he was afraid, but Michael would rather live on the streets with little food with Jack than continue life as it was now, towards inevitable ruin.
Ricky would be capable to kill and before long Michael believed that this would happen if he stayed. He would grow too old for Ricky’s made up story and that would be the end of him. Escaping, though it would be a risk, would offer a glimmer of hope and what was more important; it would be his own choice.
Published Novemberber 15th.2012
My Secret Shore© KOLGRIM