By Stephen del Mar
I sat in my car and watched the green house. It wasn’t green anymore, but I saw it that way. It had been that weird shade of green that was so popular back in the 1970s. A shade some marketing guy somewhere named avocado. A color no avocado had ever been. I think the house was beige now, but I could only see green.
I looked at the window on the west wall. That was Andre’s room. About three in the morning and nearly forty years ago, I stood outside that window and whispered through the screen. “Andre do you want to come out?” It was an invitation to explore the moonlit woods, get naked, and do the things Florida boys do in the woods.
“Andre?” I said again.
I heard a grunt. His bed was on the other side of the window, but it was too high for me to look in. “Do you want to come out?”
“Andre isn’t here.”
I leaned against the wall and smiled. “Come on man. The moon’s full. We won’t need any flashlights. It’s cool and there aren’t many bugs. It’ll be fun.”
“Do you know what time it is?”
I turned back to the window. “So what? I want to… you know.”
“I don’t,” he said.
“What? You always want to? I mean, like all the damn time.”
“Not now. Go to bed Steve.” I saw a hand reach up and slide the window closed. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that Andre had said “no” to sex.
I reached out and cranked the fan on my car’s A/C another notch. I looked at the window. Andre isn’t here. I could still hear him say those words. Why was I here? What did I expect to find?
There was a different name on the mail box now. How many times had my family moved in the last forty years? Even if his family was there what would I say? “Hi. Remember me? I used to bang your boy in the woods when we were thirteen. So where is he buried?” And that was the thing, I was sure Andre wasn’t here anymore. I closed my eyes and I saw him, the way I always remembered him, standing on my back porch wearing nothing but his black Speedos.
Usually once a month or so, my family would go and spend the weekend at my uncle’s farm in central Florida. Andre would pet-sit for us. When I called to tell him we were heading out of town, one of his sisters answered.
“Is Andre there?” I asked.
“He’s at practice.”
“This is Steve. We need him to watch the critters. Can you tell him to come over and get the key?”
She said something non-committal and hung up.
Mom was in the house doing something and rest of us were on the back patio. My little brother and sister squabbled about something and I really don’t remember what Dad was puttering on. What I do remember is looking up and seeing Andre come around the side of the house. He was naked. Well nearly naked. He had on the smallest black bathing suit I’d ever seen. (I count that as the moment my Speedo fetish began.) He went to the Catholic school, and I knew he was on their diving team, but I’d never given it much thought. He came over to the porch and said “hi” to everyone. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t stop looking at him. Every detail of his body was like an electric shock. I’d seen him naked, a lot, but seeing him here, like this was doing a number on me.
His curly black hair dripped on him. Little rivulets of water ran down his torso. I followed them with my eyes down to that swimsuit. He had a boner. He was standing there on my porch, in front of my family, as nearly naked as a person can be, and no one seemed to notice.
He reached out and touched my arm. I ran my eyes back up his body to his dark brown eyes. He had a wicked grin on his face. “I just got back from diving and heard you wanted me. I came right over.”
He squeezed my arm when he said, “Wanted.”
My dad said, “We’re going to Mount Dora, to the farm, for a few days. Can you watch the animals?”
Andre turned to him and said. “Yes sir.”
“Steve take him inside and get him the key.”
No one seemed to notice Andre reach out and take my hand, lead me to the sliding glass door, open it, and lead me up the stairs to my bedroom. I just floated along behind him. Not knowing what the hell was going on. Not knowing what to say. I had a deep kind of animal hunger inside and the only satisfaction was the boy in the black Speedos. He closed and locked my bedroom door. “So do you want me?”
I opened my eyes and looked at the not-green house. Andre wasn’t there. The problem was he loved to get fucked. That in and of itself isn’t the problem. He’d tell me stories about his camp outs with the Boy Scouts and what the older scouts would do with him and how they’d argue about who got to share a tent with Andre. I really wanted to be a scout after hearing those stories. I wanted to be a part of that. But we moved before I could join up. We moved a lot. I didn’t stay in touch with him. Teenage boys don’t really write and that was decades before social media. What would we have said? We had no language for what we felt or what we did. We just “messed” around.
The problem— the reason I was sure he was dead— was no one my age could have loved getting fucked that much and still be alive. The realization came to me one snowy afternoon in the mid-90s as I stood in the middle of the Metrodome. I was living in Minneapolis now, going to grad school, and The Quilt had come to town.
I helped a number of dying friends with their panel. It was a new ritual of passing our community came up with: tombstones fabricated in lame, denim and leather. The panels were carried out on the field and unfolded like flowers as the names were read. The never ending drone of the list of the dead. After the unfolding ceremony we went down on the field to walk among the panels, to find our friends’ quilts, and to say good bye. The reading of the names continued all the while.
Walking among the panels, I heard someone comment about their friend, “Oh he was such a little power-bottom. That’s what killed him.”
The image of Andre standing there on my porch dripping wet in his Speedos came to mind. And my heart ached because I knew if anyone caught this damn virus it would have been him. He would have been one of the first ones to go.
I wondered if anyone ever made him a quilt? I tried to search the Names Project database but it was incomplete and compiled long after I imagined he died. I wondered how his friends remembered him. I wondered what kind of man he became.
My folks eventually moved back to Tampa and after many years so have I. One afternoon after I moved back, I found myself driving through the suburb where I grew-up. So much had changed. Everything was built up. I came to a stoplight and realized it was the main road leading to our old subdivision. I decided “what the hell” and made a right turn. I wanted to see the old neighborhood. I remembered Andre. Our houses were in a little development on top of a hill surrounded by pine and palmetto woods and dairy farms. The town of Brandon was known for dairy. But that was all gone. I drove past mile after mile of track houses, no woods, no pastures and no cows. “Where in the hell are the boys supposed to fuck?” I said to myself.
Andre’s house had been at the end of the main street that leads into our little section. Our house was on a side street about two blocks away. I didn’t turn. I pulled up across from his house. I could see his bedroom window. The house wasn’t green anymore. Nearly forty years ago he whispered into the night, “Andre isn’t here.”
Andre isn’t here.
A school bus pulled up and a bunch of teenagers got off. The bus pulled away. Heading for a new section of the development that used to be a woods where boys explored so many things. I saw one boy put his arm around another boy. He kissed him on the cheek. No one noticed or cared. No one noticed or cared about me sitting in the car. I was just an old man. No one noticed the tears on my face. I remembered Andre, the boy that lived in the downstairs bedroom in the not-green house on the corner.
Copyright 2013 Stephen del Mar. All rights reserved.