Monday morning workout has to be the worst moment of every week, unless you go to bed by 8 pm on Sundays. In that case, your life was probably so boring, you’re depressed anyway. Coach obviously felt the same way, and he took it out on us. Specifically, he took it out on me. My personal ups and downs were reflected in the quality of my workouts. My weekend in New York and LA was not that far behind me. My midnight escapade with Robby was showing when I hit a wall about an hour and a half into a five-mile session. Wall or not, Coach saw his opening and stepped on me hard. Every second I had to catch my breath was spent listening to my inadequacies. It was finally over, but Coach was not through. He informed me he wasn’t going to waste his time and breath on me, if I planned to quit the team. His instincts were right, but I wasn’t going to quit. Burning the candle on both ends was my fault. I swore on every religious book I could think of, including the Tibetan Book of the Dead, that I’d straighten up and lead the rightful life. The only bright spot was news from Stu that Scott was allowed to return for afternoon workout. I needed a lift.
When I got home, I went right to sleep, waking up to the mid-day heat in a sweat. I took a shower and then called Scott. His mom hesitated, then called him to the phone.
“So, you’re off restriction?”
“Well, not really, but I get to come to workout tonight. I’m surprised my mom let me talk with you.”
“Like I’m the big, bad influence on you.”
“Well, it wasn’t Lydia.”
“So you think I led you astray?”
“You did more than that.”
We both laughed. I felt things might still go back to normal. He asked about Lydia. I told him she wasn’t back to workout. He sounded disappointed.
“Why don’t you bike over to her house with me after practice?”
“I promised my mom I wouldn’t see her.”
“Com’n, they can’t keep you from seeing her.”
“They said I’d get in serious trouble if her folks catch me with her again.”
“Oh, the police.”
“That, and I don’t want her in any more trouble than she already is.”
Scott hesitated, “You’ve sounded really strange since your trip to New York.”
“Yeah, it comes out when I get sarcastic.”
“You make it come out.”
“So it’s my fault? You’re a wise ass, Tim Castle.”
We talked some more about workout. I was elated we were together again. I was so happy after getting off the phone, that I cleaned my room and did laundry. It had been a while.
We swam in the same lane. Aalthough we were both dragging by the end of practice, I felt my old joy returning. Scott had a note for me to give to Lydia. He said I could read it. I almost laughed at how immature he sounded. He just didn’t have the balls to tell her directly how much he loved and missed her. First love. I needed to help that boy. I stayed late at Lydia’s, so I didn’t get home until eight. Dad and Susan were watching TV and just ignored me when I got in. I warmed up a bowl of spaghetti and took it up to my room. I almost dropped the bowl when I saw Robby sitting in my window.
“I like the view from up here, almost as good as from the top of the trees.”
“And I don’t have to worry about falling forty feet with someone’s toe up my butt.”
“Oh, you care.”
“Um, how long have you been waiting?”
“Ever since you moved into the neighborhood,” and he laughed. “Got any more food.”
”Sure. I’ll run down and get some more. Here, you eat this.”
“That’s okay. Just let me have a bite,” and he took the bowl and gobbled several.
“You drink milk?” his lips curled with a sneer.
“Whadda you drink?”
“Beer. Got any?”
“Naw, my dad doesn’t drink,” I lied.
“What about you?”
“I like it, especially with pizza.”
“Well, let’s go.”
“Sorrento’s, on 8th. You got money?”
Ten’ll cover it.”
“How about some other night?”
“You’re the one with the money.”
“I’m experiencing a temporary cash flow problem. My assets are tied up.”
“You love being tied up.”
“All my cash is at my dealer’s, waiting on a shipment.”
“Colombian Gold. Only the finest.”
I looked at him funny, thinking about the gangsters I beat in New York.
“You don’t believe me?”
“I wish I didn’t.”
“Well, how’d ya think I could afford all those joints you finish off in one drag.”
“I got big lungs from swimming.”
“You like getting high.”
We laughed. I finished my spaghetti, so I moved over to the window sill, and sitting next to him, I put my arm around his shoulder. He shrugged me off.
“You’re the one who’s gay, not me,” he accused me, moving to the far side of the window.
“I leaned back and placed my feet on top of his. “I think your feet are as gay as mine.” We left it at that.
After a pause, while we looked out at the dark neighborhood, I asked him what he had planned for the night.
“Just watching to see what happens when they show up at my window.”
In a few minutes, we both could see someone appear outside Robby’s room. It was Jazz. After looking in and seeing no one, Dave came up, . We couldn’t hear what they said, but obviously they were plotting something. Just then, we watched Dave go in the window, with Jazz keeping watch.
“That asshole; he’s looking for my stash.”
“Will he find it?”
“Naw. I hid it good, but he’s gonna get a big surprise when he looks in my drawer.”
As if on cue, Dave came flying out the window, head-first. He hit the ground, rolled over, and kept running out of the yard. Jazz took off after him.
“What got into him.”
“Just an eight foot king snake. I put my mom’s snake in my drawer.”
“Your mom has a snake?”
“Where do ya think I learn all my magic.”
“Better than an armed guard. I bet Dave doesn’t sneak in there soon.”
He was a series of laughs tonight. Funny. I hadn’t even thought about him all day, what with Scott coming back to practice.
“I better get over there. I don’t wanna lose any more customers.”
“They think we’re a little gang. It’s just their way to smoke for free.”
“I’ve never seen you charge them.”
“When they’re with me, I provide. They want some of their own, they pay.
“Twenty an oz. It keeps me in pot.”
He left me sitting there. I soon saw him enter his room through the window. He looked out and waved to me, holding up what I assumed was the eight foot black snake. I laughed, and he disappeared. I sat a while, noting the arrival of several of Robby’s customers. Regardless of what he had said, I still believed they were a little gang. It was weird that of all the times I looked out from this window, I hadn’t noticed the comings and goings at Robby’s. Maybe it was a lack of focus. Which reminded me that my focus had switched away from being Lydia and Scott’s messenger boy. I still had his note to her. Jumping on my bike, I was soon at her window. She was really pleased to get his note. Slipping out of her window, we walked to the fountain at Country Club Prado, where she quickly scanned the note. Sensing her confusion, I asked what he had said.
“Oh, he just misses me.”
“He didn’t say how much he loves you?”
“Why would he say that?”
“He tells me all the time how important it is for you to know it.”
“Sure. Didn’t he even say that?”
“No. He doesn’t seem very good at writing about his feelings.”
I didn’t have an answer for this rhetorical question. We sat there quietly, until our silence made us nervously laugh. I wanted to comfort her, in her loneliness, so I moved closer. She didn’t notice, until I took her hand in mine. She half-smiled.
“Everybody knows about us, don’t they?”she asked.
“I doubt that. Maybe you should talk with the other girls. It seems to help Scott to talk with me.”
“I can’t tell them. All they want to do is gossip.”
“Well, you can talk with me. At least, I can tell Scott what you’re feeling. He’ll ask me anyway.”
She told me to tell him how isolated she was and alone without him. She said her dad was calming down. But it wasn’t likely that she could return to practice until school started. We sat there holding hands until it was time for her to sneak back into her room. I was spending a night watching people slip into windows, which gave me the idea of seeing Scott. I rode home and called him, relaying what Lydia had said. He hung on every word, but I could hear the sadness in his voice. He said he’d have another letter to pass to her tomorrow.
“Want me to sneak into your room tonight?” I asked.
“I can be there in fifteen minutes.”
“Oh, Tim. I don’t know.”
His reticence stunned me. I asked if he’d sneak out to meet me, but again he wasn’t enthusiastic. I felt pretty rejected. Then I realized I was acting out again. My little plots were too much for him. I told him I loved him, which he barely acknowledged. We hung up. I was still ready for more adventure that night. Instead I stripped off my jeans and went to bed. Laying in the dark, I could see occasional lightning flashes outside the window. I imagined Lydia lying in bed missing Scott and crying. I was lying there missing him, too. Scott was also in his bed, unwilling to let me sneak in with him and too fearful to sneak out to meet me or go to Lydia’s. I was convinced I should sneak over there anyway, but I knew it wouldn’t help. Scott was being subdued after a summer of adventures that ended when he was caught with Lydia. The threat of the police was more than he could handle. But why had Mr. Watt said that the police threat was overblown; maybe they were using it to control him? I trusted the Watts and didn’t want to believe they’d be so deceitful. Who could blame Scott? The thought of sneaking into his bed was beguiling to me. My new-found maturity convinced me not to follow my every whim. Instead, I rolled over, hugging my pillow, until I fell asleep. I went into an instant dream, where I was paddling down a tropical river, perhaps the Amazon. Stopping at a trading post, I met the Watts, who were on their way to a vacation cabin. I tried to convince Scott to come with me in my canoe, but as we left the dock, his dad jumped into a power boat. Not content to just get Scott, he rammed the boat into my canoe, cutting it in half. I was in the water, watching them drive away, when a white dolphin swam beside me, rubbing up against me and pushing me with its nose. I wrapped my arms around the dolphin and we swam rapidly up the river, undulating as we rose and fell. I slid underneath the dolphin so we were stomach-to-stomach. Our undulations increased in strength until we were speeding through the water so fast that we were flying out of the water, skimming across the surface. Swimming stronger and stronger, the dolphin dove deep into the river, reversed direction, then flew straight upward. At the apogee of our flight, we both shuddered and held ourselves suspended in midair. Shuddering over and over again we remained suspended over the river. At the last shudder, I looked down the river, barely seeing Scott in the boat with his dad. Separating from the dolphin, I fell back into the water. The warmth of the water turned into a pool of wet cum on my pillow and stomach. It was my first wet dream in years. The vision of Scott driving away from me took away the exhilaration of flying with the dolphin.
The next few weeks blended into a routine of workouts and nightly sessions delivering notes between Scott and Lydia. His writing style barely improved, but the hints I passed to him from Lydia of what she was pining to hear improved the sense of yearning they both felt. As their messenger, I received my fair share of gratitude and neediness, getting hugs, kisses and hand holding from both of them. I knew these were meant for each other, just passed through me. On the weekends I rode bikes with Stu and our gang. Scott was on permanent janitorial duty at his dad’s office, but it was okay for us to speak openly at his house when I returned with Stu. The rides were refreshing, but there was a part of me withering away from lack of Scott’s love. When I final told him what I felt, he dismissed my complaint about our separation as not as hard as his separation from Lydia. I began to wonder if he’d ever felt as strongly as I had. Time changes perceptions.
Robby showed up at odd times, feeling perfectly welcome to come into my room and wait for my return. When I was there, his arrival was too much like Peter Pan to ignore. I asked if he felt he’d never grow up.
“Not likely, why?”
“How are you going to avoid it?”
He jumped out my window and pretended to swan dive off my roof. I jumped out after him, expecting to see him splattered on the ground. Instead, he swung back toward me on a branch, laughing at my concern. He wanted to stay a kid as long as possible. I worried he’d kill himself, rather than grow up. I was sure that pot let him suspend disbelief that he had to grow up. I avoided smoking with him on the grounds that it interfered with my swim training. He tried working his spell over me, as he did with the other kids. When it didn’t work, he pushed me away from his deeper feelings. All the homosexual teasing and acting out was repressed. We caught each other checking each other out at odd times. I knew his charms still had power over me.
Tina and I talked weekly, but that closeness we had in New York was not growing. She tried by thanking me for all I had done for Tito. I wasn’t after gratitude. She refused to discuss Scott and Lydia’s problem, for fear of creating suspicions in her dad’s mind. I remember what Lydia’s had said about being fully honest with Tina about my gay experiences. Not sensing the growing trust and closeness needed to expose myself, I held back, which she sensed. I trusted that our real time together was in the future. I worried that this lack of maturity may mean we’d never share that future.
I tried to call Joey several times, but he was never at Doug’s. It was embarrassing having to deal with Doug’s continued advances. I felt my rejection of him was my fault for having used him for the plane ticket. I knew he wasn’t hurting for companionship. I asked him how Tony was doing. Doug said he was surprised in the change in Tony since he had met me. He was getting more attractive all the time. Maybe it was Doug’s ploy to make me compete for his attention. I was relieved that he might realize Tony was a better bet than me. His ardor for me decreased over time. Joey was always ‘out.’ It worried me knowing what he was out doing. Everyone was moving away from me. Practice and bike riding kept me busy. I worked on my friendships with the younger kids, and still enjoyed careening down dirt mountains, splashing through mud puddles, riding into the ocean, or diving from the tower at Coach Tom’s pond. Coach Earl always chatted with me when we came by his house. I appreciated his watchful eye. My dad and Susan led their own life together. Our squabbles over the phone bill were only lapses in the seamless texture of my life. He didn’t say anything about getting a job. Scott had told me I could jump him for sex anytime I needed it, but that was from a different time, our vacation in NC. Not needing sex was better. It was the closeness I missed. Being the surrogate between Lydia and him was not satisfying, just a way to feel I still cared about him and her. Turning sixteen hadn’t changed much, although I did sign up for driver training in school. I guess I was actually looking forward to the start of school.
Sitting in Robby’s room the night before school started, I decided to indulge in getting high with them. It made me feel closer to the group. The discussion turned to me and did I had the ‘guts’ to go to school shoeless.
“No way, “ I objected, “I’ll just get sent home.”
“To put one over on the assholes.”
“That dick, Spencer, the Assistant Principal.”
“There’s no way I’m not going to be noticed.”
”Sure, if you wear those jock-head clothes.”
“Whadda ya mean? Everyone wears tees and jeans.”
I looked around and realized the flaw in my logic. They all wore ripped, frayed jeans that hung on their butts, and fell all the way to the ground so you didn’t see their feet, as well as long-sleeved shirts that remained untucked and were missing half their buttons. Only Dave was wearing Levi’s thats looked like they’d never been washed. Also, he was the token geek. I got up and announced I could look more like them. I ran home and changed into the Love jeans and body shirt Joey had bought me in the Grove. When I got back to Robby’s, they all laughed at me.
“Disco boy, disco boy, always playing with his toy.”
Robby pulled my shirt off and gave me one of his to wear. They all nodded approval. I was now an official stoner.
The next day I hid a pair of sneakers in my locker and made it through all my classes without shoes. It was a weird sense of accomplishment. I knew I was the only stoner in Biology, Algebra II, Spanish II and College-Prep English. All the other kids looked so straight to me. At lunch I asked around for Robb, given weird looks for even saying I knew him. I was flirting with ‘soc’ ostracism by even looking for stoners. I would never have dared last year when I was the new kid. I strolled out the main door at three o’clock, only to be grabbed by my high school swim coach. He gave me one look and sized up the problem with his best swimmer.
“You smell like dope.”
“Well, you look like you would. Let’s get one thing straight. No one on my team looks like a bum. Lose the loser look.”
’Okay, Coach. Don’t have a stroke. It’s just part of summer. I’d think you’d want to know my new best times.”
“They’re just long course times. I’m thinking we need to get the team to workout all year.”
“Com’n, Coach. You know I spend all my time at the University. Don’t worry, I’ll be even better by the time swimming starts. I’ve got to get to practice now.”
I walked away, thinking what a joke he was. I got plenty of comments when I got to the pool, but soon we all looked the same in identical orange Speedo’s. Practice was over by seven, Scott was extremely hyper, because Lydia had returned for the first time. We waited outside the girls locker room, when her brother Steve came up to us.
“Forget it, punk. You’re not hanging around my sister.”
Scott looked ready to fight. I’d never seen him so worked up.
“Cool it, Scott,” I warned him. “Listen, Steve, you can stand right here with us if you want. Lydia’s not your kid. If she wants to talk with us, how can you stop her?”
“She’s got to go straight home.”
“We’re not stopping her. But she is our friend. All this hate is ridiculous.”
He relaxed slightly.
When Lydia came out, she looked at the three of us worriedly. We said we just were glad she was back and we’d see her in the morning. Scott was so worked up, he rode all the way to my house before realizing he’d gone the wrong way.
“Com’n in Scott. You won’t get grounded.”
We took the back stairs to my room. He couldn’t sit down, until I finally made him sit in my window. I got behind him, holding him in my arms. He leaned his head back against me, shuddered, and relaxed.
“I’d forgotten how good this feels.”
“I’ll never forget.”
“I guess I’m kinda jerk. Do you really miss me?”
“As much as you miss Lydia.” He turned to look me in the face.
“I didn’t realize.”
“It’s all fallen apart, Scott. I just didn’t say anything. I’m not jealous of you and Lydia.”
“No need. She can’t ever be with me,” he sighed.
“Don’t give up.”
I held him and gave him a kiss. He didn’t respond at first. Then he held me tightly and firmly kissed me back. A whistle rang out from beyond my yard. Scott quickly pulled away. I looked up and gave the finger to Robby, grinning at us from his yard. I waved for him to come over. He seemed hesitant, but quickly disappeared in the trees.
“Who’s that?” asked Scott.
“My neighbor, Rob, He thinks he’s Peter Pan.”
“He saw us kissing.”
“It’s cool. He knows about me. Don’t be embarrassed. You’re gay, too.’
“Well, I really don’t think I’m gay, just with you.”
“Don’t sweat it. It’s the same with him. He’s got a girlfriend, too.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I do have a life, even though you’re gone.”
“I forgot, the Gulliver, boy. What did you think when you saw these clothes?”
“I just like seeing you in your swim suit.”
“Ah, a perv.”
Robby stuck his head over the roof above the window.
“Who’s the perv?”
“All of us, douche.”
I made a casual introduction which made Robby laugh and Scott nervous.
“Was I interrupting anything? I couldn’t resist.”
Scott turned even redder.
“S’cool,” Robby reassured him. “I’m glad you guys are back together.”
He started to take out his normal joint, but I motioned for him to cool it. We talked about school. I said I’d looked for him. He said they all ditched after Nutrition, hanging out at Jace’s from 10 am until this evening. Scott was shocked. I told Robby about our run-in with Lydia’s brother. Scott had to be home. I gave him a quick peck on the lips when we got to the door, where Robby couldn’t see. Robby settled into the window for the joint and the scoop about the kiss. I told him he had ruined my chance for cheap sex. He told me where to find them ditching school. I figured that was unlikely. He got up to leave, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek and winked.
“Don’t go just yet.”
“No, I just need someone to hold me. I thought I didn’t love him anymore but now I know I lied.”
He gingerly came around behind me and let me settle into his arms. I relaxed, and he pulled me into a tight hug. He flew out my window, Peter Pan fashion, and was gone.
Later I called Scott. He was upset about my new friend. Het understood why I needed someone new, since he was grounded. He gave me all sorts of advice about staying out of trouble. I finally got him to talk about us. He reiterated his deep love for me. Then he admitted he didn’t really miss sleeping with me. It hurt to hear him say the truth. When I got quiet, he changed his mind and said he didn’t mean it. I didn’t know what to believe. Knowing I would see him at morning practice, I said we needed to work it separately from him and Lydia. He asked if we should go on dates or something.
“Nobody goes on dates, Scott.”
“I mean, plan things, just the two of us.”
“I just want us to be happy and normal, or as normal as we were before. Let’s just see how it goes.”
“It was going pretty good until your friend showed up.”
“I love you, Scott.”
“You’re too hot-blooded, Tim.”
“You love it.”
“Yeah, and that scares me.”
“Well, you know where I live.”
“”I love you, too, Tim.”
It was the best phone call I’d had since Joey on my 15th birthday. I went to sleep with my pillow and gave it a really bad time. Good thing I do my own laundry.
The next night, my dad told me to wait in the living room as I came in from practice. Another confrontation loomed. I got my reheated dinner and sat eating in the living room. He and Susan waited until I finished.
“Tim, we’re not seeing any progress on getting a job. I just got the phone bill and added to the swim dues, you owe over a hundred dollars.”
“I thought about using Doug’s money to get him off my back, but I wasn’t sure I could tell him how I earned it.
“Dad, you’ve got to realize that I can’t work out and have a job also. There has to be total dedication to swimming to succeed. I’m not asking that much.”
“I’m going to make this real easy for you. young man. If you want to swim, you’ve got to earn the money yourself. I’m not paying these dues anymore.”
“You want me to beg. It’s only thirty dollars a month.
“Then get something part-time or on the weekend. You walk all over us, son.”
“All I ask is for your support. If I can get a college scholarship, it’ll save you more in the long run.”
“The money is not the only issue. You need to know the value of money.”
“By punishing me?”
‘I’m not going to argue with you. You want to swim, then you’ve got to earn it. Can I be any clearer?”
This was his signal the discussion was over. I took my dishes to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. I stomped upstairs, locked the door, and sat in the window. I saw the light on in Robby’s room and soon I watched Dave and Jazz slip in the window. The desire to join them and forget my woes was almost overwhelming. Instead, I called Scott.
“Just my dad. He’s making me quit the team.”
“Yeah. I have to get a job to pay for it.”
“There’s no way you can work and still make workouts.”
“He doesn’t understand.”
“What are we going to do?”
The feeling that we were in this together made me instantly happy.
“Just ignore him.”
We didn’t talk for a moment. It was enough that Scott was on my side.
“Have you talked to Lydia?” I asked.
“I try to phone, but she’s not allowed calls. I’m afraid to sneak over like we used to.”
“Well, they could still put you in jail.”
“Want me to go see her? Maybe she could sneak out and call you.”
“Sure, Scott.” Then I paused before saying what I really felt. “I know this sounds needy, but we’re being kept apart, too. I’ll do anything to help you with Lydia. I need to be with you, too, like we were last night.”
“It was so strange when your stoner friend saw us. How come he knows who I am?”
“He sneaks around, looking in windows in the neighborhood. When I finally met him, he told all his friends I’m a fag. I’m not ashamed.”
“How can you like someone like him? He’s a Peeping Tom.”
“He can be cool. One of the reasons I called you is to avoid going over to his house. There’s a whole gang of kids that hang out there every night.”
“And get loaded, huh? You’re not smoking dope, Tim, I hope?”
“Well, why do you think I called you. It’s too easy to just want to forget all my problems.”
“Tim, these are our problems. You’ve been a great help with Lydia. We’re the old team again. I’ll do what I can to keep you from going downhill. You can always call me.”
“What I really need is to be with you.”
“If you ride over here after seeing Lydia, I’ll sneak out.”
After hanging up, I rode to Lydia’s. She could only come to the window, not sneak out. We talked about Scott and other team stuff. She was glad to be back at practice. Losing her phone privileges was the hardest; she was a teenage girl. I could tell all the pressure about Scott was getting to her. We remembered last year’s Halloween party and wished we could go back to feeling like that. Turning sixteen had been hard on both of us. She gave me a hug which I was supposed to pass to Scott. It seemed pretty repressed. I rode to Scott’s, even though it was late. His house was dark, but he was waiting for me at his window. As he slipped out the window, it overwhelmed me that he was so beautiful. His hair had bleached white tips. His eyelashes were long and dark. There were hints of green that made his eyes sparkle from the street lights. His arms swung easily as we walked the short distance to the school where we’d hung out before. As he bent to sit down his butt filled his jeans like an inviting garden. I was so smitten. He was desperate for Lydia’s words. I tried not to reveal what I had sensed about her pulling away, telling him how difficult all the pressure was on her. We sat silently under the tree. He reached over and pulled me into a long hug, which only heightened our sadness. I had wanted to be sexual with him, but our mood was too depressed. The idea we could get each other through our troubles was just an idea. We got up and walked back to his house. We were both pushing my bike. I took his hand and placed it on the bike seat, then placed mine on top. We both controlled the bike from the seat which meant we were wandering all over the road. It lifted our spirits slightly. In his side yard, Scott kissed me, lingering, poignant, but not exciting. The sadness of the night hung over me all the way back to the Gables. It was after midnight. Another difficult morning practice loomed.
At the end of the month, Mrs. Haines took me aside after evening workout. She told me that my dad had returned the dues bill with a note saying I had to pay the dues from now on. It had begun. I told her I would bring the thirty dollars the next day. That night, I counted my money. I had enough for four months of dues, my life savings. I was sitting on my bed, counting the bills when Robby looked in the window.
“You’re thinking about taking me to Sorrento’s.”
“Just trying to figure out how to make $125 last for the rest of my life.”
“Sounds like just the problem for Sorrento’s.”
I didn’t want to argue with that logic. What the hell?
We both got our bikes. Robby’s was the opposite of my beat-up ten-speed. He was obviously into making it look good. I was embarrassed at the state of repair of mine. He showed me all the modifications he had made, including having the frame chromed. He called it a racing model, meant for the track, with no brakes and only top gear. Even the tires were different, made of light-weight material. He said he often got flats.
“How can you use it on the streets with no brakes?”
“I’m a great rider. You have to go around obstacles, not stop for them.”
He took off, leaving me quickly behind. As I struggled to catch up, he sleekly doubled back, riding beside me.
“My bike only weighs 18 pounds; yours must be 27/28. I can ride circles around you.”
We rode through the Gables toward 8th Street (Calle Ocho) on the north side of town. Less than a mile from the eastern edge of the Gables, we stopped at a small Italian restaurant, the fabled Sorrento’s. As we walked in, I was self-conscious of my bare feet, but a waiter quickly made us at home, seating the two of us at a booth in the corner. Robby ordered a large pizza and a pitcher of beer. No one questioned ID’s. It felt like I was back in New York. The beer came immediately, and after the first glass, Robby pulled out a joint and lit it up with a flourish. I looked around nervously, but Robby just laughed at me.
“Nothing better with pizza and beer.”
“I think they’ll kick us out.”
“No way. I’m their best customer. You need to relax.”
It didn’t take long to relax after taking a hit. Then the pizza arrived.
“What is that taste?” I asked.
“Must be anchovies. Does it every time. So, tell me what’s your money problem. Maybe you should go into the pot business.”
“No thanks. The only customers I know already go to you. It may be news to you, but most kids don’t smoke.”
“Who better to introduce a great product?”
“Save your sales pitch. I’ve got to get a real job.”
“Right, to help pay the mortgage.”
“Not quite. My dad says I have to learn the value of money.”
“Well, here it is. No better value than pizza and beer.”
“No, dick. He wants me to pay for swim team with money I earn myself.”
“Guess it’s the BK Lounge for you.”
“The thing is, if I work, I won’t have time for workout. What’s the point?”
“There’s no point. Your dad is obviously clueless. And, what’s the point of swimming if it’s all work?”
“To compete. If I’m good enough I’ll get a college scholarship.”
“All this work until you’re an adult. Sounds like a scheme to keep you out of trouble. Why’s your dad not buying into it?”
“There’s no explaining him.”
We kept gobbling pizza and downing beer, until we lay back in the booth, too stuffed to move. Robby put his feet on top of mine, and we gave each other foot massages under the table, while the waiter settled the bill. I left a big tip. Robbie asked me if it had helped solve my problems.
“Just to forget about them.”
“Well, how about this then?”
He showed me two small pieces of paper.
“Acid, man. It’s blotter.”
I had heard about acid, but it seemed too dangerous to consider. There was pot and beer, but acid was ‘hard drugs,’ like heroin or coke. I looked scared, so he backed off, telling me he’d save it for a better time. We rode back to the Gables, the pizza and beer making me sleepy. There was a crowd waiting at Robby’s, so I slipped away to home and went to bed early.