Book 1: Billie Joe's Journey

by Rick Beck

Chapter 12

The City

Earl continued to educate me all over his house. We studied in the kitchen, and on the stairs, and in the basement while doing laundry. We studied in the bathroom, and on the porch, and once in the car. Earl proved to me that someone did have a sexual appetite equal to my own. He erased another guilt that I'd carried for several years. Perhaps Earl awakened me to some of the answers I needed.

Sex wasn't the thing I saw portrayed on television and in the movies. It wasn't holding hands, courting, and marriage, though it is all of those things sometimes. Sex is a force inside of us. It changes according to our needs and according to the people we are with. It is directly related to our own appetites. We are all different. Everyone isn't cut out to be a parent or a father, but everyone is sexual, and desires sex. The more you deny yourself, the greater the hunger.

Earl took care of any questions about limitations or restrictions on one's ability to perform. Twice he got me off a second time within a couple of minutes of the first. Before leaving Minnesota I jacked off twice in a day from time to time. Usually once in the morning and once in the evening. The thought I could have four orgasms in a day, or two in quick succession, never crossed my mind. I would have said that was physically impossible for me. I learned that with someone like Earl, nothing is impossible. The experience was always enjoyable, but became exhausting by day four. Day three was spent in bed sleeping and having sex. Day four was spent getting ready to go to San Francisco, and talking about how we could arrange to meet again. My erection would rise and fall according to the shape of Earl's mouth and the look in his eye.

As much as Earl taught me, I still did not love him or even feel intensely drawn to him. I liked him a lot. He was such an easy person to be with. The fact he let me push my own desires to the outer edge of the envelope endeared him to me, but I did not, nor was I under the illusion I might, fall in love with him. In this I found my heart still belonged to Carl. While I wasn't sure he would return to me, I was sure he was writing me, and he had sent me a picture that showed me he wanted me to still want him. That gave me more hope than I'd had since he got on the plane and I was thinking I might never see him again.

That was another lesson Earl taught me. I realized what I had felt for Raymond was pure lust. His red hair, uncut penis and smooth skin were novelties that excited me. I'd never met anyone like him. When he came on to me constantly, I was drawn to his unique qualities, he the pro and me the kid. With Kyle I'd been curious. I wanted to know what he was like. He did remind me of Carl by his size and shy manor. Though we never directly engaged in sex, I did watch him engage in sex, and he watched me jack off. He was the first person I had ever felt comfortable with watching me. I'd always been either ashamed or afraid to let anyone see my penis. The thought of someone watching me had been downright scary. Knowing Kyle watched me, and wanted to watch me, was thrilling. I've always regretted not having sex with him. I liked Kyle a lot.

Earl kept reminding me to be careful, and he tried to give me money. I showed him my sock bank. He seemed impressed by the fact I had almost two hundred dollars. He reminded me to keep it hidden and to always carry less than twenty in my pockets. He reminded me not to wander out of the gay district. He gave me the names of streets not to cross. He told me the places to avoid. He seemed to have a very complete knowledge of the city. He told me most of all to be careful of kids my age.

I sat in the middle of the seat and held Earl's hand. This was both thrilling and dangerous. Not because someone might see us holding hands, but because Earl was a terrible driver at best with two hands, and we entered onto a downright deadly course when he used one hand to drive and watched me instead of the road. The crazy part about this was everyone on the highway there drives just like him. They jerk their cars from lane to lane, speed up and slow down with no warning, and frequently drive off the road surface. It must be a California thing.

The house he drove me to stood high up on a hill. Everything in San Francisco seemed to be either up on a hill or at the bottom of one. The sun was starting to set and I could see Alcatraz. As high as the house was, we still had to walk up two flights of stairs to get to the front door. It made me dizzy looking down the hill. How could anyone sleep on a slant like that? A rotund, middle aged man answered the door with a drink in his hand.

"Earl, baby. Mother's been waiting up for you. So hard to keep my eyes open after seven these days. Getting so old, you know."

"If you'd go to bed every day or two, I've found it helps, Dennis."

"John-boy, our company's here."

Dennis held the door as I followed close behind Earl. He smiled real big. He was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and hadn't shaved in several days. There was gray hair in his beard.

John charged out of an opening toward us, wiping his hands on a tea towel.

"Just fixing some desert for you our wayward child. You know I can't have children any longer. How's the Prince today?"

"I'm great. This is Billie Joe Walker, Jr. He's the young man I've been telling you about."

"Robbing the old cradle are we Earl?" Dennis said following us into the living room. I felt his eyes on my back.

"He's more man than anyone I've met in years, Dennis. He's older than he looks."

"We aren't harboring a fugitive are we now, Earl? If this is Bonnie or Clyde, or Derringer, you would tell us wouldn't you dear?"

"Dennis, will you get off it. I told you the story, now do you want to give him a safe place to sleep or do you want to see him wandering the streets all night. I think he's too young and too naive, but I can't get him to stay with me. I've tried. I've offered him everything but the family jewels."

"You do have it bad. He must be something. The Prince never needs anyone as I recall. If the youngster wants to see the city and needs a place to sleep, he's found it. Our rules: you are in the house by 10 p.m.; doors are locked and we are in bed after that; you will be here at 8 a.m. for breakfast, and then you can do as you please. Them's the house rules," John said. "For someone your age, those are generous hours, son."

John was not as big or tall as Dennis. He was thinner, though not skinny, and he seemed friendlier, more shy. Dennis seemed to have a twinkle in his eye I didn't care for. We were brought drinks. I got ginger ale. Then John brought out bowls of ice cream and then bananas floating in a thick liquid. As soon as it was set on the coffee table, Dennis put a match to it, and fire shot up a foot in the air, and then it burned around the top of the bananas. As Rome burned they dished the concoction onto the ice cream. I don't remember what they called it, but I went back for seconds, and then finished up what was left. I'd never tasted anything so sweet.

"What are your plans, dear?" Dennis asked.

"I want to drive him around and show him what part of the gay area to avoid and where to go to find the nicest people. I'll show him the safe houses in case he gets into trouble. That's all I can do. We'll be back by ten."

"You can stretch it a bit tonight. It's Friday. John and I go wild on Friday nights. We've rented the latest porn from the Eastern Block. I just adore those hairless uncut boys, don't you? Not much new coming our of France these days."

"Everyone does, Dennis. I don't think it is Billie Joe's cup of tea. He's into the tactile."

"You are the one that would know, dear."

I wasn't sure exactly what was being said, but I would have that feeling much of the time I was around gay people. They had their own language, and used words in ways I didn't understand. Those conversations I just tried to ignore.

The City was alive with activity. We drove down to the first cross street and made a right, and in five minutes Earl was giving me the tour of the gay section. People were on the move and were dressed in some pretty crazy outfits. I'd never seen anything like it in Minnesota. The tour lasted a half hour and we returned to the house. The door was unlocked and there was a note on the table for Earl to show me to his old room, and for him to lock the door when he left.

It was still early, and I wondered what I'd do all evening. Earl took me up the stairs and down to the end of the hall. He opened the door into a very nice room. There was a television, VCR, stereo, complete with CD's, cassettes, and one cupboard that was filled with videos. Earl took me over to the bed, and we laid down together and added that to the places we'd made out during the week. The cool sheets felt good against my skin, and I fell asleep as Earl left to go to the bars to see some old friends.

"Up, up, youngster! Breakfast will be ready in twenty minutes. Your bathroom is next door. It's a nice sunny day for you to go awanderin'."

John was too damn cheerful for that hour. He sang the words and I tried to force my eyes open.

There were two towels, a wash cloth, and a bar of soap on the side of the tub. I adjusted the fine flow to my liking and showered. I put on my jeans and the Forty Niner T-shirt. As I passed through the living room, Dennis was seated in the far corner near the big picture window reading the paper. His feet were curled up under him, and his legs were as chubby as the rest of him. I mumbled good morning and sped past going into the kitchen in time to have John hand me some jars.

"On the table, Billie Joe. Sit down. Coffee, tea, or meeilk?"

"Coffee please."

"Cream and sugar I suppose? Come and get it. Don't use it. Stuff clogs your arteries. I'll bring the coffee. Sit! Sit! Make yourself at home."

John danced around the kitchen like I imagined a chef would do. If Earl cooked with an economy of motion, John cooked with flare. He used wide arm motions and dashed and slashed with seasonings and items he added to whatever he was fixing. He grated cheese from a large block and ate half of what he cut. We ended up with something called crêpes Suzette, that they lit on fire. I wasn't sure about these guys. I'd never had anyone set my food on fire before, and now I'd eaten with them twice and they'd started a fire twice. I hoped they had some pretty good fire extinguishers. We also had potatoes O'Brian with a thin layer of cheese on top. It would have been thicker if not for John. And we had eggs Benedict.

It was all fantastic to taste. I wasn't sure if they ate that way all the time, or if this was for my benefit, but no one seemed that thrilled about my being there. John continued to call me youngster, and Dennis started calling me B.J., in the kind of way you are saying one thing and mean quite another. John continued to be friendly and bubbly all over the house. Dennis made me uncomfortable. I saw him watching me a couple of times, and the twinkle in his eye didn't make me think of Santa Claus.

"Come, youngster. I'm walking over to the health food market. I'll show you some safe places where you might find people your age. You've got to be careful. They are on the street, and they will take advantage if you let them. In plain English, they're a bunch of thieves. Be careful not to trust them."

I got a different tour from John. He knew store fronts that helped runaway youths, and others that helped street kids. There was a drug abuse clinic and a meeting place for gay youths. He took me inside the door, and it was empty. There was a pool table, and other tables and chairs. There was an old television with rabbit ears with tin foil wrapped around the uprights for an antenna. There was a radio blasting music in the background. There wasn't one gay youth. We walked back out.

"It's a bit early for the natives, but by noon this becomes a meeting place for the young."

I went with John to a store run by an elderly Chinese man. He was quite friendly, and John asked him about stuff. He introduced me as his house guest, and the Chinese man smiled and nodded at me. I carried the bags back down the hill where John turned and handed me a five dollar bill before sweeping the bags out of my hand.

"I don't want this. You're giving me a place to stay, John. I just carried your bags a block."

"Take it. I want you to have a good lunch. I'll leave things out for you if we are in bed tonight when you come in. Always be sure to lock the door when you come in. Dennis will get up and check it anyway, but it will be better if it is locked when he checks. You've got the phone number. If there is any trouble, tell them that's where you are staying. Have a good time, and be careful. See you tonight."

John trotted off with more energy than a middle aged man ought to have. I looked at the money and stuffed it in my pocket. I'd never been given money. I'd earned spending money by mowing lawns and baby sitting for friends of my family. My father believed in learning the value of money, and people handing me money for nothing wasn't comfortable for me. I remembered what Raymond said, and I thought about the money in my bag back at the house where I hoped it was safe. I thought about the less than twenty dollars spread around my pockets.

The foot traffic was light, and the gay area had a totally different feel and look in the morning. I saw some guys my age, but they were pretty grubby looking. They leaned together and talked near what looked like an abandoned building. They smoked cigarettes and spit in high arcs out into the street. The lines of cars that had been there the night before were reduced to an occasional car from time to time turning onto the street where I walked.

I passed bars where people stood waiting for entry. They looked dead. I passed some shops that didn't sell educational materials. A middle-aged man bumped into me coming out of one. He was holding a video tape, and gave me a big smile.

"Excuse me, handsome. I'm going for breakfast, want to come along?"

"No thank you."

"I'd make it worth your while. I've got a great tape here, and we can watch and well, do whatever it is you do. Nothing fancy. You look like you need a friend. You're too cute to be out alone."

"No thanks"

I backed away as I talked. I felt his eyes on me. I shivered and turned up the collar on my jacket.

There was a small coffee shop on the next corner. I ducked in and had more coffee. I was already dancing in my shoes from four cups at breakfast, but I liked the taste and needed a break. The man that had approached me came to the window of the coffee shop. I ducked down and pulled my jacket up. A boy came and sat down in front of me to block the view.

"That creep trying to get in your pants kid?"

"I don't know. I think he followed me," I said, alarmed, looking around his head to see if he was still there.

"He's a chicken hawk. He's harmless, but I hear he's strange. Stay away from that one. That's my advice. You new in town?"

"Just visiting my uncle over a few blocks."

"I'm Harvey. I live here."

He reached out a less than clean hand, and I shook it while still looking around.

"Do you have a name, kid?"

"Billie Joe. Sorry."

"Don't let that creep bother you. He ain't nobody. I'll watch your back awhile if he worries you."

I asked Harvey if he wanted a cup of coffee. I used the change in my pocket to pay for it. A guy with a dirty white apron brought it.

"I told you I didn't want you hanging in here kid. You drink up and git out," the man said to Harvey, mean.

"Sorry if I'm hurting your chair, Mister," Harvey said, sarcastically. "Don't you have to treat customers with a little respect or something. I'm a customer too."

"Just drink up."

He held the cup with both hands. Both hands were dirty. His fingernails were long and had been unattended for some time. His face was dirty. I thought I could smell him but wasn't sure, and didn't want to get close enough to check. He studied the inside of his cup.

"Illinois. Chicago maybe."

"Me. Minnesota."

"I could tell by the accent. I'm pretty good at it."

"That's close. Where are you from?"

"Texas."

"You're family move out here?"

"No. No, my family wouldn't be caught dead out here. That's why I'm here."

"You don't get along?"

"They tossed me out a year ago. I was fifteen."

"I'm fifteen. Almost sixteen . . ." I blurted, wanting to get it out there so I didn't need to remember the right answer.

"Why did they throw you out kid? You not what they wanted? "

He looked into his cup and looked at me out of sad blue eyes.

"Didn't get along."

I looked at him for a moment.

"Why'd you come to San Fran?" I asked.

"I'd heard stories. Thought this is where I belonged. Sounded good at the time."

"Is it?"

"Hell no . I don't belong anywhere. I'm too old to get any real help, and too young to get out on my own. I'm just right for people like the creep there to use for awhile."

"You go off with guys like him."

"Nah! I like the clean older guys. They're usually harmless. I kick back and let them have at it. I get twenty to fifty and get off. It's cool. I might get a motel room a couple of times a week. I can get clean and be alone."

He looked at me, studying like.

"You gay? That's why I got kicked out."

"You tell them?" I asked, all ears.

"No. They caught me with my father's brother. We were out in his camper. My old man opened the door and I was leaning across the table with his brother feeding me the sausage and just about to blow. What a way to make your dick go soft. I felt disappointed. We'd been doing it for five years, but this time we forgot to lock the door. My old man yanked me out of there with my pants down to my ankles and my dick swinging in the breeze. He hit me in the mouth. Knocked out these three teeth for me."

He showed me a wide gap where teeth were missing at the side of his mouth.

"He told me to get my ass out of there pronto, afore he killed me. I left with the shirt on my back."

"How did you make it?"

"I hung around town until I heard the police were after me. I hitched to Dallas and got a ride with an old guy that liked me. He bought me some clothes and kept me busy for a month or so. What Uncle John hadn't showed me, Simon did. I decided I wanted to come here. He bought me a bus ticket and asked me to come back when I wanted. He was cool. Once or twice a week after a while was all he wanted."

"How long you been here?"

"Almost a year."

"Why don't you find someone to live with."

"I have. This one. That one. They like you for a few weeks, some a few days, than they drop you off and pick up a new one. There are a lot of gay guys here, but most aren't interested in anything long term with a sixteen year old. They want to have it, but they don't want to give me a place to live. They like the tender young stuff."

"That's bogus."

"Tell me about it."

"I thought guys would be dying to help out young guys."

"There are too many young guys, Bill. We flood the market. There isn't enough help for everyone, and most guys want to sample the goods and set you back out."

"The guys I'm staying with are cool."

"I thought you were staying with an uncle?"

"No. I ran away. I hitched down from my brother's in Seattle. Everyone's been pretty nice."

"It's different on the road. There aren't so many of us. Someone picks you up and wants to keep you. Here, the streets are full of Harvey's. You take your pick and come back for another one later."

"You ever been hurt."

"Besides my old man. I been raped a couple of times. There's always assholes. I been beat up a couple of times. Usually by other kids that want something. It's mostly cool. I do okay. There's guys I watch their back. There's guys they watch mine. And tourists like you that buy me coffee."

"What about the gay youth center? I was told kids go there."

"Sure they do. You got to be careful or you end up with Social Services. That's the kiss of death out here. You think the streets sound bad, those places are the pits. You end up with twenty other kids, and only the strong survive. No matter where you go, someone is always stronger than you. You got to give them what they want to survive."

"You mean other kids?"

"Other kids, counselors, workers. You are nobody in those places. They all want a piece of you. I had more sex inside Social Services than I've ever had on the street."

"You're shitting me!'

"No, kid! That's the way it is."

I walked with Harvey. He showed me places where he hung out. He showed me people. Especially he pointed out the ones to avoid. We saw the creep again later. He saw me with Harvey and immediately drove off. I didn't see him again.

"When's the last time you had a motel room?"

"A few week. I been sick. Couldn't turn no tricks. Got down and now I'm too dirty for anyone but the regulars. I'll get better soon. I'll get in on a shower. Clean up my clothes. It's getting harder though. Everyone's had me once. Some guys come into town for me, but it's hard to keep yourself up for them. I don't care any more. There's places I know to go eat, and I stick with my buddies."

"Are they all gay?"

"Some are. Some aren't. Most are here because they've got no place to go, and they heard you could survive in San Francisco."

"What do you do for food when you don't have money?"

"Dumpster dive. I eat pretty good. I know the right restaurants. The Italian are the best. Lots of garlic bread and good stuff like that. Chinese are the worst. The food all clumps together and tastes like the garbage can. Burger joints are okay if you go right after they dump."

"Sounds disgusting."

"You live here awhile, kid, it'll sound like the Ritz."

We walked down to the gay youth center, and stepped inside the door. There were a dozen kids of various ages and sizes standing around. They all looked tougher than Harvey, even the girls. We didn't go past the door, and I went back out with him.

"If I could get you a shower and a meal, you want to go?"

"Sure. What do you want? Blow job. Circle jerk. My ass costs more than a shower and food."

Harvey bargained with me as we walked.

"That's gross. I want to get you a shower and a good meal. I think the guys I'm staying with will go for it. I'll call and ask them. You got to be cool."

Dennis answered the phone with a yawn. I told him I had a friend that needed a shower and a meal. He said to bring him up. I was surprised. I thought John would go for it, but I was sure we'd have trouble getting it past Dennis. He stood at the door and watched us coming up the stairs.

"Come on in. I'm Dennie."

"This is Harvey. He's my friend."

We went into the kitchen where John was making sandwiches and stirring soup. He set down sodas and chips and danced around as usual. The sandwiches were three inches high and stacked with the most marvelous collection of goodies. Harvey devoured three and ate three bowls of soup. He seemed to not even know any of us were there. He stared at the food and made pretty quick work of it.

When I went to go to the bathroom, I came back to Dennis leaning over Harvey's shoulder and saying something in his ear. He sat back down when I came in. John was doing dishes and ignored me.

"Well. Let's get your friend a towel. He could use a good scrubbing," Dennis said cheerfully.

We went up to the top of the stairs and Harvey tossed his clothes out as John stood at the bottom of the stairs so Dennis could toss them to him to be washed. Harvey was tall and even thinner than I thought. He had the same color pubic hair as I did, and he was cut and hung thin over his balls. He closed the door after giving up his clothes.

"You seen the movie collection. I bet this kid would like to see a good movie. He will probably want to bathe for awhile since he's so crusted with dirt. Let me set one up for you."

Dennis was really friendly to me. I didn't expect him to be nice. He had seemed so remote before. He put in a movie I said I wanted to see. He smiled and closed the door, and I watched and listened to the shower running beside my room. It took me fifteen or twenty minutes to start worrying about Harvey. I hoped he hadn't fallen in or gotten washed down the drain with the dirt. I stood at my door and listened but didn't hear a sound. I stepped into the hallway to listen for him moving around, but nothing. I heard noise from my right where Dennis and John slept. I stood next to the door and looked through a half-inch crack in the door.

Dennis stood naked beside the bed. Harvey was kneeling naked in front of him giving him a blow job. John lay below Harvey, also naked and blowing him. Dennis held Harvey's head with two meaty hands forcing his fat cock in and out of his mouth. Harvey was erect and John was working on him. Dennis finished up a minute after I got there and he shot his juice all over Harvey's chest and face. He pulled Harvey to his feet and hugged him. Harvey just stood limp. They bent him over the corner of the bed and John stood behind him lubing up his ass. John groaned loud as he shoved himself into Harvey. Dennis put his finger to his lips and indicated to John to be quiet. I knew what he was telling him.

Harvey's ass was skinny. The skin was pale and looked purplish. There was like a thin purple film that covered his ass and upper legs. John worked hard on Harvey, and Dennis sat down so Harvey could suck his soft cock. Harvey just did whatever they wanted. I saw a twenty dollar bill on the bed beside Dennis. It looked like Harvey was watching the money as they worked on his mouth and ass. John kept at it for longer than it should have taken.

In the meantime Dennis started getting erect again. He kept holding Harvey's mouth down in his pubic hair. John pulled himself free and deposited liquid on Harvey's back, hitting the back of his head with one squirt. Dennis replaced him inside Harvey who now lay still and rocked to the fucking motion as his face leaned against the blanket on the bed. He looked lifeless. Dennis didn't bother to remove himself when he finished up. His fat ass and legs shook as he held Harvey's ass and slammed himself into him two or three quick times. He ground his hips, continuing to force it all the way in him. He stood up and pulled Harvey to his feet. He handed him the twenty dollar bill and held his finger over his lips again. I backed away from the door, and returned to the movie in my room.

For some reason I was shaking. I hadn't been turned on by the scene at all. Before this, almost anything sexual had gotten me turned on. Even when I didn't want to be part of it, I still got hard seeing dicks and asses. Watching sex usually made me dizzy and hot inside. I immediately needed to find somewhere to jerk off. This scene had only made me feel a little sick. I didn't know why. Once again I could hear Harvey in the shower. I heard the curtain open and close, and the showering went on. In five minutes my door opened and he stood there drying himself off. He looked cleaner, but I knew he was still dirty. He made no attempt to cover up his skinny dick.

He looked different clean. He might be standing in his own house ready to go down to the mall with his brother or sister. He might be getting ready to go out to dinner with his parents, but he wasn't. He'd just finished blowing two guys and then letting them fuck him. He wasn't going to any mall. I didn't know if I liked Harvey any more. He wrapped the towel around his thin body and sat on the bed, careful like.

"What's wrong. You were so keen on me coming here. Now you act like you wish I didn't. I can't go until they give me my clothes back. Sorry."

"Why do you let people use you like that?"

"Like what?"

"You know what. Don't play innocent with me. I saw you."

"So? Big fucking deal! I will eat a couple of days." He held up the twenty and unfolded it.

"How could you let those fat old men do that to you? That's disgusting."

"At least they are clean and not trying to hurt me to satisfy themselves."

"That's supposed to make it better?"

"Nothing makes it better. It only makes it tolerable. Tolerable is better than not tolerable, if you know what I mean."

"I don't know. I know that's gross, and I've done some shit myself, but never that."

"Easy for you to say. You're set. You've got a bed and food. They haven't come for it yet, but they will before you go. Nobody does anything for nothing. You'll be right in between them by tomorrow night. That or on the street, Bill. That's the way it is. They all want it from us."

"I'll be on the street before they touch me."

"How long you going to last out there? I'll give you a week before you're raped the first time. I'd give you a day, but I don't want to scare you too bad. You're new meat. The weirds will need it first. Then there will be your regulars. They will smile and act like they like you. They'll fill your mouth or ass with cum, and be scooting you out as they're zipping up their pants, going home to momma."

"I don't know. I won't sell it to anyone. Never."

"Never say never. Move over." Harvey lay down on half the pillow. His head was right next to mine. His face was almost touching mine. His body was clean but I could still see those purple lines on his chest.

"You got the AIDS?"

"You want to have sex with me? That why you ask me that? That's the only reason you ask somebody that shit. You are stupid. You want me to fuck you? That what you want, kid?"

"I asked because I saw you doing that. Isn't it dangerous, Harvey?"

"Not for me. I don't worry about AIDS. I have nothing to worry about."

"Why's that?"

"I'm positive. Have been eight months. Been sick two months this time. T-cells were all gone my last visit. Under two hundred they start writing out the paper."

"What paper?"

"Your death certificate. You are stupid. They fill it out and leave off the time and day."

"Are you being treated?"

"Too young. They won't treat me without my parents or me being in Social Services. First time I went to Social Services I was raped the first two nights. All night. Five, six guys took turns. Tore my ass open. Couldn't walk straight. Couldn't even take a crap. That's when I got it. I never took it up the ass until then. I never ate no cum 'til then. I go round the world these days. It's a kick. Sex is cool. Watching old men grunt and groan over my tender young ass is cool." Harvey sucked in his lower lip for a moment. "At least someone wants me for something."

"That's why you don't want to go to Social Services to get treatment?"

"Right! You do get the big picture. It may be big but it ain't pretty. I'm too skinny. I can't fight guys twice my weight. You fight, they break your jaw so you can't scream. Then they fuck you anyway."

"What are you going to do?"

"Die. Eventually. Hell, I ain't got nothin to live for. Why not? I haven't tried that one yet."

"You scared?"

Harvey turned his face to look at me but we were too close and our faces brushed together. I kissed his cheek and put my hand on his chest. I felt like I wanted to cry. He put his hand on my hand but looked off into the corner of the room.

"You aren't afraid to touch me?"

"No."

"I thought you would be. Most people don't want to touch me after I tell them. It's okay kid. I'm used to it now. I'm scared sometimes, but I'm used to it. I was scared the first few months. After the worse shit happened. After I got sick. I don't care any more. That's all."

"What about Dennis and John?"

"Those guys. They know the risk. They are playing the game. They wanted to use my body. They paid a price. When you play Russian Roulette, there's a chance you're going to eat the bullet. They ate it tonight."

"That's bogus."

"I know. Divine retribution as well. We reap what we sow my friend. We all get what we deserve in the end. I was a kid. Just like you when I got out here. Old men used me knowing it's against the law and dangerous. They take the risk. I owe them a good time. I don't owe them nothing but what they pay for."

I hugged Harvey right there on the bed. I wanted to hate him. I wanted to hate what he had done, but it did scare me, his cold ability to do it. It scared me I could get that way. I could let men use my body while I spread a disease that could kill them.

It just confused everything more than ever. I had been too long sheltered from the realities of life. I lived in my fancy suburban home and went to the fancy schools. I shopped at stores that sold brand name goods, and I got everything I wanted within a reasonable time of wanting it. Harvey and thousands of other kids are on the street not knowing where their next meal will come from, and doing things that sheltered kids never dream of. Doing them just to survive. Kids. Kids just like me. Kids that had to have families somewhere. Kids that should be at home growing up and growing wise.

He rolled over and put his arms around me. He cried without any sound until he fell asleep, tears running silently down his cheeks and off his nose. I held him for a long time, but I didn't like him even a little bit. If I wanted any self- respect I couldn't let myself like him. Harvey was wrong. I knew that in my heart. I wanted to hate him for what the streets had made him. I tried hard to hate him. Instead I hated Dennis and John. Users who were comparatively well off and sophisticated. I loathed them. They were despicable.

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