Book 3: The Centre

by Rick Beck

Chapter 7

Salvatore's

I woke up to noise in the kitchen. Pans were being shuffled, the refrigerator door opened and closed, and someone was chopping food at the speed of a food processor. At first I was disoriented. It wasn't like being disoriented on the train, when you doze off a few minutes and are so sleepy you aren't sure where you are. It was the kind of disorientation I knew the year before. I'd wake up from fitful sleep not knowing where I was or what day it was. Each day was a separate life requiring a new plan to get fed, stay clear of the law, and to survive. Survival was elevated above all else.

The getting fed part seemed to be in the bag on this morning. I felt my underwear for the checks. I reached under my legs to check my bag. I was back on San Francisco alert. All my belongings were within an arms reach. Who was Sal? Why did he bring me home? What did he want?

"Billie, come get it while it's hot," Sal said from the kitchen.

I stretched in the kitchen door and rubbed my eyes. Sal had changed into a well-manicured young man. He was shaved, his hair was neatly swept back on his head and he looked squeaky clean and far more handsome than he'd appeared at the grubby little diner he fit into perfectly.

"Have a seat," he said, pulling out the chair he wanted me to sit in. "I hope you like omelets. I've cooked up some ham, onion, green pepper, and such. Here's coffee."

Sal danced around the kitchen like a chef. He had on what appeared to be a tailored shirt and pants that were creased so tightly they could slice the bread. He caught my eyes on him a few times as he got all the food in front of me before sitting down.

"There. Cream and sugar. Salt and pepper. Shout if you need something you don't see."

"You're dressed?" I finally managed, sipping from the steaming coffee. "This is good."

"Fresh roast and ground, it's a Columbian blend, but I like that best at breakfast. It gets my eyes to open. I don't grind my Costa Rican beans until later in the day. It helps keeps me up nights, which is good when you're working an all night diner.

"You sleep okay? I know that couch isn't much. I could tell by the look on your face when you saw Agnes that you weren't interested. She does go on. It takes a guy with a tin ear to take her on. You look a bit too refined but I prefer the spice."

"What?" I said.

"We do guys. Usually I meet them at the diner. Variety is the spice of life. It's okay. I've always been bi. Some guys need time to get acclimated."

"I'm gay," I said in self-defense.

"Saw it in your eyes. Not last night. I was still hoping for a threesome, but never with anyone who doesn't play. Some guys can get angry if the touching gets too tender. Agnes is a handful as you may have noticed."

"Wow!" I said, processing our breakfast chit chat.

"Sorry, Billie, I didn't mean to pour it all out there without warning. It's easier to get it all out on the table so there aren't any misunderstandings."

"Good omelet. Great coffee. What are you dressed for? I mean you look nice."

"Thanks. I don't see daylight all that often. We finished early last night and I figured I'd get out to see some daylight."

"Sorry if I disappointed you," I said, going to town on the food. "You aren't eating?"

"I ate. I nibble while I cook. I never expect much, when I meet a new guy. That way I'm often surprised."

"You must like cooking. You spend a lot of time at it," I observed, polishing off the omelet and some toast as he poured my cup full again.

"My parents owned a restaurant here. I cooked for them. This was their place before they retired, sold the restaurant, and went south to Ensenada."

"Why Ensenada?"

"Small. It reminded Papa of Greece. There's a small fishing fleet there. Retirement is too final a word. Papa has opened a lunch counter near the water. He likes cooking for the fisherman."

"You're really different," I said, noticing his perfect teeth.

"Not that different, Billie. I like bi guys, because I am one. I don't have anything against gay dudes. Some of my best friends… you know. I did that when I was younger."

"No, I mean, last night you were kind of grubby, didn't say much, and you looked so at home in that place where we met."

"Oh, yeah. A friend of my fathers. He was short counter help. He calls me when he needs a cook. I try to look like I belong where I'm at. How would the regulars take to a polished chef working the counter and the grill?"

"You work as a favor?"

"Sure. Keep my hand in. He pays me. I'm not sure how much. I probably make forty for the night, plus tips. It just goes in the bank. I don't work for the money."

"You don't?" I asked with surprise.

I never knew anyone that didn't work for money. I thought that's why everyone worked.

"Come on. I'll show you my parent's old place. It's where I worked since I was in high school. You'll understand. They owned that restaurant since the late seventies and sold it last year."

I grabbed my bag and we were out on the street. I didn't have time to react to much of what Sal told me. While I knew enough not to let people surprise me, Sal did. I'd never talked to a guy that talked about his sex life like he was talking about last week's football game. He seemed totally genuine, but I knew enough not to let appearances form my opinion of someone. Sal had already presented three totally unique appearances, a counterman, a submissive mate, and a handsome young man. I didn't know which might prove to be most real.

We walked quick time across busy streets. Their dismal and dirty appearance reminded me of what they looked like to me the year before. Sal walked fast, talked fast, and seemed to be geared to quick-time movement. He'd had no more than three or four hours of sleep, and he mentioned satisfying Agnes during that span.

He chatted me up the entire time we walked. He was bright and full of ideas. He treated me like he'd known me for way longer than he had.

"Here! That's it. Papa's pride and joy. He sold it once, but the buyer told him he was changing the name. Papa backed out of the deal. He said, 'Salvatore's has been Salvatore's for a quarter century. People know Salvatore's means a fine dining experience'. The buyer cannot change the name.'"

"Salvatore's," I said, reading the sign that swept across the roof of a building that sat all alone no more than a mile from Fisherman's Wharf. I was sure I remembered it from the year before. "Salvatore? That's your name."

"That's my name. Not everyone has their name in lights. Think of what it was like when I was ten years old. Mama would bring me every day and I'd walk under that sign. Does something for the ego, of which I've always had more than my share."

"It's huge," I said, thinking out loud at how impressive it was.

"You peeked. Papa always told me not to let lesser men see what Greek men had going for them. I never listened. I was always showing off. We are blessed and there is the ego thing that makes me want to show off."

"The sign. The restaurant," I declared, blushing at his bragging.

"Yeah, I know, but I can't help myself. I've brought you home, polished myself up, fed you, and now I've shown you my restaurant. You don't seem all that impressed."

"You only like bi guys. You've got a girl living with you."

"So? I told you there's no shortage of… ego here. I still want to be wanted. Gay guys usually can't wait to get a peek."

"Sal! I don't even know you."

"What a nice way to get acquainted."

"I'm dirty. I've been wearing these clothes for four days. I slept in these clothes. You can't be suggesting what I think you're suggesting."

"Did I tell you how horny I get when someone resists my natural charm?"

This was yet another side to Sal. I was under orders not to have a sexual relationship with anyone, and in spite of Sal's endearing quality, he wasn't my type. Telling a man with a big ego that I wasn't interested probably wasn't the best idea. But even a couch was better than a curb, until I found something better.

"Sal, I don't know you. You're with a girl. How hot and bothered do you expect me to get under those circumstances?"

"I've met guys that go nuts over that proposition. Military guys are incredible. They've gone without for so long that being the meat in a sandwich isn't beyond consideration."

"Sal!"

"You're a prude, Billie. We're talking modern times here. It's the end of the twentieth century. Live free or die, my friend."

"I'm plenty free, but I'm not interested in getting involved with a couple."

"Yeah, Agnes is a downer. I've been going to give her the boot, but she knows what to do. She makes my proclivities work."

"Sal, you certainly don't have any trouble finding girls that know what to do. You're a hot handsome dude. You can have anyone you want."

"I can? Well, now that that's settled, let's get a room."

"Sal! I'm not that fast. You're quite a guy, but there's no future. How long have you been with Agnes?"

"Two months. Being a big man isn't as easy as it sounds, Billie. I'm five six, one twenty. Most women don't expect much in the peter department. Then, they shriek. You don't know what it's like. Most women say no way. It's the only reason I kept doing guys. Men? They're more game once they get a taste. Gay guys act giddy over big cock. It's a turnoff to have my cock become their only interest. It's enough to make me want to pass on guys, but then I remember the shrieks."

"There's a lot more to life than sex," I said, having experience with both sides of the equation.

"Yeah, but then when I meet a good looking guy like you. It reminds me of when I was young and my only thoughts were of boys."

"You are young and you are with Agnes. I just slept on your couch one night."

"Yeah, I know. You can get a shower once we get back. I'll talk to Agnes about cooling it. I don't want her to run you off. You're good to talk to. Gay guys are always nicest, especially after they get a peak at my poker."

"Sal!"

"Sorry," he said. "Can't help myself. You think I ought to dump Agnes?"

"Well, you asking me if I'd date her, the answer is no way. What you need is another matter. If she is there to satisfy your needs and other women aren't, you might want to hold onto her. I'm not into throwing people away."

"Couples are different. Once a couple runs their course, it's a downer. Besides, she wears me out, Billie. Never thought I would say that. Most girls are ready to quit after we go around once or twice. Agnes never quits, until I'm unconscious."

"Sounds good for you. Why are you telling me all this?"

"I don't know. I haven't had a guy to talk to in a long time. I haven't had a guy my own age to talk to since forever."

Sal didn't have a lot to say when he wasn't talking about his dick or his prowess. I knew it was for my benefit and he figured he'd wear me down in time. I wasn't being dishonest. I liked Sal. A year ago I'd have gone with him in a minute. Now, it was different. I wasn't a kid. I wasn't alone in the world. I didn't need to see his dick or sleep with him to find him interesting. He sure knew his way around a kitchen. I wondered if I was going to end up weighing a ton. Between Carl's Mama and now Sal, I was always hungry and sniffing the air for what came next.

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