Marco in the Park
by Nick Brady
It was well after 2:00 in the morning by the time we left the park and got to my apartment. Marco had slumped over against the door and was sound asleep. He was worn out after a very busy night.
I looked over at him and found it hard to believe he was on the way home with me. His white shirt was open at the front, revealing his smooth brown body. His long black hair had fallen over part of his face and his head was nodding up and down with the motion of the car. I puzzled over who had seduced who. Certainly it was mutual.
"Hey, wake up Marco. We are here." I had to shake him a little to rouse him.
He raised his head and looked around as if uncertain of his location. Then he looked over at me and smiled. "Are we home?"
"Well, we are at my place," I said. "It's home for right now at least."
He opened the car door and stumbled behind me as I walked up the steps to my second floor apartment. It wasn't much, just a one bedroom, but it was mine. I held the door for him as he walked in and looked around.
"Where is the bathroom?" he asked. I pointed to the door to the bedroom with adjoining bath. He went in without a word and noisily relieved himself into the toilet. From there he walked over to the double bed, shucked his clothes and flopped down.
"There is only the one bed if that's OK," I told him.
"It's a lot more comfortable than a picnic table," he said, scooting over to the far side. It seemed that we had already established the sleeping arrangements.
I emptied my own bladder and called from the bathroom. "I'm pretty stinky. Do you need to shower?" I asked him, starting the water. When I stepped in, he followed.
"There isn't much room in here," I told him.
"Room enough," he replied and stood under the water long enough to wet himself down. "Got any soap?"
I handed him a container of bath gel and he traded places with me so I could get under the water. He lathered up his long hair then used the suds to wash his body. We traded places and he rinsed while I washed. It was pretty efficient. While I rinsed, he stepped out, found the towel and began to dry himself. When I stepped out behind him, he handed the towel to me and went over to stretch out on the bed.
When I joined him he mumbled. "I'm really tired." I lay down beside him and we let ourselves air dry. When I turned towards him he was already asleep. It was warm in the room but there was a little air moving in from the open window. I pushed the spread down, threw the sheet over us, and joined him in slumber. I was tired too.
In the morning I was awakened by the sound of a trash truck juggling dumpsters in the parking lot. The bedside clock said 9:10 and he was still asleep. I got up, relieved myself and went to the little kitchen where I started to fry bacon. The smell revived him.
I heard him using the toilet and after a few minutes he wandered in wearing his boxer shorts. He had found my hairbrush and his long hair looked almost respectable.
"Good morning," he said, and sat down at the little kitchen table.
"Do you drink coffee?" I asked, and he nodded. "Milk and sugar?" I asked, and he nodded again.
I poured him a cup and set it on the table in front of him, then pulled a carton of milk from the refrigerator and set it down next to the coffee. The sugar bowl was already there.
"Fix it how you like it," I told him. Then I poured myself a cup and sat down across from him.
He poured in a healthy dollop of milk, added two spoons of sugar and stirred thoughtfully.
"Don't you need to call your mother?" I asked.
He shook his head. "She won't worry about me. I'll go by the house sometime today and pick up my stuff."
"Are you planning on moving in with me?"
He blew on his coffee and took a sip. "If you'll let me." He said without looking up.
"We ought to talk about this," I said. "You can't just walk away without your mother's consent."
He sipped some more coffee. "Would you let me live with you if it was OK with my mother?" Now his eyes met mine.
I sat back. "Marco. We have known each other for less than a day. Last night in the park was fantastic, but you don't know me at all," I paused. "And I don't know you either. Living together can be pretty complicated."
He kept his eyes on me. "Would you?" He repeated.
I sighed. "So why are you so keen on moving in with me? Or is the question, why are you so keen on leaving your mother?"
"I told you last night," he shrugged his shoulders and sipped some more coffee.
"Maybe I was distracted last night. Tell me again."
Marco leaned back in his chair, flipped his hair back from his face and took a deep breath. "Because my mother is a drunk. Because she shacks up with a different sleazebag every night, and some of them think I am part of the deal." Now he was looking at me very intently. "She is a prostitute, Marty, that's how she makes her living. She's a drunk and a whore and I don't want to live there any more." His hands were shaking.
I could not help but be moved by his situation. "But why me? I mean, am I just the first available train ride out of hell?"
He scowled at me. "No." Then he thought for a minute and looked very sad. "I'm not a whore. I didn't have sex with you last night just to get you to take me in. You were really nice to me and I liked you. I thought you liked me too."
Now I felt bad. "I'm sorry Marco. I guess that sounded cold. I do like you, a lot. It is hard to explain how I feel, but this is awfully fast. I can't just take a kid in off the street and claim you like a stray puppy."
He finished his coffee and I got up and poured him another. I broke some eggs in the pan of bacon grease and asked him. "How do you like your eggs?"
"I don't care as long as the whites aren't runny," he said, and began to doctor another cup of coffee with milk and sugar.
I did them over medium, put them on a plate with some of the bacon and pulled a couple of canned biscuits from the toaster oven. "You like grape jelly?" I asked.
He nodded. "You got some butter?"
"Yes. Well it's margarine."
"Same thing," he shrugged, then said. "Thanks."
I fixed myself some eggs, made a plate and sat down with him.
"Chow down." I told him.
We ate in silence, then I got the coffee pot and poured us both another cup, tearing off a couple of paper towels and laying them out for napkins.
"I might be willing to let you stay here for awhile, but you have to let your mother know where you are, and she will have to agree to it," I explained.
He gave me a hopeful look. "I will do anything you want if you will let me stay with you."
"What do you mean by that? Like you will do sex with me in exchange for room and board?" I asked.
The hurt look came back. "No, not just that. I mean I can help you cook and clean and stuff. I do have a job, you know, and I can pay for my own food."
I took a deep breath. "Probably what I should do is take you straight home, but I won't do that right now. If you can get your mother to OK this arrangement, I might let you stay for awhile to see how it goes."
He looked into his coffee cup. "Do you like me? I mean, would you like it if I was to live with you?"
I swallowed some coffee. "Yes, Marco, I do like you. I think I would like for you to be here. But this is awfully quick. Besides, you are quite a bit younger than me. How old are you anyway/"
He looked down for a moment then said. "I will be 17 in October."
"Oh really?" I said with surprise. I assumed you were 18 if you were working in a place that served liquor."
Marco shrugged. "I'm just a waiter, I don't tend bar."
"Look, that's not good. I'm gay and there are problems with letting a 16 year old kid move in with me. We might both get in trouble."
"I promise I won't be any trouble," he said. I can help you with things, and...." He teared up on me.
"No, I don't mean that. I mean legal troubles. Suppose your mother said yes and then decided to make trouble for us. I don't know what she might do."
He nodded with understanding. "I see what you mean," he said. "But she knows I am going to leave her. I have moved out a couple of times and she didn't really care. The problem was that I didn't have a safe place to go and had to come back after a week or so of living on the street. I feel safe with you." He played with the spoon in his coffee cup. "I told you Marty. I trust you."
"You don't know that. Maybe you can trust me, maybe you can't." I tried to make him understand.
"Can't I trust you? Will you hurt me or abuse me?" His hands were shaking again.
It was an honest question, and deserved an honest answer. "No, I won't hurt you or abuse you. Of course not. I couldn't do that to anyone, least of all you," I sighed. "It seems that I have a thing for you Marco. I think I could grow to be very fond of you. I guess I already am."
I laid my hands flat on the table. "You know, there is also the possibility that you might hurt me. If I give you a place to live, I might just end up giving my heart to you, and that would make me very vulnerable. I am alone and lonely to tell you the truth. When this beautiful boy walks into my life, I don't know what will happen."
He gave me a very sweet smile. "Do you really think I am beautiful?"
"Oh yes. I think you are beautiful, sweet, intelligent and very charming. Maybe I have been looking for you, or someone like you, for a long time. You walked up with that menu last night and my heart almost jumped out of my chest."
"I knew that. I felt the same way," he looked very hopefully. "I felt safe with you as soon as you spoke to me. You know, it is hard for me to feel safe with most people. I have been messed with a lot, but I just knew I could trust you."
He reached across the table and placed his hands on top of mine. "Then will you give me a chance? If I can get my mother to agree to let me stay here, will you let me?"
All my defenses were crumbling. "OK, we can try it out for a week or two. But you have to stay in school and keep your job. You have to stay out of trouble."
Now he was smiling big time. "Oh, I will," he promised. "I will make you proud of me, really I will. You'll see. You will be so glad that you let me live with you. I promise!"
I sighed and shook my head. "I may regret this, but yes. The answer is yes. But you have to get permission. And the arrangement is not just based on us having sex." I squeezed his hands. "We need to know a lot more about each other. There is a lot you don't know about me, and not all of it is good."
Marco gave me a sly grin. "I bet its not all bad either. I'm sorry, but I have decided that you are a good person, and it will be hard to get me to change my mind." Then he jumped up and cleared the dishes from the table and started running water in the sink.
He washed and I dried while we talked. "So what happened to your dad?"
"Are we going to be polite, or honest?" he asked.
"Honesty is the best policy," I answered. "If we are going to trust each other, we are going to have to be honest."
"Well, to be honest, I don't know who my father is. Some guy she shacked up with I guess." He wrung out the dish cloth and draped it over the faucet. "I think he was Indian, like Native American."
"Well, he was a good looking devil," I said. That got a little bit of a smile.
"You got any more coffee?" he asked.
I started another pot and we sat down at the table. I fished the cigarettes from my pocket and we both lit one up. "No brothers or sisters?" I wondered.
"Not that I know of." He kept his eyes on the table. "I'm not sure."
"You paint a pretty dark picture here." I said.
He shrugged. "I'm being honest."
I waited a minute then asked. "Do you do drugs?"
He glanced up at me. "Not really. I have smoked some weed, but nothing else. I'm kind of scared of it really."
"You should be," I told him. "I guess one of my conditions is no drugs."
"That's not a problem," he nodded. "Anything else? I mean any other conditions?"
I shook my head. "Not many. Help me out with basic chores and stay out of trouble. I guess school is over for the summer, how are you with school?"
"Pretty good. I mean, I make pretty good grades, A's and B's mostly. I kind of like school."
"Have you ever been in any trouble? Like legal trouble?" I wondered.
"Like with the cops?" He looked up at me. "No, not like that. I have been sent to detention for being mouthy a few times at school, but nothing serious."
I gave him a straight look. "Is this going to work, Marco?"
He returned the look. "I am really going to try hard, Marty. I won't let you regret this."
I started to feel better about things. "I'm no angel myself, if you want to know."
He looked back down at his coffee. "What do I need to know?"
I leaned back and considered what I wanted to tell him. "My mother is a good person, but she married the wrong guy, I guess. My dad drank a lot. He was OK when he was sober, but when he drank he was a asshole. Mom divorced him when I was twelve, but I remember he would slap her around sometimes. He didn't like me much either."
"Did he hurt you?" Marco had a knowing look.
"He didn't beat me really, but he yelled at me a lot, and told me how worthless I was."
"Why did he think you were worthless?" He looked puzzled.
"I don't know. I didn't live up to his expectations I guess," I shrugged. "I played soccer mostly to try and impress him, but I was more interested in music."
I let that soak in for a minute. "Was there ever a father in your life?"
"No, not really. There were always a lot of men around, but they never stayed very long. He recalled. "Some of them were nice to me and some were not, but I was never close to any of them. Sometimes we would move in with one of them for awhile. We moved around a lot until Mom got her own apartment."
My heart went out to him. "Does she love you? Do you feel like your mother loves you?"
Marco looked down and almost flinched. "I guess. Really, I think the only things she likes are money and whiskey. I was always kind of in the way. I mean, having a little kid around was bad for business." He paused. "Except for the guys who were into little boys."
I frowned. "Was there much of that?"
He sighed. "Not so much. I got good at disappearing. I had a friend who had a nice family. If it got real bad I would go over there. His dad was real nice. I could show up at 11 o'clock at night and they would put me to bed. No questions asked."
"Good friends are hard to come by," I agreed. "It is good to have somebody you can trust."
He gave me a searching look. "When you find somebody you think you can trust, you have to hang on to them."
"Yeah, I guess you do,"I said. "Maybe I'm beginning to understand you better. My mother is a real sweetheart. She always accepted me and encouraged me. I owe her a lot."
Marco nodded. "I guess you were lucky." He looked thoughtful. "Did you say you went to college? Was that hard?"
"It was a lot of work. Do you think you want to go to college?" I wondered.
"I will be a senior next year and a lot of kids are talking about where they are going to college. I can't see that happening for me."
"Why not? You said you made good grades."
Marco made a little circular movement with his thumb and fingers that indicated money. "No way."
"Your mom couldn't help you?" I asked. He replied with a short laugh.
I considered that for a moment. "Well, there are other ways; scholarships, grants and stuff." He looked away like I was speaking Greek.
He folded his hands on top of the table and looked at me. It was his turn to ask. "Is this going to work?"
It was my turn to answer. "I hope so. I really hope so, Marco."
It was getting close to noon and starting to get warm. I had no real plans for the day but wondered about Marco.
"Are you working today?"
"Yes. I just work weekend evenings, Friday to Sunday, 4:00 to 10:00. School just got out and that was what I could find. I am still looking."
"You are supposed to be eighteen to handle liquor," I reminded him.
"I lied," he said. "Luigi is kind of sloppy on fact checking."
"Well, I won't tell if you won't," I laughed. That got me his first real smile of the day.
"I better get you home so you can face the music," I said. "If you can get this past your mother I can come back for you later. You got a phone?"
"It's in my pants," he said. "I need your number."
"All I have is a cell phone. Give me your number and I will call you and you can save it." He did, I did, and it rang in the bedroom. He went to retrieve it and came back in a few minutes with his clothes on.
"I guess I'm ready," he said. "Lets get this over with. If I'm lucky she will already be drunk and won't argue with me."
I picked up my keys and we walked down to the parking lot. "Nice car," e said. "Is this a Camry?"
"Yes. It's 5 years old but pretty decent. You saw it last night," I reminded him.
"It was dark, and I was distracted," he shrugged.
I lived near Luigi's but about 10 miles from his place. We passed the old park where we had stopped the night before. For the first time I saw where he lived. It was a long block of apartments surrounded by a chain link fence and very little shrubbery.
"Section 8 housing," he said by way of explanation. "I will call you later."
"Should I go in and meet your mother?"
He just laughed. "I'll call you. It won't be long."
I watched him walk inside and wondered how my life would change. For the better, I hoped.
I stopped by the supermarket on the way back. I figured I should lay in some groceries if I was to be feeding two. I wasn't a bad cook, but he wouldn't be eating steak. I guessed him to be a hamburger, pizza kind of guy. I hoped he liked pasta. I walked out with enough to last us for a week or so.
By the time I got back to the apartment and had things put away, my cell phone rang. It was Marco.
"I'm ready. Can you come and get me?"
"That didn't take long."
"I don't have much stuff," he said.
"Did you tell her where you were going?" I asked.
"Yes. I couldn't remember your address but I gave her your phone number," he assured me. "She will probably lose it, but I gave it to her."
"Have you got your stuff?"
"Yep. I have everything. I don't plan to come back."
"What if this doesn't work out?"
He paused. "Then I will go someplace else. I'm through here."
"OK. Give me 30 minutes. Where will you be?"
"Out by the street. Make it 20, please." He clicked off.
I looked around my little apartment and wondered where to put an extra person. It was barely large enough for me. I wondered if I could trade my old sofa for a futon or something. He sounded like he was in a hurry so I left those decisions for later and went down to the car.
Twenty minutes later I pulled up in front of his mother's apartment. Sitting on the curb was Marco with a backpack and a trash bag.
"Is that it?" I asked as he pitched his stuff into the back seat.
"That's it, let's go," he said abruptly.
"You sound pissed."
"I came in without knocking and disturbed her with a customer." He was looking out the window with a scowl on his face.
"Did you tell her where you were going?"
"I told her I was leaving and she yelled good riddance at me. I wrote your phone number on a piece of paper and left it on her table."
"Is that all you have?" I pointed at the back seat.
"That's it. When you move around a lot, you travel light."
We rode the rest of the way in silence. When we got to my apartment he trudged up the stairs with all his worldly possessions. When I unlocked the door he tossed them inside and sat down on my sofa. He leaned over with his hair streaming down around his face and tried not to cry.
I resisted the temptation to sit down and put my arms around him. He was trying to hold himself together and I didn't think he wanted sympathy. "Let's get you settled." I said. "What do you have?"
He tossed his hair back and began to open his bundles. "Not much, really." He sniffed.
In the trash bag was a shabby assortment of jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, mostly imprinted with sports teams logos. He was still wearing the black jeans and white shirt from the night before. In the backpack was a second pair of sneakers, some socks and underwear, and an item that he reluctantly pulled out last. It was a tattered teddy bear.
"Don't laugh." He warned me.
"Hey, everybody needs a friend." I told him gently.
He sat staring at the teddy. "I've had this a long time."
I moved over next to him and started folding the clothing, putting it in piles.
"I can empty one of my dresser drawers for this. It won't take much room."
He sighed. "I'm sorry. I hate drama and I know you don't need this."
"That's OK. We will have to share everything, including a little drama from time to time."
I gathered up his clothes and took them into the bedroom. After I had put them away I came back in and took the teddy.
"Let's put him in here," I said, going back to the bed and laying it on the pillows. "He looks comfortable here, don't you think?"
Marco threw his arms around me and stifled a cry. "Thank you Marty." Was all he said.
He sat down on the bed and I asked. "Are you working tonight?"
"Yes," he nodded. "Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 4:00 to 10:00."
"It's almost 3:00. We need to get you ready. Are those your work clothes?" indicating the wrinkled jeans and shirt he was still wearing.
He looked down at himself. "I look pretty bad, don't I?"
"There is a laundry room downstairs, but we don't have time to wash this stuff right now. Take them off and we'll see what we can do with them."
He obediently undressed and handed the clothes to me, standing in only his boxer shorts. I shook them out and decided they were salvageable. "Do you know how to iron?" I asked him. He nodded.
I pulled an ironing board from the bedroom closet and an iron from the shelf. I set up the board, plugged in the iron and handed it to him.
"Here, you don't have much time."
He began to press out his outfit, doing a credible job. I might have done better, but I wanted him to do it. He put them on, still warm.
"They give me the apron and bow tie," he explained.
"It's not far to Luigi's. I can take you. Do you want to call me when you are ready to come home?"
"Yes please," he smiled.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"You said home. Like I live here."
It had seemed very natural. "I did, didn't I? Well, let's see how this goes. Are you ready?"
He held out his arms for my inspection. "Will I do?"
"You look great Marco. Your shirt is a little dingy but we can wash it tomorrow." I corrected myself. "You can wash it tomorrow."
"I can do for myself," he assured me. He shoved his cell phone into his pocket and walked to the door.
We drove the short distance to the restaurant and he jumped out. "Thank you!" he called over his shoulder and rushed inside.
It had been a long time since breakfast and I was hungry. Back at the apartment I pulled some bologna and sliced cheese from the fridge and made myself a sandwich. I hoped he liked bologna because it would be a staple of his diet here. The fact that I was slender was more a matter of economics than self control. Our joint finances were something to be worked out. What if he turned out to be a freeloader?
Marco did not seem to want sympathy, but it was impossible to ignore how difficult his life had been up to now. In spite of that, he appeared to be basically functional. I reckoned he was a survivor, and a pretty strong kid. I had to respect that. It would serve neither of us for the relationship to be based on pity.
I wondered what sort of a relationship we might have. Certainly we would be lovers. Our first night in the park had left little doubt that we were sexually compatible. Right now, the difference in our ages was problematic, but in a couple of years that would resolve. I would prefer a relationship based on mutual agreement and respect. I didn't want a boy to raise, I wanted a partner. At the moment Marco just wanted a safe place to live. Time would tell where this went.
I put away the sandwich makings and looked around. The apartment was small, but Marco came with little baggage. The kitchen was clean. He had put away the dishes and wiped off the counter. That was a good sign. I went in the bedroom and looked at the teddy bear perched on my pillows and shook my head.
I didn't have a TV. I was not a big fan of television. Other than news and sports, I seldom cared to watch. I had a smartphone with Pandora on it and had purchased a nice little Bluetooth speaker that I could move from room to room. My tastes ran to classic rock and piano quintets and liked to have music in the background.
Did he say he played a violin? I wondered about his instrument. My piano playing was limited to a small electronic keyboard in a corner of my living room. Mother had a piano but there was no room for one here. She had bought this for me when I went off to college and I enjoyed playing on it when I had the time. Maybe we shared some common interests.
I stretched out on the bed and read the daily newspaper until I fell asleep.
When my phone rang I looked at the time. It was 9:30. "I will be ready at 10:00," Marco told me.
I pulled up in front of Luigi's just before 10:00, waited until he came out and climbed into the front seat. He handed me an envelope filled with cash and change. "Tips," he explained.
"That's yours," I said.
"It's ours. Put it somewhere and I will take what I need. I should get paid tomorrow night."
Another good sign. I drove us home.
"So how was your day?" I asked.
"It was OK, busy, so I made some good tips."
"Is Luigi's going to work out for you?"
"Sure. It's a cool place," he said. "I will make it work until something better comes along."
We went inside. He took off his clothes and asked. "Where do I put these?"
I pulled a partly filled laundry basket from the closet and pointed to it. "We can do some washing tomorrow." I told him. "You tired, hungry?"
"I had something to eat at Luigi's on my break. I could use a shower though." He raised his arm and sniffed his armpit. "I'm kind of stinky."
"Go shower while I find something for us to eat. I am kind of hungry myself." I said.
He padded off to the bathroom while I rummaged in the refrigerator and found a zip-lock bag with three slices of pizza from earlier in the week that I tossed in the microwave. In a few minutes he came out wearing a towel around his slender waist with damp hair hanging around his shoulders.
I laid out the pizza on a plate with two cans of soda. "Help yourself."
He opened a can of soda and picked up a slice. "The other two are yours."
We made the pizza disappear then he announced. "I need another job."
"I thought you liked Luigi's."
"No, not instead of Luigi's. I need second job. Three 6 hour days don't make me enough money."
"How much can you make waiting tables at Luigi's?" I asked, assuming it was OK to ask.
"It only pays $5 an hour, that's $30.00 a night. Mostly I will work for tips."
"How much are the tips?"
"Count it." He pointed to the envelope.
I poured the bills and change out on the table and counted it in front of him. I was surprised that it added up to $115.00 in bills, and another $7.50 in change.
"That's not bad," I exclaimed.
"That's not half of it. When the customer pays with a credit card, Luigi puts my part of the tab on my paycheck."
I laughed. "I think you are making more than I do."
"Probably not, but there are another 4 days in the week. What am I going to do all week?" He reasoned with me.
So much for the idea that he might be a freeloader.
"OK. I take a newspaper if you want to look through the classifieds," I offered.
"Tomorrow." He said. "I'm kind of tired if you are ready to go to bed."
"Listen, are you sure you want to share the same bed with me? I have a sofa, and I can trade it for a futon or something," I told him. "I mean, you might like a little privacy."
Marco gave me a nice smile. "Sleeping in the same bed with you is the nicest part of this arrangement. Are you ready for bed?"
"Since you put it that way, I think so," I agreed.
We walked into the bedroom and I stripped down to my shorts and t-shirt while he went into the bathroom to shower, brush his teeth and comb out his hair. He hung the wet towel on the towel rod and came to bed naked.
God, he was beautiful. "Do you always sleep nude?" I asked.
"Pretty much," he replied. "Do you always sleep with your clothes on?"
"Well, just shorts and t-shirt. But it is warm tonight," I smiled and removed them.
He was obviously getting an erection. I decided his way was best. I flipped out the room light and got in bed next to him. There was a little breeze coming from the window. He snuggled up next to me. His skin felt wonderful against mine. We kissed and pressed our erections together. This might work out.
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