By the time Luis returned to the auditorium, there was a man in a light suit on the stage making some kind of announcement. Luis's head was still fuzzy and he couldn't make out what the guy was saying. He felt more nauseous than before and he couldn't take a deep breath no matter how hard he tried. He had to hold the backs of chairs while he walked to keep his balance. Something was very wrong and it had nothing to do with the martinis. Though Luis wasn't a drinker, he knew how to hold his alcohol and he knew when he'd had enough. He'd been sick before from too much drinking and that's not what this was like. This time he felt feverish and lopsided, as if the world had begun to tilt sideways and he wasn't sure how long he could hold on. He wondered if Kyle had slipped something into his drink when he wasn't looking. He had to get to Jase; he had to get out of there fast and get some fresh air.

When he reached the table, Jase's name was announced. They wanted Jase to sing something with a group of other men. Jase had mentioned he used to sing in high school, but he usually brushed it off when Luis asked him about it. Luis glanced at Jase and tried to get his attention. His eyes felt swollen and he had trouble focusing. Jase was too busy laughing with his high school friends to know what was happening with Luis. The last thing Luis remembered before he fell to the floor was watching Jase turn and leave the table. He was heading to the stage at the front of the auditorium and everyone was applauding him. After that, everything went blank.

The last thing Luis heard was when someone shouted, “Quick, call 911. He hit his head and he's not breathing. I think he's dead.”

Chapter Three

When Luis opened his eyes, he heard a strange woman ask, “What happened to him?”

From what Luis could tell, he was stretched out on a long thin bed with metal sides and starchy white sheets. His head felt fuzzy and his mouth dry. He wasn't wearing any jewelry, not even his wedding rings. There was a slight ringing in his ears that wouldn't go away no matter how many times he forced a yawn. The sage green room smelled like disinfectant, rubbing alcohol, and witch hazel; there was soft music that sounded like the theme song from the old 80's movie Terms of Endearment coming through the open window from somewhere far away.

A deep voice said, “I was on my way back from taking individual photos with the football team and found him in the auditorium. I carried him right over here. I have no idea who he is or what happened to him. I've never seen him before.”

Luis blinked. That was Jase's voice. Why would Jase have to carry him anywhere? But when Luis tried to lift his head and climb off the bed to see what was happening, he felt dizzy and knocked a tin container of cotton balls off the metal table beside the bed.

A plump middle aged woman with a tight home permanent walked over to the bed and stared down at Luis. She wore large red eyeglasses and bright red lipstick. “You'll be fine,” she said. “You took a little spell and passed out.” The woman's puffy, curly hair reminded Luis of Jase's grandmother's large standard poodle, Sweetie-Pie.

What on earth was a “spell?” Luis had no idea who this woman was. He tried to get up again and the room started to spin.

Jase walked over to the bed and glanced down at Luis. He asked the woman, “Do you think he should go to the hospital? He looks a little pale to me.”

Luis wondered what kind of game Jase was playing on him. Jase was wearing the blue and white football uniform Luis had seen in the photo and his hair was much longer. He didn't have those cute little lines around his mouth anymore nor the flecks of gray hair in his sideburns. And the small scar on his forehead from the time he fell at Cider Mill Farm was gone. Luis's stomach tightened; there was something seriously wrong happening.

“I'm not sure yet,” the woman said. “We might have to call an ambulance to be on the safe side. I'm not even sure he's a student here.” At a second glance, she looked like some kind of a nurse, wearing one of those white uniforms Luis hadn't seen since he was a little kid. But that was impossible. The nurses nowadays wore those loose, baggy, pajama type affairs, with running shoes and tons of pockets.

If Luis had been feeling better and he hadn't been so terrified, he would have smiled. They thought he was in his teens ... a student ... and he loved when people thought he was younger than he really was. This was the ultimate compliment for a male model ... or any gay man. He knew all those healthy foods he eaten and all those long runs in Riverside Park would pay off one day. But when Luis heard the words ambulance and hospital, he concentrated hard on lifting his head and sitting up straight. He knew he wasn't sick enough to go to the hospital, and he had no idea what was happening to him. Maybe Jase wasn't playing a joke on him; maybe this was real.

He figured he'd better get up fast or he'd wind up in the back of an ambulance answering a ton of questions. “I'm fine,” he said, as he flung his legs over the side of the bed. “I just tripped and fell. No harm done.”

The nurse smiled. “See, I knew he'd be fine.” Then she helped Luis off the bed until he was standing on his own two feet and asked, “Are you a student here? I don't think I've seen you before.”

Jase said, “I've never seen him before. And I've been here for four years now.” He stared at Luis with a sincere, fixed gaze.

Luis was still too confused to process anything. For some reason Luis couldn't explain, he knew Jase but Jase didn't know him. Evidently, this wasn't a joke. He glanced around the room and noticed a plaque on the wall with Jase's high school's name written across the bottom. Above the plaque, he saw a huge calendar. The month said it was June; the year below the month read “l986” in bold black print. Luis leaned forward and gaped at the calendar with his palm pressed to his chest and wondered what the hell he was doing there.

The nurse must have noticed Luis's horrified expression. She placed her hand on Luis's arm and said, “Maybe we should call an ambulance. I'm getting a little worried. Maybe he fell and hit his head and he has amnesia.”

Oh, not that amnesia bullshit. Jase had experienced amnesia once in Amish Country and Luis couldn't handle that nonsense all over again. Once in a lifetime was enough. Luis had to think fast. He didn't have any trouble remembering who he was or where he'd come from. In fact, he knew exactly who he was, where he was, and who he was with. He just didn't know how the hell he'd arrived there. “I'm fine,” he said, with a weak voice. “I was visiting relatives and decided to take a walk around the school. I'm from Tennessee and my school got out last week for the summer.” This sounded weak, but plausible. And he knew when people heard things like this they rarely probed with more questions because they didn't want to get involved. Copyright 2016 - 2023