After that, Gage told Donny he didn’t want to see him anymore.
Donny just stood there gaping at him, with his arms spread, palms forward. “How could all this happen in just one weekend?”
Gage smiled. He crossed to where Donny stood and reached for his large hand. “This didn’t just happen in one weekend. We’ve been nothing more than fuck buddies for a long time. You’re never going to come out of the closet, and I want more. I want a partner I can spend the rest of my life with. I want a partner who is willing to admit he’s proud to be gay. I want it to happen sooner, not later. I’m not getting any younger.”
Donny gulped. “I’m just not ready. You know that.”
Gage squeezed his hand. “Yes, I know that. I’m not blaming you and I’m not mad at you. We all come to terms with who we are when the time is right. I didn’t officially come out of the closet until I moved to New York five years ago. My parents died without knowing I was gay. But I’ve met someone wonderful and I’m in love with him.” This was the first time Gage realized they’d never actually discussed their pasts in depth like most lovers do. He knew he was doing the right thing.
“It’s this guy who was run over?”
“Yes,” Gage said. “I can’t explain it. We just met. But I’m in love with him.”
“I think I heard about that accident on the police radio this weekend,” Donny said. “He was just getting off work and they took him to Downtown Hospital? He was a foreign guy. They posted his face on the news because they didn’t have anyone to contact.”
Gage nodded. “That’s him. His name is Daksha Kalita. It was love at first sight.”
Donny laughed. “There is no such thing. Stop being ridiculous. You know how I feel about you. I gave you the diamond ankle bracelet to prove it.”
Gage crossed to a stool in the kitchen and lifted his right leg. Then he removed the diamond ankle bracelet and handed it to Donny. “Here,” Gage said, “I wouldn’t feel right keeping it.”
At first, Donny refused to take the ankle bracelet. But when Gage explained he wasn’t going to change his mind and that he didn’t want to see Donny again, he finally took the bracelet and slipped it into his coat pocket. Before he left, he took Gage in his arms and rubbed his back. “I’m going to miss you. If this thing doesn’t work out with the taxi driver, call me.”
Gage knew he’d never call Donny again, at least not for sex. He was tired of sneaking around with a closeted gay cop. He wanted more in life, and he knew he’d found it with Daksha. He knew this with every single living cell in his body. But he didn’t want to be cruel to Donny. In more ways than one, because he knew what it was like to live in the closet, with all those fears and worries, he understood Donny better than anyone. So he smiled and said, “I hope we can still be friends.”
Donny reached down and grabbed his ass one last time. On his way out, he looked over his shoulder and said, “I hope it all works out for you. I mean that.”
Gage smiled. “I know you do. Thanks. I hope things work out for you, too.”
After Donny left, Gage checked his voice mail. The first three messages were from the landlord. He spoke with an annoyed tone, as if he didn’t understand why Gage wasn’t answering his phone or checking his e-mail. At first, Gage leaned into the counter and groaned. But when he heard why his landlord was calling his shoulders went up and he smiled. Evidently, something had gone wrong with the landlord’s sister’s impending marriage—the landlord didn’t give any details—and the landlord’s niece wasn’t going to take over Gage’s apartment after all. He said Gage could stay there forever if he wanted, then asked if Gage would call him back as soon as possible.
Though Gage had to admit he was relieved about the apartment, he didn’t call the landlord back right away. He decided to wait until he saw Luis, and let the landlord wonder. He’d been the model tenant since he’d moved there and the landlord had treated him poorly and given him very little notice about leaving. The nasty old queen deserved to sweat a little.
Gage listened to his other messages. There were three more, all from his boss at the strip club. The boss wanted him to come back to work. He said he’d give him a huge raise and let him work any hours he wanted just as long as he promised he’d come back to work as soon as possible. Of course Gage’s boss didn’t say why he wanted Gage back so badly. But Gage had a feeling he knew why. Gage had always treated the older clients at the strip club with respect and dignity. He’d never given them attitude and he’d always let them fondle him anywhere they wanted to fondle him. The younger male strippers in their late teens, the ones with attitude and that unwarranted sense of entitlement that seemed so popular nowadays, didn’t do this. They treated the older men with disdain, and wouldn’t even let the old guys touch their legs. But not Gage. He’d let the old guys put their hands right down his pants as many times as they wanted to. Once in a while he’d even wrap his legs around their shoulders, pull down the front of his G-string, and rub his naked crotch in their faces. He liked seeing them go home with smiles on their faces, and he knew it was all harmless. There was no sex involved. In fact, the older guys treated Gage so well, and tipped him so well, he thought of them more as friends than as customers.
Gage knew his boss wasn’t going to find this trait in one of the younger guys he’d hired. If Gage’s boss was lucky, the younger guys he’d hired would last six months. Most of the time they moved on to different jobs within three months, as if stripping was beneath them. They were all wannabe fashion models with expensive portfolios no one cared about. They all had delusions of grandeur that wouldn’t get them anywhere but the unemployment line. They were all going to be rich and famous, all going to be stars one day. But Gage, who was a little older, knew life didn’t work out that way.
Gage didn’t return the phone call this his boss right away either. He decided to let him wait like the landlord. He set the phone back down on the counter and braced himself for the inevitable. Then he took a deep breath, walked outside, and went up to the third-floor apartment where Luis was still locked up in a kinky sex cage.
The moment the door opened, Gage heard Luis speak. “So you’re finally back. I was wondering whether or not you’d show up again. When you didn’t show up this morning, I figured you decided to leave me here to rot.” The country western music was still blaring in the background. A male singer this time, something about not being as good as he once was but still being good once in a while. This made little sense to Gage.