On his way, in the middle of the beach, Shane saw a tall, handsome black man wearing a beige linen suit. It seemed strange this man would be on the beach in such formal clothing. The white starched shirt contrasted starkly against his dark face. He was completely bald, and his head shone in the sunlight. He appeared to be reading a French newspaper while standing up for some odd reason. Shane knew it was French because he had seen Gus read French newspapers. Shane often dreamed of being with a man like this one. The man reminded him of Gus in more ways than his reading material. He had fantasized about submitting completely, being a slave to a strong dark man like Gus. Thoughts of this man making all sorts of demands on him excited and aroused Shane. He would love a man like this to tie him up and punish him until he was permitted to come.
Shane stepped in front of him to gain his attention, but the man ignored him as if he weren’t there at all. He figured this guy stood around six-foot-two and he was built sturdy like a football player. The man’s physical presence somehow comforted him, and gave him hope he might be able to survive in California. Shane wanted the dark stranger to at least acknowledge his existence.
“Bonjour, monsieur.” Shane didn’t know much French, but he attempted to impress the stranger with the little he did know.
As the man lowered the newspaper, he smiled, sending Shane’s pulse racing. No words. He then lifted the newspaper and continued reading. Well, the stranger’s smile was something, but not quite what Shane had in mind. He wanted to hear the man’s voice, and it didn’t matter what language he spoke. Shane needed the man to speak, to verify that he was real, and not a figment of Shane’s lonely imagination.
“Excuse me. Do you speak English?” Shane took a deep breath and braced himself for the response.
The man lowered his paper again, and said, “I do.”
Shane licked his swollen lips, trying to draw his attention and lure the man in.The man lifted up the newspaper to read once again and ignored Shane. He had the same accent as Gus, who was from Martinique. Shane scanned the newspaper and noticed Fort de France in bold letters printed across the top. Gus often spoke of that city in Martinique. Hope this guy’s not related to Gus. Or worse, that Gus sent him to find me. No, he would’ve come after me himself, not send someone else. Gus always took care of his own shit.
Shane didn’t like this man ignoring him, so he kicked some sand on the man’s shoe. He wanted the man to talk to him. Just the anticipation Shane felt being near him was worth the risk. This man made him feel the way he used to feel when Gus was near. He knew it was wrong, wanting a stranger this way, but he wanted the man to touch him.
“Excuse me, do you have a light?” Shane asked pulling out a cigarette.
The man lowered the paper and glared at him. He removed the cigarette from Shane’s lips.“Smoking is bad for your health.”
Shane reached for his cigarette in the man’s hand, but the man crumbled it to pieces.“Hey! Why the fuck did you crush my cigarette?”
“Do not smoke, boy.” The man returned to his newspaper and disregarded Shane.
Feeling hurt and rejected, Shane shuffled past the man and entered the men’s room for a shower. The beautiful man definitely didn’t want to talk to him. Though he’d certainly had a strong reaction to Shane’s cigarette. He’s nothing like Gus after all. He probably noticed Shane’s disheveled appearance and didn’t want anything to do with him. Shane felt filthy; as if he were covered in mud. And rejected like an unwanted puppy in a pet store, the same way The Reverend had always made him feel. The man had declined further interaction with him, which deepened Shane’s loneliness. He had no idea why the apparent rejection of this one stranger made him feel so depressed.
The men’s room floor was wet and stunk of piss. He quickly undressed in the shower and threw his clothes on the bench outside the stall. He ran the hot water and began washing himself with soap he had stolen from a convenience store. He had to use it on his hair, which he hated doing, but he had to be frugal with his money. Up to this point, he’d only spent cash on cigarettes, food, and gas for the bike. Thoughts of the man crushing his cigarette came to his mind. He left Shane feeling irritated, but also liking how the man’s actions made him feel safe in a way. As if maybe the man cared about his well-being. As short on cash as Shane was, he really didn’t need to see one of his limited supply of cigarettes wasted.
Someone with heavy footsteps walked into the men’s room. The stall door locks were broken, and Shane’s stomach dropped when his stall door creaked open. The dark stranger in the suit stood there. Shane froze, unable to move.
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