John D. Ritchie
I watch him walk down the ward out of the corner of my eye. I'm not
shy, but I don't want him to see me looking. I don't want him to see my
need. Angie in the bed across and down from me isn't so fussy.
"Hey, lover, over here."
I'm embarrassed for him. He looks like a classy guy. He doesn't need this:
low-lifes yelling at him like hookers desperate to turn a trick. I want
to yell at Angie. 'Shut your stupid mouth.' But I don't want to reveal
my own desire.
The guy walks over to Angie. "Hi. I'm looking for Robert Joople? They
told me he was on this ward."
Angelo is seriously pissed. His expression is pure malice as he points
"Hi, I'm David Mandell."
I stare at his outstretched hand.
"Look," I mutter, "I'm full-blown..."
He pushes his hand towards me. He really wants to do this! I wipe my
palm on my PJs, then take his hand. His grip is gentle, but firm, and
he holds my hand longer than necessary, giving the gentlest of squeezes
before he lets go.
"Mind if I sit down?"
I shake my head. What a time to lose the power of speech!
"I'm a big fan. I love your books."
My books, ha! Old news. I haven't written anything worth a damn in
"I used to read them in the Seminary."
"Your books spoke to me. Talked to me of a world I didn't know, wasn't
allowed to know. Your books explained to me what I was. Helped me
understand. As soon as I could I took up work outside. Missionary work.
There I found others like me and we read your books together, late into
He pauses, but I just nod, I can follow the sub-text.
"When I came back from Bolivia, I left the Seminary and tried to find
someone to be with. Someone who would fill the void in me. But even as
I looked, I knew I was just spinning my wheels, there was only ever
going to be you."
He reaches out and takes my hand, stroking my knuckles with his thumb.
"Robert, I love you. I love what you are, who you are, and I love the
way you think. I read your article in 'Out' over and over. That
line 'to stand strong against the waves of hate that try to drown us
and make the world clean for a bright new sin...'
There's a long pause
"I have a place, up-state, very quiet. We could be together there..."
"...for as long as it takes." I say.
He nods. So do I.
First published: February, 2006
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