Plan A: A Kiss at Night
If you do the right thing, even with the wrong attitude, you've still done the right thing
I had been in a police station once before. It was probably fourth grade when our class took a field trip to our local one, and if anything impressed me about the place it was the banality of it. There was nothing at all exciting about it, except seeing actual cells where they locked people up. The rest looked like a regular paperwork plaza, not a whole lot different than a grade school administrative area in layout and smell.
It was different for me the night officer Alvarez walked me into the Riverton Police Station, which seemed to be in a generally unfindable location on a side street near the university.
Regardless, I was plenty excited and scared upon my arrival, and the place seemed anything but banal. No, it was downright scary because I was there against my will, and I knew they had every right in the world to have me there against my will. Officer E. Alvarez was probably a nice enough guy. He had an obvious intelligence about him, and he seemed to strive to do things the way he was supposed to, and he managed to somewhat allay my fears that something drastic was going to happen to me.
What he couldn't do was change anything. To him, I was a runaway and now I was found, and he'd bring me to that place and let somebody else figure out the rest of it. He'd go back on duty, maybe hoping for something more interesting to happen. There were no arguments I could make, no line of reasoning that I could pursue to change my immediate fate. Officer Alvarez was doing his job, no more and no less, and probably performing it admirably.
We came into the main lobby of the building, and he indicated a bench. "Sit here, Evan. I'll be right back. Do you want a soda?"
I sat and looked up at him. He was a slab of humanity for sure, a good six-two and who knows what weight, but it was all in shape. He threatened to burst the shoulder seams of his uniform. I shook my head no and asked if there was any bottled water.
He smiled and nodded, "I'll get you one," and he wiggled his finger at me. "Don't run away, okay?"
I just looked at him, and he turned to leave. He walked up to a desk, and although I couldn't make out what he was saying to the woman there, she looked over at me curiously, and I saw a look of surprise on her face just before I could make out her mouth saying 'Blaine?' in a question.
I mulled over the possible significance of that. I knew that Harlan often had to bail out employees, and it was possible that this place was familiar with him just for that. I supposed that there were other possibilities, too, but I didn't really know what they might be. For all I knew, his father may have been a cop, or a brother was, or maybe he had his own criminal record.
There sure wasn't much going on. I wouldn't have minded seeing someone else being brought in, but it was just me, and all I did was sit on a bench while E. Alvarez and that woman talked.
When their conversation ended, Alvarez walked through a door, and in a few minutes came back with a bottle of spring water for me. He held it out and smiled, "Here, Evan. I'm going back on patrol, but officer Lindquist will be right here. He's the youth officer on duty tonight. Take my advice and tell him the truth, because he won't let the truth hurt you." His eyebrows went up, "Well, not unless it's a criminal truth and you're the criminal."
I snickered, and it was nice that this guy made me feel comfortable enough to do that under the circumstances. I took the water bottle and mumbled, "Okay, thanks. I sit right here?"
Alvarez smiled, "You can look around if you want, go outside even. You're not in trouble here, Evan, at least not yet. If you take off again and somebody has to go get you, they'll probably lock you up. For now, you're just a visitor ... a guest."
He turned and walked out, leaving me there not feeling a lot different, but a little calmer.
A visitor. Like hell. I was still scared, just not actively scared. My mind was making things seem all wrong, but my body had gone back to normal. It was all in my head now, and I wondered how I got found, wondered what was going to happen, but I was too much of a mental mess to make a lot of sense of the questions, or even to form questions that made sense in the first place.
When Harlan blew in through the door, I had to recognize him from the back because he went straight up to the front desk. When he'd asked the lady there something, she pointed at me, and Harlan turned around, looking as confused as I'd ever seen him.
He rushed over to me and asked, "What's going on? What'd you do?"
I looked away and mumbled, "Nothing. I'm not busted here, Harlan."
He sat down beside me, sounding exasperated, "What, then? Shane said you got pulled in for being a runaway? You told me you weren't a runaway."
I hung my head, tried to think. "I left home, Harlan. I left, not ran. I couldn't be there anymore, so I left. I was really surprised when I found they were looking for me, but I figured it was just my friends."
"Are you Evan?" a voice interrupted. Harlan and I both looked up to see an older cop standing there, in uniform, but middle-aged and with just a ring of gray hair around the sides of his head, a shine on top. His badge said 'F. Lindquist'.
I nodded, and he said, "Come with me, Evan." He looked at Harlan, "Are you his attorney?"
Harlan stood and held out his hand to shake, "No, Harlan Blaine. I'm his employer."
The guy obviously recognized the name, and hesitated, "I have to talk to Evan. I ... um ..."
Harlan looked at me and said, "I'll go with you if you want, Evan. If you want a lawyer, I'll get you one." He spread his hands a bit and added, "I'll just wait here, if that's what you want."
Lindquist said, "I don't see any need for a lawyer, at least not yet. Evan isn't charged with anything. We just want to find out why he's here, and hasn't been home for three months."
I looked at Harlan and suddenly realized what a good friend he had become, even as my employer. Genuine concern for me was all over his face, and I decided right away. "You may as well hear this, Harlan." I looked at Lindquist, "I want him with me."
Lindquist smiled tightly, "That's fine. Follow me."
I picked up my bag and followed, Harlan right beside me. Harlan was greeted warmly by almost everyone we passed in the short walk to the room Lindquist led us to. There was a table and six chairs there, and not much else. The officer put a pad and pencil in front of him, and we all sat down. He immediately wrote some things down, then he folded his hands and looked at me. "Just for the record, you're name is Evan Smiley?"
Your last address is 114 Stonycrest Road in Mt. Harmon?"
He went through date of birth, parent's names, mother's maiden name and a few other things, then sat back and said calmly, and with a genuine smile, "Okay, now I know you're really you. Why don't you tell me why you're here in Riverton, Evan?"
I looked at Harlan, then said, "I'm here because I want to be here. I had a problem back home and I had to leave."
"What was that problem, Evan?"
Oh, God. I figured I'd try for awhile, but I was fairly certain they'd get it out of me. "It was personal in nature."
"A personal problem?" Lindquist asked, and I nodded.
"Evan," he said. "Would you mind elaborating on that? I have personal problems, and I'm certain that even a legend in his own time like Mr. Blaine has personal problems, and we still go home when the day is done." He put his hands on the table, "What you say here won't leave this room, Evan. I'm here to learn the truth, to protect you if necessary from that truth, but that's all. If your personal problem has a name, I'd like to know that name."
I shook my head, "No name, it's not a person."
Lindquist just looked at me for the longest time, with as blank a stare as I've ever seen, and I finally said, "Nobody abused me, okay? Not mentally, not physically. To make this simpler, it was a problem that was about to happen, I just ... I don't know, walked away from it before things blew up."
Lindquist looked at me, and I think he was trying to suppress a smile. "Alright, now I think I get it. Someone was going to get into trouble for some reason, and you were a catalyst in that."
He smiled, "Well, that narrows it down." He snickered, "Are we still playing twenty questions here, Evan? Can we narrow this down just a tad more, maybe put it on a scale of one to ten, where one is dirty fingernails, and ten is where you have nuclear weapons stashed in your bedroom?"
Harlan said, "That's a crazy question," and put a hand on my shoulder, "Come on, Evan. Get it out, then we'll deal with it. You know you have my support."
That brought tears to my eyes, partly because it was true, and mostly because I had no idea how my gayness would sit with him. It wasn't in my nature to want to disappoint people, and I was used to doing just the opposite. I tried hard at everything I did: scholastics, sports, work ... even friendships. My hard work almost always paid off, and I was a good student, a good athlete, a good friend, and a good employee. I didn't know what to do, so I just gulped, thought 'this is it' and said, "I'm gay. My brother found me out, and he was going to tell our dad." I looked at officer Lindquist, and he was just looking back at me.
I turned my gaze to Harlan, and he was certainly surprised, and I said, "That's why I left home." God, I felt like a robot right then. I was out for real, and with people who carried weight. I was out to some already, to Billy and Huck, Aaron's whole family, to Dean. There had been a little flak along the way, but nothing I couldn't handle. I was new enough to that crowd, had been pretty up front about things, and if it mattered to anyone they let me know it did, but they continued to deal with me on one level or another.
Now I was out, period, and I could see that I'd stunned Harlan with the news, but not officer Lindquist, so I turned my attention to him. I decided to plead my case with the police instead of Harlan, thinking this might not be new to Lindquist. "That's why I left, and it's the only reason. If my father wants me back, it's so he can disown me in person."
Officer Lindquist's expression didn't change, and he looked at me for a long moment before saying, "Evan, you may have jumped the gun some." He picked up a folder and opened it, "We have you as an 'at risk' child. Here's what it says. Drug usage: not suspected. Criminality: not suspected. Truancy: no." He looked up, "There's a whole list of medical conditions here, and they all say no, and a lot of mental conditions, which also say no. So let me skip to this one, where it says homosexuality: no."
I stared at him. My brain was failing me, it seemed, and I asked, "It says no?"
A stare, and I searched my mind for something to go on with, and couldn't find it. I wasn't sure what officer Lindquist was reading from, but it was missing something serious, like the little matter of my queerness.
Lindquist said, "It says no, Evan. Don't look so surprised. If you've told your family you're gay and they say you're not, that's hardly uncommon. They may simply not believe it." He put down his pencil, "I guess it raises some questions in my mind, though. You said you haven't been molested in any way, but does that just relate to your family? Have you ever been molested by anyone outside your family?"
I said, "No, and I think that's a pretty dumb question. I'm not gay because I got molested into it, it's just the way I am, and I don't think that's a fair thing to ask ... especially if I'm right that you think it happens that way. I haven't been abused by anybody, not ever, and not in any way."
He looked a bit annoyed, but he folded his hands and said calmly, "Fine. We'll contact your family and have them come to pick you up."
I hung my head and muttered, "I don't want to go back there. My life is here now, and I want to stay here."
Lindquist sealed my fate when he said, "Evan, you're fifteen years old," which elicited a gasp from Harlan, "and you'll go where your parents want you to go."
I felt really fragile right then, defeated. I stared, trying to hold back the emotions that were welling up in me, but I could not.
It started with a quivering lip, then general loss of control of my facial muscles, and in just a few seconds I was crying helplessly and wetly. I thought I'd gotten control of my life, and I'd just lost it totally, and I didn't know how or why. I was going to lose Aaron, lose all of my new-found happiness, and be returned to ... to what? I'd been happy at home once, too, but I didn't see how a return to that happiness was possible.
I couldn't just go back there, I couldn't. It wasn't my place anymore, wasn't my home. By finding a new life, I'd disconnected from my old one, and I didn't want it anymore. I didn't want to be where I was, either, but I could only cry, not do anything meaningful.
The next thing I knew, I was smelling something awful and jumping up. "Eh," came out of me, and I felt hands on me before I opened my eyes. There was Harlan holding me down, Lindquist with a cotton ball near my nose, and another uniformed officer standing behind him. "What happened?" I asked, noticing that my head felt totally clogged.
"You passed out," Harlan said, and seemed to examine my face. "Can you sit up now?"
I couldn't tell what I was on. It wasn't the floor, and it wasn't the table. I nodded, then he helped me to a sitting position, and I could see that I'd been laying across three chairs. I had a headache, and things weren't clear to me, and I was dizzy. I suddenly said, "I'm gonna be ..." and puked before I could get the words out.
I really thought I was going to asphyxiate myself. I couldn't breathe through my nose, and my mouth and throat were all constricted, and my stomach kept spasming up vomit. A waste basket had appeared quickly enough, and all but the first blast were in there. That didn't make me feel any better, and it was the scariest and most uncomfortable few minutes of my life, until my stomach finally quieted and I could gasp in air through my mouth.
My eyes were full of tears, but not from crying this time, just from pain and panic. When I was finally breathing almost normally, albeit still through my mouth, Harlan said, "Let's get you cleaned up." He looked at Lindquist, "Where's the john?"
Lindquist picked up my bag and said, "Follow me."
Harlan helped me down the hall and into the men's room, then said, "Take your pants off, Evan. I'll wash them off while you clean yourself up."
Lindquist said, "Sir, I'd ..."
Harlan growled, "There's puke all over him, man. Look in that bag and see if there's clean clothes."
I toed off my sneakers, dropped my pants, then stepped out of them and leaned in close to a sink. I turned on the cold water and washed my hands, then I kept scooping water to my mouth and swishing around big gulps of it, before spitting it out to get rid of the puke taste. Then I got paper towels and blew an ungodly amount of fluid out from my nostrils, and finally I washed my face, fussing with my ears for no good reason.
I eventually felt halfway human again, and pulled on the pants Lindquist had laid out on the counter. Then I noticed Harlain Blaine, my employer, fussing with my soiled jeans in another sink. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't think of what. He had to be hugely disappointed in me, yet he hadn't said anything. He knew now that I was gay, and he knew that I'd lied to him, and he knew that I'd done something that could probably still get his company in deep for violating child labor laws.
And he stood there washing puke off my pants, as if he'd been the one to throw up on them. I don't know why, but I drew strength from that little act of kindness. If Harlan could have all that dumped in his lap in the space of a few minutes, and still think my old pants were worth his time to salvage, I could certainly find a different light to shine on my own problems.
I was seeing Harlan in action in a way. This was how a self-made guy like him handled problems ... he took care of them, and however he could, and right when they could be handled most easily. He hadn't chosen a pleasant task for himself, but he was doing it himself, and doing it carefully.
Me, on the other hand, I'd run from my problems, choosing not to take care of them when they needed taking care of. And now I'd just managed to fall apart, and make myself sick in the process. I was both ashamed and embarrassed about my performance, but there wasn't any way to undo it, so I tried to make Harlan notice that I was done before he was, and when he did notice he said, "Here, you finish this. I'll be outside."
He dropped my pants in the sink, then turned and left, and I watched as the door closed behind him. I smiled, because there was only one thing for me to do, and that was to finish cleaning those pants. They were already clean, of course, so Harlan had managed more into his lesson. All I could do was to squeeze as much water out of them as I could before I rolled them up and pushed them to the bottom of my bag.
I took one more look into the mirror, and I was a wreck for sure, but not a dead-eyed, hopeless wreck anymore. No, not that. I'd just cried my eyes out, fainted, then puked my guts out, and I looked exactly like somebody who had done those things.
I wasn't finished, though. My life wasn't over, no sir. I had things to do, that was the way to look at it. It was time for me to do some serious growing up. I had to go home, and there was no doubt about that, and I had to make up for things there, probably face grounding until further notice.
I also had a family to convince that I was gay, and happily gay, and if they didn't like it I'd have to try again, and again, until they got it.
I wanted to be gay now, because Aaron Castle was gay, and we'd never have found our happiness if we weren't both gay. I'd have to win, too, because there was nothing, and I mean nothing, that would let me think that I could allow Aaron to fade from my life.
The distance? Ah, yes, the distance. I already had that covered, because I'd become something of an expert on the bus system, and in a year Aaron and I would both be able to drive anyhow.
I needed paper, a pencil. There were too many thoughts, all valid ones, and I had to make a list.
I needed a plan B.
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