“Hello?” I have to admit I’m a trifle snippy in my tone. I do not like coitus interruptus, even if I am still undecided about whether there will be coitus or not.
“Oh my god! Rayne, is that you? I can’t believe it!” It’s Lyle, and he sounds more agitated than I’ve ever heard him sound as he is normally an even-tempered guy. “You have to come quick. Paris is in the hospital. We had a fight, and he left, and now, oh god. He won’t open his eyes! Why won’t he open his eyes?”
“Lyle, calm down,” I say, fighting back my own panic. “Please. You’re not making sense.”
“I’m at St. Luke’s. Can you get here? Now? I can’t talk over the phone.” He clicks off before I can get any more information.
It’s a nightmare, it has to be. I hang up my cell phone, stupidly looking at it in my hand. Vashti asks me what’s wrong, but I brush her off. I need her to drive me to St. Luke’s, and I’m praying that she knows the way. She does. We are out the door in a flash, and soon, she’s speeding down Caesar Chavez as fast as she dares. Neither of us speaks on the way over. Thoughts are rushing through my mind at breakneck speed, and I don’t bother trying to separate them. I can’t even think about Paris being in the hospital without wanting to either hurt someone badly or bursting into tears, so I push it to the very back of my brain. I keep my eyes fixed on the window as Vashti pulls up to St. Luke’s. She drops me off at the front door and goes to park the car. Information points me to ER, and I race down the hall.
“Lyle!” I call out as soon as I glimpse him. He catches me in his arms and crushes me to his chest.
“It’s so horrible, Rayne. He was deliberately hit. Who would do that? Why won’t he open his eyes?” Lyle is weeping and has been for a while judging by the looks of him. We sit down, our arms wrapped around each other.
“Can I see him?” I ask anxiously, wanting to reassure myself that Paris is ok.
“He’s still in surgery,” Lyle moans. “Why did I let him run out? Why didn’t I try to stop him? What was I thinking?”
“Lyle, tell me what happened!” I shake him slightly to try to calm him down. I am sympathetic to his pain, but I have to know what is going on.
Paris went over to Lyle’s an hour or so ago after they worked out at the gym, and things were going well. Paris told Lyle about his biological mother and was just about to divulge her name when a phone call came that propelled Paris and Lyle into a huge fight. Neither side would back down, of course—they were both too macho for that—so it just got uglier and uglier. Unforgivable things were screamed from both parties. They were nose to nose and about ready to throw punches. Paris pulled back and stormed out the door. Lyle thought about chasing after him to finish the fight or to make up, he’s not sure which, but restrained himself. After all, he thought, he was the injured party. It was up to Paris to come crawling back and beg him for forgiveness. As Lyle stood in his living room feeling righteous, an odd sensation came over him, causing him to shudder. He raced outside in time to see a car rounding the corner and heading straight for Paris.
Time slowed down for Lyle. The events unfolded themselves as if under water, giving Lyle what he thought would have been plenty of time to warn Paris. Lyle opened his mouth to scream at Paris to watch out, to duck, to jump, to hide—anything that would stop the inevitable from occurring. Instead, Lyle’s vocal cords froze—he couldn’t utter a sound let alone a word. He stood, rooted to the ground, literally paralyzed. He couldn’t move any closer to Paris, and worst of all, he couldn’t look away. The car, instead of slowing down, increased its speed as it headed for Paris who wasn’t even paying attention. By the time Paris looked in the direction of the car, it was too late. The car contacted Paris with a sickening jolt. Paris flew through the air like a rag doll, his limbs flopping everywhere. He seemed to be in the air for an inordinate amount of time. When he finally landed on the ground, he went horribly still.
Lyle finally remembered how to operate his legs and ran to Paris’s side. He screamed Paris’s name the entire time, but there was no response. No twitching, no flopping, nothing. Paris was as still as if he’d never moved in his life. Lyle cursed under his breath. He sobbed and bargained with god. When he reached Paris’s side, he knelt and took his pulse. It was there, but weak. Lyle looked at his lover in horror before regaining his senses. Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, he dialed 911. They kept him on the line as they sent someone out to meet him. All Lyle remembers is the woman calmly telling him to stay on the line and to not panic. At her last words, he burst into laughter. Not panic? He was well past that. He held Paris’s hand, but otherwise didn’t touch him. Who knows what kind of internal bleeding Paris was experiencing? By the time Lyle remembered the car, it was long gone. The ride to the hospital was a blur. Lyle was allowed to ride in the ambulance, but didn’t remember anything about it. Once at the hospital, a team of experts took over and wheeled Paris away. That’s when Lyle called me.
“What did you fight about?” I interrupt, my mind refusing to process Lyle’s story. I focus on the minutiae so I won’t have to look at the bigger picture.
“It’s so stupid,” Lyle moans, rocking back and forth. He still has his arms around me; I think he draws comfort from the contact. “An old boyfriend of mine called wanting to have lunch. It made Paris jealous.” He hesitates before continuing. “I think I wanted to make Paris jealous, that’s why I told him.” I look at him, a question in my eyes. “It’s just, well, you’ve been out with Paris. You know what he’s like. Or rather, how other people are like around him.” I simply nod my head. Paris has that indescribable thing called charisma. Charm. Magnetism. It’s not something he does consciously—he just is it. More than a few men and women have fallen under his sway. Some of the more brazen ones will walk up to him no matter whom he’s with and flirt. Some even slip him their number, oblivious to the furious look of his partner. It’s a miracle that he’s never been dumped before, but most of his partners are willing to put up with the detritus in hopes that whatever glamour Paris possesses will rub off on them. “We had just been at the gym, and some tall bitch with moussed-up hair was rubbing her silicone tits all over him, and he seemed to be enjoying himself.”
“You were jealous?” I ask incredulously, drawing back so I can look at Lyle. “Of some L.A. bimbo? Lyle, have you looked in mirror lately?” While not possessing the same magnetism as Paris, Lyle can give him a run for his money in the looks department. He is six-feet of solid muscle with dark curly hair and intense blue eyes. He has an engaging smile, and when he focuses on you, you feel like there’s no one else in the world. I don’t take to many people, but I liked Lyle immediately. Lyle slumps in his seat, his arms dejectedly flopping in front of him. He looks for all the world like an abandoned puppy.
“I’m seven years older than Paris,” Lyle reminds me. “Plus, he’s not the most faithful of lovers. He’s known in the community for getting bored rather easily.” I can’t deny what he’s saying, but I also know how Paris feels about Lyle which is anything but superficial.
“You’re different,” I inform Lyle. “He really cares about you.”
“I know that.” Lyle sighs. “I really do. This is so damn tough.”
“Back to the blond?” I look at Lyle who is staring at the ground.
“I didn’t say anything to Paris. When we got back to my place, I got the call from Basil who moved back to San Francisco after living on the other coast for a while. I haven’t seen him in years! He wanted to do lunch tomorrow. I told Paris about it.”
Paris didn’t say anything for a long minute, then icily informed Lyle that if he wanted to make an ass of himself over some tired old queen, go right ahead. Lyle retorted by saying that he wasn’t the one making an ass over himself, and was Paris jealous? No, Paris just didn’t want to see Lyle maundering over some cut-rate gigolo he thought he once loved. The conversation deteriorated from there before Lyle dropped his bombshell. He knew that Paris had cheated on him so what right did Paris have to stake any claims on Lyle? Didn’t he think that was a bit hypocritical given his own behavior? By now, Lyle had worked up a righteous indignation, and it felt good to pour out all his anger at Paris.
“Wait a minute,” I protest, cutting into his dull recitation. “Paris did not cheat on you. He wouldn’t! There’s one thing I know about Paris—he doesn’t go behind anyone’s back, especially not yours. He wouldn’t do that to you!”
“I have proof.” Lyle lifts his head and looks at me miserably. “My friend Mirabelle saw him at Muddy Waters with a woman. Mirabelle said it was obvious that they were more than just friends.”
“How does she know it wasn’t me?” I demand, indignant on behalf of Paris. “We’ve gone there before and the way we act, many people mistake us for a couple.”
“Mirabelle said the woman was in her late teens to early twenties, almost six-feet tall with blond hair down to her butt and a nice body. That doesn’t much sound like you. Except the nice body part, of course.” Lyle’s tone is weary, he’s not looking at me, but he still manages to be gallant.
“It could be a client! It could be someone wanting him to model! It could, god forbid, be a friend! Paris is an affectionate guy. They were at a coffee shop, for god’s sake, not a strip joint.” I am getting steamed at Lyle’s assumption that anyone with Paris is a potential threat. I’m also disappointed; I thought he had better self-esteem than that.
“What’s the longest Paris’s been with someone other than Brett?” Lyle demands suddenly, changing the subject.
“How the hell should I know?” I ask, staring at him as if he’s gone nuts. “I’m not his keeper.” Of course, I know, but why the hell should I feed into his self-pity?
“Two months,” Lyle answers his own question. “We’ve been going out now for over two months. Maybe he’s tired of me and lining up my replacement.”
“You listen to me, Lyle Kingston!” There is fire in my voice as I defend my boy. “I haven’t seen Paris this happy since he was with Brett. You are the light of his life, and he would not fuck it up for some no-good woman he probably doesn’t care two-cents about!” Lyle turns his head away, and I grab him by the chin to jerk his face towards me. “Don’t you fucking turn away! I don’t know what your problem is, but I know that Paris cares about you very much. Why are you trying to fuck that up?”
“Mirabelle saw him kiss her!” Lyle shouts in frustration. “On the lips!”
“What would you think if it was a guy she saw him kissing on the lips?” I glare at Lyle, angry at him for blowing things out of proportion. “You wouldn’t think it was a big deal because gays do it all the time, right? Because it was a woman, however, whoa! All of a sudden, it’s a big fucking deal!” I shake my head in disgust—the old biphobia rearing its ugly head again. By now, some of the people in the waiting room are staring at us in unabashed interest, but I’m too steamed to care.
“For you, Rayne, for you. I’m afraid he’s going to leave me for you!” Lyle blurts out, tears streaming down his face. “The way he talks about you, the way he caters to you—there’s a bond there that not even I can touch.” He buries his face in his hands so he doesn’t have to look at me.
All at once, my anger evaporates. This has been a problem with many of Paris’s lovers, not to mention mine. It must be particular difficult on Lyle because he came into Paris’s life during the most hellish months of mine, which means that Paris hasn’t been able to focus on Lyle as much as he should have. To top it off, Paris’s baby sister died recently so poor Lyle has had to deal with one crisis after another. No wonder he’s a tad bit insecure. I gather Lyle in my arms as best I can. I try to explain that while Paris is my best friend in the world, we will never be a couple. Lyle is not comforted, countering my platitudes by saying he’s seen the two of us together, the way we just fit. It’s true that Paris and I have a special and unique friendship that has survived longer than many romances, but it’s not going to evolve into a romantic relationship. I don’t know how I can reassure Lyle, however.
I tell him how good he and Paris are together, but I sense I’m fighting a losing battle. I see the slump in his shoulders and the lost look in his eyes. He wants to believe what I’m saying, but he can’t allow himself the luxury. I give him a little shake. I don’t want him to fuck up what he has with Paris, partly because I know how devastated Paris would be, and partly because I really like Lyle. He’s a good influence on Paris and just a damn nice person. I cajole him for some minutes more until he looks a bit more cheerful than before. When I gauge the time is right, I steer the conversation back to the woman Lyle’s friend saw Paris with in Muddy Waters. I want to know what Paris’s reaction was when Lyle threw the woman in his face. I have no doubt Lyle threw it in Paris’s face in the midst of their argument. Lyle moves out of my embrace, but meets my eyes.
“He just looked at me and said if I didn’t trust him, there was nothing he could do about it. That made me angrier, of course.” Lyle pulls a napkin out of his jeans and blows his nose, then mops his eyes as best he can. “I made an ass of myself, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, you did.” I see no reason to pull any punches. “But that doesn’t matter right now. What does is figuring out who tried to hit Paris and why.”