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Ashley Bulgari

If Jeremy had the opportunity to grow fond of another man, then there would be no turning back. On a Saturday night, the forty-three-year-old man would be the last employee to leave the library. He had to the lock the doors in the main offices before he left home. He let the custodians finish their job as they cleaned the rest of the building for the remainder of the evening. It proved to be a simple task. He knew how everything worked in the building. Everything appeared to be incredibly customary to him.

Jeremy worked as a librarian for over eleven years. He felt proud of being one, providing information for individuals of all ages and organizing works of timeless literature. But his occupation did have its own set of inconveniences. The most aggravating would be the women who try to flirt with him while he worked. Some of the females who visited this library were visibly attracted to him. He knew because most of them either gave him a come-hither look or a card with their phone number written on it. Jeremy already understood why they felt fascinated with his charisma and his intellect.

He was a handsome man. His glasses and his dark brown hair, which he grew at shoulder length, gave him the appearance of an alluring university professor. The women, especially those who were around the same age as him, adored the appeal that surrounded this man. Jeremy, however, didn’t find the flirtatious glances very gratifying at times. On occasion, the mild seduction brought about by those who visited the library only reminded him of his bitter marriage that ended nine years ago. He didn’t want to return to the past, but the nonstop flirtations pulled him back. He didn’t want to provide verbal commentary on those who gave him such enticing looks simply because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In the end, after a few unsuccessful dates with different women, he devoted himself to his occupation instead of his yearning for another spouse.

The heavens began to fade into temporary gloom over the city of Anaheim. The setting sun finally descended into the western horizon, and left behind a dark blue hue that overwhelmed the evening sky. Southern California anticipated the routine change in light and temperature with the activation of its street lights. But the slow progression to a silent and serene evening would take some time. Traffic returned to the freeways as countless civilians headed for home after hours of today’s employment. One of them, namely Jeremy, couldn’t wait to get home.

As soon as he exited the library, Jeremy found the crescent moon ascending from the eastern hills as the evening sky remained untouched with its dark blue hue. The cool breeze of an early autumn struck his arms and face. The unspoiled sensation in the air brought a sense of relief in his body and mind. The man took a brief stroll to the parking lot. But before he could reach his parked sedan, he spotted something in the corner of his eye. He turned his head to see someone leaning against a tall lamppost that stood near the main parking lot. The person wore a black t-shirt and white pants, and appeared to have a black jacket wrapped around his waist. He had long smooth black hair and light brown skin. He fixed his gaze on the concrete sidewalk in front of him. Jeremy took a few steps closer without even catching the person’s attention.

Jeremy recognized him. His name was Lonnie, and he had been visiting this library often for at least a full year. Lonnie, a nineteen-year-old Native-American man, had grown to admire the librarian. For the first few months since his first visit, the two of them had nothing but small talk. Later on, however, they gained a trust. They began to discuss more personal matters other than books and magazines that had been available on the shelves. Jeremy learned more about Lonnie’s life, including his sexual orientation. Jeremy couldn’t say much about the young man’s attraction towards other men, simply because it didn’t bother either of them at all. Lonnie felt proud of himself, despite the obstacles that he had to face in his younger years. In addition, both had an undying attraction towards classic literature, which brought them closer together. They became friends, and now Jeremy wanted to know why Lonnie looked so disheartened on such a splendid evening.

“Hello, Lonnie.”

The young man looked up from the asphalt and found Jeremy standing a few feet away from him. His expression changed to that of relief.

“Hey, Jeremy. Are you heading home?”

“I was about to, until I noticed that unhappy look on your face. What’s wrong?”

Lonnie had his arms folded across his chest as he replied, “I’ve been having a bad day.”

“How bad?”

Lonnie sighed as he fixed his gaze on the asphalt again. “You don’t want to hear about it. Trust me.”

“I’m your friend. I want to know what’s gong on. Is it about college? Because I know you’re struggling a bit with academics. You told me.”

“That’s right. But that’s not the only reason.”

Jeremy stepped a bit closer towards him. canlı bahis “So it’s much worse than I think.”

“I’m broke, and I just got into a car accident a few hours ago. It’s nothing serious. The other driver is still alive and healthy. But I have to pay for the damages, and it’s gonna cost at least a thousand dollars. What’s worse is I don’t have insurance. My car is in the shop. I had to lie to the mechanics that I would give them money until I received my next paycheck. It’s not gonna do me any good, anyway. Working at a grocery store part-time doesn’t exactly equal a satisfying income.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“But it’s much worse. I just lost my job two days ago.”

That surprised Jeremy even more. “I don’t see a good reason why they would let you go.”

“They’re closing the store. Business hasn’t been good for a while, so they’re letting every single employee go, including me. So not only am I broke, but I’m no longer employed.”

“That’s quite the bad luck, Lonnie.”

“And it doesn’t end there. You know that I’m working to get my Economics degree, right?”

“That’s right. You’ve mentioned that plenty of times.”

Lonnie seemed hesitant when he said, “I don’t think I’m right for that sort of thing.”

“You don’t feel confident anymore?”

“I haven’t felt confident since I graduated from high school.”

“I thought you liked studying Economics. What changed?”

Lonnie put his hands in his pockets as he stood away from the lamppost. “Look, I’m sorry for bothering you. I’ll just leave.”

“You’re not doing anything that’s even remotely troublesome. I do want to hear more about what’s been happening in your life.”

“Well, you have to go home, don’t you?”

“That can wait. I want to know if you’re going to be okay.”

“Come on, I wouldn’t want to bore you with all the details.”

Jeremy remained keen on discovering the truth. “I never walk away from a friend in need, Lonnie.”

The young man gave a slight nod. “I guess we can talk about it somewhere else. It’s getting dark here.”

The lampposts around the library and parking lot had lit up as the evening gloom began to spread in Anaheim. The dark blue hue in the sky had been replaced with a mixture of black and violet. The soaring palm trees that surrounded the library began to sway a little harder due to the expanding gusts of wind. Strands of Lonnie’s long hair ascended and began to move to and fro with the evening breeze. Jeremy shot a glance at his watch. It was now ten minutes after seven.

“How did you get here without your car?”

“The car repair shop isn’t too far off from here. I just took a walk. I wanted to stay here for a while because I just wanted to get away from what’s been tormenting me. I just wanted to forget about college, unemployment, my car, my parents.”

“Why would you want to get away from your parents?”

Lonnie looked like he was about to say something, but after a few seconds of apparent uncertainty, he said, “Maybe we should talk about this later.”

Jeremy had another idea. “I can take you home if you’d like. I know that Lincoln Avenue is pretty far away from here.”

Lonnie still lived with his parents because, just like numerous students in the United States, he couldn’t afford a dorm room in college. “I don’t want to return home just yet. I told my Mom and Dad that I would be staying at my friend’s house. I lied. I just didn’t want to deal with them tonight.”

“Then, I’ll take you to my place. You can spend the night there.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Lonnie. I’m providing you temporary shelter because I care.”

“You do?”

“We’ve known each other for at least a year. I think we count as real friends.”

Lonnie gave a little smile. “Then, to your place it is.”

The Native-American man followed the librarian to his parked sedan. As soon as they left the parking lot, Jeremy used the local streets as he headed straight to Anaheim Hills, a lavish middle-class community situated on the north side of Orange County’s Santa Ana Mountains.

As he sat in the passenger seat, Lonnie remarked, “Thanks a lot, Mr. Hawkins.”

Jeremy replied, “Please, call me Jeremy from now on. You still call me by my last name sometimes. I don’t get it.”

Lonnie chuckled. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why. I guess it’s because I’m a lot younger than you are.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

When they stopped at a red light, Jeremy asked, “So why do you want to get away from your parents?”

Lonnie took a deep breath before he replied, “They’re the ones who wanted me to pursue a career in Economics.”

“Is that so?”

“They’re always positive that I can be a financial analyst or something. It’s ironic because I don’t even have any money right now.”

The light turned green, and Hawkins kept on driving. “What do you really want to be?”

“Don’t laugh, but I want to be a musician. I always have, and I still do.”

“You mean like bahis siteleri a concert pianist?”

“No, I mean like a rock star. I’ve always wanted to play the guitar. I did when I was in high school. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think that my musical abilities could catch on, so they told me to get rid of the guitar.”

“That sounds harsh.”

“It is, and it still hurts. When I try to tell them that I want to be a musician, they reject it straight away. They tell me that I would be better off with a more important career. They recommended that I choose either Chemistry or Political Science or even Marine Biology. I chose Economics because it seemed like the one that intrigued me the most. I tried to tell myself that the alternate option for the future would be ideal. The motivation didn’t work. I still have the urge to follow my original dream. But at the same time, I keep thinking about what my parents have always told me. I can’t decide between their passion and my own. It’s driving me crazy, man.”

“I can only imagine the pressure that they’ve pushed you into.”

“If I go with Economics, then I won’t feel good about myself. If I go with rock music, then I’ll let my entire family down. I just can’t decide.”

Lonnie buried his head in his hands, and it almost sounded as if he let out a groan of frustration.

“My life’s gone to absolute crap right now.”

Jeremy tried to comfort him in the best way possible. He kept his eyes on the road as he said, “Don’t give up. I’ll be there to help you. As a matter of fact, I’m doing it right now.”

Lonnie moved his hands away from his face. “Jeremy, has anyone ever told you how generous you are?”

“Yes, and I’m almost sick of hearing about it.”

A genuine smile formed on Lonnie’s face. “You’re a cool guy, you know that?”

“I’m well aware of it.”

Jeremy gave a brief sidelong glance at Lonnie and caught a glimpse of what looked like a rather infatuated look on the young man’s face. Jeremy had an uneasy feeling for the past few months whenever Lonnie gave him that look. Whenever they held discussions in the library concerning politics and literature, Lonnie would sometimes look as if he stared at his significant other during a romantic dinner. Jeremy didn’t want to feel convinced that his young friend acted like the women who flirted with him. But if Lonnie’s newest fascination proved to be a reality, then the librarian still wouldn’t express his criticism towards a dear companion.

They reached Jeremy’s residence in less than ten minutes. The entire neighborhood featured rows upon rows of large suburban houses that stood on the smooth hilltops. Middle-class families typically resided here in Anaheim Hills, but several wealthy individuals had found a home in more specific locations in the community. As soon as they entered his two-story house, Jeremy asked if Lonnie wanted something to eat or drink.

“I’ll just have a piece of fruit, an apple or pear. I didn’t eat dinner, but I’m not that hungry.”

Lonnie placed his black jacket on the sofa. Jeremy opened up his own jacket, which revealed a dark blue polo shirt underneath. He went into the kitchen and brought back a peach after washing it in the sink. He found Lonnie staring at a picture frame on an end table near the TV set. The young man had never visited this place before, so everything inside appeared new to him, including the picture of a smiling redheaded woman.

He pointed to the picture frame and asked, “Is that Tara, your ex-wife?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Jeremy handed the peach to Lonnie.

“Is she still living in Rhode Island?”

“That’s correct. My fifteen-year-old son is living with her now. I hardly ever see him because Tara had remarried a few years ago. My son seems to admire her new husband more than me.”

“That’s just not right.”

Jeremy sighed. “I still can’t believe it didn’t work out for the two of us.”

“Look on the bright side, though. You still have the chance to redeem yourself. There are still plenty of people out there who would see you as a great husband, or at least a partner. I mean, look at you. You’re handsome, you’re intelligent, and you’re never afraid to be sincere. I, too, like that in a man.”

Jeremy turned away from the picture frame to look Lonnie in the eyes, only to rediscover the same infatuated stare as before.

Jeremy cleared his throat and said, “So tell me more about your passion for music.”

The two of them sat beside each other on the sofa. Lonnie provided more information concerning his younger years without even taking a bite out of his peach. He had wanted to become a musician when he turned thirteen. He would visit his best friend who owned both an electric guitar and a drum set in the garage. They would do occasional jams before they managed to memorize and perform certain rock songs a couple of years later. Lonnie remembered when he and his friend played “Higher,” the phenomenal hit single from the post-grunge rock band Creed, in its entirety. Those five minutes bahis şirketleri had become one of his fondest memories.

“But the music didn’t last. My parents took my true passion away from me. They kept telling me that I would be considered a loser and a low-life if I took the so-called ‘rock star’ approach.”

Lonnie looked defeated when he remarked, “I really should have defended myself, but I couldn’t. Now, I’m taking classes for Economics, and it’s stressing me out. This is not what I want to be. I want to tell the truth to my parents, but I’m afraid it might be the same result as before. The things that happened this week didn’t do much to erase the pain.”

Jeremy moved just an inch closer to him as he murmured, “I guess we both have problems. Your career path and my bitter divorce are tearing us apart. Life is at its poorest at this point.”

Lonnie placed his uneaten fruit on the brown-colored coffee table. “There’s an upside to all this, Jeremy. You bring me comfort at the most appropriate moments.”

“Is that so?”

“I know it sounds a little stupid, but every time we spend time at the library, it’s almost as if I’m taken to another dimension. Do you know what I mean? Your presence is always soothing. Whenever you’re around, you help me forget all the crap that’s been affecting my life.”

It took Jeremy a few seconds to give an official reply. “I’m flattered…somewhat.”

“You know, it’s a shame that your wife left you. But in the end, you deserve better.”

Lonnie caught a glimpse of the clock on the wall. It was now seven-thirty. He picked up the peach from the coffee table and began to consume it. The invisible resurgence of hunger seemed to have found a spot in Lonnie’s body.

For the next thirty minutes, Lonnie and Jeremy conversed over trivial matters such as sports and French literature. They set aside personal problems so they could concentrate on relaxation for the night. During their conversation, Jeremy noticed the same awestruck stare that Lonnie began to convey again. Even as they discussed Victor Hugo and the World Series, Lonnie couldn’t keep his eyes off of him. This was when the librarian assumed that the nineteen-year-old man might have clung to more intimate feelings over the past several months. But Jeremy didn’t flinch. He didn’t even feel uncomfortable. He just felt pleased that he brought a sense of reassurance toward one of his most frequent visitors.

As soon as Lonnie took another bite out of his half-eaten peach, Jeremy made a keen observation. A small thin trail of juice poured from the fruit and slid down Lonnie’s wrist. For some odd reason, Jeremy couldn’t look away from it. The sight of it almost made him shiver. To further heighten the compelling presentation, Lonnie recognized the juice trial and cleaned his skin with his tongue. The slow and smooth movement of the tongue forced Jeremy to take a slow deep breath.

Lonnie looked up and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Jeremy shook his head. “It’s nothing. I’m going to get a glass of water. I’ll be right back.”

He left the young man alone as he entered the kitchen and grabbed a glass from the cupboard. After taking a sip of water that originated from the faucet, Jeremy closed his eyes for a brief moment. He couldn’t stop thinking of Lonnie. The librarian viewed him as a close friend ever since they first met. But something made him feel unusual about their relationship. Since the consumption of fruit, Jeremy began to see him as a fine-looking human being. In fact, the mere thought of Lonnie licking his skin made Jeremy feel aroused. He opened his eyes again. He whispered to himself that he shouldn’t think this way about another man. But he couldn’t help it. Lonnie was so intriguing in both mind and body. Jeremy took another sip of water before he left the glass on the counter and left the kitchen.

When he returned to the living room, Lonnie stood near the stereo shelf system, examining the endless collection of CD’s that lay inside an enormous wooden cabinet. He had left the half-eaten peach on the coffee table.

After taking his jacket off and placing it on the recliner, Jeremy stepped closer towards the shelves, though he grew more cautious when standing next to the young man. “Impressive, isn’t it? I’ve always admired classical music ever since I turned twelve.”

Lonnie smiled. “It looks really neat. I don’t know much about classical music. I mean, I’ve listened to Mozart and Brahms a few times, but I haven’t delved deeper into it.”

“I think it’s time you gained a deeper appreciation for this genre.”

“I’d be happy to.”

Jeremy selected a CD from the top shelf. “The third track should help you relax after everything you’ve been through lately. It’s called ‘The Swan,’ and it’s from a composer named Camille Saint-Saëns.”

He inserted the disc inside the stereo, skipped a couple of tracks, and pressed “Play” on the remote. He and Lonnie sat back down on the sofa. The first calm notes of the piano emerged from the speakers. Then, the sounds of the lone cello filled the entire living room with its soothing resonance. Jeremy allowed the music to calm his mind and his soul. The French composition was a safe haven, and Jeremy wanted to indulge in such a healthy paradise.

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