Palisades Park 'I Got You Babe' by Rick Beck   
"Palisades Park"
'I Got You Babe'
by Rick Beck
Edited by Bob
For David

Young Adult

Palisades Park by Rick Beck
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Love is grand even when you can't define what it is.

You know it when you feel it.

I was lucky enough to feel it then. Once you've loved, there's no going back. The power of caring for someone more than you care for yourself is life altering. It's the stuff dreams are made of.

I'm a dreamer.

If there was more love there would be less room for hate. Telling you about my one great love is how I hope to spread the love around. Maybe one day love will surge like the tides and engulf the earth forever more.

There would be no room for hatred.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

The Mighty Mo was on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's where we went after school, after games, and after hours.

We couldn't go home without a midnight snack. For a growing boy a Mighty Mo burger, crisp fries, and thick shake was just enough to get you through the night.

Then you needed dessert.

I'm going to tell you about a Mighty Mo sundae. You need to see it to believe it but words will have to do.

The sundae went into a large glass. It was more like a high rise bowl on a stem with a base. You needed a big glass for a big sundae.

You start with a layer of hot fudge. On top of the fudge went a layer of vanilla ice cream. On top of the vanilla ice cream you added a level of chocolate ice cream. One more layer of vanilla goes on top of that and a rich level of hot fudge followed. Then you liberally applied the whipped cream and an obligatory cherry on top and you had a Mighty Mo sundae.

Palisades Park 'I Got You Babe' by Rick Beck

I ate my share of midnight snacks that included all the above. I'd been out of school for a couple of years but trips to the Mo were habit forming. You couldn't stop going because you somehow managed to graduated from high school.

This isn't a story about the Might Mo. It isn't even a story about high school. This story is about love. This story is about David. If there is great love, David was mine.

We both liked Mighty Mo food, David and me. It was on the way home from anywhere we went, because it was a habit. David was a habit to. Many a night I sat admiring him as he dug into a Might Mo sundae.

I gave them up. Once in a while I would be overcome by desire. I'd eat one as David ate his. I watched him eat a hundred over the years. My girlish figure would not have held up if I had more than one or two a year. I didn't want to weigh a ton. I would if I ate many of those. The look on David's face while he ate one was pure delight.

He may have eaten a hundred sundaes but he was as trim as the day I met him for the years we were together. I don't think he gained an ounce. Maybe it was our love that had me believing his stomach stayed flat. The truth was, David was perfect the day I met him and he was perfect the day I saw him for the last time. Perfection is like that.

Some nights David and I put the Mo on our schedule of stops. On other nights once we'd done what we set out to do, David would look at me and say, "The Mo?"

By the time I met David I began to limit my calorie intake. Being an athlete in school, the idea of packing on the pounds wasn't an appealing prospect. I watched David eat one of those sundaes while feeling no guilt. I didn't slack off the burgers and fries. I hadn't been out of school that long. You couldn't go to the Mo and not eat. It wasn't done. It wasn't done by me anyway.

I think I always loved David. No, I know I always loved David. I guess for one or two minutes when he first stepped onto my truck, I might not have been captivated by him. Once he went to work on my truck, the supercharged chemistry was obvious. We liked each other a lot.

I didn't like many people. I could take or leave them. The first time I saw David, I wanted to take him right off. He rang my chimes. He got my attention in a big way.

If you can have only one great love, David was mine.

You know when you're in love by the way it envelops you completely. This raging force takes over your life. Rational thought and any claim to sanity is lost inside the love. Your life begins revolving around one person.

When you are together all the stars in the universe are perfectly aligned. When you're apart everything feels cockeyed. You need to be with the one you love.

That's how love struck me.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Why we spend so much time looking for love is a mystery to me. I don't remember looking for love. One day, while going about my business, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes.

My business was delivering milk for Harvey Dairy. This earned me the monicker, The Dairy Queen, with my friends. I was technically a route salesman. I didn't know what that was so I was a milkman. While marking my route book David moved up to the open door on my right.

I saw his fabulous blue eyes watching me.

The Divco doors folded back and stayed open while I ran my route. The driver stood to drive. There was no seat to get in your way. When I turned to get an order for a customer, I turned back, stepping off the truck, made the delivery, stepping back onto the truck, and driving to the next customer.

I might or might not, mark the book anywhere along the line. I always put the empties away before getting the next customer's order ready.

Except this time, while I marked my book, I felt a presence, saw a motion, and I was looking into those eyes. I didn't know whether to turn or what.

I watched him watching me. There had to be a reason why he was standing there.

I remember David's first word to me.

"Hi," he said.

Hi indeed. My heart leaped. He'd just materialized next to my Harvey Dairy milk truck. Was he heaven sent or was there a more practical reason he was there.

"Hi, back," I replied.

The first time he climbed onto my truck his lovely blue eyes sparkled. I calculated why he was there because Jimmy wasn't there. He'd seen Jimmy climb on my truck. He knew I let Jimmy deliver the next two customers on that block and for that I gave him one pint of rich delicious Harvey Dairy chocolate milk. David was there for the chocolate milk.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

At twenty-one I became the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy. I was told that I was not going to be the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy at the beginning of the interview. Mr. Whipps told me this.

Mr. Martin Whipps was a dapper well dressed gentlemen in a pinstripe double breasted suit. He was tall and distinguished looking with almost white hair. He spoke like a well educated man. He was the manager at Harvey Dairy and he did the hiring. Right away we were talking about my age, or lack there of.

"How old are you?" he asked, looking at my application that I'd been filling out for the last fifteen minutes.

"Twenty-one," I said, happy I'd reached that age.

"I'm going to tell you right off, I don't hire anyone under twenty-three. You've come a long way and I'll give you the interview and when you reach twenty-three, I'll consider you for employment at Harvey Dairy.

Yeah, and pigs fly, I thought.

I followed Mr. Whipps into his office and I didn't know why. If he wasn't going to hire me he was wasting my time.

Usually I'd have excused myself and left. When I was told no, I accepted it meant no. I needed a job today. I didn't need a job in two years. I could get very hungry if I waited for two years.

I ended up in his office anyway. It was the polite thing to do and he told me to sit across from his desk. I did and he kept talking like I was someone he might hire.

It was easier to go along with him. I answered his questions while he held my application in front of him.

I concluded Mr. Whipps was a fair man and I had no other prospects. I'd looked over the want ads that morning, and the only thing that caught my attention was the ad for a route salesman at Harvey Dairy. Not knowing what it was meant I was taking a shot in the dark. They needed help and I just happened to need a job.

He knows where I live, how I did in school, what my experience in the work-a-day-world was, when he slides a sheet of paper and a pencil across his desk toward me.

"I'm going to give you a list consisting of three digit numbers. There will be ten numbers. I want you to add them and give me the total."

Now I knew what I was waiting for. Mr. Whipps was giving me a shot and I was going for it. I slid the paper back to him. He looked at them like they might bite.

Looking at me he was curious about my move.

"You don't even want to try? I'm giving you the standard interview," he reminded me.

"Ten three digit numbers?" I asked. "I don't need a pencil and paper to add ten three digit numbers. I'm ready when you are," I said, boldly going for it.

Could I add ten three digit numbers in my head. We were about to find out. My brain had never been an ordinary brain. I'd astounded a couple of teachers with it in junior high school.

Mr. Whipps fell silent for the first time. I don't think he was prepared for this eventuality. This wasn't how his interviews were supposed to go.

"Are you going to give me the numbers?" I asked.

It was my turn to ask the questions.

I could see by the look on his face, Mr. Whipps was caught off guard. His expression said it all.

"Yes, of course," he said.

He began to give me the numbers. Each time he read a number, he punched it into the adding machine on his desk. The time he took between numbers was agonizingly slow. I was afraid he was going so slow I might lose track of the total. Each time he read a number I had a new total to remember and I added the next number to that.

I figured it would sound pretentious to ask him to pick up the pace a little. I added as he read the numbers.

He finally gave me the last number.

"That's ten," he told me, and he reached for the long handle on the adding machine to ratchet it down.

The machine chugged and chattered and vibrated as all the mechanisms inside the machine went into action.

"3659," I said.

"What?" he asked, distracted from the adding of his adding machine.

"The total of the ten numbers you gave me is 3659," I said quite clearly.

Once the adding machine vibrated itself into the middle of Mr. Whipps desk, he tore off the total it came up with.

Mr. Whipps looked at the total on the sheet of paper he tore off the machine and then he looked at me.

"What is the total?"

"3659," I said.

"What's the trick?" he asked.

"No trick. I added the numbers in my head."

He looked at the paper, he looked at me, and he smiled.

"Welcome to Harvey Dairy. When can you start?"

"I can start right now," I said.

"Let me explain what you'll be doing for us," he said.

That's how I became the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy and if I hadn't been able to out fox an adding machine, I would never have been there to meet David.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"Jimmy isn't here," David said. "Can I deliver the milk?"

He already knows the deal. He's watched my interaction with Jimmy or Jimmy has told him about it.

"Sure," I said far more casually than I actually felt.

Jimmy is as slow as molasses. Now here's David. He's older, tougher, and he literally runs the milk. Of course I let him deliver the two houses he's seen Jimmy delivering to. It takes David all of a minute to deliver a stop and bring back the empties. David knows what he's doing. He's watched Jimmy do what he does for a while and he intends to show Jimmy up every chance he gets.

Each time he steps on the truck he gives me a big smile. I'm looking into those beautiful blue eyes again. Whatever David has, I'm signing up for it.

Jimmy who?

I related to sad and seemingly unhappy kids. If there was something I could do to help, I did it. I didn't know if I was helping Jimmy. He never said anything. He did what I told him to do and he took the pint of milk without a word.

Nothing changed.

David obviously knew how things worked. He'd seen Jimmy delivering milk for me and he waited to get his shot.

David is a clever older boy who knows what he wants. He wants the same deal Jimmy has. I didn't need anyone humping milk for me. Letting Jimmy deliver two houses was my good deed. David delivering milk for me was an entirely different ballgame.

Was it ever.

I understood what David was after. I let him deliver the next two houses. I handed him the chocolate milk. Now, I knew there was more. I just didn't know what yet.

He looked at the pint of milk. He looked at me. He started to get off the truck and then he hesitated, and then came the shot heard around my world.

"Thank you. Can I deliver for you on Thursday? Jimmy won't be back until next week."

"Sure," I said, not needing to think it over.

In five minutes David cut Jimmy out of the deal. I worried I'd hurt Jimmy. He was a boy who looked like he had a familiarity with rejection. I'd cross that bridge when I got to it. The deal I had with Jimmy was a deal I created for him. The deal I made with David was just for me. I'd already been trying to think of a way to get to see David again.

I saw Jimmy after he returned home. He never came over to the truck again. If he was in the house when I took the milk up to the box, I said, "Hi." He doesn't mention delivering milk for me again. The job belongs to David now. For all I knew, David told Jimmy, "This is my gig now, Butterball. Steer clear of the milkman.'

On the second time David delivered the two houses on his block, he offered to add Jimmy's house to the deal. He asked for no increase in fee. He'd do it to save me those steps or maybe to keep me away from Jimmy.

David was always waiting for me when I turned the corner onto his street. One curious thing I noticed: he never drinks the milk. He got off the truck with the milk in his hand. Jimmy had the milk half gone before his feet hit the ground. Instant gratification. Maybe David saved it to drink with lunch. I didn't ask. He didn't say.

After a month the deal with David was about to change. I'd been working on a way to spend more time with him since the first day he stepped off my truck with the pint of chocolate milk. The answer was obvious.

Were their rules against employing someone to hump the milk for me? Probably, but if there was a rule no one told me. It was my milk route now. I'd run it the way I pleased. I wanted to see a lot more of David.

Letting David deliver milk to three houses on one block certainly didn't violate a rule any less than if I let him deliver my entire route and that's what I wanted.

What's the worse that could happen?

I had been looking for a job when I arrived at Harvey Dairy. I'd be looking for a job when I left.

I just happened to have a milk route at the moment.

There were eighty to ninety customers on the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday side, depending on the day. It took six hours to deliver my entire route at a casual pace.

With David literally running the mil it would take no more than three hours, if I drove slowly. This arrangement would leave us more time for breakfast.

The next day I found David sitting on his front step after I turned on to his block, I asked him if he'd like to run my entire route with me. There were draw backs.

"You'd need to be sitting on your steps at five in the morning. I'll give you five bucks a day, the chocolate milk, and I'll take you to breakfast at a place where I like to eat."

"Kewl," David said, asking no questions and he gave me the biggest smile.

"Shouldn't you check with your mom?" I asked, knowing there was usually a mom somewhere in the picture.

"I do what I want. She'll get me up to go to work. She already knows I work for you. She likes the idea. She'll love to hear this. It means I'm doing OK with you. She asks me if I'm doing OK when I work for someone."

"If you say so. Today, if you'd like, you can run the rest of my route with me. There are twelve stops left."

"Including this block?" David asked.

"Yes, twelve houses between here and on the next two blocks. Then we'll go to breakfast."

"Kewl," David said.

He grabbed the carrier with the milk for Jimmy's house and he trotted up the steps and he was back in a minute. I wasn't sure how it might go but it couldn't have gone better. I was smitten with David. Now we'd spend more time together. It's what I wanted all along.

David was swift footed and the new arrangement seemed to suit him fine. When I'd turn onto his block at five on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, he'd be sitting there puffing on a Marlboro cigarette. He'd flick it on to his lawn and get up to climb on the truck.

He wasn't quite as energetic at five as he was at ten, when I usually arrived on his street. He went right to work as soon as I loaded the carrier. He was back in a flash and it was on to the next customer.

At first I told him where he'd find each milk box. I instructed him to bring me any notes in case a customer changed their order. Usually they might ask for cream or a loaf of bread. From time to time they'd want less milk because they still had some from the last delivery.

After going with me a couple of times,if I told him where the box was, he'd say, "I know."

David didn't like to being told what to do. I could get away with it once maybe twice.

Then he'd say, "I know."

On Thursday when I didn't stop at a house we stopped at on Tuesday, he'd ask, "Didn't we stop there last time."

"They're only Tuesday and Saturday customers," I'd tell him and he'd remember that once I told him.

He had a good memory and he wasted no time. I wasn't going to tell him to slow down, but that's what I wanted. Having too much time after the last delivery made it necessary to waste time before I went back to the dairy. If I went in at nine o'clock, after wasting some time at breakfast, Martin Whipps would freak out.

I could hear him saying, "No one can run a milk route by nine o'clock. It isn't done, you know?"

So we spent a lot of time drinking coffee once Sara had fed us. She was on my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday route and she was my final stop and I ate breakfast there. It's where I would take David to eat.

David leaned back against the divider between where the milk was kept cold and the open space where we went in and out of the truck. He asked about standing up to drive and I told him it was no big thing. You adapted to it.

In this day and age those Divco trucks that you stood up to drive would get you arrested. It wasn't difficult to see how dangerous it was. I did have a low speed collision once in a parking lot and it didn't even throw me off balance.

It required a bit of adjustment to keep your balance. You couldn't turn at any kind of speed or you might end up running beside your truck. There was nothing that held you in the truck with the doors folded back, which they always were while running the route.

David was never thrown off balance when I turned a corner or turned toward the curb. I had the steering wheel to hold onto and he could have held on to keep him from going out the right side open door, but he never did. He stood his ground and never let me see him off balance.

David had something to prove but I wasn't sure what.

Some times when I was about to turn a corner, I said, "Hold on," but he rarely did. He wanted me to know that he was capable and didn't need to be told what to do.

Nothing threw David. In a week or so he's at ease on the milk truck and he seems comfortable with me. He begins to tell me about himself. I learned he hates school and rarely goes. His mother knows there is a problem but he doesn't listen to her. She isn't able to make him go.

I had no love for school. It was a struggle for me too. I didn't read until long after other kids learned the skill. This gave me incentive to become the class clown. My theory, it's better to be laughed with than to be laughed at. Advising David to do something I didn't like would be transparent. I explained that getting a high school diploma was a good thing to have. It's apparent we've found something to disagree on. I don't mention it again.

David isn't interested in my opinions. I know he's intelligent because of how he works and how he acts. It's obvious he doesn't like anyone telling him what to do. I try to never sound like I'm telling him to do something without giving him an explanation for it.

I'm not a patient guy. I learn to be patient with David. I don't want to lose him.

He works for me. That's it. His life belongs to him. I told him what I thought. I wouldn't tell him what to do.

David did not change how he did what he did even after there was an entire route to deliver. He ran to the milk box, took the empties out, put the fresh milk in, and he ran the empties back to the truck and he put the empties away.

"You can take your time, David," I said, getting the milk ready for the next stop.

"I know," he said, breathing only a little harder than when he sat across from me at Sara's.

I found ways to waste time and David said nothing about my doddling.

I let him go at his pace and he lets me go at mine.

I never heard David complain but at breakfast he liked to talk. I liked listening to him. I'm slowly learning about him. The more I know the better I like it.

He packs it away at breakfast. He's worked and breakfast comes with our deal. He eats his fill. I could eat more but I don't. I've already learned how fast the pounds add up if you don't pay attention. Staying slim is far easier than getting fat and then trying to get slim again. I watch what I eat but I still consume more junk than I need.

Maybe I can get away with it for a little longer.

We don't eat that far from David's house. My habit is to run him home and than waste a bit more time before showing up at the dairy, where I do my books for the day.

Some days I don't total out my books, I go home after putting in tomorrow's order. I'll catch up on the book work in a day or two. By then I could leave my route book at the dairy and mark it when I got back, but I didn't. I was supposed to settle out every day, but I didn't do that either.

Actually they was a good reason for that. One of the route salesman went and got himself killed one day after leaving work. When Frank, the relief driver, took over his route it took a week to straighten his books out. I wasn't going to die any time soon and I did my job my way. No one had complained yet.

Sara was the last delivery on my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday side of my route. After putting her order away, I'd come out of the kitchen and take the first booth on the left. I could get my carrier out of the way and I started doing my books there before returning to the dairy.

Sara was middle aged with a head full of red hair and I'm sure customers came into her restaurant because she was so pleasant to be around. She talked to everyone like they were family and she made them feel right at home.

No one treated me nicer than Sara did and you couldn't beat the food at her restaurant. She'd long ago hired cooks to do most of the cooking but she kept her hand in and once I sat in the booth, she came to take my order and then she went into the kitchen.

The next time I saw her she was bringing me my breakfast. I'm sure she fixed it for me but it's another one of the things I never ask.

She was my customer and I was her's. Once David was running my route with me breakfast was part of the deal. That's when I began eating at Sara's on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays too. I'm sure she noticed that I ate there almost every day.

The first time I took David into Sara's restaurant, she came over and spoke right to him before she spoke to me. She didn't get a delivery that day and that could only mean we were there to eat.

"And what's your name?" Sara asked him.

"David," he said wide eyed.

"He's my helper. Part of our deal is buying him breakfast. I wouldn't take him anywhere else," I said.

"I'd be disappointed if you did," Sara said.

"You've won my heart and my stomach. I can't imagine better food or better treatment anywhere," I said.

Sara did a quick curtsey.

"We aim to please," she said.

"You do that," I said.

"What would you like today, David?" Sara asked him as if he'd come in alone and he had her full attention.

David's order wouldn't vary. He ordered the same breakfast every morning we went into Sara's.

"Two eggs over easy. Sausage, home fries, toast and coffee, please. No onions in the home fries, please."

"No onion in the home fries. What a polite young man," Sara said, admiring David with her words.

David absolutely beamed. I'd never seen him so pleased with himself.

"Very polite and fast on his feet," I said. "What would you recommend this morning?" I asked.

"French toast is good. I have fresh maple syrup. The sausage is from a new wholesaler. It's particularly tasty. I'll make sure you have plenty," she said.

"French toast and sausage it is," I said.

Sara left the table and went through the door on David's right. She didn't write anything down but I never failed to leave satisfied. There was a pleasant atmosphere to Sara's and that had a lot to do with her.

David's manners were better than mine and he ate everything on his plate. He was a well bred young man.

As we were finishing at Sara's one morning a few weeks later, David wanted to make a new deal with me.

"Can't I help you tomorrow?" he asked.

"No. I'm only near your house on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday," I said.

I didn't lie to him. I just didn't tell him that the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday side of my route was in Riverdale, which was across Route 1 from his street on the other three days.

Wednesday was my day off and I spent that day with David if I didn't have something else to do. There was a limit to how far I was going to go out on the David limb at the time. Three days a week and my day off were enough.

It was only a few weeks before that I asked him to go with me after work. We started off playing pool, migrated to playing pinball, and when I took him bowling, David found his game. He loved bowling. We went at least once a week. What wasn't there not to like about bowling? What wasn't there not to like about David?

This required me to turn the truck down the street before we reached Harvey Dairy. I let him out where I parked my car. He waited until I did my books and put my order in for the next day's milk. It rarely took more than a half an hour and then it was time to have fun.

David and I were together three days a week and on my days off. It wasn't too much for me because being with David was the best thing I did and I was very good at it.

I learned more about David as time went on. When we talked, we mostly talked about him when we went out together. He told me what he liked and what he didn't like. I already knew he liked attention and I knew he wouldn't tolerate someone telling him what to do. I gave him as much attention as I could and I didn't tell him what to do and we got along great. I was surprised that the more we saw of each other, the better David liked it. It's what I liked.

Oh yes, he hated raw onion. If we stopped somewhere and I went in to bring out burgers, fries, and Coke, he always said, "No onion on my burger."

Every once in a while, at places like Burger Chef, they'd still put onion on his burger and I heard about it.

"I said no onion. There's onion on my hamburger," he'd rage.

"David, I told them no onion. Do you want me to take it back and get one without onions?"

"No," he'd say disconsolate.

He'd proceed to sit there and pick every sliver of onion off his burger before he'd eat it.

I didn't say anything else about it. He was great to be around. We liked all the same things and he was a hard worker. I wasn't going to let his tantrum over onions change what I'd found in David.

Once I began picking David up on my days off, Wednesday, our routine was set for over a year. My life revolved around the polite young man I'd found in the midst of my milk route.

David had been raised in a semi-tough neighborhood and I saw him change if we ran into one of his buddies. As sweet as he was around me, he talked and acted tough around his friends. It was an act because I saw enough of David to know him pretty well. It was another lesson I learned from him.

On one Tuesday before I took him home, I changed our deal. It's something I'd been thinking about for a long time.

"I'm off tomorrow," I said.

"I know," he said and he expected me to pick him up.

"You want to go to the drive-in tonight?"

"What's playing?" he asked.

"I don't know. I thought you might like to go to the drive-in. You can stay over at my place so you won't go into your house late after the movies."

"Sure," he said.

"Shouldn't you check with your mother?"

"No, I'm not a child. I do what I want," he said.

"Ask your mother if it's OK. It'll make her feel better about it. Do it for me."

"Sure," he said. "What time."

"I'll pick you up at six. That'll give you time to clear it with your mom and not be rushed."

"Sure," he said.

I dropped him off as usual later Tuesday afternoon and I went home, showered, changed my clothes and I took a nap because we'd be out late.

At six I pulled up in front of David's and a minute later he came out of the house and he came to the car.

"What did you tell your mom?" I asked right away.

"We were going to the movies and I'd stay at your apartment tonight," he said.

"What did she say?" I asked.

"She didn't say anything. I told her what I was going to do. It's what you asked me to do. I do what I want," he said perturbed with me.

Yes, he told me that but he was living at home and I didn't want to cross swords with his mother over seeing so much of him. So far there hadn't been a word said about it and David and I were together all the time.

Now I'd climbed way way out on the David limb and I don't think I was more worried about anything as I was worried about David spending the night with me.

I have a good memory but I can't remember the movies we saw that night. My mind wasn't on the movies. My mind was on David and what the sleeping arrangements were going to be.

I usually knew what David would say before he said it. He was a predictable kind of guy. He liked doing the same things and change not so much. I had no idea if we'd end up in the same bed together or not. I know what I wanted but David had a mind of its own.

After the movies we drove to where I lived. David had been there before when I went home for something while we were together and he was right on my heels when I unlocked the door and went in.

I stopped in the living room.

"You can sleep on the couch or you can sleep with me. I've only got a single bed. There won't be a lot of room," I said, holding my breath.

I was worried and apprehensive I might be ending the best friendship I ever had. I couldn't have guessed what David would say. When he said it, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I wasn't wrong about what I thought had been going on between us for the last year.

"I'm sleeping with you," he said without hesitating.

David slept in my arms that night and every night we spent together after that. The final piece of our relationship was put into place. My love for David was returned in ways I couldn't have imagined. If there was great love, this was it.

I'd been in love with David since shortly after he came over to my truck the first time. It's one of those things that is. I had no control over it. I did my best to be his friend. He worked for me because I liked him. I didn't need to tell him how much I liked him and how much I loved being with him.

At times, while we were at work or while we were shooting pool or bowling, I was unable to take my eyes off him. He was the most beautiful person I'd ever known and he amazed me.

"What?" he'd say when he caught me staring.

"Nothing," I said and I'd force myself to look away.

David knew what. I knew what. I did my best not to allow it to get in the way of being with him until the night he stayed over the first time. Nothing else needed to be said after that.

I was in love with David and he wasn't opposed to it.

Now that we'd opened the door to a physical relationship, I decided it was time I met David's people. He was spending most of his time with me and I'd never introduced myself. David wouldn't allow it.

This took some thought about the situation. I finally resolved how to meet David's folks so they'd know who he was spending so much time with.

"Don't you drink milk?" I asked.

"Yes," he said with a smirk. "Of course I drink milk."

"Did you realize I was a milkman?" I asked.

He laughed at me. He had no idea where I was going.

"No, I had no idea. Do tell," he said.

"How much milk does your family drink?" I asked.

"A lot," David said. "I'm always going to the store for a gallon of milk."

"I'll deliver your milk. Tell your mom that I'll charge her whatever she's paying at the market. My milk will be fresher and no one has to go to the store and carry milk home."

David had to think about it for a minute.

"OK. I'll tell her. She'll take you up on it. I guess it's OK with me. I like your milk," he said.

"You better," I said and he laughed.

The next time I saw David, he gave me a list of what they wanted. I added it to the next day's order.

David introduced me to his mom the first day. She was quite pleased to finally meet me. I met Grandma and Granddaddy. I saw his little sister but she wanted no part of the milkman. David had an older brother he'd told me about but I didn't meet Richard for a while.

Within the first week instead of me putting the milk in his fridge, David took the carrier and he sat me down in the living room where Granddaddy usually sat.

Granddaddy had snow white hair. He was a good looking man in his late fifties or early sixties. He talked to me like he knew me and I enjoyed talking to him. There was no mention of David's father and I didn't ask why. It was obvious that this was his family minus his brother.

Grandma was large and in charge. She was feisty, funny, and she had a heart as big as all outdoors. I enjoyed her banter and when she asked about what this service was costing her, I said, "You tell me. I told David I'd give you the price you pay at the market. He works for me. You get it wholesale."

I may lose a little money on the milk I sold them but I didn't mind. What David added to my life was worth it's weight in gold. Being able to reassure his people that I was an ordinary guy was important to me. They needed to know who David was spending all his time with.

David's mom was polite and soft spoken. I could see why David got to do what he wanted. As long as her son stayed out of trouble, he did what he wanted.

It was easy to see how David got the way he was. There was a lot of love at his house.

As quick as the milk was put away, he wanted to go.

"Come on," David would say impatiently.

If his grandfather and I were talking, I'd say, "Wait a minute," and finish our conversation.

I'm not sure David wanted me at his house but the ice had been broken and it made me feel better. David got his way in every other situation. As independent as he was, he'd grown up well.

David lived next door to Jimmy. The difference in those two houses was remarkable. Jimmy's house was barren. There was no carpet. The furniture was a mess. The house felt empty inside.

David's house was immaculate. The furniture wasn't new but it was well kept. The carpet was clean and the house looked like a family lived there. Pictures were hung with care and little touches made it feel like a home. It was small for six people but it was a pleasant place to be.

We added a drive-in movie on Saturday night to our schedule. David started sleeping over on Friday night and Saturday night. Once we got up on Sunday, usually around noon, we ran until I dropped him off on Sunday night at about eight and the routine started all over again.

Each time I left him at his house, I got a knot in my stomach as I watched him jog up the front stairs and disappear inside. On Sunday night I would need to go without him for the next thirty-three hours. It had to be a little like heroin withdrawal. I couldn't wait for Tuesday to arrive.

Our weekends changed almost immediately. David and I went to the drive-in Friday night, he stayed over and went to work with me on Saturday morning. We ran my route, went home to eat and sleep, and we got up in time to hit the movies and then we slept in Sunday morning.

I let David drive my car. He was a good driver and we'd head down to Southern Maryland and he drove the back roads. We ended up at the 301 drive-in, Oxen Hill drive-in, or the Indian Head drive-in.

There were a dozen drive-in theaters and we could go every night and not see the same movie twice. We loved 007, anything with John Wayne, Paul Newman, or Steve McQueen ad there were a hundred new movies made every year, and that was just Hollywood productions.

My life was perfect. I loved what I was doing from sun up until midnight. I loved my job, I love the things we did together and who I was doing them with. I loved David.

One day while relaxing in front of the tube a friend of my roommate came in to do his paperwork. Big Mike worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. He worked on computers. He learned his trade in the Navy. When a Goddard computer anywhere was on the fritz, they called Mike.

That was impressive. Mike was my roommates friend and he asked me if I minded Mike coming by to do his paperwork. I didn't mind. It wasn't my apartment.

As I was watching an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Mike was ready to leave. We didn't have a lot to say to each other, but he had something on his mind.

"How's David," he asked.

"David is spectacular," I bragged.

He laughed.

"I need to go over to Goddard. Want to go along? I'll show you the space center's computer set up. I don't mind telling you, it's pretty amazing," he bragged. Few people realized how fast computers are advancing everything in our everyday lives."

"Sure," I said.

Common folk couldn't get onto the Goddard Space Flight Center and it was all about space, "the final frontier."

Mike flashed his badge at the gate and the military man waved him through. Greenbelt wasn't far and the Baltimore Washington Parkway took us almost to the gate.

That was the only sign of security and he took me into one of the buildings on the complex. He sat at a desk in an office and put the final touches on his paperwork and we were going to the main computer room a few doors away.

The room was twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside the room. It was maybe a room thirty feet by thirty feet with very high ceilings. The ceilings had to be high because each computer went nearly from floor to ceiling. They had big disc inside of plastic windows that turned in jerks. Every computer had the discs that were constantly turning. There were about thirty computers in that room.

Mike leaned on a box in the center of the room. He pointed out the Nimbus computer first.

"I work on this one most often. It takes meteorological data on atmospheric conditions. In layman's terms, it's taking data from a weather satellite."

As we stood there chatting, Mike explained what each computer in the room did. It took thirty minutes for him to finish his presentation. I could tell he was proud to know the things he knew. Mike was plugged into the space program.

Once he finished, he stood up straight. He looked at the rectangular box he'd been leaning on the whole time. The box was three feet high, a foot wide and three feet long.

"This computer does everything I just told you all these computers do. By the end of next year we'll have a computer the size of a pack of cigarettes and it will do a hundred times more than this computer does," he said, indicating the box he leaned on. "Technology is moving so fast we can't keep up with it . That gives me job security."

The punch line was worth the time it took to learn about all those computers. The idea that all that activity would be done by a computer the size of a pack of cigarettes was earth shaking.

I thanked Mike for allowing me to see that. I had no knowledge on computers and Big Mike talked about them. He talked about his work. It was fascinating. He was smart.

"I live in New Jersey, near the shore, and I'm going to New York City this weekend. I'll leave Saturday afternoon and I can have you home by Sunday night. Want to go to New York City, Rick."

I explained to David that I was going away for the weekend. He took it in stride. He'd stay over Friday night and I'd take him home Saturday before I met Mike.

The trip was so great that I immediately wanted to go back. Mike showed me the highlights. He took me to some street fairs inside New York City and we saw Broadway and things nearby.

On the way back from New York City, Mike had more to offer me.

"I'm renting a place near Dupont Circle on 19th Street. It is in the center of the action in town. I hate living alone. Why don't you move in with me. It's small but it's a place you can bring David and feel comfortable and the entire city is at your feet," Mike said.

I visited DC from time to time. I'd been to gay bars. I knew where Dupont Circle was. I immediately liked the idea.

Mike was one of the good guys. Why he was taking me places and asking me to move in with him, I never asked. He was older and certainly smarter than me, but I liked what he had to offer. I would take him up on it.

"Are you sure?" I asked, ready to give Duncan my notice

"You're clean. You're quiet. You're a nice guy. Yeah, I'm sure. I don't know anyone else I'd want living with me. That's about the size of it. I need to be near Goddard. It's too far from New Jersey. I needed to move. I want someone around when I'm not around. I travel a lot for my job."

"Yes," I said. "I liked the city. I'd love living there. you know I'm in love with David. That isn't going to change."

"It's part of why I asked you. You are a stunning couple, Rick. I enjoy seeing the way you two look at each other. You can live there and move David in if you want."

"No, we have a good thing going. Moving in together isn't what I want at the moment. That's subject to change."

I had nothing but a few changes of clothes where I was living. I moved my stereo, my Beatles collection, and my television into Big Mike's hat weekend.

David helped me move. I showed him the apartment.

"Kewl," he said. "I like Mike."

This represented a change. On weekends we'd do the things we routinely did and if we felt like it we could walk down to Dupont Circle and watch the people. There were endless places to go and great places to eat.

As places went Dupont Circle was the most cosmopolitan place I knew. I got a lesson on computers that talked to satellites. I'd gone to and was impressed by New York City and I was living in Washington DC.

Life was good.

A few weeks after the move I turned the corner onto David's street at five one morning. He was sitting on his steps and he tossed the cigarette he was smoking on the lawn before jumping on the truck.

I'd usually accelerate and head for where I began my route. This time I pulled to the curb and I looked at David's face.

"Fight?" he said.

David had a fat lip and his left eye was swollen closed.

I'd seen David go into his macho persona. Never in front of me, except if we ran into one of his friends. The change was immediate and it was obvious to me.

"Times a wasting," he said, wanting to go.

"Let it waste. What happened?"

"It was nothing," he said.

"Your face isn't nothing. You look like you went ten rounds with Ali," I said.

"It does not."

"Tell me about. We've got plenty time," I said.

I was with my buds and a car cut us off. Then we stopped at a light. I jumped out thinking we were all going to give the guy what for. No one else got out and I got my ass kicked. End of story."

"No. That isn't the end. You need some new friends, David. If your friends leave you hanging out to dry, they aren't your friends."

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Are we going to deliver milk or what?"

That was the first time I was angry with David. He couldn't see that his friends were losers. They stood there and watched while he got his ass kicked. They probably laughed about it later. That wasn't OK with me. I didn't like violence and I didn't want the man I loved liking violence in spite of some of the movies we went to see.

There was a line that came to mind that morning and I quickly rejected the idea of, "It's your friends or me," but I considered it. I didn't like what was done to David's face, but it was the world where he lived I got no say.

His face healed quickly and he went back to being the same beautiful David I knew. I couldn't hold his hand. I couldn't be with him every minute and it didn't take much time for us to hit the same stretch of rough road yet again.

"What's wrong with your arm," I asked when I picked him up the following Wednesday.

"We put a lit cigarette between our forearms. The guy who pulls away first is a chicken," David said with pride.

He showed me the other arm and it was exactly the same. He had burned a half dollar size wound on both of his beautiful forearms. It looked terrible.

"What's wrong with you?" I asked horrified.

I'd met tough David.

I suspected there were two Davids. He was different when he was with his friends. His gentleness was what he felt while he was with me. That was the David I loved.

Tough David was tough. He was the boy who grew up in a tough neighborhood with his tough friends. I'd seen signs of tough David. I loved sweet David. I didn't like tough David.

When he spent a lot of time with his buds the more evidence I saw of tough David. If I couldn't get him away from the guys he grew up with one day he'd need to decide if he was sweet David or tough David. I wasn't sure I'd like the decision once he made it.

My fear was that tough David would be the boy I picked up one day and sweet David would be gone for ever.

"This is because of me isn't it? It's because they talk about queers and you've got to prove you're as tough as they are no matter who it is you're sleeping with," I said alarmed. "You're running your beautiful body."

"I am as tough as they are. Tougher. I never pull my arm away first. They know it. It has to do with me not you."

I was angry he'd purposely put scars on his beautiful body. I almost told him what I thought but I was dealing with tough David. That David would walk away in a minute.

One morning as I held David close to me, waiting for him to wake up, he began to speak.

"If it wasn't for you I'd be dead or in jail."

Sweet David was in a fight with tough David. I couldn't hold him all the time.

I had to be careful not to arouse tough David. I'd seen all I wanted to see of him.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Mike had shaken me out of my routine in a big way. I'd never met anyone who influenced my thinking in such an overwhelming fashion. He was smart and he'd been around.

In a few weeks my center of gravity had changed. I was a guy who liked things to stay the same.

Change had never been my friend but these changes exposed me to a side of life I'd never considered. None of the changes was at all threatening. If anything, my life was made far better by my contact with Mike.

I was careful making friends. I didn't know that much about Mike, except he always talked to me when he came to Duncan's apartment to do his paperwork. It didn't take long to find out much more and it was all good.

When we were leaving New York City the day I went there with him, I was already planning a return on my own. I wanted to see places I'd heard about. There was David to be considered.

We'd settled back into the routine we'd established before his bouts with insanity that had him trying to prove his manhood to his friends. I knew it was because of me but I didn't know what to do about it.

Things went back to normal in the weeks that followed and David went back to being the guy I loved.

It was October and while the days turned cool that time of year. It was a pleasant coolness after a summer of heat and humidity. If I was going back to New York City, I wanted to go while it was pleasant to be outdoors.

I decided to take David to New York City with me. He was use to the new apartment. He didn't seem to mind the city just beyond our front door.

I explained about New York City and I asked him to go.

"Sure," he said.

We'd been seeing each other for nearly two years by then. The biggest obstacle we'd run into in that time was when there was onion on his burger. I could deal with it.

Instead of eating after we delivered milk on Tuesday morning, I took the truck back to the dairy and had my paperwork done by ten and we were on the way to New York City as soon as I reached the car. We hadn't eaten and I planned no stops if we were going to get done all I had in mind to do. It would be a whirlwind two days. I was off Wednesday and we'd be home Wednesday night and I'd pick David up early Thursday morning for work.

We were coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel in the early afternoon. We parked a block from the tunnel at the first parking garage we came to. I knew enough not to try to drive around NYC.

We got a hotel between 42nd Street and Broadway. From there we'd hit the subway. I knew what our first stop was going to be but I didn't tell David where we were going. David was with me. He went where I took him. He didn't have much to say but I saw his amazement about the city.

Our fifth-floor room looked out on a busy thoroughfare in mid-Manhattan. I opened the big glass window. I leaned out to smell the city. Traffic streamed past the hotel five stories below. The horns, the noise, the movement of people spoke of the vibrancy of this city.

I turned to see David happily bouncing on the double bed. It was bigger than my bed and I wondered what was on David's mind as he smiled my way.

Unfortunately we had a lot to do and taking time out to prove our love to each other might use the entire time.

"Come on," I said interrupting his bouncing. "We've got a lot to do."

"Does that include eating. My stomach feels like my throat has been cut," he said.

"Can you wait a little longer. You'll be glad you did,"

"Sure," he said.

I was starving to but we needed to get to our first stop.

We took the stairs down to the street two at a time. We left the hotel going toward the first subway station I spotted from the window. We were on our way.

"Stand here," I said. "Don't move. I'll be right back."

I asked the woman who sold me a dozen subway tokens how to get where I wanted to go. She smiled as though she would like to go too.

"Far Rockaway. Can't miss it. Track 5. Once you see the ocean it's on your right. Not crowded this time of year. You have fun."

"Yes, ma'am," I said.

We walked down and down deeper into the ground. I was following the sign to tracks 5,6,7. As the train came storming into the station, the front read, "Far Rockaway."

A minute and a half after the Far Rockaway train arrived it left with us aboard. We passed new shiny aluminum cars with windows that didn't open. You'd need a gas mask if it smelled anything like our car smelled.

I wondered how far Rockaway was.

The subway had a funky smell. I wasn't sure who might pee with all these people around. I was sure someone did.

I loved every thing about the city except riding the subways meant being exposed to a lot of grime and then there was that smell. I guess you got used to it.

Our one stroke of good luck came when our subway car was old and wooden with windows that went down even if it was only eight inches.

With all the windows down the air circulated as long as the train was moving. It allowed fresh air to circulate. That was a life saver if you liked breathing fresh air.

We needed a light jacket where we were going but it was a pleasant day and for the first time we could relax. I'd been on a mad dash since I got up and now we were heading out of the city and moving toward the shore.

Looking at how far the subway car's windows opened, I calculated it allowed fresh air to circulate but it wasn't open wide enough to circulate someone out of it.

The day was bright, the sky a vivid blue as the train moved north and the city faded behind us.

David's hands rested on top of the open window. He looked out of the opening. You couldn't see through the grime on the glass.

David's expressive face had filled with wonder.

I hadn't asked him what cities he'd been to. His intense blue eyes studied the landscape. He took it all in as the high-rise towers began to move farther and farther apart as we put distance between us and Manhattan.

I didn't ask what he was thinking. Now, I wish I did. I wish I'd done more for him. When you're with someone and it's the someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, time is limitless. It seems like you have all the time in the world but your time might be running out. The closer we became the more permanent it seemed to me.

That day life was never better. As we moved out of town and toward a place David was going to enjoy, I knew what David liked and my plan was to shower him with fun and excitement. It was right up his alley and mine.

Ain't love grand. It was nearly perfect that day.

I didn't tell him we were going to Coney Island. As soon as we left the subway car he lit up. You could see the rides from the elevated subway station above Coney Island.

The Atlantic Ocean stretched out before us. It's a difficult combination of delights to top. It amazed me to see it for the first time and we wasted no time getting down the stairs to where the action was.

I'd been hearing about Coney Island and Nathan's hot dogs all my life. Once I decided we were going to New York City, I decided on our first stop being Coney Island.

We hadn't eaten all day. I knew if we were going to get everything done, we had to be in the city shortly after noon. Once we were in New York, we could have eaten anywhere but I made up my mind we'd eat at Nathan's and that became the plan.

It was probably harder on David than on me, because he'd never heard of Nathan's hot dogs. If he'd heard of Coney Island, he didn't know we were going there.

He never complained. He mentioned eating only once and we were there now. All's well that ends well and we dashed toward the large Nathan's Hot Dog sign.

We inhaled the first few hot dogs. I started off ordering a half dozen. I figured it would get us started and I order two Cokes as we stood beside the mustard, relish, and onions that I piled on eat dog.

Juice dripped off our chins from the juicy hot dogs. We stood watching each other stuffing hot dogs into our mouths. I'm sure the cashier wondered where the hell we came from. We'd come over two hundred miles to eat those hot dogs and it was worth the trip. Nathan's did have the best hot dogs I'd ever eaten. Of course I was starving.

We were laughing once we'd eaten four or five hot dogs a piece. I could see David turning a little green as he tried but failed to get one more dog to follow the other five. It simply wasn't going to go and he sat the remainder down.

"Man, those were good," David said.

"You going to forgive me for starving you all day?" I asked.

"You're forgiven but I couldn't eat another one of those if my life depended on it. I'm stuffed," he told me.

"Hey, the cashier said. "Have one on the house. I'll throw it in for free."

"No way," I said, and the cashier laughed.

"You guys were hungry. Sorry I didn't have a camera to taken a a movie of you. It would be great advertisement."

We walked away happy and we carried our Coke with us. I knew the next stop but David was way ahead of me. He'd already spotted the Cyclone. It was hard to miss the way it stretched out toward the Atlantic Ocean.

From up on the elevated subway platform it looked as though it ran into the Ocean at the far end. What red blooded American boys wouldn't find that irresistible?

David and I certainly did.

Once again I made David stand back from where the business was done. I had a plan and I bargained with the ticket seller for six rides a piece. Knowing David as I did, When he asked, "Can't we go again?" I would be ready for him. We went to stand and wait our turn. It wasn't crowded.

The closer I looked the more it looked very much like it was of a rickety construction. It made a calamitous racket, broadcasting its location to anyone at Coney Island. When you looked, you knew where the cars were along the way, and if you couldn't locate it because of the noise of the cars, you could locate it by the scream.

As we stood, I could hear it down at the far end of the ride, where it looked in danger of falling into the Atlantic. We could hear the screams and it sounded like maybe it did fall into the ocean.

It didn't.

The rickety sound and clackety clack told us it was on the way back. The screams accompanied them along the way. Victorious yells told us that man had once more conquered the machine, but they weren't done yet.

The cars were flying straight for us. They couldn't possibly stop in time, but it suddenly braked and crawled to a stop, after eliciting one last gasp from the riders. People scrambled out laughing and retelling the most exciting part.

There were ten cars to pick from. Six people got off and staggered away. David and I sat together in the first car on our first ride. We'd see what the Cyclone was all about in close up.

It jerked into motion. It clicked, clicked, clicked as the chain pulled the cars up to the top of the first rise. It was a second or two while we were racketed over the peak and began to point downward as the other cars followed us up the hill. Without warning we plunged straight down, around a curve up and down dips, and we shot up toward the sky, never slowing down before the next plunge took my breath away.

I looked at David. He was smiling from ear to ear.

This was great and we screamed at the same time, lifting our arms above our heads as we plunged into the next drop and were thrown together on the next curve before we went up and down again.

We were carried away by a machine that didn't know its limits. It flew straight up and shot straight down. It curved, turned, dropped, and went straight up again. We laughed we yelled, we screamed, we thundered directly toward the Atlantic Ocean.

We hurtled out of control and there was no way we could stop in time to keep us out of the Atlantic but we jerked left, swung out over the water as we were pressed together on an impossible turn. Then we were roaring back in the direction we came from. We dipped, we climbed, we jerked and fell all at the same time and as we came around the final turn, facing a certain disaster, the brakes stopped us in our tracks and the ride was over.

David had an amazing look on his face and we were both laughing. I'd heard the Cyclone was the best roller coaster in the country and I believed it. It was great.

I wasn't sure my insides were going to stay inside and as we coasted forward, failing to get out when the other riders did, David asked with high hopes in his voice, "Can we go again?"

I held up ten tickets.

"Of course we're going again," I said.

"Kewl," David said.

I handed the man two more tickets.

"Lets sit in the last seat," David said.

We got out of the front car to get into the last. We were going to see the Cyclone from every angle. We were already laughing when the ride started again. This time we knew what was coming and we couldn't wait.

"This is awesome, Dude," David said.

"Yes it is," I agreed and as the front car plunged it yanked us over the crest with it. It was like riding the tale of a tiger. We didn't dare let go, except to hold our hands in the air and scream bloody murder.

No one could ride the Cyclone just once. At least we couldn't. I knew David well enough to be able to anticipate what he'd want to do. We screamed until we were hoarse and we screamed some more.

We sat in the front. We sat in the back car. We sat in the middle and then we sat in the back again. After six rides, we'd had enough. I could hardly walk down the ramp that took us away from the incredible Coney Island Cyclone.

We were in the midst of our best day together. We went on a couple of other rides. Once you went on the Cyclone everything else was child's play. It was time to go.

"You had enough, Kiddo?" I asked him.

"Yeah, we did what we came to do," he said.

It's true that going back from a new place goes a lot faster than when you go. In no time we were back in the City. We were gone for three hours and came back satisfied.

"What's next?" I asked.

"We haven't been to the movies all day," David said. He'd seen the many marquees on the way to the hotel. We walked along the avenue checking out what was playing. David stopped at Von Ryan's Express and War Wagon. "This one, Started a half hour ago. We can come back in an hour and catch both features and be in bed by nine."

"I've been up since four. I need a break," I said.

"And I've only been up since four thirty. I can see where you'd be way more tired than I am," he said.

"We can go back to the room and stay there," I said.

"No, we can't. The movie starts in a little over an hour."

It did and we'd be in the audience when it started.

It was rush hour when we got back to Manhattan but everyone was going out of town when we were coming back. Until we got out at the subway station near the hotel, it wasn't too bad. I wanted to eat again but I wanted to get off my feet even more. We could eat before the movies.

How far could six Nathan's hot dogs take you? Not far.

I couldn't believe how good it felt to lie down as the city buzzed around us five stories down. David didn't want to lie down because if we got in bed together, we'd miss the movies but that didn't stop me from watching him.

"You having fun, David?" I asked.

"Yes, this is great," he said excited. "I like New York."

I looked at his beautiful eyes and handsome face. He got more beautiful every day. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be with him.

"What?" he said in a familiar way.

"You know what," I said.

He laughed. He knew what.

I couldn't get enough of him. I wanted it to last forever. I'd never been happier than I was at that moment.

David was perfect for me. I didn't know there was great love. I'd never been in love with someone who loved me. There was no love at my house growing up. I wasn't liked and I didn't like it. I didn't particularly like people.

Learning about love and affection was quite a reach for me. I knew I was gay since I was seven or eight. I'd been with other boys since I was nine. I knew it was forbidden but compared to life at my house, it was the only human contact I'd had up until then.

I didn't know the word gay. I looked up homosexual before I turned ten. I knew it meant me. How did I know that? I don't know how I knew but I knew.

Now I was having a great love. How strange was life?

I lived a nightmare as a child. Now I was having a great love. I didn't know the meaning of the word love. I didn't look it up because I knew no one knew how to define the word love. It was like one of those gigantic concepts that only Albert Einstein could define, but there was no way to define it in terms anyone could understand. You knew love when you found love. If you didn't find it bad on you.

My life had been pretty ordinary until David walked up to the side of my Harvey Dairy truck.

Life was weird. I didn't expect anything to come out of it for a long time. Then there was David and he was my everything. As long as I had him, I'd be OK.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I'd seen the sign for the Automat. It wasn't far from the hotel. I'd heard about it and I didn't know I'd get to see one. When you went inside, you were facing a lot of clear plastic doors big enough for some dish to fit behind it.

On one wall there were entrees. Chicken, fish, meatloaf fixed in a variety of ways. There were sides on one side and desserts on the other side. Everything was behind these little clear doors. Entrees might be fifty or seventy-five cents. It was all done with quarters. Mashed potatoes might be fifty cents. You put in two quarters and opened the door to take the dish you select out.

The best part was looking through those clear plastic doors. You could see people preparing the food and putting the dishes behind the clear plastic doors. It was an amazing concept. I'd never seen anything like it. The best part was the food was good. It all tasted just like what it was supposed to be.

As with everything David did with me. It tickled him to put the quarters in and take the dish out. We were there for fifteen minutes and used up three or four dollars in quarters. There was a guy there to give you quarters for your bills.

It didn't take long for us to be buying tickets for the next showing of War Wagon and Von Ryan's Express in that order. I walked up the stairs to go into the balcony.

David said nothing. He followed me as usual.

You learn things about people if you spend enough time with them. I thought I knew most things about David and I didn't expect there were things I didn't know, big things, I didn't know about him. I was about to find out one of those big things.

Half-way through the movie David did something strange. He got up from the seat beside me and moved down to the first step in the lowest part of the balcony.

What is this all about?

David is no longer with me and now I'm watching him. I didn't care about the movies but what was he doing..

What's he doing? When we go out together David rarely leaves my side. He says nothing and he gets up and moves.

To complicate matters a guy about David's age gets out of his seat and he sits beside David on the step. Now I'm pissed and I don't know what he's doing.

The guy sitting beside him says something to David and he replies. The guy goes back to his seat.

I'm fuming. I stay where I am. After the movie is over David returns to the seat beside me. I say nothing to him.

Later, once we left the theater, I've calmed down enough to ask him,, "Why did you go sit on the steps?"

I'm not prepared for his answer.

"I couldn't see."

It was like he punched me in the face. I'd gotten angry and all he wanted to do was see the movie. He couldn't see. That's why he hated school. Now it made perfect sense.

What else didn't I know about the guy I loved?

Yes, I bought him glasses. No, he wouldn't wear them once he passed the written part of his driving test.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"You hungry?" I asked as we left the theater.

"What do you think?" he asked.

He was always hungry.

We passed what smelled like an Italian restaurant. We stopped to look in the window. A sign said, 'Seventy-five cents for a plate of spaghetti with a sauce of your choice.

"Smells good," David said.

"It does," I said, and we went inside.

You paid for the spaghetti, drink was extra, garlic bread was tossed on the table once you emptied the basket that came filled to the brim.

Like everything else that day. It was great. I got mine with meatballs and then I got a plate with Italian sausage. David stuck with meatballs for his second try and neither of us could half finish the second plate. We'd spent five bucks and stuffed ourselves. What wasn't there to like about that?

We were ready for bed as soon as we got to the room. I fell right to sleep. David was in my arms of course.

The following morning, we got up early to go to Palisades Park. There was no fooling David this time. It was written on the bus we took just before seven on Wednesday.

There was a special giveaway to the first fifty people to arrive that morning. We took the first bus and we were given a shopping bag of gifts when we purchased our tickets.

I'd describe the gifts in the shopping bag as junk but one man's junk is another man's treasure. We discarded most of it before going into the park, except for two candy bars and a single 45 rpm record by Sonny & Cher, 'I Got You Babe,' and David latched onto it.

I learned something else about David. Not only did he need glasses, but he listened to records. David was extremely polite; in most cases he'd ask if he could have something but the record was his. I don't know what that meant. He could have anything he wanted as far as I was concerned.

His thumb went through the center of the record and met his forefinger on the other side. I'd never have thought of that. It worked for him. He carried that record all day.

No matter what rides we went on and there weren't that many that interested us at Palisades Park, David found ways to hold the record and not lose his grip. I wouldn't have gone through all that trouble for Sonny & Cher but David did. I never asked why it was important to him.

We stayed until noon. Leaving before we had time to get breakfast and David needed to stop to eat every few minutes. We had all the junk we could eat and we'd ridden the best rides a couple of times.

I looked at David as it was approaching lunch time. I couldn't eat any more junk.

"Have you had enough yet?" I asked.

"Yeah, maybe we can get some real food in town. I've got sugar running out of my a'hole," he said.

"I'd like to see that," I said.

"I bet you would," he said and he laughed.

We raced to the bus stop and in about forty minutes we were back in the city.

"I vote for the spaghetti place," David said.

"Kewl," I said and we stopped at the same restaurant where we end up the night before. It was on the way to the garage where we parked the car and after we ate we were ready to head home. It had been a wonderful day and a half.

We only sat for a few minutes at the Lincoln Tunnel before we began moving toward New Jersey and the Jersey Turnpike. We pointed the car toward home.

In four hours we were turning onto David's street.

"Can't I stay over tonight?" he asked.

"What did you tell your mom?"

"I'd be home Wednesday evening. She doesn't care if I stay over," he said. "I can do what I want."

"Let's not push it, Kiddo. Why not stick to what you told her. I'll pick you up in the morning and we'll be together all day. Then I'll pick you up Friday after I get off. We'll be together until Sunday night. You can check to see what movies you want to see this weekend."

"OK," he said.

When I stopped in front of his house, we looked at each other. This was the part I never liked. I'd see him in the morning but I never liked watching him walk away.

After a minute of keeping his baby blues on me, he said, "See ya."

Opening the car door, he got out and I watched him jog up the steps and walk toward his front porch.

In his hand, held between thumb and forefinger, the 45rpm record, 'I Got You Babe.'

Did he ever.

I never loved anyone the way I loved David.

I loved you then.

I love you still.

My wish for you remains the same.

Be happy, David.

The End ... or ... just the beginning.

Today we are all Urkrainian

Glory to Ukraine to brotherhood and to peace

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"Palisades Park" Copyright © OLYMPIA50 2022 All rights reserved.
    This work may not be duplicated in any form (physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise) without the author's written permission. All applicable copyright laws apply. All individuals depicted are fictional with any resemblance to real persons being purely coincidental.

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