(c) Chuck Teixeira, 2016
Mike was just back from Lima when he ran across Cesar late night at the gym. Cesar had lost weight and shaved his beard in the month since they’d last seen each other. Although Cesar eyed Mike with caution, Mike embraced him in front of the few people still on the cardio floor.
“Many thanks for asking Kurt to put me up.” Kurt had been Cesar’s lover and hosted friends who visited Peru. Kurt’s flat was in Miraflores, not far from the building where Cesar’s younger brother, Nestor, lived.
Cesar and Kurt often worried about Nestor’s welfare and about his discovering that they were gay. Cesar had phoned Kurt’s flat nightly while Mike was there – to talk to Mike in English about enjoying the city and to Kurt in Spanish about whether Mike had said anything to Nestor that might out Cesar to his family.
That evening at the gym, Cesar was still worried, so Mike yielded to his leading them to the treadmills where they often perspired together – Cesar jogging while Mike walked.
“I met someone else while you were gone. Between Joseph and this new guy, I won’t have much time.” Joseph was Cesar’s partner. They had made money flipping houses before real estate tanked and had remained together even after a stroke disabled Joseph.
Mike set the incline and speed on his treadmill. They exercised a few minutes in silence. Then, only slightly winded, Cesar said, “I didn’t want you to meet any of my family.” Like his Chimu ancestors, Cesar had the dark skin and hairless body that Mike adored. But mostly, he worshipped Cesar for remaining with Joseph even after medical bills had consumed almost everything the two had acquired. Some of Cesar’s gay friends had urged him to find a new lover, someone still healthy and successful; but no one in Cesar’s family ever questioned his loyalty to a business partner who had lifted him out of poverty and got him a green card but now had fallen on hard times.
“I was grateful that Kurt had Nestor pick me up at the airport.”
“And you gave Nestor money!”
“Why does that upset you?” Mike said. “I gave him 100 soles, the amount I’d have paid for a taxi. Better to keep the money in your family. The only thing I didn’t like was Kurt’s suggesting I also pay 400 soles for Nestor’s garage rent.”
Cesar winced, his head gleaming with sweat.
“I might have paid that too,” Mike continued, “But I had just racked up 1,300 soles on my credit card because Kurt needed two pairs of prescription glasses.”
“O, God!” Cesar gasped.
The conversation was more enjoyable than Mike had anticipated – assuming that Cesar’s calculations involved not only currency conversions but also shame over his ex’s groping Mike’s pockets.
“I had hoped that staying with Kurt would save you money,” Cesar said.
“I had terrific experiences with Nestor and Kurt.” Mike said, “Especially the trips to Cuzco and the excavations at Trujillo.”
“How much did that cost you?” Cesar began to ask then waved the question aside. “No matter how much you spent on Nestor and Kurt, you didn’t acquire a license to trouble my family with revelations they don’t welcome.”
“I didn’t say anything to Nestor,” Mike said. “I understand enough Spanish to know that Kurt told you that I did nothing out of order.”
“Did you have sex with Kurt?”
Mike and Kurt were old blond bears not attracted to each other “No, we didn’t.”
“We knew you wanted us to — in the way you like to control everything.”
“I just wanted you to enjoy yourself. Did you?”
“Yes, we enjoyed frustrating your desire for us to have sex.”
“That must be something white people like,” Cesar shrugged.
“I also enjoyed the way Kurt kept telling me not to ask Nestor any personal questions and then kept telling me more about Nestor than I would have dared ask.”
“Like what?” Cesar said.
“Nestor lived with his wife for less than a year. He’s been ripped off by every woman he’s ever dated. He can’t hold a job. Your father belittles him mercilessly. He drinks too much and lives for free in the apartment you own.”
“Enough!” Cesar snapped. He slowed his treadmill to a walk and glared at Mike. “Even if Nestor were gay, he might not like you. I’m starting to like you less.”
“Everything I’ve said is true. You know I love you. You’re the only man I let fuck me.”
“I doubt that,” Cesar said.
“Without a condom, I mean.”
“I doubt that, too.”
“However Nestor came into my life,” Mike said, “He is beautiful in the same way you are. Perhaps more beautiful for being vulnerable.”
“He’s my baby brother. If you trouble him in any way, you’ll be sorry.”
“I’m already sorry.”
“Kurt said you were a good guest and wants to be friends.”
“I don’t know if your brother’s gay,” Mike said, “but he’s disastrous at being straight.”
They walked in silence a while longer, Mike headed deeper into love for Cesar. “I’ll stop flirting with Nestor over WhatsApp – if you want.”
“On the phone today, Nestor said you’re sending him messages and music files. He says you invited him to stay in your home if he visited San Francisco to help me care for Joseph.”
“I won’t say anything more about Nestor’s visiting, unless he asks.”
“Don’t use Joseph as bait unless you’re also going to wash, dress and feed him. I made a promise to do that and I have.”
“I know,” Mike said, “I’m sorry.”
“Right after the stroke, the doctors gave Joseph six months to live.” Cesar looked directly at Mike then laughed, “That was four years ago.”
“I’m always happy when I’m with you,” Mike said.
“Nestor’s excited about your invitation; he’s never been here. But no more music files.”
“They were harmless.”
“I doubt it.”
Recently retired from the practice of law, Chuck Teixeira teaches English in San Francisco. Chuck’s work has appeared in numerous print and digital publications.
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