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On the Riverwalk

Ah ... love is in the air. How do straight people meet and what kind of relationships do they have? Before I accepted being gay, I had a few straight relationships and saw how the whole ritual worked (although it worked better for the more-enthusiastic straight guys than for me who really just didn't get much out of even looking at girls, let alone dating them). Anyways, this is one of the many possibilities for how straight relationships work. You might be surprised.

The sun was steady on the horizon as late afternoon fell into early evening. The orange rays spreading from the west changed the normally greenish-blue waters of the river into a flowing current of gold, moving steadily along the gently winding banks and cascading over the occasional outcropping of rock. The trees on either bank, waving in the light breeze as if swaying to some silent slow-dance, sheltered the river and isolated this spot at the edge of the city, standing tall and full enough to block the sight of buildings and freeways not too many miles distant. The city’s sounds of horns and engines were not to be heard here above the chirping birds and the rush of cascading waters; the city’s smells of exhaust fumes and urine were blown far away by the winds to leave only the rich smell of earth and flowers; and the city’s inescapable vibrations and pulsations also were absent, leaving only the soft caress of that gently flowing breeze.

Alongside the river, winding and flowing in sync with its path, lay a simple wooden boardwalk of smooth pine planks, evenly spaced and deftly engineered to blend into this tranquil scene. Small shrubs and tall grasses in some areas completely obscured the edges of the wooden path as it meandered beside the river through the woods. At a certain bend in the river, where the arching bows of the trees made a latticed canopy above the flowing waters, a simple wooden bench had been placed upon the walkway, facing the river and dappled in glowing patches of orange-hued light.

The path at this time of day was often empty of the men, women and children who traced their way back and forth throughout the rest of the day, some jogging, some walking deep in thought, and some having animated discussions with a companion. By this time of the evening, as dusk was descending, the people of the city had generally returned to their homes within the surrounding area. Tonight, however, two forms walked along the slightly creaking planks, arm in arm as they headed to the empty bench.

Sitting on the left of the bench without taking his eyes from his companion, a handsome man with raven-black hair and stylish clothing smiled and lay his arm along the back of the bench. "Do you like it?" he asked of the woman to his right.

"Oh yes, it’s … incredible. It’s so peaceful here. How did you ever find it?"

"I’ve been coming here for years," he replied. "It’s very relaxing, and I can get away from the stresses of the city … at least for a little while. I just wish you’d been here with me sooner." Smiling at her again, he lifted her hand from her lap and kissed her fingertips, stopping only for a moment to smile again when he noticed her blush.

Smiling shyly, the attractive woman lowered her head to hide the redness of her face, her long blond hair flowing along with the motion. She was noticeably younger than her companion, but she was old enough to know what was happening. "Blake," she said to the man, "do you really love me?" She raised her head once again, waiting for a response.

"Of course I do, Eva, "Blake replied soothingly. "I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone else in the world, and that’s why I want us to be together."

"I know," Eva responded. "And I want us to be together, too, but it just all seems so fast. I mean, I just met you last night." She hesitated a moment but then smiled.

"Darling Eva, don’t you feel it? It’s like I’ve known you all of my life, like I’ve been waiting and waiting for you and now you’ve finally shown up! Oh, I can wait if you insist, but I want so much to be with you and show you my love. I feel like I could just explode; you get me so excited!"

The blush returned to Eva’s cheeks. "Yes, I do feel it. I feel the same way, but … oh, I shouldn’t doubt something that feels so right."

As she finished her reply, Blake twisted on the bench to face her and drew her close for a long, passionate kiss. Each face pressed closely against the other as hands moved along each other’s backs. One kiss led to another as the final reddish light of the sun vanished beyond the trees. A soft glow of light, fading as the minutes passed, barely surrounded the lovers as they slowly drew apart.

"It’s getting dark," Blake spoke softly. "Do you think we can go back to your place?"

"Mmm-hmm," Eva replied breathlessly. "Yeah, let’s go. I want you."

Blake’s white teeth could still be made out in the fading light as he smiled at Eva. "I want you, too. Let’s go."

Taking her hand again, Blake stood and drew her up into his embrace. Leaning in for one more kiss, Blake made a quick little lover’s peck then smiled and laughed at his little teasing contact. Leaving the bench, they each stretched an arm around their lover’s waist and walked casually down the path. As they disappeared into the night the last light of dusk faded, leaving only the soft sound of rushing water and the gentle passage of the wandering breeze.


The next evening found Blake and his companion once again walking arm in arm along the walkway to the bench by the riverside. The height of the setting sun, the color of the sky, the fragrance in the air, the sound of the birds and the waters – all was the same placid atmosphere as on so many previous nights that Blake had come to this spot with a woman. Blake led her to the bench and allowed her to sit before seating himself. She crossed her long legs and threw back her head so that the flow of long red hair would fall back from her face. Her fair skin was colored by rosy patches on her cheeks as she smiled and looked around.

"I remember coming here with my father when I was a little girl. I always felt so safe, like nothing bad could ever touch me here. I don’t know why I haven’t come back ‘til now."

"I always feel safe here, too," Blake told her. "Whenever I’m here it seems like I can have whatever I want and no one will stop me." Blake smiled and placed her hand in his. "Do you have any idea how much I love you, Sheila?"

"Blake, I love you, too. I never thought when I met you online that we’d ever be more than just friends. So many guys online are just creeps. All they want is anonymous sex and no commitment. But you’ve been so sweet and never seemed to care about that stuff. And now we’re really together."

"I … " Blake began to speak but stopped and looked toward the ground.

"What’s the matter, Blake? You can tell me."

"Oh, Sheila, I don’t want to scare you off after you just said that about those guys online, but I want so badly to kiss you." He lifted his head to face her, a pleading look on his face.

Sheila smiled and stroked his cheek. "You’re not like those guys, Blake. We’ve known each other long enough for me to see that. I want to kiss you too."

Blake wasted no time. Twisting in his seat he grasped her into a strong embrace and kissed her deeply, taking Sheila momentarily by surprise at his passion before she gave in and responded in kind. The kiss seemed to go on for quite a while, the light of dusk dimming as they embraced and caressed each other.

Blake pulled away and stood up, facing away from Sheila as she sat on the bench.

"What’s wrong, Blake? I … it was so good for me …"

"It’s not you," Blake responded. "Look, I’m not sure I should say this but I haven’t been with a woman in a long time and you’ve got me really excited. I … um … I need to calm down."

Sheila giggled. "Come here, big boy."

Blake turned around to a smiling Sheila as she reached out her arm to invite him back to the bench. He hesitated a moment as she grasped his hand.

"You know, it’s really a turn-on for me to have a guy that’s so shy like you are. I promise I won’t lead you on and not follow through."

"You mean …" Blake queried as a smile drew his lips up tightly, the statement unfinished but as clear as the waters of the river in the distance.

"Yeah," Sheila replied with another smile. She looked around for a moment before mentioning, "It’s getting dark. Do you want to come back to my place? I don’t want to rush things, but I know you have to fly back home in a couple of days to go back to work. I want to spend as much time with you as I can."

"Me too. That would be great." Blake sighed and looked to the sky. "I wish I could live here so I was closer to you. Damn, I hope that transfer goes through."

Sheila stood up and pulled Blake close. "Let’s not worry about that now. I know we’ll be together; we just have to be patient. We’ll find a way."

Pulling each other in for a tight hug, they turned and walked off along the pathway, the planks creaking in the otherwise silent night. Soon even that light creaking grew silent, leaving simply the sound of rushing waters and the musical chirping of crickets.


The following night the scene was changed only slightly. A brief summer rain during the day had fallen over the river and the trees, and clinging drops still fell randomly from the leaves. The planks of the walkway, soaked during the rain, were a myriad of shades of brown and tan as the water brought out color from the sun-bleached wood although some planks were lighter, having dried more quickly than others. The descending sun, normally a warm orange influence upon the river, was instead a flow of pinks and purples, not quite as bright as on other nights and setting a more subdued mood to the whole area.

Blake walked along the wooden path alone, headed toward the same bench he had sat upon countless times in the past. He glanced around occasionally, looking forward and back along the path as he made his way to his destination. Reaching the bench he sat down, looking each way along the walkway once again. He stared out at the river he had seen so often and then raised his arm to glance at his wristwatch. As he lowered his arm, a quiet creaking could be heard from the planks along the path. Blake looked back to see a short, plain man walking along the path toward him. Seeming uninterested, Blake turned his gaze back to the flowing waters.

"Where is she?" Blake mumbled to himself.

"Hope is not coming," the short man spoke to Blake’s question in an even, British-flavored tone.

Blake turned and directed a questioning glance to the stranger. "What?"

"I said, ‘Hope is not coming,’" the stranger replied. "She was never going to come. I wanted you here so that I could speak to you myself."

"What? Who are you?" Blake queried, his voice full of confusion and a bit of anger.

"My name is Justin Wilde. Do you recognize that name?" Blake shook his head to the stranger’s question. "I didn’t think you would. In fact, I doubt that you would even recognize the name Delia Wilde." A dumbfounded look from Blake seemed to confirm this, and the stranger continued. "Delia was my wife up until about six months ago. She and I are divorced now, and I feel more empty and alone now than you can possibly imagine."

"Look, fella –"

"Justin," the stranger interjected.

"Yeah, … whatever … I don’t mean to be an asshole … I mean I’m sorry to hear you got a divorce and all, but why are you telling me this? And how do you know about Hope?"

"Well, it will take a bit of explaining." Justin pointed to the empty space next to Blake on the bench. "Um, may I?"

"Sure. Go ahead," Blake’s tone was guarded as he watched Justin take the seat beside him.

"Alright." Justin paused a moment then stated, "You are the reason for my divorce."

"What! Look, buddy, I don’t even know you!" Blake began to stand but Justin grabbed his shoulder firmly and pulled him back into his seat.

"Just sit! I have a lot to say, and you are going to listen!" Justin paused again, seeming to actively work at calming himself from his stern outburst before continuing. "My wife and I were high school sweethearts. I was away from the city getting my Master’s Degree for the last two years, and I’ve only been able to return every month or two for a long weekend while I’ve been at college. We figured we could struggle through a couple years apart. We probably could have. But then you came along."

Blake stared at Justin with a look of dread creeping onto his face. Blake was strong and suave around women, but it was obviously just an act. Faced with a real problem, a confrontation, it didn’t seem that he was very strong at all. He was noticeably fidgeting in his seat, his gaze fixed upon his feet, and he seemed to shrink from his suave, controlled façade into a timid, nervous wreck as Justin explained more and more.

"About seven months ago, while I was still at college, I got a letter from my wife telling me she wanted a divorce. I was heartbroken, and I just knew that it had to be because I wasn’t with her. I flew back to the city to speak with her, hoping to convince her I would give up college and come back if she would forgive me. She told me that I had done nothing wrong, that she was guilty and wanted a divorce because she owed it to me. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say and insisted that she tell me what had really happened. Eventually she told me."

The look of dread that had been growing upon Blake’s face became accented by a slight sweat on his forehead.

"Yes, I see by the look on your face that you remember her name now. What you don’t know is that after you seduced her and went your own way, she became pregnant."

The sweat began to bead and drop across Blake’s face.

"My wife has always opposed abortion, and even under the circumstance she felt the same way about this child. Rather than hurt me, my wife wanted a divorce because she couldn’t face me anymore. I tried everything I could to convince her that I could forgive her and that we could get past this, but she would not forgive herself. She wouldn’t stay in the same house and she was getting sick with anxiety. In the end I didn’t feel I had any choice but to agree to the divorce, hoping she could forgive herself if I wasn’t around as a reminder of what had happened."

Blake looked quite shaken and backed away from Justin on the bench. "I am so sorry. I had no idea. Really. I didn’t … I didn’t think –"

"That’s right! You didn’t think!" Justin yelled out a defiant comment but paused for a moment and noticeably forced himself to calm down once again. "I’m not here to beat the living hell out of you, Blake."

Blake looked slightly relieved but not completely trusting of Justin’s words.

"I probably should kick the shit out of you, and I’m sure other men would, but I want you to remember this and suffer for a long time. I’ve spent the last six months anticipating the satisfaction of telling you what you have done and telling you what I have decided to do to … repay you."

Blake paled. "Look, I –"

"Shut up!" Justin loudly cut him off. "I’m not going to hurt you. Not physically, anyhow. I decided that you deserved a fate at least as bad as what you’ve done to me. I am alone and bitter when I should be blissfully happy with my wife. But that’s gone now. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing since my divorce." Justin smiled a wicked grin and Blake shrank back into his seat without saying a word.

"When the divorce was final, I tried to move on but I couldn’t. I could only think of what you had done to us, and then it all came to me. I hired a private detective and told him everything I knew about you from my wife. I figured if we could find you that I could either warn the women you found or I could blackmail you or something. I figured I’d know what was the best solution when everything came together. Surprisingly, it didn’t take him long to find you. The fact that you seem to bring every woman you meet to this riverwalk was very helpful. By the way, wave to Mr. Sykes, my private detective." Justin leaned over the back of the bench and waved at the trees.

Blake turned around and looked at me sitting behind my tripod-mounted video camera, the edge of the camouflage hunting blind pulled aside amidst the trees where I’d been hiding less than fifty yards away. The last of the color drained from Blake’s face as he turned back to look upon Justin’s defiant smirk.

"This is all really just for my fun, Blake," Justin told him. "I wanted to see your face when I told you everything. I’m having my ex-wife sue you for child support. I’ve contacted all of the women you’ve seen over the last five months since Sykes started filming you here. If you’re lucky, none of them got pregnant or you’re really in trouble. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget," Justin paused a moment and smiled even more broadly as he dealt the final blow, "I’ve sent copies of all of the video tapes to your wife along with some extra footage that Mr. Sykes’ associates were able to provide from in the city. I not only expect her to file for divorce, but I expect her settlement to give her possession of everything you own.

"I suppose I should feel a bit sorry for you, Blake, but I don’t. You ruined my life, asshole. See what it feels like." With those final comments, Justin stood and turned away from Blake, walking quietly but with a somewhat lighter step than I’d ever seen him use since we’d met.

Blake didn’t seem to move until some time after Justin had passed from sight – then he just seemed to lean into himself and shake as he sat hunched over on the bench. I pulled the flap of the hunting blind closed again as the last bits of light fell away from the riverside. As the darkness consumed the scene, all that could be heard were quiet sobs as Blake accepted his fate.


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On the Riverwalk, by Paul Cales, © September 2001