The time is 1973. Alex the protagonist of the novel met Lester in Iowa on the his way to California. Here Lester shows up at Alex’s apartment in San Francisco.
After living with the sad pink living room walls for too long Alex knew they had to go. Over a rainy weekend Alex painted them a warm yellow so he wouldn’t be embarrassed when he brought men home from the bars. Just as he lay down to take a nap he heard a knock on the door that never happened because there was a doorbell.
He opened the door to find Lester grinning ear to ear with a bulging suitcase at his side.
Lester exclaimed, “I did it!”
Alex was taken off guard. “You did.”
“I didn’t know how to call you.” His feet shifted back and forth.
It was happening too fast for Alex to guess Lester’s reasons for standing there, so he simply said, “You did, indeed.”
“I’m glad you’re home.” Lester was wearing brown boots and a long hunter green jacket of some dense fabric Alex didn’t recognize. He asked, “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
“I’m sorry. I decided on the spot.”
“Come in. Come in. Let me get you something to drink. Soda? Beer?” Alex grabbed Lester’s suitcase and ushered him into the living room. Lester stayed at his side and said, “You have bourbon.”
“Don’t know if I have any.”
As Lester examined the room he said over his shoulder. “Then anything would be fine. I don’t want you going out of your way just for me.”
Looking at the clump of unfolded laundry, Alex said, “It’s good to see you. The house is a mess.”
Lester turned to look at him with pride, “You have a very nice house. I could tell from outside.”
“Have a seat and tell me what’s going on.” Alex said as he offered him the sofa and sat opposite him in his overstuffed chair.
“You see, my uncle he died. The bank was gonna take the farm anyway,”
“I’m so sorry.”
Lester took a deep breath and seemed to melt into the cushions. “After I signed all their papers I bought a ticket.”
“You came without knowing where you were going?”
Lester exclaimed, “I came here to see you!”
When they met Alex got confusing signals from Lester and wasn’t sure how to proceed, so he started talking about his housing plan, but Lester interrupted, “Could I stay here until I find a place? Then you can tell me about a place real near you.”
Alex had forgotten to take his coat, and Lester was sweating profusely, so he grabbed the collar of his coat. “Let me get your coat.” Lester slowly peeled off his coat and then a heavy sweater that Alex took to the bedroom. When Alex came back he saw Lester’s solid physique beneath his union suit.. He said, “Let’s look in the classifieds. They have lots of apartments and condos.”
“What’s a condo?” Lester asked as he picked up a copy of The Advocate and stared at a photo of a shirtless man.
“They’re new. It’s like an apartment but it’s owned.”
Lester was embarrassed to be seen glued to the magazine and stammered. “So the apartment is owned but you rent it?”
“This is a very complicated city.” Lester’s shoulders sagged.
Alex couldn’t stop smiling. ”Not really, but different in lots of good ways.”
Lester tried to hide the magazine. “Can I stay just a few days. I don’t want to bother you.”
“Of course you can. All I’ve got is the couch.”
“That is very nice of you. If I stay with you you’ll show me things.” Lester started to blush.
Alex didn’t want to jump to conclusions. “Let’s talk about that after I fix lunch.”
After consuming large bowls of split pea soup with ham Lester took a shower. Alex heard the shower being turned off and minutes later Lester walked into the living room stark naked and stood in front of him with his head down.
As he stared at his nakedness Alex asked, “Are you trying to tell me something?”
Suddenly embarrassed Lester looked around for something to cover himself. Horrified he said, “I thought you were one of those.”
“One of those?”
“Men who like men. Like the ones in Davenport.” When Lester dove for a pillow to cover his crotch Alex suggested, “Why don’t you get dressed, and I’ll give you a tour of my city.”
Lester raced back to reclaim his clothes and called from the bedroom, “That’s very nice of you”
They climbed into Alex’s Dodge Dart and drove up to Twin Peaks. After staring at the skyline they worked their way back down winding back streets to Castro Street where Lester was glued to the window and too stunned to say more than, “Holy Cow!” and “Look at that man!”
After dinner, the two sat on the couch to watch a Monty Python movie on the VHS player Alex had borrowed from a friend. Alex got up to find bourbon in the back of his liquor cabinet and called from the kitchen, “You want your bourbon with ice? Seven-Up?”
“Just plain I guess.”
Alex brought back a tumbler of bourbon and handed it to Lester who looked at it, and sniffed it before tasting tentatively. He squinted then swallowed and coughed most of it out. “Ehew!” Liquor splattered on his pants.
Alex asked, “You like bourbon?”
Lester responded sheepishly, “I thought men like you drink it.”
“Everyone’s drinking Tequila Sunrises.” Alex put his hand on Lester’s shoulder that quivered at his touch and asked gently, “Can you just tell me why you’re here. Lester?”
Lester drained the glass and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “I love you.” He quickly covered his mouth, and then he moved it away saying, “I don’t mean that, I mean, I mean I love you getting away,”
“Are you sure you’re gay?”
Lester blushed when he whispered, “A farmhand showed me his boner in the barn and made me kiss it, but I never saw it again.”
Alex cocked his head. “You said something about men in Davenport.”
Lester looked away, “Guys at the tavern talk about girlie men there.”
”But you’ve never been there?”
“No, sir. I don’t do nothing like that.” Lester crossed and uncrossed his legs.
“Please call me Alex.”
“I’m sorry.” Lester put his hands politely in his lap to cover himself.
“But you somehow got up the courage to get out here so you must feel pretty sure.” As the sun set it cast long shadows on the frayed carpet.
“Yes, sir . . . I’m sorry. Yes, I’m sure, Alex.” He paused. “Can I kiss you?”
When Alex turned Lester lunged at him. The kiss was brief, and Lester was nervous and his body shook as their lips met. He kissed him again, but when Alex began to slip his tongue into Lester’s mouth Lester’s visceral reaction damaged his tongue.
Lester wiped drool from his chin, “Oh, my goodness, I can’t tell you . . . that was something else.”
“Welcome to San Francisco.” Alex wiped blood from his lips and leaned back laughing. “The first time a man kissed me, and I’d been kissing girls, I knew it was different.”
Lester leaned into him and confided, “It’s hard being different.”
After work the next day Alex took Lester back to Castro Street where he wanted to stop in all the shops and loved just standing frozen on the sidewalk looking at men. After Alex’s dinner of roast chicken and a few glasses of cheap red wine Lester took a shower. This time he went into the bedroom and called tentatively, “Come here, please.”
Alex knew what was coming. Getting a man in bed was now second nature for Alex, but Lester had to be handled gently. Alex walked nonchalantly into the bedroom and pretended to be surprised when he saw Lester’s gangly pale body lying face down on the bed. “Whoa! Look at you.”
Lester turned his head from the pillow. “I want to do that thing with you.”
Lester lifted his head to examine Alex’s body, “That thing men do to each other.”
Alex opened the top of his jeans. “We do lots of things with each other.”
Lester turned over with an obvious erection. “Then you can show me.”
Alex dropped his jeans and sat on the side of the bed. “We’re gonna kiss, and then we’ll do that thing.”
Before Alex could kiss him Lester blurted out, “I want you to touch me in back. I stick my finger there sometimes when I jack myself off.”
When they kissed Lester squirmed but did not try to touch Alex’s penis. Holding a quaking man doing something he’d never done Alex remembered his first kiss as if his body had been waiting his entire life for just that kiss. After tumbling around for some time with Lester laughing uncontrollably Alex said, “Why don’t you get on your hands and knees and let me see your ass.”
Shocked, Lester gasped, closed his eyes and did as instructed with his head on a pillow. His butt was covered with goose bumps. Alex was rock hard as he gently parted his cheeks and saw a shrine to possibilities and a door that once opened that can never be closed. Alex sensed Lester was at that point of intensity just shy of insanity who vibrated as Alex very slowly stroked his rosebud, circled it with one finger and then gently prodded it. Lester lay motionless his breathing deep and broken. Alex knew he was about to share primal male energy and felt bound by a sacred oath to anoint him gently. He was the ordained who would welcome Lester to a world of new understandings and beginnings, and knowing touch can provoke feelings locked deep inside he’d pay close attention to Lester’s every move and be ready to stop at any hesitation but ready to glide if Lester opened to his touch. When Alex was fucked he saw trees and fresh grass, the life of the earth bathed in brilliant sun. when he fucked him he hoped Lester would see bolts of electricity and a placid pond that becomes torrents of rain on a distant shore. Alex’s greatest gift would be sharing the love and confidence Abe shared with him.
The fog still clung to trees when Alex woke to the sound of Lester opening drawers and cupboards in the kitchen. He yelled, “What you looking for?”
Lester answered. “I can’t figure out this Mr. Coffee thing.”
“I’ll set it up.” Before Alex could get out of bed Lester was snuggled next to him and whispering “There’s nothing as nice as you.”
Alex hugged him “Are you OK with what we did?”
Lester admitted, “It was a whole new thing.”
“And it didn’t bother you?”
Lester covered his mouth. “No, sir, I’m sorry, it felt like something I was always supposed to do.”
“I like that. What would you like to do today? It’s Saturday, so we could go to the beach or Golden Gate Park.”
“Can we go back to Castro Street?” Lester remembered storesof glorious objects and handsome men.
“We can do that, and you can meet Clay.”
Lester’s eyes lit up. “Is he your boyfriend?”
“He’s been showing me cool stuff. This city’s amazing.”
”Is he as handsome as you?” Lester asked as he arched his neck to stare at the ceiling.
Alex got out of bed, put on his underwear and admitted, “Handsomer.”
Looking at pictures Alex Scotch-tapped the walls Lester said. “There are so many.”
Alex admitted,“Lots more than me.”
Lester pulled the sheet over his head. ”NO! I mean there must be a hundred men as good looking as you and your friend.”
As Alex slipped on his shoes, he said “More than that.”
As Lester put on his underwear he proclaimed. “There can’t be that many.”
Alex tightened his belt. “Let’s do some scouting. You just got here.”