Find Me a Sanctuary

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Miles decided to spend a warm Saturday night at one of his favorite places to visit. One of his best friends managed a local sports bar in the city of Fullerton. As soon as he entered the building, he found a few people watching sports on the lone flat-screen TV. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it appeared to be a tie game at the bottom of the fifth.

The bar itself didn’t look fancy at all. It didn’t have that cosmopolitan ambiance that originated in several places in the city. It remained rather ordinary with a billiards table, an old-fashioned CD jukebox, a poker table, sports memorabilia on the walls, and an HD TV for sports broadcasting. The entire building didn’t lack refinement, but it did have a deficiency of blissful ambiance due to the many discontented barflies who visited the place. Miles would consider himself to be one of those barflies, but he didn’t drink much. He just felt blue tonight.

“Hey, Trevor, give me a cold one.”

The forty-one-year-old man sat down at the front counter and waited for his friend to hand him one of his favorite liquid refreshments.

Trevor, a thirty-eight-year-old Vietnamese man, wore a black silk shirt and black denim jeans. He arrived at the front counter with a bottle of beer that was just recently opened. He handed it to Miles and said, “I’ll be counting.”

Miles already took a long sip of his beer. “Don’t worry, man. You know me. This will be my only bottle for tonight.”

Trevor started wiping the countertop with a piece of white cloth. Speaking fluent English, he asked, “Are you still looking for work?”

Miles gave a nod. “I know I won’t find one, but I’m still looking just for the hell of it.”

“You shouldn’t really feel so negative about this. There are plenty of companies out there who are looking for guys like you.”

“Then why haven’t they called back for the past two months?”

Trevor shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t ask me. I’m not an expert. I just hope you wrote the correct phone number on your applications.”

Miles sighed. “Life feels like hell right now. I think you know how it feels to be forced into wallowing in your own misery.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

Miles immediately felt guilty. “I’m sorry about that.”

“That’s all right. I’ve moved past that stage.”

“Oh, yeah. Are you still seeing that college guy?”

Trevor gave a little smile. “Ever since April.”

“I never met him. What’s he like?”

Trevor pointed his finger to one of the booths in the corner. “Why don’t you see for yourself?”

Miles turned around to see a young man with shoulder-length brown hair sitting at the booth. He wore black shorts and a white t-shirt. He waved his hand at Miles, who in turn tipped his dark blue truckers cap with his finger. The young man looked attractive, though he did seem a bit too young for a man like Trevor.

Miles asked the manager, “So what’s he doing here, anyway?”

“The two of us are going to spend some time together for the rest of the night. We might even stay after closing time…if you get my drift.”

“You are one lucky son of a bitch.”

Trevor laughed. “He’s a great catch, I tell ya.”

“Well, I’m happy for you. You deserve some enjoyment in your life. I wish the same could be said about me.”

“Why don’t you look for someone instead of spending more money on a bottle of beer?”

Miles gave a hint of sarcasm when he replied, “Oh, I’m sure I’ll find a man who is fascinated by an unemployed knucklehead like me.”

Trevor raised his hands. “All right, do it your way.”

Before he could take another sip of his beer, Miles noticed something at the corner of his eye. Someone began to play a song on the jukebox near one of the pool tables. Miles recognized it as “Remedy,” from The Black Crowes. He admired the hard and bluesy 90’s rock sound, and it appeared that someone else had taken a liking to it as well.

Miles regained his concentration and asked Trevor, “Do you know anyone who is willing to hire someone who can operate a forklift?”

“I can’t say that I do.”

As the two men discussed career options, Miles gave a brief glance at the one who wanted to play music from The Black Crowes. It looked like a woman, but Miles couldn’t be too sure. The person standing in front of the jukebox had long and smooth blond hair and wore what looked like a black sleeveless undershirt, accompanied with a pair of blue jeans. When the person started dancing by swinging the hips in a slow manner, a moderately feminine quality in terms of appearance and mannerisms became apparent.

Even as he continued to have his discussion with Trevor, Miles looked again to examine the blond individual a little more. The third glimpse gave him a better view. It became an authentic confirmation that the blond person was a man, or rather a very womanly man. The flat chest and manlike face didn’t juxtapose well with the rest of his body. The blond man was slim and short, possibly just a few inches shorter casino siteleri than Miles. He appeared young, perhaps in his early 20’s or so. Miles could clearly see now that the shirt he wore was a black sleeveless turtleneck top.

Ever since he spotted him, Miles couldn’t regain his complete concentration of answering Trevor’s questions. He continued to gaze at the young man who danced to the upbeat tune of classic rock. Something attracted him to the man who demonstrated his slow harmonious movements. Furthermore, it seemed rather odd, but Miles immediately obtained the uneasy feeling that he had seen the blond man before.

“Do you like what you see over there?”

Miles turned back to his friend and cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, Trevor. It’s just that…well, I don’t know. The guy looks familiar for some reason.”

Trevor eyed the blond dancer. “The one that looks like a woman? Yeah, he’s quite the looker.”

Miles chuckled. “Yeah, I know. But still, I think I’ve seen him before. I really can’t figure it out yet.”

“Maybe he just reminds you of someone.”

Miles shook his head. “No, it’s not that. I can almost feel it, though.”

“I think I know that feeling.”

“And what’s that?”

Trevor gave a little smile. “You just want him for yourself.”

Miles added mild sarcasm in his voice as he replied, “Yeah, sure. I look at him for ten seconds and I already want him to wear a wedding ring that has my initials on it.”

Trevor started cleaning empty beer mugs with a cloth. “It’s not easy to hide your denial, is it?”

Miles licked his lips. “No, I guess not. He IS looking good right now. Though, I wouldn’t mind if he cut his hair short.”

His next long sip of beer felt more satisfying while his eyes stayed on the young man. As the main chorus of the song repeated itself, so did his extravagant-looking hip movements. Miles slid his fingers across his brown shoulder-length hair. He found himself captivated by the womanly figure, though he, with his mind, still tried to reconstruct and re-evaluate familiar territory from the past.

The song ended, and the jukebox began to automatically shuffle around with its CD collection. After a few seconds of silence, it started to play a vintage grunge rock song from Stone Temple Pilots, entitled “Wicked Garden.”

Derek from the booth got up and asked Trevor where he kept the cue sticks for the billiards table, to which Trevor replied, “They’re right next to the jukebox.”

“I want to play pool if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. You’re gonna have to find another player, though. It’s not really fun when you’re playing all by yourself.”

“I’ll join in.” The young blond man raised his hand. A diminutive grin had formed on his face.

“You don’t mind, do you?”

Derek walked towards the pool table. “We’ll see if you’re actually good at this game.”

“Ooh, fighting words. I like you already.”

For the next few minutes, Miles and Trevor stayed at the front counter and watched the younger individuals start their straightforward competition with the first round of eight-ball billiards. While Trevor had his eyes on his younger lover, Miles couldn’t stop gazing at the other one. He slowly placed his bottle of beer on the countertop. He took a deep breath. He now recognized the familiarity surrounding the effeminate man. He did indeed see him before.

Miles whispered to Trevor, “Now I know.”

Trevor also lowered the volume of his voice. “So you DID see him before.”

“I remember back when I still lived in Riverside. About four years ago, this group of high school seniors always harassed me whenever they had the chance. There were about six of seven of them. They somehow found out about my sexual preferences, probably through word-of-mouth or something. Anyway, they would usually pull pranks on me either at work or at home. They left a burning paper bag full of crap at my doorstep. They stuffed a dead raccoon in my mailbox. One time, they even stole my car and left it somewhere around Diamond Bar.”

“How the hell did they do that?”

“I don’t know, but one thing became clear to me. They really wouldn’t respect guys like us if they drove that far away from Riverside.”

“I already assume that the man at the billiards table had been a part of the group.”

Miles nodded. “Only that is not how he looked back then.”

“What do you mean?”

“I remember his face. Back then, he looked rather average. He blended in with the rest of the gang, except he looked to be one of the shorter participants. I can tell because I finally confronted the troublemakers. I couldn’t stand for it any longer. I threatened them with a baseball bat. I warned them that I can feel quite exhilarated if I use it against them. They didn’t want to fight against a grown man. They just walked away without saying another word. But before they did, I got a good look at all of them.”

Miles pointed at the blond at the billiards table. “His hair wasn’t as long back then, and he didn’t dress up like a woman. slot oyna He acted just like everyone else, including me. I didn’t see him or the rest of the gang again since I moved here in Fullerton.”

Trevor rubbed his chin. “From the looks of it, he tried to hide his true identity by joining that very same gang. Either that, or he still felt confused about his gender at the time.”

“Those are two theories that seem the most logical.”

“But what’s he doing here?”

Miles continued to observe his former adversary. His appearance and mannerisms appeared so different in contrast to his behavior from four years ago. He acted (or least tried to act) tough like the other teenagers, even if he appeared skinny and unmanly. In the present, the exact opposite had taken effect. The young blond man bent over with his cue stick to concentrate on his next move. He moved his whole body like a suave and gracious female. An unhurried punctuality controlled his movements.

Miles pushed his beer bottle away. “I think it’s time for me to solve a little mystery.”

Trevor didn’t move. “Be careful, Miles. Try not to use a cue stick the wrong way. I don’t want a crime scene taking place in my bar.”

“Don’t feel so concerned about my actions. It’s not like I’m going to hurt anybody. I’m as well-mannered as you.”

“That is considered a promise you’re going to keep.”

“Sure.”

Miles stood up and walked over to the pool table in silence. The blond man gave a blank stare as he leaned against his cue stick.

He asked, “Would you like to join us?”

Miles grabbed his own cue stick. “Don’t mind if I do.”

As Miles cleaned the cue tip with chalk, someone played another song from the jukebox. This time, music from Monster Magnet began to blare from the speakers. The song, entitled “Temple of Your Dreams,” gave off symphonic “psychedelic rock” vibes.

At this time, all three men surrounding the pool table remained silent. Derek concentrated on his next shot as he leaned over and aimed his cue stick at the white cue ball. Miles gave a sidelong glance at the player standing just several feet away from him. He kept quiet as he tried to comprehend a reasonable motive behind his arrival here tonight. Anything was possible. Either the blond man attended a university here in Orange County, or he currently visited a relative living here in Fullerton.

Miles took off his hat and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “So, what brings you here on a Saturday night?”

The blond man, who was just a few inches shorter than Miles, smiled and said, “Oh, I just felt like playing some pool.”

“Do you live around here?”

“I just moved from Riverside about three months ago. I finished college and now I work at a Costco on Harbor Boulevard.”

Miles put his hat back on his head. “What’s your name?”

“Most people know me by Hector, but you can call me Harriet if you like.”

“Which one do you personally prefer?”

“I can’t say. It depends on the mood I’m in.”

“I hope you don’t mind if I call you Hector…since you still look like a man in my point of view. No offense.”

“It never hurts to do what you want.”

As soon as Hector shifted his concentration towards the pool table again, Miles gazed at him, looking down from his black shoes and up to his smooth gold-colored hair. In his mind, he felt a dead end. Even if they hadn’t seen each other for a total of four years, Hector, who should be twenty-two years old by now, would have at least recognized the one man that he and his gang had harassed on a weekly basis. At this moment, he acted as if Miles turned out to be a complete stranger. A flourish of theories included Hector possibly playing a well-planned trick on Miles.

As soon as Derek finished his shot, Hector walked away from Miles in silence. He bent down as he concentrated on the white cue ball, which stood right in front of three pool balls. He thrust his stick against the cue ball before it collided with its primary targets. None of the pool balls, however, made it in any of the six pockets.

Derek replied, “I can teach you how to play if you want.”

Hector shook his head. “Don’t toy with me. I’m just warming up.”

“Sure, whatever you say.”

Hector backed away from the table while Miles took his cue stick and focused on the remaining balls on the green surface.

He kept his eyes on the cue ball while he asked, “So Hector, do people ever give you strange looks when you’re dressed like that?”

“Oh, I get that all the time. Some of the people I’ve bumped into even yelled some very ruthless obscenities at me. But it doesn’t matter, anyway. I don’t even care what they think of me.”

Miles thrust his cue stick, and within a fraction of a second, the cue ball rammed itself against the ten-ball. It landed in one of the corner pockets.

“That’s good, because no one should ever have to make enemies that way.”

Miles could hear Hector chuckle as he said, “I couldn’t agree more.”

The Monster Magnet song canlı casino siteleri faded out, just in time for a song from Lynyrd Skynyrd to kick in. Miles recognized it as “Voodoo Lake,” a rarity from the 90’s. The dark and groovy intro had arrived in the shape of two acoustic guitars and a fiddle.

When it was Derek’s turn again on the pool table, Miles kept his composure as he asked the blond man, “Did you ever experience the exact same thing back in Riverside?”

Hector was silent for a few seconds before he replied, “No, not exactly. No one knew about it because I didn’t have the courage to express myself.”

“It must be an agonizing feeling, knowing that people will reject you for who you really are.”

Hector still had his eyes on the pool table, even though the expression on his face grew a little solemn. “I told you that I don’t care anymore.”

“But you did a few years ago, am I right?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

The Skynyrd song that blared on the jukebox had reached its main chorus, which featured lyrics that had something to do with the devil’s offspring.

Derek finished his shot, but Hector just stood there. Derek looked a little confused as Miles asked, “Did you ever tell your friends from Riverside about what you like to do behind closed doors?”

Hector replied, “No, I never did. I didn’t feel like telling them about it, anyway, since they’re not really open to new ideas about being a man.”

Miles expressed his amusement with quiet laughter. “I bet you felt annoyed when they expressed their dissatisfaction with men who prefer other men.”

“I did, sometimes.”

“Why only sometimes?”

Hector took a slow deep breath. “Because I didn’t want them to know that I held a different opinion, you know. I didn’t want to lose any friendships. When you’re eighteen, you tend to keep your mouth shut when it comes to such an extreme topic.”

“So you didn’t say anything when your friends started harassing other people?”

Miles could see Hector tightening his grip on his cue stick. “Why would I spoil their fun?’

“You didn’t even say anything when they stole someone’s car and sent it all the way to Diamond Bar?”

That should have given Hector a more apparent reaction, but he stood still and said with a calm voice, “So you know about that.”

Miles’s voice grew hoarse. “Of course, I do. I was the one who told the cops about it.”

“And that means you know all about me and my friends.”

“You’ve been harassing me for three straight weeks. The only way you would forget is if you had amnesia or something of that sort. A four-year absence shouldn’t be affected by a short-term memory when you’ve confronted a man like me.”

Hector gave a little grin. “So my appearance didn’t tip you off at first?”

“I can’t say that it did.”

Derek immediately stepped in. “Are you guys already done with this game?”

Miles replied, “You two can continue. I need another drink.”

He didn’t even give Hector a brief glance as he put down his cue stick and left for the front counter. In actuality, he didn’t feel like drinking another bottle of beer, but he did want to recap a few things with the bar manager.

Trevor, who looked like he had observed the entire conversation, had just finished talking to one of the barflies from the corner. As soon as Miles took a seat at the counter, Trevor asked, “So was he a victim of your mind tricks or what?”

Miles kept the volume of his voice to a minimum. “No, not really.”

“I’m guessing that he does recognize you.”

“Yes, he does. Not only that, but he already knew who I was the moment he took his first step in this place.”

“Sounds to me like HE’S the one trying to play mind tricks.”

Miles licked his lips. “I don’t think this is a coincidence.”

Trevor cleared his throat. “What do you mean?’

Miles observed the two younger men occupying themselves with their ordinary game of billiards. Hector gave a momentary look at the man with the truckers cap before shifting his gaze at the pool table yet again.

Miles whispered to Trevor, “Think about it. Hector and I haven’t seen each other for four years. And now, on the exact same night, we pay you and your bar a visit at the very same time.”

“I think you’re relying too much on a conspiracy theory that’s almost certainly counterfeit.”

“Maybe he’s trying to send me a message or something.”

Trevor pointed his finger at his friend. “Well, I’ve got a message for you. In fact, it’s more of a scenario. He sees you in a random location somewhere around here. He doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t want you to recognize him right away. He follows you to see where you go to have some fun. And seeing this is where you do some of your most routine indoor activities, he decides to check this place out before interacting with the one man he feels sorry for ridiculing while still residing in Riverside.”

“I hope you’re not implying that he’s stalking me.”

“Well, we’ll leave that possibility outside. This is the point that I’m trying to make: maybe he just wants to know you more.”

“If that’s the case, he should have stopped pretending that we were complete strangers several minutes ago.”

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