Journey to Love
Key West Adventure
Edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
A week later, I was aboard a plane touching down in Key West. Winter was hanging on tenaciously in Virginia and now I was stepping out into balmy weather. DeAngelo’s plane was arriving fifteen minutes after mine, so he’d told me to wait for him at the baggage claim carousel. I learned the trip DeAngelo had ‘won’ was an under-the-table gift from three Monroe alumni who had been college baseball players and had made it big in the business world. The ‘prize’ included a car for the week and the man bringing it would meet him at the carousel. He was waiting for DeAngelo’s arrival, helped us get the luggage in the car and we were off. Since DeAngelo’s plane actually arrived a few minutes early, we were on our way to the condo less than half an hour after I arrived.
In the car, DeAngelo and Joe were talking about the wild week they anticipated. I hoped most of it was just talk. I had finally had enough and said, “Ok, guys, I hope a lot of that is empty talk after the last holiday when we were all scared shitless.”
“You know how it is,” Derek,” Joe said. “Guys get together and all start talking about fucking every girl around.”
“Maybe in your circle,” I said.
“Well, don’t you guys talk about all the guys you’re going to fuck?”
“Not my bunch of guys. Remember, they are a mixture of straight and gay and we seldom get together as men without women present, so no, we don’t.
“Got a boyfriend? What about that Levi fellow?” DeAngelo asked.
“Levi does, I don’t. Last week he fell for a guy the first time he saw him and the guy did the same over him. The two plan on living together next year. There is no way they could find a place mid-semester when they became boyfriends and no refund to Telvin, Levi’s boyfriend.”
“How’d you take the breakup?” Joe asked.
“You and that Levi guy.”
“We were just very good friends and still are. We were never boyfriends. I am delighted that Levi found someone as fantastic as Telvin and they are as happy as they are.”
“So you are still single,” Joe said.
“Yeah, and this time I plan to stay that way for awhile. For some guys--gay and straight--sex partner after sex partner without love and commitment is okay. One thing Levi taught me without knowing it is it’s not my way. I want very much what my dads have, what Mr. Manning . . . ”
“Mr. Manning is gay?” DeAngelo exclaimed.
“Shit! Yes, he is DeAngelo, but please keep that to yourself. He and his partner have been together since college and his partner is as great a person as Mr. Manning, but you know if people found out he was gay, they would destroy him.”
“Not to worry about me,” DeAngelo said. “Mr. Manning was great support when I needed it. He’s needed where he is, gay or straight. Anyway, you were saying?”
“I was saying I want a relationship like our dads and Stu and Manning have. Maybe having fuck buddies until Mr. Right comes along is all right for some, but I don’t want that. Not again. That isn’t me.”
The condo was right on the beach and it was not as much a party beach as some. Still, there were plenty of people around and Joe and DeAngelo were having a blast. Their motto was girls, beer, more girls and more beer. The condo was full of women day and night. Our second afternoon there, I asked about the car and DeAngelo told me to take it. He and Joe had made a beer and food run earlier and were settling in for another twenty-four hour party. I took the car and drove around, finally parking and walking around the marina. As I was walking along a pier, I spotted a brother working on a large, very nice boat and walked over to where he was working, “Give me a hand with this?” he asked.
I had no idea what he was doing, but said, “Sure, but you’ll have to tell me what you are doing because I haven’t the foggiest idea.”
“I’m replacing a bilge pump and can’t seem to get it in place without messing up something else. If you could operate the chain hoist for me, I’ll buy dinner. Name’s Antwon.”
“Okay, Derek, I’ll climb down and guide the pump and you operate the hoist. Know how to do that?
“Matter of fact, I do.” I grabbed the chain which would raise or lower the pump and as Antwon called out directions, I gradually lowered the pump. Twenty minutes later, it was installed and tested.
Antwon climbed back up, wiping his hands. When he had them relatively clean, we shook hands. “Your boat?” I asked.
“Mine and my partner’s or will be when we get the loan paid off. We do deep sea fishing trips, excursions to pay for it. You new to the area?
“No. I’m here from Old Commonwealth University in Norfolk, Virginia. I’m on spring break with my brother and one of his friends.”
“And you’re not out raising hell with the girls and trying to drink Key West dry?”
“Just not my thing.”
“Hi, Babe.” When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a white guy was coming toward us.
“Hi to you too, Babe,” the guy said, and kissed the brother.
“Sharky, this is Derek, a student from Old Commonwealth University in Norfolk, Virginia.”
“And you are wandering around a marina rather than chasing women and getting drunk?”
“As to the former, I suspect Antwon and I are brothers in more ways than one and drunk has never made sense to me. A nice buzz occasionally is great, but the major boozing going on down on the beach is not for me.”
“So you’re gay?”
“Yeah, as gay as I can be.”
“Well, there’s not a lot of excitement for us during spring break since most sensible people stay away until the parties are over, but we do have a short cruise this afternoon. Come along if you like. I’m sure there’ll be something you can do. We’re just going out for a few hours. A few elderly ladies want to watch the sunset from the gulf side of the key so we'll go out until they can barely see land, drop anchor and they will have dinner while the sun sets, then we’ll come in. You have to be back any certain time?”
“No, I’m really on my own while my brother and his friend fuck if they can get it up after all the alcohol they consume this afternoon.”
“If you like you can just hang out with us,” Sharky said. “We’ll be getting things set up and then just laze around.”
The cruise was delightful. A caterer brought dinner to the boat and when they were ready, I served it. When they finished, one of the ladies urged us to finish up the food. We were three men, not elderly ladies, so the food was kinda funny in that it was all fancied up, but it was delicious. When we got back to the dock, the lady who had organized the cruise gave each of us a sizable tip and said she would be telling her friends about the cruise and suggesting they do one as well.
Sharky and Antwon invited me to their place for a drink and we talked until almost midnight. When I got back to the condo, Joe and DeAngelo were flaked out across one of the sofas, bare assed, on their stomachs and an arm across the others back. I was surprised that the two macho guys were actually 1) asleep, 2) together, and 3) without women. I’d have to find out what was going on tomorrow because Sharky and Antwon had invited me to go out with them when they took a group on a day-long deep sea fishing trip. They were leaving the pier at 7:00. They were not exactly looking forward to the trip as it was eight college kids on spring break. “They’ll drink much and fish little,” Sharky said, “and half will be hung-over and seasick before we clear the marina, but a day trip pays well.”
I crawled into bed and thought about my time with Sharky and Antwon. It was obvious the two were in love by the ways they found to touch each other as they worked; how they smiled when their glances happened to meet; in the way they worked as a team to make their life together work. One thing they had that I would never have in Norfolk and even less in Stanton was the generally accepting attitude toward gays and gay couples in Key West.
Sharky said they would swing by and pick me up on their way to the marina. “Be ready about six so we can get breakfast before the frat boys arrive.” I wondered if I should wake up Joe and DeAngelo to see if they wanted to go to bed and decided I wasn’t their mother. I set the alarm for 5:30 regretting I wouldn’t get even five hours sleep. Fortunately, I was out like a light when I crawled in bed.
When the alarm went off at 5:30, I hopped in the shower my room shared with an unoccupied one and thought I heard the shower for Joe and DeAngelo’s room going, but was sure it was my imagination. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs ten minutes before Antwon and Sharky were due. I was surprised to see Joe sitting in the living room. “Good morning, Joe. Aren’t you up early?”
Joe laughed and said, “I was about to say the same thing and I know I was asleep before you came in.”
“Yeah, met a couple of guys and went on a sunset cruise with them, well, they own a boat and do that sort of thing. They’re picking me up for breakfast then I’m spending the day with them. More women and beer for you today?”
“Nah, to tell the truth, DeAngelo and I have been pretty good boys since the Christmas break. I think we learned a pretty important lesson. We were lucky, simply lucky, not to have paid more than a pain in the ass for our irresponsibility. What we saw yesterday was irresponsibility mixed with free beer or stronger stuff. Two guys we met earlier were rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, but the party went on.
“DeAngelo and I were invited by six guys from Virginia to join them in an adventure today away from the women and the alcohol. They had prepaid for eight, but two decided they’d rather party on the beach. We’re leaving at as soon as DeAngelo comes down to grab some breakfast and meet the guys.”
“Have a good time. Thanks for telling me you and DeAngelo are thinking with the big head these days.”
“Well, the little head does have his say,” Joe laughed.
“Yeah, he does.”
Sharky and Antwon showed up at a few minutes of six and we went to a breakfast place they knew and had breakfast and were making a final check of the boat when an SUV pulled up. It looked like a clown car as eight guys, most as large as DeAngelo started piling out. The last two were Joe and DeAngelo!
“So your adventure is a day long deep sea fishing trip,” I said as the two approached, neither of them having noticed me. “If you’ll follow me.”
“Derek, what the fuck you doing here?”
“Taking you on an all day deep sea fishing trip.”
DeAngelo turned to his friends, who were all watching us. “Guys, my little brother is something else, but a boat captain he is not. I’m not even sure why he’s here. My little brother, Derek,” he said, indicating me with his hand as he introduced me.
“He’s in charge of order and discipline,” Sharky said. “My partner is the enforcer. Antwon, show yourself. Antwon and Derek are my Nubian crew. I’m Captain Sharky. Okay, guys, we want this to be a fun day for you, so some precautions. First, sunscreen. Use it. Skin cancer will wait a few years, but sunburn will make you miserable in a few hours. Don’t ruin the rest of your break with sunburn. I see some of you have already been careless about that. Alcohol. We are not the police so we’ll not ID you. However, a word of advice: Some of you are likely to get seasick unless you have prepared with the behind-the-ear thingy or the OTC pills. If you’re half drunk, the likelihood of seasickness increases. Fully drunk? You deal with Antwon. Horsing around. Watch it. ‘Man overboard’ is not something I want to hear. Enjoy yourselves. We’re here to help you fish and to do what we can to make the day a pleasure for you. By the way, Derek is as new at this as you guys, so questions should probably be directed to me or Sharky unless it’s something like ‘Where’s the head?’ Questions?” There were none. “Then we’re on our way.”
Soon, we lost sight of the marina and were headed well out to sea. I was surprised at the guys. It was just as Joe had said: they’d had enough party and were out to enjoy a new adventure. Half of them were just along for the ride and not really interested in fishing, but lay in the sun, talked, and a couple even read. Joe and DeAngelo were among the fishermen and DeAngelo caught the blue ribbon fish of the day. When he asked about eating it, Antwon suggested a place that would prepare it or as much as the group wanted and that fish became supper. They asked Antwon, Sharky and me to join them and we had a grand time. I was also surprised when the fellow who organized the fishing trip included me when gave out very generous tips.
After supper, with Antwon and Sharky’s instructions, I helped clean and secure the boat. They had a half day fishing trip the next morning and would provision the boat for a two-night excursion to Dry Tortugas. They invited me along as they only had four passengers. “With what it’s costing them, they’ll be pretty demanding and there will be plenty you can do to earn your keep,” Sharky said. “We’ll be back the day before you leave, so don’t worry about that.”
Joe and DeAngelo came in half an hour after I got back, accompanied by two attractive women. “Derek, Angelica and Katrina. Ladies, my younger brother Derek. Where have you been, Derek?” DeAngelo asked. I told him about the excursion and that I was going and had been helping prepare the boat for the trip and all four said, “Wow!”
“Do you have any idea what that is costing?” Angelica asked. I indicated I did not. “A group of us were interested and with the maximum number allowed in our group, the cost was pushing a thousand each with nothing special. I suspect since there are only four, there will be extras.”
“Well, the food looked pretty special and there were very expensive wines and liquor, including a lot of champagne,” I said.
We talked awhile and I was surprised that the women were not airheads, but quite the contrary. Angelica was pre-med and the Katrina was pre-law. I did neglect to learn where they were in college, but that was no big matter. I was sure Joe and DeAngelo would have long moved on by the time I got back and the two women a mere memory.
The excursion was wonderful. The four people expected a lot--it was just what they were used to--but were very nice and did not treat us, for the most part, as servants. We were free to share their food and drinks. We ate well and had all to drink we wanted. When we got back to Key West, each of us got a thousand dollar tip and a promise that others would be seeking out Sharky and Antwon for a similar excursion.
Antwon and Sharky had an invitation to have supper at La Casa with Mrs. Crandall, the owner of La Casa, the estate where their cottage was located. They invited me along after they called La Casa. Both assured me the call was unnecessary, but I had insisted.
Supper was a very relaxed affair and I liked Mrs. Crandall at once. She obviously doted on Sharky and Antwon. During the meal she told them the ‘Elizabethton Tarheels’ would be coming down after graduation for a week. She wasn’t sure of the date because it seemed school was out a week after graduation or something strange like that. “Anyway, that’s a couple months away.”
As we were leaving, she said, “Derek, I hope we see more of you at La Casa in the future.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Crandall. I hope so as well.”
When we got back to Antwon and Sharky’s cottage, they asked me what I would be doing the coming summer. I told them of my year round responsibility to Auntie. “Well, in case you have any free time, I think we can find enough for you to do to pay for your keep and we’d love to have you back for as long as you can make it.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that, guys, but unfortunately, I doubt it’ll happen.”
“Well, remember, the invitation is there and open.”
When I got back to the condo, DeAngelo and Joe were just leaving with Angelica and Kristina. “We’ll be back shortly,” DeAngelo said. “We’re taking Angelica and Kristina to the airport. Their plane leaves in a couple hours. Want us to bring you anything?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Just be careful. From what we saw driving in, the DUI fines will keep Key West going until next year if they get half of those who are more than a bit tipsy.”
When they got back, DeAngelo said, “Derek, we saw what you meant about DUI. At times it was like dodgem cars, but the state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and city police were busy. I guess they are torn between the tourist dollars and public safety.”
“No question as to where I come down on that issue,” I responded.
“Joe and I agree with you on that and, by the way, on what you said about getting to know someone. Before, when we hopped in bed so quickly, we never knew who we were fucking half the time. I had a great time with Angelica and the most we did was some pretty hot making out.”
“Same with Kristina and I am looking forward to getting to know her better and her getting to know me.”
“They go to Monroe?”
“No, Derek, actually, they are closer to home. They are students at Martha Baldwin. We plan on seeing a lot of them,” Joe said.
“Provided we have time. Between baseball and studying. . . . ”
“Studying? Why the sudden change?” I laughed at the idea the two would put aside pleasure to actually study.
“Derek, if we plan on seeing those two, which I would like very much to do, we’re going to have to stop fucking around, figuratively as well as actually. They are smart. . . .”
“So are you two.” I interjected.
“Yeah, I, we, know that, but anyone looking at our grades would decide otherwise. I’m serious, I plan to really buckle down. Don’t get me wrong, if Angelica asks me to bed her, she will be bedded royally, but until she does, it’s Rosy Thumb and her four sisters, and then only on study breaks.” To say I was skeptical of the Road to Damascus experience in regard to fucking around--actually and figuratively--would be an understatement.
Unlike coming down, my flight left before DeAngelo and Joe’s. When we said goodbye at the airport, I thanked DeAngelo for making it possible for me to come down. He dismissed my thanks with a ‘no thanks necessary’ comment, but his smile said he was pleased that I had enjoyed the trip. He did add that it was a pity I hadn’t found a boyfriend.
When I got back to Norfolk, Auntie’s granddaughter had left on a morning flight. When I commented on it, Auntie reminded me that Mrs. Jackson who lived down the street a block was on her ‘call in case of an emergency’ list with the push button emergency people.
“So I want to hear all about the trip. Meet any potential boyfriends?”
I told her no boyfriends, but two new friends, Antwon and Sharky. She wanted to know all about them, their business and the excursion. She agreed that DeAngelo and Joe would likely fall back into old patterns, but hoped not. After we had talked an hour, before I went upstairs, I put my dirty clothes down in the washer. Upstairs, I cleaned the place before settling down to work on assignments due in the near future. Spring break was over.
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