Start writing here…I enter the bar and took a seat at the front and ordered a shot.
“Hey, Harvey, how’s work going?” the bartender, James asked.
I knew all the workers pretty well, since it was the only bar in our tiny town and I had celebrated my last two birthdays of legal drinking age here.
“Fine,” I answer.
I had quit my job two weeks back. I was sick of this old town. It was boring and never what I wanted for myself. My parents expected me to have a long-time girlfriend by now but I wasn’t playing for the same team as them and had no interest in lying to some lovely girl who deserved love as much as anyone. All my things were sitting in boxes lining my front hall at home ready to load into my truck to leave tomorrow.
There wasn’t anything here for me as far as I was concerned. I would rather light my own apartment on fire than tell my parents the way I felt about what I wanted for myself. They wouldn’t like it, I’d be disowned and disgraced. They’d done it with Chloe, one of my cousins who liked girls, she’d disappeared off the face of the planet. Never called and they, never cared. She could be dead and they hadn’t even cared enough to report her missing.
I glanced around the bar, at the shiny, wood counter tops and the booths in dark colors at the edges of it. The bell rang at the front of the store and a kid about my age, bounced in. He had stubble and light-blond hair, and striking green eyes. He was cute. I smirked, I’d never seen him before, he must have been new around here.
The kid sat a couple seats down from me.
“Wine, please,” he ordered.
“I.D, please?” James responded.
The kid pulled his I.D out and flashed the date he turned twenty-one to James. He’d been legal drinking age for a whole year almost.
James slid the glass of wine to the kid and he exchanged it for a ten.
James went about serving other customers, many older men and truckers passing through our small town moving onto bigger and better things in the morning.
“What’s your name?” someone asked.
I turned, it was the kid, he was sitting next to me now, wine glass in hand staring at me.
“Me?” I asked.
Nobody usually bothered with me, aside from a few young women who were always trying to get a date with me even with my disinterest.
“No, my invisible friend behind you, of course you, silly,” he replied.
“Harvey,” I reply.
“You live here?” he continued.
“All my life,” I answer.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
I swished the liquid in my glass around contemplating it.
“It gets boring after twenty-some years,” I reply quietly.
“Now, it’s your turn,” he comments.
“What?” I inquire.
“To ask a question,” he replied smiling.
His eyes reminded me of a predator lying in wait for his prey. Glowing and interested with electricity.
I was nervous about what his intentions were, not being from around here and all.
“Umm…where are you from?” I ask.
“Upstate, New York,” he replied.
He was a long way from home. That was a few hours away from here.
“What are you doing here?” I ask more interested now.
“Traveling,” he replied. “I left home for reasons I regret but there’s nothing there for me now and I don’t like being around places that remind me.”
“Do you have a plan to make this place less boring?” he continuing asking.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” I answer quietly.
“Where will you go?” he continues.
“Some place bigger, less conservative,” I reply taking a sip of my shot.
“Do you want to get out of here?” he asks.
“And go where?” I ask.
“It’s your last day here, when people leave home the way we do we normally don’t come back. Don’t you want to see everything one last time?” he replies.
I thought about that, I’d never see my parents’ house, my old schools, the old skate park, I’d never see any of it again.
“Okay,” I reply finishing my shot. I left a twenty for James well he finished his wine.
We exited the bar and went walking down the dirt road. The kid was shorter than me by an inch. He had a dark leather jacket and black, fingerless gloves.
“Where are we going first?” he questioned.
We started by going to my old schools, elementary, middle, high school, all had new kids occupying their classes and halls. Nostalgia came through.
“Why do you really want to leave all this?” he asks tight roping along the top of a thin concrete wall alongside the sidewalk. He lost his balance momentarily and gracefully hopped down in front of me halting my paces forward.
I was nervous to tell him anything that could get back to my family in the next twelve hours before I left. But I realized he was me in a few years, he’d left home and was exploring what the world had to offer. It wasn’t like he knew where to find any of the people I knew and tell them either. He was probably the best person to confide in.
“I’m gay, I don’t want to spent my life in some box or with some girl I don’t love,” I answer quietly and honestly.
I wait for judgement to pass over him, for him to call me the f word or something, like anyone around here would if I told them. I see a hint of something flash in his eyes but I can’t identify what.
“Does your family know?” he continues.
“No,” I reply as he hops back onto the concrete wall and starts balancing along again.
His balances wavers again.
We end up at an old abandoned park where the equipment has rusted over and grass had grown around. I used to play here when I was little, it was in much better condition back then than it is now. The old park brings up memories, old friends who’d disappeared, moved away, left for college, had more freedom, potential and ability than me.
He sits on the swing set and swings back and forth lightly. The metal groaning under his weight.
“What’s your name?” I ask realizing I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell me.
“Echo,” he answers quietly.
“That’s different,” I reply.
He stands up from the swing.
“Tag, you’re it,” he comments and bounds off towards the bushes.
I hadn’t played tag since seventh grade. I hadn’t run for long distances since twelfth.
I chased after him into the brush, over logs, rocks and through long grass till he came to the river’s edge. I collided with him and we both landed in the river soaked. We were laying in the shallow water laughing, and splashing each other. I pressed him gently back into the water which wasn’t deep enough to cover his face here. His hair splayed out around his head and his green eyes focused on me. We were both out of breath and breathing through our mouths.
Echo sat up suddenly, when he noticed I was distracted. He pressed his lips to mine before scurrying out of the cold water onto the shore.
“You’re it,” he breathes smiling.
I rise up and climb back up on the shore, he doesn’t move. I move his blond hair out of his eyes so I can see them better. We’re both dripping wet messes. Nervousness makes my heart pound away in its cage.
“Why do you regret leaving your town?” I ask.
“When I went back my family had been killed in a home invasion, I didn’t get to say goodbye and they never knew what happened to me,” he replied quietly looking away.
“I’m sorry,” I reply.
I notice his pants are ripped and his leg is bloody, probably from our tumble in the river.
“You’re bleeding,” I comment.
He looks down and shivers.
“Come on,” I reply guiding him safely through the trees in the direction of my apartment building. I unlock the front door and bring him to my door. All the furniture is still left in what is now a shell of my living room. I didn’t have enough space to bring everything. Not that I needed all of it either.
I opened a box and handed him a shirt, some shorts and underwear. He strips off his sweater and shirt, I take them and hand him the dry clothes. I take them and my own set of dry clothes to a back room to change. I put all our wet clothes in the wash and come back to find Echo sitting on my kitchen counter examining his injured leg. The blood has bled down the side of his leg, I take a cloth and wipe the blood off and get a look at the cut. Echo hisses as I scrub more blood away. His calf muscles strain as if trying to get away even though it’s impossible.
“Sorry,” I mumble.
It’s not a serious injury by any means. I stand back up and put the bloody rag aside.
“I think you should tell your parents you’re leaving, at least,” he replies.
“They’re going to know I left intentionally because my apartment’s mostly empty,” I answer.
“They might feel responsible though, or just wonder if they did something,” he continues.
“They did, they voiced their opinions too loudly,” I respond ignorantly.
“Do you have any siblings? Do they know?” he continues.
“I’m an only child,” I answer.
“That will make it worse for them, their only child just up and leaves for no known reason. They’ll search and wonder, they’ll look for suspects, faults, reasons, but they won’t find any because you don’t want them to know,” he replies.
“They probably suspect that I’m gay, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never showed any interest in dating them. They’re probably waiting for it to come out just so they can call a priest and banish the devil from me or whatever,” I reply.
“You don’t have to tell them about that. Just tell them you’re leaving so they don’t worry needlessly. Maybe call, every once in a while, so they know nothing bad happened and you’re up to date with what’s going on here. I was gone for six years, in that time I lost everything,” he reasons.
“What are you going to do?” I ask.
He shrugs, “I’ve never been one to stay in one place too long.”
“Why did you kiss me?” I ask next.
“You’re handsome, I enjoyed our time together, Harvey. I like you,” he tries to explain and shrugs again.
But he was acting like nothing was going to come of it, so, why do it?
I’d never been kissed before Echo, let alone had a one night stand but those were some of things I’d hoped to experience once I left my small home town. But I liked Echo, I liked kissing him. I didn’t want him to go. I wanted him to stay. Could I make him stay?
I leaned in and kissed him again.
“Come with me,” I whisper.
“You don’t know where you’re going,” he replies.
“Neither do you,” I answer.
He smiles sheepishly and looks down.
“I think you should think about telling them,” he repeats still looking down.
“Echo, what are your plans for tonight?” I divert him.
“I don’t know,” he replies wrapping his arms around my neck.
I pick him up and carry him into my bedroom where I’ve left my bed fully intact as it is too large to fit in the bed of the truck. I drop Echo onto it and he bounces slightly. I lean over him, and kiss his neck. He’s smiling and laughing.
I’m glad I’ve made him forget what he regrets even if only for a little while. I run my fingers over his chest to his stomach. I start thinking about what he said. I didn’t want to cause my parents unnecessary worry but I did want to leave, I simply couldn’t spend my whole life in this small town and not see what else the world had to offer. And not attempt to find the life I wanted for myself. Whatever or wherever it may be.
Baby birds need to leave the nest, eventually, this town was my nest and I had to leave. But I wouldn’t be going alone like most little birds did after taking flight. Echo would be with me.
We fell asleep beside each other.
We woke up the next morning and Echo helped me pack the last of my things into my truck before we drove to my parents’ house. My dad was out in the front yard with my mother who was tending to her plants. They see me drive up. I exit the car and Echo gets out as well but stays near his side of the car.
“Harvey?” my father questions taking note of my things in the back of the truck.
“I’m leaving town for a while,” I start.
“Where are going?” my mother asks worried.
“I don’t know exactly, I just know it’s time for me to leave. I want to see more than just this little town in the middle of nowhere,” I reply.
“When will you be back? What about your job? Money?” my father questions.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back but I’ll call. I quit a couple weeks back and I have money saved up. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” I answer.
“Where is this coming from?” he asks.
“I’ve always wanted to leave. It’s hard to spend your entire life in one place and not get sick of it. It will always be home but I can’t stay in my home forever,” I reply.
“Who’s he?” my mother asks.
“That’s Echo, he’s my friend. He’ll be coming with me,” I answer smiling at him.
“Echo? Were his parents’ hippies or something?” my father asks.
“No, it’s just his name,” I reply.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for,” my mother comments.
“I’ll call, don’t worry,” I reply again.
She hugs me.
“See you, son,” my father answers.
“Bye,” I wave and I and Echo gets back in my truck.
We set off towards the highway to find what awaits us.