Experience teaches us to be careful of people, of Trojan horses.
With time we come to depend on these walls, rely on their protection. Until one day a boy walks by, touches the stone. The walls come tumbling down.
"So what makes you happy?" He asked over coffee.
My eyes wide open. I look at him, confused, as though he'd just spoken a foreign language. No one's ever asked me that before.
I think about it for a moment. "The smell of a new book," I finally tell him.
He smiles, sips his coffee.
I can't take my eyes off him. There's something about this boy, something I've never seen before. Can't help but think about the fact that as inquisitive as I am, it's never occurred to me to ask anyone that simple, wonderful question. I want to tell him so many things but I don't. The walls, they won't let me. Instead I stare, get lost in my thoughts.
"Where did you go just now?"
My mind's eye dissolves back into the present, to the boy in front of me, his green eyes.
I met Cameron two days earlier at a cemetery. Was there at the invitation of my friend Rick to see a movie of all things, a screening of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
"Everyone brings food and booze. It's one big picnic," he said. "You'll like it."
"Is it a gay thing?" I ask him.
"Nope. It's an L.A. thing."
Rick and I arrived at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery around 7:00 P.M. The place was already packed with people sitting on plaid blankets sipping white wine out of plastic cups. There was something eerie and strangely beautiful about the whole thing. Between marble tombstones and neatly manicured lawns, people talking, eating, laughing.
We found a spot, pulled out our blankets, waited for the movie to start. That's when I noticed him. He was standing in line for the bathroom not more that a few feet away. Tall, broad shoulders, dark hair, and those eyes, as green as envy.
"I'll be right back," I told Rick as I made my way over carefully. Was hoping to strike up a conversation, find out who this guy was. But by the time I got in line three people had managed to squeeze ahead of me.
I stood there, looking at him over the heads of unsuspecting strangers, waiting for the right moment, the right words. Ten, 15, 20 minutes, eternity. Then, just as I was about to say something, Rick showed up. Tipsy, flamboyant, loud.
"Whatcha doin' dog?"
"Waiting for the bathroom."
"Don't take too long, the movie's about to start." he said then curtsied off.
The green-eyed boy in front of me gives me a look. I know what he's thinking.
"Who was that?" He finally asked. Ice, broken.
"That's my friend," I said. "My very platonic drunken friend."
He smiles. Dimples. My weakness.
Then, his turn comes up for one of the porta potties. But instead of moving forward, he stops, looks at me.
"Do you really need to go?" He asks.
"To the bathroom."
"Yes," I lie.
"Because I don't. Why don't you go. I'll wait for you right here."
Bold. Fearless. His cards, in plain view. He's been waiting for me this whole time.
"I'm Cameron by the way."
* * *
"What took you so long?" Came the question from the other end of line.
Wasn't ready for that question, that kind of forwardness.
"I said I'd call in the morning. It's 11:30," I say almost defensively.
"New Yorkers, pussies."
"Didn't want to seem too eager," I finally tell him. It's as much as I'm willing to admit.
I invited him to go to a barbeque at my friend's house that night. Cameron showed up on time, wearing a lime green t-shirt, chewing bright green gum.
"Impressive," I tell him.
"Your gum. It matches your shirt, brings out the color in your eyes."
He pulls it out, looks at it, then smiles.
"Oh yeah, that," he says. "I like to color-coordinate. Why? Too much?"
He's funny. I like that.
My friends like him too, I can tell. They're flirting with him, shamelessly, even those with boyfriends. One goes as far as giving him a quick back rub. I like that's he's the center of attention. I like that at the end of the night, I'm the one who gets to take him home.
I step back, watch him interact with the crowd. He's surrounded by a group of men who are clinging to his every word. Now and then he looks up at me, smiles, his eyes saying, "Don’t fret, I'm all yours."
At one point he grabs me, takes me aside. "I like you," he says, then pauses, "something about you."
As the evening wraps up, we say goodbye to my friends, head over to his apartment. We lay down on his bed, fully clothed. The tension has been building up for two days, but he's in no rush. He takes his time with me, exploring every inch, as if not to offend any particular part of my body. There's tenderness in his touch, in his eyes. Not something you'd expect from a six-foot-two guy.
"You're beautiful," he says, his hand on my chest. It doesn't sound forced or corny. I want to reciprocate but I don't. It's those gates, my fears, the walls.
We have sex. Incredible, passionate, mind-blowing. The kind that ends with two people staring at the ceiling in a haze, catching their breaths. Damp sheets, sweaty faces, the green in his eyes, a hundred times greener. This is my favorite moment, right before you fall asleep. Right before everything goes quiet.
In the morning we get dressed, head to Starbucks. As I sit there sipping my coffee, a question.
"So what makes you happy?"
Incredibly simple, simply incredible.
I want to let him in, but I can't. Wall's too high. Instead I wonder if he'd still be that honest if we shared the same zip code.
That night I fly back to New York. To my life, my job, my world. I notice I'm smiling more. But even though I like this boy and the effect he's had on my mood, I know how it goes. Boy goes on vacation, boy meets boy, boy sleeps with boy, boy goes home. Boy gets e-mails every once in a while. Boy moves on.
There are 3,000 reasons not to get emotional. And so I don't.
Cameron follows the script at first.
"I miss you," he messages, three exclamation marks, one smiley face.
"Wish you were here," he continues.
"Thinking of you," texts the boy.
Then, just as I think it's about to fade, move into its rightful place in the past, a question. This one does more than just confuse me, it takes my breath away.
"Is there a reason why you're being so reserved?" he asks. "I don't want to lose interest if there's interest to be had."
And just like that, they fall. The walls, they come crumbling. Fast, furiously. I realize that although this boy may not be the one, he comes close. And that alone gives me hope.