[ Free Me From This Bond: Chapter 12 ]
You may recall in Chapter 2 (“Moby’s Dick“) that I planned to present My Arwyn with a gift, by standing around Castro and 18th till he (hopefully) passes by. Seeing as I don’t know his current home address, nor obviously does he care to say. He is not an easy man to befriend, despite his fondness towards yours truly.
When a friend (or foe, I suppose) whose current residence is unbeknownst to you, but does live in or frequents the Castro, this would be a logical spot to wait for him to show up. For this particular intersection is quite dense with pedestrians streaming to and fro. Another good choice would be Market & Castro, right around the entrance to the underground rail service (MUNI Metro)…otherwise known as “Harvey Milk Plaza”.
Two days after our surprise meetup at Moby’s, the gift is ready. It is early afternoon as I saunter down Noe Street on the way to 18th, cloth bag (sporting the disabled veterans logo) full of goodies dangling from my left forearm. But before I even reach 17th, I think I spy Arwyn from across the street (or someone who very much looks like him at least in height and hair). He’s wearing a red jacket and medium-brown pants. I am nearsighted and, without glasses* cannot make out the face before a UPS truck rumbles by to block any further view.
* Medicaid coverage ceased providing glasses and eye care some years back, along with dental and psychiatric…which explains–at least in part–why I’m such a hopeless wreck these days. Being born in a basilisk hatchery doesn’t help, either. My Guardian Dragon was there with me right from conception, and let me tell you: it was crowded in that womb. Arwyn’s tobacco habit sure made the place so filled with throat-retching fumes, after nine months I just couldn’t take it any more, and popped outta there like a greased piglet (though with wings, tail and scaly armor)! So Arwyn lost his pinochle partner; I didn’t care. Second-hand smoke is still smoke, and I was coughing up lungfulls!
Dodging traffic, I scurry across the road, keeping my sight aimed at the spot I saw him moments ago, right beside a silver-gray VW Jetta. Nothing. I then glance up Noe, then 17th: for what other direction could he have gone in such a short time without running into me? Still, whether or not that man was actually Arwyn, he is nowhere to be found.
Okay, I think, I’ll just mosey on up to 18th and Castro, and hope my luck in finding him pans out.
Bank of America
Several minutes later, I reach the historic intersection, and decide to hang out on the southeast corner, by Bank of America. No more than one minute passes when–thar she blows!–I spot Arwyn marching down Castro, same side and across. He quickly turns corner, to play some pool at The Mix? Desperate to catch up to him, I dash against the flashing red hand signal; horns honk.
“Arwyn!” I call. “Arwyn!” He stops to face me, looking a bit haggard. No doubt he hasn’t had his first brew of the day. Or coffee.
He honors me with a gentle grin; ocean wind fluffs those curly waves of unkempt ruddy-brown hair which (now that he’s approaching 50) are sprinkled with a dash of salt here and there. There are now dark gaps where bright teeth once shone (the mark of a seasoned warrior). Still: a radiant smile.
Arwyn once had a smile so glorious, it would knock your garters off full blast! I’d gladly sacrifice all my remaining nine rotting teeth to win back that wondrous grin. But this is why I call him a seasoned warrior: he gave up his dental insurance (and entire career in fact) for a most noble cause. A cause which has to do with sparing me from a hideous fate of terror and dark sorrow. But worst of all, a fate in which My Darling Dragon no longer exists.
“Here’s my latest gift,” I proudly declare while catching lung’s breath. I raise my colorful sack of presents to the level of his stomach (don’t forget, he’s 6-foot-4). And continue:
“Would it be a burden for you to accept it now? I can try another day.” I announce with heroically stoic poise, and lower the veterans bag to belly-button height. This, despite an overwhelming urge to throw myself into his gangly embrace…which craving has never left me since we first met, and touched, and talked, and kissed, way way back in 2000-and-6.
I am Boadicea‘s Great Soldier first, before I am a lover. Arwyn is our platoon sergeant, so to speak. I could never bring him shame; it’s just not in my heart…nor in The Mount Olympus Soldier’s Field Manual.
Arwyn shrugs: “Now’s as good as any, I suppose.” And accepts my latest tokens of friendship with an extended hand. I look up: those dragon-gold eyes sparkle. He seems amused. (He always seems amused…at least, whenever I’m present.)
I was taken aback; accustomed as I am to Sisyphean struggles and a slow, tortuous path (like walking upstream in a runnel of sorghum) that is usually my fate whenever I want to speak with him, buy him a drink, or even just view My Celtic Lad from a discrete distance. (Oh, yeah: or bring him a gift, as in this present scenario.) They are rare moments, and more precious, I guess, because of that.
So you can imagine how startled I am, at such immediate success this time around. I look up at his noble Manx face, and tilt my head in birdlike quandary.
“Well, that was quick,” I remark. To which he quakes his shoulders in a body-language guffaw. My satchel of love-tokens hangs firmly from his clenched fingers. Joy sweeps through my exhausted soul, at the sight.
“Say, Arwyn,” I remark. “I thought I saw you a short while ago on Noe Street. But a truck drove by, and when it left, you weren’t there any more!” I feign dramatic, as in a Vaudeville skit: “I looked left, I looked right. I looked north, I looked south. But no Arwyn!” I then stretch out my arms as if to embrace the entire sky: “No Arwyn anywhere!”
He remains silent, but gazes down at me with affection (and perhaps a touch of waggery; he does chortle a bit). So I finish: “Guess that wasn’t you then, eh?”
We stand some moments, smiles washing back and forth like the ebb and flow of ocean foam along a sandy beach. Then Arwyn cranes his neck sideways to peer into the bag dangling from the end of one, long arm. With raised eyebrows, an expression of doubt lingers across his forehead. Like maybe I might have stashed a venomous snake in there, for all the difficulties he’s put me through. Ha, ha.
I chuckle. “You will like what’s in there.”
Then I realize it’s time to go, though of course I want to remain right there by his glorious side. “Well then, My Brave Dragon, you have a wonderful day.”
“You too now, Zeke,” he replies, then turns to enter the Mix.
“Oh, I certainly will!” I holler back through the traffic rattle, as my steps already draw me home to my humble SRO. (How could I not have a spectacular day? After all, today I saw Arwyn and–better yet–brought him another sweet gift straight from My Little Dragonly Soul.)
Realization suddenly springs on me, like a bear trap…so I turn back. “Wait a minute Arwyn, that was you on Noe Street,” I exclaim. He pauses in the doorway.
“Yes, that certainly was you!” I look him over from dragon snout to dragon tail (as he patiently puffs out a whiff of that chill, ocean fog). “You’re wearing the same clothes: red jacket and brown pants.”
Arwyn cryptically shrugs those fine, skinny shoulders and disappears into the Mix.
So, the little reptile was there. He noticed me and must’ve crouched behind a car, so I’d miss him. But why?” I think this through. Then it hits me:
Oh, I see now. He wanted to receive my gift at 18th & Castro, just like I told him at Moby Dick’s. Accepting it on Noe Street would’ve made our Real Life Fairytale a tad less magical.
How’d I ever get so lucky?
It’s in the cards!