Sean Quinn sat in his father's kitchen; a student at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts, he was one semester away from completing his masters and was about to tell his father he was gay. He knew his father would go crazy as soon as he uttered the word. Tom Quinn made his living as a local cop and this was a corner of the Bayshore that knew no tolerance for gay men. Sean would be celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday in October and figured the time had come to stop lying, take Aunt Nellie's legacy, and leave for good. With the remainder of his aunt's money, if his father disowned him, he could still finish his last semester and have money left over to live on while he apprenticed to a master potter.
Tom Quinn, a big, burly, redhead, had worked his way up to sergeant in the small Keansburg Police Department. A mean drunk, he got worse after Sean's mother died and Sean knew enough about his father's moods to be apprehensive. But this was something he had to do to maintain his self-respect. I made Dad his favorite meal. Maybe I'll get lucky and he won't stop for a few at the local bar and I'll get out of here with my money and my person intact.
Sean heard the sound of a car door close and looked out the window. His father's Buick sat in the driveway. The old man seemed to be walking straight; but he could hold his liquor well; so that did not rule out a bender. His father was always drinking; it was just a matter of degree. In fact, Sean preferred it when his father was falling down drunk. In that state he would throw a few punches, generally miss, and fall asleep on the couch. In the rare case when he came home sober, he wasn't reasonable, but at least he wasn't violent. Sean often wondered how his father made it home after an evening at the bar without running the Buick up a street lamp.
Sean managed college with his aunt's money, a scholarship, student loans, and a job in a small art gallery in SoHo. With this patchwork of funding; Sean was able to eke out a living paying for the apartment he shared and a ramen noodle diet with an occasional hamburger from the dollar menu at Mickey D's.
He heard his father at the front door and braced himself. I can do this.
Tom Quinn, for once, didn't stagger into the house. He put his hat on the coat rack and Sean heard the jingle of his keys and change as they hit the small table in the front hall.
"Where are you boy? Is supper ready? It better be, you need to do something to earn your keep." Tom's heavy footsteps pounded down the hallway.
Sean worked at the pharmacy all day delivering prescriptions to the residents of the burg, so his father's snide comment about earning his keep wasn't fair; but then Tom rarely was fair. Sean gave his father most of his wages when he came back to Keansburg for the summer. He had to come home because he couldn't afford the cost of an apartment alone for the months he didn't have roommates to contribute toward the rent. He spent his holidays alone in the city because the holidays brought out the worst in Tom. Sean's mother had passed on Christmas Eve eight years before and his father spent the twelve days of Christmas in a stupor.
Sean set the table and brought the shepherd's pie straight from the oven and put it out on a potholder in front of his father. Once his father finished his dinner and the ever-present beer, Sean steeled himself for the conversation to come.
Sean took after his mother, small but strong, blond and green-eyed. He'd competed in gymnastics throughout high school and disappointed his father with his choice of NYU rather than taking a sports scholarship to one of the other schools that offered him a free ride. Tom already called his son a pansy for his looks and interest in art. Sean figured his announcement wouldn't be met with much surprise.
He brought out an apple pie he purchased for the occasion. While Tom dug into the pie Sean attempted to start "the conversation."
"Dad, I have to tell you something."
"I guess it's better to come straight out and say it. I'm gay."
"Are you telling me you're a queer?"
"That's one way of putting it."
Tom jumped up from his chair and let loose with a sucker punch straight to Sean's chin. He continued punching Sean until he hit the floor and curled up into a ball to avoid Tom's fists. Tom started to kick aiming between his legs. This wasn't the first time he took a beating; however Tom was more vicious than usual.
"You little bastard, your mother came to me with a brat in her belly and I accepted you because I loved her."
Sean lay on the black and white linoleum and stared up at him in shock. "I only kept you here for the sake of her memory, but now, I want you out of my house by morning. You'll get no more from me. You can forget Nellie's legacy because I control that until you turn twenty-five and I'll make damn sure I spend every dime."
"That's my money." Sean countered as he attempted to get up from the floor.
"But I have power of attorney and I say you get nothing." Tom looked at him with pure loathing.
"I can take you to court." Sean shouted.
"Try it, you faggot. By the time you pay for a lawyer, it will be gone. Get out of my sight and be out of here by morning. Be grateful I'm allowing you to pack your stuff."
Sean crawled up the stairs and threw his few possessions into a large backpack. He took his laptop and cell phone, purchased with his own money, and readied himself to leave the house before his father got up in the morning.
The low grey clouds masked the half-moon giving the night an eerie diffused glow. Christopher Street's sidewalks sparkled under the streetlights after the early evening rain. The water washed the city streets clean of soot and put the distinct smell of autumn in the air. Until this year, Sean had always loved October. The leaves of the trees planted between the sidewalk and the curb began to change color from green to yellow, then red to brown. Lights shown through the windows of the apartments created from the Federal era brownstone houses that lined the street. Sometimes he saw a fireplace lit from behind the French balconies. In contrast to the aura of peaceful urban oasis above the sidewalks, outside, groups of five or six young gay men strolled up the pavement, soon to be followed by posses of ten or more. They shouted and jostled each other passed the famous Stonewall Inn where the first stirring of the Gay Liberation movement began, continued from Christopher, down to West Street and onto the Christopher Street Pier built on the Hudson River.
A few of the more boisterous gangs led each of the two packs toward their destination - those who sold their bodies and those just hoping to get lucky. But tonight all he noticed was the churning in his gut. He hadn't eaten in three days. Tonight he was going to do it, sell himself. He had no choice.
Since August he'd been spending his nights on the floors of his friends' dorm rooms. He lost his apartment because he couldn't pay his share of the rent and had no money for tuition for his last semester. The art gallery where he worked to make ends meet laid him off in September because art wasn't a priority in the midst of the economic downturn.
He wasn't sure he wanted to do this; but it was either sell himself or stay out on the street. Sean was frightened; but too hungry to care and enough of a pragmatist to know what had to be done. He had to talk himself into it. Prostitution, simple, he was going to make himself into a rent boy. Tears dropped from his eyelashes and down his high cheekbones. He never understood before why someone would sell themselves for money. Now he knew, rent himself out or starve; those were his choices. Leroy, one of the boys on Chelsea Pier he knew through a friend at NYU, told him that he could make good money at the trade.
"You're small, blond with fair skin lacking freckles, dude. Your lips are full, your eyes a brilliant green. You look a lot younger than you are. You could make a fortune in this business, the perfect twink, but I think we need to find you a pimp to be safe."
"This isn't a life choice. All I want is money to eat and get a place to sleep until I have enough for a bus ticket to Boston. My friend Tony lives there with his wife. He'll take me in and I'll get a chance to make a few bucks at an honest job so I can finish school."
"I'll watch out for you until you land on your feet. You can crash with me on the sofa; but I can't afford to feed you."
"Thanks, I owe you." They walked down to the pier together.
A huge man lurked at the edge of the pier looking over each boy as he arrived. He appeared dark and menacing.
"Oh shit, we gotta go hide. Run behind that dumpster in the alley and don't come out until I come and get you. That Russian is into rough trade. The boys he likes disappear and he goes for twinks. If you want to stay healthy, run."
"What about you?" Sean looked around in a panic.
"He doesn't want me, so I'm safe. Now go-trust me." Sean ran. Leroy didn't have to tell him twice. He was about to prostitute himself, but he was no fool. He hid behind a large green dumpster on the right side of the alley. He pulled garbage bags and garbage in front of him for cover.
"I saw him, the blond. Where'd he go?" Sean listened as the huge Russian interrogated Leroy. "You talked to him no more than five minutes ago so you must know him." The Russian grabbed Leroy by the front of tight black T-shirt and shook him. "You told him to leave, you little rat bastard."
"He asked me for a joint, then disappeared." The big man slapped Leroy then held his fist out menacingly. "Okay, Okay. I know him from NYU. He's green. Look, he isn't in the trade. He has no experience, you wouldn't want him."
"I saw him and I want him, tell me where he went, or I'll beat the shit out of you."
"He went over there, toward the pier," Leroy said, turning way from where Sean hid behind the dumpster.
The Russian went into a rage. "What? You think I'm a fool? He slid into that alley."
"No, no, he went back home. He's not into this. He's uh...waiting for someone else, he made an appointment."
"I thought you said he wasn't for rent. You're fucking with me Leroy. I don't allow anyone to fuck with me."
Sean heard and watched in horror as the big man pulled a knife and shoved it into Leroy's gut. Too frightened to call out, he saw Leroy fall to the ground. The man moved away from the alley, down toward the dumpster; for a minute Sean thought he saw the guy's eyes turned red.
"I know you're out there," the man shouted. Sean watched as he waved his knife around in the air. The Russian saw him behind the dumpster and ran toward him catching the edge of his torso with the knife. Sean clutched his side. He ducked and tried to run. The Russian grabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt. The knife grazed his temple. Sean screamed. He tried to pull Sean up but slipped on a half head of brown lettuce and lost his hold on Sean's collar. Sean ran toward West Street. The man stopped and sniffed the air. He didn't follow Sean but turned away from the alley to the loading platforms on the street.
Sean saw him sniff the air again. Sean covered himself in more garbage crouching down behind a second dumpster. He peered out and got a good look at his face. The Russian began checking doors. One of them opened and he disappeared into the building. Sean, holding his side ran over to Leroy. Leroy was gutted. Having no cell phone; he raced down the alley toward West Street looking behind him, expecting the Russian to find him at any minute. He stopped the first car he saw.