The Cataracts

an excerpt

This isn't the first time I've run.

At age fourteen, when my mother died of cancer, I ran. Oh, I didn't get far. I didn't have the money at my disposal, then, like now, to hop a plane to South America. Instead, I filled a paper bag with food from the kitchen and fled into the woods behind the house. My father found me, of course.

"Running never solves anything," he said.

He was always able to cope. Coping is something with which I sometimes have a problem. Maybe it was because my father or those people he hired – my father seldom around – were so good at coping for me.

Well, suddenly my father is dead, and there's no one to help me adequately cope with that.

Oh, Harold tries, but my being courted by an older man who is also the head of the modeling agency with which I'm signed, isn't what I'm looking for. Even if I have, for years, been contemplating sex with "some" man - thinking there has to be more than what I experience with my dick ejaculating up seemingly always available pussy; being assured by more than one of my fellow models, gay, in the fashion business that that is the case. Harold certainly isn't all that bad to look at and has never made any bones (although he has made plenty boners) about his wanting to be my first.

I am, in a way, then, suddenly running from Harold, too. He seemed genuinely hurt when I told him I was going off alone and didn't want him along for the ride.

"I'm a big boy," I said, feeling anything but my twenty-one years. "I can certainly take care of myself for a couple of weeks. Besides, it isn't as if it's all pleasure."

"But South America?" Harold moaned. "Couldn't you go somewhere a bit closer?"

"The property is in South America." I was more than a little piqued that I had to go through that redundant reminder. "I don't want to go just anywhere and mope."

I doubt that he really understands. I'm not sure I even understand - completely. My lawyer tells me the sale of the property can easily be taken care of without me going anywhere near it. International deals like this one are carried out every day of every year. Likely, I just hope the change of scenery will pull me out of my funk.

In the plane seat next to me, Cary Blight, whom I've met on the flight, stirs in his sleep, readjusting his position without coming awake.

I take a few minutes to scrutinize him closer. It isn't the first time I've done so. I spent the whole first hour of our flight admiring his masculine good looks while spilling my guts as regards my in-process runaway. In the end, I was embarrassed by my diarrhea of the mouth, and I'd apologized.

"Oh, don't be silly," he said, his rugged features breaking into an attractive smile that immediately turned the man into a boy. Why isn't he the one trying to get into my pants? "Any psychiatrist will tell you that unloading on a complete stranger is some of the best therapy around."

"Good for me, granted." I laughed. My right hand smoothed my light blonde hair out of my large gray eyes.

"Oh, I'm having a marvelous time," he said, all gentleman. "Actually, you could probably talk about anything and keep me interested."

I'm used to veiled and unveiled compliments, by men and women, by gays and straights. Once, I'd been insulted whenever someone only paid attention to my physical veneer and had no interest in what was beneath it. In time, however, I've come to accept that I'm attractive and that in a world where youth and beauty are admired, it's only natural that the first thing someone notices about me is how good I look. I was pleased that, up until then, though, Cary hadn't treated me as just another dumb, good-looking blond. He'd rambled off the technical aspects of his job as if I understood every word. I understood very little except that it has something to do with mining.

Cary moves again in his sleep, and lest he wake to discover me playing voyeur, I turn my attention back to the window.

Below is the jungle of Brazil: a deep green carpet that stretches for as far as the eye can see, interspersed with myriad ropes of waterways that curl, meander, and fold in on themselves until navigation of, and on, seems quite impossible.

It's hard to imagine that the civilized city of Rio is only hours behind me. Lovely, lovely Rio. I had lingered there for over a week, losing myself in its exotic spell. I was enthralled by its towering huge crags up-thrust within its city limits. I was caught up in the turnabout of seasons that put me in tropical heat while it's winter in London. The week of lying in my skimpy Brazilian swimming suit on the sands of Ipanema Beach toasted my pale skin a delightful shade of honey.

I would have stayed longer in Rio - I'd had actually been almost out of my depression, but Harold started calling nightly. Disturbed that he can't seem to leave me alone for just a couple of weeks, I've run even further.

Cary stirs again, stretches, and comes awake. I turn in his direction and smile. Sleepily, he smiles back and then checks his watch. He comes to a more substantial sitting position. He looks momentarily past me and to the window. He points.

"Thar she blows!" he says.

I turn back to the verdant river-veined jungle below.

There are volcanoes up and down the west coast of South America, but there aren't any of them here to account for the sudden visible steam on the horizon.

"Foz do Iquacu," he confirms in his slightly accented Portuguese.

I've picked up just enough of the language, in Rio, to know what he says. Frankly, though, I've not expected the spray to be visible from such a distance. "It must be huge," I decide aloud.

"There are actually hundreds of waterfalls and cascades," he says, "all plunging over the one escarpment. "One helluva sight, even from the air, as I think you'll agree. Unfortunately, that's the closest I ever seem to get, despite all of my intentions to the contrary. All a question of bad timing, I guess."

The pilot announces our descent. Cary and I check our seat belts and then go back to watching the cloud of spray growing upon our approach.

I see no signs of civilization until the plane banks right, then the runway and a small grouping of buildings come into view.

The plane lands, bounces twice before settling down to a fairly smooth glide to a stop.

"Well, good luck to you, then, William," Cary says, standing so that I can squeeze by him and enter the aisle first. I find our brief mutual rub-by arousing in the extreme. "Maybe we'll meet again."

"I'll be here for a while," I say. "If you're back through in the next week or so, give me a call. I'm staying at a local residence called The Cataracts."

"Are you now?" he sounds impressed. "Maybe I'll take you up on your invite." He smiles. "It's about time I see the falls from closer than five-thousand feet. I hear the view from where you'll be staying is genuinely spectacular."

"By the time you're back in the area, I'll perhaps have enough bearings to give you a personally guided tour," I hopefully, further entice.

Up the aisle, a stewardess goes through the final procedure for opening the door. I give one final nod to Cary and walk forward to be greeted by the hot blast of incoming air that suddenly engulfs me.

"English?" the man at customs asks, a minute or so later, taking my passport.

"Si, pero hablo espanol," I reply, letting him know that I speak passable Spanish if he's more comfortable with that. One of the minor advantages to being in Iguassu is that I've crossed into Spanish-speaking Argentina and can now, once again, manage a halfway intelligent conversation.

"Mr. Maltese?"

I turn toward the voice and see the attractive young man standing about three feet away.

"I'm Jeremy Salinas," he says after I acknowledge my identity with a nod.

I expected someone far older. He's probably only two or three years my senior, if that.

"I've the car waiting," he says. "I've been looking forward to your arrival."

Clearing the terminal, after Jeremy's arrival, is a breeze. He seems to know everyone. I'm processed without anyone even bothering to look into my luggage. Jeremy carries my bags out to a Jeep parked out front.

"Did you have a good flight?" He ushers me into the passenger seat and closes the door behind me. He walks around the car and climbs behind the steering wheel.

"Quite enjoyable, thanks." Having left the air-conditioned terminal, I'm again aware of the high humidity and heat.

"I thought possibly you'd stay in Rio a bit longer," he says. He steers the car into sparse traffic.

"I was tempted," I admit. It's hardly prudent to mention the calls from Harold that see me in Iguassu sooner than either Jeremy or I expected.

"Ah, but I do love Rio," Jeremy says, steering into a left turn and heading us along a two-way paved road bordered by lush undergrowth. Just by the way he says what he says gives me the impression that he would rather be there than here at the moment.

"Gorgeous city," I admit.

"But, business in Iguassu before pleasure in Rio, yes, Mr. Maltese? May I call you William?"

"Please do." Since we're only separated by a few years -months? weeks? days?, it would sound ludicrous for either of us to preface every name-calling with Mr.

"You'll call me Jeremy, of course."

I turn my head slightly to get a better look at Jeremy's profile.

He's handsome. What, I now try to determine, makes him that way. As someone who has been acutely aware of attractiveness-versus-ugliness from my first modeling assignment at age four, I'm always interested in trying to determine just what combination of physical characteristics makes one person favorably stand out from all others.