This is an excerpt of the sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent, Michtam's Hubris. I've still got a long way to go, but I am making progress. This is the beginning chapter. I have decided on a new name for the book, but will not change it here yet.
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“I’m not running away. I am not running away,”
Gent repeated to himself while
he scurried around his room gathering last minute items that he thought he
would need. His edgy nerves caused sweat to bead on his forehead, making his
thin, dark hair paste to it in the pattern of wavering sunbeams. A glance at
his mirror confirmed that he looked as pasty and pale as he felt.
After tucking a pair of gloves and a scarf into the outer pocket of his backpack,
loaded on the backpack, gathered his other two pieces of luggage and quietly
made his way out of his room and the house. It was still dark, but the sun
would make its way above the tips of the trees soon enough. He hoped no one
would see him because he could not imagine coming up with an excuse for why he
was leaving while it was still dark. Again, he said to himself, “I’m not
running away. And I’m not doing anything wrong.”
He did feel somewhat like a coward for not having the courage to speak with his parents about why he needed to leave. Michtam knew everything, but he would not tell them unless he felt
Gent was in danger. It was hard
enough telling Michtam, whom Gent believed would always
be in his life no matter what happened.
talked to Michtam the previous night, he expected Michtam to be concerned and
provide a million reasons why Gent should not leave.
Instead, Michtam peered into the trees of the small park area behind the pool
where they sat to talk. He had a distant look in his dark brown eyes that Gent
could not read, and no arguments. The dimming light of the evening gave
Michtam’s skin a darker tint than his usual caramel color.
Michtam said, “I’ll cover you at work if you need me to.”
He still did not look at him, and
Gent questioned even more what Michtam
was thinking. “No. I called the café to say I couldn’t make it for the rest of
the week. They’ve already covered that, and Harry’s been looking for extra
work, so he’ll kick in after that.” Michtam was paying attention, but barely.
“The library’s slow enough right now that I didn’t have too many hours anyway.
I won’t be missed.”
A small smile crossed Michtam’s face, and he said, “You will always be missed,
Wanting to pinpoint where Michtam’s standoffishness was coming from,
asked, “You understand why I have to leave, don’t you?”
Finally Michtam looked at him and said slowly, “I understand enough.” Then looking more normal, and with a big smile, Michtam chuckled, “
Gent, you know
I really don’t understand anything about you. Prayer surely hasn’t helped there
either.” He paused, then added, “If you wanted understanding, you should have
gone to Pastor David a long time ago.”
They both laughed and for a moment they felt to be in middle school again, chiding each other about being duffuses or committing acts deviants might, far beyond anything they ever contemplated.
The real reason why he had to leave was that
Gent could not have his
full identity in Gabriel. Since he began to understand his difference, he knew
while he remained here, he would not be complete. Gent could
not live his life in Gabriel, like he truly yearned to do, with a partial
Still without tears and loaded up with the only possessions he could afford to take with him,
Gent made his way down the main road and down the
mountain to the small town below. From there, he would take a Greyhound bus to
God knew where.
needed to hear from Michtam did not come. Even without that verbal confirmation
he had to hope that Michtam would be that tether for Gent
to return to Gabriel should he stray too far and not be able to find his way
back. Although their relationship was not exactly the same after Gent’s
coming out to him years ago, Gent knew he could always
count on Michtam should he need help.
Everyone was close in Gabriel, but having been raised as brothers, born only months apart and their mothers being best friends, Michtam’s and
relationship was much stronger than best friends. After Michtam learned about
his father, it did not bother Gent that it took Michtam nearly
a month before he spoke to him about him.
He was sure he could not be the only person ever in Gabriel to be like him. It was more likely that he was the first one who wanted to remain in Gabriel, to make his career there and, against all hope, find his mate, marry and be completely accepted for who he was.
Gent did not think this was a total
impossibility. As things were now, it pretty much was, however. God’s intent,
as he had always heard in sermons, was for there to be a husband and a wife.
To not stir up his anger,
Gent focused on his moving feet, which were
getting distracting because of their pain. He had to think of what he was going
to do. His only thought, after making his trek down the mountain to the bus
station, was to get to as big a city and as far away as he could with his
eighty-dollar traveling budget. He was pleased that he spent only fifty-eight
dollars to go just under five hundred miles, and treated himself to his first
chain store pizza at one of the stops on the way.
When he arrived, he stayed overnight in the station, hoping he would not to be accosted or even questioned by anyone. He woke up at , right before dawn, gathered his belongings and walked. Two and a half hours later, he was still considering what his next move would be.
He could start by trying to find a job. Just about anything would do. At home, he worked in the café that opened up a year ago, and in the library. He had also bagged part-time at the grocery. He liked staying busy and, although he had no experience outside of Gabriel, he was confident in himself enough that he believed finding a job would not be too difficult. The first thing he needed to consider was finding where he would sleep tonight and then to find more long-term living arrangements.
Yet, he had no idea where to go or how long his eight hundred and fifty dollars that he had remaining after the bus ride and pizza would last. Even so, he could not go looking for a job while lugging around all of his property, and he knew he must look ragged and dirty.
Looking up from his shoes,
Gent saw a Visitor’s Information office that
would open in an hour and a half. It was two doors from a café that was opened.
He shifted his two pieces of luggage and backpack, and entered the café. He
would wait there until the office opened and hopefully learn if there was a
youth hostel or other inexpensive lodging nearby.
Choosing a table close to the barista,
Gent stacked his belongings
against the wall next to his table. There was a line of people and Gent
thought to wait until it was empty before ordering. The line continued to flow
between three and seven people. He eventually decided to join in behind a
fourth person, while keeping an eye on his baggage. Not knowing what he was
getting, he ordered a small chai tea latte. After a shock that the price of tea
could be over three dollars, he waited in a pocket of the café that was close
to his table for his order to be ready. After a couple of minutes, his name was
called. He took it with a sleeve and returned to his table.
Cautiously, he drank through the oblong sipping hole of the lid and was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness and spice. He let himself disregard the expense, but would remind himself to always check prices before he made any purchases, and promised himself no more indulgences while his situation was so precarious.
While looking out toward the street and the growing number of people walking along the sidewalk,
noticed that someone was watching him. It was not the quick glance that
everyone else seemed to give. He looked back toward the gaze that grabbed his
attention and saw a Black man in a business suit looking at him curiously. He
appeared to be in his late twenties and was sitting by himself in between one
chatty group that looked to be college students and another two-party group of
apparent coworkers who were reading newspapers.
When the man stood up, still looking toward him,
Gent began to get nervous.
He had no idea why a stranger would seek him out. He stayed put, watching the
man, who was average in build and height, with short natural hair, and wearing
an average dark gray suit and tie. Gent quickly looked
around him to see if there was someone else who the man might be walking
toward. There was no one.
By the time he turned back to the man, he was at
Gent’s table, his hand
reaching out to shake Gent’s. “Hi. My name is James.
Please, don’t be concerned. It seems to me that you look a bit scared and new
here.” He paused and seemed to think of how to continue. “I just dropped my
wife off at work. A lot of times I come in here when I’m early for my job. I
wanted to make sure you’re okay. Is everything fine with you?”
“You seem to have just arrived here. Do you have people meeting you? You have somewhere to stay?”
Baffled by James’ show of worry,
Gent still did not know whether to trust
him. He was in a public place, however, and felt that answering his initial questions
should pose no problem. “I will look for a place to stay in a little while.” He
stopped there, not sure he should give any more information.
“You have work here or are you going to school?”
“I’m looking for work.”
James sat down at the table without asking whether he could and with heightened concern in his eyes, he said, “I don’t want to be too prying, but I want to make sure you are okay. You look quite young and I want to make sure you get safely to where you want to be. Look, my wife and I live about a mile down from here, and I work about a half an hour away during normal traffic conditions. I’m a legal assistant at a small law firm. How do you plan to find somewhere to stay? In this city, there are predators who look for newly arrived young guys like you to take advantage of in one way or another. Do you need any help, or have you got everything under control?”
Apprehension wanted to take control of
Gent that maybe this James was
someone who wanted to take advantage of him. Gent felt,
however, that he could trust his man, at least a little. After a moment, Gent
said, “I’m waiting for the Visitor’s Information office to open to ask them
where there’s a youth hostel.”
“Okay, good.” James relaxed back in the seat, looking relieved, and
was glad that James seemed to think his plan was satisfactory. “When does the
“It should be open in another twenty minutes.”
“Fine. Let me give you my card. I do need to get to work now, but please call me if you need some help. What’s your name?”
After taking James’ business card and looking it over,
Gent told him
“Where are you from?”
“A small town called Gabriel. It took almost a full day to get here by bus.”
I do need to go. Call me if you need to. I’d hate to hear of another young man
that got caught up with the wrong people and ended up either in jail, strung up
on drugs, or in the morgue. I don’t mean to scare you, but it does happen, too
often. Be careful who you get involved with. And get only legitimate jobs.”
They shook hands again, and afterward James said, “Good luck,
be too shy or fear you’re bothering me if you need to call me. If I can help
you out or get you to someone who can, I will.”