Manny’s fingers clenched the wiring of the fence. For a moment, the necessary courage was right at the tip of his tongue. But then it had slipped away, and he was again hesitating in silence. Was he sure? How could he be sure? What would he say? Would this boy recognize him?
No, I need to leave. No distractions. Manny released the fence and turned away. But he could not resist the urge to glance back for even as long as it took to go a single step. His racing heart seemed to freeze for a moment. Was that…?
Manny stepped back to the fence and narrowed his eyes. It could be dirt. But it didn’t look like dirt. The strange boy had raised a forearm and tilted it towards the yellow streetlight. In the poor lighting, the dark marks on his arm could be car grease. Maybe the diluted drops that ran like black tears away from those marks were wash-off. But by the way the boy carefully touched the marks, fingers trembling on every contact, they were not dirt.
That wasn’t there before. Those arms had been perfect. Smooth and flawless. And then it hit Manny: He’s washing those in drain water!? Manny grasped onto the fence again, half prepared to climb over it himself. This was not right. Something was very, very wrong. “Hey. Hey.” Manny’s throat was dry. Something swamped his nerves that he had never felt before. It was panicked, scared, almost…protective.
“Angel!” The name came to Manny a split moment before he called it.
The figure by the drainage slide reacted immediately. He got instantly to his feet, arms lowering to his sides, stiff pose turned towards Manny, that face becoming silhouetted against the glow from the streetlight behind him.
Manny’s throat went dry again. He tried to swallow. Tried to remember what he had been thinking. But everything evaporated under the feeling of that person looking back at him.
He stood there frozen like a statue. A cold breeze picked up, and Manny saw the figure pull down his sleeves. One foot moved behind the other as cautiously as if that stranger were about to retreat from a wild animal.
“Wait, don’t go.” Manny was not even sure his words were audible. It seemed like another entire minute before something else came to his lips, and he mustered the courage to say it. “You…you’re hurt.” Then, his voice fading with uncertainty, “Angel. You can’t…They…they’ll get infected from that water. I…I have a first aid kit in my dorm room. I can…I can…”
That figure moved slightly, this time drawing towards Manny. At first, the steps were slow and cautious. Then, more confident. Light fell on that face, glowing across beautiful features and flawless skin. Reflections of the streetlights caught in the prettiest eyes Manny had ever seen. That silver lip ring glittered like gold.
Manny’s jaw slipped. He had never seen anything more beautiful than those eyes. Dark hair shifting across that pretty face in the cold breeze. He was shorter than Manny had realized. That face tilted upward at Manny, breathtaking eyes searching Manny’s green ones. Two bloodied hands lifted to the fence and rested silently against it.
Manny found himself suddenly unable to look into that face. It was impossible. He could never have slept with this boy. This person was an angel, not a human.
Perfect lips curved into a faint, half smile. Those beautiful, glittering eyes met Manny’s with a force that felt so real, so tangible. “No.” It was whispered, pierced lips moving beautifully on the word. The blood-smeared hands retreated from the fencing, and then he was melting back into the shadows. A silhouette claimed his figure. Manny was frozen and silent, unable to say a word as he watched the boy move to the opposite side of the fenced-in drain ditch and cross out onto the parking lot on the other side. Then he was walking away, hooded figure casting shadows on the pavement as it disappeared.
Manny found himself shivering as he stood frozen beside that fence. “Angel.” The word left his throat in a whisper. It had felt so surreal. It was almost strange to realize that beautiful boy was real.
“Something definitely happened,” Eva’s words rang back in Manny’s ears. Silently, he turned and started back the way he had come. Images of those beautiful eyes flashed in his mind. Why had that strange boy been washing his arms in a gutter? What happened to his arms? It was almost like…He had almost been acting as if…
“He’s not homeless, he can’t be,” Manny muttered, quickening his pace back towards campus. “Maybe he just doesn’t have a good place to go. Home may not be a nice place right now.” He’s in trouble. Manny blinked against the cold wind. And yet, the boy’s situation was clearly not bad enough that he wanted any help. Not from me, anyway.
Manny gripped his backpack straps and listened to the sounds of his own footsteps for a long moment. Angel worked at Tucker’s. He attended Southern San Diego. He probably lived somewhere in between, and he certainly had a car if he went to both. He was fine.
Did he attend Southern San Diego? Was he a student at all? He had been at that frat party. The Zeta Phi boys obviously knew him. Zeta Phi.
“No distractions, stay focused,” Manny told himself harshly. He had a name and a face. That was more than enough to call closure on the whole thing. It was time he finally forgot it all.
But not a single part of Manny felt even close to forgetting those breathtaking eyes or the blood on those fingers.