Manny woke to mild, bluish light filling his dorm room. His curtains were drawn, he immediately knew, but the sun outside must be full and bright. For several moments, Manny simply lay where he was, relaxed under his warm blanket. His head felt light, mind seemingly floating in the welcome absence of the horrible thoughts that had been ravaging nonstop.
But Manny was abruptly brought back to reality when he saw a shadow move across his floor. The shadow of a person. Manny sat bolt upright, heart leaping instantly into overdrive. But the face that greeted him from beside the window was a familiar one, and not from that night at the frat house.
“You’re awake.” Leon Devatré’s voice filled Manny with instant relief.
The college student frowned slightly. “Hi, Uncle Leon. Why…are you here?” The words felt sharp on his dry throat, and Manny flinched on them slightly. He dropped his feet to the floor, quietly gripping the edge of his bed in cold, clammy hands.
“Israel said you was sick. He was worried ‘bout you. Thought you might have to see a doctor.” Leon walked over slowly, hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. He sat down beside his nephew, then lifted a hand to test Manny’s forehead. “I think you’ fine. Caught an illness or somethin’, though.”
Manny grimaced. “Maybe.” His eyes lowered to the floor.
“You don’ think so? Israel said you was sick all yesterday. Hardly got outta bed the whole day.”
There was a short silence.
“What is it then? Somethin’ stressin’ you out? School? A person? Com’on, Manny. You gotta talk about this stuff.”
Manny glanced uneasily at his uncle. The man was sitting there, hands folded over his knees, eyes full of concern as he watched his nephew. Israel would not understand. Manny did not know how to explain it to Ana. But Leon had always assured Manny that he would be there for him no matter what happened. “I did something bad.” Manny let out a heavy sigh and lowered his gaze to the floor again. “Really, really bad. I think…I think I hurt someone. Really badly.”
“A girl?” was Leon’s immediate guess. “Manny, you know what I said about gittin’ involved with girls in college.” His words were earnest, but not judgmental. “This stuff…look, I know shit is tempting. You can just look at me, my life, all the shit I been through and if there’s one thing you’ll learn from it—it’s that I know shit is tempting. But a girl right now is just gonna be trouble, Manny. You got a long-range plan ahead of you, and most kids in this school don’t. If they even thinking in terms of their degree, it’s only four years. But most of ‘em don’ even care to plan a month in advance, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Manny nodded slowly. “I know. I know, you’re right. But it’s not a girl. It’s not like that. It’s…it’s similar, maybe, but—”
The question caught Manny completely by surprise, and for several seconds, he only gaped. “N…no. No, I’m not gay.” His eyes widened on Leon’s face.
Leon shrugged. “Manny, I ain’t asking for you to be perfect. Shit, I don’t give a damn what your issues are, we all got ‘em.”
He thinks I’m lying? Manny stared blankly at his uncle’s face, as if transfixed. Then, shuddering at the thought, Am I lying? “It’s not like that. I…I hurt someone, but…it’s not like that.”
“Manny, you a good kid. You got a conscience.” Leon sighed. “But there’s only so much you can do to make wrongs right, you know what I’m sayin’? You can’t undo what’s done.”
Manny swallowed, wishing more desperately than anything in his life that he could undo that one night. He had never felt this guilty before. Never had he felt all the good in his life suddenly become outweighed by something bad. Something bad he had done.
“A good person does what he can to make up for it.” Leon raised his hand in a small gesture. “Apologize, you know? Give ‘em a chance to tell you how to make it right. Do what you think is fair to repair the damage—whatever that is. Favors. Whatever it is. Then you done your part, and you walk away.”
Biting at his fingernails, Manny nodded.
“Look, some people don’t give you that chance, though,” Leon went on. “Some people gonna tell you they don’ want your apology, there ain’t nothing you can do, whatever it is. And you gotta let that be the way it is, you know what I’m sayin’? You done your part, and you walk away.” He sighed. “Nobody’s perfect. But a good person gonna give you the chance to make it right. A good person gonna take an honest apology.”
Manny nodded. Was Angel a good person? Refusing an apology from a person who raped him was hardly a telling sign of a bad person. But then again, Manny had never actually apologized. At the time, he had not realized he had anything to apologize for. I have to find him again. Try to make things right. “I’ll do that,” Manny sighed. “Thanks.”
Leon nodded. “Hey, I’ma check in on you again tomorrow. See how you doin’.”
“K.” Manny watched as his uncle stood up and walked over to the door. Leon exited with a backward smile at his nephew. “How am I gonna find him again?” Manny asked aloud when the door was shut. It was pure coincidence that he had spotted the beautiful boy that one time. If Angel was a sex worker, he could probably be found on all kinds of streets at any random time. The thought made Manny want to double over and cry again. It was not surprising that he did well in it, but how had someone so beautiful wound up working the streets? That strange boy had seemed so fragile, so delicate. He was, perhaps. His own blood had been smeared all over his hands last time Manny had seen him. And yet, that faint half smile that had curved his pretty lips.
Lafayette Street. The frat boys had said Brice and Cali picked up Angel from Lafayette Street. They had sent Israel back to Lafayette Street when Israel had asked about him. That bartender clearly knew Angel. She had said he worked there, at Tucker’s. That section of town was terrifying to Manny, but if going back was what was necessary to find Angel, then going back was exactly what Manny would do.