"Would you like a drink?" Abel said hugging the boy gently around the neck and kissing him on the cheek. The boy's black face blushed and he told him no thanks pulling away and trotting into the living room. Abel shook ice cubes melting in his glass with his lips pressed into a thin line studying the boy's poise from the back of the boy's faded haircut down to the curve of the yellow-stitch sole of his black leather boots. “Tired?" he said sipping his club soda. “A little bit," the boy replied staring out the window at the sunset full of vibrant pink and blue, and no longer a hint of fog and overcast shadows.
"I ran up the hill.”
"All the way from Castro Street?”
“No, from Dolores Street,” the boy said turning around and, looking into Abel’s milky blue eyes, he smiled.
“Yeah, Dolores to Market and straight up 17th to Clayton to the steps.”
“Impressive.” Abel winked. “You know, I miss you terribly when you’re not here."
"Even when I'm painting in the Green Cottage?"
"But of course,” Abel chuckled walking past the boy to the long white sofa in the middle of the room, “even then when you're working.”
"I started a new portrait.”
“Do I know him?”
"No,” the boy said wretchedly and dropped in the armchair crossing his feet at the ankles.
“Where did you meet?”
“Under that bridge?”
“No, top of the hill.”
“Oh, the gay beach,” Abel said placing his drink on a placeholder on the coffee table and crossing his legs. “Was he blond and good-looking?”
“He was ash blond.”
“He was okay.” Abruptly, the boy got up taking off his leather jacket. He dropped the jacket in the chair and rushed over to the fireplace snatching a poker from the rack and stirring red hot embers into a vicious flame.
“Just okay?” Abel glared at the boy’s back.
“Yeah,” the boy snapped, “he was OK.”
"Was it a nude portrait?"
“A nude portrait?” The boy scoffed furrowing his brow. “Of course not. Just his face, I painted nothing other than that.”
“Was he paid for this impromptu sitting?”
“He was paid,” the boy said squeezing the handle of the poker tightly in his hand, “a big fat burrito.” His black eyes twitched. “He was hungry. That’s what he wanted. That’s what he got.”
“I’m not sure.”
“I don’t know.”
"Burrito de carne, pollo or cerdo?"
"Steak with extra meat.”
“That Mexican restaurant on Valencia Street not far from Roxie Theater, I took him there,” the boy exclaimed dropping his arm down at his side, and he sighed and tried to relax.
“The one I took you to last Halloween?”
“Yes,” the boy said replacing the poker in the stand, “I can’t pronounce it.”
“Puerto Alegre," Abel articulated in Spanish and, uncrossing his legs, leaned forward circling the top of the glass on the table with his index finger slowly. "Can you pronounce it now?"
“Puer-to A-legre," the boy stammered.
"Gracias!" Abel cried clapping, the noise of his applause popping the boy’s ears. “Isn’t Mrs. Erikson sleeping?" the boy whispered.
“Isn’t she in bed?"
"I don't give a goddamn if my excitement rouses that woman. If Zelta fell down a flight of stairs tonight and broke her silly neck I would not shed a single tear."
"I'm sorry that Mrs. Erikson has hurt you, sir,” the boy said coming back to his seat and pushing his jacket aside. “I hope someday you'll be able to tell me why you dislike her so much. I promise I'll listen."
This pleased Abel wholeheartedly. He grinned, chin up, contented his boy had a compassionate heart and was not always so selfish. That raging beast that had overwhelmed him with unseemly thoughts of his mother dissipated. "What is done is done," he said calmly, "I'm simply happy that you care. But let us not talk about Zelta anymore when I much prefer to hold you in my arms and kiss you."
The boy stared at his manicured fingernails with trepidation; they were neat and trimmed just the way Abel preferred. It was the tip of them he suddenly recalled, and he slumped back in the chair remembering how much he wanted the white body they had just touched.