It was three years ago the 21st of November. The moon was full that night. A most brilliant white glowing in the black sky above the old city when he first spotted the boy on the Battery. He straddled over an overstuffed backpack and inhaling a cigarette as if sucking it, holding it in for a long moment, then blowing a cloud of misty smoke into the cold air. Unlike the other boys standing on the street who were white the boy was African-American, out of place and ignorant of men seeking attention in parked cars. The anticipation of meeting him excited him, and he sneezed violently three times in a row.
The boy heard the commotion above the soft roar of a car motor and turned his head in his direction at the top of High Battery to see him wiping his nose. Elated the boy had noticed him he started to wave, holler, do anything now that he had gotten the boy's attention, but another sneezing fit, more violent than previously, interrupted. When he looked again the boy had looked away. He re-pocketed his handkerchief listening to waves lapping against the seawall, its soothing echo bringing him a sense of calm. He closed his eyes and wished he were tighter; it might then be less difficult to do the things he intended. Things that made him blush and turn the corner of his mouth into a mischievous smirk.
He tucked the sides of his black hair down behind his ears and looked warily down the street. No one else had come to the boy nor had he gone to any of the cars blinking aggressive brake lights. He felt the top pocket of his overcoat. The one cigarette he carried was in place like a weapon. He waited anxiously to pull the trigger. At last he mustered courage to venture down the steps and approached the boy cautiously.
“Do you have light,” he asked taping the cigarette at corner of his mouth.
“Sure,” the boy said digging a pack of matches from his pocket and striking a flame to his cigarette. Backing up he stumbled over his backpack and fell into the guardrail.
“Farchrisak! Are you, all right?"
"I’m fine,” the boy said with the palm of one hand raised.
"I'm relieved it was your backpack you tripped over and not the seawall,” he said breathing a sigh of relief, “else I would have jumped into the harbor to save you.”
The boy rolled his eyes and, mashing his cigarette out under his boot, realized his onlooker undressing him the way a farmer chooses an intact boar to breed a sow. He clenched his teeth squeezing the railing while the man scrutinized him up and down with the cigarette between the tip of index finger and thumb and thinking the boy was not necessarily skinny but full-bodied like a strong field hand from one of those rural Pee Dee counties he abhorred, Florence, Marion or Dillon, northwest of Charleston. He carried himself well in baggy clothes, he prayed were surely just that—baggy-but undeniably dirt cheap.
“What are you looking for?” he whispered removing the cigarette from the corner of his mouth.
“I’m looking for you," the boy said wryly.
“My car is parked up the street. Not far from here. Would you like to go there to my car and warm up?”
“What kind of car?”
“A silver Mercedes.”
“Silver, light grey,” he said chuckling. “Yes, grey and comfortable.”
“How old?” the boy wondered out loud more about his age than the car.
“Exactly two years," he said throwing his cigarette down and after watching the butt roll into a crack at the edge of the sidewalk he stroked the boy's shoulder, "I bought it brand new," he added looking into the boy's eyes that were ebony and blacker than his skin he longed to caress. And the boy smiled brightly and did not object when he held his hand longer than anticipated.
Together they left the Battery.
Inside his car parked behind a playground at S. Adgers Wharf the boy offered a stale can of malt liquor beer pulled from his backpack. They shared it along with one cigarette as the moon rose higher in the black sky changing into a dazzling white. Finally he leaned over and kissed the boy on the mouth.
He felt himself sinking, slipping into the soft red leather seat, losing control, and wanting it.
This kiss, the helpless way it made him feel, captivated him so, leaving him no hint of the dark machinations yet to come, no hint of the relentless downhill spiral that would lead to murder.