Oh, my God,
I feel it in the air
Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare
Honey, I'm on fire
I feel it everywhere
Nothing scares me any more
"Lionel. Can I have a word?"
A few heads turned. Kevin Price didn't make a habit of mingling among the plebeians. He didn't make a habit of leaving his office, with the occasional exception of a ribbon-cutting here or a photo-op there. Even more heads turned as McKinley nodded slowly and threw his remaining belongings into his bag. He tilted a little as he stood, simultaneously trying to sling his enormous duffel over his shoulder. He'd gotten skinny, Kevin noticed.
McKinley's new gauntness was only the first of many things Kevin observed on their silent walk to the parking lot. Between broad grins at parkgoers and nods at vendors, he stole glances at McKinley's face. He saw dark circles under McKinley's bright blue eyes, little flaps of skin on his dry lips. He slowed his brisk gait more than a few times to let McKinley catch up.
"You look a little tired," he said. Small talk. McKinley only nodded.
"Long... long year."
They didn't speak again as they wound through the park. When Kevin finally stopped, they were alone in the parking lot reserved for senior staff. Most had gone home. It was late in the day. Kevin raised his eyes to the sky, drew in a deep breath, and spoke.
"I need you to leave the park."
"Whoa." McKinley's duffel bag fell from his side, hitting the concrete with a loud smack.
"I'll... I'll put together a nice severance package for you. You can head back to California."
"No," McKinley repeated, desperation growing in his voice. "No, you can't do this to me."
"I have a family." Kevin lowered his voice. "A wife."
"And that's my problem?"
Tears were welling up in McKinley's eyes. Kevin swallowed hard. He hadn't forgotten that McKinley was a crier, hopelessly sensitive to even the most minute tragedies.
"We talk about the power of temptation a lot, you know, and you... having you here... it's just..."
McKinley's jaw dropped. Kevin could see that he was quaking, his face growing bright red. He was walking towards him, raising a hand as if he were about to slap him. In seconds, Kevin was pressed up against his Escalade, reaching slowly for the door. McKinley brought his hand down, pointed a finger, and pressed it forcefully into Kevin's chest.
"I didn't come here," McKinley gasped, "to fuck you."
"Then why did you come, huh?" Kevin's own voice was rising. "You were just dying to be a children's entertainer forty miles out of Salt Lake City?"
McKinley lowered his hand, steeled his jaw, and drew in a deep breath. "They buried my boyfriend last month," he said. "I wasn't invited to the funeral."
"Leo," Kevin breathed. McKinley's eyes fluttered shut as Kevin reached for his hand, and tentatively took it. "I'm sorry."
After a few moments, McKinley began again, his eyes still closed. "We met at church, actually. In... in, like, a support group, for... for people like us. Nobody knew."
"You... you, uh, weren't scared of what people would say?"
He shrugged. "I gave up. I was done, Kevin, I was done praying for God to crush me. I was... I was in love, finally. For the first time after..."
He opened his eyes, sighed, then looked to Kevin. He shook his head, then focused his gaze on the concrete. "Five years we were together. And he, he..."
Kevin could see McKinley's chest rising and falling rapidly, could hear the frantic tone in his voice. He squeezed McKinley's hand, laid his other hand on McKinley's shoulder. "You don't have to say it. I can guess."
"They blamed me."
"It wasn't your fault."
"They blamed me. They all blamed me. I didn't... I couldn't... there was literally nowhere else I could even think of going, Kevin."
Tears were swimming in his eyes now, and his lips were quivering as much as his voice. He inhaled again, deep, and shuddered. "You do not know what it's like to live honestly."
There was a pause. Kevin parted his lips, started to apologize, then winced as a sharp, shrill ringing broke the silence.
"Sorry, that's my phone."
McKinley wrenched away from Kevin. "No. No way. No fucking way, Kevin Price."
He didn't miss the inflection on his surname, the way spit flew past McKinley's lips.
"I have to take this. It's Helen. Just, uh, quiet down for a second."
"No!" McKinley shouted. "No, you can't do this to me! You can't pretend I'm not here!"
He honestly didn't know what to do. The Blackberry buzzed in his hand, and his finger hovered above the screen.
"You cannot pay me off!" screamed McKinley. "I won't let you! I won't let you hide who you are, or pretend we never happened! I am here! I'm not going to go away!"
"McKinley, please, just give me one second..."
He let out a wordless shout and charged at Price, grabbed his wrist, shook it. "Let it go to voicemail!"
"Turn it off!" Kevin lost his grip on the phone and it fell, tumbling over McKinley's elbow, and shattered on the concrete. There was silence.
And then, in an instant, there were chapped lips on his, and skinny arms pinning his own against the window of his truck. He swore he felt McKinley chewing on his lip, running his tongue insistently over his own gritted teeth. There was a knee wedging itself into the gap between Kevin's legs, moving rigorously up and down.
He kissed back.
His hands made their way to the space above McKinley's hips and his fingers dug in, pulled McKinley – Lionel, Leo, his Leo – closer to him. He gasped for breath, and Leo's tongue darted in, circling his in a hot, slippery rush.
It didn't feel good. Not this time around. It had never felt good, exactly, stealing kisses under fear of excommunication or slipping coded love notes into dry Bible lessons. The secrecy and the shame hadn't vanished; Kevin could feel his cheeks getting hotter. At least then they had each other. They hadn't had anger, or any of this bitterness, this resentment.
Both hands were moving along the hem of McKinley's shirt now, pulling the soft fabric up. He couldn't think straight. He was dizzy, dizzy and...
Kevin blinked, watching in dazed helplessness as McKinley staggered backward, gagged, and fell to the concrete.
He knew what to do. He'd done it before, in the middle of the night when McKinley woke from anxious nightmares. It was no less stressful then than it was now. Kevin dropped to his knees, pushed McKinley's hair away from his sweaty forehead, and dug in his pocket for a handkerchief.
"Let's get you to a park medic."
"Take me home."
"Are you sure?"
"Use my car."
McKinley's car was an immaculately kept clunker the colour of a chain smoker's phlegm. Kevin kept one hand on the wheel and one hand on McKinley's shoulder for the entire long, silent ride home, moving only to shift gears and signal. When they finally came to a stop outside McKinley's redbrick apartment building, Kevin's hand didn't move. It was a long time before he spoke.
"Uh... will you be okay?"
"Maybe." McKinley shrugged. "I don't really know."
"If you're not feeling well, you don't have to come into work tomorrow."
"Are you still trying to get me fired?"
McKinley sighed and looked down into his lap, where his thin hands were folded over his stomach.
"I'm not a homewrecker," he said, quietly.
"I know you're not."
"But you know I came here for you."
Kevin nodded. "Well, yeah, I kind of gathered that. Showing up at my park was a pretty deliberate move."
McKinley chuckled a little, nodded. "I needed to see you again. One more time... oh, I don't know."
"We can't go back to nineteen, Leo."
He smiled faintly. "I wish we could."
"But we can't."
McKinley wriggled away from Kevin's hand, gently nudging it off his shoulder. "Nineteen was... it was important to me. I need it. Or... or something like it."
"I can't give you that. You know I can't."
McKinley turned his head to the side, nodding slowly. He was working hard to hold Kevin's gaze, his chest softly rising and falling. His mouth was slightly open, as if he had something to say but he wasn't quite sure how to say it.
"Don't... Leo, don't do this to me."
"I'm not feeling well, Kevin."
Kevin nodded. "Just go inside and get a good night's sleep, all right? We can talk later."
He shook his head briskly. "No, no, no," he said. "It's not just that. I'm not feeling well. I'm not well. That's why I came back."
Kevin took his hand, squeezed it hard. "Look, I know. I know how much it hurts. It's damn, damn hard to keep this secret. But I have – Leo, I have four kids. I have a batshit insane wife I have to take care of and I can't go back to nineteen no matter how much it hurts."
"You," he said, "Have no idea how much it hurts."
Kevin fell back against the driver's seat, cocked his head to one side. "I think I do."
"You were lonely."
"You needed someone – you needed anyone."
Kevin nodded. "What are you saying?"
He felt the small squeeze of Leo's hand in his as McKinley breathed deep, then exhaled. His voice came out small and quiet.
"Ten years ago," he whispered. "I was so, so lonely. I missed you, Kevin. Fuck you. I missed you more than you'll ever know, and I let this man... inside me... for, for half a second..."
Kevin's heart was loud in his chest, and the sweat at the nape of his neck was cold. McKinley's eyes searched him expectantly, begging him to understand.
"Do you know what it's like," McKinley said, "To measure your life in days?"
He let go of Kevin's hand.
"That's how much it hurts."