Topanga Seed (Ch. 15)

Shuffling along Hollywood Boulevard as they talked, they both intentionally missed the crossing signal at Highland, as if crossing the street to where both their cars were parked meant the night might end. Instead, they stood at the corner, talking, and waited for the next “WALK” signal.

And then they ignored that one, as well.

Damien took a breath and leaned in. “At the risk of sounding like a douchebag, would you like to come back to my place? I live right down the street.” With a lift of his chin, he indicated the western edges of Hollywood Boulevard.

Levi grinned to hide his nerves. More troubled by the time than by the moral crisis that invitation might lead to, he pondered the effect of the beers he had uncharacteristically enjoyed on the medicine in his system. . .and the need to take more pills. He had always stayed true to his schedule. If a pill said to take one every six hours, he did. But if he went home with Damien now. . .

Surely, he told himself, it would be okay.

“We can sit out around the fire pit. Look at the stars. The skyline. My house has a beautiful view.”

He adored the almost begging quality in Damien’s amusingly pitiful brown eyes.

Quietly and sweetly Levi told him, “Anywhere you are is a beautiful view.”

He immediately hated himself, thinking the words sounded so corny. Or sleazy. Like something a greasy old man would say to a buxom waitress in a 1970’s flick. Thankfully, their sincerity and the gentle tone with which they had been spoken hit Damien like the biggest of soft punch compliments. He made a soft sound—like “Oomph!”—raised up on his toes and stared at Levi, shaking his head with admiration.

“You—” Damien told him, “Are something else.”

They crossed Highland, past the street preacher bellowing on a megaphone some nonsense that Levi could never decipher, past the street vendor who sold sausages, the street musician playing a calypso beat on buckets placed around him. Through crowds of tourists reading the golden names on the pink stars embedded in the black sidewalk. Into the shadows and pools of soft light of the Road to Hollywood, and up the seemingly endless stairs that ran from Hollywood Boulevard into the courtyard of the Hollywood and Highland center. From there, past dancing fountains of water, storefronts and kiosks closed for the night, into an elevator which they took down to the valet level of the garage and where they retrieved Damien’s SUV. And in Damien’s SUV, another strange silence. No words. Just glances. Smiles. Nervous smiles and happy glances as they drove down Hollywood Boulevard, Damien’s only words being, “There’s your store” as they passed it and as if Levi hadn’t known its location prior to this indication. Then out of the tourist district and into the residential area, always so surprising and sudden a contrast. Still they said nothing. Just admired one another: Damien Levi’s green eyes, even in the dark and flashing brightness of the streetlights they passed under, eyes so bright and full of promise, and something cute, something sexy, something hurting, and something he could heal. And in Levi’s eyes Damien, his rugged, square chin and his smirk-like grin, his almost boyish nervousness a contrast to his build and age, a man he wanted to be closer to and who he also feared, feared for he was so much better than Levi and Levi knew this in a way that was irretrievable and undefeatable. He was resigned to whatever the night might bring but, God, he hoped this wasn’t going to be a one-night stand. How awful would it be to have spent such a wonderful night as this, only to have it end with a quick fuck and an awkward drive back to his own car, still on the fifth floor of the garage they had just left?

They turned right and began climbing a steep hill, the type of hill Levi loathed riding. Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills were full of them—steep streets that turned and narrowly clung cliffside, steep drops below, guardrails more often than not absent. And when they reached Damien’s house, the surprise: What appeared to be a small, one-story house with a gate that swallowed them up revealed itself, once inside, to be a four-story home hanging off the cliffs facing Runyon Canyon.

It was properly called “an Architectural”—as if every other style of building that man had made up until then had just fallen together without thought or study. It was what Levi less elegantly called “a white box”. But tonight, those sleek geometric lines and the stylistically matching geometric furniture—there wasn’t a curve to be found anywhere, with even doorknobs being rectangular—the stairwell, with each step seemingly suspended by just two thin ceiling-bound rods and those giant glass windows looking out into the dark, the whole of Los Angeles sparkling in the distance, was distinctive, artistic, and a breath of fresh architectural air. And when they stepped outside, onto a terrace of concrete, with a fire pit, pool, outside bar and an expanse of concrete that seemed to just drop off into the dark of the canyon, Damien put a hand on the small of his back. He guided him to a seat, lit the fire, and poured them both drinks in a move Levi assumed had been practiced before.

Rehearsed.

Like the actor Damien was.

He suddenly felt lonely, acknowledging this likely had taken place on many occasions with many other men. He, Levi, just the latest understudy for whoever would eventually be cast as The Great Love of Damien’s Life. There was nothing special about tonight, he told himself, about this night or what was about to transpire. It had been special for him, Levi. . .but how could it not be?

They talked some more, the chill in the December Hollywood air beaten back by the crackling flames in the pit, Damien answering Levi’s questions for a change. Polite questions. How long had he lived in this house? (A little over a year.) How long had Track had his latest nanny? (Almost two years now.) Did Damien host a lot of parties—the house was what a realtor would call “an entertainer’s showplace”? (None. He was not a partygoer nor a party-thrower. The size of the house had been, what he called, “almost protective.”) But then Damien returned to the evening’s earlier pattern.

“Where do you live?” he asked Levi. And Levi, taking advantage of this to get off the hard fire pit chair he was seated upon, stood and pointed into the mass of little dots of light that stretched beyond the dark of the canyon.

“It’s hard to see it in the dark–I imagine it would be easier to see in daylight–but you can actually see where I live from here.”

“Can I?” Damien came and stood behind him. “Show me.”

“Well, do you know the church near Crossroads of the World?”

“Uh—no.”

“Well, the CNN tower? See that—there?” Levi pointed and Damien followed his finger through the dark and into the heart of Hollywood.

“I live right about there, near Crossroads and sort of near the Cinedome, Arclight—between Sunset and Santa Monica and Highland and Vine. Which is really close to where I work. . .there. At Hollywood and Highland.  Wow. That’s all so small. My whole life takes place between there. . .and there. What is that–like a whole two inches of your view?”

Something like a feeling of being pathetic filled him suddenly. His whole world. . .a tiny mass of lights in a gigantic, panoramic.

But then, just as suddenly, he felt Damien’s body hold itself against his backside, and Damien’s arms were on either side of his head, outstretched. His hands formed a rectangular view, a cameraman’s lens, with each hand’s index finger touching the other hand’s thumb.

His voice was deep and soft and his breath warm against the chill of the air as he directed Levi to look through the rectangle he had formed.

“So, what we need to do. . .Is pull back, a little bit wider, and wider. And your world gets bigger and bigger. . .”

He pulled the rectangle closer to Levi’s eyes.

“Until. . .at last. . .you end up. . .Here.”

He ran the rectangle of his fingers gently into and then over Levi’s face, stroking his cheeks, forehead, running along his lips, under his chin.

“Where you belong.”

And when Damien’s lips met the back of Levi’s neck, he believed that yes, he did belong there. Even if it was just for the night.

But, remembering himself, he whispered, “That was smooth. And it better not have been from one of your movies.”

Damien chuckled, started laughing, and buried his mouth into Levi’s, the kiss causing Levi to literally go weak-in-the-knees. He had never had that type of reaction before, and it would have embarrassed him had Damien not so accurately predicted it and held him so tightly.

It was almost, Levi thought, like a black and white movie.

“And this,” he thought, “Is where they would fade out. . .”

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