Ryan walked back into his room where Ryoga was happily unpacking his backpack onto Ryan’s bed.
Ryoga had the most interesting oddities. A few boxes of ramen. Some pink rocks. A crucifix. Some random letters that smelled like the Pacific Ocean.
“I was just looking for my extra set of clothes,” he said. “This piece of string is killin’ me.”
“That piece of string is my thong,” Ryan started. He took a deep breath. “We have to talk.”
“We have to talk” are the four words in the English language that no one wants to hear. The words are like tomes of bad news. The bell tolling in the background as the world collapses. But to naïve Ryoga, who had no exposure to relationships, the words carried no tone.
“Sure,” he replied innocently. Ryan sat down on his bed. “I think your friends are really attractive…” he smiled excitedly.
“Look Ryoga,” Ryan started in an as-a-matter-of-fact voice. “I’ve been thinking. You’re pretty new to San Francisco. Now that you are in America, you have to act American. We need to get you a job and a place to stay.”
“Aww…” Ryoga pouted. He looked cute when he pouted. “Can’t I just stay here?”
Ryan wasn’t going to fall for the cute freeloader look. “Look, if you want to stay in America, you gotta act American. And that means being independent. In reality, I’m a poor journalist who works my ass off everyday in order to keep this place.”
“I understand,” Ryoga looked crestfallen. “So, when do you want me to leave?”
“I don’t want you to leave,” Ryan gently rubbed Ryoga’s arm. “I’m willing to help you out a little.”
Ryoga smiled. “Well, how do I start being independent in this urban jungle?”
“Do you have any money that we can convert?” Ryan asked.
“About 1000 yen right now,” Ryoga shrugged. He handed Ryan the wad of cash wrapped in a sheet of paper. As Ryan unwrapped the paper, his eyes opened wider.
“Do you know what this is?” Ryan asked.
“Uh, a wad of bills?” Ryoga looked dumbfounded.
“This is a Bank of America account number,” Ryan pointed to the digits on the sheet of paper. “And this is the logo. I wonder how it ended up here but I know where we can find out about this.”
The Bank of America in Castro Street was as busy as usual. Since it was approximately 5 p.m., this was the time in which all the twinks and clubbers would pile in and withdraw several hundreds of dollars in order to get both their literal and figurative “fixes.”
Ryoga felt very different and uncomfortable in his new environment. It seemed like a circus. There were tall men, short men, stout men, and lanky men, all dressed up in different kinds of costumes ranging from tank tops, purple feather boas, hightop black boots, and tight leather pants.
When the next accountant said “Next.” Ryoga and Ryan dashed as fast as they could to the counter. The accountant was a very lovely woman named Betty who wore pink glasses with sparkles on them and puffy white hair with a small red bow on the top. However, a closer look at the puff of hair was actually a wig and the woman was actually a man.
“What can I do for you lovely ladies?” she asked sweetly.
“We need to look up an account number,” Ryan replied. Ryoga nodded quietly and handed her the slip.
“Well, that won’t be a problem,” she replied. “I’ll have you guys hitting that new club Earth sooner than Sliders* drops hamburgers!”
“We aren’t going clubbin’ ” Ryan replied. “My friend is new to the States and he needs to see if he is financially stable.”
Betty punched in a few numbers. “Well, your ‘friend’ or whatever you call that piece of sizzling hot stuff next to you doesn’t need to worry about anything. Not according to this bank account.”
“Mr. Hibiki,” the accountant continued. “This is your current balance. How much would you like to withdraw?” He turned the computer around facing toward the two anxious men.
Ryoga gasped. Ryan fainted
Ryoga was still in shock as they walked out of the bank.
“I really didn’t know my parents very well,” Ryoga looked distantly.
“That was $500,000!” Ryan tried not to scream high into the air. He was in disbelief. That was more money than he ever saw in a year. “Even if you didn’t know them, they sure took care of you!”
Ryoga knew that his father had done something in international business. But this was ridiculous.
If Ryan were not a practical person, he would have asked Ryoga to spend the money on some random whimsical trips to Disneyland. However, Ryan knew that he couldn’t tamper with Ryoga’s money. Or his body. Or his conscience.
“So what would you like to now?” he asked Ryoga.
“I want to look at apartments,” Ryoga finally replied. “And, I want to find a job.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ryan replied.
Ryoga and Ryan spent the rest of the day searching for the perfect apartment for Ryoga. Actually, Ryan also spent the time grabbing Ryoga before he could wander aimlessly into another apartments.
Each apartment had its own separate little problem. Ryoga complained about leaks in the pipes overhead for one apartment. Ryan’s experience made it obvious why. Another one had no cold water. To Ryan’s dismay, Ryoga rejected one apartment full of dashing men after finding out they were all escorts. (“And what’s wrong with that?!” Ryan yelled) For a wanderer, the pig-boy was very picky.
Finally after running up and down Castro Street, Ryoga and Ryan took a break at Delores Park, also known as the “Gay Beach.” Dolores Park included three grassy dunes littered with barely-clad and well chiseled men lying on pink blankets catching the hot rays. Ryan himself stripped down to a pair of blue boxers while Ryoga still had Ryan’s thong on.
“Maybe I could just camp out here,” Ryoga grinned. “The scenery is very nice.
“Yeah, except at night,” Ryan laughed. “If those bushes could talk…Anyways, we’ve been to twenty apartments and you don’t like any of them.”
“Hmm…I guess I’ll have to stay for another night,” Ryoga replied cutely. So that’s your game plan, Ryan thought.
Suddenly one of the bathing Adonis’ got up and walked towards Ryoga. He was a very attractive man with short golden blonde hair, a chiseled bronze chest and Hawaiian board shorts.
“I’m sorry but I couldn’t help hearing your conversation,” the man started. “I actually found a really nice place close by to here called ‘The Barbary Apartments.’ They just opened a month ago and it’s really good places at affordable prices.”
“The Barbary Apartments? Didn’t that used to be…” Ryan stopped himself. If Ryoga rejected one more apartment, he didn’t know what to do.
“These apartments are brand new,” the realtor continued as Ryan and Ryoga walked through a white hall surrounded by soft blue lights. “Each one has wonderful views of Delores Park and the surrounding neighborhood, which often has very nice weather.” Bullshit, Ryan Hitomi thought. San Francisco weather is always foggy and crappy. Well, where I live anyways.
“Each one is prefurnished with kitchen appliances, fireplace, bathroom that includes shower and tub and separate rooms for kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and bedroom,” the realtor persisted. “We have choices of one bedrooms, two bedrooms and three bedrooms. I see you two are interested in the one bedroom. It is very popular among couples.”
“We’re not together,” Ryoga smiled while trying to hide a soft blush. “The apartment is for me.”
They walked towards a well-lit corner of the apartment complex. A newly painted white door greeted them with the numbers 25 in inlaid gold.
Ryoga opened the door. A small side kitchenette lead to an open living room already furnished with a pure white sofa. The large window in the background gave the perfect view of Delores Park, the dune of men. White walls led into a small but cozy bathroom and a small but cozy bedroom. The closet, as any gay man would understand, was tremendous.
“It’s only $200 a month,” the realtor continued. “And you could actually move in now. They are selling like hotcakes!”
“Really?!” Ryoga replied. “I can’t believe it is that cheap! I'll take it!”
"Wonderful!" the realtor replied. "The apartment is now yours and we can go downstairs to fill in the paperwork."
“I can move in right away,” Ryoga replied. “I didn’t bring a lot of things.”
“Welcome to your brand new home,” the realtor, a Ms. Mary Ann Singleton, replied. “I hope that you will enjoy your stay in the Barbary Apartments”
Ryan opened the door of his apartment. He was alone. Again.
Ryoga’s scent still filled the air in the small apartment. The smell of a young man both musky and fragrant at the same time, swept through the air. Ryan could still see Ryoga. He remembered hugging Ryoga and leaving Hibiki’s brand new apartment as fast as he possibly could because he was not big on goodbyes.
Ryoga would be just a friend. But Ryan was willing to accept that. He knew nothing was going to come out of their friendship/relationship anyways. Ryoga was just another breeze in Ryan’s apartment. Another one night stand. Another friend that comes and goes. Was I doing the right thing by taking my friends’ advice?.
I wish you all the happiness in the world. Ryan said quietly as he walked into his apartment and closed the door.
One warm bowl of Fettuccini Alfredo later, Ryan curled up in his blanket again and started watching "The Man Show." It was only 10 p.m. and Ryan knew he had work tomorrow. He actually looked forward to working at the San Francisco Chronicle. For him, work was more like pleasure and what society would deem pleasure seemed more like work.
Ryan opened the door.
“Um,” Ryoga looked at him. “I guess this isn’t my apartment.” He looked lost and confused.
“It isn’t honey,” Ryan smiled. “C’mon, I’ll take you home.”
Sliders is a delicious hamburger restaurant directly on Castro Street that makes fast and healthy chicken sandwiches.
Delores Park, aka “The Gay Dunes” is an actual San Francisco Park between Castro and Church street where tons of men sunbathe, relax and model.
Yes I threw in the Mary Ann Singleton part as a tribute to Armistead Maupin. And Barbary Apartments? Isn’t that soo obvious?