Chapter Nineteen


His Choice


Smoky gray haze journeyed through the kitchen. Ryoga tried to keep himself as busy as possible as he waved the gray wisps away with his hand. The mixed mysterious scents of garlic, vinegar and warm yellow onion sizzled on the stove. Ryoga then added some wilted jade green spinach. In another pan, bacon sizzled and oil danced for joy on the heathen pan.


As the crepe came into completion, something went horribly wrong. As Ryoga flipped the crepe over, there was a miniscule lump of uncooked dough. The uncooked dough caused the crepe to fall apart as Ryoga flipped the crepe over and the spinach dripped out into a crepe filled mess. Ryoga cussed quietly and angrily and scooped the messed up crepe into a small box. It would become his lunch.


Ryoga was not having a very good day.


He recalled Tyler walking in and telling him teary-eyed that nothing happened between him and Ryan that night. However, his attraction to Ryan made him realize that he was still into Ryan and therefore had to think about what he really wanted before he could cater to his new boyfriend. Well, now his ex-boyfriend.


Ryoga brought himself back to the present and smelled that his new crepe was slightly burnt. But that was okay. At least it was complete.


Ryoga walked out to the table. He was amazed that customers came so early for a lunch crepe. But this wasn’t a regular encounter. He looked up at the table and there he was sitting with his legs crossed, arms folded.


It was Barry.


Ryoga put the plate down and murmured. "One Florentine to go." He started to turn away when he heard the gruff, "Wait."


"I'm not going to tell you how I found out or who I found out from," Barry said. "But I just wanted to know if you're all right."


Ryoga trurned away quietly. "Cuz I'm a little kid?" Ryoga mumbled. "Because I'm the dumb little boy from Tokyo." He had overheard the group's entire conversation about him.


"You know I didn't mean that," Barry replied.


"Well, I'm having a hard time trusting people these days," Ryoga said blatantly.


"I wasn't asking for a freakin' essay," Barry snapped. "It's just a little bit of Castro hospitality. I don't even like Florentine crepes anyways. I came here to see you."


"I am mildly flattered," Ryoga said. "Are you interested in hitting on me too as well?"


         Starbucks Coffee was another store that opened early on these dreary Monday mornings. The friendly pale hues of soft lighting made this coffee casbah a peaceful environment for meditation and relaxation. Ryoga and Barry sat on wire chairs across of each other in the small veranda outside. This veranda, when used properly, was a perfect place to cruise certain strollers. The crisp wind blew through the street and onto their cool backs.


"Are you okay?" Barry asked gruffly as he poured some more sugar into his coffee cup.


Ryoga shaked as he sipped his cafe mocha. The hot liquid touched his lips like tiny aftershocks repeating over and over. The burning concoction sizzled down his tongue leaving no taste. "No," he replied.


"Ryan and Tyler have been through so much together," Barry said. "There's a history there that we know very little of between those two. I wouldn't recommend getting into their little cycle."


Ryoga shook his head. "Normally, when these things happen I can just run away from it," Ryoga smilled. "Sometimes I'm in the forests of Hokkaido. I know Japan from the back of my head. But America is a completely different story. "


"You could get lost forever here," Barry said. "Japan is pretty small compared to America."


The silence envoloped them. Drops ofcoffee fell painfully in the background into a steaming pot. Another hiss called the completion of the perfect cafe mocha. The lights tinkered underneah Ryoga and Barry. A clock ticked slowly.


            “Why do you keep on running?” Barry asked.


            Ryoga touched his cup lightly. “Because I think that if I run fast enough, I could just disappear,” Ryoga said.


            “Listen,” Barry said smugly. “I’m not going to take your crap. Because I’ve heard it way too often. Each year, I see thousands of young men like you come to this city flocking to this city like it is Mecca, looking for love and success only to face disappointment, shame, heartbreak, betrayal. I've seen them fall through the cracks.”


“So what do I do?” Ryoga asked.


"Are you going to run away again?" Barry asked.


"I don't want to run away," Ryoga said quietly. "I don't want to run away anymore."


"Then stay," Barry said. "No one is asking you to leave."


Ryoga looked shocked. Of all the people, Barry wanted him to stay. Barry, the one who criticized Ryan for robbing the cradle.


"I don't know how," Ryoga looked quietly back at his mug.


"It's really easy," Barry said. "First off, you have to decide that you want to stay. You have to tell yourself 'I'm not going to run away this time.' And then you don't. You face life head on just like everyone else."


 Ryoga nodded softly.


"You're gonna be alright," Barry said. "I need to go to work. Right now, you need to decide. Do you keep on running and getting lost in this chasm known as life? The choice is up to you."


The new day was only starting. The streets of Castro and Market started to litter with people heading for work, heading for tricks, heading for whatever they had to face that day. Storeowners slowly turned their signs to open. Cell phones started ringing. Voices started calling to the sun and to each other. Ryoga soaked up the happiness, the feeling of being alive. It was a feeling like he never felt before. A quiet exhale. And he turned to go to work.

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