Trying to appear calm, I put the phone back into its holster and plant my feet solidly not knowing what I was about to encounter, and face the new arrivals. Being careful to not look directly at the girl that tempted me here, I study the other pair.
The light from the candle is weak but I can clearly make out that it is a young boy sucking on a lollipop. It glistens white when he pulls it out to suck in the saliva that’s built up around it. His face is angelic; it reminds me of paintings of cherubs that adorn ornate Catholic cathedrals. He’s wearing a Dutch Boy suit like the kid on a can of paint. He’s so damn cute I want to rush over and pinch his cheeks. I somehow manage to suppress that impulse, remembering that following my feelings has gotten me into this predicament in the first place. I turn my attention to what I consider to be my biggest threat. Having apparently completed his task of securing my only avenue of escape, the man has turned towards me.
When I first saw him from behind he looked to be very thin, his shirt hung off his shoulders as if hanging on a wire hanger, but looking at me now his clothes appear tailored. He’s wearing the uniform of a janitor, a dark green shirt and matching pants and there’s a nametag on the left breast. I can’t read it in the soft light but it’s definitely custodial attire. He smiles and holds out his hand, I’m slightly taken aback but without thinking I put my hand out to meet his.
“Papa, this is Gus. He’s going to bring us light.” Erica says without turning to face the man behind her.
“Hello, I am Julio,” his voice is deep and smooth. It has the same unidentifiable accent as Erica’s, I’m immediately at ease. His handshake is very firm but boney despite his hand appearing to be only slightly smaller than mine. His facial features are rugged in the way the cigarette ad Marlboro Man was. Woman wanted him, men wanted to be him; that was before he was diagnosed with lung cancer of course.
“I see you’ve met our lovely but naughty Erica. And Abuela on the couch? Have you been introduced?” That soothing voice sounded so familiar it started to lull me into a trance.
“No we haven’t met, but I really should be going now that your home?” ‘Why I did ask that as a question?’ My inner voice struggling to maintain control.
I break eye contact, it’s the same as with Erica, if I look at their faces I can’t resist. I realize that as he shook my hand and talked to me in the voice a trusted announcer would have, he had been gently walking me backwards into the kitchen area of the apartment. The light from the candle is barely making it into this corner of the single large room. I am still able to make out several very large kettles and butcher knives. Pots and implements more expected in a commercial kitchen than a two bedroom walkup.
Looking at the floor I shuffle past Julio and Erica, the little boy hasn’t moved from in front of the door but I regard him with the same peripheral vision glance I’m giving the others. Internally I keep repeating to myself, “no eye contact…’ I’m trying to concentrate, ‘no eye contact…, no eye contact…, no ey- ica…,Erica.’
“Dammit.” I mutter under my breath.
“I really need to go meet my friend. I’m sure he’ll come back looking for me” I’m working the locks, turning and sliding each slowly as I speak, trying to make it appear that I’m not in a hurry or concerned about what might happen if I don’t get them all unlatched.
“But Gus! No…” Erica’s beautiful lyrical voice is right behind me, I feel pleasantly soft warmth. She pressing those perfect orbs into my lower back as she reaches up to touch my right hand as it undoes the last deadbolt.
“Papa, make him stop. Gus you have to stay, we need light.” Although at least a foot away, I feel her moist breath in my ear and my knees go weak a little. I know there are others in the room but I feel myself becoming aroused again. I regain control.
“I’m sorry but I can’t fix your lights, your father can do it. I have to go.” I bump my ass back to push her off of me and reach for the large center lock. It needs a key, an old timey skeleton key from the look of the hole.
“No Gus, you don’t understand,” radio voice dad says from the kitchen, “We don’t need you to FIX a light, you ARE the light.”
Puzzled at what he meant, and conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t look at him, I look instead downward at the boy standing next to me. Large tear drops have formed in the lower corners of his eyes, they look huge and wet. They appear unreal; they have an exaggerated perspective, the eyes a cartoon lost puppy would have. I wanted to reach down and hold him, to let him know everything would be alright. I stand transfixed on his forlorn face, a paternal feeling I’ve never experienced before has come over me. I want to protect him, to keep him safe. I watch, frozen in place as he pulls the glistening orb from his mouth. It isn’t all white as I first thought. Although I can’t clearly make it out, I can see that it has red lines seemingly etched into it and on the very top there’s a dot with a circle around it.
The moment I realize what I’m looking at, the spell is broken. He drops it and bites into my right thigh; he is amazingly fast. During my second tour of Iraq I was hit in the back with red hot shrapnel and it didn’t sting as much as the bite of this child.