Magazine article Out

Crushed

Magazine article Out

Crushed

Article excerpt

LIKE A YOUNG OMAR SHARIF. HECTOR WAS CUTE, CHARMING-AND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. BILL CLEGG REMEMBERSBEING DAZZLED. AND STUNNED.

Someone I thought I might love used to take pictures of dead animals. Mostlybirds. Theyhad, I'd imagined, flown into windowpanes whose trick of light made the sky behind them look like the future. Stunned ? who could blame them? ? they'd fallen to the street and been run over. This someone, let's call him Hector, would find these birds just after they'd been hit, when the blood was still freshly exposed and their crushed organs spread out from their tangled feathers like dark jewels.

Hector had the most beautiful voice ? crisp, bright, highland it piped from him like notes from a flute. He was from Mexico City and had been educated in England, where he lived for most of his 2OS. Later, he moved to Paris and after three or four years there moved to New York City. Hector worked in corporate branding, which I never quite understood, and his company had given him an opportunity to transfer. He'd been in New York just over a year when we met.

It was a Friday, a late spring afternoon, along the West Side Highway. A flash of silver had caught my eye as I walked south talking to a friend on my cell phone. I'd recently been through a bewildering but necessary breakup and was facing a weekend overbooked with plans in order to avoid the new loneliness that comes when one who is used to having a partnered weekend routine is suddenly on his own again. I was suddenly on my own again.

So: Friday, late afternoon, West Side Highway, head down, cell phone to ear, flash of silver. I look up, turn back, and see a darkhaired guy, my age, a little younger maybe, walking alongside a small bike ? the chic, collapsible kind you see all over the city now. The guy turns around just as I do, and there we stand, two strangers in a sea of New Yorkers exhaling into the weekend. He smiles. I smile. The sky turns pink above us. He parks his bike alongside the bench I am standing in front of and I quickly end my call. Of course I do: Next to that silver bike, beneath the streaking light of almost evening, he is beautiful ? finely bearded, square-jawed, impeccably dressed, with dancing eyes. Ayoung Ornar Sharif by way of Soho. "Hello there," he chirps, and I sit right down.

This happened a long time ago. Before the movies and plays and parties and concerts. Before he met and charmed most of my friends. Before I found out about the boyfriend in Paris, the one with troubles whom he could not bring himself to leave. Before the boyfriend found an e-mail exchange between us that began the day after we met and before I met the boyfriend in a restaurant one night and watched Hector smoothly introduce us. Before names were exchanged, numbers punched into phones, before anything difficult; before the first kiss, weeks after, and before the last one, almost two years later, yesterday.

He never left that boyfriend. Not until he moved to London eight months later and not before I'd told him two times, with months in between, that I couldn't see him anymore, not while he was still with someone else. And so he moved away and time passed. Occasionally, I would see posts of his appear on my Facebook wall, and on one there was a message from a long-ago ex-boyfriend ? his first love, actually ? telling Hector's friends that he'd been in a terrible accident, that he'd been run over by a bus while on his bicycle in London. I would find out in the next few days that Hector had been very badly crushed? everything around his middle broken along with all his ribs and legs. His organs were, in the ex-boyfriend's words, compromised, and there were surgeries ahead, the outcome of which could not be known. Hector was very lucky ? an ambulance had been nearby at the time of the accident, as well as a very good hospital, and the best surgeon for the type of injury he sustained. He survived, and after nine weeks in the hospital he was released. …

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