You're only human…
Truer words were never spoken. You don't have to take my word for it. I'll show you exactly what it means to be human.
Let's begin our lesson with a question, because everything starts with a question. My question: "what does it mean to be human?"
To be human is to be weak. It's to wake up aching, to experience a thousand little pains, be they mental, physical or of the heartache variety. To love and to lose, to live and to die.
To hurt and betray.
I hate to be stereotypical, the guy looking back knowing what he did wrong and whining about how he could have fixed it. But believe me, I didn't mean things to happen the way they did. I didn't want to hurt or betray anyone. I didn't want to be human, I wanted to be some mythical hero who swash-buckled his way through life without causing or feeling anything other than happiness, as well as pulling off kohl eyeliner better than Johnny Depp ever did.
You've probably guessed that's not what happened. I didn't swash-buckle. I hurt. I betrayed. And now I'm sitting here, ready to spill the whole sorry tale because you know what? Someone has to set the record straight. I'm not innocent. But I'm not evil either. The events that transpired, well, yeah they could have been avoided. I could have made different choices.
But I stand by the choices I made. For now anyway.
Once upon a time…
It was snowing that night. That's what I remember most. I drove through the streets of New York, easily avoiding the rush hour traffic because I had finished work a couple of hours later than other people. It was a habit with me, staying till the end. Sticking it out.
When you're the editor of a well-established rock magazine, you're placed in a position of responsibility. Kind of like having a wife and child, a house, a mortgage, and the beginnings of grey hair at 29.
And I had all of that.
Oh yeah, my once blacker than noir hair, my pride and joy had a grey hair. I found it that morning, the morning of that day that changed everything. I sighed in the car, wondering if Kim (wife) would be waiting to yell at me and if she'd put Kaylah (child) to bed yet. Kim thought I was a bad husband, and who can blame her? I had the whole absentee father thing down to a fine art.
It was something I never wanted, to not be there for my baby girl. She was only four, probably didn't notice. I knew she'd start noticing though, in the next couple of years. I hated it. Self loathing is also something I do really well.
I don't know why I pulled up outside the trashy bar I'd never heard of, but I did. It was because I was 29 and stuck, with grey hair. That's exactly what it was. I got out of my car, purpose set on self-destruction or at least mild drunken-ness.
And there he was.
Tall, blonde, and very young, with traditional blonde-haired boy's blue eyes, perfectly arched eyebrows and a delicately frowning mouth. He was skinny like a girl, wearing jeans so tight they had to chafe and a tight t-shirt that wasn't appropriate for that kind of weather. He was wearing one thing to show that he acknowledged the bitter cold, and that was a dangerously long periwinkle blue scarf wrapped round his neck.
He looked up from the cigarette he was lighting, and caught the look of old-timer bewilderment on my face. He swaggered over, and offered the open packet to me in an act of friendliness I was sure no longer existed.
"You want one?" His voice was light, almost as if it hadn't broken when he was no more than a pubescent teen who stole his father's dirty magazines because he wasn't nearly old enough to buy his own.
"I don't smoke. Those things will kill you ya know," I replied, not meaning to sound so very lecture-like. Have you noticed that? I don't really mean to do anything. To my surprise, he laughed.
I smiled slightly, liking his laugh perhaps more than I should. It was just so rich, old beyond his years. It made me wonder just why I was talking about cigarettes with a beautiful boy in a gutter. I should have got back in the car, walked away from him and his smile and his eyes and his perfect un-grey hair. That would have made sense.
If I'd done that, I wouldn't be sitting here, writing this just to prove that the bad guys aren't all bad.
"What's your name?" I asked, already running through possibilities in my mind. I do that, I try to guess people's names before they tell me.
I was astounded. It was the most unusual name I'd ever come across (I don't get out much). It sounded ancient, way before his time, but it suited him. It fitted somehow, a beautiful name for this highly attractive yet deceivingly young boy.
"What's yours?" He rocked back and forth on his heels, but spoke politely. I blushed, knowing my name wasn't anywhere near as beautiful as his.
"Andrew. McMahon." I extended my hand, cold though it was. Gabriel shook it, his hand warm and soft. He had an artist's hands.
"Well Andrew McMahon, will you join me for a drink?" I hesitated, actually going so far as to glance over my shoulder at my glaring car.
So I bit the bullet and followed him into the bar. What was the point in going home anyway? Kim would be spoiling for a fight and Kaylah would be in bed. The idea of staying out just a little longer appealed to the not-so-dead rebel in me.
What harm could it do, really?
Over the course of two hours, I learned that Gabriel Seth Scott was a freelance photographer who had just dropped out of college. He was the third son in his family, and had a little brother under him. His parents didn't know he'd dropped out of college and would probably have three heart attacks a piece if they found out. He was only 19, but easily passed for 21.
Oh, and Gabriel was gay.
"Andrew," He slurred four hours later, absolutely drunk. I giggled in reply, liking how he said my name in a honey-tinged drunken drawl. It suited him, he suited being drunk. It added a child-like innocence to his eyes, a more human awkwardness about his movements. Gabriel looked like a god when he was sober, and a human being when he was drunk.
Me? I looked like an ageing fool who needed a shave and a cup of lemon tea before curling up in bed with a good book. Gabriel didn't think so. Gabriel thought I looked wonderful.
This is where the story really takes off.
Gabriel took me back to his studio apartment, a dingy little place in a converted warehouse. He'd tried his best to make it look nicer, but it just wasn't worthy. He should live in a grand mansion, with his own dark room and gallery. Gabriel seemed to outshine everything around him, even the pale moonlight fluttering in through his sky light couldn't keep up with the sheer overwhelming quality of his beauty.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not gay. God, I'm not even bisexual. I'd never been attracted to a boy before, and haven't been since. With Gabriel, it was more what he represented: youth, sensuality, rebellion. Things I'd lost touch with long before him, things I wanted back.
Gabriel kissed me and I kissed him back. Gabriel put his hand down my pants and I didn't stop him. Gabriel was stunning, and he wanted me. Me, Andrew McMahon with his unkempt brown hair and soulful brown eyes. Andrew who had a steady job, a house, a mortgage and a family.
Andrew who was willing to throw it all, for one night with the most gorgeous human being he'd ever stumbled upon.
But it's never just one night.
Morning came, and I couldn't let Gabriel go. I couldn't get out of the bed we'd shared, couldn't not kiss him good morning and get up to make him breakfast.
Dependable, over mature Andrew was having an affair.
And he was loving it.