Kyle wishes someone had warned him about the city. Too many sappy indie movies and deep romance novels with ironic titles had led him to believe that the city was glamorous. A fairy tale. That when he escaped his small town, life would instantly turn amazing. He had been wrong.

The city smells. It's expensive. Kyle is working at Barnes and Noble and Walgreen's but he can barely afford food, never mind rent for his tiny apartment. The traffic is terrible. Pollution seems to set on your skin in a filmy layer. And his neighborhood at least is not the safest place to venture into anytime of day. Just yesterday cops and EMTs had flooded the street two blocks away. There had been a double homicide. Charming.

It isn't all bad, though. There are the things that Kyle loves.

He loves how he can leave his apartment at three in the morning and get coffee and the best chocolate donuts he has ever tasted from the 24-hour place on the corner. How everyone is their own person here. Back home, it was all stereotyping and boxes. How during the four months he's lived here he has easliy been able to adopt the city as a second home. How he can sit in the park between jobs or at the end of the day. Just sit and relax, people watch, maybe take some pictures. Kyle has taken his best photographs here in the city.

His favorite part, though, is the pure size of the city. It is easy to get lost here, yet not lose yourself. The crowds and the hustle and bustle almost comfort him. At first, his anxiety was terrible. Slowly, he realized something. Absolutely no one here knew him or his past. It was his chance to start over. And that is exactly what he has done.

Or, at least, what he's tried to do. Because there are some things you just can't forget, no matter how much you deserve to.


Sometimes, Julian wishes he could start over. Go back to when he was little and fix everything. Protect the people he loves, for once. Maybe then, he wonders, maybe then he wouldn't be living the way he is living. Then he has a drink and reminds himself that there is no such thing as time travel and no one likes a whiny bastard.

He convinced himself long ago to stop hating what he does and just do it. Two years of selling himself have worn him down. Julian has become well-known in this underground world. He has been able to raise his prices and buy himself things—a nice flat, nice clothes, all the necessities and more. He calls himself an escort. It makes him feel classier.

He can almost believe it, too. It's in his bedroom—he insists they meet at his home, for safety—when he can't hide the truth. His client slaving away over him, abusing him. Julian is a whore. He is trash.

One day he will stop. Sober up. Get a job. Maybe even move far away from the city. Settle down somewhere where the air is clean and the sun always shines.

His mind often wanders down this path. It's possibly wishful thinking, but it's nice. He always stops himself before he gets to the part about finding someone to settle down with. He doesn't know what sane, normal man would accept him or be able to look past the things he has done. This is not a wallow in self-pity type thing. This is simply a fact that Julian is acknowledging.

What scares him, though, is the thought that he will never get out. He promises himself that he will quit, but he's never been very good with promises. Not many things scare Julian Rowe. The thought of never amounting to anything more than a dirty sex toy is one of them. He doesn't even need to be special. Doesn't need to make a difference. He just needs to be… okay, for once.

There are mornings when he wakes up and thinks, That's it. I'm done.

Then something happens. A memory of his childhood floats up or he catches a glimpse of his warped reflection in the side of the toaster. He changes his mind. He pours himself a drink.