The sun was setting in Palm Springs, turning the mountains pink. It would be dark soon.
I logged onto the internet and right away heard from Adam. I had hooked up with the 26-year-old a few months earlier, and we had played online tag ever since. He wanted to see me right away.
I picked him up from his friend’s place and took him to mine. We kissed, probably for the first time, and he pressed his body so close to mine it almost hurt. He was so much thinner and smaller than I remembered. His smooth Latin skin grated up against my hairy torso like it wanted to be scrubbed clean of something.
We stayed like this for a while, not so much having sex as just clinging to each other, breathing. His phone rang, and he hopped up. I remembered his phone was always ringing. There was some other plan on the horizon, some other formless idea of what to do with the coming hours.
“You wanna go over to my friend’s place?” Adam asked me. “He lives at this gay clothing-optional apartment complex.”
“Hmmm — sounds interesting.”
We buzzed the bell at the wooden gate, and his friend Dean answered, fully clothed. Strolling around the complex, I barely saw a soul. This wasn’t the free-for-all party I had anticipated. But then it never is, is it?
Dean made us drinks in his modest one-bedroom apartment while we critiqued some bad porn. Neighbours popped their heads in the door, never staying very long. Finally, Adam’s phone rang again. It was time to go off somewhere else, to pour ourselves into the unknown night.
“Mind if we stop by my car?” he asked.
I pulled up behind his parked four-door, and he popped the trunk. It was overflowing with clothes and belongings that almost spilled onto the ground.
“You got a place to stay, right?” I asked him when he got back into my car.
“Yeah, at my friend’s. But most of my stuff is in my car.”
“I lived in my car for a few weeks in college when I was in between places, so I know how it is.”
He looked at me sheepishly.
“There have been some nights that I have slept in my car,” he said, holding up a bright orange ticket. “They may tow the car. It’s been parked here too long. But I got a day or two to move it. Just need to get my friend with the jumper cables to start it up first.”
The next stop was his friend’s motel room. An older guy sat on the bed while a younger guy obsessively checked his iPhone. The air was thick with smoke from God knows what. I could barely breathe. I was glad when Adam announced we had to go.
“I can walk home from here,” he told me in the motel parking lot. He was holding back the water in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m such a mess.”
I hugged him, but he eventually pushed himself away.
“Thanks for putting up with me tonight,” he said. “Call me later, like in an hour or so.”
“Why?” I asked. It came out wrong.
He walked away from me across the dark parking lot. I could only make out the shape of his light-colored pants. He would disappear into the darkness like a dim star obscured by a cloud, and that would be the last trace of him.
I thought about just letting go of his chaotic life. It wasn’t worth it. His mess was his own. But as I turned out of the parking lot, I found myself near his car. He was fishing something out of the back seat. I rolled down my window.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“I hope so,” was his honest reply.
The Road Warrior series of columns first appeared in The Guide, our print edition that was the predecessor to dailyxtratravel.com.
Matthew Link is an award-winning travel writer, documentary filmmaker and frequent TV guest/commentator. The founding editor of Out Traveler and Sherman’s Travel magazines, Matthew has served as an editor at Frommer's Budget Travel magazine, and contributed articles to Newsweek, Time, Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, among many others.His numerous TV appearances include a regular guest spot on NBC’s Early Today. Among books, his writing is included in The Best Travel Writing 2008: True Stories From Around The World. Check out his author page on Amazon.com.