“I'm sorry, I ju-.. I just didn't know who else to call.” Philip held the crumpled piece of paper in his hand, shaking ever so slightly, as the rain blanketed the city. The payphone in front of which he stood was dingy, cold, and graffitied. The usually busy street was void of all traffic as night descended on Seattle. What normally felt to him like home now seemed foreign, hostile, and unforgiving. The voice on the other end of the line was all that offered even a modicum of comfort. “Hey buddy, no worries! Lucky thing you'd gotten my number after lunch, ya?” Adam laughed lightheartedly, unaware of the severity of the circumstances that had led to Philip's distress call. “What's up?” Philip stared at the receipt with the number scribbled on the back as though doing so might give him the confidence to describe what had happened. He didn't know Adam well. In fact, they'd never met in person. They knew one another from an on-line forum where they bantered over politics, discussed popular culture, and occasionally drifted into topics like relationships. Adam had no way of knowing how proud Philip was and how humiliated he felt to be where he was in the state he was in. Steeling his voice as best he could produced only a raspy tone as he spoke. “I w... I was on my way home, headed for the ferry... and... I ran into a group of...thugs...” Philip spat the last word with a bitterness that lingered in the air for several seconds before dissolving into the pitter-patter of the rain hitting the receiver. “They took... everything... except the receipt I had in my pocket...” “Oh geeze! Dude, that sucks! Did you call the cops?” Adam wasn't insensitive to the situation but his conversational zeal could be excused since Philip purposefully left out a number of details that would have made it more intense. “N.. no, I ran for several blocks to get away from them and stopped and stayed hidden behind a dumpster. This payphone was the closest thing from there... I... I'd go inside somewhere but... well it's Sunday... a-and... Adam, I'm afraid to go anywhere by myself now even-thought-I-know-how-stupid-that-is-and...” Adam recognized the cracking in Philip's voice as he spoke. He'd heard it before. His girlfriend talked like this when her great grandmother has passed away. She beat around the bush before coming to the point- that she wanted him to come to the funeral. He didn't know Philip well enough to say he thought like a woman but he knew he was gay and in this instance the shoe seemed to fit. In an effort to be gallant and bring a resolution to the distress radiating from Philip through the phone, he said what he assumed Philip wanted to hear. “Ya need a ride buddy? Where are you? I'll come get ya.” Philip choked back a sob of relief, his eyes burning as he tried his very best to regain some of his dignity through his relief. It was exactly what his delicate psyche needed and he felt his lungs filling fully with air for the first time in hours. “Than...tha...thankyou... I'm on 36th and Pike...” As Philip stumbled to find his words Adam realized how close he was and couldn't help but exclaiming his excitement as he responded in spite of what he knew was a precarious situation. “Awesome! I'm about 10 minutes from there! Hang tight man, help's on the way.” Philip hung up the phone and then but his back against the pole on which it stood. He slid to the ground and closed his eyes, the raining trickling down his face a minor annoyance comparatively speaking. So many thoughts raced through his head. In an effort to quiet them as he waited he focused on just one; why did you call Adam? The simple explanation was that Adam's was the only number he had. The assailants had taken his phone and with it every contact he had in the country. He only so happened to have written down Adam's number while they chatted via AIM after Philip had lunch earlier that day. Still, that didn't seem like the real reason so he searched deeper. Adam portrayed a kind of confidence that seemed genuine and honest. Unlike Philip's confidence it wasn't an affectation... it was real. Philip had admired that and been drawn to it. While he found Adam attractive, he understood him to be the forbidden fruit. Even if he didn't have a long term girlfriend, he was straight. Adam's girlfriend was lucky, Philip thought, as physically Adam was nearly perfect. His naturally tanned skin, his height, his muscular body, and flawless face were the sort anyone with any sense of beauty would appreciate if not outright desire- male or female. But that was all beside the point- it was the strength he radiated and the content of his character that sealed the deal; Philip knew he wanted the two to be friends from the first time they spoke. After pulling a black wife beater over his head, Adam affixed a ball cap to his head, kicked on a pair of Nike's, grabbed his keys and headed for his car. Some part of him was flattered that Philip called in a moment of despair. He always liked being available to help out friends when they asked. It was simply his nature. Though Adam had never met Philip he knew enough about him to know that he likely wouldn't have called if he had some other option. So he moved quickly, curious as to what he would find. Would he exemplify the personality he projected on line or would he be completely different? Would their conversation be as exhilarating in person as they were via text? As he drove the few blocks to Philip's location he found growing more excited for their first meeting, almost completely forgetting the circumstance that led to it. Philip's eyes opened slightly, his lashes made heavy by the rain drops collected on them, as he heard the hum of an engine and saw headlights illuminate his position. His body felt very heavy and so he didn't stand up. He heard a car door open and foot falls approach his location. Adam knelt in front of him and smiled brightly at first but that salutation faded quickly as Adam noted Philip's state. His shirt was torn in several locations. The right side of his face was swollen and under that eye the skin was puffing up to what would in a few hours be a black circle. His knees seemed to have been scrapped as a dark red circle appeared on the bend in his left leg. He was missing one shoe and to top it all off he was soaking wet. Adam had seen pictures of Philip on-line. Philip was well built, lithe, and healthy. In all of his pictures he looked off to the left or right and smirked. He seemed full of life in those pictures. What was in front of him, however, was anything but. It suddenly amazed Adam that this helpless creature had been able to dial a phone let alone communicate with anyone. How could no one have stopped to help him? Who would do such a thing? Their eyes met and Philip did his best to compose himself. As gently as he could Adam helped Philip to his feet. Their eyes didn't deviate. Adam didn't know exactly what to say but Philip, never at a loss for words, couldn't help taking the opportunity to make a joke. He meekly extended his hand, the blood on his knuckles mixing with the water from the rain. “I'm Philip... it's nice to meet you.” Adam smiled and shook Philip's hand. He understood how pitiful Philip must feel and so he ushered him back to the car, eager to ease some of his suffering as quickly as he could. Once they were in the car, Adam scrambled in the backseat. There was a towel back there somewhere. He retrieved it and then got in the drivers seat. He handed the towel to Philip and offered a polite half smile. “It's a gym towel... but I don't think I ever used it.” Philip nodded his head. He didn't care if Adam had used it or not. He pressed it to one side of his face and then to the other, mopping up the water still trickling down from his hair. Adam watched his very coordinated operation with a sort of awe; here was this person who had been attacked, cleaning themselves up with the grace and execution of a ballerina. Taking note of the rest of him again, he spoke. “Man... they really beat the helloutta you, huh? I'm sorry... I got here fast as I could...” “Thank you... for coming... I just... I didn't want to walk alone...I know how stupid it is but I was... frightened.” His last word fell to a whisper. He felt his eyes start to burn again, the racing of his thoughts returning. Philip's hands fell to his lap and the towel rolled onto his lap. He was tired. Adam took the towel without thinking and brushed it over Philip's hair and then under his eye. This terrible thing had just happened and from somewhere came an urgent need to comfort Philip however he could. Later he would recall this as the first time he responded impulsively to lend his strength to someone who needed it that so happened to be male. The gesture was nearly overwhelming for Philip and he did his best to keep from bursting into tears. That was all the cue Adam needed. This was going to be too deep, maybe for him to handle, but definitely to be handled in a car. He looked at the time and realized with a slight sense of dread that he was about to have to deliver bad news on an already rainy day.