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Nick’s and Flambé’s Worlds Cross Through Devon

Nick arrived in the Bay Area in 2002, after being admitted to Cal. He’d grown up with his hippie parents in a kind of commune in the Mendocino Highlands, a vast, mountainous region of Redwood forests, marijuana plantations, vineyards and wilderness, where mountain lions, black bears and elk roamed the slopes. On clear days, from a spot near the summit of 1,500-foot Mt. Umpquah, he could see all the way down the coast to Point Reyes. Beyond that lay San Francisco, a magic town, to which Nick had never been, but which fueled the imagination of the young man, just coming to terms with his gayness.

Nick never formally “came out.” It wasn’t necessary in the commune’s counter culture. In another environment he might have been ridiculed, or bullied, by children, the way Franklin had been, and been driven into secrecy and self-doubt. Instead, out there off the grid, people, including his parents, accepted Nick on his own terms. He had therefore no neurotic feelings about being gay. When in fact he moved to Berkeley and discovered the vast subculture of the LGBTQ community, he was somewhat surprised. There had been no politics of group identity where he’d grown up; there’d been no need of one.

Nick’s new roommate in Berkeley, Danny Eagleton, was his opposite in many ways: straight, apolitical, athletic. But the two of them quickly bonded. There was one night, early in their roommate relationship, when, drunk and high, they’d fooled around physically, with a series of rather frenzied gropings and a quick shedding of clothes. But it happened only once, and they both agreed never refer to it, and never to let it happen again.

They shared a small flat off Adeline, walking distance to their classes on the sprawling Cal campus. After graduation, both had gone their separate ways—Nick immediately after graduation to Pandora, Danny to a series of startups in San Francisco. They kept in touch loosely, through social media. It was at this time that Nick experienced his “fiasco” with Angel. He had met the good-looking, muscled young Mexican-American with the shaved head and toothy grin at the UPS Store, where Angel was, briefly, a clerk. Angel came on strong: flirty from the get-go, handing Nick a piece of paper with his phone number on it, and urging a rather startled Nick to “Call me.”

Nick did call Angel. They dated for nearly six months. It did not end well. Then Nick met Flambé, who moved in with him into the Perkins Street apartment. Both of their lives seemed to be getting back on track.

The political background to his parents’ activism increasingly rose to the surface in Nick’s mind. The advent of Donald J. Trump to the presidency stirred him profoundly; he thought of Trump as thoroughly, incontestably evil, and it blew his mind that the Republican Party not only tolerated this degradation but actively encouraged it. Nick became involved in local politics. When he learned of the candidacy for City Council of a local Black man, Devon Camber, whom most of his co-workers at Pandora seemed to like, he volunteered to work for Camber’s election. This was shortly before Flambé herself had volunteered for the campaign, although Nick didn’t know about Flambé’s involvement, and Flambé didn’t know about Nick’s involvement.

Nick met the candidate on a number of occasions and was, frankly, smitten, as were so many others. Davon at 35 was at the height of his charms: lean, good-looking, well-dressed, friendly, accessible, charismatic as hell. Devon did little things around campaign headquarters. When Devon learned of his programming skills, he put him to work on improving the campaign website, and also at increasing Devon’s presence on social media. Nick went into the office less; he could do his thing on his laptop. He was not in the office the day Flambé had her fateful lunch with Devon.

That lunch had left Flambé confused and at cross-purposes with herself. Devon had spelled out the parameters of their relationship—and it was not one Flambé was comfortable with.  She felt herself drawn to the blazing flame of Devon like a helpless moth. At the conclusion of this was bound to be tragedy. Flambé did not care.

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