The Saratoga Pact

At the far end of the campground, a knot of people are clustered under the trees around something unseen. Leon has rejoined Enrique and Sorrento, the manager at Studio 54 and an occasional lover. They’re passing around a fresh joint. “What’s going on down there?”

“Oh, that’s the Saratoga Pact,” Sorrento says. He sips, holds, then lets the smoke dribble between his lips and curl over his head. “They all survived cancer as kids or some shit. Come up here every year to see each other.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Leon says. “They were here last year. But what are they doing?”

Sorrento shrugs. “I heard they were digging something up, but fuck if I know what.”

There’s a whoop, and Leon turns to see a tall man wearing little more than a pair of ass-hugging shorts and a chain of flowers on his long golden hair go streaking past them, with two more laughing men chasing after him. Leon’s eyes glue themselves to the shorts as they run away. “Good lord,” he says, leaning over to watch. “That is one gorgeous man.”

“Mmmmmm-hmm,” Sorrento agrees. “Too bad he’s attached to Jerrod.”

More familiar faces are walking past, milling around the main cabin where delicious smells are beginning to drift out from Pepper’s makeshift on-site diner. Nate, the Queen of New York; Daniel, aka Lady Verona; Mr. T, the man himself. Leon favors each with a greeting in turn. Daniel simply snubs him with a disdainful smirk, but Nate and Mr. T both stop to chat, exchanging cheek kisses and small talk.

“Will you be performing tonight?” It’s the question on everyone’s lips.

“Oh yes,” Leon tells each of them, but he just smiles mysteriously and says, “You’ll see,” when they inquire about his number.

A short time later, the folks at the far end of the field start making their way back to the main cabin. Ever one to schmooze, Leon moves to greet them as they filter in. One in a kaftan, his hair drawn up in a topknot, approaches him.

“Welcome,” he says in a voice that seems to embrace Leon, bringing to mind flowing water and fragrant incense. In fact, the scent of warm patchouli drifts gently from his skin. “I am Kohana.”

“Leon. So… what’s all this ‘pact’ stuff going on down there?”

Kohana’s smile is serene. “We are all survivors of cancer,” he says, “who come here every year to renew the promise we made each other as children. To live life, and embrace each day as a gift.” He looks over his shoulder and holds out his arm to a slender woman with long red hair that swings around her hips. “Joani,” he calls, “come meet Leon.”

The way Joani moves can only be described as a glide. She is grace given form, her smile beatific, her voice melodious. “Welcome.” She enfolds Leon’s hand in both of her own. “You must be with Mr. T’s party.”

“This is my wife,” Kohana says while Leon nods. “You might say she’s the spiritual leader of our group.”

Leon keeps nodding. “Cool.”

Laughter touches the corners of Joani’s eyes as her smile deepens. “I’ll be offering a workshop on Tantra later,” she says. “All are welcome.”

It’s at this moment that the bell begins ringing, summoning all to the dinner Pepper and her crew have prepared.

“Okay, sure,” Leon says, lying with practiced ease. “I’ll think about it.”

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