Book Title: The Long Journey to You
Author: Vincent Traughber Meis
Publisher: Spectrum Books
Cover Artist: Vincent Meis and Andrew May
Release Date: February 17, 2024
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance, Literary Fiction
Tropes: Age-gap relationship, friends to lovers
Themes: Survival, overcoming tragedy
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 97 000 words/350 pages
It can be read as a standalone, but the protagonist also appears in my novel, The Mayor of Oak Street (ages 12-21). The main story of this book takes place 40 years later and we find out what happened to him in flashbacks.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
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Nathan’s traumatic past challenges but cannot stop the arc that brings him to Mateo.
Nathan doesn’t know how to stop dwelling on the failures and tragedies that have plagued him since he was a twenty-one-year-old happily in the arms of the handsome young doctor he had pined for since he was twelve. Many years later after the latest tragedy, who could mend Nathan’s heart? If not a handsome young doctor, would an ER nurse do? After a chance meeting with Mateo, a lot of Nathan’s reminiscing is now devoted to how that encounter made him feel. Will he seize the day or continue wallowing in the past, having lunch with his best girlfriend from high school, and writing poetry?
“Are you okay?” he asked in a slight Spanish accent. His questioning eyes moved directly to the stain on my T-shirt where the juicy tomato from my lunch had squirted. Looking like blood?
I became acutely aware of my attire: baggy sweats that may have had other stains, a baseball cap with a tattered rim, and faded crocs. He wore neat magenta scrubs that matched the color of his full shiny lips. His nametag said Mateo.
The scenario must have been embarrassingly clear to him. I had wandered off from one of the many senior facilities that dotted the landscape of the neighborhood. If I exaggerated the confusion that I, in fact, frequently felt, he might take my arm, walk me back to the facility, put me in a bath, gently wash my back, and tuck me into bed. The more I looked into his onyx eyes, the more I wanted him to do just that.
“I mean, you looked a little lost…and sad.”
“Don’t worry, Mateo.” His eyebrows separated and bounced at the sound of his name. Then he smiled and touched his nametag, realizing how I knew it. “I’m lost in a memory is all.” I chuckled. “I suppose I do fit a profile.”
“You’re okay, then?”
“My bad. I didn’t mean to profile you. I have experience with that, and it’s no fun.”
I imagined that he was doubly profiled, first for the color of his skin and then a second time when people caught a hint of his accent.
“No harm done. I appreciate your concern.”
“It’s kind of my job. Sometimes it is difficult to switch out of that mode when I leave work.” He lowered his eyes, making me realize I must have been staring intently. How could I have not? He was an amalgam of all the men I had been attracted to my entire life: Mediterranean, Black, Latino, shorter than me, rectangular solid frame, soulful eyes, thick hair. But with an added twist. A dusting of freckles graced his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose.
In a thoughtful gesture, he stared at the sidewalk and raised his hand to his chin, rubbing his index finger over his left cheek, revealing another physical trait that rang my buzzer: little tufts of black hair between his major and minor knuckles, a tiny forest to let my tongue wander through.
Thank God, he couldn’t read my thoughts. Or could he?
“I should let you get on your way,” he mumbled, still not looking at me. He stared at the smashed apricots on the ground with, I imagined, quite a different take than mine.
I wasn’t ready to let him go just yet.
“Do you work in one of these facilities I might have escaped from?”
“Now, look, I didn’t mean…” He took a step back in what appeared to be a desire to flee.
“I’m teasing. I haven’t seen you around the neighborhood.”
He tapped his nametag and twisted his neck to look at it. “Kaiser. It says right here. Kaiser Permanente.”
“I have trouble reading fine print.” I let out a small laugh, but he didn’t join me.
He took another step back. “Just moved here less than a year ago.”
I guessed he was mid-thirties, and with his Spanish accent and African features, maybe Puerto Rican? Cuban? I imagined he lived with a wife and multiple niños. They spent Saturdays having barbecues in the park and Sundays from dawn to dusk at church events. He looked far too sweet to be anything but a family man. Now I was profiling.
“From?” I asked.
He let out a protracted sigh, as if the conversation had gotten way more involved than he had intended. His forehead crinkled again, hesitating to give me an answer.
“The city. Getting too crazy over there.”
Then he raised his head and his eyes met mine with the twinkle of a forest elf. Perhaps he wasn’t annoyed with me after all. Perhaps I had been wrong about sizing him up, though my conclusion that he was a family man was much easier to handle. Yet, he wore no ring.
About the Author
Vincent Traughber Meis is a fiction writer, a world traveler, and a former ESL community college teacher. When he’s not traveling, he divides his time between writing and working in the garden. Most of the characters in his novels and short stories come from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum and are racially and ethnically diverse. He has published eight novels: Eddie’s Desert Rose, Tio Jorge, Down in Cuba, Deluge, Four Calling Burds and The Mayor of Oak Street, First Born Sons, and Colton’s Terrible Wonderful Year. Tio Jorge, Down in Cuba, and Deluge have all won Rainbow Awards. The Mayor of Oak Street and First Born Sons have won Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Awards. His short stories have appeared in several collections both in print and online, and have reached finalist status in several short story contests. A collection of short stories, Far from Home, was published in October 2021. He lives with his husband in San Leandro, California and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
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