The Heart of a Racer

He came to win a trophy but won another man’s heart

Porsche 911 GT3 Cup—Photo by toine G on Unsplash

As I travel south on a sunny Friday afternoon, my radar detector protecting me against speed limit nazis, I’m trying to contain my excitement about the weekend ahead. A business associate has invited me to watch a GT3 Cup Challenge race from his company’s luxury suite at Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey. It’ll be the first time in two decades that I’ve seen a motorsport race in person.

When I arrive in Monterey, I take the exit for Cannery Row. After checking-in at my hotel and unpacking, I go downstairs and enjoy a Maker’s Mark Whiskey Sour beside the fire pit on the hotel’s patio. It’s a beautiful early fall evening on the California coast and the golden sunset on Monterey Bay is spectacular.

The following afternoon at Laguna Seca, I have a clear view of the front straightaway and the Start/Finish line from my spot in the suite. Other key places on the track, such as the infamous Corkscrew, are visible via an array of large video monitors on one of the walls.

It’s been a highly competitive race. The drivers, especially the newer ones, are aggressive and they’re making the veteran drivers work hard for their pay. With just two laps to go, the white flag comes out and the battle for First Place that’s been raging all afternoon is about to be decided.

As he crosses the Start/Finish line, Andy Hamel in the Kirkwood Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car is in second place behind the race leader. Andy’s putting pressure on him, darting briefly left into passing position and back several times, hoping to create a passing opportunity by provoking the leader into making a mistake.

It happens in a flash. Just before turn one, Andy once again pulls to the left of the lead car—but this time he stays there. Inside the cockpit, I know he’s pressed his OVERTAKE button. All of a sudden, his car shoots past on the inside and takes the lead.

For the next two laps, Andy aggressively fends off the former leader’s attempts to regain the lead. He comes out of the last turn at full-throttle, engine screaming as he blasts down the front straightaway towards the Finish line, the flagman greeting him with the checkered flag.

As I watch on the video monitors, I can see Andy in the winner’s circle smiling as he’s awarded his First Place trophy, followed by endless congratulations and photographs.

He’s very handsome and he’s got a beautiful smile.

Later that evening, as I’m sitting at the hotel bar working on my second Saphire Martini, a handsome young man walks in and sits down a couple of barstools away. His short dark blond hair and breathtaking aqua blue eyes give him an unforgettable, clean-cut, all-American look.

The bartender swiftly materializes to take his order.

“Can I get a Jack and Coke, please?”

The handsome young man looks my way, sees me checking him out, and smiles a knowing smile.

Hmm, that’s interesting.

I smile back.

There’s something familiar about him, I just can’t put my finger on it.

The bartender returns with his drink. “This one’s on the house in celebration of your win today.”

The handsome young man gets a big smile on his face. “Wow! Thanks, that’s really nice of you. How’d you…?”

“Just about all the drivers are staying in the hotel, and I saw photos of you holding the winner's trophy on Instagram.”

That’s it—his smile! The same one I saw him wearing in the winner's circle.

Feeling brave thanks to my blood-alcohol level, I decide to congratulate him myself. “Excuse me, you’re Andy Hamel, right?”

He looks me up and down slowly and smiles that beautiful smile. “Yeah, that’s me. One win and everybody starts recognizing me and buying me drinks.”

I laugh. “I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed watching you drive today, you deserve that trophy.” I extend my hand and introduce myself. “My name’s Calum, but everyone calls me Cal.”

We share a lingering handshake as we gaze into each other's eyes for far too long. Finally, Andy breaks the spell. “It’s nice to meet you, Cal, and thanks for what you said about my driving.”

“You’re welcome.” I can’t resist testing the waters a little. “But where are all the beautiful women? Aren’t you rich and famous race car drivers supposed to be surrounded by them?”

“I’m a long way from being rich or famous. Today was my first win in this series.”

I sit down next to him. “I’m sure there’ll be many more. What about the beautiful women, though?”

“You’re fixated on beautiful women, aren’t you?”

I smile at him. “You have no idea how wrong that comment is.”

Andy grins, looks down at the drink in his hand, and then directly at me. I can tell he’s making an important decision. When he speaks, it’s with a quiet, self-confident tone in his voice. “No, no beautiful women; I race for the other team.”

I return his gaze and say, “So do I, but you already know that, don't you?”

Andy chuckles. “Yeah, I was pretty sure from the way you were eye-fucking me.”

“Was I that obvious?”

“Yeah, you kinda were.”

“Well, the two Martinis I’ve had might have something to do with that. But then, you weren’t very subtle yourself.”

“I didn’t intend to be. I don’t usually have the time for subtlety.” He hesitates a moment, then continues. “Racing and romance don’t mix very well. It’s hard to date with all the traveling I do, and I don’t like the apps. I get lonely, so when somebody catches my eye…”

“I caught your eye?”

“You did, and now that we’ve met, I’m attracted to you even more.”

I can feel myself blushing. “I honestly don’t know what to say to that.”

Andy smiles that beautiful smile. “You don’t need to say anything. But maybe I don’t need to be so lonely tonight. Would you like to help me celebrate my win?”

I can see both hunger and hope in Andy’s eyes, and I feel my own desire rising from deep inside me. “What did you have in mind?”

“I was thinking dinner and if that goes well, maybe…”


Andy laughs. “Maybe.”

I smile and say, “Let’s see if the hotel restaurant is any good.”

In a booth over dry-aged rib-eye steaks and a 2013 Lasseter Amoureux, Andy tells me how he got started racing.

“I began late—nineteen. A lot of guys start when they’re kids in go-karts. I wanted to, but my parents wouldn’t hear of it. After I started college, I managed to save enough to go to racing school and get my license. When I could, I raced on the weekends, and after graduation, I went full time.”

Andy’s story brings back fond memories. “I fell in love with motorsports when I was a kid. I helped my friend Scott work on his go-kart after school. I begged my mom for one, I wanted to race so badly, but no go. I think it’s great you followed your dream but had the good sense to get your degree too.”

“I promised my parents that I would. I gave myself until my thirtieth birthday to try and make racing work, I’m twenty-nine and I just had my first win in an internationally recognized series. I need to make a decision at the end of this season; keep racing or move on to a different career. In a way, winning today makes the decision harder. I mean, I love racing, and I think I’m good at it, bu…”

“You are.”

“Thanks, but all the traveling and the constant competition for sponsors and a spot on a team is beginning to get old. Plus, racing can be a homophobic sport, although it’s getting better. I don’t know if I want to spend the rest of my life doing this. I’d like to settle in one place for a while, have a chance to meet someone special and have a real relationship. I’ve changed a lot over the years and so has what I want.”

“I get the feeling that no matter what you decide, you’ll be successful. Maybe, you just need to decide what you want your life to look like five to ten years from now and then do what you have to do to make it happen.”

“Yeah, well, that’s easier said than done.”

“I’m sorry, that sounded like something written on a lame motivational poster, didn’t it?”

Andy laughs and says, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Enough about me and racing, what do you do for a living?”

“Nothing as exciting as racing. I’m a Global Program Manager for a medical device company that makes implantable orthopedic products; things like artificial joints, etc.”

Andy chuckles. “I’m hoping I’ll never need any of those. Do you like what you do?”

“Yeah, I do. There always seems to be something new to challenge me so I don’t get bored and I like that. They also pay me well and I have great benefits. I’m happy with my career, it’s just…the romantic side of my life isn’t what I’d like it to be. The one thing that I want most in my life I don’t have.”

“What’s that?”

“A life partner. I’m thirty-six, that’s roughly the age gay men settle down and enter into what they hope are lifelong relationships. I don’t even have a prospect for a relationship and that’s depressing. So, you’re not the only one who’s lonely.”

Andy looks at me with a sympathetic expression on his face. “I can’t imagine you being single this long. I know I wouldn’t let you get away.”

I feel my cheeks catch fire and I look down at my plate. Finally, I look up at Andy. “Thank you for saying that. It’s hard to ignore the lies that fear and loneliness try so hard to make me believe.”

We spend the rest of dinner staring into each other's eyes as we talk about our lives as well as our hopes and dreams. After settling the bill, we come to the big question of the evening.

Andy smiles at me and says, “So…breakfast?”

I look into those beautiful blue eyes and say, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”

Andy crowds me as I unlock the door to my room, and once inside, he pins me against the wall and kisses me deeply and passionately.

“Sorry, I just couldn’t wait any longer.”

I catch my breath and smile. “It’s okay, I can’t wait to get my hands on you either.”

A trail of clothes marks our path to the bed where our bodies melt into one another. Every touch, every kiss, brings a riot of new sensations and emotions that reveal an unknown and exciting world of connection to both of us.

The next morning, I wake up just as I fell asleep; little spoon to Andy’s big spoon, his ridiculously muscular arms and legs wrapped around me. It’s a wonderful way to wake up.

His hold tightens into a gentle hug and he says, “Good morning.”

“Morning,” I say, groggy with sleep.

“Sleep well?”

“Mmm, after last night, how could I not?”

I turn over so I’m looking at Andy. “Thank you for last night, it was amazing—you’re amazing.”

He brushes the hair off my forehead and gives me light, sleepy kisses. “I don’t have to catch my flight until tomorrow afternoon. I don’t suppose I could talk you into staying with me for the rest of the weekend, could I? We can spend the day visiting Carmel and sightseeing, and we’d have another night together.”

I smile and look into those beautiful blue eyes. “I’m easy—try me.” I kiss him quickly before he can say anything. “Yes, I’d love to.”

We make plans to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium along with Fisherman’s Wharf and then have dinner in downtown Carmel.

After breakfast, I check-out of my room since I’ll be staying in Andy’s and I text my director letting her know that I need to take a personal day off on Monday.

With those tasks taken care of, we walk to the parking lot to get my car and head for the aquarium. When we get to my parking spot, Andy points at my BMW M3 and says, “This is your car?”

I smile. “Yep, it’s my baby.” An idea pops into my head and I put my arm around his shoulders. “Okay, Racer Boy, why don’t you show me what you can do with my M3? I mean, if you can handle it as well as you handle me…”

He laughs and grabs me by my waist, pulling me into him. With a deep sexy voice, he says, “I can’t handle anything as well as I can handle you.”

Next thing I know, his arms are wrapped around me and his soft red lips are pressed to mine.

Damn! He’s such a good kisser.

Andy gets behind the wheel, I’m riding shotgun. He looks at me and says, “First thing we do is put the car in Sport Plus mode and turn off traction and stability control.”

The next fifteen-minutes are a lesson in high-performance driving. He accelerates, shifts, and brakes smoothly and quickly as he puts the car through a workout; the engine singing a beautiful high-pitched song as he wrings every last bit of performance out of it.

As he drives the car hard through the corners, I hold on to the grab handles to try and steady myself. Eventually, he looks at me with a self-satisfied smile. “What was it you called me? ‘Racer Boy’?”

All I can do is laugh for the rest of the ride.

After he finds a place to park at the aquarium, Andy turns to me and takes my hand in his. “I’ve driven a lot of scorchingly fast race cars, but none of them have felt as good as you do.”

I smile at him. “Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I think you’re pretty special too… I also think that after last night, I know exactly how my poor car feels right now.” We laugh and share a deep and intoxicating kiss, then head inside to see the exhibits.

I think we’re both surprised by how much we genuinely like each other and how quickly we’ve become attached to one another. He’s so easy to be with, so comfortable and reassuring. Being with him is like putting on a favorite cozy flannel shirt on a cold day.

Andy’s the first guy I’ve met in a long time that has the potential to be The One. Never in my entire life have I had feelings for another person like the ones I have for him.

Our day together goes by far too fast and I don’t like thinking about us having to go our separate ways tomorrow. We manage to stay away from the subject all day until dinner at a romantic little restaurant in Carmel.

As I push the food around on my plate, but not actually eat much of it, I say, “So, should we talk about the elephant in the room?”

Andy looks at me, and for the first time, I see sadness in those beautiful blue eyes.

“I don’t know what to say. We’ve only known each other for twenty-four hours but the thought of leaving you... I don’t want this—us—to end here.”

“Neither do I. Where’s your next race?”

“Atlanta. My flight leaves at 1:00 PM tomorrow from Monterey Regional. I already have practice time scheduled for Tuesday.”

I look at Andy and I can feel my eyes getting moist. “It’s awfully cruel of fate to bring us together so intensely and then rip us apart after such a short time.”

It’s a quiet last night for us. We spend the night talking, cuddling, and making love. When I think about morning, hot tears stream down my cheeks which I try, but fail, to hide from Andy.

Eventually, we fall asleep in the same spooning position as last night, praying that the morning light never comes.

Andy’s up and in the shower first. After I take my turn, we head down for breakfast holding hands, not wanting to let go of each other.

I keep reading the menu over and over, but I still don’t know what it says. Frustrated, I put the menu down.

“I’m sorry, I… I’m not even hungry. I couldn’t eat even if I was, I feel sick.”

“Me too. Want to go back to the room so we have some privacy?”

“Yeah. I don’t want to start sobbing and make a scene here. I’d rather do that in private.”

We lay on the bed together, cuddling and cherishing the feeling of each other's body against our own. I try to memorize the scent of his warm skin, the taste of his lips—everything about him that I possibly can.

Eventually, Andy squeezes my hand. “We can’t wait any longer, we need to finish packing and I need to check out.”

My voice is so thick with emotion all I can manage is, “Yeah.”

When the bags are packed, we instinctively reach for each other, desperately trying to kiss deeply enough to last a lifetime.

Andy’s eyes are wet and his voice is strained. “The last forty-eight hours have been the best in my life. I may have won the race, but the real prize was meeting you.”

I’m sobbing now and it’s difficult to talk. “I’m sorry… I can’t…”

He hugs me tight as he tries to calm me. “Okay, okay…” Eventually, reality intrudes when he says, “We better go.”

And with that, our last private moment comes to an end.

After his paperwork is done, Andy walks me to my car. As we stand together in the parking lot, we don’t know what to say to each other. Andy breaks the terrible silence.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t want to leave you.”

“I know… I know you don’t.”

“It’s just that I…”

“I know. It’s okay, I understand.”

Tears are flowing down my cheeks as I cradle Andy’s handsome face in my hands and look deep into his beautiful blue eyes. “Will you promise me something? Promise me that you’ll stay in touch, and if there’s anything you need, even if it’s just to hear a friendly voice, you’ll call?”

Andy’s trying unsuccessfully to hold back his tears. “Yeah, I promise. You can count on it.”

We hug and kiss each other goodbye. Quickly, I get into my car and pull out of my parking space. My last view of a sad and devastated Andy is through my windshield as I drive out of the parking lot—As I drive out of his life.

I take the onramp for Highway 1 and home. Every mile I travel is taking me further away from the most amazing person I’ve ever met—ever loved. What we have together is extraordinary, and I feel like I’m throwing it away—him away.

Maybe I should have told Andy how I feel—that I’m in love with him, that I want to be with him. But I’m afraid if I did, he might make a rash decision that he’d later regret.

But oh how I do love that man! The feel of him, his scent, his touch, the reassuring strength and warmth of his body when he wraps himself around me in that special way of his.

Does it seem foolish to feel that way after less than two days together? Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I don’t think so. You can know everything important about some people almost instantly, and yet with others, you can spend a lifetime with them and never really know them.

About thirty minutes after I leave the hotel, I’m in tears and I realize that I’ve made a horrible mistake. I pull over and send Andy a text:

txting b cus i cant talk
this is what i couldnt say.
i need to b with u
whatever it takes
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

About twenty agonizing minutes later, Andy replies:

looked at what i want my life 
to be like in the future.
only life i can imagine
-want to imagine-
is with u.
u stole my <3 minute we met
going to tell team i
wont be back after season.
u said to let you know if
i need anything, i need YOU.
will u build a life
with me?
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

After I read his text on the Apple CarPlay display, I have to pull over, I can’t see the road through my tears. When I can see again, I reply:

YES i will
turning around now
will break land speed
record to get back to u.
meet me in the hotel
lobby. we'll figure out
whats next.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Sometimes you have to fight for what matters most in life, and love is always worth fighting for. If you’re lucky enough to have love in your life, cherish it and protect it fiercely because, in the end, it’s the only thing that really matters.

I Don’t know what the future holds for us, but if Andy wants to find out together, so do I.

All rights reserved. © 2020 by Carl Rebeiro

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