It’s nearly 6:00 p.m., six hours before my thirtieth birthday. I’ve been running on the treadmill for about thirty-five minutes, having arrived here from school, grad school that is. Running is the thing I enjoy most when working out. Weight lifting is good when I’m looking to have the boys ogle me, biking is good when I need to get my legs more defined, but running helps me burn off the energy I’ve built up throughout my day. There’s nothing better than sweat dripping off my brow, headphones blaring techno music, and wet shorts riding up my ass. Okay, that one’s annoying.
He usually strolls through the door around 6:10—five minutes to change out of his work clothes, another five to get to the gym. You’re wondering who he is, huh? He is Lee, the man I’ve had a crush on for over three months now. And yes, he’s married. Who am I, you ask? I’ll give you a hint. I was born during the summer, and I’m hot like the month. Get it? August. So I’ve got a bit of arrogance.
Don’t fault me for that. I’m only human.
The word HOT doesn’t begin to describe how Lee’s presence grabs me, though. Composure is at a halt, focus is nilch, my surroundings are a blur. My blood warms and my skin radiates. I feel alive, energetic—yet when he steps to me, I’m like a kid running downstairs on Christmas morning only to find the tree is bare. Ever had a fantasy become reality?
Be careful what you wish for.
When he smiles, damn, when he smiles, when his lips slightly move to dance, I feel sweat driblets cascade down my legs and create puddles of lust-induced hope all around me. False hope. I know he’s unavailable, for a relationship anyway. Let me break it down for you: Lee and his wife are both strippers. She strips in a local gentleman’s club that is rather popular among men in neighboring states. Her Latin American look is hotter than J. Lo standing on the red carpet in that green Versace dress that made headlines all over the world.
Lee strips in nightclubs where gay men go, in and around Rhode Island. Why, you ask? Never heard of straight men dancing in gay clubs? Welcome to my world, the real world: married men sexing it up with guys. There are a lot of duplicitous people out there.
It’s called on the “Down Low.” Doing the ultimate no-no, according to Leviticus 18: 22. This is the same book that says you’re not to eat shrimp or pig, three pages back. Leviticus 11: the pig…is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses…all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales…you are to detest…you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses. Then again, why follow a book riddled with hypocrisy, or a God whose followings are based upon it? I stopped right after that night, that night I heard a faint whisper pierce the night sky, telling me Jesus saves those who save themselves.
God is conditional love.
We’ve got roughly eight minutes before he walks through the doors, and I’m sure you’re burning to know how we met, right? Oh, come on, you know you want to. It was three months ago, when the sun blazed across the sky, gays celebrated pride, and I started on summer vacation. Toxic, a straight club turned gay Thursday during Boston’s pride week, is where I saw him.
This particular night I went alone; my straight buddies don’t know what I engage in. Secrets. I like secrets. Life would be boring without secrets, don’t you think? I am entitled to a private life. It’s bad enough God meddles in my business. So get off my back.
I got there, and a patch of shirtless boys stood in front of the velvet rope, hands in the air, hoping their looks were enough to get them through the gates of heaven. The clear night sky with stars hid behind a thick wall of clouds, a dark gray wall of clouds roaring thunderously. I felt it—a chilling wind, tenderly, gnawingly nipping my skin. I took my tank top off, maneuvered my way through the boys, confident that my Indian bone structure, my Latino skin complexion, my Italian jet-black hair and muscular physique would get me waved through.
Gay clubs are a peculiar place, quite different than straight bars. Whoever heard of having to take your shirt off to get in a nightclub? This is something that gays do and straights don’t. Usually, you can’t wear jeans or sneakers or any type of clothing that’s not considered presentable. Here, you can pretty much walk naked and that’ll get you in. Strange. Long are the days of Studio 54. Okay, so they did a ton of drugs and had wild sex and STD’s ran rampant, but at least they did it with class. Hmm, I just had a thought, a picture image. I’m going to tell you, so relax. You know those rooms that were in the basement of Studio 54? Picture it: the door crept open, the empty cement floor, Lee up against the wall, and me between his legs, looking up at those piercing brown eyes blinking in ecstasy. Just a thought. Nice one, though.
I got in, of course. I’m August. Hot.
The music escalated with each footfall I made to the dance floor. Soapsuds were falling on people’s heads like snowflakes falling on a rooftop. Can someone please explain this to me? Why soapsuds in a nightclub? After you spend hours getting dressed and doing your hair, you come out to a club to have it all ruined? I don’t get it.
There’s something arousing, though, about nightclubbing in gay establishments. It’s more than watching hot flesh pressed against hot flesh. It’s journeying to a forbidden habitat, a place where rules are nonexistent, a place where I can go without politically correct friends telling me I’m stupid because I like being surrounded by beautiful people. Since when has appreciating beauty become so terrible? We’ve gotten off track; lost focus on the important things. Embrace it. Acknowledge it. Pretty People are like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam: rare, exceptional, priceless.
By the way, right now? It’s seven past six; he should be arriving soon.
My eyes aimlessly ran around the warehoused-sized room: lased lights shooting red and green fluorescent; half-naked guys grinding and groping, packed the dance floor; go-go boys in lifeguard attire paraded around on platforms, four of them sat in lifeguard chairs each in a corner of the dance floor—the theme was Sex on the Beach.
I saw Scott walking through the back room entranceway. Scott. Let me tell you a little secret about Scott: he’s gay—if that’s not the understatement of the year. Came out to his mother at fourteen, told his friends at fifteen, and claims we had sex when I was sixteen. The fact that it’s possible still worries me. Don’t let your mind wander, he’s just a friend. He’d like to be more, though. He’s on the hunt for a relationship, any relationship. I hate that word. Think it has something to do with his lack of self. See, that’s the difference between him and me. For me it’s about having fun: no ties, no façade, no bullshit conversation.
Scott’s eyes were locked on some twink’s behind; his hands tucked deep inside. Following him was not an option. I don’t much enjoy having to clean my sneakers from sticky stuff or having some guy unzip my pants without asking. Not my kind of fun. A text message will suffice.
When you’re done hooking, come find me.
Lee’s faint-colored skin caught my attention. His legs, his calves, those well defined, hairy calves are indescribable. My eyes could clock those calves in the middle of Grand Central Terminal during rush hour. His butt gyrated to the beat; his calves sat like two cliffs resting on the ocean shore. His brown eyes bored into mine. It was the moment of truth. He grinned. I smirked. Same thing. Tweeted out twinkies were awed by the lightning show flashing through the windows that rain banged on, overpowering and distracting us with music of its own. He climbed down the lifeguard chair and trundled to the back room, peeking at me through the crowd.
Lee is not for you.
It appeared across my phone. It wasn’t Scott messaging back. It was an unknown sender text messaging me. I scanned the room again. Lee was gone; Scott was busy. I took heed of a fellow gym buddy I’d seen a few times, a man I’d not paid much attention to—his muscles didn’t bulge. His laugh lines were dancing; his arms were swinging; his stiff legs were robotic. Not exactly an Alvin Ailey graduate. I left. Why stay? I’d get to meet Lee at the gym, a far better place to exchange interest and find out the real deal. Right? Okay then.
And here he is. 6:10 just like I told you. Ever see calves like that? Jolting like waves breaking on the ocean floor. And that ass. I almost dropped the bar the first time he spotted me benching. You’d have done the same thing. My eyes peeking up his shorts, noticing he had no underwear on. Lightning struck the dumpster in the gym parking lot. The air tightened, stiffened around me, thickly pumped my lungs, my skull’s vessels with harrowing images.
A fantasy I view as nothing more.
“He’s not for you,” Scott whispered in my ear, sneaking up from behind me.
“Asshole,” I said, jumping. Scott plays on my teenage crush, yet he’s a kid himself. Freckles still on his pale cheeks; pimples on his forehead. Hair doesn’t even grow underneath his armpits. At twenty-nine, you’d think he’d developed out of adolescence. Scott is my one gay friend. Oh, and he knows about that text message. “The least you could do is show a little sympathy.”
“When you pick a side.”
“Not submitting to society’s need for labels,” I said.
“I’ll leave you to your wet dreams,” Scott said sardonically, patting my forehead with his towel.
Lee consumed my sleep since that evening, along with those five words: the same two dreams every other night, waking with creamed shorts every other morning. The mornings without wet shorts, I awake to thin scratch marks on my neck and chest. Pain fills my mind far more than my body. Three months of torture and pleasure were wearing me thin. Three months of needing to get laid, despite my frequent hook ups with Karen Stoahoyic. This is for all the women of the world: sometimes guys don’t care about hitting the ‘G’ spot. We just want to get ours. If I were concerned with a chick’s orgasm, I’d get married. Not going to happen.
Look at him: Lee not Scott. Always in the mirror, always peeking out to see who’s watching. He takes voyeurism to a higher level. Lee loves to show off his chest, his butt, but mostly he loves to show off his stomach. No matter who’s around, whether or not there’s a mirror, the shirt comes up and the abs get flexed. What a sight it is, too. He told me one reason he agreed to marry his wife was because he knew it would make him more attractive to guys. How sick is that? I thought I was vain. Maybe we’re both just insecure. Anything’s possible.
“Working tonight?” I asked Lee, peering over at him racking the leg press machine, on my way to do squats.
“Yup,” he muttered, “at Toxic. The wife’ll be here.”
“Cool,” I said flatly, gesturing him to come spot me.
Those calves rubbing mine, our arms intertwined, hands gripping the bar, my butt locked in his crotch like a piece in a puzzle. We squat gingerly. Rain pellets fall from the purplish sky. Darkness leaks through the windows, wind through the cracks. Water drips from the ceiling. Buckets were already in place. Our gym is set in an old warehouse. It needs much repair work. Only $200.00 a year, how can you go wrong?
My phone vibrates on the floor rhythmically to the drumming pellets. How do you answer the phone when you’re in a situation like the one I’m in at this very moment? You don’t. No way. This feels too good. Not…going…anywhere. Just like when I toss and turn in bed, and my erection rubs the sheets.
Yeah…that’s it. Do it. Go ahead. God yes…
She’s on the treadmill watching. Her name’s as mysterious as her voice. But her eyes say so much. She likes to watch, to watch us chase the impossible, the inevitable. It fascinates me how married people’s sex lives change once they’re no longer single. Does it dwindle or does it just vanish? The disconnect is visible: flirting takes place less than when single, words of lust are trapped under years of marriage, rapid boiling passion simmers to a calm. It’s evident what year she and Lee are in, in their marriage. Remind me to thank Scott. You’re really asking me why? He’s the one who made me realize the purpose of marriage, and that purpose doesn’t fill my life, a life with drama. I can turn on Days of our Lives for that.
He’s not for you.
Those five words linger on my phone again, like blood stained on a shirt. It leaves a chilling effect in my skull, pounding the walls of my mind. What, or rather who was it? The locker room’s empty. Lee’s by my side changing; his wife’s still walking on the treadmill. Scott? Can’t be. Not his style. Scott loves to play, but he’s not one for playing sadistically. It was ignorable the first time, but now it’s infuriating. A stalker? Naw.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be stalked? Like when you watch those Lifetime movies and a woman runs through the dark park with a broken shoe heel or ankle being chased? Someone write Hollywood a letter: Let’s see the villain be a woman chasing Charles Bronson or Steven Segal through the park. The time has come.
It’s in the air again, and close, closer than the scratched-up yellow lockers, closer than Lee’s glutes that just bumped me. Untouchable. Invisible. Like Lee’s scent permeating the air, yet forceful. Digging into my sweaty skin, climbing into my heart, my soul. Wrapped around Lee like a vine twisting and coiling, slithering up a tree. Achingly suffocating my thoughts, my heart, my soul. So close. So inviting. Touch it. Feel it. Push it.
It is love. Has to be love. Love’s manipulating my mind, our hope, our togetherness. Don’t it have a nerve? Its moral authority will not prevail. It’s not ruining my birthday. Who needs it? All it does is take the heat, the rawness out of sex. Create havoc in people’s lives. Does it really matter, anyway? Love. It doesn’t, it really doesn’t matter at all, not anymore. It’s suicide.
“Look at the little muscle,” Lee joked, squeezing my bicep. “See ya later?” he asked, heading toward the entranceway.
Smiling uncontrollably, I asked, “You get me anything?”
“You’ll see tonight.” Lee said, tittering, walking out.
“Tonight?” Scott said, half question, half answer, entering the locker room. “Oh, brother.” Ain’t he nosy?
“See ya there,” I said, following Lee.
My eyelids blink to pitch-black, sweat beads roll down my cheek. I hear a voice this time around, a voice not that of Lee, a hollowing roar in between his moans and groans. Who needs God telling you what you can and cannot do? In my mind, always in my thoughts, persistently trying to chisel them away. The dream produces an erection, a few long scratches, one under my eyelid. Why does the voice make me cringe? And why is it in the room? So close. So inviting. Touch it. Feel it. Push it.
He’s not for you.
Getting dressed is a project. Looking good doesn’t come easy. No one just wakes up and looks like a GQ model. It takes time and preparation. And with this heat wave, I get nasty. Get your mind out of the gutter. Nasty means bitchy. I’ll never visit a tropical island. I’d rather vaca in Alaska. Still get the same stuff: tranquility, relaxation, beautiful scenery.
No thirtieth birthday party, decided against it. All it signifies is growing older—the start of crow’s-feet in my eye’s corners, and gray hairs in my goatee are reminder enough. Watching Lee, his presence, his naked torso, is what I consider to be a celebratory evening, a far better reason to throw a party. Besides, Scott is forfeiting the money for our trip to New York City to see Rent (my second time) this weekend. That’s plenty.
All I want is Lee. How sappy is that? I sound like Mariah Carey’s Christmas song ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’ Let’s make it Rod Stewart’s ‘Tonight’s The Night.’ Janet Jackson’s version is a bit more likable, though. She sings about a guy and a girl, right up my alley. I’m going off on a tangent. Sorry.
It’s the bottom of the hour and it’s back, again. I feel it. It’s in line with me. It’s in the cold, misty air, digging into my shivering skin. Poking at my desire, my urge to touch, to free Lee. Caressing my ears softly, gently whispering icy no-nos.
Talk about harassment.
My wish, my one wish I made an hour ago is disappearing with each footfall—the air is nibbling at it feverishly, gnawing at my images of Lee, producing depictions of disparity. I smash the thoughts like a broken heart. Not corrupting my mind.
I am so ready, so sure Lee is ready.
Clusters of naked torsos form a ring around the dance floor. Music hit my mind’s walls, trapped in the corners, trying to disrupt my hunt for Lee standing on a platform surrounded with gay boys: sucking face, snorting out of vials, unzipping and sliding hands deep inside pants. Damn he looks good. Those white trunks I could peel off with my teeth. Those calves are getting me going. That butt I could play with like a dog and a tennis ball. I trundle to the bar, keeping Lee in sight, keeping his eyes on me.
HE’S NOT FOR YOU!
Who keeps doing that? I scan the place—full of pretty boys unable to grab my attention, unable to provoke what Lee is able to: to get beneath the trenches of it all—for the first time frightened. Wondering what will happen in fifteen minutes. Something in the Blue Moon is upsetting my stomach, causing it to revolt, to ascend in my throat. Not fear. Not sanctity. Not the hairy, rugged man parading his fingertips over my nipple. His touch feels good, actually. Might just let him touch me there. Maybe not. Maybe the E Lee gave me in the parking lot of the gym isn’t agreeing with my stomach.
Here he comes, down off the box, trundling through a circle of boys inside the ring, towards me. My stomach trudging up my throat, I swallow hard, tasting a dark, gory matter slither down the outer lining, soothing the eruption deep below my stomach. I can hear the sounds, the paranoid rhythm my stomach belts out over the music.
It’s waiting for me, waiting for me to fail, to fall. It hung above my head outside, now it swirls in my toxic blood. Tainted with an unknown substance. Tickling my bones, my organs, seeping through to my skin. I need to bypass this monumental grotesque joke being played on me. Let’s celebrate. I deserve him. Ached for him long enough. Begged God for him. Wanted him all for myself, for keeps, to walk secretly, accompanied only by birds chirping and trees swaying.
Never let your dreams muscle out.
Lee pulls my head close, tight to his face. His fiery lips base upon mine. Ouch. I’m ready. Almost. It shoots back up my throat, and Lee looks…Divine. This is one of those times in life when an image is sketched in your mind’s eye. You know, like your first kiss, the first time you make love, the first time you ask God to rid your mind of demons, despite his unfulfilled presence.
Lee’s eyes boring into me, his body warm, moist, sensually firm against mine, rocking to the music. In his eyes, I see it—buried far beneath those erotic brown pupils, staring at me intently, searchingly, pulling me in hypnotically. Destiny. Destiny lights up the corners with a fatal mirage. It’s funny how life plays tricks on the mind. Educates the mind. In a microscopic way I know it’s over.
The floor vibrates erratically, hiding my quivering skin; my blood gassed with the strange and sickeningly sweet toxin, pumping through my vessels at my lungs, pricking my skin. My mouth cracks up into a smile. I’m ready. And he knows it.
He clasps his hand in mine, and whispers, “Happy Birthday.” The rain trickling down the windowpanes, the invisible nobodies all around, the pain drowning in it, feels wonderful, an electronic drowsiness flooding through me like a fine vintage red wine.
We trundle to the back room. Scott is here, his hands on the back of some boy’s head, crouched down in between his legs, pleasuring him. He smiles, looking at me quizzically, sympathetically, flicking his gaze away. No Happy Birthday? No over the hill cracks? What’s his problem? I step over and slip him my last hit of E.
Lee leads me to the back, our footfalls in line. Music fades and thunder escalates, ending at the end, hidden behind a column. Falling into the cement wall, pulling me in, Lee pushes me down. I undo his pants, rubbing my hands over his crotch, peering up at him: red eyes surrounded by a black cast, his teeth long and sharp, his lips dripping saliva, and I wonder how long before Scott follows. He turns thirty tomorrow.