“Fuck you, man, you’re full of shit, and you know it.” Scott turned away from the bar and threw a middle finger over his shoulder. “Here’s your skimmed fuckin’ tip.” He went back to setting up for the ‘tea’ crowd, muttering the whole time about paranoid, greedy assholes.
I winced and started to turn back to work myself with what I hoped was a blank face, but not fast enough to miss the bartender angrily mouthing “cocktease” with a catty snap of his drying towel in my general direction.
Ouch. All I wanted to do at this point was to apologize desperately, flee, maybe sit in the bathroom for a bit and breathe. Maybe a very unmasculine crying jag. Fleeing isn’t working and doesn’t make money, though, and I pulled myself together and helped Scott change the table settings. God, I hate it when people were mad at me, I thought, leaving the glass to Scott so he wouldn’t see my hands tremble.
“That fucking Mike!” He said, slamming down a clean water glass and causing me to pitch forward to rescue the wobbling flowers. “We’ve always been princes about giving him his tip cut, fucking generous! What the hell is his problem this week?!?”
Shrugging stiffly, I laid out the silverware. “He’s just like that sometimes, I guess.”
“Well, he’s always a bitch, but nothing like this shit!”
I had to agree, he never was this bad. Actually, before this, he was what could only be called ‘flirtatious’ with the both of us. And I made the mistake of responding….
My eyes drifted up to Mike, wondering what was wrong with me. He was 27, 8 years older then me, but he was damn good looking. All the rich, old, and not-so-old ladies who came in for tea (and martinis) here in the hotel restaurant/lounge, both the regulars and the guests, threw themselves at him outrageously. Groomed blond hair, sultry eyes, and a frat-boy smile with a touch of scorn… I sounded like a romance novel, but he looked like he should be in one. (My mom had quite a few lying around.) But he was fit and knew it, a former jock that never amounted to much but a great bartending career and local gay scene stardom.
A month ago, I’d finally given in to the light touches, the playful “Hey, pretty” he’d throw my way, and the skillful warmth he sent with the coded message, “it’s okay; you can be comfortable around me.” I found myself starting to smile at him, wondering what it would be like to be comfortable around someone.
In high school, around a few girlfriends and girls who randomly and inexplicably decided they liked me, I felt like a cold fish, largely distant from the rampant hormones flying around me. Scott, my best friend then as he is now, was chasing every tail he could with ever-increasing success.
I masturbated to men, I’d slink in and out of bookstores with pretty photo mags of men, I drew more men then women, but what the hell did that mean? I have enough problems talking to people as it is at times. And who’d be interested in me? Who’d talk to me? I’d gone through puberty later then most of my friends, and I felt behind, still the little silent guy who was so non-descript I didn’t even get picked on – once a dork, always a dork. There was also the fact I apparently was without a working gaydar. A couple of strange encounters with drive by come-ons and kissing from the least expected sources left me stunned and caused me to run before I could connect with what my hormones were saying.
So instead of dealing with my own love life, I trailed after Scott. I was his ‘wing man’ and decided that I was most likely doomed to anti-social celibacy.
“What the hell’s your problem, Ethan?” My last girlfriend, Heather, had hissed at me. “I want you to fuck me, asshole, I’m half-naked here!” And after I muttered a few nonsensical apologies she had kicked me out of her car, muttering about pretty-boy artists and why she should’ve stuck with football players. All I could do at the time was feel bad and wonder if that means she wouldn’t let me draw her anymore, which made me sad because she had such an incredible profile. And her parting, distracted shot… “What are you, gay?”
Well, yes. I suppose I am. Now what?
Until Mike. He’d make me blush, with his winks and affections, but why would someone that beautiful want me? I wasn’t the most social of people, nor exciting, and he was roughly charming and social by nature. The friends of his I saw who’d pick him up when we had late shift together were fabulous and fun. Fabulous and fun were not my specialty.
I would have told my mom about it, but I was worried all it would cause was worry on top of her usual drama. Don’t get me wrong, my mother was beautiful and supportive in her way, and when we got along we were best friends. But when things with her were down she was absolutely merciless. Things had been bad when she was drinking and then a different type of bad when she got sober, and things had finally settled down. I didn’t want to burden her with my fairly non-existent love life. Mike was as dramatic as it had ever gotten, really.
“Hey, you, need any help?” I’d been unpacking some new napkins, folding them in the storeroom while daydreaming about a book I’d been reading, when he slipped behind me, and put a large hand on my hip. I’d always noticed them when he was tending bar; his big, beautiful hands, tan and yet meticulously manicured. Now that I think on it, I guess they turned me on.
As I turned my head, startled at his touch and proximity, he’d kissed my neck lightly, digging his fingers into my skin. When I instinctively jumped, almost jerking away, he put his other hand on my arm, as if to steady me. Like a reflex I leaned back, feeling his body. Feeling something very hard right where the small of my back stopped.
“Mike…” I breathed. Is this how it happened, how other people did it? From polite flirtation to making out in dim storerooms? The women I’d made out with before, when I was feeling zombie-like and drifting, hadn’t felt so… solid, so hard.
“Hey, pretty….” He’d breathed roughly, turning me around, and crushing my lips with a hard kiss, tongue ramming down my throat. Letting out a small sound, something wrong fluttered in the back of my head. But what did I know? He smelled like strong cologne, like masculine body spray. Like control. At that moment, that was very sexy. Kissing him back, letting him pull me right into him, groin to groin, one of his hands snuck down to his fly.
I felt out of my depth. But, hell, he knew what he was doing, right? This had to be how it went. I was hard, mostly, and it felt good. This was what I was supposed to do, I guessed. I let him push me down until my head was even with his… very, very large cock. Well, thick. Veiny. At the time, I couldn’t believe I was itching for my drawing pad. But, still, it felt natural to open my mouth…. Salty, hard, it strained my mouth and I licked it experimentally. I hardened, and dove in.
“Mmmmmm….AH! TEETH!” He pulled my head back, looking angry and shocked. I looked up at him, knowing I’d fucked up. Of course I’d fucked up. “Damn it, kid, haven’t you done this before?”
“Ummm…. No.” Bet I sound like a 15 year old, I thought shamefully. I should have done like that one character in a bad gay magazine story I had read: practiced on a cucumber or something equally ridiculous.
Mike snorted. “You’re kidding.” Narrowed eyes and incredulity that made me feel like a slug. “Damn, you’re not kidding.” Stroking my hair with one hand he held out a finger towards my lips, his face softening into a comforting smile.
“Ready to learn?”
Three weeks I felt thoroughly okay. We’d come early for our shift, I stopped coming with Scott for a bit with some excuse about wanting to draw people at the café next door, and at first it was exciting. “I’m sorta having sex!” I wanted to tell my best friend, cheerfully, like it was some sort of indictment that I was normal. (Though I didn’t, because that would take another conversation.) This left me with almost no one to talk to, none of our friends knowing more then he did, which is probably why I put up with it for so long. A friend who knew probably would have clued me in sooner that Mike was not a good guy.
Mike did turn me on, more or less. I’d look at him and blush across the dining room, or when I’d turn in a drink order. He’d give me a leering up-down that made me feel naked. We’d meet in the storeroom or an empty room in the hotel, and he’d touch me at first, put his hand down my pants and stroke me until I felt hard, heat shooting through me from my stomach. Then he’d kiss me, not really letting me kiss him back. Hell, he’d take it. And then he’d push me down, and I’d take him all into my mouth, and I’d feel like I was doing something almost useful, as he stroked my hair and said, “Oh, god, Ethan, you’re so good… you’re so hot.”
But after three weeks, the leering up down just became a perfunctory head jerk in the direction of the storeroom. He’d just grab, and kiss, hand down my pants and tongue down my throat. And just as quickly his tongue would be out and his cock would be in my mouth, moaning, “oh yeah, yeah….” The boxes pressing into my back didn’t feel kinky anymore; they just felt dirty and pointy.
What the hell was this? When I was with him, I had no personality, not that we had ever talked. Sometimes he’d gift me with a nugget of bravado when we were pulling ourselves together afterwards. And it hit me, right there in the storeroom on a cold night, as he grabbed the back of my head and started controlling the rhythm and my jaw strained around his penis, which I’d gotten used to; making myself come down from my erection. Who needed an erection when you never came? And that he’d even stop bothering getting me very hard the last couple of times. This, I thought, isn’t as much fun as masturbating. The snarky part of my brain noted that perhaps I should be getting paid for the service, at the very least.
As if he sensed the sea change, (or maybe it was my marked lack of enthusiasm in blowing him) Mike pulled me up and towards him, grinning, an A&E ad in flesh. Then did something he’d never done before, shoved his hand down the back of my uniform dress pants, and started to rub his finger down my ass crack. Feeling me harden again and my muscles involuntarily flex around his hand, his grin widened and he let out a self-satisfied, “yeaaah. That’s what you want, isn’t it, pretty?”
I hated it when he called me that, it seemed obviously sarcastic. Or at least it did now.
His free hand snapped a condom out of his back pocket, and he held it between us like a sacred thing. “Maybe today we can try something new, huh? You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do this, Ethan…”
HOLY SHIT NO. Something screamed through my head, even while I knew I was turned on. No, the longer I looked at Mike I wasn’t turned on at all. The longer I looked at Mike I saw a complete asshole.
“No.” Shaking my head, shrugging him off, flustered. He wasn’t that much larger than me, and I sure as hell was ready to yell. “No, Mike. My first time isn’t going to be with you in a damn storeroom.” It scared me to know how much I was prepared to have to yell. What I knew about him as a person, and had until then ignored, hit me in the face so hard I almost snapped back visibly.
His handsome face wasn’t so handsome anymore, for a moment it was almost ugly, until he got it under control. Moving in close again, pulling me towards him with what sounded almost like a purr. “I’m so sorry, Ethan. This hasn’t been very nice, has it?” Kissing my neck, his fingers moved in calculated and soothing circles upon my lower back. “I’ll take you out tonight after work, buy you some drinks… we should hang out more.” He even lightly nuzzled my chin, an oddly off-putting gesture from him.
Somehow, he had misunderstood me, because that was less appealing than him fucking me up the ass. What the hell was wrong with me?!?! It’s not like I attached much meaning to the first time I had sex, but, still, here, now, left me cold as a fish.
Feeling like an ass myself, I zipped up my pants and started slinking towards the door. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Maybe I was overreacting. But all I really knew was I needed out of there, just like I needed out of that car with Heather. The dim, dusty storeroom was gross, just like I was gross.
Because I was still a freak, obviously. I wasn’t stupid, I’d known it’d come to this; men and women weren’t very different, in the end. And I’d known from the first time he’d touched me I didn’t want to go further with him. Or anyone. The very thought left me cold, even when all I wanted was release. But somehow I’d hoped that’d change. I’m an idiot.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Mike, but I’m not ready… I’m sorry. I’ve gotta go…” I got one last look of his enraged face, and fled to the comforting lights of the dining room.
“You little prick! Goddamn twink shit-”
“Ah, Ethan, you’re switching up the silverware.” Scott gently pointed out. “I changed the last four tables for you.”
“Oh! Damn. Sorry, Scott.” Making myself smile, I switched the set in front of me. “Out of it today, don’t know why.”
He wielded a knife at me. “TODAY? You’re the master of out of it, man.”
Who noticed a change when you were always this way? Comforting and depressing at the same time.
Scott flicked me in the back of the head, green eyes gleaming. I'm sure it's no surprise to say he was my first crush, and that it took some serious soul-searching to get over it.
“Don’t worry about that dick, Ethan. I know you hate it when people are unhappy with you, but it’s not personal.”
I winced. “Welll…”
“Well?” Scott tilted his head, but while we were talking, the first couple of customers had drifted in, and we started moving towards the register to grab our pads and pens. “Forget it, you know you’re always worried you screwed up or did something wrong. And you never do.” He handed mine to me. “But what DO you think you did to him?”
Smiling at him and blatantly ignoring the question, I scribbled his face with his tongue out in the corner and showed it to him, causing him to mirror it.
“You’re also the master of distraction.” He waved his pad at me, and a lock of red hair fell in one eye. “Look, Mr. Moeller, you better…”
“WORK, gentlemen!” The manager snapped as she strode by, and we winced and scrambled accordingly. Scott, I was confident, would have completely forgotten about that conversation in 20 minutes.
Inwardly groaning when I saw who my first customer was, I came forward with a smile. “Hello, Mrs. Lidemann. How are you today?” She turned in her seat and gleamed at me, petting her perfectly coiffed dark hair.
“Wonderful, Ethan, thank you. How are YOU?” She loaded the word with meaning, flashing as much of a come-hither as her botoxed face would manage. After taking her order I fled to the bar, handing it in to a frosty Mike. Our very upper-class hotel was located in a trendy suburb of a large city, and it attracted a large number of bored Ladies who Lunch. And Drink. They also flirted outrageously with young waiters, although I never understood why they didn’t stick with Scott; at least he bravely flirted back.
It was a beautiful place, done up like an old Victorian establishment in deep colors and dark woods. At night when we would close down, I would sometimes linger in the lobby and enjoy the quiet and the echo from the smooth marble floors.
The place really did attract some interesting locals. I had my regulars as did Scott, and our attempts to escape and upgrade to a job in the main restaurant(better tips, higher class, shorter hours) from the lounge bar was met with a resounding stonewall from the more experienced and older waiter club that controlled the service there. Supposedly we didn’t exude the right aura, too “green” at 19. Despite 8 months hauling ass in the consistently busier lounge at ridiculous (and probably illegal) hours, we weren’t officially ‘ready’.
We had both taken the year off after high school to somehow offset our meager funding for the good colleges we had gotten into, and this certainly paid better than retail. I wasn’t good for much more than art and Scott was loyal, thank god. We’d felt lonely enough with the two of us left behind, with all our friends taking off for educational pastures far and wide. He still had his girls, though, and I had… what? A growing sense of alienation?
Drama queen, I chided myself, and got to work at the new table that had sat in my section. Scott only had one customer, a tall, youngish man wearing sunglasses. While striding by I have to admit I gave him a look (sunglasses? It was a pretty cloudy day), because he had that certain effortless sense of self you don’t find in many people. He was very attractive on first glance, something completely masculine. Maybe it was the clothes?
Jeans, incredible boots, a nice, patterned buttoned-up shirt. Carefully wild hair that hung down to his neck in layers and was far too cool for most men older than 22. The legs didn’t seem to stop…. He had a book in front of him; I couldn’t tell what it was. The book and the man were somehow out of sync, and it messed with my perception of what someone who looked like that should be doing.
After staring at him mindlessly I had the uncomfortable sense he was staring back from behind his shades, and I hurriedly looked away. I returned to work and to worrying if the next 5 months here would be as incredibly weird as it was now because of Mike.
Still, despite believing I was indifferent, I sketched a quick picture of the guy on my pad, just to catch whatever the hell it was he had.
If I had only known… What? Would have knowing who he was make a difference? Honestly, it's simply the point that I can look back upon and see where it probably started.
“So, whatya’doin’ tonight, Ethan?” Scott said with a conspiratorial smile. We were leaning against the bar, not having much to do yet, and were on the opposite end of where Mike was taking care of a couple of loyal customers. Sexy-hair and Sunglasses was only about 10 feet away (drinking tea. That was even weirder than the book.), but we weren’t really concerned he'd want to listen to our chatter.
I was too busy sketching on my pad nonchalantly, knowing a lead in to a favor-laden invite when I heard one. “I was just going to have a late dinner with my mom and draw all night, actually.”
“On a Friday! PFfff.” Scott wrinkled up his nose, and I was reminded again of a tall Elijah Woods, oddly enough. “A Friday where we get to escape early, no less! You’re crazy. Now me…” He smiled with great self-satisfaction. “Me, I have contraband tickets to see Snowborne tonight.”
“Uh huh.” I continued to scribble away, creating some sort of strange plant-dragon hybrid that was sharing a cosmopolitan with Mrs. Lideman. “They’re okay… I hear their new album is pretty good. Not really my kind of music.”
He snorted. “Good! GOOD! Man, it’s more then good, it’s incredible! Their first was cool, but this one is tight. You’d actually probably really like it, it’s really different. And Mina really wants to go….really, really, really wants to go.”
“Awesome.” I smiled at him. “She finally got the date-hint?”
“Uhhh…. Wellllll.” He had the grace to look ashamed. “I told her you were coming; she thinks it’s a friend thing.”
I wrinkled my brow. “Can’t it be a friends thing with just the two of you? I can’t afford a concert right now. Now that I think about it, neither can you.”
“Aw, come on, Ethan, you know she has the hots for you.” He stuck a finger in my chest. “And the tickets were free, Jordan had to go visit his girlfriend in California, and…..if you go… we’ll go daaaancing afterwards!” He stretched out dancing and gave it a bit of a musical spin. And he did have me vaguely seduced. The only thing I was a slut for was dancing, unfortunately.
I started to chew on my pencil. “I really wanted to go to the Y tomorrow and swim early… And she does not have the hots for me.“
“What’s better exercise, an hour of laps surrounded by old biddies in a too-hot pool, or booty shakin’ for several hours surrounded by scantily clad hotties? And yes, she really, really does.” He took the pencil out of my mouth, wiped it on my shirt and handed it to me.
“Fine.” I sighed and pushed myself away from the bar, watching a new customer wander in and be seated in my section. Crap, Ms. Brasin. Last week, she grabbed my ass, and then winked at me. Not something I wanted repeated.
I don’t like concerts, I don’t like tight crowds standing like sheep and smoky, hot air, and I knew I’d rather be drawing. But dancing, although so similar in environment, was worth a loud concert. Being really good lately, I didn’t go more then once every few weeks, and I definitely had an urge. “She doesn’t have the hots for me, Scott. Who would?”
Giving me the strangest look before I turned away, he shook his head. “You’re so damn weird.”