The following fictional narrative involves sexually-explicit erotic events between men. If you shouldn't be reading this, please move on.
In the world of this story, the characters don't always use condoms. In the real world, you should care enough about yourself and others to always practice safe sex.
The author retains all rights. No reproductions or links to other sites are allowed without the author's consent.
The city of Stafford, the Sunrise Arts Center, and all the characters in this story are fictitious.
Special thanks to Mickey S. and Drew Hunt, who have provided inspiration, advice, and encouragement throughout the writing of this series.
What does a single, retired, gay man do in a town like Stafford, especially if he doesn't golf?
Well, he can read, garden, and volunteer at the Arts Alliance. At least that's what I did.
I never thought I'd be moving back to my home town. Things were much more difficult for gay teens when I was in high school. They can be bad now, but back in the fifties, there just weren't any gays in Stafford High. Oh, there must have been some, of course, but I didn't know anyone who was out. In fact, except for Burke, my occasional companion in masturbation who was just as much in the closet as I was, I didn't know any gay guys at all. Maybe that's why I couldn't wait to shake the dust of what was then a sleepy Southern town off my shoes and go north to college.
As things turned out, except for summers while I was at Oberlin, I never came back to Stafford except for occasional visits.
I was just old enough to miss out on Nam. During the sixties I took part in lots of demonstrations, both as a grad student at Michigan and later as a faculty member at Clearfield University. I had a friend at Oberlin who was also my paramour for three years. We'd call him a fuckbuddy today, I suppose, though I never heard that term until much later. At Clearfield, I had a few discreet affairs before I met Will, my life's partner. Will and I had to be very careful during the seventies, maintaining separate domiciles. As things became more relaxed in the 80's, Will and I lived openly if quietly together. No one on campus gave us any problem about it, and life was beautiful until 1994 when he died of an aneurism while working out at the gym. I've been alone ever since.
When my mother died, I inherited the family home in Stafford. It was a big old brick Georgian in a shady neighborhood. I was advised to hang on to it because, as my financial advisor said, it would only appreciate in value. Luckily, my first cousin once removed, Chuck Baker, who was looking for a place for his growing family, was eager to rent it. That worked out well for all of us.
I'd had enough faculty meetings and paper grading, so I decided to retire when I was 65. And after 40 or so Midwest winters, I thought it might be nice to move back to the Southeast. When Chuck told me he and Brenda were building a house of their own, I decided to go home.
So, at the age of 65 and a few months, I found myself back in Stafford, living in the house I grew up in. I made some renovations to the place, but when those were completed, I began to look around for things to do. You can only do so much gardening, and I didn't want to go through all the books on my to-read list in the first summer of my retirement. I remembered that my parents had been members of the Stafford Arts Alliance and had enjoyed the exhibits and concerts at Sunrise.
One day in August of that year I dropped by the center and introduced myself to George Henry. He and I hit it off at once. He was a couple of years younger than I was, but at our age that made no difference. When I told him I had a lot of free time and was willing to help out, he chuckled and said there weren't many jobs for someone with my qualifications, unless I wanted to write a history of the Alliance. I told him I might be interested in doing that a little later, but first I wanted to get to know more about the organization. He said he had just the thing. That's how I wound up sitting at the reception desk at Sunrise every Thursday morning from 9:00 until 12:30.
It worked out well. I got to know lots of interesting people and learned how the organization worked. George and Beth occasionally invited me to dinner, usually when they had invited an odd number of people and needed a single guy to balance out the table. I'm sure George had figured out I was gay, but he never said anything, and neither did I. After all, this was still the South, and I wasn't going to advertise. I didn't want to do anything to make waves. At least not until I had tested the waters.
As a volunteer, I didn't officially know anything about the interviewing or the candidates for George's job. But a lot of my high school friends were now members of the Alliance and several were on the Board of Directors. I had also gotten to know the Sunrise staff pretty well. So, official or not, I knew which candidates were coming for interviews, got a look at some of them, and knew all the arguments that were going on amongst members of the selection committee.
I must say I was astonished and also very pleased to learn that they had hired a gay man as the new director. When the announcement was officially made, I was surprised to learn that he was from Clearfield. But, though I had been to the university art gallery often enough, and I had seen Dr. Pell at meetings occasionally, I had never actually spoken to the man.
The Thursday morning after he took over his new job, he walked out to the lobby where I was on duty and said, "I'll be damned. Dr. Baker, what in hell are you doing here?" I burst out laughing, stood up, and shook hands with him.
"I'm surprised you recognize me. We never officially met at Clearfield, did we?"
"I suppose not, but I've often heard you speak at faculty meetings."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Well, it's great to meet you, finally." Then I explained that after my retirement two years earlier I'd come back to Stafford because it was my home town.
"Sure it wasn't just to get away from those terrible Midwest winters? Come into my office, please." He then told Jean, or Miss Jean, as everyone called her, to keep her eye on the monitor in her office because I was off the desk for a while. He asked if I wanted coffee, which I accepted.
"Dr. Baker, we've got to find a better job for the former chair of the English Department at Clearfield than answering the phone."
I chuckled. "Please, it's Jon. And I do more than answer the phone. I greet visitors, sign for FedEx deliveries, and sometimes get to fold programs or brochures. Oh, and George put me in charge right away of proofreading everything the Alliance puts out."
It was his turn to laugh. "And you don't mind that?"
"Not at all. I find myself doing things my secretary did at Clearfield. I've called her and told her I never thanked her enough when we were working together. But, actually, Dr. Pell, I enjoy what I'm doing. The Alliance is a vital part of life in Stafford, and I'm glad to help any way I can."
"Look, let's dispense with the titles both ways. I'm Whitney. Sorry if that sounds formal, but I've always disliked Whit."
"May I ask why?"
"Yeah, the two monosyllables sound like a sledge hammer. Whit Pell!"
"Oh, okay. I see what you mean."
"Now, Jon, I still think we'll have to find something for you to do around here more in line with your skills."
"Hey, I fold a pretty mean brochure!"
He laughed. "I'm going to be looking for something. Meanwhile, thanks for what you are doing. I'm sure from your vantage point you have a pretty good idea by now what goes on around here. I want you to promise me something."
"I would like you to come to me with suggestions whenever you think there's anything we could do to make things work better. Okay?"
I stood and we shook hands again. "Sure, I'll do that."
As I walked down the hallway, which was hung with art from the Alliance's permanent collection, I wondered if I should come out to Whitney. It would certainly be nice to be able to talk with another gay man sometimes. Being old, gay, and single could get pretty lonely. I didn't flatter myself that we'd become lovers. I just wanted someone I could talk openly with. Since I didn't really know the man, however, and since this was Stafford, I decided to wait and watch. I wouldn't want him outing me to the community. He'd made sure everyone knew he was gay when he took the job, and maybe he would expect me to come out, too, if he knew about me. I wasn't sure I was ready to deal with that. Certainly there would be my various cousins around town to think about.
As I said, that first meeting between Whitney and me took place in June, not long after he arrived on the job. A week or so later, he invited me to have lunch with him when my shift ended at 12:30.
Since I had told him I was a native Staffordian, he had lots of questions about the city and its residents. I reminded him that I had been away since high school.
"I'll bet you know some of the old families, though, the ones with a sense of local history and tradition. And deep pockets?"
I grinned and said I probably did.
We hit it off easily. He was from this part of the country, too, though his family were tidewater folk rather than from a hill city like Stafford. Despite his being out of the area for fifteen years or so, he still had the dialect. He asked me one day why I didn't. I told him I'd been away from the area longer than he'd been alive. Besides, back when I went north a southern accent was something of a liability, so I'd tried to get rid of mine, or at least tone it down.
"I'm glad to say there's no need for that any more," I commented.
"Yeah, we should all be able to be open about who and what we are," he responded. I glanced quickly at him to see if he might have picked up on my being gay, but he was looking at the menu.
We lunched together perhaps a couple of times a month for the rest of that summer, and often thereafter in fact.
When I got to work a few days after that arousing meeting with Louis in my office, Jean said that Louis had left me a folder and that she'd put it in my inbox. I thanked her, checked for phone messages and email, and then went back to reading through some notes and suggestions that George Henry had left for me. I could tell from the size of Louis' folder that it contained more of his photographs, and I decided to get some work done first and reward myself later with a look at them.
I'd been so busy learning about my job that I was later getting around to George's notes than I should have been, and I discovered that he'd really given me lots of suggestions, though always with the reminder that it was my job now, and to feel free to ignore any of them that didn't seem promising. The first thing I saw that morning as I reopened George's folder was a note about Jonathan Baker:
"I suggested jokingly to Jon right after he became a volunteer that some day he should write a history of the Alliance. I always meant to raise that topic with him again but never got around to it. I'm often asked why we don't have such a history, and Dr. Baker would seem to be the perfect person to do the job if he's willing."
I thought so, too, and decided to talk with him about the possibility.
Then the phone rang. When I got off the line, Liz Marples, the president of the Board, was waiting to see me. After that it was a meeting with the gallery committee. And so my morning went. It wasn't until I got back from a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that I was able to take a look at the contents of Louis' folder.
It contained another dozen photographs, all in black and white, all exceptionally beautiful. He had done some architectural studies, some close-ups of flowers, some pictures of white dogwood along the edge of a wood. The contrast between the dark and light was dramatic in each shot, almost surrealistically so in some.
The last picture in the group was quite different. It was a nude shot of Louis. He'd obviously done it with the timed release feature on his camera. The lighting on this one was softer, showing many different gradations of skin tone. The boy – man – was standing with his back to the camera. Actually he was turned slightly to the left, and his head was turned more to the left than his body so his face was in profile. All the weight was on the left leg, the right foot slightly to the side, the knee bent. It took my breath away. But I wasn't sure whether it was from the beauty of the picture or the beauty of the subject.
Just then Jean came into the office. I quickly slipped Louis' photo under the others and closed the folder, hoping she hadn't seen me looking at it.
She dropped some things in my in-box and went back to her desk. I knew I should get on with my work, but I sat there a while wondering why Louis had included the nude shot of himself. I remembered his parting comment as he left my office the week before. He'd said I was "hot." If he wanted to turn me on, he was being too damned successful. The question now was how I was going to react.
Duty called, however, and I didn't have time to worry about Louis for the rest of the work day. I'd been looking for a house, and I had an appointment with a realtor that evening to look at something that had just come on the market. She'd shown me lots of properties, but nothing I really liked. Turned out I loved this one. It had three bedrooms. I figured I could use one bedroom for a study and still have a guest room. Not that I expected to have many guests. I liked its clean, modern style. On a hilly, wooded lot, with an exterior of redwood, stone, and lots of glass, it sort of crawled over the slope. Best of all, it had a large, detached, heated garage. I could keep the car in part of it and turn the rest into a studio where I could have my kiln.
Susan, the realtor, and I grabbed Chinese take-out and took it to her office, where we could eat while we talked about making an offer on the house. Once that was done and I was ready to leave, she said she thought I was probably lonely, being new in town, single and all. She asked if I'd like to have dinner with her sometime.
"Susan, I'd love to have dinner with you, but if you're looking for anything more than that, you need to know that I'm gay."
She laughed. "I know, that, Whitney. Everyone in Stafford knows by now the new director of SAA is gay. You're the talk of the town. I was an art history major in college, and you know how hard it is for us to find jobs. That's why I'm here, selling real estate. And, I might add, making more money than I'd ever have made teaching in college. But I'd love to have dinner and just talk, if you're interested."
I think I must have blushed. At least my face felt like it was on fire. "Susan, I'm sorry. By all means, let's get together. You'll call when you hear from the owners about our offer?"
"If they accept, let's go somewhere to celebrate. You choose the restaurant, since you know Stafford inside and out."
She shook hands with me and said, "We should hear tomorrow or the next day. I'll be sure to call as soon as I hear from them. I'm confident we'll be able to have that celebration dinner. And I'll look forward to it."
"Yeah, me too."
Later that evening, back at the apartment, I put on some Ravel, got out of my khakis, and just loafed around in my briefs and tee. I poured some sour mash over a couple of cubes and flopped into my Eames chair.
What a day! I'd made an offer on a house, one that would take a substantial chunk of my trust fund. Susan assured me that it was a good investment. The house was in excellent condition, having been owned by a local builder, so I wouldn't need to spend lots of money on repairs. I wanted to do some redecorating, but that could be a project I'd spread out over months or a year.
At some point my thoughts went back to that photo of Louis. It was a very sensual picture, even though his genitals weren't showing. The skin tones, the play of light on his muscular back, butt, and legs – all were beautiful and, to me, highly erotic. Was Louis trying to seduce me, or was I jumping to conclusions?
I closed my eyes, reached for my penis, and let the Ravel wash over me as I thought about that picture.
The next day I sealed Louis' folder in a large manila envelope, wrote his name on the front, and gave it to Jean.
"Louis will probably be around to pick this up. If he asks what I thought, tell him I said he's got real talent and I'd like to talk with him."
She looked puzzled and said, "Okay, boss."
Back at my desk, I wondered, did I really want to have a face-to-face with Louis? What was I going to say to him? That he'd turned me on, become the subject of my masturbatory fantasies? Hardly! I certainly wasn't going to get into a sexual relationship with the boy. He was a rising senior, so he probably wasn't 18 yet. Besides, it would be abusing my position as his supervisor at Sunrise.
I was just going to have to tell him gently but firmly that this was a no-go.
But what if he really just wanted my opinion of his photographs? Yeah, he'd told me I was "hot." But if I said something about not having sex with him and he'd never had that in mind, I'd really be creating a mess.
I picked up the stack of phone call slips Jean had left on my desk and began returning calls. The day disappeared as I went about my duties. I wondered what it was going to be like when October came and our "season" began.
The next morning when I got to work, the manila envelope was on my desk again. Sealed. But it contained a portfolio of different pictures, ones I hadn't seen before. This time most of them were in color. Here again, his eye was infallible. Colors, textures, subjects varied, but each work showed a sense of composition and a technical ability that were really rare.
The last picture in the stack was another nude study of Louis from the same series as the previous two. This one, however, was a full frontal shot. He had his left fist clenched loosely between his pecs. The right arm hung at his side. He was looking off into the distance. If that reminds you of Michelangelo's "David," I'm sure the effect was intentional. One of the differences, however, was that Louis was much better endowed than the great Renaissance statue. Here again, the lighting and the black and white medium made the total effect breathtaking. The boy was beautiful. The photography was superb. And I was extremely uncomfortable in my khakis.
This was a campaign to drive me crazy. The boy had to know what he was doing. And I became less and less convinced of my ability to withstand the attack on my integrity.
You'd think after nearly a decade, I wouldn't miss Will so much. As the young people say, "Yeah, right!"
I'd been terribly lonely after his death, of course, but I had my teaching responsibilities to keep me busy. And when, a year or two later, I was chosen chair of the department, I had teaching and administrative duties to help dull the ache.
I thought coming back to Stafford might be good. A return home. A new life. Which of the Greeks said, "You can't bathe in the same river twice"? Whoever! But Thomas Wolfe was right when he said "You can't go home again." Looking back on it, I suppose I hadn't been all that happy as a child and a teen. After all, I had known I liked boys almost from my first erection. I had felt alone and frightened. Knowing Burke helped. Although we never talked about our being different, we had a bond. We silently recognized what it was that set us apart from society. We found relief, if not reassurance, in being able to masturbate together.
After two years back in Stafford, almost desperately lonely, missing Will as much as ever, I had no idea what had happened to Burke. We'd never corresponded after high school. For all I knew he had been happily married for forty years and had an army of grandchildren while I was longing for someone, some good man, in my life.
Whitney and I had lunch together fairly often that summer, and I came to respect, like, and admire him. He was intelligent and funny. What's more, I came to believe he was a man of integrity. But I'd never been able to bring myself to tell him I was, like him, gay. I wasn't even sure why. Old habits die hard, they say. Self protection. But surely I didn't need to be worried about coming out to Whitney. And though admitting that I was like him wouldn't solve my loneliness, it would, perhaps, give me a friend who could understand what I was feeling. I just didn't want to come across as some pathetic old man. `Perhaps, Jon, that's just what you are,' I thought.
I received a long email from an old friend toward the end of that summer, and it served to remind me how lonely I was. I'd met Doug Curtis at a meeting of the Modern Language Association ten years earlier. We'd bugged out of hearing a paper on something neither of us cared a fig about and had a drink. One drink led to several, and we wound up having dinner together. Doug was gay, he taught English at Cranmer College, which was not all that far from Clearfield, so, despite the difference in perhaps a decade in our ages, we had a lot to talk about. I told him all about Will, of course. He explained that he didn't have anyone in his life and had to be pretty careful at a small college like Cranmer.
After that, we met annually at the MLA meetings and exchanged emails every month or so in between. Then, just about the time I retired, Doug dropped off the radar screen. When I tried to let him know about my retirement, I got no response. After I moved to Stafford, I tried to send him my new email address, plus my USPS address and phone number, but my email came back as undeliverable. I wondered what had happened to Doug. I'd decided if I didn't hear anything over the summer, I'd call the English Department at Cranmer and see if they could tell me anything.
I didn't have to do that, however, because Doug emailed me, saying he'd seen an announcement of my retirement. The article had said I was now living in Stafford, so he got on the web and tracked me down. It's amazing – and a little scary – what information is out there about us.
Doug told me that he had lost his parents, inherited some money, had some problems at Cranmer (which he didn't go into), moved to Florida, and met the man he'd been dreaming of all his life. They were living in a little town where Doug's spouse was the former mayor, now practicing law. They were blissfully happy, Doug said. He told me they had been renovating a big old house by a lake and that they'd love to have me come and visit them whenever I could.
I wrote back, telling him how happy I was for him and how glad I was that we were in touch once more. I told him I might take him up on the offer to visit, and I extended an offer for him and his partner to come and see me. I reminded them that it was much nicer here in the hills in the summer than it was where they lived, and suggested that they might want to come then.
Hearing from Doug and reestablishing contact made me happy, of course. But I also couldn't help envying him. Why couldn't I find someone? Will and I had talked from time to time about what would happen when one of us died and the other was alone. I knew he didn't want me to be lonely. I sighed as I wished for the umpteenth time that some great guy would show up on my doorstep.
I'd been looking at hot guys and getting a hard-on since I was ten. I was used to hiding my erections wherever they occurred. Baggy pants helped. Book bags were good. All through Jefferson Middle School and through my junior year at Stafford High, I'd seen lots of guys I'd fantasized about having sex with. There was Carl Radford in my class at Jefferson. At fourteen he was incredible. Already 5'9", he had dirty blond hair, green eyes that made my knees weak and my dick hard, a vee-shaped torso, and a butt to die for. I jacked off to mental images of him for months.
And so it went.
But I'd never been as drawn to anyone in my life as I was to Whitney Pell. I kept telling myself that he was almost old enough to be my father, though he wasn't actually as old as Papa. I told myself that a man of his age and experience in the world couldn't be interested in a 17 year old kid like me. But I was infatuated with him. In lust with him. I wanted him soo bad. I might have said I was in love with him, but I wasn't sure then just what "love" really was. All I knew was that I needed Whitney. In bed. In me.
I realized that what I was doing with those pictures might have bad results. For one thing, he could help me get into college, maybe even get a scholarship, and I might be about to fuck that up. Even worse, he might laugh at me, tell me how pathetic it was for a kid of 17 to have the hots for a man like him.
Whatever I warned myself about, though, wasn't enough to make me back off. I put together another portfolio of my photographic studies. Once again, I added one of the self-portrait series.
I got the house. I took Susan to dinner to celebrate as we had planned. And after that I was busy. I wanted to remove and replace all of the floor covering. I had them tear out all the old carpeting. In some places I had hardwood installed instead. In the kitchen, breakfast and entry areas, I had ceramic tile installed. And in all the bedrooms, I had new carpet put down.
North Carolina is the best place in the country to shop for furniture. Unless your taste runs to Italian, and then it all comes out of a catalog. So I had to order a lot of the furniture from seeing samples or pictures in a book. For the rest, I was able to go to showrooms in Hickory and High Point and "feel the goods" before I ordered.
After Art Camp was over, there were two weeks before the local schools started. Labor Day came in that break, too. In addition to being busy with floor covering and furniture, I had to oversee the getting out of the Alliance's membership brochures along with the concert and art exhibit schedules. That's where our volunteers really helped. We sent out 5,000 letters along with the brochures and schedules. One member or another of the Alliance wrote a personal note on each letter. I'm sure Jean has a record somewhere of the number of "person hours" it took to get that task done.
After that, however, we could all take a deep breath and relax. For a few days, anyway.
The last day of Art Camp Louis had picked up the folder with the frontal nude shot and left another. If he wanted to convince me that he had talent, he had clearly done so. He would have my best energies to get him into a good art program, with a scholarship if he needed one. If he wanted to get me into bed, his final salvo almost succeeded.
Again, there were eleven prints of variety, taste, and skill. Number twelve, however, was from the same series of nude portraits of the artist. This one, however, was a profile. The sneaky bastard had done it in profile because it displayed most clearly his erection. His hands clasped behind his head, he was standing with his pelvis thrust forward, emphasizing his endowment. Whereas the others in the series had been sensual and progressively erotic, this one, the culmination, was practically pornographic.
I was lucky, I suppose, that he left it with me that Friday, for it meant that I wouldn't in the normal course of things be seeing him soon. Art Camp was over. I would have to return this latest portfolio to him with some sort of comment, but there was no rush. I could leave it with Jean until he decided to come by and ask for it. Or I could mail it to him. Or I could ask him to see me. But what would I say to him? That I desperately wanted to get him out of his polo shirt, cargos, and Birks? That I wanted to take him to bed and introduce him to the joys of man sex?
For all I knew, he might teach me a thing or two about man sex. But I doubted that. Assuming he was gay, and I thought that was beyond doubt, he might have had some experience. But his way of enticing me suggested that he was a novice. If he were more experienced, surely his approach to me would have been more assured, more direct. Unless he was really crafty beyond his years.
His strategy, if that's what it was, had worked. I was so turned on by this boy, this boy in a man's body, that I had trouble thinking about anything else. What was I going to do?
I worried about Dr. Jon. What was he doing with his life? He spent Thursday mornings here at Sunrise. He came to all the exhibit-opening receptions. He had lunch with Whitney a couple of times a month. I knew he and Whitney went to the same church, though I'm not sure they knew that. It was a big parish, and they had two services each Sunday morning. But what else did the poor man do with himself? He never mentioned having a wife or children or grands, so I guessed he'd never been married. I know you shouldn't assume that a man his age who's never been married is gay, but you do think that, don't you?
I decided Jon needed somebody. I thought maybe if I put my mind to it I could find somebody suitable. The problem was, there were so many more single women his age than men. The first thing to do was to try to find out if he was gay without asking him directly.
Art Camp was a big success. We had more kids than ever, and that was good. They'd go back to their schools and talk about Sunrise and our programs and how cool it all was. We had a good relationship with the local schools and had bus loads of kids at the center throughout the school year. We had an interactive exhibit for elementary and middle school kids just after the student art show in the spring. But the more kids we could reach, the better for our mission.
I wasn't sure what was going on between Louis and Whitney there toward the end of Art Camp. I overheard Louis telling the boss he was "hot." It didn't surprise me that he thought so. After all, I thought so, too. Besides, I'd figured out that Louis was gay when he was fourteen or so. Not that he came across all swish or anything. But if you watch people, you can tell, you know. At least I can. What did surprise me was that he had the cojones to tell Whitney what he thought.
Then there was that exchange of portfolios. And it was curious. After the first one, Whitney always put the portfolio in an envelope and sealed it up before giving it to me. I was so intrigued that I was temped to open them up and see what could possibly need to be sealed, but duty won out over curiosity. The last envelope was the biggest temptation. It was on my desk for a week before Louis came by to pick it up. I gave him Whitney's message. He grinned, said "Yes!" and left.
I've mentioned that the Thursday after Labor Day we opened a new exhibition. Although the Alliance frequently had works by two or three artists at the same time, this show had only the work of Stanley Klusza. We have a "concierge committee" who usually pick up visiting artists or musicians at the airport and look after them while they are in town. We put them up at a good hotel, of course, but someone usually has dinner with them, sees if they have any unusual requests. Bob Phillips called me earlier in the week to tell me that Klusza had shipped his paintings but that he would be driving his truck from Ahoskie. Bob told me that he and his wife were attending her parents' 50th wedding anniversary party that evening. He wanted to know if I'd take Klusza out to dinner after the reception and get him back to his hotel. I told him I'd be happy to, and to enjoy the evening's festivities.
Since it was now officially after Labor Day, I thought I'd wear my navy blazer over a fresh pair of khakis and a blue Oxford shirt. I chose a lavender floral tie, just to keep from looking too Brooks Brothers.
True to his word, Bob delivered Klusza to my office a few minutes before 5:00 when the reception was to start. The first thing I thought when I saw him was Stanley Kowalski. It may have been in part because of the first name the artist shared with Tennessee Williams' character. But he also looked a lot like Brando. About six feet and muscular, he had dark, curly hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a chambray shirt, tight fitting Levi's, and cowboy boots.
I couldn't help thinking what a contrast there was between his appearance and the delicacy of the work that Jerome, our custodian, and I had spent two days hanging. He did the most amazingly detailed water colors of Carolina shore birds. I loved each picture we hung better than the previous one. Even Jerome, who was pretty blasé from hanging exhibitions for several years, said he liked Klusza's stuff. I predicted that we'd sell a lot of them during the six weeks they'd be in our main gallery.
What I couldn't have predicted was that I'd wind up with him in my bed. But that's what happened. We connected instantly. I don't mean we fell in love with each other. But from the moment we shook hands in my office, each of us recognized that the other was gay and that there was a strong attraction there. That hadn't happened to me often in my life, and I was excited by the prospect of sex for the first time since Kyle had flown the coop.
After the reception I took him to the same little neighborhood place Susan had introduced me to the night we celebrated my owning my house. We talked and drank a lot of red wine and consumed vast amounts of pasta. Afterward, he never got to his hotel. We went back to my place, where we drank Jack Daniels.
We weren't too drunk, however. About midnight we undressed each other, fell into my bed, and managed to amuse each other splendidly for a couple of hours before we went to sleep. The next morning we renewed our activities. We'd slept later than usual for me. So, after we'd showered and breakfasted, I called Jean and told her I might be a little late getting to the office because I was breakfasting with Mr. Klusza before he set out for Ahoskie.
"Tell him we sold five of his pieces at the reception last night, boss. That should brighten his day."
I gave Stanley the news and told him I thought we'd sell several more before the show came down. That was good for both of us because the Alliance got a nice cut of everything we sold. His kind of art usually sells well because lots of people buy it for wall décor.
So I took him back to his hotel where we hugged when I dropped him curbside. I didn't see him again. A month later we packed up his things that hadn't sold and shipped them back to him. His show had been financially rewarding for both him and for us. His name was now better known in Stafford and the surrounding area.
Our night of spectacular sex helped put Louis out of my mind for twenty four hours or so. For about the same length of time, Stanley helped me forget how, amidst all these people, I was lonely.
To be continued.