This story may occasionally include explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males. If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned. If you find this material offensive, please leave.
This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. Everyone lives in my head. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2017 by Steven Wells.
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"How may I help you?" the receptionist at Haney-Dawson asked.
"I'm Connor Rodriguez, Cynthia" I replied after I saw her name on the name plate on her desk. "I'm here to see my cousin Noel Ramirez-Sanchez... only he doesn't know I'm even in Boston."
"Ah!" Cynthia replied. "The old `here to surprise your cousin' trick. It happens so often here, we have a procedure for this situation. Tina, could you hold the fort here while I show this gentleman to Noel's office?"
"Sure," Tina replied.
"Please follow me, Mr. Rodriguez," Cynthia said as she stood. I followed her through the locked door. "You must be Noel's actor cousin from New York."
"Yes," I replied. I was surprised she knew Noel had an actor cousin from New York. "As of today, however, I'm his actor cousin from Boston. And I'm not an actor any more. I start work tomorrow as Program Director at the Boston Center for the Arts."
"Congratulations," Cynthia said. "Here we are."
Cynthia knocked on the open door of Noel's office. I didn't expect Noel to have an actual office.
"Someone is here to see you, Noel," Cynthia said as I stepped through the doorway.
"Holy sh... cow!" Noel exclaimed as he leapt from his chair and quickly crossed to where I stood. He pulled me into a bear hug. "Why are you here, Connor?"
"I start a new job in Boston tomorrow," I replied. "I thought I would announce my arrival before I begin working."
"I'll be on my way, gentlemen," Cynthia said.
"Thank you, Cynthia," I said as she left.
"What job?" Noel asked.
"Program Director at the Boston Center for the Arts," I replied. "I'm staying at the Fairmont around the corner. The Fairmont will be my home until I find a place of my own. I thought I'd stop by and find out how you and your new husband are doing. I also want to meet your new husband."
"If you can give me about fifteen minutes, I can escort you to our house," Noel suggested. "You can meet my `new' husband, although we've been married over a year. So, he's not really my `new' husband anymore."
"I'll be on standby," I replied as John grabbed something from his desk and hurried out of his office.
I looked around Noel's office. Private. Fortieth floor. Floor to ceiling windows. Sleek, contemporary furnishings.
"We're ready, Connor," Noel said as he stepped back into my office. "I'd like you to meet Gavin. He's the reason I'm here. Gavin, this is my cousin, Connor Rodriguez."
"Very nice to meet you, Connor," Gavin said as he and Connor shook hands. "I'm sort of envious. You pursued your acting career in New York. I would have loved to do the same, but I didn't have the courage."
"I'm not certain it was courage or stupidity," Connor said with a smile. "One of the reasons I took this job in Boston is security. I'll be paid on a regular basis."
"Ready to meet the other men in my life, Con?" Noel asked.
"Yup," I replied as I followed Noel out of his office to the underground garage.
Noel clicked open a shiny black BMW with brown interior.
`Holy shit,' I said to myself. `Nice office and a nice car.'
"Where do you want to find an apartment?" Noel asked.
"I would prefer the South End," I replied. "I might need to rethink my options from what I understand. Do people really spend three-thousand dollars for an apartment in the South End?"
"Or more," Noel replied. "You shouldn't go into sticker shock since you've been living in Manhattan for four years."
"I had a boyfriend to share expenses with in New York," I replied. "He's not my boyfriend anymore."
"Sounds like we have a lot to discuss," Noel replied with a grin as we pulled into a driveway of a huge house.
"Have you been keeping secretes, Noel?" I asked, also with a grin.
"What do you mean?" Noel asked as he hit the door opener.
"Spiffy office, BMW, huge house, a second BMW in the garage," I said. "Are you keeping something from your mother's sister?"
"Let's go inside," Noel replied. "I see a drink in the offing."
We walked from the garage into the house. We eventually ended up in this huge kitchen.
"John," Noel yelled. "I'm home!"
I heard sound of dog toenails clipping the hardwood floors. The sound gets louder until three dogs slide to a stop in front of us.
"Connor, please meet Tucker, Toby, and Tiger," Noel said as he introduced the dogs. "Guys, this is my cousin Connor."
The dogs performed sniff tests to decide whether I was friend or foe. I looked up as an absolutely breath-taking man walked into the kitchen with a little boy in his arms.
"Connor," Noel said as he stood next to the man I assumed was his husband. "These are the men of my life. My husband John and our son Eagan. Please meet my cousin, Connor. He surprised me at the office today."
"It's great to finally meet you, Connor," John said to me as we shook hands. "Do you want to say hello to your Daddy's cousin?"
"Hello," Eagan said. "Are you my uncle?"
"Would you like me to be your uncle?" I asked.
"Yup," Eagan replied. "I like uncles."
"How's school going for you, Eagan?" I asked
"It's okay," Eagan explained. "I wish the doggies could come with me, but Daddy said doggies don't go to school."
"They should go to obedience school," John said. "We're afraid they may get kicked out. They really don't like authority figures."
"Just like their Daddy," Noel said with a smile.
"I will run and change into something less formal," John added. "Let me know what you want for dinner once I am finished changing."
"We will make our choices from the menu and give you our order," Noel said with a smile.
John ran upstairs to change while Noel and I continued our catch up talk. I noticed John return from changing. My tongue almost hung out of my mouth.
"Jesus, John," Noel exclaimed. "Have you no shame. You're going commando again. What am I going to do with you, John?"
"Lay on your back and spread your legs," I added.
"Good idea, Connor," John agreed. "Have you made your dinner choices?"
"Salmon," Noel replied.
"Eagan, why don't you get the dogs their food and new water in their bowl?" John asked.
"Sure," Eagan said as he wiggled to the floor and ran off with a stampede of dogs behind him.
"You know by now I am jealous as shit, cuz," I said to Noel.
"Why?" Noel asked.
"Good looking husband, nice kid, great house, expensive car, and an office with a killer view," I explained. "Me? I have a former boyfriend who I discovered is an ass, no car, no place to live, and a job I am going to love but pays shit."
"I have been very, very lucky," Noel admitted. "When John and I met a few years ago, we were both living a rather meager life with none of the perks we have today. I could lose the job, the house, and the cars. I can't lose my husband, my kid, or our dogs. I thought you and your boyfriend were happy?"
"We were until I discovered he was fucking anything he could stick his dick into, which, by the way, was more than I can count on both hands," I explained. "Plus he left behind a gift which will keep on giving. I'm HIV positive thanks to my asswipe of a boyfriend."
"John, could you fix us a drink while we gather around the kitchen island to discuss life in more detail?" Noel asked.
"Absolutely," John replied. "Shall I make doubles?"
"Let's see how the first one goes down," Noel replied as he and I settled on stools around the island. "You and John have a lot in common in terms of ex-boyfriends. You and I have a lot in common in terms of over-religious families."
"Here we are, gentlemen," John said as he deposited the drinks on the island. "Let's drink to a happy truth sharing event. Do you want to start, Noel?"
"Once upon a time, I lived with my mother and brothers," Noel began. "I came out in college to my friends in school. I didn't tell any one of my friends from high school or any of my family. I lived six fucking years of my life in the closet because my mother's religion taught her to hate gay people. So, I had to be sneaky. I'd go out with a guy once or twice, and I'd break it off if we seemed to be growing closer. John?"
"I moved into my own apartment after I graduated from a community college with an associate's degree in computer science. I also began working at a UPS warehouse as I began looking for a job in the computer fields. Well, guess what? Not many firms would hire a dude with just an associate's degree. So I continued working at the UPS warehouse. Do you follow me so far?"
"I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the punchline," Connor replied.
"Punch was my first thought when I figured out my ex-boyfriend, Pedro, not only had a big dick, but he also thought with it, too," John continued. "I developed a rash on my ankles and lower legs. It didn't go away. When I had my annual physical, I mentioned it to my primary care doctor. He ran some tests. It turned out I tested positive for HIV."
"I see a pattern here," Connor added. "But I'll wait patiently until you drop the big reveal."
"A friend of mine insisted she be with me when I told Pedro the news," John continued. "Before I tell you about his reaction, I need to point out I thought we were in a monogamous relationship so we eliminated using condoms after we both tested negative about three months after he moved into my luxurious, spacious studio apartment in Central Square. His first reaction to the news came as a shock to me. He accused me of sleeping around, when, in fact, he was the culprit. I was, to say the least, devastated. Connor?"
"All I can say, John, is I'm guessing this is not uncommon in the gay community," I added.
"There are straight bastards and there are gay bastards," John added.
"So, my ex and I met about two years ago," I began. "Tide, his real first name, had a career as a model. I say had because he fucked his modeling career up with ecstasy. I should have been more observant, but I lost myself in getting my acting career going. I did well. One day the cops showed up at our front door with guns drawn. It seems Tide left a deposit with another trick. The trick pressed rape and burglary charges against Tide. Ten other men came forward, and the rest is history. The judge sentenced Tide to twenty- to thirty-years in prison. Tide almost succeeded in taking me with him. Thank God it didn't work. At least he's out of my hair."
"John's ex almost killed us," Noel added. "We'll leave this part of our stories for another time. John and I owe a lot of our lives right now to joining an HIV support group at the Aids Action Committee facilities. We met when we attended our first meeting. We moved in together before we became boyfriends. It was just a friend-helping-friend relationship until we actually spent some time together alone."
"My first break happened when a guy in the support group discovered I had an associate's in computer science," John continued his story. "Chris just happened to own a website development business, and he needed staff. He hired me on a hunch I would work well with the team. I now have a BS in computer science, and I've been promoted to a customer account manager."
"Chris's husband, Gavin—you met—just happened to be a VP at Haney-Dawson," Noel explained. "He hired me from a no-name ad agency. It's been an amazing ride."
"Eagan became our third gift," John added. "He's an amazing kid. Tell us about your job, Connor!"
"I'm excited," Connor said as he brightened up after our deep discussion. "I applied for this job on a lark. I didn't think I had a chance. In Boston, actors usually need a Boston connection. But, the first guy I interviewed with had seen me in Back Street. He loved my performance. So, here I am. It will be fun on the other side of the stage. By the way, Noel, have you written the play we used to talk about all of the time?"
"No," Noel replied. "I've started several times, but I just hit a brick wall, and I stop. Lately the brick wall seems to be the time I want to spend with John and Egan instead of writing."
"What play?" John asked. "You never told me about a play you wanted to write."
"Since we've been together, I haven't tried," Noel explained. "Not because I didn't have time, but because we were getting to know one another. Things snowballed from being friends to being married with a kid."
"What was the play about?" John asked.
"Ah... Guess," Noel replied. "A gay Puerto Rican boy and his gay Puerto Rican cousin surmount all odds and become part of the gay Puerto Rican establishment which shapes the landscape for all gay Puerto Rican boys to follow. At this point, I'm really not sure what it would be about by the time I finished it."
"It could be an ongoing tale of the lives of the Rodriguez\Sanchez cousins," Connor added. "I'll help write it, provided I get to star, direct, and produce it."
"Speaking of cousins," Noel changed the subject. "We need to get all of us together and celebrate your arrival in Boston. We can invite everyone here."
"Don't invite my mother," Connor warned. "I won't come if she's planning to attend."
"We should ask family to come on Sunday for a `Welcome home Connor' dinner," John suggested.
"Good idea," Noel agreed. "I'll get my brothers and mother on board. You should ask Anthony and Timothy. Oh! Don't forget your Dad."
"I'm on it, Noel," John said with a smile as he kissed his husband. John turned to me, "As you probably already know, Noel is at his best when he is organizing something. Anyone you want to invite, Connor?"
"If I can make inroads with the front desk manager, maybe," Connor said with a smile. "Don't count on it, though. It's been some time since I have been in the dating game. I'm a little rusty."
"We'll keep you posted about any potential boyfriends we find," Noel added. "What about your family? How did they react to your new job?"
"They haven't" I explained. "I haven't told them. I don't plan on telling them. They can find out when they read the article about my new position in the Globe on Sunday.
"How did the first week on the job go?" Michael, the front desk manager, asked as I returned from work.
"It went very well, thank you," I replied. "I was a little nervous until I discovered everyone else was nervous, too. They feared a shakeup. I, of course, promised I wasn't planning on a shakeup and their jobs were safe."
"Do you have someone who is moving here with you, Mr. Rodriquez?" Michael asked.
"No," I replied. "I'm leaving behind an asshole ex-boyfriend. I'm only moving my personal belongings and a few tokens of my past. I don't even have a cat."
"I found fish are terrific pets," Michael said. "They are truly devoted. They swim around waiting for you to come home and you feed them. Once they're fed, the fish swim around trying to make you happy. When you turn the lights out to go to bed, you don't worry about them holding a beer party."
"I'm not really a pet person," I replied. "I have family in the area. Most of them I don't want to know I'm back in town. I'm excited about the job, though. It will test my creative abilities."
"I'll bet you are very creative, Mr. Rodriquez," Michael responded.
"I try to be," I continued. "Please call me Connor. Are you a creative type?"
"It depends," Michael said with a smile. "How often do you go to the gym, Connor?"
"Usually two to three times a week," I replied. "However, now I am more nine to five rather than six to midnight. It will take some getting used to. What's a good gym?"
"Boston Athletic Club," Michael suggested. "They are all over the city. Makes it convenient. I can sponsor you for a trial membership to see if you like it. I could use a new workout partner. My last one took a new job in LA a month ago. I've been solo ever since."
"Where do you live, Michael?" I asked.
"South End," Michael explained. "My father and his boyfriend owned a three flat for twenty years. When they decided to move to Palm Springs, I bought the building from them. Are you looking for a place to live?"
"Desperately," I replied. "I don't need huge. I've lived in Manhattan for many years. I am used to small. In New York, they call it cozy."
"I have a small one-bedroom apartment on the third floor," Michael explained.
"How much?" I asked.
"Fifteen hundred a month," Michael continued. "It is small and on the third floor. It does have a new kitchen and bathroom. The contractor is finishing both of them next week. It's only two blocks from where you work."
"Why so cheap?" I asked.
"It's small. It's a walkup. It would be more if I didn't like you," Michael said with a grin on his face. His eyes also lit up.
"When do you get off work?" I asked.
"In thirty minutes," Michael replied.
"Want to join me for a drink in the bar after you're off duty?" I brazenly asked. "I'd appreciate the company."
"Sure," Michael replied. "I'd like to join you."
"I'll wait in the bar," I said.
As I walked away from Michael, I felt a surge of confidence I haven't felt since my asshole ex-boyfriend fucked me over. `I think the dating gene is suddenly kicking in.'
While I waited for Michael, I pulled out my tablet and sent an e-mail to Noel. "I may have made inroads with the front desk manager. Dating instincts must be inbred. He also has a third floor small one-bedroom apartment for rent for fifteen hundred a month. Do you think I need to fuck him to seal the deal? Wish me luck. Con."
My tablet dinged a few moments after I sent the e-mail. It was a reply from Noel. "Is he a blond haired, blue-eyed muscle boy? Noel."
"Yes," I typed and hit send.
"So, you haven't lost the dating gene," Noel wrote.
Michael strode through the bar and walked toward me.
"Thank you for joining me, Michael," I said to the blond haired, blue eyed, six two muscle hunk. He now sported a polo shirt which detailed every muscle in his well-developed upper body.
"It's my pleasure," Michael replied. "I've never had the pleasure of meeting a New York theater star."
"Star is a little overboard," I said. "I only starred in one Broadway show."
"You were nominated for a Tony!" Michael added. "I would think a Tony nomination is a real coup. How many boys from Cambridge find success in New York's theater scene in a few short years? And, yes, I googled your achievements. Also, I enjoyed seeing you doing the song without a shirt. Great stage presence enhanced by your muscular body. Before you get the idea I am stalking you, I had a talk today with our General Manager who is on the board at Boston Center for the Arts. He spoke glowingly of your many talents."
"What were the `many talents' he spoke about?" I asked.
"I'm not certain," Michael replied. "He might take a moment to visit with us here at the bar. You definitely have a fan."
"I see," I said. I didn't know how to feel about the GM. "What's your favorite pastime when you're not working?"
"Taking in the beauty of the city," Michael replied. "Travel. Reading. Theater. Rock climbing."
"Rock climbing?" I asked. "Why?"
"Rock climbing is fun, Connor," Michael replied. "It's also a safe sport if you take precautions. You should try it sometime."
"I'll stay on the ground, thank you," I replied. "I may do odd things, but rock climbing will not be one of them."
"Your loss," Michael added. "There's Otto now."
Michael and I stood as Otto the GM found his way to our spot.
"Welcome to the Fairmont, Mr. Rodriguez," Otto said. "I'm Otto Erlanger, the GM here. I hope Michael is doing his best to entertain you."
"Yes," I replied. "He's very entertaining."
Otto looked familiar.
"I saw the show you were in on Broadway shortly after you were nominated for the Tony," Otto replied. "I saw all of the shows. You should have won."
"Thank you, Sir," I replied. "I'm looking forward to being on the other side of the stage."
"Are you still involved with your side business?" Otto asked.
`Shit!' I said to myself. `Now I know he's familiar.'
"Ah... no," I replied. "I've left the side business in New York. I'm starting a new life which doesn't include some of my former activities."
"Our loss," Otto said. "I'll leave you two so you can get to know one another better. He's a good guy, Michael. Make certain you treat him kindly."
"Of course," Michael replied with a smile.
As Otto turned and left, Michael asked the question I knew was forthcoming.
"What side business is Otto referring to, Connor?" Michael asked.
"It's in the past," I replied. "I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind."
"Of course, we don't need to talk about something in your past, Connor," Michael replied. "It's easier to deal with something from our pasts if we don't dwell on them. However, if you ever want to talk, I am a good listener."
"Thank you, Michael," I replied. "I'll keep you in mind. Now, I need to regroup and plan for some meetings tomorrow. I hope we can do this again soon."
"I would be delighted," Michael said as we parted company with a handshake.
I solemnly headed for my room. `Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!' I said to myself. `Don't worry. This will blow over.'
As I closed the door, I began peeling off my clothes. I needed to relax and focus on a new job.
"So, Connor, how does it feel to be back in Boston?" Noel's brother Miguel asked.
Miguel stood about the same height as Noel, five-eleven. His tight polo revealed some of his muscular assets as did his slim fit slacks. Miguel, though, wore a beard. It made him look more rustic than Noel.
"It's strange to be back here," I began. "I thought I'd never set foot in New England again when I left for New York. But some things are meant to change. I already love my job and the people I work with. I'm only waiting on hearing screams coming from Somerville when my mother and her tribe find out I'm back in town. An article came out in today's Globe. I'm surprised some of your side of the family haven't been contacted."
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Connor," Mrs. Sanchez, Noel, Jorge and Miguel's mother said to me. "I heard from her before church. Fortunately, the church she attends has long, long services which will put her out of cell phone service until about 3 pm. I told her I haven't heard any news of you being back."
Mrs. Sanchez smiled.
"And don't worry," Mrs. Sanchez replied. "I certainly won't be the one to rat on you, Connor. You've been through enough with your mother. You don't deserve her criticism."
"Mom experienced an intellectually challenging reality," Miguel explained. "She's come a long way, and we're proud of her."
"Oh! Hush!" Mrs. Sanchez replied. "Let's just say Mr. Ramirez, John's mother, could be very convincing when she wants to be."
"Is she here?" I asked.
"Unfortunately, no," Miguel replied. "John's mother passed away from a long struggle with cancer about a year ago. But, before she passed away, she saw her son get married and meet her grandson. She was a very special person."
"I'm sorry," I replied. "I didn't know. I'll need to give my condolences to John."
"And Noel and Eagan," Mrs. Sanchez replied. "Those three became a beautiful family because of her. Now, I need to visit with my grandson."
"Connor!" Jorge charged at Connor shortly after he and George arrived. "I want you to meet my husband. Connor, this is my husband, George. George, this is my favorite cousin, Connor Rodriguez."
"It's nice to meet you finally," George added. "I've heard a lot about you from Noel and Jorge. I can tell everyone I met a real live Tony Award nominee. Amazing."
"George and John work together," Jorge explained.
"What is it you and John do?" I asked.
"We bring in new customers and try to convince current companies they need to upgrade," George explained. "Websites are an ever changing, living being these days."
"I'll take your word for it," Connor replied.
"George knows something about family battles with their gay sons," Jorge explained. "His parents finally softened, but it was a little touch and go for a while."
"My Muslim parents didn't like me marrying another guy, but, worse, he was Catholic," George explained. "I love Christmas, eat pork, and drink alcohol. Those three sins alone means I am an ex-Muslim, so my parents decided marrying a Catholic guy wasn't the worst of my life decisions. Here we are, an old married couple."
"Kids?" I asked.
"Not yet," Jorge replied. "We are still living in George's one-bedroom condo. We need to find larger digs before we get a dog or a kid."
"Connor," John said as he approached with someone who looked exactly like him. "This is my brother Anthony Ramirez-Zale, and his husband Timothy Ramirez-Zale. This is Noel's cousin, Connor Rodriguez."
"You're twins!" I replied. "You look exactly alike."
"I'm thirty seconds older," John explained.
"I'm the smarter and better looking one, though," Anthony replied. "So, I finally meet a Tony Award Nominee."
"It was a fluke," I replied.
"I doubt it," Jorge replied. "You put on quite the show when you came out to your mother. We all thought your performance should put an end to the hate. It didn't work, did it?"
"No," I replied. "Unfortunately, it didn't work. Maybe I'll get lucky and the tribe will forget I exist."
I saw a stunning African-American man walk through the front door. He stood at least six-two. His body looked nice through the loose fitting clothing. I don't think he's a gym goer, however.
"Excuse me, gentlemen," I said. "I believe I need to circulate a little more. I need to meet the troops. Plus, it's time for another beer."
As I walked away from the group to the bar area, African-American dude also made his way to the bar. We stood side by side.
"I'm Connor Rodriguez," I said to the guy standing beside me. "I'm Noel's cousin."
"Outstanding!" the guy replied. "I'm Bobby. I work with John. How's the guest of honor adjusting to Boston?"
"Very well, thank you," I replied. "I'm enjoying my job and the people who work with me. I'm originally from the Boston area, so I'm familiar with the landscape. The landmarks finally seem familiar."
"Good," Bobby replied. "Boston is a nice small city. And, if you enjoy your job and the place where you live, you can be really happy. Are you moving here with a girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, or husband?"
"No," I replied. "I'm all alone. "You might say I'm starting over in Boston."
"I won't ask questions," Bobby said with a smile. "I had a boyfriend, but we amicably decided we were incompatible in some ways. We're still great friends, and we work together."
"My breakup did not turn out amicably," I explained. "It was tense and unpleasant. But, it's behind me now. I just want to go forward. Work will consume me, and I'm still looking for a place to live. Right now, the Fairmont Copley is my home. It's nice, but I hate hotel rooms. Where do you live?"
"I lived in Cambridge until about four months ago," Bobby said to me. "Now, I'm in the South End. My boyfriend and I split about six months ago. I was finally able to move out to my own place."
"Not to worry," I replied. "Sex is a nice benefit of being a couple, but, trust me, sex is not worth it if your boyfriend is certifiable."
"No," Bobby replied. "I know firsthand what certifiable can dish out. My first ex met the certifiable guidelines. You were in theater in New York I understand."
"Yes," I replied. "I love being on stage, but I wanted a regular paycheck. Starving actors is not a myth; it's reality. "I'm also looking forward to moving behind the stage."
"I love going to the theater and symphony," Bobby said. "My ex and I had a different opinion of theater and the symphony. His idea of theater and music included going to a leather bar and watching the leather men sweat and dance around the disco ball."
"I don't mind going to a bar and dancing, but I'm not obsessed," I replied. "Need another drink?"
"Sure," Bobby replied. "I'll buy."
"It's an open bar," I said with a smile.
"I know," Bobby said as he returned the smile, handed me a drink, and a diet soda for him. "My ex—the most recent one—also isn't a fan of current events and politics. I on the other had have some definite political views and am not afraid to share them. You?"
"I almost threw up after the last presidential election, but I've given up on following the show," I explained. "I became very active in city politics shortly after I moved to NYC about four years ago. I've also spent time with homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults, which also stretches into young people with HIV. These issues shouldn't be still issues, but sadly they are still issues."
"Don't I know it," Bobby said. I could see the look in his eyes after he said it. "Just to let you know, I also regularly go to AA meetings."
"Good for you!" I replied. "I've never been a drinker. Maybe a beer now and then, but not often. My father died from alcoholism when I was eleven. My ex had a definite problem."
"I think we could have a lot of conversation over coffee sometime soon," Bobby said with a smile.
"Maybe we could ask Noel to help us write a play about our lives," I said. "I could play me and you could play you. Of course, I'd want to direct."
"I like taking directions," Bobby said.
My heart skipped a beat.
"We do need to have a long, long series of discussions," I replied.
"You boys seem to be hitting it off," Noel said as he and John joined Bobby and me. "You have a lot in common. You're both single. You both like the arts. You both like to eat out."
"Are you playing matchmaker, Noel?" John asked.
"Of course not," Noel replied. "I just mentioned a few common interests to spark conversation."
"We've sparked our own conversation, cuz," I replied.
"Then, you two wouldn't mind staying with Eagan a week from yesterday while we go out to dinner to celebrate the day we met." Noel added.
"Noel?" John scolded Noel.
"I'm game," I replied.
Bobby smiled at me.
"I'm in," Bobby replied. "We will need emergency contact numbers, of course."
"And aspirin for the headache which will ensue after a few hours," Noel added. "Thanks for agreeing. It'll give you time to bond with Eagan and three dogs."
"Our pleasure, cuz," I replied as I continued to look at Bobby's beaming smile.
"How did your day go, Connor?" Bobby asked as we settled at a table of a Starbucks in the South End on Tremont Street.
"Exciting," I replied. "We're planning next season's line up. I want to add some excitement to the schedule. Last season's attendance went down—probably because of the lackluster offerings. One of the duties I will not enjoy much is schmoozing with the mucky mucks. Fundraising will be a big part of my job for the rest of the year. The center is cash starved. The last director left holes in the fundraising efforts. Most of the money leaked out. I'm not saying anymore."
"I'd rather not know," Bobby replied. "I love to schmooze with mucky mucks. It gives me a chance to hear how the other side of the income spectrum lives."
"You can join me," I added.
"Seriously?" Bobby asked.
"Sure, if you're available and want to try, I'm serious," I replied. "I am dreading going to these functions alone. I don't like getting hit upon by middle age queens whose only gift to the human race is their money. I know this might sound callous, but my experience in the past has proven me right most of the time."
"Do I get to hold your hand?" Bobby asked. His megawatt smile lit up the room.
"Yup," I replied. "I'd like for you to hold my hand. But, before we discuss wedding plans, we need to see how compatible we are for each other. Outings to schmooze will be perfect. You'll get to see me at my very worst."
"I doubt your worst is all bad, Connor," Bobby replied. "I'm not exactly running around without a lot of baggage myself. When you have a long weekend, I'll try to explain it to you."
"We'll need to schedule two long weekends, then," I added. "One for you to spill the beans. The other for me."
"Where did you go to college?" Bobby asked.
"Emerson," I replied. "After I graduated from Emerson, I headed to NYC. I landed in an actors' training group. I started giving singing lessons to musically uninclined actors. Somehow, I wound up in the middle of an audition. Poof! I'm cast in a lead role of a Tony Award Winning Musical. What's wrong with this picture?"
"You caught a break," Bobby explained. "Nothing wrong with good luck. I could have used some good luck like you found."
"Tell me about your family, Bobby," I suggested
"West Virginia," I replied. "Most of the men in my family were either drunks or worked in the mines. Either way, most die early. Somehow, I made it out. Finished college. Had a job I loved. I haven't talked to my family since I graduated from college. My mother and father didn't see the need for me to go to college. They thought it was a waste of time, and, if I were working in the mines, I'd start making money. I'm certain they expected me to take care of them. But, I didn't stick around. I don't have any plans on going back either. Dirt poor coal miners living in West Virginia don't really have a world view which would allow them to have positive thoughts about gay people. God forbid they would have a gay son. What about your family, Connor?"
"This will be the short version because some of it still pisses me off," I began. "My alcoholic father died from alcoholism the day I turned eleven. Really great birthday present. I had an older brother, too. He didn't make it out of the hood. A rival gang member shot him as he left our house to buy groceries my mother needed."
"My mother always thought of herself as religious," I continued. "When my father died, she joined an evangelical church. She didn't get totally nuts with religion until my brother died. Three years later, when I turned eighteen and graduated from high school, she discovered I was gay. All hell broke loose. She and members of her church tried to `fix' me and turn me straight. As you can see, it didn't work. I already had a scholarship at Columbia University. So, I left. I haven't been back since I took this job. Noel, John, and Eagan are really my only family I have left. It sucks, but I've learned to deal with it."
"Everyone has a story," Bobby added.
"How did you get it?" I asked.
"You mean the HIV?" Bobby asked quietly.
"Yes," I replied.
"We might need more of these," Bobby said as he held up his empty coffee. Once we returned with fresh drinks, Bobby continued. "I've never told how it happened to anyone who's not been an AA sponsor, a support group member, or a therapist. Do you know how John and Noel met?"
"Yes," I replied. "They told me about the support group."
"I was part of their support group," Bobby replied. "Eight scared people huddled together to sort out their feelings and plan a course of action to win over the disease."
"It would be a great play," I replied.
"I never thought about writing a play until you mentioned it," Bobby continued. "I had a major in education and a minor in English. I taught at Rindge until the bottom fell out of my world."
"If this bums you out, we can postpone this talk," I added.
"No," Bobby replied. "Every time I talk about it, it gets just a little easier."
Bobby began to recount the beginning of his story.
"My doctor ran a series of tests for my annual physical," Bobby began. "I went back a week later. He gave me the news. I contracted HIV and syphilis. Both a gift from my boyfriend in a roundabout fashion."
"Theo, my boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, usually becomes an overly supportive parent when we face problems," Bobby began. "Not this time. My PCP ordered a series of blood tests during my annual physical. The HIV test came back positive. I freaked. I knew the likelihood of me being HIV positive had gone up significantly, but I still freaked out."
"Why did you have reason to believe you might be HIV positive?" I asked.
Bobby paused before he continued. "Theo and I have a great sex life. Sometimes we get a little kinky. He's the top. I am the bottom. I think I am putting too much detail into this. I can tone it down."
"No," I replied. "Whatever you need to say, please say it. Don't worry about my reaction. I can tell you need to talk about this. Go on."
"Like I said, `we get a little kinky,'" Bobby continued. "We have a sling in the spare bedroom. Theo loves to fist me and then fuck me. I'd do anything for him, but I do like to get fisted. It is a learned skill. One night we were cuddled in bed after a long session in the sling. He told me about his latest fantasy while he held me. He fantasized about me getting gang banged. Several guys. All taking turns fisting and fucking me. My response—without a lot of excitement—`it would be so hot having you watch me get fucked by big dicked men.'"
Bobby paused again.
"Theo surprised me two nights later," Bobby continued. "We had been invited to a party on Saturday. It was Thursday. He didn't give me many details."
"Theo told me to wear full leather to the party. Leather pants. Leather boots. Leather harness. Leather vest. He wore the same. I will say we looked pretty hot together. I'm six-two. He's six-four. He's all muscle. When we arrived at the party at someone's house on Brattle Street, eight or nine other leather dudes were already partying. Some I recognized from the bar we go to. Others I hadn't seen before."
Bobby paused again to wipe a tear running down his cheek. "Theo surprised me all right. I was the entertainment for the night. One drink later, all eight or nine men held me down and undressed me. They put me naked in a sling with my arms and legs restrained. Theo watched. You can guess what else happened. All eight or nine men. Two or three times each."
"Every couple of months, Theo surprised me again," I said. "Different house. Different men. Same results."
"Why didn't you say `no' to Theo?" I asked.
"I tried," Bobby whispered to me. "He wanted it to continue. When we returned home on Sunday morning, we had some of the best sex. I couldn't get enough of him. He took all he could."
"You realize, Bobby," I said as I placed my hand on his. "This was abuse. Theo abused you."
"I never wanted to think of it as abuse," Bobby added. "It made Theo happy. I wanted Theo to be happy."
"What about you, Bobby?" I replied. "Who made you happy? The other men who took just as much as Theo? They took your self-esteem, Bobby. They raped you. Theo raped you by his actions. Where's the bastard now?"
"I don't know," Bobby replied. "There is more."
"I managed to find my way home on autopilot," Bobby explained. "Theo wasn't home yet, so I took off my dress clothes and slipped on some gym shorts. He knew something happened the moment he walked in the door of the condo. The condo we bought together six months before. I heard the keys in the door."
"And I had to tell Theo I tested HIV positive," Bobby said to me. "Theo walked into the condo and knew immediately something was wrong." 'What's wrong, Bobby?' Theo asked me as he sat beside me on the sofa. He pulled me to him and kissed me. `What's bothering you?'"
"I told him we needed to talk," Bobby said.
"'Theo," I began. `I had an appointment with Dr. Blain this afternoon after work. He had my tests results back. I'm HIV positive.'"
"I felt Theo's body stiffen. He pulled away from me, rubbed his eyes, stood, and headed to the bedroom. When he returned five minutes later, I hadn't moved from the sofa. He had changed into gym shorts and a tank top."
"Theo sat opposite me on a chair across the coffee table. He stared at me with a blank look on his face. Theo stood and slowly walked toward me. He looked directly into my eyes. He scared me. Before I knew he moved, I felt his hand strike my face."
"He called me a slut!" Bobby finally added. "He asked me, `How can you do this to me?'" He backhanded my face. I almost fell off the sofa from the force of this blow. I begged him to stop."
"Theo turned and stepped away from me. He turned to face me again. He said he was going out. He wanted my `ass out of here' before he got home. He stormed out of the condo.
"He called you, his boyfriend and about-to-be husband, a slut and threw you out of the condo you co-owned?" I finally said. I was amazingly quiet while I tried to understand this. "It was his fucking idea to watch you get fucked by all of those faceless men. He called you a slut? Un-fucking-believable! So, you just left without a fight?"
"No," Bobby replied. "I was in shock. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to go. All I could think about was, `I thought he loved me.' The words replayed over and over in my head, `I thought he loved me.'"
"So, what happened when he came back to the condo?" I asked.
"I heard the key in the door," Bobby explained. "Theo walked into the condo, but he was with another man—one of the men from a party.
"They raped me, Connor," Bobby whispered to me across the table. "Theo, my boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, and another man raped me. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. They raped me four times apiece. Four fucking times."
"How did you get out of the house?" I asked.
"I don't know," Bobby replied. "I have no fucking idea. I woke up on a park bench. The sun beat down on my face. I had on a pair of gym shorts and trainers. I found my wallet inside my gym bag. I had nothing else. He took my bank card for our joint account. He took all of my credit cards. I had no phone. No computer. No tablet. Nothing but an empty wallet, a pair of gym shorts, and trainers. All I had in the world any more was my fucking empty wallet, a dingy pair of gym shorts, and fucking trainers."
"I didn't know what to do, so I found myself walking down the street not far from where I worked," Bobby continued. "I couldn't go to work. I was half naked. I smelled like sweat and cum. I reeked. I realized, too, after I saw my face as it reflected off a glass window, I was badly beaten, bruised, bloody, and just a fucking mess. I thought about staying at a friend's house. But I couldn't go to his house looking like I did. I managed to swipe some clothes from a bag of stuff left at the Goodwill before it opened. I still needed a shower. I still needed money. I still needed medical help."
"Didn't you know anyone you could contact?" I asked.
"I thought about some of our friends, but, I finally realized, they were Theo's friends. I didn't have any friends anymore. I lost total contact from everyone I had known. My family lives in rural West Virginia. They were coal miners. Somehow, I managed to escape West Virginia, go to college, and get a job teaching. It was a job I loved. I had friends. Not especially close friends, but I would have been okay reaching out to them... But, I didn't know how anymore."
"How did you manage to survive?" I asked.
"Begging for money," Bobby began. "When I had enough, I'd spend the money on booze. I thought I would be better if I forgot. It is hard to forget, though. I kept remembering. I kept begging. I kept buying liquor. One night I was desperate. I went into a liquor store. I tried begging the attendant for money. He kept saying no. I got pissed and jumped over the counter. I knocked him down. I managed to open the register and took a hand full of bills. I ran out of the store. I ran and ran. I couldn't stop running. I was scared. Two cops stopped me. They finally decided I was the one who robbed the convenience store. They arrested me. I was drunk. I had fifty dollars of stolen cash in my jeans. I was drunk as a skunk, and I tried to attack one of the officers who stopped me. I was in deep shit trouble."
Bobby paused again and wiped away the tears from his eyes. "For my one call, I had the captain call a friend of mine. He and an attorney showed up the next morning. I was scheduled to be arraigned. I pleaded guilty. I begged the judge to let me off. I pleaded with him to let me go to rehab. Fortunately for me, the judge had a similar experience before he went to college. He sent me to rehab for ninety days."
Pause. "I came out of the rehab stone cold sober. My friend let me land on his sofa until I got my shit together. I managed to apply for and receive disability. I even applied for food stamps. So, there I was. Sleeping on a friend's sofa. Getting welfare and food stamps to survive. I don't have a chance in hell to get a job. I have a fucking record. The only good thing to come out of this, I qualified for Mass Health. Yea. I know. Medicaid. But it paid for the HIV meds. My social worker suggested I go to a support group for newly diagnosed HIV patients. I met John, Noel, and my boss, Chris, there as well. We're pretty tight."
"I met Gifford, my AA sponsor, the night of the support group meeting at the Starbucks in Central Square. It was about three blocks from the support group meeting. I had just told Gifford the shit I told you.
"I pleaded with him to tell me what I should do."
"`Go to the support group,' was Gifford's reply."
I walked through the door of Aids Action Committee in Central Square. I noticed a sign which pointed me to the room where the support group met. Door number two. I managed to get through door number two.
"I listened to a Puerto Rican guy named John talk about his experiences with his boyfriend. We shared a lot in common. Next up, Chris described how his loving boyfriend forgave him for cheating and getting HIV because they loved each other. Why wasn't mine like Chris's boyfriend. I get shit on all the time.
"I knew it was my turn. I wanted to get this over. I explained my situation"
"I'm Bobby. I was diagnosed nine months ago. My story is not exactly a happy one. I had been in a relationship with a guy for five years. We had planned to marry next year. But, he went ballistic when I told him I was diagnosed as HIV positive. He threw me out of the condo we had just bought. I found myself the next morning half-naked, wearing a pair of gym shorts and trainers. He had changed the locks. He also shut off my cell phone because we shared a cell account. He drained our joint checking account so I had no money. I started drinking heavily and used up what little money I had on booze. I didn't go to work because I was hammered. I was fired. A friend found me wandering the streets and got me into a rehab program to get me sober. He graciously paid for the program. I was released from the program 30 days ago and have been staying with my friend. I found Aids Action Committee and they helped me get treatment for HIV. I just started taking medications about one week ago. So, here I am... sober... getting treatment... living on my friend's sofa... without a job... on welfare... But, at least I am alive. Thank you for listening."
Bobby began to explain more of the situation to me, "I returned to the support group the following Tuesday. As I looked around the room, I saw the same faces. These faces were beginning to pick me out of my doldrums. I needed these guys more than any of them knew."
"I was the first to share my experiences on the second week. I felt a calmness surround me as I began to explain my week. `I started looking for a job this week. I need to work so I can find a permanent place to live and to keep me from going completely mad. Being on welfare is no treat! I feel embarrassed when I pay for groceries with my food stamp card. Everyone knows I am a loser when I pull out the blue card and press the EBT button on the card swipe machine. I even heard one guy grumbling about all black people being on welfare. Let's face it, being black, even today, is strike one. But, strike two is being on welfare. Strike three is being gay. And, strike four is being HIV positive. I used to have a little dignity. Now, I'm just a gay, black, HIV positive welfare sap. So, forgive me if I sound a little down tonight.'"
The group leader asked me what kind of work wanted?
"I told them, `At this point, I will do anything. I have a degree in education, but that is not in the cards right now because of my record."
"I hadn't told them one little detail. I proceeded to tell group about another part of his story. `When I hit bottom, I robbed a liquor store and beat up the clerk around midnight one night. I needed booze. He called the cops. I was arrested. I was lucky, though. The judge took pity on me after I told him my story. He is a recovering alcoholic himself. He told me about his alcoholism in his chambers. My friend didn't find me wandering the streets... he found me in jail. He pleaded with the judge to give me probation if I agreed to go into an alcohol rehab program. And, I did. But, there is no way a school system is going to give a job to someone who has a criminal record. And, I do have a criminal record now. I guess that is my fifth strike.'"
"Out of the blue, Chris, they guy with the software company asked if I could type. When I said yes, he offered me a part-time job. The rest is history."
"Enough about me," Bobby finally said. "How did you get it?"
"I've never told anyone the real story about my life in New York," I began. "I struggled in college. I had two part-time jobs. I slept very little. I managed to get through my freshman and sophomore year in a daze."
"I sat on a bench near the school on spring day," I continued. "A really built older guy swept by me on rollerblades. He caught my attention. It seems I also caught his. He doubled around and sat next to me. The sweat dripped from his body, and the scent made me very, very horny."
"Cory Wainwright, III. Built. Muscles everywhere. Close cropped brown hair. We talked for probably thirty minutes before he had to leave. He asked me out to coffee," I continued. "We exchanged phone numbers. I met him at a Starbucks near Columbia two days later. It turned out his family is a big contributor to the arts, and he knew several people in the theater business. It turned out he wanted to fuck me... for a fee, of course."
"And you accepted because you were tired of working your ass off?" Bobby asked. "Pardon the punch line."
"It's okay," I replied. "And, yes, I did accept after about one week of consideration. The deciding factor came on Friday night of an extra tough week. My roommate announced he dropped out of college and would be going back home to Denver. Guess what? I now had to pay the entire rent for a dingy studio apartment we shared. I inherited a two-thousand dollar a month rat hole of a studio apartment. The next kick in the ass happened when I finished my shift at a restaurant where I made most of my money. The owners ran out of money. The restaurant closed that night and never reopened. I never received my last week of wages. I found myself totally fucked."
"Everyone told me bad luck came in threes," Bobby said. "You skipped the third."
"I'm not finished yet," I continued. "The final kick in the ass lands a couple of scenes into the last act. I agree to meet Cory for dinner at a really nice restaurant. I managed to throw an outfit together which didn't make me look like a total dork. I won't go into details, but he handed me five hundred dollars after I agreed to go home with him. Five hundred dollars was more than I made in working twenty-four hour weeks. I made five hundred dollars it in two hours by letting some rich dude fuck me. Once a week, I let Cory Wainwright III fuck me. I quit my other job and focused on school."
I paused. For a sip of coffee and a breath of fresh air. I never told anyone about this phase of my life.
"Was he good in bed?" Bobby asked with a smile.
"Fortunately, yes," I replied. "One night after we had a mind blowing three-hour sex fest, he asked me if I wanted other clients. He had a few rich, closeted friends who were eager to find a regular piece of ass. I took on three others—except I charged them one thousand dollars for two hours. Am I painting an understandable picture here?"
"You're making $3,500 for four hours work," Bobby replied. "Every week. How long did this go on?"
"Until my asshole boyfriend infected me," I replied. "My clients always wore protection. I even had a few clients who would come to the city on business. They called Cory, and I'd go to bed with them. The next phase of my downfall will take more time than I believe we can spend here. Can we see one another again? You're the only person I know who I feel comfortable explaining all of this. It's not easy telling someone I was a prostitute for six years."
"You did what you had to do, Connor. I might not have been so nonjudgmental before this thing with Theo happened. It makes a difference in how you view the world when you go from the top of your game to the bottom of your game in a few short weeks. Shit! I never realized how late it was. It's as though we just arrived. And, yes, I want to see you again, Connor" Bobby replied. "Next time at my apartment for dinner. I make a mean chicken fajita."
"I'd love to join you," I replied. I felt a bolt of electricity as our hands touched one last time before we left the coffee shop.
To be continued...
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I would enjoy hearing your comments about this story. You can write to me at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
Please also see:
John's Journey Forward found in the Beginnings section
Sam and Chris in the College section.
We're in This Together found in the Relationships section.
Jeffery Comes Home in the Beginnings section.
Taking a Stand in the College section. Coming Soon!
Life With Tim in the Authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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