© by The Lavender Quill, 2003
Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, dont read any further.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.
I was broken from my homework-induced stupor by the sound of Beethoven. Not live, and not even from a good sound system. It was the tinny electronic sound of my cellular phone. You can program the ringer to play a wide variety of musical tunes, from the theme to Gilligans Island to Chopin. I had chosen a Beethoven piece. To any musician with a trained ear like mine, it was hideous, but I found it amusing. I also found it sad that most people didnt recognize it. Of course, that is how I identify it as my phone instead of someone elses. Better than the days when they all sounded the same.
Hello? I answered it after Id groped around to find it.
Benjamin? asked the voice on the phone.
It was Vishal. I could tell by his voice, and he was the only person that called me Benjamin, rather than Ben or Benny. Vishal Subramani was my best friend. Id met him at a meeting of the gay student union about two months after I started college.
At first, I had been attracted to his voice. It had a nice tenor. Vishal is Indian. Not Indian as in Native-American, but Indian from India. He was born in Bombay. His father is a doctor, and his family had immigrated to America when he was sixteen. So, while he speaks perfectly good English, he has a distinct Indian accent. He speaks with a loopy musical lilt and cadence that I foundand still findwonderful to listen to.
What up, Vishal? I said.
Me, he laughed. I have a date tonight. Im meeting someone new. His name is Lance. Can you believe that name? Hes absolutely gorgeous.
What happened to Ricardo, I said, trilling my rs outrageously, your hot Latin lover?
The stereotype of the hot Latin lover turned out not to be the case with Ricardo, Im afraid. He turned out to be disappointingly unenthusiastic in bed.
I took this news in stride. I wouldnt go so far as to accuse Vishal of being a slut, but he rarely dates a guy for more than a few weeks, and doesnt often go long before he finds the next one. To him, the gay student union acts as a dating service.
I ran what hed said a moment ago through my head again. Something wasnt quite right.
Uh, Vishal? I asked. How do you know this Lance guy is gorgeous if you havent met him yet?
Oh. I have seen pictures. His ass is extraordinary. Are you in your room?
It wasnt as strange of a question as you might think. He had called me on my cellular phone, so I could be anywhere.
Yes, I answered.
Good. Im coming over, okay?
I will see you in a few minutes then. Goodbye. And he hung up.
I still live in a dorm room, even though I am in to my junior year. Vishal had lived in the dorms during our freshman year, as all students are required to do, but had moved off campus as soon as he was allowed. Not far off campus, though. It usually took him less than ten minutes to get here on his bike.
There are several reasons that I still live in a dorm room, most of them centered on the fact that I am blind.
When I first moved on campus, I was assigned a special dorm room designed for handicapped students. The room was a little odd, but I suppose when they built the building the architects had sort of generic rules for handicap accessible rooms. So my room was a little larger than usual, and I had no roommate. It has wider doors and low cabinets. The rest of the dorm had common bathrooms on each floor that everyone shared, but my room has its own bathroom, complete with grab bars around the toilet and the tub, and a low sink with no cabinet below it. Obviously it was designed for wheelchair accessibility, not blind students, and most of its features were unnecessary for me. From the viewpoint of the administration, however, I was handicapped, and therefore was entitled to a Handicap Accessible Room. I didnt complain. I could probably have managed in a regular dorm room, but it was nice having the privacy and my own bathroom.
Most everybody lives in the dorms for their Freshman year. I could have moved off campus like Vishal and everyone else after the first year, but my subsidies wouldnt cover the costs like they do for the dorms. I could live on my own, Im pretty sure, though Ive never actually done it. But what a hassle. Id have to cook for myself and everything. I can cook for myself, and do everything else, pretty much, but it takes me twice as long as for sighted people. Even walking to Vishals apartment takes me twice as long is it takes him, which is why he usually comes to my dorm.
As I anticipated, Vishal arrived roughly ten minutes later. I let him in, and we both sat on chairs next to my desk.
So tell me about Lance, I said.
I rarely date, but I love to listen to Vishal tell me about his adventures. Like I said, I like his voice.
You will not believe it, Benjamin. Sometimes when I am bored, I get on the Internet and look at some of those sites with guys with web cams.
Yeah, you told me about those.
Since I cant see, a web cam is a concept lost on me, but Vishal had described them in detail. From what he told me, there are a couple of websites that have extensive lists of guys with web cams. Some are fairly basic and amateur, where the guys are hardly on. Some are pay sites where the guys are on a lot, get naked, jack off, and sometimes even do shows with other guys, and everything in between those extremes. But you cant hear, smell, or feel the guys; only watch them. Since watching them is the one thing I cant do, there is no appeal for me.
So Ive been checking out this cam guy, Lance, since the start of the school year, Vishal continued. Hes very good looking.
Dont keep me in suspense. Describe him for me.
Mmmm, nice broad shoulders, short hair, sort of sandy blond, fantastic ass
You mentioned that.
kind of hung, light skin, maybe a little thin.
To Vishal, all Caucasians have light skin. Having grown up in a country where starvation is common, he has a preference for meaty guys. In India, being a little overweight is a sign of prosperity, and considered attractive.
So how did you end up on a date with him tonight? I asked.
Usually when hes on line, he has a chat room. You can chat with him or the other guys watching him.
Oh, I said, noncommittally, not quite sure where he was going.
He sometimes drops hints about himself. Like hes a college student. Hes in Oregon. I took a guess, and emailed him. As it happens, he goes to the same college we do!
You sure hes not just stringing you along.
No, no. Weve been emailing back and forth for a week. Hes definitely here.
So is he from Oregon, or out of state?
I dont know.
Oh. Well, whats he like? I asked.
I dont know.
You dont know much, do you, other than he has a gorgeous ass? Are you sure this is a good idea? What if he turns out to be some sick freak?
That is why you have to come with me?
Well you yourself implied it might not be safe, Vishal reasoned.
And you think bringing a blind guy along will make it more safe? What am I supposed to do if something goes wrong, hit him with my cane?
Dont worry, were just meeting at that Starbucks a few blocks off campus. Nobody would attack us in the middle of a busy Starbucks in broad daylight. I just want you there to bail me out if I dont like him. Ill just say I have to take you to a meeting.
I dont know I hesitated.
Ill buy, Vishal offered.
Okay. I said. I dont go to Starbuck very often. I have a limited budget, and I can get a whole meal at the cafeteria for what it costs for one cup of coffee at Starbucks, which, frankly, I find rather absurd. Vishal learned long ago, however, that I could be bribed with coffee. When are we going?
* * * * *
I ordered a Chai Tea.
Ugh, said Vishal. How can you drink that? It doesnt taste anything like real Chai.
This is a friendly argument we have had many times. Chai is an Indian drink, according to Vishal, that bares very little resemblance to what is served at Starbucks under the same name. That is part of the reason I order it instead of some variety of coffee when I go with him.
Who cares, I said. I like it.
I held his elbow and he led me to a table. I held my cane lightly in front of me to keep from bashing my shin into an errant chair or something. Vishal is not always the best guide, though he tries.
We settled down at our table. Vishal sat with his back against the wall, so he could watch out for Lance. Since I cant see anyway, I sat with my back to the crowd. I set my cup in front of me to let it cool. I inhaled deeply. One of the things I like about Starbucks is the aroma. I can almost get a contact high off all the different coffee smells. I sniffed in Vishals direction.
What did you get? It smells good.
Its a double tall latte, he said. Gary made it for me. He did yours, too.
The barista. He has very nice skin.
You havent even met Lance yet, and already your eyes are wandering.
But Benjamin, there are so many beautiful boys in this town. How can I not look?
Easy, I said facing him with my artificial eyes.
Sorry, he said, suddenly sobered.
I laughed. I have long since become immune to blind jokes. After junior high school, college is a breeze. Vishal has never intentionally said anything unkind about my blindness, and I dont hold it against him when he occasionally says something insensitive without thinking first.
Its alright, I said. Im not that thin skinned.
I cannot believe I said that. He still sounded pained.
Ill forgive you if you help me with my Biology homework.
I am majoring in music, but I still have to take some basic classes. Vishal loves biology, and I let him talk me into signing up for a basic biology class to help fulfill my science requirement.
Of course Ill help you. I heard him suddenly shift and move his drink. Oh, theres Lance. I heard his shirt rustling, and guessed he was waving at Lance. His chair scraped and I heard him stand. Hello, Im Vishal.
Lance, said Lance.
Of course. I recognize you. Please sit down. This is my friend, Benjamin.
On a whim, I started in on My Game. Sometimes, depending on the situation and my mood, I like to pretend Im not blind, and see how long it takes someone to figure out that I am. It isnt as obvious as you might think. My cane comes apart into four sections, held together by a bungee chord through the center, sort of like a collapsing tent pole. I had folded it up and slipped it into my pocket when we sat down. I abhor the stereotypical dark glasses some blind people wear. My prosthetic eyes are fairly realistic looking, so Im told. With no cane, no dark glasses, and nothing obviously wrong with the appearance of my eyes, I can usually fool people for a little while.
So why pretend I can see, you ask? Why try to fool people? Well, a couple of reasons. Partly I just want to act normal, whatever that is. I mean, why do gay people try to act straight? Why do shy people try to act brave? Why do light-skinned black people try to pass for white? Because they dont want to be treated differently. Same for me. I have learned that if people know immediately that Im blind then I become Ben the Blind Guy, not Ben. People see me as blind first and foremost, in need of their assistance or pity. Im no longer a person. Im a charity case. I hate that! If I can act normally, even for a few minutes before they find out, they can sometimes see a person who happens to be blind, rather than simply a Blind Person. Besides all that, its kind of fun to try to fool people. Its a challenge.
I heard the chair next to me scrape the floor as Lance sat down, and I turned in his direction and held out my hand. By doing this, I have preempted him. I dont have to search for his hand; he has to reach for mine.
Hi, I said. Im the chaperone.
We all laughed at the lame joke, and Lance shook my hand.
Do you go to college here? Vishal asked him.
Yep. Im a sophomore. How about you?
Im a senior, said Vishal. Biology. Benjamin here is a junior.
I figured Lance was probably a couple of years younger than me, unless he delayed starting college. I discretely found my cup of Chai, and kept my hand next to it so I wouldnt have to hunt around for it.
Would you like something? Vishal asked.
Sure, said Lance. I heard them both get up to go to the counter. You coming, Benjamin? he said, his voice directed my way.
No, Im fine. You guys go ahead. Ill hold the table.
Would you like a scone or something? Vishal asked me.
No thanks. Maybe later.
I heard them walk off. I figured that would give them time to chat with each other for a few minutes without me hovering over them. Besides digging out the cane would have given away the game. I dipped my finger in to my Chai to see if it was cool enough to drink. I listened to conversations around me until the guys returned.
Vishal had seen me play my game many times, and caught on right away. So they sat down and Vishal continued to chat with Lance without giving any indication that I couldnt see. It was easy to keep up the subterfuge for a while. I was just sitting there, and I can drink tea like a sighted person. They were mostly talking to each other, so Lance wasnt paying much attention to me.
It is sort of like being in the closet. I can pretend to be straight, and unless I do or say something to give it away, or unless someone else is extremely perceptive, theyll never know Im gay. Of course, it isnt that easy to disguise my blindness. Sooner or later Lance was bound to notice that my eyes dont move, or that I never blink.
Tell me why you started a webcam? Vishal asked.
I dont know. I always liked playing with computers. I used to chat online with guys all the time. Some guys had cams that I could watch, so I decided to get one too. It kind of just grew from there.
Chatting on line is much different than having a webcam, said Vishal. It is a whole different realm to be naked for all the world to see.
You could try it if you want.
Oh, no. I dont think so, laughed Vishal. My mother already thinks America is too indecent. She would come completely unglued if she ever heard of me doing such a thing.
How about you, Benjamin? asked Lance.
I almost sprayed Chai out my nose. Uh no. I tried not to giggle. Lance had no idea how preposterous his suggestion was. His voice sounded sincere, though, so I tried to give him an answer. If you look up overprotective in the dictionary, youll see a picture of my parents.
Lance chuckled. So what makes you guys think your parents would ever know? Do they cruise the internet for gay webcams?
Uhg, said Vishal. That is something I would really rather not think about.
Our table went suddenly quiet. I heard a sleeve rustle in front of my face. Busted!
You cant see, can you? said Lance. His voice sounded a little hesitant, like he wasnt sure if he was supposed to say anything or not.
Vishal and I both burst out laughing.
How long? Vishal asked.
What are you talking about? Lance asked. Now he sounded confused.
I flipped open the crystal of my watch. To outward appearances, it looks like a normal watch, so Im told. But it has raised dots for all the numbers, and I can feel the hands and tell what time it is. Some blind people use a watch where they just push a button, and it announces the time in an electronic voice. I hate those, however. Every time you push the button, everyone within hearing distance knows the dumb blind person is checking his watch.
Its a game I play sometimes, I explained. It took you over twenty minutes to figure out Im blind.
Half that time was when we were standing in line for coffee, though, said Vishal, coming to his defense.
True, I conceded.
Shit, I feel like an idiot, said Lance. Whats the longest its taken someone to figure it out?
Dont feel bad, I said. It depends what Im doing. Ive sat through a whole class before, and some people dont know until I have to get out my cane when I leave.
Can you see at all? Even a little bit? Or are you, like, totally blind. Again, he sounded a little hesitant.
I reached up and tapped my right eye. My fingernail clicked against the plastic. I do this on purpose sometimes, just to see if I can freak people out.
Nope. These arent even real.
I heard Lance gasp. Whoa. No shit? I didnt even notice. They look real.
Thats the idea.
Sorry, dude. I dont mean to be rude or anything. I just never seen anyone with glass eyes before.
Relax. Its no problem.
Actually, they arent glass, said Vishal.
They dont use glass much any more, I explained. Theyre plastic. Well, some kind of polymer, actually. They last longer than glass, and they can be buffed and cleaned if they get scratched.
I suddenly realized that I had totally taken over the conversation. This was supposed to be about Vishal meeting Lance.
Sorry, I said. I guess we should have told you from the start. Never mind me.
Suddenly feeling embarrassed, I turned away slightly and quietly sipped my Chai. I tried to remain unobtrusive as they went back to chatting. Most of the time, I try not to be noticeable. Im pretty shy, for the most part. I guess that is partly why I avoid some of the more obvious accoutrements that most blind people rely on. I have to use the cane, of course, but other than that, I mostly try to blend in, if thats possible.
They started chatting about television and movies and actors. Who they thought was hot looking. They discovered that they both liked Alias, and babbled on about that for a while. Then Lance stopped again.
Oh, sorry dude, he said in my direction. Uh, I guess I dont really know whats rude. Does it bother you that were talking about TV?
No, I smiled. Why should it?
Well, you cant watch TV, right? You probably dont even know what were talking about.
Well, no, I cant actually see the TV, of course. But I can hear just fine. Sometimes I watch with friends, and they can tell me whats happening on the screen.
Yeah. Vishal and I get together and watch CSI sometimes. We try to figure out when theyre full of shit.
Lance laughed. Cool. Do you watch Alias too?
No. Its mostly action, and it moves too fast. Vishal cant keep up describing whats going on.
Do you have a favorite show?
Sure, I said. Star Trek, Next Generation. I still listen to the reruns whenever I can. Sometimes Deep Space Nine, too.
Oh. He sounded baffled. How come?
I think Patrick Stewart is hot.
I laughed. Its not like you think. I know hes, like, old enough to be my grandfather. But he has the sexiest voice.
Oh, yeahhh, I cooed. I cant see people, but I have a thing for certain voices. Patrick Stewarts voice totally turns me on. Lance laughed good-naturedly. I like Michael Dorns voice too. Hes the guy that played Worf. Thats why I listen to Deep Space Nine sometimes too.
Hey, that makes sense, I guess, if you cant see.
Benjamin has made me sit through every movie Patrick Stewarts ever been in, said Vishal. Dont get him started.
Did you know he even played a gay character in a movie, called Jeffrey, about ten years ago? I said.
I didnt know that, Lance said, laughing.
He played this totally nelly queen, an interior decorator. Its hysterical!
Im having a hard time picturing that.
Ive got it on tape if you ever want to watch it.
I warned you, said Vishal, laughing.
I realized I had stolen the conversation away again.
Never mind, I said, reverting to shy mode.
I turned and slurped the last of my Chai. I heard Vishal get up.
Im going up for a refill. You want another Chai, Benjamin? he asked. Or biscotti or something?
Mmmm. More caffeine. Yes please. Um, maybe something chocolate a cookie or muffin or something?
Sure. How about you, Lance?
No, Im good for now.
I heard Vishal walk off. I sat silently for a moment, feeling a little awkward.
Sorry, I said. I didnt mean to interrupt you guys. Vishal just dragged me along in case you turned out to be some psycho or something.
No problem. You guys seem like pretty good friends. How long have you known him?
Since I started college. I met him at a gay student group meeting.
You ever date him?
I laughed loudly, and then covered my mouth, embarrassed. No. I dont really date much. Were good friends, but hed never date me.
Why not? You like each other. He obviously doesnt care that youre blind.
Oh, its not that. Im six foot, three. Vishal is a great guy, but he has a few peculiarities. One is that hes superstitious, and wont date anybody taller than him.
No. Its some Hindu thing, or Indian thing, I think. Or maybe not I dont even pretend to understand it. To him its totally serious, though. He also says Im way too skinny. Hes always trying to get me to eat more. Like, I know hes gonna bring me back something chocolate, even if he has to go out to find it. Lance laughed again. So we can be best friends, but well never date.
Aww, Lance gave an exaggerated pout, sounding like a little boy.
Oh, its fine. Hes a great friend. Dating would just mess things up.
Im not sure I believe that, he teased.
How about you? I asked, wanting to change the subject. You must get a thousand offers for dates if youre half as cute as Vishal says you are.
What did he say?
Well, you must be shorter than five, eleven, or hed have dumped you before you got through the coffee line. He also said you have a great ass.
I covered my mouth and smiled. I couldnt believe Id actually said that. Lance laughed.
I get some offers, but not as many as youd think. And most of them are weird.
What do you mean?
Well, I get lots of emails that are come-ons that are mostly joking and wishful thinking. Sometimes I get offers from older guys that want to fly me to their place for a weekend, like they think Id actually do that with someone I dont even know thats as old as my dad. Weird creepy guys.
Then how come you said yes to Vishal?
Well, he actually goes to the same college, and he seemed rational and charming in his email. Almost like a normal blind date... I heard him suck in a breath. Oh, shit, Im sorry. I didnt mean it like that.
He seemed so contrite; I had to let him off the hook. Lance, its okay. Blind date is a normal phrase people use. Im not that sensitive about it. Kids used to say way worse shit than that, especially in junior high.
Vishal returned and I heard him set something in front of me.
Its a chocolate chip cookie, he said. A big one. Theres a stack of napkins to your left, and a new cup of coffee next to your old one. I couldnt bear to get another cup of that awful Chai.
Thanks, I said, laughing at his remark about the Chai. I felt around until Id found everything. The cookie felt like it was nearly the size of a salad plate.
Vishal, said Lance, dont you think Benjamin looks kind of like Ashton Kutcher?
Hmm. Ive never thought about it. He paused to consider. No, not really, I dont think well, perhaps a little.
I think Ashton Kutcher is totally hot, said Lance.
Whats he look like? I asked.
Hes tall and slender, like you, said Vishal. He has long dark hair, but yours is a little longer and more wavy. Thats about all the resemblance I can see, though.
I decided to shut up for a while and let them talk. I concentrated on my cookie. I was sort of hungry anyway. I smiled to myself. No wonder Vishal had never described Ashton Kutcher to me before. Too tall and slender; definitely not Vishals type.
They chatted about the college football team, which I couldnt care less about. I didnt think the sport was particularly interesting to listen to. After a while, Vishal excused himself to go to the bathroom. I finished off my cookie. After minute I heard Lance laugh.
What? I asked.
Im sorry, I shouldnt laugh.
I wasnt sure what he was talking about. What? I asked again.
Dude, you have crumbs all over the table and your shirt. It looks kind of funny. You look like a satisfied little kid.
I smiled. What can I say; Im a messy eater. I felt around for the stack of napkins. Thats why Vishal brought me a whole bunch of napkins. You should see me try to eat soup. Now thats messy.
He laughed again.
I was beginning to wonder what was taking Vishal so long when he finally came back.
Benjamin, we have to go if I am to get you to your meeting on time, he said.
I almost blew it; almost forgot that was his signal my fictitious meeting.
Um, oh yeah. I made a big deal over fumbling with my watch to feel what time it was. Thanks, I almost forgot.
We hastily said our goodbyes. We all made nice, but it was apparent that Vishal and Lance were not going to be an item. They both knew it, but neither was going to say it. I couldnt see their facial expressions, of course, but I could hear it in their voices. I was a little disappointed. I kind of liked talking to Lance. But this was Vishals date, not mine.
Vishal walked me back to my dorm room. I can get there on my own without his assistance. I have become familiar enough with the campus and surrounding area over the last three years that I can walk around just fine with my cane. But he had left his bike at my dorm.
So whats with the meeting? I asked. You guys seemed to be getting along fine. Whats wrong with him?
I dont know. He seems nice enough, but there was no spark there, no connection. I thought he looked cuter on his cam than he does in person.
Well, that was a waste then.
Not entirely, Benjamin.
Lance did not strike my fancy, but Gary did. There was a spark there.
Yes. The barista. I got his phone number.
I could tell by his musical lilt that Vishal was pleased with his accomplishment. I didnt say anything.
What? Vishal asked. Do you think I dismissed Lance too easily? What did you think of him?
I think he had a fantastic voice, I said.
(To be continued.)
I love receiving emails. Accolades, encouragement, suggestions, comments, and corrections are welcome and gladly accepted. <email@example.com>.
Other work by The Lavender Quill can be found on the web at <http://lavenderquill.tripod.com/>.
Please consider joining the Lavender Quill Yahoo Group.