By John Yager
This is the fifty-first chapter of an ongoing series. This chapter the story of Rob Ballinger's life after his arrival in Los Angles in the summer of 1972.
Thanks again for all your comments on this series. I always appreciate hearing from you and try to answer all messages promptly. If I am slow at times it is only because of the pressure of work or my somewhat demanding travel schedule.
Andrew has continued to give much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I've been doing without his invaluable assistance.
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On Saturday morning I slept late. I woke rested and felt as if I'd finally gotten my body adjusted to the Pacific time zone. I don't know if it was an especially lazy day, or if it was just me, but I stayed in bed a long time, thinking about everything I'd been able to do since arriving in LA and mentally going over the far longer list of things I still needed to get done.
I had never lived entirely on my own before and all the issues I would soon have to deal with were becoming evident. I thought about the apartment and wondered how it would feel to be living by myself. I wasn't all that pleased with the idea but I didn't know anyone I wanted to share the apartment with. It also occurred to me that there might be policies against having a roommate in what was, after all, company housing.
I knew from what Nita had said and from the information sheets I'd received that there was some sort of formal meeting for the new Nathan Fellows on Monday. The information sheet said both Langston and Basingstoke, along with other senior staff with whom other Fellows would be working, would be at the meeting. I also had a separate meeting with Basingstoke on Wednesday and figured I'd learn then about my work responsibilities and office hours. Until I had a better sense of how my life would be organized I couldn't do much planning.
I thought a lot about everyone I'd left behind in Mississippi and decided I needed to make some calls over the weekend, just to check in and to find out how everyone was doing.
With my head buzzing with all the things I needed to do and all the things I would need to deal with over the next few days, I managed to get myself out of bed, shower, shave, and head down to the hotel coffee shop for a late breakfast.
While I was in the lobby, I asked the desk clerk how I could get to the ocean and how far the nearest area for good swimming might be. To my surprise, I discovered it was less than a mile or so away. About eleven o'clock, back in my room, I packed my swimming suit, a towel, suntan lotion and a book in my backpack and headed out on foot for the beach.
I sort of thought about calling Billy. I knew he was really hoping I would, but I really didn't want to get more involved with him than I would already be through the gym connection. He was a nice guy and I knew he would be a great friend, but I suspected he could also be the kind of guy who'd want some sort of ownership over me and my time. Besides, I rationalized, he wouldn't be home from his class yet, but most of all, I wanted to do a little exploring on my own.
I headed west on Olympic Boulevard, cut over to Colorado Avenue and then west to the beach. The street seemed to end in a sort of pier with a strip of small shops, an amusement arcade and a couple of cafés. To the left of the pier I spotted some sort of public beach facility. There was a sign saying they had changing rooms and showers. On the far side of the building, facing the beach, was a concession stand. I rented a locker and went through into the men's side of the building, taking a minute to look around.
The dressing room area was divided into two parallel aisles by back to back banks of lockers. Wooden benches ran down the center of each aisle and, at the far end, a wide opening gave access to a huge open shower area. It looked big enough to accommodate a dozen or more guys. Only one man was in it at the time, showering at the back left corner of the big space.
I circled the lockers, looking for the one I'd been assigned. It wasn't in the right aisle and I'd just started around into the adjacent aisle when the guy who'd been showering came out into the locker room and almost ran into me. He was still drying himself off and was completely naked. I gave him a quick glance and guessed he was about ten years older than me. He was a little shorter and maybe a little lighter, a good body and he looked like he took good care of himself . . . all that in a quick glance. He had dark hair and a nice tan. Dark hair also fanned out across his upper chest and then down in a thin trail to the thick crop above his crotch. As he vigorously dried his hair, his cock bounced around and his balls, relaxed and hanging low from the heat of the shower, swung back and forth like a pendulum. I had consciously to pull my eyes away.
He unashamedly looked me over, toweling off his thick, dark hair, and seeming complexly relaxed with his own nakedness. I liked the look of him, the overt sexuality of his stare.
"Need some help?" he said in a casual, friendly way.
"I'm looking for seventy-six," I said, holding up my locker key.
"It should be right over there," he said, pointing to the lockers around the corner.
"Thanks," I said and quickly found the locker where he'd indicated. The guy continued to stand at the end of the aisle, drying himself with the big towel.
I opened the metal door, pulled off my shirt and hung it up. Then, sitting on the wooden bench, I removed my shoes and socks and put them on the floor of the locker. Standing again and loosening my belt, I stole a quick glance to my left.
The fellow was still standing there but he'd stopped drying himself. His towel was looped behind his head and draping down a little over his shoulders. He held the opposite ends of it in his two hands, just standing there, still completely naked, watching me and making no pretence of doing anything else.
Well, I thought, if he wants to check me out, I'll let him. The guy was clearly playing me and I was just horny enough to go along with it and see where it led, maybe see what this guy had in mind. Pulling off my khaki walking shorts and then my white briefs, I lingered, as naked as he was, taking my time to open my backpack and pull out my bathing suit.
I'd never had totally anonymous sex before and I was getting off on it, on the impersonal nature of it, on the hint of mystery, maybe danger. I knew, for a lot of Gay men, anonymous encounters were their primary sexual outlet. For me it was completely new, very scary and totally exhilarating.
"You from around here?" the guy said as I stood there making a pretence of getting my stuff straightened out.
"No, I'm new," I said, looking over at him. His cock was lengthening and I couldn't miss the hungry look in is eyes. "What about you?"
"Lived here all my life."
"You spend a lot of time on the beach?"
"Yeah, most weekends if the weather's good. I just live a couple of blocks from here."
"Must be nice, being that close."
"Yeah," he said. He'd lowered his towel and held it in his right hand, still just standing there naked, watching me.
"So are you into swimming or just hanging out?"
"Hanging out, mostly," he said, "catching some rays, watching the action."
"Yeah," he grinned. "Where did you say you were from?"
"I didn't. Mississippi."
"Coming out to Hollywood to be a star?" He smiled as if it was an old joke.
"Working at NSB and going to school."
"Film studies, USC." I fumbled with my pale blue Speedos and pulled them up slowly over my legs. The guy still just stood there watching me, saying nothing. I realized I was breathing fast and tried to calm down. "What kind of action?" I said as I pulled the bathing suit up and ran my hand down into the front, arranging my equipment in the tight pouch. I knew it was a provocative action and I was playing it to the hilt. When I finished I turned toward him, looking him boldly in the eyes, asking, without saying a word, if he liked what he saw.
It was clear from the blatant lust in his eyes that he did.
"The usual, people watching people, people seeing something they like, maybe hooking up." He said it in a low, gravelly voice as if he were describing something he didn't want the rest of the world to hear.
I noticed that he kept saying "people," not "guys." He was still playing it close, preserving his options, ready to back off, run, if I gave him any hint of disinterest.
"You do that?" I said. My own voice was nothing more than a low whisper.
"Yeah, if I see something I like, I let them know."
"So did you see something interesting today, something you'd like to hook up with?"
"Not on the beach," he grinned. "I'd about figured it was an off day and I was heading home."
"Well, I guess there are some good days and some bad ones."
"Sure, but maybe I was leaving a little too soon."
"Yeah?" I said, my voice sounding to me like a low, predatory growl.
"Yeah," he said, then that grin again. "What about you, see anything you'd be interested in hooking up with?"
"I think I might."
"How old are you, kid?" the guy said, his voice suddenly matter of fact, as if his brain had kicked in again and he was being sure to cover the bases, not get himself into anything too risky.
"You aren't fuzz or anything."
"No. What about you?"
"What you see is what you get, kid. No hidden agendas, no badges."
"Interested?" I said, looking him straight in the eyes. I ran my hand down over my chest and across the growing mound of my crotch.
"You want to do it here?"
It didn't seem like a good idea.
"How far away did you say you lived?"
"Easy walk. Want to go?"
"Sure." I was having trouble catching my breath but I reached into the locker and pulled out my shorts. My white briefs came with them.
"Just the shorts," the guy said. "I get off on Speedos."
I pulled on the shorts over my swimming suit as the guy disappeared around the corner into the other aisle of lockers. I heard the clang of metal on metal as he opened his own locker too fast. I sat down and pulled on my tennis shoes.
Before I had my shoes tied, he was back, dressed in a pair of loose running shorts and a tank top. He was carrying a pair of rubber flip-flops and had a backpack thrown over one shoulder.
"Let's go," he said, clearly anxious to get the show on the road. I grabbed my shirt and closed the locker, turning the key and putting it in my pocket. We went out onto the beach and turned right, going north. The guy was walking fast and I had to move quickly to keep up, pulling my shirt on as we went. We turned right again going away from the beach, walked inland a block to Ocean Avenue and turned left, crossing the street. At the second building on the right, an older three storey structure facing the sea, he turned into a recessed entry porch and opened the front door with his key.
It had been maybe three minutes since we left the locker room, and we hadn't spoken a dozen words. I realized he'd not asked me my name or told me his.
There was a long bank of mail boxes in the entry hall, I noticed as we went by, and I wondered how many apartments there were in the building. It looked like a lot. The light was dim and the place had a stale smell of fried onions.
"Up here," he said, pointing to some narrow, dark stairs.
On the second floor the guy stopped again and, using a different key, opened the door and ushered me in. It was a sort of studio apartment with an alcove which partially separated the sleeping area from the rest of the place. The bed was unmade and rumpled and the sheets didn't look all that clean. Along the left wall there was a small kitchenette. A big pasta pot was on the small stove and the sink was stacked full of dirty dishes. On the right side there were two windows which looked out across Ocean Avenue and the Pacific Coast Highway toward the beach beyond. One window was in the living area and the further one was in the sleeping alcove. The place looked dirty and disheveled and it smelled strongly of stale tobacco smoke.
As soon as the door was shut and locked behind us, the guy pulled off his tank top and reached for the bottom of my shirt. I stood still, lifted my arms, and let him pull it off over my head. We were both breathing hard and I just stood there, waiting for him to make the first move. His eyes wandered over my chest and down lower, dwelling for a few seconds on my crotch. Then, looking back up at me, he leaned in and kissed me on the lips. His breath smelled stale and when he pressed his tongue into my mouth it tasted like a dirty ash tray. I pulled back and broke away quickly.
"You're fucking beautiful," he whispered. Then, reaching down, he loosened my shorts and let them fall down around my ankles. The pouch of my pale Speedos showed a growing dark spot.
I pried off my shoes, using the toe of my right foot on my left heel, then the bare toes of my left foot to help remove my right shoe. I kicked off my shorts and saw them land a few feet away, not far from my shirt. I'd not put my socks back on so the Speedos were all that was left between me and complete nakedness.
The guy's eyes ran over me again, slowly circling down my chest and then fixing again on my bulging crotch. Suddenly he reached out with both hands, placed his palms flat against my chest and pushed me back against the closed door. Then, in one fluid movement, he knelt in front of me, his knees on the stained carpet, and brought his hands down to my waist. He looked up at me for one long, telling moment, his eyes gleaming with lust, and then moved his face to my crotch, nuzzling me with his mouth, turning his face to kiss and lick my stomach and my thighs and then to return to lick the dark spot, leaving it ever darker and damper.
His hands were roaming up over my stomach and across my chest and his mouth attacked my cock, pulsing behind the increasingly wet fabric of my bathing suit. His hands came back down to toy with the waist of my Speedos, then, slipping his fingers under the elastic band, he began to work them slowly down. We were both moaning and my own hands found their way to the back his head, pulling his face tighter against my crotch.
He was slowly pulling my Speedos down, revealing the trail of fine, light hair which ran down to my groin, where it broadened out to form a blond patch. As he pulled my swimming suit further and further down, the shaft of my rigid cock came into view. Inch by inch he slowly revealed it until the elastic slipped over the head of my cock, freeing it, and allowing it to jump up with a slapping sound against my belly. In a second he was on it, pulling the head into his mouth, making me gasp at the speed with which he consumed the entire length of my shaft. It was clear that the guy knew how to suck cock. It was also clear that he was loving it.
He had the head of my cock deep in his throat and he was sort of swallowing and humming at the same time. If he kept it up I was going to come very soon.
"Man," I groaned, pushing him back off my cock, "you keep that up and I'm going to come big time. If you want this to last you'd better back off a little."
As he stood up he slid off his shorts and the jockstrap he had on under it. His own cock was hard and drooling. Without touching me again he turned and went over to the bed, laid down on it on his back and then adjusted himself until he was in the center. As I walked over to join him, he rolled onto his side, almost as if it were an afterthought, and reached into the drawer of the bedside table. He withdrew a partial box of condoms and a well used tube of lubricant.
Then, lying down on his back again, he said, "I want you to fuck my ass." His voice was ragged and I could see he was slightly shaking, little tremors of excitement and lust ran through his body.
"Yeah, do it."
He'd spread his legs and I knelt between them. There was no affection between us, no attempt to make this most personal of acts seem like anything other than what it was. We were just two horny guys getting each other off for our mutual satisfaction.
I spread the lube over my cock and rolled the rubber over it, squeezing out the air. I'd had very little experience with condoms but hoped I looked like I knew what I was doing. After spreading more lube over the exterior length of the condom, I turned my attention to his ass. I lifted his legs onto my shoulders, spread more lube over the area around his pucker and then probed him with one finger, twisting it to spread the clear jell over the interior walls of his hole. He was able to relax quickly and open up to me. The guy had done this before, many times before, I figured.
I worked two and then three fingers into him before he stopped me and said it was enough. I assumed he knew what he was doing so I repositioned myself and moved the rubber-clad head of my cock to his pulsing ass.
"Yeah," he moaned when I made contact and "yeah," he moaned again and again as I slowly slid the entire length of my cock into his experienced ass. When I bottomed out I held still and waited, giving his body time to adjust. In only a few seconds he moved his legs around my hips , put his arms around my chest, and pulled me deeper into him. "Hard, man," he moaned. "Fuck me hard."
I pulled back a little and pounded into him.
"Yeah," he moaned again, even though I would have figured I'd overdone it. But it was his call and if he wanted it hard, I could deliver. My pelvis was soon working like the piston of a Diesel engine, driving into him at maximum speed and maximum force.
Sex is kind of like an equation. You can go hard and fast or easy and slow, but either way, it takes about the same amount of energy to reach the goal. At the rate I was moving, it didn't take long. I felt my balls pull up and my load moving through the maze of ducts, then exploding, filling the condom as the guy also came in a series of convulsive jerks. I felt his cock pulsing and then the hot, wet, stickiness of his seed oozing between us.
I rolled off him and lay on my back, breathing hard, feeling myself slowly come down from the high.
"Fucking wonderful," the fellow said as he rolled off the bed and headed into the bathroom. A few minutes he came back, tossed me a wet washcloth and then sat on the edge of the bed with his back to me.
I wiped myself off and got up.
"You want anything?" he said, but his voice was flat, uninterested.
"Just looking for my stuff," I said. I found my shoes about six feet apart, one under the edge of an old sofa. My shirt was on the floor by the door and my shorts were hanging off the edge of a chair. I couldn't figure how it had gotten there. It took me a minute to find my Speedos, which I discovered behind an overstuffed chair that looked as if it had survived the Flood.
I pulled on my bathing suit and then my shorts, reaching into the pockets to be sure everything was there. Squatting by the door, I pulled on my shoes and tied them. Finally, as I slipped on my shirt, the guy said again, "you want anything?" He was poking around in a crumpled pack of Marlboros, trying to find one remaining cigarette.
"No, thanks," I said. "I guess I'll go."
"Okay then," he said, a cigarette hanging from his lips. "See you around."
I slipped out of the depressing apartment and ran down the dark stairs. I could hear a baby crying uncontrollably in one of the apartments I passed and a little girl peeked out of another slightly open door. I didn't stop until I was on the street, and then only to catch my breath before jogging back along Ocean Avenue and then down Colorado to the beach.
I circled the concession stand and entered the locker room from the beach side, avoiding the attendant. I fished my locker key from my pocket, stripped off all my clothes except my Speedos, grabbed my towel and headed for the showers.
I'd stood under the hot, pelting spray for several minutes before I began to calm down. I pulled off my bathing suit and hung it on the handle of the shower. I felt dirty, really dirty, and washed myself thoroughly and then did it again.
When I had washed myself as well as possible, I took the soap and washed my bathing suit, working up a thick lather and scrubbing it between my hands, taking special care to wash the still sticky pouch. I don't know what possible difference washing my bathing suit made, but I felt compelled to do it.
When I had calmed myself down a little more I pulled my wet Speedos back on and returned to my locker for my sun lotion and my book. Armed with my towel and other symbols of normality, I finally headed for the beach.
I found a fairly open space and spread my towel on the warm sand, stretched out and spread the lotion over my hot skin. There was an uneasy sense of disgust and even guilt which fluttered through my mind but, lying back on the towel and feeling the warmth of the sun on my body, I finally relaxed and, I think, even dozed.
I was roused by the sounds of the beach, of kids playing and some teenagers walking by with their radio blasting Joy To The World, Three Dog Night in the middle of a sunny day.
I sat up and for the first time, really looked at the beach, the distant hills off to the right, and most of all the surf. It was amazing!
I later learned that by California standards the surf along Santa Monica Beach isn`t even considered to be all that great, but I'd never seen such high waves before. The tides along the Mississippi gulf coast were nothing by comparison. I sat for quite a while watching a few guys riding surfboards.
After a while, as the day wore on and the weekend crowds increased, I doused my body with lotion again and lay back down to enjoy the warm sun. I tried to ignore the noise and the constant comings and goings of people. At one point I woke from a disjointed, fleeting dream of the anonymous guy lying spread eagle on his rumpled bed. My cock was hard again in the constricted pouch of my bathing suit. Would I never learn?
I wished I could just pull off my bathing suit and lie naked in the warm sun, improving my overall tan. Thinking about lying naked in the sun reminded me of Rick and my guilt returned as images of him played in my mind, driving away my wanton dreams of strange men in grim apartments.
I headed for the water and played for a while in the powerful surf, letting the cool water wash over my body.
Later I read a little and continued watching the sea. In the middle of the afternoon I had an unhealthy lunch of hot dogs and coke from a little concession stand.
As it turned out, I spent longer on the beach than I should have and by the time I got back to the hotel I had a bit of a sunburn. It was nothing serious because I'd gotten enough of a reasonably good tan. By the next morning any tenderness was gone and I was just a little darker than I'd been before.
That evening I made a bunch of telephone calls. I wondered if the studio would pay for them but I was feeling lonely and a little homesick and figured if they billed me for my excesses, I'd gladly pay the price for a little vocal reassurance.
In quick order I called Steve and Daniel, telling them both more or less the same things. I called Sammy's number several times but never succeeded in reaching him. I gave Joyce a ring. She was home by then and admitted to me that she'd delayed her own return to Spring River by a few days to avoid seeing me.
"I'm dating a guy, Rob," she said. I wasn't surprised. It was a fellow she knew at Trinity and I just said I understood and wished them well. I figured our conversation would end then but she seemed to want to talk so we chatted for a while in an easy, friendly manner.
Then I called Rick and made a point of spending as much time on the phone with Deb as I did with him. They were still staying with his folks in Spring River but were planning to go to Memphis in another week.
It was a funny conversation. I knew Rick couldn't say openly what he was feeling. I assumed correctly that Deb and his folks were all within earshot. He couldn't say anything too overt and he certainly couldn't say he loved me. Instead, I said it all for him, letting him agree with "yes" and "you bet" and "absolutely."
When I asked him if Deb was pregnant yet he was silent for a moment thinking how to respond.
"You Ole Miss guys always think you can score a goal on the first down," he eventually said.
I laughed and said, "you bet."
Last of all I called my folks.
I shared all my news, told them about my apartment and said I was going to meet Langston and Basingstoke on Monday. They knew who Langston was but had clearly never heard of Basingstoke and wondered when I'd meet some real stars.
My mother said if I'd get measurements and tell her what colors and fabrics I wanted, she'd make curtains for my apartment and send them to me.
My father went on and on about the merits of different cars I asked about and seemed pleased and even a little envious of my preferences. I knew he'd be telling all his cronies at the coffee shop his son was considering buying this or that model, all, in his eyes, symbols of youth and adventure and success.
When I finished the calls I felt suddenly exhausted. I stripped, showered away the sand and salt and climbed naked into bed.
On Sunday I was a heathen. I thought about looking for a church but thought better of it, figuring I'd wait until I got into my apartment and could look for one nearby. I lolled around the hotel, had a huge breakfast about eleven o'clock and then went for a walk around the neighborhood. I decided my original impression was more or less correct. Santa Monica, or at least the part of it I was in, wasn't all that exciting.
On Monday morning Harry was parked outside the hotel at eight-thirty, ready to take all the NSB employees to the studio. There were five of us including two guys who turned out to be new Nathan Fellows like myself. Both of them were about my age and seemed to be just out of college. The other passengers were some sort of technical staff who`d been put up at the hotel for a short stay.
As we were heading east on Wilshire, Harry had the radio on and we heard the first of what turned out to be hundreds of reports about a strange break-in at the Democratic offices in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC.
Arriving at the studio that morning we met the fourth new Nathan Fellow, a woman who seemed to be a little older than the rest of us. Collectively my new colleagues seemed to be an impressive group and I looked forward to getting to know them and to working with them over the next three years.
We went into a rather formal welcoming session with Mr. Langston and his staff. Nita was there and was introduced as our "Den Mother." I guess she hadn't been kidding about the title. I also met Martin Basingstoke for the first time.
At lunch we met the six second and third year Nathan Fellows who were in Los Angeles at the time. In all there should have been eight of them, but one of the third year Fellows was in England on a project and one of the second year Fellows, a woman, had taken a leave of absence. We learned later that she was single, pregnant and had gone home to Ohio to have her child.
As the lunch was ending Nita got my attention and asked if I'd like to go with her to see how my new apartment was coming along.
"Sure, Nita, if you have time."
"We need to go by the insurance office first. They called me this morning to say they needed to see you again. When we arrived there I was told by the clerk that the doctors in the studio infirmary had received my medical records and some x-rays of my leg. They wanted me to come in on Wednesday afternoon to look me over.
"Is there a problem?" I asked.
"No," the clerk, "I think they just want to see what your situation is now in case you have problems later."
We then stopped by the motor pool where she requested a car to pick me up at Alvarado Court in an hour or so.
"We'll drive over to the apartment in my car but I have to go on home from there, Sweetie," she said.
When we arrived at the apartment the painters were just finishing up. The walls looked great but the floors, stripped of the old carpet, were a mess.
"Don't worry, Honey, the carpet crew will be here tomorrow." In the kitchen the old range had been removed but there was no sign of the new one. We went into the smaller bedroom where the new desk and bookcases waited to be unpacked. In the larger bedroom the new king size bed had been delivered but was still unassembled.
Despite the clutter, Nita sounded confident. "I think you'll be able to move in on Wednesday," she said, pointing out the new window blinds. I didn't believe her at the time, but she was proved to be right.
Nita walked over to the window and fiddled with the cords on the new blinds, beckoned me over and said, "I live over there," pointing to the chain of distant hills. "Sierra Madre," she said, grasping my upper arm, "the other side of Pasadena."
"Is it a long way from here?"
Her fingers gently stroked my bicep, her cool fingers running up under the edge of my sleeve.
"Just fourteen or fifteen miles as the cuckoo flies," she finally said. "I have to fight the freeways though, so I'd better get started." Then she released my arm and we turned, locked up and left. In a few days, I thought, those keys will be mine.
The van had come but I asked the driver to wait. It was neither Billy or Harry, but an older guy I'd never seen before. I walked her to her car. As she got in, she said, "I'll ask you out for dinner soon."
"Great," I responded, wondering exactly what Nita had in mind.
To be continued.