Las Cruces, 1985
I could just sit here forever. This sunshine! Some days you get exactly what you need!
Jon is at the central bus stop, sitting on the bench, loving the sun on his new coat this warm winter afternoon in Las Cruces, his shopping bag by his side, waiting to go home. He realizes there’s this guy standing on his left, throwing a ball way up in the air and catching it, throwing it and catching it. He’s a short guy, wiry. Younger than Jon, maybe forty, but too weather-beaten to tell, permanently sunburned skin, permanently and unevenly bleached hair. All of a sudden he throws the ball hard across the street into the big movie-theater parking lot, and it’s just then that Jon remembers kissing the ass of the Venus de Milo, twenty years ago. The guy walks right past him, glaring, and then through an open space between two of the stores behind the bus stop, and disappears.
This used to be the center of town till people moved farther out a few decades ago. Last week a down-and-out type came up to Jon to tell him where to find some hot coffee. It was the same bench, same time of the day, but Jon had a ratty old coat on. He bought a new one so he wouldn’t look like a homeless guy himself. And he trimmed his beard.
The town has eight buses. Eight bus lines, and one actual physical bus for each line. They all finish their runs at the same spot, so everyone can transfer. If even one of them is behind, like for a customer who doesn’t have change, or someone who throws up on the bus, then all the lines go late. So, yes, wait time is often long.
Jon starts to wonder what he was up to, the man with the ball. He must have been waiting for someone, and they didn’t show up. It seemed like he was pissed off. Maybe it was a drug deal, who knows? Maybe he was trying to pick someone up. Maybe me. The man grazed Jon’s leg as he passed. And that space between the two stores; a porn shop is on one side.
Jon spends a lot of time thinking about things like this. He knows it happens all the time, everywhere. He hears friends talking about making it with someone they just met on the street, or in the mall. How does it happen? What do they notice? What’s the actual procedure? Not that Jon would do it. Jon wants to lie down with someone, and do all the kissing and hugging stuff. Instant sex is something he doesn’t feel up to. Yes, he feels the attraction but he needs something more. So for many years he has subsisted on his non-sexual relationships with a few friends, the collegial support at his software job, and a breakaway religious congregation.
That thing about the Venus de Milo. It was right after college. He went to Europe, on a college charter flight to Paris in 1965, planning to hitchhike from there, but before leaving France, he felt he had to do justice to the entire Louvre. It took two weeks.. The Venus de Milo was in its own little room, on a pedestal. The ass was just about head height. There he was, all by himself – this was before that Australian hacked up the Pietà and security got tough – and he leaned in and gave it a kiss. Jon giggled with delight all day.
But that same night he found that clothing had been stolen from his hotel room, and he had to buy at least a jacket. He found a heavy second-hand shirt with alternating denim and leather strips and an insignia on the back that he could not decipher but knew it was the logo of some club or organization, very expensive when new but now cheap, and warm enough for outerwear.
At the bus stop, Jon now wants to find the guy with the ball, but he’s way off somewhere else by this point. He’s not attractive, and yet wouldn’t Jon be missing some real chance, some important opportunity?
The bus comes, he gets on the bus and goes home. But something is still wrong. Not really wrong, but there’s an itch of some kind. It’s been a long time since Jon actually has had the chance to lie down with someone. His work here is too good to leave, but the place is otherwise confining.
Jon makes himself dinner, canned chicken, frozen broccoli, and Minute Rice. He eats in the kitchen, at the only kitchen chair.
From Paris, he hitchhiked to Amsterdam, an easy hitch except for the very first ride, a guy in a black leather jacket and a fast car. He asked if Jon “liked leather.” Jon shrugged, “I guess so.” The man snorted, and dumped him out in a field far from any road, and Jon had to beg a ride from a farmer, to get back on the right highway. But Amsterdam was a gas. He sublet a room in a student apartment and met men his own age. He loved everything: the beer, the chocolate, the Dutch gin, the cheese. His friends showed him sights he would never have seen otherwise.
After the low-maintenance dinner, Jon sits down to watch TV. PBS. It’s “Mystery!” His mind drifts; he reads the newspaper while the show plays on. He looks at the photos on the wall: Marky Mark, some sport pics, some shots by gay photographers, nothing really porno. Except for the postcard of the Brazilian guy with just a t-shirt on, “SAVE SEX.” He put them up when he moved in a few years ago to spice up the room, but none of it turns him on any more, though several pictures are very pretty. Marky Mark is pretty, his mouth shaped into an “O.” Photos don’t do much for Jon, they don’t seem real. Stories, though, are another thing entirely. So he gets out one of the magazines where people have sent in their own experiences, or maybe their fantasies. That always works: At least one of the writers dwells on something Jon can get into.
This time, though, his own thoughts take over; he pictures the man at the bus stop and knows why it triggered the Venus de Milo. The man’s ass. Everything else about him was unremarkable at best, but his thighs and his ass were well-muscled, and now that he recalls, the man moved with such grace and fluidity that he looked like an anatomical demonstration under his worn, thin trousers.
Jon takes his pants off before ejaculating. Afterwards, he zones out for awhile. He thinks of the trip to Europe, but sometimes the guy with the ball gets in.
There was an argument in Amsterdam; Jon hadn’t realized he was falling in love with the group of friends, They felt ‘suffocated’ by his presence, so Jon had to move into a different apartment, in another part of the city. He went back to doing tourist things: train-and-bus trips around the countryside, concerts. It was pleasant enough.
He’s still antsy, even after having – he thought – worked out the sexual tension. Instead of falling asleep, he finds his legs are cramping, little twitches at random moments. He should go out, talk to someone, but who? Most of his friends are doing something else by now; it’s after eight already. It’s too late for a movie. The television is now on a program about global warming, but he can’t seem to care. It affects the whole world, but not Jon’s world, not a world Jon belongs to.
He met one of the Dutch guys again, Piet, after the apartment switch. Piet wasn’t a part of the crowd that had broken with Jon; a little older, maybe thirty-five then, he lived on the ground floor of the apartment building, while the rest were on higher floors. One day Jon was coming out of a shop, eating a piece of cheese, and somebody started waving from a sports car. Did he know anyone with a car in Amsterdam? But it was Piet. He was by far the best looking one of the bunch, too, straight blond hair hanging over his eyes, built thickly but not fat. Jon walked over and Piet shook his hand, wanted to know how he was doing. Then he asked if Jon wanted to go out on a boat with him; Jon would have to crew. It sounded fantastic.
They drove out to the IJsselmeer, the former Zuider Zee. Jon had never been on a sailboat before. This one was so small, no more than twenty feet long, though it had a keel, unusual — Piet said — for a small boat in the Netherlands. Piet seemed to know exactly what had to be done, so Jon did what he was told. He learned to tack and jibe; it was fun! Each time Jon accomplished a new maneuver—like going against the wind, having the wind pull the boat—he laughed or gave a victory shout, and Piet would laugh and clap him on the shoulder.
A storm came up, and it felt like they might not be able to beat back to shore. Still, Jon did whatever he was asked, pulling here, transferring over there, and they were able to dock before the hard rains started coming down. Jon’s heart was still racing in the car afterwards, and Piet, too, seemed excited. He kept telling Jon what a great job he’d done. Piet made Jon feel more masculine than he’d ever felt before.
“You take orders very well!” he laughed. “I can depend on you!”
“Aye, aye, sir!” Jon replied, saluting.
Piet asked him to sit closer in the car, right in the center of the seat. Jon was embarrassed but Piet was so handsome, and Jon could think of no excuse not to. Piet put his arm around him, and pulled him close; Jon liked it, a lot. Now in the apartment, Jon wonders: The guy with the ball doesn’t look anything like Piet, of course, so there’s no reason why he should think about him. But he had a reason to be standing there. Maybe he did want to make contact of some kind. Pretty crusty guy, though. Still, what are the options? It’s not as if there are a crowd of handsome Dutch sailors in this remote town.
It’s now too late for the buses to be running, so Jon gets into his coat and starts walking. In the desert, the air turns cold quickly after sunset, but Jon feels himself warm up as he moves. It’s a long walk, almost three miles to that bus stop. He tries not to think about anything while walking. But he can’t help it.
Piet took him to an expensive restaurant, one Jon wouldn’t have gotten to visit on his own. Afterwards, they drove to an out-of-the-way bar. He parked, and asked Jon to open the glove compartment, and pull out what was there. It was a leather collar with the logo, “Piet’s Boy.” Also a pair of wrist cuffs, also with Piet’s name on them. Jon’s sex life till then had been rudimentary. He had heard of things like this, but had never done any of it. It made his heart race again; but they had just made it through a really scary storm, and Jon felt confident in Piet. He intended to make Piet feel as good as Piet had made him feel that afternoon.
Piet said, “If you’re wearing the collar, the other men will leave you alone.” Jon started putting the collar on, but Piet slapped his hands away and said the collar was his. He put it around Jon’s neck; the cuffs he put back in the glove compartment. “For later.”
In the bar, the men, almost all in leather, greeted Piet warmly, but paid no attention to Jon, not even introducing themselves, and Piet didn’t introduce him either. He ordered beers for both of them, and then a round for everyone there – it was a small bar. After an hour or so, Jon went to the bathroom; while inside, a man came up behind him and felt his ass. He said something in Dutch; and then in English, “Piet is going to have a good time tonight!”
“I certainly hope so!” Jon retorted, sounding to himself braver than he actually felt.
“Oh, you needn’t hope. He will have a good time!”
In the car, Piet opened the glove compartment, and without a word put a leather cuff on each of Jon’s wrists, but left them unattached. They drove back to Piet’s place, entering through the back so Jon’s former friends wouldn’t see. Piet had him strip, locked the cuffs together, had Jon kneel down, then used a rope to pull the joined cuffs down to the floor, where he tied a knot so that Jon was immobilized on his knees. Finally, Piet turned off the lights. He put his hand softly on Jon’s head. “If you say, ‘Please,’ everything stops and you go home. So don’t say it unless that’s what you want.” Jon nodded, he was confident he would not resort to the safeword.
Jon heard the zipper, and in a moment, felt the cock on his lips. He opened his mouth and took it in. What a nice dick! As the cock pushed into his throat, Jon tasted and smelled the afternoon out on the water. He was overjoyed: the others had rejected him and here he had the great beauty of the group, right in his mouth!
But Jon was inexperienced. Piet kept rapping his knuckles on Jon’s head. “No teeth!” And sometimes Jon had to struggle to keep his balance, so he was grateful for Piet’s hand on the back of his head, constantly making the contact more intense.
After a while, Piet pulled out, untied the knot and told him to stand. He tied the rope to something on the ceiling; again it left Jon practically immobile. Jon found the restraints exciting; he was totally in Piet’s control even more than out on the water. Piet was pinching nipples, slapping ass, scraping his nails on Jon’s balls. This wasn’t punishment, this was the real game! Jon breathed loud, danced in the restraints, and sometimes groaned; he was not going to fail this test. He wanted so much to satisfy Piet, to make up for the inept blow job. His pain was his gift to Piet. But apparently it was not the gift Piet wanted. Again and again, Piet’s hand would move over Jon’s flaccid cock. Finally, with a particularly hard twist on Jon’s nipple, Piet said harshly, “These at least stand up!”
He zeroed in on Jon’s ass. After some more smacks, he put a glob of lubricant in, and then his dick. It hurt. But again it was a chance to truly be part of Piet. Piet asked, “Yes?” John answered, “Aye aye, sir!” For awhile Piet put his strong arms around him, and then licked and nibbled on Jon’s neck and earlobes. Jon breathed, “Yes!” but Piet too soon went back to the plain in-and-out of fucking.
When he was done, he took Jon down and had him lie on the bed. Piet must have taken his own clothes off at some point; Jon could feel Piet’s hard naked body up against him, and that was the most exciting thing up till then, so when Jon was told he could jerk off, he did easily. After that, Piet seemed to mellow out a little. He asked Jon where he came from, what he had done on the trip. He laughed at the Louvre, but when Jon mentioned the Venus de Milo, Piet rapped his head again, this time with a loud laugh.
“You should have said that before,” he said, and pushed Jon down to the foot of the bed. “This is the real thing.” Piet’s legs went up and Jon did as he was expected. Piet’s ass was beautiful, but in the dark Jon discovered that it was not clean. Still, he was set on doing his job, no matter how it tasted.
Suddenly, Piet said it was time to go; he didn’t want Jon being seen by the guys upstairs. In Amsterdam’s way-north summer, three in the morning meant daylight. Piet took off the restraints. Jon got dressed and left; the taste of shit remained in his mouth all the way home, and even after he had washed out a dozen times.
A few days later, Jon tried to reach him again. Since Piet didn’t want the other guys to see him, Jon went to the bar. Piet was there! When Jon came close, Piet shouted, “Sharpen up, boy! You’re supposed to suck a man’s cock, not chew on it.” He turned back to the bar.
Jon said, “Piet, please,…” and Piet responded like lightning.
“Godverdomme! I tell you to sharpen up, and you use the safeword. Get out of here! Don’t come back!” Jon left, the taste of shit unaccountably in his mouth again.
Looking back now on his walk downtown, Jon is not ashamed. When it happened, he felt utterly humiliated, but now he doesn’t care. It wasn’t the kind of sex Jon hungers for, it was barely affectionate at all, but it was a hell of a lot better than what he has here in Las Cruces.
When Jon gets to the bus stop, no surprise, it’s dark. The stores are closed. Jon is worried a bit. People could be hiding. The porn shop is one of the places where people meet, but it too is dark! Jon retraces the man’s steps, towards the space between the two stores. Maybe the man doesn’t want sex at all, but just violence, period. But as Jon comes through the space, it’s much worse than that. There’s no one at all. As he begins the long walk home, he realizes with a sardonic satisfaction that at least I won’t have trouble getting to sleep, tired as I’ll be by then.