Friday, May 30, 2014

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 13

Atwood ended up at a relatively new bar called Buff Chrome. No one asked for his ID at the door and the bartenders didn’t seem to mind serving drinks to anyone who could pay. Buff Chrome was slick and shiny. Dance music infused with disco rhythms and house beats thumped as colored lights swiveled and swirled over the dance floor. Amidst all the shiny newness however there were plenty of dark corners in which to get lost or be found. Atwood drank it all in as he sidled up to the bar and ordered a Jack and Ginger.

“That’ll be $10,” the shirtless muscle god bartender said in a voice raised to be heard over the pulsing music.

Atwood pulled a $20 bill from his front pocket and slid it across the bar. The bartender returned quickly with his change. Atwood left $2 on the bar. One dollar for the service and another because the bartender was just so damn hot he couldn’t help himself. He laughed to himself, as he turned to watch the crowd, for tipping a guy just for being hot.

It wasn’t long before the warmth of the whiskey was working its magic. Atwood was loosening up, relaxing into the atmosphere. From his prime location at the bar he continued to people watch. From his vantage point he could see all types of people. Buff Chrome seemed to mostly attract people similar to himself, but there were dottings amongst the twinks of preppy guys, bears, 40-somethings, daddy types. That’s when Atwood noticed the handsome man sitting next to him was staring. He smiled then turned his attention back to the room.

“Nice smile,” the man said as he leaned in Atwood’s direction.

“Thank you,” Atwood responded as he turned toward the only person in the place paying him any attention.

“I’m Nick.”

Atwood drank in the Nick’s face. He was olive-skinned with dark hair and light green eyes. Atwood thought he might be middle eastern, but there was no accent to confirm his thought. When Nick smiled he revealed teeth as perfect and white as an actor in a toothpaste commercial. Atwood guessed he was probably in his early 30s, but it was hard to tell with the dim lighting illuminating the bar. 
“I’m Atwood,” he replied turning to fully face his admirer. It was then that he noticed the sturdy chest hidden beneath the yellow v-neck t-shirt. The face and chest were definitely enough to peak Atwood’s interests, and the fact that this man seemed to be interested in him.

Atwood finished his first drink and turned to find another he hadn't even ordered sitting on the bar. He looked at Nick whose eyebrow gesture and grin indicated that he had ordered the drink as well as another for himself. 

The two of them continued to talk about nothing and everything, Atwood seemingly unaware that he was answering any and all questions divulging information rather than getting any. He was happy though. He realized he was smiling and laughing, enjoying himself. The drinks, the attention. This was just what he needed. 

"I need to pee so bad," Atwood said when their conversation had hit a lull. "Do you know where the bathroom is? I've never been here."

Nick smiled as he said, "Sure. At the end of the bar make a right then a left at the wall. Walk straight down the hallway. You can't miss it."

"Thanks. I'll be right back."

Atwood followed Nick's directions weaving unsteadily on his journey to the bathroom. He concentrated on walking and staying upright, placing his hand on the wall here and there to steady himself. He was really feeling the affects of those two drinks. He hadn't eaten anything in a while so it made sense to him that he would be floating in the buzz field between rational thought and blissful abandon. 

Peeing had never felt so good. He stood in the stall hidden behind it's closed door for what felt like an hour, his stream full and steady to the end. When he stepped out of the bathroom Nick was waiting in the hallway. 

"You were gone a while. I got worried about you."

He flashed his smile at Atwood. 

"Really? It did feel like I was peeing for, like, an hour." Nick's concern made Atwood feel wanted and that smile just made his stomach flutter. 
They retuned to the bar where Atwood found two glasses filled with a greenish liquid. 

"What's this?" asked Atwood. 

"Absinthe," replied Nick. 

"I've never had Absinthe. Isn't it, like, illegal or something."

"No," Nick replied, his voice smooth and sensual. He had his hand on Atwood’s leg gently caressing his thigh. "Otherwise they couldn't sell it here, right?"

Atwood thought about it for a second then smiled as he said, "I guess you're right." He looked down at Nick's hand and consciously moved so that the hand was closer to his crotch. 

"Is it safe to mix absinthe and whiskey?" asked Atwood.

"Do you think I would lead you astray, baby?" responded Nick. "I won't let anything happen to you."

"What's it taste like?" Atwood asked, tentatively. 

“Some people say it’s bitter. Some say it tastes like licorice.” Nick responded motioning for the bartender. “I like to drink it as a shot. So the taste hardly matters.”

The bartender placed an ornate slotted spoon on top of each glass then placed a sugar cube on each spoon. Atwood watched as the bartender lit the cubes on fire. His eyes lit up with childlike fascination. The look was not lost on Nick as he watched the flames dance in Atwood’s golden eyes. The bartender then turned the spoons over dropping the cubes into the green liquid, which then turned into a glass of floating flame. 

“Whoa,” said Atwood as he jumped slightly back from the bar in amazement.

“It’s okay,” Nick said as he silently motioned for the bartender to finish the concoction being created in front of them.
As the bartender poured ice water into the glass the liquid began to cloud from crystal green to mint green. It was almost milky in its look. The flame was immediately doused. When enough water was added Nick said, “Thank you, Jeremiah.”

The bartender acknowledged with a smile and a nod then went back to helping other customers.

“You ready?” Nick asked Atwood who looked up from the glass to Nick. He stared into Nick’s bright green eyes and full lips. Attraction and the desire to be desired can be a blinding pair.

“Yes,” he said as Nick gave him the glass of Absinthe.

“Bottoms up,” Nick said with a smile, clinking his glass to Atwood’s. 

With a flutter of trepidation Atwood raised the glass to his mouth and drank the liquid down as quickly as he could. He shuddered as the last bit rolled down the back of his throat.

“It’s both,” said Atwood.

“Both what?” asked Nick.

“Bitter and licorice.”

“It’s the sugar that helps diffuse the bitterness.”

“It’s interesting, but not my favorite.”

“It’s not my favorite either, but there’s more to it than the taste,” replied Nick as his hand found its way back the Atwood’s upper thigh. “It’s kind of magical.”

“Magical?” Atwood replied, curious.

“Let’s dance. You’ll see.” Nick said as he stood up from the bar smiling slyly, beckoning Atwood to join him.


Atwood didn’t know where he was when he opened his eyes. As the ceiling came into focus he was confused. He looked at the brown sheets on the bed that wasn't his own. He looked at the bedside lamp and the clock next to it flashing 12:00 on repeat. He looked over the side of the bed and felt a sense of relief to see his clothes in a pile. He swung his legs over and placed his feet on the floor, sitting up and rubbing his eyes with his hands. He then heard the floor creak.

He looked up and saw a man entering the room. He was naked and wet, drying off from a shower. When he saw Atwood he smiled and said, “Good morning.”

If Atwood had no idea where he was, he had even less of an idea about who the man was.

“Good morning,” he said as he sheepishly turned his face from the man’s exposed body and reached down to pick his jeans up from the floor. He stood and began putting them on. The man came toward him and leaned in to kiss him.

Atwood recoiled before the man’s lips could reach his own. He looked at this stranger confused, anxious.

“So, I’m good enough to put my dick in your ass, but not good enough to kiss you, huh?” The man seemed hurt by Atwood’s unwillingness to be kissed and lashed out at him verbally in what Atwood viewed as harsh and bitchy. The words were unexpected and hurtful.

“I’m sorry.” Atwood’s response was a mix of apology and distraction.

“Whatever,” the man replied as he walked to his dresser and pulled out a pair of underwear. “You didn’t mind me kissing you last night,” he said as the elastic of his Calvin Klein’s snapped around his waist. “You didn’t mind me doing a lot of things last night.”

Atwood couldn’t bear to hear the words. He didn’t know what he’d done the night before. He wondered if he’d used protection. He wondered if he’d let the man cum in his mouth. He wanted to cry but couldn’t allow that much vulnerability in front of this stranger that he’d let use him last night. 

He grabbed his shirt, shoes, and socks and ran from the bedroom. There was only one way to turn once entering the man’s hallway and from that turn he saw the door. His exit to freedom. The first step to getting away, the opening to shutting out this moment, the opportunity to cry, or vomit. 

His insides were suddenly rumbling. Was it fear, nausea? Nausea. He was almost overwhelmed by it. He had to reach the door. He pushed himself to take the steps and get out of the man’s apartment. This man. This stranger. Nick. His name was Nick. The green eyes and beautiful smile of the man sitting next to him at the bar came into focus. Drinks, more drinks, Absinthe, dancing, kissing on the dance floor. He didn’t remember leaving Buff Chrome or arriving at this place, but flashes of Nick’s toned, smooth, olive-skinned body pressed up against his moved through his memory like electric shock pulsing behind his eyes. He remembered the groping, the hint of manly musk that hit his nostrils as he began to suck Nick’s cock. He closed his eyes hard against the memories trying not to remember.

As he reached the door, he turned and saw Nick leaning against the doorjamb of the bedroom. A flash of the last time he saw Bobby. Nick was watching Atwood race down the hallway. As Atwood turned the knob of the door, he stomach released its contents. The sound filled Atwood’s ears and the splatter hit the floor and the wall. 

Atwood turned the knob and bolted into the building’s hallway. He looked in both directions for an elevator or stairwell. He located an exit sign. As he ran from Nick’s apartment toward that exit sign he heard Nick yelling, “You better run you fucking little bitch twink.”

Those words pierced his ears as the door to the stairwell closed behind him. He ran down two flights before stopping to vomit again. A splatter in the apartment, a splatter in the stairwell. His head was pounding. He wanted to crawl into a hole and die, but he had to keep moving. He had to get out of the building and get home. He had to get home. He wanted the darkness of his own room, his own bed. He wanted to be locked away where no one could find him. Where only people he knew and trusted knew him back.

As he burst through the door the sun hit his eyes making him squint in both directions. He found himself standing on a sidewalk that he was unfamiliar with. He felt his insides relax. His breathing slowed. He stepped to the side of the doorway, leaned against the building, and breathed. He put on his shirt, but didn’t button it. He was mentally aware enough to know that he didn’t need to be walking down the street without his shirt and shoes on even if he was in California. He put on his shoes without his socks. He started to stuff the socks into his pockets, but decided to throw them into the trashcan on the corner instead. 

He leaned against the light pole on the corner next to the trashcan continuing to squint as he tried to figure out where he was. He reached into his pocket for his phone, relieved to find it and his wallet still there. He pulled the phone out and pushed a button for his speed dial. As he waited for the ringing to stop he couldn’t help but realize how dramatically his life had changed since he’d left Ryland in August. It had become moments filled with sex or drinking or smoking or all three together. If he wasn't having sex or searching for sex he was watching sex on the Internet or in a back room booth he’d discovered in a local bar three weeks ago. His thoughts snapped back to reality as the person he was calling answered. He couldn’t stop the flood of tears that were released the instant he heard her voice.


©2014 Michael Rohrer

Friday, May 9, 2014

Discovering and Outgrowing My Mother's Shoes

This piece originally appeared on HuffPost Gay Voices

How many of you used to play in your mother’s shoes? Don't be ashamed. Go ahead. Raise your hands. Smile at the memory. Did you have a favorite pair? Do you remember when your foot finally fit them perfectly? Do you remember when your foot outgrew them? 

I started playing in my mother’s shoes at an early age. It was before I started kindergarten. I was between 3 and 4 years old. I didn’t know why I loved her shoes so much (hindsight is 20/20). They were better than any of my toys. Kind of like when a child has more fun playing with the box than with what was inside it. Anyway, my mom had a fantastic pair of white patent leather platform sandals with a bow atop the toe-box. I’m going to call them patent leather, but my guess is they were really white vinyl, maybe even plastic. They were my favorite pair. I loved those shoes. My foot barely stayed inside the peep-toe opening. Instead of peep-toe it was more like peep-foot. I would play in them as often as I could before getting caught and told to put them away. It’s funny how 40 years later I can still see that pair of shoes clearly in my memory.

As I continued to grow into myself (in secret of course), I grew into my mom’s shoes. Between 6th and 7th grade they fit me perfectly. By then the white patent leather platform sandals of my childhood were gone as the 70s had given way to the 80s. My new favorite pair became the metallic fuchsia strappy sandals with the 3” heel she bought to match a dusty rose-colored dress that had a metallic fuchsia thread slightly wider than a pinstripe running vertically through it. It was a fantastic combination. And yes, I also tried on the dress. It fit briefly, but mostly for me it was about the shoes.

I lived for the moments when I would be left alone at our house while everyone else was out grocery shopping or running other errands. I would run to my mom’s closet the minute the car was out of sight and put on those fuchsia heels. I loved them. I would wrap a towel around my waist—much like a man might do post shower—to create a skirt. Sometimes it was a short skirt and sometimes, if I was needing to feel glamorous, I would tuck one towel into the front of my underwear's waistband and another into the back so that I had a long skirt with a slit up each leg. I was a vision in terrycloth (with hints of Little Edie Beale I would later become aware of). Sometimes I’d put on a robe, pulling the two sides together over my left leg instead of overlapping them in the center so that there would be a split from just below the knee all the way up my thigh. My idea of sexy. As I look back on it, that robe was kind of my version of Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Of course at that time I didn’t know who DVF was or anything about her wrap dress. Sometimes I did try wearing my mom’s skirts or dresses, but getting them off quickly when I heard the car pull into the driveway proved less than advantageous. And when you consider I had to get the shoes off—putting them back in the closet, and (for my own sanity) making it look like they’d never been moved—ripping off a towel skirt was much easier. 

I loved walking around our house in my mom’s shoes. The way I carried myself changed. It was difficult at first. I was clumsy. But I kept practicing. I figured out how to actually walk in the heels. Over time I got pretty good at it. That muscle memory came in handy the first time I performed in drag during a college cabaret night. 

Then the day came when my feet no longer fit into my mom’s shoes. That was a sad day. It was before the start of my 7th grade year. I was a growing boy, and I had grown my way right out of those fuchsia heels. My feet had grown too wide to fit inside the toe-box and so long they hung off the back. Like Cinderella’s step sisters I tried and tried to force my feet back into my mom’s shoes to no avail. It was over. Our time together had come and gone. I was disappointed left only with the memory of their brief perfect fit. Sure I could still wear my towel skirts and robe dress, but I’d lost my favorite accessory—the shoes. From Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City to Lola in Kinky Boots we know it’s all about the shoes.

I don’t own a pair of heels at this time, but I have owned a couple of pairs in my adult life that I loved. I’m not sure, however, that I loved either pair as much as I loved the two pairs that belonged to my mom. It’s kind of hard to compete with the memory of how much joy I got from her white patent leather platform sandals or how fabulous I felt wearing her metallic fuchsia 3” heels. 

This walk down memory lane brought the kind of smile to my face that only nostalgia can bring. I tell my mom how much I love and appreciate her all the time, but I've never thanked her for having such awesome taste in shoes…at least twice.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 12

The next day Atwood wanted to talk to Bobby—needed to was more accurate. He needed a moment alone with him to thank him for what he’d done—his kindness, his generosity, his friendship. Even though he didn’t remember making the call somewhere within him he must have known he could count on Bobby, trust Bobby. That must have been why he chose to call him instead of one of his fraternity brothers. He also felt the connection he and Bobby shared was still there even if it was harder to feel than before. 

Atwood made a choice. He decided instead of calling Bobby he would make a visit to his dormitory and thank him in person. He was nervous before knocking on the door. He stood in the hallway taking deep breaths through his nose exhaling them slowly through his mouth. He read somewhere how this was supposed to calm a person down when they were walking the high wire between fear and courage. He still felt the weight of anxiety in his chest as he finally knocked on the door.

“What do you want?” 

He hadn’t even considered that Clancy might be at Bobby’s.

“Hi, Clancy.” He hesitated, gnawing on the inside of his bottom lip, fidgeting outside the door. The look on her face was not inviting and her eyes couldn’t hide the animosity she felt toward him. Yet another example of sex killing a friendship.

“What do you want?” she asked again. The frustration in her voice so present that it was an invisible force.

“I’m sorry to bother you, and I know you don’t want to see me, but could I please talk to Bobby? Just for a second.”

She pursed her lips as she stared at him. He felt like a child. He was reminded of a time when his aunt had stared him down after church one Sunday afternoon because she thought he’d been disruptive and disrespectful. She held him tightly by the arm and scolded him. She said he’d been laughing too loudly and walking up and down the center aisle too many times. The service hadn’t even begun when he was committing his acts of villainy, and he hadn’t seen the harm in doing what he was doing. Truthfully, he was trying to get attention. He was a child acting like a child doing something a child would do. But that something was not something that deserved a scolding in his opinion.

Clancy’s eyes staring at him made him feel belittled and small just like the scolding from his aunt. He remembered the anger he felt toward her that Sunday afternoon but out of respect didn’t ask her why she had been so bothered by his attempt at attention. Clancy, however, was not his aunt and he owed her no respect. He’d done nothing wrong no matter what she thought.

“Look, I get it that you’re angry with me. But you should be honest with yourself. Your anger is more at Bobby. I didn’t know you two were a couple. So you can continue to be pissed at me all you want, but I want to see Bobby so get the fuck out of my way or I’m going to push past you.”

Atwood had never been so defiant before. His heart was pounding in his chest. Clancy was unmoving. He made a move toward her. She inhaled and released a deep breath, rolling her eyes, trying to show no intimidation as she moved her former-teenage-mean-girl-now-scorned-sorority-sister self to the side and opened the door further allowing him to pass.

He stopped just inside the door and jumped like a startled cat when she slammed it behind him.

“Bobby,” she yelled, “your little boy toy is here to see you.” Her words were spiteful and more than slightly vicious. She was nothing like the girl he’d had a three way with just a couple months before. He couldn’t help but wonder what Bobby saw in her and why he continued to stay with her. She
leered at Atwood as she walked past him into the bathroom. She slammed that door as well. 

Bobby appeared in the door of his bedroom. He was tentative and shy, his shoulders tensed up to his ears yet somehow slouchy. His hair was tousled like he’d just gotten out of bed. When he looked at Atwood the beautiful smile that Atwood so loved broke across his face. At that moment Atwood relaxed as did Bobby’s shoulders.

Atwood took a step toward Bobby, but Bobby gestured for him to stay where he was. He shot his eyes in the direction of the bathroom door. It was then that Atwood could see it was ajar. Clancy had opened it just a crack. For all her dramatic door slamming she was sneakily trying to listen to whatever it was Atwood wanted to say to Bobby.

“Hi,” was all Atwood managed.

“Hi,” Bobby repeated back to him. He put his hands in his pockets and leaned up against the door jamb.

Finding himself back in Bobby’s dorm room made him realize how much he missed him. He wanted to touch him. He wanted to reach out and feel his skin. He wanted to be touched. He wanted Bobby’s body to press against his in the melding embrace that always made him feel like they fit.

With Clancy in the next room listening there would be no embrace, there would be no touch, there would be no kiss.

“Listen, I’m sorry to just show up like this, but I really wanted to say thank you for last night. What you did for me really means a lot.”

“You’re welcome, Atwood.” Bobby responded. He looked toward the floor, embarrassed. “Honestly, I’m glad you called me. It made me feeling like a knight in shining armor sweeping in to save the day.”

Clancy cleared her throat in the bathroom.

Atwood attempted a step in Bobby’s direction, but Bobby’s body language all but pleaded that he stay put. 

“I wish we could get a drink sometime.” Atwood asked. A fly on the wall would have thought these two men were strangers instead of former lovers broken apart by fear and jealously.

“As nice as that sounds I don’t think I can.”

Atwood turned toward the bathroom and saw Clancy quickly move herself from his vision. He didn’t know what Bobby saw in her or what her hold over him was, but he sensed that he would never again feel Bobby inside of him or lay in Bobby’s arms. He couldn’t walk out of Bobby’s life without at least kissing him one more time. With purpose he walked toward Bobby without giving anyone a chance to stop him, placed his lips on Bobby’s and kissed him hard and deep. Bobby returned the kiss—their last one.

Atwood released Bobby from the kiss then turned and walked toward the door. Before walking out of the room he turned back toward Bobby. He took one moment to try and memorize Bobby’s features, be pierced by his blue/green eyes; one moment to see Bobby’s lips form the smile that he so loved.

Atwood smiled.

“Fuck you, Clancy,” he said as he walked out the door letting it slam shut behind him. 


Solitude can be peaceful, but it can also be lonely. Solitude and a bag of marijuana can be a combination that makes one do stupid things. 

After the door slammed on his relationship, friendship, whatever it was with Bobby, Atwood couldn’t get back to his own dorm room fast enough. He was sad, miserable. He was racked with guilt and fear over his arrest. He was aching with loss over the fact that he would probably never see Bobby again. He was lonely. Sad and lonely. The blinds were closed. The curtains were drawn. The only light in his room was from the flame of his lighter. He sat on his bed leaning against the wall and held his pipe—a gift from Ronnie. He smoked enough weed to make the loneliness take root deep within his heart and mind. He wasn’t thinking clearly, couldn’t think clearly. He was back in the blurry haze he’d been inside the night before. He wanted to be numb, but his mind wouldn’t black out. He reached for his phone.

Atwood: Hi

He pressed send and waited. Time moved slowly when marijuana impaired one’s judgment. He felt like an hour had passed when his phone finally lit up and vibrated. In reality it had taken only 10 minutes for the response to come back.

Kinlin: Hi

Atwood: Hi

Kinlin: We already covered that. What’s up?

Atwood: I miss u

Kinlin: I miss u 2. What’s wrong?

Atwood: y does something have to be wrong

Kinlin: bcause u haven’t talked 2 me in weeks

Atwood: u haven’t talked to me either

Kinlin: I thought u didn’t want 2 talk 2 me

Atwood: I always want 2 talk 2 u

Kinlin: r u drunk

Atwood: no, but i’m high. LOL

Kinlin: what’s going on, A?

Atwood: remember in the monument that night you loved me? I wish u loved me like that all the time.

Kinlin: Atwood don’t do this.

Atwood: don’t do what? 

Kinlin: don’t bring up that night.

Atwood: don’t tell me what to do, Kinlin. I want to matter to u. Why can’t I just matter 2 u. y can’t u just love me. y can’t anybody just love me.

Kinlin: Atwood, I do love u just not like that. 
Kinlin: What happened? did something happen?

Atwood didn’t write back immediately. He sat staring at the words on the screen of his phone. Kinlin didn’t love him. Bobby didn’t love him. He was fucked up—on pot and mentally. He felt like a fool. He felt out of control. He felt like he was spiraling out of control and didn’t know how to stop it, didn’t know if he wanted to stop it.

Atwood: I wish u had fucked me that night

Now it was Atwood’s turn to wait. He didn’t know if the marijuana was giving him the courage he needed to say the things he often felt he couldn’t say or if it was preventing him from thinking too deeply about what he was saying. He never seemed to realize that maybe by not saying the words (asking the questions) he was protecting his heart from the hurt the answers could inflict.

Finally his phone vibrated again.

Kinlin: I don’t want to do this over text, Atwood. 
Kinlin: There’s 2 much 2 say

Atwood: fuck u, Kinlin

Kinlin: stop it, A. u have 2 get it thru ur head that I don’t want 2 b with u like that.

Atwood: I get it!!!!! ur an asshole and u used me. I get it!!!!! FUCK U!!

Kinlin: I’m sorry, Atwood. I don’t know what else 2 say.

Atwood stared at the apology. Kinlin’s use of the phrase, ‘I’m sorry, Atwood,’ wasn’t new to him. He picked up the pipe from between his legs and put it on the nightstand beside his bed. When the light of his phone screen went out he was plunged into the darkness of his room. He let the phone rest loosely in his hand and leaned his head up against the wall. He felt the vibration of another text and could see his phone’s glowing brightness behind his closed eyelids. He knew it was from Kinlin, but he refused to look at it. He let his body slump onto the bed, his head finding the pillow.

Two hours later he woke up feeling relaxed and less anxious. Sleep had lately been the only thing that kept him from thinking about how he was twisting further and further away from the life he had envisioned for himself at UCLA. He was becoming one of those characters that lurked in the shadows in a noir film. More often than not he was blowing off his classes. He was using anything he could for distraction: alcohol, drugs, frat parties, sex. 

He looked down at his phone and saw the unopened text message from Kinlin.

Kinlin: please call ur mom…or somebody. I’m worried about u.

The text from Kinlin returned their earlier text conversation to the focus of his thoughts. He looked up from the phone and stared into the blackness of his room. He couldn’t sit there. Wouldn’t sit there. He was leaving that room. He wanted to be around people. Being alone was not the answer. He needed mindless distraction

He didn’t want to go to the frat house. He would have to find somewhere else. A gay bar that wouldn’t card him. Something. He got up and got dressed and left with no real direction, just a purpose.

© 2014 Michael Rohrer