The Italian Call Boy
The poetry in writing is the illusion it creates.
(© 2017 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
As told by Charles Antonio DeLuca
After years of selling my well-toned Italian body to top executives in the Hollywood film industry, and making a lot of money doing it, I received a call from Patrick O'Hara, an old college friend. He wanted to buy me as a gift for Marc Benson, a friend of his. This had never happened before. I was mildly interested but kept in mind that Pat was notorious for pulling pranks on everyone he knew and didn't know. I was playing it safe by not being too enthused. Little did I know how my life was about to be turned upside down and changed forever.
It turns out that Marc, the friend upon whom the gift, me, Charles Antonio DeLuca, was to be bestowed, found out what Pat was planning and told him there was no way in hell he would accept it. I probably should have left it at that, but I didn't. I asked Pat, "What's the problem?"
"I don't know, Charles. Marc and I have been friends for a long time. He's a sweetheart, you'd like him. He's a straight forward honest kind of bloke. But he's wound up tighter than a virgin at a prison riot and I'm not sure why. I suspect it has something to do with his childhood. His older sister, Marge, told me their father abandoned them when Marc was eleven years old. He lived through what it did to his mother. Later, I found out quite by accident that wasn't the reason."
"What was the reason?" I was losing interest and not paying attention.
"His dad. He was institutionalized. The poor beggar was mad as a hatter and died in a padded cell. Marc was in his 20's when he found out. He refused to speak to his mother or his sister for over a year. He changed. It's as if he just shut down inside, refused to get close to anyone. He has become quite successful as a producer - poured all his energy into his work."
"I am sorry to hear that. I guess they were trying to protect him with silence, which rarely works."
"I tried making a move on him a few years back. It was about as successful as my attempts at making Yorkshire pudding, without the beef."
"Yes, I've witnessed some of your culinary attempts. I keep telling you, it's the recipe. You need to get a new one." I loved poking fun at his cooking.
"Yeah yeah, so you say. Marc will die having never loved anyone unless you help me. If you or someone could break through that façade he hides behind, I know he'd blossom."
"Blossom? Into what? Pat, I'm not a horticulturist. I pander." My interest was dwindling - fast.
"Don't be cute, Charles. I'm serious. I care about Marc. Will you help?" Pat was on the verge of pleading with me.
"So what am I supposed to do?" I wanted to make sure I understood exactly what was expected of me.
I chuckled. "I'm no good at that, I satisfy lust of the flesh. It's not complicated, Pat. From what you're telling me about the charming Mr. Benson, I suspect it's more problematic than a one night stand. Does he even have lust of the flesh?"
"Don't be cynical, Charles. Everyone has lust of the flesh, hidden somewhere. You need to find out where he's hiding his."
"So you want me to explore. I don't know. Hey, maybe he's straight and doesn't know it."
"No, I've seen his magazine collection. He's definitely gay."
"Pat, this doesn't sound like much fun, especially for me. I think you should ..."
"Charles, please? He's going to die a lonely old man if something isn't done and soon."
I did not want to do this but decided to do it anyway for Pat's sake. Besides, I owed him for bailing me out of jail while we were in college. This would be a good payback. "Ok, I'll do it, reluctantly."
"That's great. I'll pop a check in the mail this afternoon." Pat was pleased as punch.
"I'm not promising anything, remember that."
"Just do what you do do, that's all I'm asking. I've seen you in action. If you can't charm the pants off of Marc, I don't know who can."
"If nothing happens, you're not getting your check back." I wasn't sure what I would do if it didn't work.
"I don't care about that. Just give it the old college try."
"That's very funny. The first time I gave it the old college try, in college, I landed in jail."
"Yes, I remember that. I also seem to remember bailing you out. Come to think of it, Charles, you owe me." Pat was a little too gleeful to suit me.
"No need to remind me. If this works we're even, ok?"
"You got it, buddy."
"So what's his address? I'll see what I can do." Trying to seduce these guys was not one of my fortes. I expected them to welcome me with open arms, and they usually did. My expectations from Pat's friend were not much higher than having the door slammed in my face.
Marc lived in the hills of Brentwood Heights, an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood. It was one of those Spanish style homes with lots of bougainvillea hanging over arches enclosing a wide veranda. I parked my car in his circular driveway and walked the curving flagstone walkway to a beautiful old Spanish style front door sheltered by the veranda. I pressed the doorbell button. The chiming I heard sounded like - here comes the bride, which I thought ironic. I looked through the small stained glass window in the door which was covered with decorative wrought iron.
In a few seconds, I heard footsteps coming down a staircase. A shadow crossed the window in the door, the door latch clicked and the door swung open. 'He must be expecting me.' "Hi, I'm Charles De Luca," I said enthusiastically with a wide grin.
"Oh God, he's done it," Marc groaned. "I told him not to do this. God dammit! He can really piss me off when he wants to."
I looked behind me trying to give the impression he was talking to someone else, then innocently said, "I'm from Fuller Brush, need any brushes?" He did not. So much for enthusiasm and humor. "Well hey, if you want me to leave, no problem." I needlessly paused for a reaction. "I've been kicked out of better places than this." I craned my neck to get a better look inside the house.
"Very funny. No, come on in. You might as well have something to drink, then go tell your idiot friend you scored. At least you can get paid for your effort. And Fuller Brush doesn't exist anymore."
"Yes it does," I said with cool confidence. "And Pat is your friend in spite of being an idiot." I walked in and looked around while Marc closed the door. The living room had a high tongue-in-groove, open beamed ceiling, finished in an antique white stain. The furnishings were modern plush, with a beautiful thick antique carpet over what looked like finished barn timbers. My first cynical thought was - money. "Did you build this place?" Marc ignored my question. He responded instead to my remark about Pat being his idiot friend.
"We'll see about that," he was not pleased. I followed him through a large well-furnished period dining room. There were two sets of French doors opening onto a large veranda behind the house. No question about it, there were big bucks invested in this cozy little shelter. I followed Marc into a brightly lit modern kitchen.
I took a good look at Marc. Pat forgot to mention he was an ok looking guy. About six feet tall, jet black hair, 5 o'clock shadow, not buff or butch, but ok, which made little difference in my profession. I could at least keep my eyes open with this one. He was good looking in a sweet sort of way. If I had any paternal instincts, his looks would have appealed to me.
"How much did he pay you?" I was surprised at the question. I was the gift, not a commodity being bargained over. People don't talk about things like that. They discreetly slip you a check.
"A thousand," I lied, restraining a grin.
"What? That's insane." Marc went to the kitchen counter and poured something into two cups.
"Hey look. Pat and I are old friends. If nothing happens here there will be no charge. Maybe I should skip coffee or whatever it is you're making. What is that?"
"Turkish coffee." He turned and held out a full cup.
"Smells like crap. That's not coffee, it's sludge," I looked at Marc.
"Here, try it. You might like it."
"That was gonna be my line." I didn't have long to wait.
"I'll just bet it was."
"Hey, I'm good at what I do," I felt like playing.
"Nobody can be that good."
"Wanna try and find out?" I gave him one of my most seductive grins. I've got nice teeth so I displayed them.
"No thank you. And stop trying to seduce me," he was adamant. But there was a nanosecond of hesitation which I found encouraging.
"I'll throw in a set of dishes." I hoped he wouldn't be expecting that.
"You'll do what?"
I got a giggle this time.
"Just drink your sludge and go. Besides, I have all the dishes I need."
At least he had a sense of humor.
"But first, put your address down here and whatever name you're using this week."
He pushed a pad and pencil toward me. I mumbled, "Whatever name I'm using," to myself as I picked up the pencil. I gave him a questioning smile. Was there a possibility he had changed his mind?
"No, not for that."
So much for possibilities.
"I'm giving a Christmas party. You'll be invited if you care to come. Might pick up some business."
"Oh come on," was he being cruel or truthful? It didn't sound like he was being cute. I was pissed and hurt at the remark. I sat down at his kitchen table and wrote my name and address on his stinking pad of paper. The damned pencil lead broke. I grabbed a nearby pen.
CHARLES ANTONIO De LUCA Entrepreneur
16148 Grandview Dr.
Topanga, CA 90290
"Entrepreneur? That's very funny. I don't think I'll ever stop laughing."
He was really getting under my hide.
"I see you're a country boy. That's a nice area."
At last, a compliment. "Yeah. Drive up sometime. I'll make you a cup of sludge." The tone of my voice surprised me. I was trying to get back at him, which wasn't like me.
"Some top execs will be at the party. Make it worth your while, they can afford it. It's Christmas, treat someone, treat yourself. I don't care. But leave me alone."
"You're just full of the holiday spirit aren't you?" I was still trying to get back at him. "Well, maybe not the holiday spirit, but you sure are full of something. Why don't you go down to Macy's, punch Santa, and kick an elf?" He glared at me. The score card was not looking any better.
"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings."
Marc sat down across from me with his cup of sludge. His body language told me he was about to tell me something I probably did not want to hear. I threw in a curve. "Well, you did hurt my feelings. If I cry, will it get me to first base?"
"No. And stop trying to seduce me." He was still serious.
"Am I trying to do that?" Who knew, maybe I was better at it than I thought. I sipped my sludge.
"Charles," he was looking at the pad of paper. I guessed he had forgotten my name. "I can't do something like this. I'm not wired to turn it on and off. I know some guys can, I can't. It's who I am."
"I know, and I do understand."
"No you don't," he glared at me.
The wisdom in the sound of his voice told me he was right.
He was tall, slim, and had broad shoulders which I had not noticed before. His shirt was open down about three or four buttons, revealing a thin covering of jet black hair. I found it attractive, which surprised me.
"Look, I have nothing against your lifestyle. My life is spiritually based. It's impossible to slap physical sex on top of that and expect the fireworks to go off."
"Hey, why don't I stick around for a while and we can talk about this." My suggestion fell flat. I was more interested in watching his body language. He wasn't trying, but his movements were seductive. I wanted to touch him.
"I'm not trying to convert you . . ." he stopped short. "Charles! You're doing it again. Stop looking at me like that," he glared at me. "I'm trying to explain why it won't work." He saw I wasn't interested. "Can't you drink faster?"
I wasn't sure - was he trying to be cute?
"I want someone with a spiritual background upon which two people can love and grow. Something that lasts longer than one night. Ever heard of love?" He was suggesting I had not which pissed me off, again.
"I've heard of love!" I sipped my sludge. I had never been in love and tried not to think about that. He had pressed a button I thought was hidden. It hurt. Two hurts in less than ten minutes. Why did I give a good goddamn?
"Not that kind of love. I'm talking about spiritual love. There is a difference you know."
"I'll take your word for it." He would wait a long time before that kind of love showed up on his doorstep. I changed the subject. "Hey, I'm going down to Santa Monica Pier to catch some sun, wanna come along?"
He smiled, or was it a smirk, and pointed out the kitchen window to a kidney shaped pool and lounge area.
I finished my sludge. It was time to go before he threw me out. My ego was deflating fast. I thanked him for the sludge and made my way to the front door. "Can I have a good-bye kiss?" I could not resist a last swing at his cast iron facade.
"GO! And be sure to thank Pat for the ambush, I'll deal with him later."
"I will, bye." I walked to my car. The front door closed and that seemed to be the end of it, or so I thought.
I wanted to stay. Probably because my oversized ego had gotten whipped into place. I was kidding about the good-bye kiss, or was I? For a moment I tried to visualize what lay beneath his cast iron facade. Perhaps something sweet and tender, obviously vulnerable. Something requiring a great deal of love and tenderness. Assets I did not possess. Why the fuck did I care. He could sit there and rot as far as I was concerned. I drove toward Santa Monica for some sun, and maybe a lonely tourist looking for comfort.
Several weeks later the invitation arrived, an engraved piece of work with my name written by someone who knew calligraphy. I was impressed and decided I would go, not so much for business. Well, maybe a little. I was thinking it would be nice to see Marc again. Who knows, maybe I could establish a new battle front. It would be a nice conquest.
The gathering was swank. Young, handsome butlers running around seeing to everyone's needs. He must have called William Morris for these beauties. The guests were dressed to the nines which meant - money. I was in seventh heaven.
I knew many of these men, intimately, but not well. They knew they had nothing to fear from me. I spotted Marc in the pool lounge area talking to Pat or was he ripping him a new one, I wasn't sure. I worked my way over to them, "Hi guys, can I break in?"
I hadn't seen Pat for a while. He got up, threw his arms around me, kissed my cheek, and whispered, "Thank God you're here."
I looked at Marc, "How about you?" He stalled. "Hey, you invited me."
He laughed, "Still trying aren't you?" He came over and kissed my other cheek then moved away to his other guests.
I looked at Pat, "Hey, I tried."
Pat laughed. We sat down. "I don't know what you did to him, he seems worse than ever. He was ripping me a new one before you arrived. He's furious."
I smiled at the ripping remark. "Don't look at me, I didn't do a thing; he wouldn't let me." Pat and I reminisced for a few minutes, then he and I mixed with the other guests. He knew more of them than I did so it was an opportunity to meet potential clients.
Afternoon slipped into evening. The lights in the pool came on, adding an inviting sparkle to the rippling water. Pat decided to take a dip. He disappeared into the bathhouse to change.
Marc cruised by, "You're welcome to go in if you like."
"Thanks, I'm not wearing anything suitable." I gave him one of my come-hither smiles. It was flimsy but worthy of a try.
"Go in the buff, unless you're shy." His voice dripped with sarcasm.
"Oh yeah, I'm shy all right."
"Well, come on. I'm sure there's a pair of speedos somewhere." He led the way to the bathhouse. Pat passed us on our way in and gave me a grin which I wasn't sure how to interpret.
I found a pair of red speedos which were too large. I changed, then joined Pat and a few of the guests in the heated pool. It felt good to have the warm water surround my body.
As Marc mingled with his guests, I caught him watching me frolicking, all but naked, in the pool. I swam and did a few cannon balls into the water which caused my speedos to slip off. I peeked to see if Marc was still watching. He was. I took advantage of his staring and posed provocatively at poolside, making sure my ample manhood bulged through the red speedos. Nothing worked. My ego was seriously in danger of collapsing. I cornered Pat, "What do you think?"
"I don't know. He might be interested, then again he might not." Pat suggested I pounce on him which I thought a cool idea. But I sensed a vulnerability in Marc I did not want to bruise.
The fact I cared about his vulnerability was out of character and annoyed the hell out of me. Then, the horrible thought crossed my mind that I was over the hill at 32, and no longer as seductive as I thought I was?
The guests were gone, and the staff was cleaning up when Pat and I left. We walked down to the street and glanced back. Marc was standing on the veranda looking very much alone. I waved. He waved back. Pat and I continued down the street to where we had parked our cars. "He looked so alone when we left."
"Yeees, I noticed. So what?" I pushed him over a little.
"So nothing." He pushed back and gave me one of those knowing smiles.
I hissed at him and wondered if I were attracted to Marc because he played hard to get, or if I was just - attracted to Marc. I wanted to go back and be with him, so he wouldn't be alone. I stifled the thought and drove home, flopped into bed only to be awakened in the wee hours by a phone call from Pat.
Marc had taken pills and was in trouble. I felt responsible. Perhaps I had pushed him too far. I raced to his house. The front door was open. Pat was talking with Marc's sister, Marge. She sat down on the stairs as I approached, holding back tears. "He's barfing his guts out. Doc Simons thinks he'll be all right."
"Who found him?" I looked at Pat.
Tears ran down her cheeks. "The neighbor called me around 3 a.m. They called Marc, there was no answer so they called me, said something wasn't right. All the lights were still on. I came over and found him semi-conscious, dragged him into the shower and turned the cold water on while I called Doc Simons. He's up there now."
Pat and I started up the stairs. "Better wait."
A few moments later Doctor Simons came down the stairs. "He won't be happy for a few days, but he'll live. You did the right thing, Marge. Someone better keep an eye on him until we know he's out of the woods."
Pat looked at me, "You go. I'll look after Marge."
I ran up the stairs and peeked into the bedroom. Marc lay on his side with his back to the door. I gave a soft, "Hey, you." He was awake.
"Go away," he groaned.
"Too late, my friend." I walked to the bed.
"I don't want you to see me like this."
I sat on the floor and leaned against the bed.
He moaned, "Oh God, you must think me a terrible fool."
"As a matter of fact, I do. Not a terrible fool. Perhaps a little foolish," I hoped that would help.
He rolled over and looked at me, "What?"
"You heard me. And you look like shit."
He pulled into a fetal position trying to hide his face.
"No, I like your face no matter what," I sounded like I was cooing which surprised me. But it worked. He unfolded and smiled.
"Why the fuck did you do this?" I didn't let him answer, "Are you finished throwing up?" Our faces were inches apart.
"I don't know, I feel awful."
"You in the mood for sex?" I looked at him and smiled.
"Don't make me laugh, it hurts."
"Sorry, just checking. It's what I do."
"Very funny." He took a deep breath, settled down and looked at me. "I am glad you're here."
"Me too. And not to worry, I have a waste basket here in case you need to go wup wup." I looked at him, "I'm staying until Pat and I can pound some sense into your thick skull."
"Impossible. Is Pat here?" Marc raised his head and looked beyond me.
"Yes, he's downstairs comforting Marge; you scared the hell out of her."
"Oh, Marge, I don't know how I can make this up to her." He put his head down and pulled the covers under his chin.
"She saved your bacon, boy. You'll have a lot of explaining to do. I hope you have the right answers, and I hope she's tougher than nails on you."
"She will be," he sighed.
"Well, you won't get any recriminations from me," I smiled.
"What will I get?" he whispered.
"Oh, I don't know, how about tea and sympathy?"
"Ok, how about a little old fashioned TLC."
"I'll take that as a yes."
"I'm sorry for dragging you into this, Charlie. Why did you come?"
He called me Charlie. I turned and looked at him, "I don't know, perhaps I've taken a shine to you. Any objections?"
"No," he sighed and blushed.
"I may not be the spiritual knight in shining armor you're looking for but I'm honest." My eyes welled at my own honesty.
"Are you crying?" he said drowsily.
I wanted to say I had every intention of bringing joy into his life whether he liked it or not but he had drifted off to sleep and began to snore softly. I'd have to save it for later. I was uncomfortable sitting on the floor so I got up onto his huge bed, stretched out next to him and fell asleep.
It was dawn when I woke. Marc had turned over and was facing me. I felt protective of him. His vulnerability touched something deep within me, a place closed off for a long time. I felt a sense of confusion. I had been with many people over the years, it was nothing like this. I wanted to hold him, comfort him. I'm sure it would have freaked him out if I had so much as touched him. I lay there watching him sleep, content to be near him.
Pat poked his head into the room and whispered he was going out. He looked at Marc and me, smiled, then darted away.
Marc stirred. I wondered what his reaction would be when he discovered me lying next to him.
Without opening his eyes he murmured a soft, "Hi." The corners of his mouth turned up into a smile.
"Surprise," I whispered.
"You're still here." His eyes were closed as he stretched his arms and legs.
"I said I would be. How are you feeling?" I brushed the hair from his forehead.
"Umm, better. And you?" He opened his eyes a slit and looked at me.
"Whipped." I brushed his face with my hand. He didn't move. "You put us through a scare last night. I hope you realize that."
His memory engaged, "Oh, Christ." He turned away, I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back. "We better get you into the shower, you stink."
He woke up, "Oh God, I do stink."
I climbed out of bed and took his hand, "Come on."
"Charlie, I'm not strong enough," he looked up at me.
There it was again, he called me Charlie. "I'll help you." He put his feet on the floor, I helped him stand. He wobbled. I put my arm around him and we staggered into the bathroom.
"You have to pee?"
"You sit, I'll get the shower going."
I got him to his feet and hobbled him to the shower stall. He looked silly with his pajama bottoms around his ankles. "Take those off."
"I'll be naked."
"Yes, you will. That's usually how people take a shower." He had to be kidding me.
He disrobed and stood there naked, looking at me. "What? I've seen naked men before. Don't worry, I'm not going to seduce you. Come on, get in."
He reveled in the warmth of the water cascading over his body. I took my clothes off and got in with him. Now he was awake and looking at me, all of me. "Turn around. I'll get your back, you get your front."
When I turned him around he was fully aroused, "Hey, none of that."
"Well, what the hell did you expect, rubbing me all over with your hands? No one has ever done that before."
"Not even yourself?"
"Well, that's different." He put his hand on my shoulder as I stooped to wash his feet. "You and Pat probably planned this."
"Yeah, we sat up all night planning this."
"How come you're not aroused? Does my body turn you off?"
"A stupid remark like that does not help." I got out of the shower and turned up the cold water. "Cool off."
He gave out a JEEEEZ and turned the water off.
As I toweled myself off I heard someone coming up the stairs, "What are you two up to, or should I say have been up to?" It was Pat.
"We're getting boy wonder cleaned up. He smelled like he stepped into an unopened shit bomb. His bedding needs changing. Would you?"
"I'll get it." Pat disappeared.
"Unopened shit bomb?" Marc looked at me.
"Well, I couldn't think of anything else." I grabbed another towel as I helped Marc out of the shower stall, gave him a quick rub down, put his robe on, and marched him toward the bedroom. "Come on, let's get you back in bed."
Pat was waiting. We tucked Marc into bed, bathrobe and all. I think he was enjoying all the attention.
"Hungry?" He shook his head.
"Maybe juice." Pat left the room.
I sat down on the edge of the bed. "We'll get food together and be back. You need to get something in your stomach. Then, we're all going to have a little chat."
"Oh jeez," his face drooped.
"Don't give me any oh jeez, you're still in big trouble, boy, even if you do smell better. You smell like a peach, what's with that?"
"It's the shampoo."
I chuckled to myself. Yeah, he was definitely gay.
I took his hand, "Don't worry. No, on second thought worry a lot. We're pissed at you, me being one of them."
"Why you? You don't know me, not really."
"I'm getting to, and would like to get to know more if you could manage to be a good boy and stay alive long enough."
"Marge, where's Marge?"
"Pat sent her home. I'll be back." I moved to the doorway.
"Charlie . . .?" the plaintive sound of his voice caught me in my gut. I turned. "I'll stay alive long enough. I promise. I ..."
"Remember the first day you came to see me?" His voice was shy and hesitant.
"Yeah, what about it?" I walked into the room a few steps.
He turned over in bed, away from me. After a pause, "I wanted you. I wanted you in the worst way."
It sounded as if his voice broke a little at the end. Though it may have only been his lust of the flesh peeking out at me, my heart melted right down into my socks. I wanted to run to him, embrace him, kiss him, and delight him. I needed to tread softly so as not to bruise what he had laid at my feet.
For the first time in my life, I didn't know what to say. I paused, looking at the heap on the bed, covered in bed clothes. I knew and understood the words he said. It was the feeling wrapped around them which caught me off guard.
Somewhere deep down in my inexperienced heart came a whisper, "Thank you, Marc. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere." I turned and barely cleared the door jamb when a different tone of voice attacked me from behind. "And stop calling me boy, I'm all grown up."
"Yeah, so I noticed," I yelled and started to laugh. I skipped happily down the circular stairway and almost ran into surprised Pat, who was on his way upstairs with a glass of juice.
"You're looking pleased with yourself," he stopped and turned as I passed him.
"Shut up, Pat." I continued down the stairway. His comment was intruding in my new relationship with Marc. I wanted to be alone with it for a moment.
"Charles?" came the response I expected. Pat was aware of my caring. He confronted me with his concern I would draw Marc out emotionally and then dump him once the conquest was made. I pulled out his check, tore it up, hugged him, and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm not going to hurt him, Pat." I don't know if that helped, it was the best I could do for the moment.
Pat hesitated, trying to figure out what the hell I was up to. He turned and went upstairs. My checkered reputation was catching up with me. I would have to prove I was on the level to them, and to myself.
After feeding our boy scrambled eggs and juice, I went home, gathered a few things and came back with intentions of staying until Marc could go it alone. He didn't object. I hoped he was pleased.
Ten days later Marc was back to his old self. We had spent many long hours together, talking, playing games, swimming, and sunning by the pool, at a distance physically, and emotionally. We became good friends.
It was time for me to leave. I packed my duds and met Marc in the front hall.
"Well, I'm off." I looked at Marc. He said nothing. "Are you going to be all right?" His expression left me wondering.
"I'll be fine." He said it, I didn't believe him.
As I pulled the front door open, I realized my caring for him while he recovered had turned into - me caring for him. I smiled my farewell and walked to my car. I heard the door click shut. He did not come out to see me off and was probably glad I was leaving. I hoped he watched me leave through the little window in the front door.
As I drove home I kept thinking I should have pounced on him, ravaged his poor helpless body, and made him mine. I missed him. I wanted to go back and beg him to take me in. I kept driving as tears ran down my cheeks. I was such a fool.
I spent the rest of the day reading and answering email, making phone calls, and putting my life in order. The phone rang once, I was sure it would be Marc. It wasn't. Pouncing on Marc would have been a big mistake. I would have made a fool of myself, and who knows what harm it would have inflicted on Marc. I crawled into bed after midnight and slept fitfully until dawn.
A few days later the phone rang. It was Pat. "Hey Pat, how's it going?"
"And . . . ?"
"You won't believe this."
Pat hesitated, "I got a call from Marc."
"How is he?"
"You haven't talked to him?"
"No, not since I left his house. What's going on?"
"He asked me if I still wanted to give you, as a gift, to him."
"That's what I asked Marc."
"And what did he say?" I could not believe we were having this conversation.
"He said he wasn't kidding, I didn't believe him."
"Why didn't you believe him?" This was getting weird.
"It made little sense after everything we'd been through."
"Well, what did he mean?" My heart sank. Marc didn't care about me. I was grateful I hadn't pounced.
"Would you go if I sent you a check?" Pat was testing me.
"Hell no I wouldn't go."
"Pat, what the hell is going on?" My patience was evaporating.
"Marc was testing me to see if you cared about him."
"Well, of course, I care about him."
"Have you told Marc?"
"Why not, you idiot?"
"I'm a sex worker, Pat. I tried to seduce him so many times I've lost count. It would have sounded the same if I told him how I really felt about him. I wasn't going to take the chance of having him laugh at me. And, if he believed me, would he have trusted me?"
"You're still an idiot. I regret having bailed you out of jail you pathetic jerk."
"So, what do you want me to do?"
"Nothing. I'll figure out what to tell him."
"Tell him I'm . . . Tell him I'm doing what I get paid to do. Tell him anything you like." I hung up. Tears welled in my eyes. At that moment I realized I no longer cared about Marc, I was in love with him. Shit! Goddammit!
A few miserable days later I decided to get away, with hopes it would pull me out of the doldrums. I emailed Pat, apologizing for hanging up on him. I was going to Yosemite for hiking and would call him when I got back.
Climbing Yosemite Falls has a cathartic effect on one's perspective of things. I had arrived late the previous day, had something to eat and retired to my cabin. The sun wasn't up yet when I woke. I was eager to get going. It would be a three-hour climb to the top which I was looking forward to. I had a bite to eat, then walked to the trailhead. The sound of the gushing water and the mist from the falls energized me as I began the upward trek.
Three hours later I arrived at the summit, out of breath, and tired. I crossed the fall's river bridge and rested on the other side taking in the magnificent view and reviewing my sordid life. I was not ashamed of it. There just didn't seem to be any point to it. I found a determination within to make the necessary changes, to get back on track for a more meaningful life. I would call Marc when I got back, tell him how I felt, and let the pieces fall where they may.
When I got back to my house, I discovered I was not going to get a chance to call Marc. An email from Pat was waiting. He forgave me for being a jerk, told me he loved me in spite of myself, and Marc had gone to Europe to work on a film he was producing. I replied, thanked him for his forgiveness, and told him it was probably best for Marc that I was out of his life. I felt lost and alone when I hit the send button. I was on my own again, and I didn't like it.
I was at a crossroad. Selling my body was at an end, my clients were dying or retiring, I was becoming long in the tooth, and I just didn't want to do it anymore. My experience with Marc had a bigger impact on me than I first thought.
Wise investments left me financially secure. Everything seemed perfect except for one thing, I was alone, and I missed Marc. My one chance at happiness and I screwed it up royally.
There was salvation, however, on a shelf in my office. The plans for a new home. Years ago I drew up detailed plans and had one of my clients, a master architect, sign-off on them. I owned a parcel of land overlooking the canyon with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Now seemed the right time to marry the two together. It would give me something to do until I got over the charming Mr. Benson.
Dealing with county permits and inspections was annoying, time-consuming, and generally a pain in the ass. But, little by little the house took shape and rose into the air. The framing was complete, the roof was in place, and the electrical and plumbing work were almost complete when I got a call from Patrick.
"I'm building a house at the top of the canyon on Mendenhall Court. The view is spectacular. Why don't you drive up and applaud my efforts." Pat laughed out loud and said he would be delighted. I gave him directions, we planned to meet the following afternoon.
I was in ragged cutoffs, a torn tank top, sweat, and construction boots when Pat drove up. "You look good enough to eat. Are you still for sale?"
"No, I'm not doing that anymore. But thanks for the compliment." We spent an hour inspecting the construction from every angle. Pat was impressed. He offered a few suggestions on things I had overlooked. There was still time to implement them. "Thanks, Pat. You came at the right time." I poured coffee from my canteen into two cups.
We sat and talked, mostly reminiscing while admiring the prospect.
"And when it's finished, what are you going to do, live alone in blessed singleness?"
Pat was trying to be cute, he hit a nerve which I deflected. "Maybe I'll open a call boy central. I'll run an ad in the L.A. Times. 'Charlie's Bordello' call 1-800-FUCKYOU. I could build a bath house over there for the boys, and a Victorian studio over there for the little old ladies who want a last thrill on their way to the cemetery. Reminds me of Estelle Wood and Zero - hold me, touch me."
"Charles?" Pat had never heard me talk like this before. His look was grim.
"I'm over the hill, Pat. I knew the day would come."
"But you're not under it, yet."
I could always depend on Pat to rescue me.
"At least I'm prepared for it financially."
"And emotionally?" Pat knew me too well.
I shook my head. "Not so good, Pat. Not so good."
We sat in silence watching the clouds playing around a thunderstorm out on the Pacific Ocean.
"Marc is back in town." I wondered when Pat would get around to mentioning him.
"Is that so? How is he?" trying not to sound too interested.
"He's fine. He asked about you." Pat was fishing. I've known him too long to miss that one.
"Oh, did he?" I looked at Pat. He was smiling. "Ok, what are you up to?"
"Nothing. Just thought you'd like to know." He tried to be cool, his grin gave him away.
"Come on, out with it."
"Well, he met someone on his trip and they fell in love, some young Frenchmen. They're getting married in a few weeks, I thought you'd like to attend the festivities."
"They're WHAT? Who the hell is this guy? Do you know him? Have you seen him? I don't believe this. Are you kidding me? I'll beat the crap out of you if you are."
"Okay, beat the crap out of me. A little S&M between friends can be kind of kinky now and then." Pat was having a good time.
"Why the hell would you say something like that?" I was almost pissed at him.
"Just wanted to see where you stood with Marc."
"Why didn't you ask me?"
"Yeah, like you would have told me."
"I'm no good for him, Pat. My past would always be in the way."
Pat took my hand and held it. "How do you know that?"
"I just do." I pulled my hand back. "It's no good."
"You're all he can talk about, and I'm tired of listening to him. He's coming to dinner tonight. You should be there."
That caught me off guard, "I don't know if I can make it."
"You can make it. Be there by 6, and don't forget." Pat got up to leave.
"You can really be bossy sometimes. Did I ever tell you that?" I walked him to his car.
"I'm not bossy. I just know what you should be doing." He hugged me and got into his car.
"Be there! For once in your life stop thinking with your ass, and start thinking with your heart. I love you, Charles. I want the best for you."
I waved as he drove away. I loved Pat too, what a good friend. We met in college and hit it off right away. We never split the sheets which is probably why our friendship lasted.
I went home, showered, and dressed as simply and seductively as I knew how. Sandals, black slacks and a linen shirt open passed my pecs with the sleeves rolled up to mid-forearm. And no jewelry, not that I ever wore any. I was thinking a wedding band was the only jewelry I wanted to wear. The tan I gained from being on the construction site was a perfect topping. I hoped Marc might succumb, I wasn't going to hold my breath for that to happen.
I pulled into Pat's driveway and parked behind Marc's car. It was a fine California evening. The heat of the day had given way to perfect comfort. I walked through the garden gate and saw them on the patio. Smoke from the barbecue rose lazily over the trees and was caught unexpectedly by the setting sun.
They didn't see me, I paused, watching these two old friends talking and laughing together. Marc saw me first and stopped talking. Pat turned around.
"Hi, come on in." Pat was beaming, he was up to something.
I walked over to Marc. "Hi, Marc. Long time no see." I put my arms around him and kissed his cheek. He didn't resist.
"Hi, Charles." He seemed surprised. It was Charles again, the sound of which hit me in the gut. I was probably wasting my time.
I went to Pat, embraced him and kissed his cheek. "How do I look?" I whispered.
"Yumie." We had drinks and small talk before Pat served the meal on the outdoor dining table.
"What, no Yorkshire pudding?"
Pat laughed, "You would think of that." He had failed so many times trying to make that dish, it had become a joke with us.
The conversation centered on Marc's European trip and the film he was producing.
Then, Marc surprised me, "Pat tells me you've met someone. I thought you were bringing him here this evening."
I looked at Pat whose face was so straight it was poker. So, that's what he was up to, the rat. I played along. "Yeah, well, Ralph was busy, he'll be at the house I'm building. Why don't you and Pat drive up and see what I've done?"
Marc was crestfallen but wasn't about to let on. "I'd like that. Pat, are you going?"
"Yes, we can go together if you like." He was being so nonchalant. I almost laughed.
"We'll be there all day, so anytime you like." I could not tell if this was working.
"How about oneish? Marc is that okay with you?"
"One is fine," he tried to sound interested.
"I'll pick you up around 12:30." Pat walked toward the house. "I'll be back with dessert."
"I'll help." I followed him into the house.
"I know what you're doing, I'll kill you if this doesn't work."
"Ralph? You couldn't do better than Ralph? Rodrigo or Rex, but Ralph?" he whispered so loud I was afraid Marc would hear him.
"I wasn't prepared. Why the hell didn't you warn me?"
"It was a last-minute epiphany. I had no time to call you. When you paused before, I thought the jig was up. Thank God you're not completely obtuse."
"Last minute epiphany my Aunt Fanny."
"Here, take these and get your Aunt Fanny out there before he catches on." Pat handed me a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. He followed with ice cream, spoons, and bowls.
The ice cream and chocolate covered strawberries were served and consumed with delight. The evening drew to a pleasant close. I left first and hardly slept a wink, anticipating the possibilities of the next day. I wasn't sure this was going to work. Having it back-fire seemed more probable.
I was dressed in my usual construction grubbies. Pat and Marc arrived late. The work crew left for the day as we walked up the stairs to the second floor to see the master bedroom and the view of the canyon and the Pacific Ocean. Pat excused himself. "Where's the port-o-potty?"
"That tree over there." I hollered after him.
"Great, I love exposing myself to nature."
I turned to Marc, "The house will be closed in and finished in a few weeks. I'm thinking of giving it to my friend as a wedding present."
"Wedding present?" Marc could not hide his slack-jawed surprise.
"Yeah, I'm going to ask him to marry me."
Marc looked so unhappy I was sorry we were doing this to him.
"I thought your friend would be here today." Marc was on the verge of exasperation.
I paused, "He is here," my heart was pounding.
"He is? Where?" Marc looked at me.
I smiled, 'Please don't laugh at me.' "I'm looking at him." I thought I would cry if this didn't work.
"What?" Marc was confused.
"It's you, silly." I held out my arms. It was now or never time.
It took a nanosecond to sink in. Marc flew into my arms and burst into tears of joy and relief.
It was the first time I had embraced him. He fit perfectly. I whispered, "I love you, Marc. Please marry me." His warmth, his smell intoxicated me.
He managed an "Ok," as his sobs subsided. "I thought I had lost you."
"No chance of that happening, my friend." I kissed Marc on the mouth for the first time. His response told me everything I needed to know.
Pat came up the stairs, leaned against the doorjamb and enjoyed the success of his epiphany. I looked over to him, "Are we even now?"
"Yeah, we are indeed, thank God."
"Hey, you can be flower boy."
Pat laughed. "No thanks."
Marc disengaged himself from my embrace and turned on Pat, "You planned this, you bastard." His smile belied his rhetoric.
"It was a good plan. Wasn't it?"
Marc went to Pat and hugged him. "For once, yes. it was a good plan."
It was almost dark as we prepared to leave. I took Marc's hand and told him he was coming home with me. Pat kissed us, got in his car, and tooted his horn as he drove away.
I put my arms around Marc, "Are you sure you're ok with this?"
We were nose to nose. He looked into my eyes, "Yes, but I'm frightened."
"Of losing you and being alone again."
"Pat said you were an honest bloke. I appreciate honesty." I took Marc's face in my hands, "Leaving you will never happen, my friend. I didn't think I was capable of loving anyone until you came along." I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close. "My heart began to melt the first time I saw you standing in your doorway cussing Pat out for sending me to you."
Marc chuckled, "That was funny, now that I think of it, but I was pissed at Pat."
I released Marc and took his hand as we walked toward my car. "Why didn't you tell me to get lost and shut the door?"
Marc smiled and put his arm through mine, "I was lonely. I knew Pat had my best interest at heart. You were attractive and so easy going. I just wanted to get a closer look. By the time you left something was already stirring inside of me."
I stopped and took both of Marc's hands into mine, "Remember those 10 days I stayed with you?"
"How could I forget them? I felt like we became friends."
"I fell in love with you in those 10 days."
"You never let on, Charlie. Why didn't you say or do something?"
"I was afraid."
"That you might laugh at me and think I was just trying to seduce you."
"Oh, Charlie," Marc pulled me into an embrace. "I don't know what I would have done. I was so confused at the time. All I know is I was happy you were there. You saved me from myself. When you walked out the door I felt an ache inside that told me I was in love with you."
"There was a moment. Just an instant before I walked out the door. The look on your face. I almost said something but decided against it. I wasn't happy about leaving you either. Thank God, Pat saw how foolish we were. If it weren't for him we probably wouldn't be standing here. You are my friend, Marc. I love you and I'll never hurt you." Holding Marc after so much waiting was dizzifying. I knew I was doing the right thing for him and for me.
Marc pulled back a little, "Do I have to change my name to Ralph?"
I burst out laughing, "No, you don't." I pulled him into a tight embrace. "You may keep your name. Saying, 'Marc, I love you' sounds much better than 'Ralph, I love you.' Don't you agree?" His grip on me tightened with his approval.
"Come on, let's go home." I opened the passenger door, Marc got in.
On the drive down Topanga Canyon Blvd., Marc admitted, "I knew Pat was up to something. He's the eternal prank player."
I added, "He told me his plan was an epiphany."
Marc laughed. "When he told me you were seeing someone I hoped it was one of his pranks. When you said you would ask your friend to marry you, I lost hope."
"I know. You looked so sad, I was sorry we were doing this to you. It reassured me of how you felt about me. Forgive me?"
"No, never." He turned his head and looked out the window. "I'm not experienced in love making, Charlie. I hope you realize that."
"Doesn't matter. We have plenty of time to work on that. Hey, if you don't get it right the first time, we'll have to do it over and over until you do get it right. Deal?" I took his hand and kissed it.
"Deal." There was a contentment in the sound of his voice.
I had to confess, "Pat thought I should have pounced on you a long time ago. I'm glad I waited."
"Did he say that?" The smile on Marc's lips told me he was thinking about the possibility. "I'm glad you waited."
"Would it be okay if I pounced on you now?" I had trouble keeping my eyes on the canyon road.
"I would be disappointed if you didn't. You know, I really hate these bucket seats."
My heart jumped. He wanted me, and could not get at me, and I could not get at him. The tension was riveting. Thank you, General Motors. "We'll be home in a few minutes."
I pulled into the driveway and took Marc's hand as we walked to the house. He paused and held me back. I looked at him, wondering why he had stopped. He pulled me into an embrace and held me close. "What is it?"
"What if I don't satisfy you?" his head was on my shoulder looking away.
"What the hell are you talking about? I was satisfied the second you ran into my arms this afternoon." I pulled him tighter into the embrace.
"I mean in bed. You've had so much more experience." He was dead serious.
I pulled his head up and looked into his eyes. "It doesn't matter, Marc. I asked you to marry me, to love me. Sex is just the dot on the 'i' in loving. Isn't it?" He said nothing. "I'm going to be learning right along with you. I know nothing of the spiritual love. You'll have to teach me."
"You remembered that?"
"Of course I remember, you silly goose. I remember everything you said that first day. I've thought about it a lot."
Marc relaxed in my arms. "If you don't let go, we'll never get into the house," I smiled.
"I don't want to let go. I want to hold you like this forever." He looked into my eyes, "But I'll let go, long enough until we get inside." He smiled and released me.
"You tired?" He nodded his head. "We don't have to do anything tonight. Why don't we crawl into bed and get some sleep? I'm exhausted myself. We'll let tomorrow take care of itself." Marc put his arms around me and hugged his approval.
"It's a three day weekend. You have any plans?" I squeezed his hand.
"No. Not now."
I opened the front door and let Marc go in first. I was such a lucky guy. I closed and locked the front door.
The house passed its final inspection. The landscapers arrived and within days it was finished. The following Sunday morning, with Pat, Marc's Sister, Marge, and her husband, along with a few close friends in attendance, Marc and I married one another in a brief, beautiful ceremony, and became partners for the rest of our lives. The moment it was announced we were partners for life, smart-ass Patrick came up behind us and showered us with rose petals. He decided to be flower boy after all.
Marc and I discussed changing our last names as a symbol of our union. Instead, we decided our wedding bands would be sufficient. We spent our honeymoon in our new home on Mendenhall Court, enjoying the closeness of one another, overlooking Topanga Canyon, and the ever-changing vista of the Pacific Ocean.
The call boy was no longer on call.