Chelsea can be as cold as the Arctic, despite the insulation of skyscrapers that surround this little queer village in the middle of Manhattan. December chill penetrates my leather jacket and the faded fabric of my jeans. Sacrificing warmth for sex appeal, story of my life. I light a cigarette and lean against the brick wall of a brownstone as if to absorb the heat from within, but no such luck. A light dusting of snow has turned everything white, but it stopped falling an hour ago, and by morning it will be slush.
It's Christmas Eve. Conventional wisdom would be that no one goes shopping for a blow-job on Christmas Eve. The family men who comprise a large portion of my clientele are home with the wife and kiddies. The faggots are either partying with friends, partnered up, or drinking and tweaking themselves into a blue funk. Weird thing is, I get a lot of business on Christmas Eve. A lot of lonely men wander these streets on holidays, looking for something, anything, to stop the pain. Even for an hour. Even for ten minutes.
I don't have anywhere to be right now. May as well make some money and pass the time. Christmas is a non-event for me, always has been. Not really true, that non-event part. Christmas is a bad time for me. I'll celebrate the way I have been for the last few years, make as much money as I can and then take some heavy duty downers and sleep through most of the day. It wasn't always like this, Christmas. But I don't let myself linger on that ancient shit. Nothing there but pain if I do.
A car crawls by. I watch, smile. Drives on, but in a few minutes, it's back again, having made the block. This time the driver pulls over to the curb and stops. He lowers the passenger-side window. It's a Mercedes S-class, the good one. Not a cop. Cops don't cruise in the S-class. Not the big one, the one with the V-12. From the pale glow of the dashboard dials I can see that he's younger than I expected, and more handsome. Mid-thirties, I reckon.
"Lost?" I lean in the open window, letting him get a look at the goods. I'm my own billboard. This is all I have to sell, for as long as the looks hold up.
"Are you?" he counters my sarcasm and I grin at him.
"Want a date?"
"Get in, but lose the cigarette, first."
I take a last drag and toss the butt in the gutter. The car's warm, The leather's warm. Ass warmers buried in the seats abolish my chill with radiating heat. We talk money and sex acts. The only thing left is where. He surprises me by saying, "Let's go to my place. I live midtown."
This doesn't happen often. Usually it's in the car, parked down by the piers, or in a lot, or in some cheap hotel in the ‘hood, but never at the guy's midtown apartment.
His profile is elegant, Grecian jug perfect with a classical straight bridge nose, wide-set gray eyes and lips like an Abercrombie model. Too handsome, too young, too rich, something's off. Not a cop, I can smell pork a mile away. But something's not normal. He offers me a large sum of money for the whole night. Enough to score some serious China White and snort myself into oblivion until this fucking holiday is over.
What can I do but accept?
On the sound system is a classical CD. Dull. His coat is vicuna, rich man's cashmere. His hands are covered in fine, black leather gloves. No doubt he's a freak, his kind always is. I'm in for some pain, but I can stand it. As long as he doesn't kill me, it's worth it. And if he does kill me, I won't know, so what the fuck?
"You're beautiful," he says as we stop at yet another red light. The usual Manhattan traffic is finally thinning out. People are retreating to their homes. Desperate shoppers are locked out of the stores, their frenzy officially over. Forgotten gifts will be substituted with checks and bottles of booze with a film of dust from the back of a home bar. The city looks so...gay...with all the white lights and the display windows on Fifth competing for the most intriguing holiday theme. We pass the big tree at One Rock. New York is a beautiful city for the haves, if not so great for the have-nots.
"I said you're beautiful," he repeats. I glance at him.
"I heard you."
"Am I supposed to thank you? Or say that you're beautiful too? What is it you want? I'll give it to you."
He just smiles and says nothing. You might wonder why a man like this, handsome, rich, smooth, would pick up a hustler, and pay for what he could obviously get for free. It's no mystery to me. I see it all the time. They want the freedom of either giving up or assuming total control, depending on their preference. They want no bullshit. They want to live out a fantasy. For some, this is all they do to get off. They want no relationships, and they treat sex as they do a trip to the bank: a necessary evil. Others live straight lives and while gay sex is what they really want, they fear the complications of an emotional involvement with a man. I'm way past being surprised by the kind of man who hires a hustler.
He asks me my name. I tell him my hustler name, which is a lot more interesting than my real name. I call myself Monty. I took it from Montgomery Clift, my favorite actor. I always loved his heartbreaking beauty.
Underground garage, private elevator, building that faces Central Park. His kind of rich is rich on steroids. His penthouse has a private wrap-around balcony that overlooks the park. The interior is sleek, contemporary and spare. A Christmas tree at least fifteen feet tall soars in the center of the open foyer, ablaze with white lights. Every gold and silver and crystal decoration adorning the tree is an angel. No, wait. Every ornament is a winged fairy. I have to smile at that affectation. A fairy tree in a fairy's flat. No pets run to greet him, no photographs of friends or family personalize the space, just expensive artwork on large canvases without frames.
He throws his coat over a suede couch and peels off his gloves. His suit is expensive, Italian, trimmed to his lean physique. Out comes a wallet and he removes the agreed-upon amount and places the money on the granite slab of a table. He walks away while I retrieve it, and stuff it in my jeans. He closes the sheers to mute the city that lies beyond his haven.
"My name is Clay," he says. I never asked him for it. I know better. No reason for him to lie about it, however, not after he's taken me into his home.
"You live alone?" I feel a little nervous in this big apartment, as if expecting fiends to come from hiding.
"Yes," he says, offering me a drink. I ask for whiskey, neat. He pours a good brand into two short tumblers. Hands me one, taps my glass and says, "Merry Christmas, Johnny."
That's not the name I gave him. Not my hustler name. But it is my real name. I stare at him as he downs his shot of whiskey in one draw. "H-how did you..."
"Know your name? I know a lot about you, Johnny."
"Stop calling me that."
"Why? It's your name, isn't it?"
Who is he? Not a cop. They wouldn't bankroll a place like this to sting a street hustler. Not worth it. So what's his game? I'm easy to look up, I guess. I'm known on the streets. Some might even say famous. I do alright for an independent entrepreneur. It irritates me that he checked me out. Who the fuck does he think he is? "I didn't say you could use it."
He sits down on a chair that is designed for style over comfort, but he looks comfortable enough. He crosses his long legs. He's tall, Clay is, and he's paid me for the night, so he's taking his time. I notice there are no gifts under that fancy tree. Not a single one. He follows my gaze to the foyer and smiles. He seems to be able to read my mind as he says, "I used to put beautifully wrapped and beribboned boxes under the tree. Empty, but beautiful. Then one Christmas, I got robbed. The poor thieves took all the boxes with them. I'm sure they thought they would have the best Christmas ever, stealing a rich man's bounty. But all they got was a fancy exterior and nothing on the inside. Like a lot of people, don't you think? All exterior, but nothing on the inside."
I drink the whiskey down. It calms me. I sit on the couch, facing him. "Are you talking about me?"
"No, Johnny. I'm talking about myself."
"You got nothing on the inside?"
He shrugs, passes a hand over his torso like an eraser cleaning a chalkboard. "Absolutely empty."
"It's a boring old story, Johnny. Once, I had a love, and then he was gone. He left in his place, a void. No matter what I do, I can't fill it up. It's like pouring water into a glass with no bottom. It will never get full."
I shake my head at that. "I don't believe in that one true love bullshit. You're rich, young enough, good looking. If you're alone now, it's because you choose to be alone. You don't want to let anyone take his place. You don't want to take a chance on getting burned again."
He smiles. "Is that what you think? And what about you, Johnny? You're young, beautiful, smart. Why are you selling your ass on the street? Easy money? I don't think so. I think it must be some of the most difficult money to earn."
They always want to know how I ended up on the street. I never tell them the truth. It's not something you plan to do. No little boy dreams of being a hustler when he grows up. It takes a lot of twisted detours to end up where I am today. It's the kind of shit this man could never understand. So he lost his true love. Boo-fucking-hoo. I could deal if I had all this to comfort me.
He says, "It's only money. Money doesn't fill you up, either, Johnny. Nor do things, toys."
I smirk at that remark. I'd like to try. "So what do you want to do first?" Let's get it going. Maybe I can get away early. He's not the type to want to cuddle afterwards, even if he has paid for the privilege.
"I'd like to watch you masturbate," he says, and I nod. Easy enough. My palm strokes the suede underneath me. Not the best fabric for removing a cum stain.
He nods. He doesn't seem to mind. I unzip. I look at him as I pull out my cock. He's not bad for an inspiration. I've sure as hell had a lot worse. "Not too fast," he says and I smile. It will be as fast as my cock demands.
"How do you know about me?" I ask as I begin to stroke myself, feeling his stare fix on my motion.
"I had you checked out."
"I'm a very cautious man. You have a beautiful cock, by the way."
"So they tell me. Do you?"
"I'll let you decide that later."
I've been disappointed before. A glittery man with a small package under the gift-wrap is not all that uncommon. "What did you do to make all this money?" I ask, feeling my blood move into the tissues and engorge the shaft until it feels like steel in my fist.
"I'm in publishing."
"Want to write my life story?"
"I publish, I don't write. You write if for me and maybe I'll print it for you."
I laugh. As if I could string two sentences together. "You want me to come?" I ask as the pressure builds.
"You want to come?"
"I guess so."
A few strokes later, I do. I roll my sweater up and aim it at my belly, politely avoiding his furniture. He smiles when I'm done, and gets up. He leaves the room and comes back with a damp towel. I use it to clean myself up and put the towel down on the granite. Can't hurt that stuff. I zip up and notice his skin is slightly flushed, suggesting he's aroused. It's too dimly lit to check for the bulge in his trousers. "You want me to blow you?"
"Why are you in such a hurry? I paid for the night."
"Just trying to give you your money's worth,"
"Let me lead, if you don't mind."
I don't give a shit, but it's awkward to sit here in silence. "What happened to your lover? AIDS?"
"No, he was killed on Christmas Eve."
"A drunk in a Town Car hit him as he crossed Madison Avenue, on his way home from last minute shopping."
"Very gruesome," He seems perfectly calm in the telling. "Killed instantly. He was the lucky one. I'm the one left to die in stages."
"Why not just off yourself?"
He gets up, retrieves a Glock pistol from a drawer in a desk in the corner of the room and tosses it at me. I flinch at the thought of a lethal weapon catapulting towards me, but he laughs. "Don't worry. It's loaded, but the safety's on."
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Killing is not as easy as it seems. Not killing one's self, not killing another. You do it. Shoot me. Right here." He touches the center of his forehead. "I have at least ten grand in the safe behind that painting. The combination is 12-24-00, the date my partner was killed. This watch is platinum, thirty grand, retail. I have other jewelry in a box on the dresser in my bedroom. Diamond shirt studs, that sort of thing. Take all of it. Take my car, too. Get out of town. Start over. All you have to do is shoot me. I've tried, believe me. But I'm a coward."
The gun feels heavy in my hand. I stare at him and think over his offer. I then place the gun on the table. "No thanks. If you want a hit man, I know a few. They work a lot cheaper than what you're offering. Put a contract out on your own life. I don't shoot people, and I'm not a thief."
He walks over to me and grabs a handful of my blond hair in his fist, yanking my face up to look at him. "So what do you do? Suck cock? Fine, suck this," he opens his fly. I smile at him. It's not a small package after all. I lick my lips. This is what I do, yes, and I do it very well. I let him slide back, down my throat, grabbing his slim ass for purchase as I hum his stick. Up and down, lips tight on the rod, tongue working the head, pulling his load out of him with a guttural cry of ecstasy. He almost collapses when he shoots, his relief is so intense. Recovering, he motions for me to follow him into the bedroom. Like the rest of the place, it's perfectly designed but without personal touches.
We both get naked, his back to me the whole time as we strip. "Why me?" I ask when we get into his bed. He leans back against the pillows, staring up at the ceiling.
"I like blonds."
"Was he blond?"
"So you close your eyes and pretend I'm him?"
"It's not that easy. Would that it were."
"Whatever takes you there, man. You got condoms? If not..."
"I have condoms."
"What was his name?" I ask.
"John," he says. I smile. What a sick-wad.
"I want you to tie me up," he instructs me. "There's silk cord in the drawer of that table by the bed. Tie both my wrists and my ankles. I'll lie on my stomach. Then I want you to fuck me, bareback. There's an extra two-hundred in it for you if you fuck me raw. Use lube, but no condom. I'm negative, so you have nothing to fear. Anyway, I'm the one taking the risk."
I shake my head. "I haven't been tested in awhile. I have no idea if I'm positive or not, and if I am, that's a slow route to suicide, man."
"Just do as I ask."
He turns over. He has a nice ass. Why not? Like he said, the risk is his. I open the drawer. As I take out the black silk cord, I notice a framed photo beneath it. It's of my client with a blond man who looks more than a little like me. Did he put the pictures away in anticipation of my visit or does he hide them all of the time because they cause him pain? I tie him to the bed, tight enough to hold, not so tight to hurt. I know how to do this. Many of my clients like to be restrained. It removes the guilt of choice.
I touch his back, which is muscular, toned, obviously he spends some time on the pulleys. You don't get this back at a desk job. I find him really hot. That makes it easy. I lick his spine, his hip saddle, his ass crack. A touch around the rim. He moans, appreciative for this little extra service. Probably means hepatitis for me, but what the fuck. He seems really clean. He smells like a fresh meadow. He tastes slightly salty. My dick gets hard, no surprise.
"Fuck me," he says and I lube up and penetrate. It's not that easy. His ass is hard and he's tense. He's a top by inclination, so he doesn't give it up easily, even under restraint. I have to instruct him to relax more than once so my cock can proceed. Finally, I'm in and I raise myself on my palms so I can look down at his handsome profile against the pillow, flushed with sex, his strong back, my cock buried up his ass. Nice visual. I fuck him, hard. Harder. His face contorts as he comes against his fancy sheets. And then I blow a wad up his ass, feeling it flow back, out his ass and down his thighs. I stretch out above him, getting my strength back, and he says, "Untie me."
I do so. He rolls over and grabs me, pulling me down with him. He kisses me on the mouth and jabs at my tongue with his own. I open up to him. He's reclaiming his status as a top, something they often do. I don't mind, but I make him use a condom. He's good at it, calling me "John" and telling me he loves me as he fucks me. I call him "Clay" and tell him I love him, too, because that's what he wants. What he needs to hear. When he finally reaches his climax, he rolls off of me and falls asleep with an arm thrown across my chest. Still hot and sticky from my own jizz, I want to get up, clean up, leave, but I do something else instead. Something I never do. I fall asleep in his embrace.
I awake from a very deep and unexpected sleep. I don't think we moved the whole night. His arm is still over me. My jizz has dried to a fine powder on my belly, and the room reeks of sex and cum. Beyond the big windows, the snow is falling in a steady shroud. Great. Merry Christmas. I glance at the clock. It's almost ten. Damn! I get up, without disturbing him. I see his expensive watch on the bedside table, and I slip it on my wrist. Shit, that looks fine on me. Platinum is pretty. I spy his car keys and pocket them as I pull on my clothes. I can shower later. Don't want to wake him.
I feel the money in my pocket when I slip the keys inside and that makes me smile. Generous, but he still owes me two hundred for the bareback. I go to the wall safe and recall the combination he gave me. Ten grand, he said. Does he really have ten grand in cash inside some cheesy wall safe? It opens like a charm. That's when I hear the safety disengage on the Glock. I turn. He's standing there, naked, pointing that evil black pistol in my direction.
"Thought you said you weren't a thief," he says to me. I calmly shake out a cigarette and place it between my lips. Too late, I realize I have no lighter, no matches. They're in my coat pocket and my coat is on the sofa.
"You still owe me two hundred for the bare backing. Do you really have ten grand in this safe?"
He nods. "I suppose you were going to leave the other ninety-eight hundred. And the watch?"
"I'm disappointed in you, Johnny. I thought we reached an understanding last night. I thought we might even have the start of a continuing arrangement. I can be a very generous man. But in the light of day, I find out you're just a cheap little hustler after all."
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
He approaches me, keeping the Glock aimed at my face. "Another way to commit suicide, is to let the state do the deed. Murder one. Capital crime. I shoot you, they lethally inject me. Everyone wins."
"With your luck, you'd probably get commuted to life. You won't like living in the pen very much, Clay." I look around this luxurious penthouse that he calls home. "You'll miss all this."
"Maybe," he draws closer, so close I can see the striations on the grip of his gun. Shouldn't I be more frightened? "But then again, maybe not."
"Clay..." I start to say, but he pulls the trigger. I wait for it. Time suspends. A small flame sputters from the barrel of the gun and he holds the fire up to my cigarette.
"You have six more days of cancer sticks, John, and then your New Year's resolution to kick the habit begins. This time you're sticking to it."
I inhale deeply and smile at him. "Only if you stick to your resolution to hit the gym three times a week, minimum. Your ass seemed a little flabby to me last night." It's a lie, but one that works his ego. He pulls on his discarded vicuna coat, obviously chilled in his bare skin. He then leans over and kisses me.
"Why are you wearing my watch?"
"It was close by. I didn't want to hunt mine up. Besides, I look good in platinum."
He smiles. "You do. You gave it to me, after all. Sometimes I think you only buy me things you want for yourself."
He pulls me into his arms. "Never. What were you getting out of the safe?"
I pull away from him and retrieve a turquoise Tiffany jewel box, tied with the usual Christmas-red satin bow that they use in place of white satin to honor the season. "Merry Christmas, Clay."
He takes it from me with a smile. "As big as your last book was, this had better be a very expensive toy."
"As much money as you made publishing my little nasty tale of hustlers and johns, you'd better have something big hidden in this house for me."
He reaches in his coat pocket and pulls out a silver key chain tied with a silver ribbon. One key hangs from the circle. I look askance as I take it from him. "Doesn't look like a car key. We don't need another car."
"You got me my own apartment? After four years together, you want me out?" I tease, slipping back into his arms.
"Not that either."
I lean back and study his face. "You didn't."
"I did. Well, we did. We're both on the title, even though I paid for it."
"The house in the Hampton's? You bought it? The one I love? The one we leased last summer?"
He nods. I hug him tightly, remembering that study with the perfect overlook of the beach and the sea. A better place for a writer couldn't exist. It's not the expense of the gift, or the acquisition, it's how much he knew this would mean to me. "I love you, Clay," I say in a whisper against his neck and he squeezes my ass as he responds,
"I love you too, John. I hate to see Johnny go, though. I had fun playing hooker and client throughout your creative process this year."
I grin at him. "But we agreed, last night was his swan song. The book is sold, time to move on."
"I loved the bit about the empty packages being looted. You always inspire me, Clay. You should be a writer, yourself."
"I prefer being the inspiration."
"The caterers will be here in an hour to set up for the usual Christmas influx of our so-called friends. I was going down to the car to retrieve their gifts from the trunk. Put some clothes on so you can help."
He nods and kisses my forehead. "What's next, writer-man? What fantasies will we be playing out together this year?"
I grin, not quite ready to reveal everything, not even to him. But I let my teeth scrape his neck as I say two words, "Think vampire,"
He laughs and lets me go, walking towards our bedroom to dress as he mumbles, "I guess I'd better start stockpiling my own blood for replacement purposes."
I run my tongue across my teeth, feeling for the sharpest peak of my incisors. The hooker in me fades away as darker images creep into my fantasies, where they'll fester for awhile before they begin to populate our life.
Merry Christmas, Johnny and Clay. Let the ghoul-tide ring.