The Dairy State Boy, The Final

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The Dairy State Boy, The Final

*****I remained committed to good friends and casual sex until I got with David, a handsome (he looked like Gonzo Gates, from the 80s “Trapper John, MD”), successful chemical engineer who scaled the walls surrounding my heart. I started dating David when I was 38, and we spent ten years together. They were a good ten years, but they were also a finite ten years. Hyper logical to a fault, David had decided that no romantic relationship should last more than ten years. I was his second, and he told me from the outset that he’d be leaving on our ten year anniversary. He never wavered, I never disbelieved or doubted him, and he was true to his word. The following is the story of my first hookup after he left.******

___________

When David left, I had to do all of the things he had done, most of which I had taken for granted after ten years together. He was the most organized person I had ever met, a spreadsheet for this and a spreadsheet for that.

On April 14, one of those things I had to do was waiting for the Clean Sweep technician to arrive and treat the chimney and fireplace.

When together, we had used the chimney as often as we could. We we ended, I continued to use it, as soften as I could.

We had known the end was coming. Having watched his parents fall out of love and then into hate, David had vowed as a teen that he would never allow that to happen to him.

He and Kyle had been together five years when my friend, Thomas, and I met them at a party. They were great together, the way so few couples are, mostly because they were in every moment kind to and about each other.

We didn’t believe them when they insisted they would part ways on their tenth anniversary.

“They won’t do it,” we speculated.

“They’re too good together,” we assured ourselves.

David had tried to prepare us for their parting.

“I never want to end up hating someone I love,” he answered. “I’d rather leave too soon than too late.”

He was analogizing party guests to relationships. He would never accept that the analogy was inapt.

“Who says you have to leave at all?” I asked.

“I do. And the odds do.”

David was true to his vow; he and Kyle parted ways on their tenth anniversary. They even had a Parting Party. Thomas and I cried. They did not. They celebrated, like it was the most normal thing. Then, they remained friends, even setting each other up on dates.

Kyle had set me up on one of those dates with David. “He’s the best human I have ever met,” Kyle claimed. “I have literally never heard him say an unkind word about another human.”

We slept together after our first dinner, me needling him to come in for “just one drink” when he tried a chaste kiss on the cheek in the front seat of his sport car. Once I got him in the door, I threw myself at him in the sluttiest way. I didn’t think I’d get a second date, so I wanted to end this one with a fireworks display.

“I never do that,” I said the next morning, my backside sore, my sheets filthy with our fluids.

“Could’ve fooled me,” he answered, kissing my nose.

Kyle was right. David was kind. But, Kyle had buried the lead; David was also great in bed. And, by great, I don’t mean great great, I mean “holy crap, I never knew it could be like this” great and “now I finally understand what all the fuss is about” great.

After he kissed my nose, we went at it again. And again. And again.

He moved in that day. We didn’t talk about it, he just never went back to his apartment. It operated as a storage unit for six months and then we closed it up and purchased a historic home on a quiet street.

“Are we really going to do this?” I asked, about ninety days out from our tenth anniversary, as happy then as I had been the day we went at it again and again and again.

“Yes,” he answered, matter of factly, as if there was no reason not to. “We have to quit while we’re ahead. So, I can keep on loving you, the way I have kept on loving Kyle.”

He and Kyle were still very close. We all were.

Like him, I had been a bystander to a lot of relationship carnage. My sister’s marriage had crumbled. She could barely speak to her former husband, even though they shared custody of four sons under the age of ten. The man she had once adored she now wanted dead, her hatred overwhelming her love of her sons.

Friends, too, met the same fate, whether gay or straight. Beautiful wedding days full of hope and promise turned into bitter divorces full of acrimony and animosity. Friends had to choose sides or got bartered to this spouse or that.

They weren’t all that way, but there was so many it was hard to counter-point the logic of David’s vow.

“I love you, V. I want to always love you. I don’t ever want to hate or resent you.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“I know. I’ll miss you, too.”

“Promise me we’ll always be friends.”

“We’ll always be friends.”

*****

David left everything behind, including our home escort izmir and our two cats. We referred to them as “the kids.”

The fireplace was one of the reasons we had purchased and then loved our home. It was massive, in a massive room, and we had used it whenever possible from Thanksgiving to Saint Patrick’s Day. In his absence the past two winters, I continued to use it whenever possible, warming me as I tried to temper my loneliness with Tangeray and Tito’s.

After a winter of use/over-use, the firebox needed to be cleaned and the chimney needed to be “swept,” although the sweeping was really a vacuuming at this stage of the world.

The technician — according to the text notifications, a man named Ray Varner — was scheduled to arrive at nine, but Clean Sweep cautioned that his actual arrival could vary by two hours either direction. So, I was a up and dressed at seven, just in case, just like a former Eagle Scout would be. I needn’t have been. Ray rang the bell almost precisely at nine.

I expected Ray to be a soft, middle-aged to older man, both because “Ray” seemed the name for such a man and because I couldn’t imagine a young man finding himself a chimney sweep in 2022.

With that expectation, I was stunned to open the door to a stunningly handsome man of about thirty, wavy dark hair framing dark eyes, a smallish nose, bright red lips parted in a smile to reveal bright white teeth, a dimple on the left cheek unmatched on the right, and a hint of stubble, like he may have shaved last night instead of that morning.

I stood 6’0”. I had to look up to meet Ray’s eyes. He must have stood 6’4″ or a little more.

My mind immediately jumped to Pornhub and some of the stilted setups concocted there for hookups. “If only,” I thought to myself, imaging Ray pulling off his shirt because “it’s too hot in here” and me licking my lips as he worked.

“Mr. Michaels,” he said, his hand extended. “I’m Ray Varner. I’m your technician today.”

“Kevin Michaels,” I answered, shaking his bigger hand and lowering my eyes to notice the hint of tattoos starting at his neck and a very sturdy body under his strong chin.

He was dressed for chimney work, a black, long-sleeved tee over black jeans, latex gloves covering his hands, and latex boots protecting my floors from his work boots.

The shirt was loose, but not too loose to hide that he took care of his body.

The jeans, on the other hand, were tight, but not too tight to hide that he filled out the front quite nicely.

I wished he was wearing white. Then, I could have plausibly suggested that he doff his shirt and jeans, to protect them against the soot and other detritus within the chimney and the firebox.

I also wondered whether it would be odd if I spectated while he worked. Deciding it would be more creepy than odd, I showed him the fireplace, told him that I would be in my office around the corner, and warned him that the kids — Etta and Leo — were nosy and would likely watch him work.

“Not once I turn on the vacuum, they won’t,” he answered, turning to his work, my lame attempt at small talk falling flat. “It’s loud.”

“We’ll see. They prove the adage that curiosity killed the cat.”

I went to my office. Against my better judgment, I searched Facebook for information about Ray. I didn’t expect to find any. He seemed too casual and too cool to be a Facebooker.

I found one. And, my brief perusal showed that what was and what seemed were unrelated. He was a prolific poster, and his near daily posts appeared evenly split between pro-cannabis screeds, snowboarding videos, and workout selfies.

The workout selfies — some of which involved tank tops and some of which were shirtless — revealed that the tattoos that were barely visible around the collar of his tee covered most of his visible body, extending from his collar bone to his wrists and ankles. The were elaborate, and included a lot of color.

I didn’t know what to think of them. Normally, I didn’t care for tattoos. On Ray, I did care for them. A lot.

They made him seem dangerous. I was in the mood for a little danger.

The workout selfies also confirmed what the fullness of his jeans suggested. When he worked out, he primarily wore grey, cotton shorts. They were revelatory, like the site “guys in grey sweatpants.”

I was staring at them when he interrupted me, which caused me to slam my computer shut, a slam that was necessarily an admission of something untoward. No one slams their computer like that unless they are looking at porn or internet stalking.

“Mr. Michaels,” he stammered as my cheeks flushed with embarrassment. There was no way he could have seen that I was looking at him, but I was certain he thought he had caught me looking at porn, at just after 9 a.m.

“Yes,” I answered, trying to collect myself, but only achieving a slight stumble out of the desk chair that I had not pushed back far enough to stand fully.

“I’m finished. Your firebox needs some tuck pointing, escort izmir which I don’t do. If you want it done, someone from the office will contact you to schedule it.”

“Yes, yes,” I said, righting myself and standing up. “I want it done. That fireplace is very important to me. I want to remediate anything that needs to be remediated.”

“It’s a great fireplace. It’s the biggest I’ve seen, especially in this neighborhood.”

I thought of making a “size queen” joke. But, then I unthought it.

“This neighborhood” was a historical one just east of Loose Park. The house was a craftsman that had been built in 1914 painstakingly restored to its original condition by the prior owner. The painted woodwork was once again stained. The leaded glass windows were once again functional. The hardwood floors gleamed.

When David left, I was bereft. Even though I knew it was coming, it ravaged and savaged me, like nothing ever had before. Until the end, I thought he would break his vow for me. He didn’t.

I had initially thought that I would have to sell our home, that I would not be able to bear to live with the memories that floated through every room. After a little time had passed, I scrapped that thought, as I could then not bear the idea of living someplace that he had not, that didn’t smell of him, that didn’t have those memories lurking, even if some of them were painful. As Dr. Berger said in Ordinary People, “Feelings are scary. And sometimes they’re painful. And if you can’t feel pain, then you’re not going to feel anything else, either.”

Two years on, I was only now starting to consider the possibility of feeling anything else. Right as we needed, the pandemic started, so I was able to wall myself in from family and friends the way many who are grieving want to but are not allowed to by well-intended, but often tone deaf, family and friends. No one could try to force me out, to do things I wasn’t ready to do, as they, too, were walled in. I was able to grieve in my own time, the way I wanted to grieve.

In my flowing script, I wrote a check and handed it to Ray, his hands no longer gloved. He took it and shook my hand. Again, my hand was engulfed in his. “If he ever grows into his hands and feet,” I thought to myself, thinking back to how my grandfather used to predict the size of dogs by looking at the size of their paws as pups.

Ungloved, his hand was cleaner and softer than I expected. The nails were trimmed and sootless. And, the pads of his finger and palm were uncalloused, which I did not expect from one who daily worked with his hands. I thought he would have a mechanic’s hands. He did not.

“Thank you, Mr. Michaels,” he said. “Someone from the office will contact you to schedule the tuck pointing.”

“Thank you, Mr. Varner,” I answered, letting go of his hand, which I realized I had shaken a little too long.

I watched him go, waving from the porch like an idiot as he backed his pickup out of the driveway.

“There goes that,” I thought to myself, certain I’d never see him again.

Thirty minutes later, my certainty was shattered.

I was again at my desk, Ray’s Facebook page open on one side of my split screen and my work open on the other. I was still in the casual shirt and shorts I had worn for Ray, but I had removed the socks and was now barefooted.

When the doorbell rang, I initially ignored it. I was not expecting anyone, and David and I had long ago gotten into the habit of ignoring unexpected doorbells.

“Are you expecting someone?” he’d ask.

“No. You?”

“No.”

With that, we’d stay where we were, even when the shades were up and the ringer could see that we were home, sitting in our living room, ignoring that the ringer could see us through the windows. Every once in awhile, the ringer would knock on one of the living room windows that fronted the porch. We still didn’t move.

When the doorbell rang for the third time, I frustratingly stood and marched toward it. I assumed I would open the door to some twat who was ignoring the very prominent “No Soliciting” sign that we had stuck to the storm door. Instead, I opened it to Ray, shifting foot to foot and smiling.

“I was afraid you weren’t going to answer,” he said.

“I wasn’t…. You were persistent…. Did you forget something?”

“No, no, no,” he said, looking much less comfortable than he had earlier, even though he was wearing the same clothes. “My 10:30 canceled, so I’m free until noon.” It was barely ten.

“So you came here?”

“Yeah, I thought I caught a bit of a vibe earlier, so I thought maybe you’d want to hang out.”

“A bit of a vibe?”

“Yeah, you know,” he said, stepping in. “A vibe. The way you looked me up and down. The way you held my hand a little longer than you should have.”

I was embarrassed at being clocked.

“Did I misread?” he asked, his body close to mine.

“No,” I answered, stepping back, trying to create some space but unable to because he moved with me and because the entryway was perpendicular to the door.

My back was quickly against the wall. Just as quickly, his hands were on the sides of my head, turning my face to his, his mouth taking mine, slowly at first, softly, superficially, then faster and harder, his tongue forcing his way into my mouth and tangling with mine. He tasted of coffee and something sweet, like maybe he’d had a donut or a cinnamon roll on his way to mine at nine. He swallowed all of my air.

“I’m so hard,” he said, proving it to me by pressing his groin into my stomach as I tried to catch the breath he had stolen with what was, to that point in life, easily the most devastating kiss I had ever received. “Oh my fucking God,” I thought to myself. “I’m in over my head.”

“Me, too,” I whispered, in response to his claim of hardness.

“Take me to your room,” he insisted.

I reached my left hand for his, so I could lead him upstairs. When I did, I noticed the gold band around his ring finger. I almost asked whether he was married, but I quickly dismissed the question. I didn’t want the answer. I also didn’t want to sober him about what he’d come back to do.

As I climbed the stairs, he took little nips at my butt, the way Leo nips at me when I try to pet his belly.

“Ouch,” I said, when his teeth caught me a little harder than he intended.

“I’m about to bite you a lot harder than that,” he threatened, playfully, or so I thought.

I had never been bitten. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be, but I was sure that I was about to let Ray do whatever he wanted to do to me. Nothing like this had ever happened to me, and I was going to do whatever I needed to do to see this sordid little scenario through to the end. I was ecstatic as we climbed.

In my room, I started to pull my tee shirt over my head. He stopped me.

“Let me do that,” he said, pulling me to him and again kissing me, softly at first and then harder, just as he had kissed me before. “If he kisses like that,” I thought to myself, as I again felt him swallowing my air, “I can only imagine what else he can do.”

I was saved only when he pulled back to pull my shirt over my head.

“Wow,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“This” was my muscled torso. After David, I initially stopped caring about my appearance, and I sublimated my grief with food (and Gin and Vodka). In six months, I gained thirty pounds. I had spent the last eighteen months losing it through intermittent fasting and, when the lockdown ended, Orange Theory. Six days a week of OTF had muscled me in a way that I had never been muscled before, re-arranging my weight from my gut to where it belonged.

As Ray kissed me again, he slid his hand into my shorts and grabbed my erection.

“Or this.”

I was jangled. I had not been kissed, much less touched, for two years. I felt almost as unmoored as I had the first time a boy had kissed me, when I was in college and he told me he suspected I was gay, I told him I was not, and he told me there was only one way to find out. It took less than an hour for him to prove his suspicions correct.

“I want to undress you,” I whimpered, my erection feeling small in his big hand.

“In due time,” he responded, before sinking his teeth into my neck, biting me hard.

“Ow… Fuck,” I said, as I twitched away.

“I told you,” he said. “I like to bite.”

“I’m not a chew toy.”

“I won’t do it if you don’t want me to. But, I want to. Really badly. I love biting. So, I’d like to bite you, if I can.”

“I want you to do whatever you want to do,” I answered, yielding all control and power to him. Again, I wanted to do whatever I needed to do to ensure this sordid little scenario was not truncated. I had never been chased by someone like Ray, and I doubted that I ever would be again. “Seize the moment,” I reminded myself.

“Perfect,” he said, again claiming my mouth with his, owning it, almost suffocating me as he reached his hands into the back of my shorts and aggressively gripped my cheeks.

“Let’s lose these,” he whispered, pulling back so he could watch me shuck my shorts.

“Jesus, Mr. Michaels,” he said. “You’re hot as Hades.”

“V,” I whispered through my embarrassment at being fully exposed to him.

“What?”

“V. My name is Kevin, but my friends call me V. From the V in Kevin.”

“I’m not your friend. I’m not calling you that. I’ll call you by your last name, Michaels.”

“You’re not my friend?”

“No. I barely know you. I’m here for one thing and one thing only, and friendship ain’t it,” he said, taking me back in his hand as he reclaimed my mouth. Like the prior kisses, this one went on and on and was devastating. I felt like I was being rended.

I tried to pull his tee out of his jeans, but I could not. It was tucked in too tight.

“Not yet,” he said. “We’re doing you, not me. And, I’m about to do the shit out of you.”

“You are?” I asked, as my tongue fell from his.

“I am,” he said, as he again moved his neck to mine, not biting me like he had before, but instead nibbling gently with his teeth and then sucking. “That’s going to leave a mark,” I thought to myself.

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