Taste


By Perry Brass

(Perry about this story: "It's such a blast from the past---you'd never have this kind of relationship in our current age of networking and Grindr)




I used to like to suck him off in the middle of the night. I wasn't sure if he was sleeping or not. Sometimes he must have been pretending. This excited me—the mystery of it: that maybe he wasn't sleeping; but maybe he actually was. I would find his large, swollen cock in the darkness, and it would rise up in the warmth inside of my mouth. Larger. Not really throbbing, but just larger. I would taste him—a slight tang of urine, maybe; then the thicker, wilder stuff that excited me just before he came. It was as if he was floating in a bed of dreams and sex itself, and I was guiding him, touching him every place, feeling his warm, firm chest—no hair to speak of, but great meaty tits that thickened when he got excited or I excited him—and I would push him along on this coast of wild, half-dreaming sex, until he gushed right into my mouth, the head of his cock expanding, fanning out in a delta of thickened, hot flesh.

Now, I ask you: who in the hell wouldn't want that? I know this may be a strange story to you. That is, some people might find it a little funny, some a little strange. But it is really about one of the great cementing experiences between humans. And by this, I am not referring to a shared sense of taste. I'm talking about plain old, decent, hard-working sex.

Okay: begin. I picked him up at the baths, two weeks earlier. Or maybe it was that Jim had picked me out. We were in the orgy room, and he suddenly appeared out of the darkness and grabbed my dick. He was bigger than me. I'm fairly slender: hairy chest, curly hair, blue eyes. Actually, we were almost the same height, but he was stockier. He had delicious brawny shoulders, and the kind of deep, silken chest that guys like me have wet dreams about.

"Come on with me," he said. I didn't answer him, but just followed. We went back to his room. "I just got in from Seattle," he informed me in his small cubicle of a room. He looked straight at me. "You're the best, first thing I've seen here tonight." 

I must have spelled New York all over the place.

I laughed. Seattle? Alright. That made sense. I must have spelled NEW YORK all over the place—darker, slightly Mediterranean type. Read Jewish/Italian/Greco-Spanish. Take your pick. I didn't think guys like me were all over Seattle. But then I'd never been to Seattle. This did not stop us from getting into it from every which-away. He had an insatiable ass, mouth, and dick. I must say, he was as much of a sexaholic as I was, and I gave it my darnedest to satisfy him—and myself—as best I could. We former Boy Scouts know how to "help other people at all times," let me tell you. Whoever said that sex with a stranger was the devil's playground knew this devil very well, and Jim York, from Seattle, Washington, certainly stuck the devil right into me—as well as his fat, yummy dick and his mouth—which he used like a trumpet player, triple-noting on the underside of my pecker.

Okay, perhaps I did break the first rule. I ended up sleeping with him. Strange. Here he was in New York (as he told me) on business, for under two weeks, and he checks into the baths, then settles on the first guy who takes his fancy in the orgy room, and then he stays with him (me) for the whole night.

It was the kind of thing you either had to be very dumb to do, or very smart. And I have to admit, from the vantage point of several years later, that I wasn't smart enough at that time to know the difference. 

"Hey, do you know what the chances are this happening?"

"Hey, you know what the chances are of this happening?" he asked me at seven in the morning. It was Sunday. I knew there were still herds of men out there all over New York, on the pre-church shift, actively praying for sex. And we were in the cathedral itself. I had no idea what he was talking about. My mouth felt cottony, my balls felt numb, my ass felt—wonderful—and I was ready to go at him again.

"Tell me," I said.

He nodded his head slowly. "Alright. The chances of me finding some one like you at the baths on a Saturday night in New York come out to," he paused for just a second: "One-hundred-and-twenty thousand to one."

My eyes closed. There was a lot of sleep left in them, sleep I did not get that night. But my curiosity was piqued. I asked him how he figured out these odds.

He got up, naked, so I could see his wonderful, hard, man-sexy butt, and opened a small clothes locker. He dragged out a pocket calculator. "I figure 200 guys come here at one time. Right? They change every three hours. That's six hundred a night. Saturday night, you know? Full capacity. Everything's going full tilt. Now, there are eight baths in New York. So, for the argument, say that each one of them could contain ..."

He had it worked out. He was right. The odds were one-hundred-and twenty thousand to one. Not that he'd just trick with some one, but find some one who fitted exactly what he wanted, sex-wise, temperament, etc. I decided there was nothing I could do about this at this time, except suck his dick again, until we decided something else to do.

So, we did this—and that, a lot of that, believe me, a lot of that: heavy mouth kissing, touching, rubbing, sucking, etc.—then took a shower. Then we went back to his room, and then I wasn't sure what to do next. I knew we'd reached those limits of sexual intimacy that intimate strangers reach fairly quickly, at least we'd reached them for the moment—and the cold, cruel world outside—the one that said, "I don't know you, and you really don't know me," was quickly setting in.

"What are you doing this evening?" he asked. He had a kind of simple, wonderfully silly smile on his face.

I hesitated. I wasn't really sure. How far could I take this? Should I ask him up to my place, or should we meet in a bar? I felt funny about pursuing this. Suppose I decided that I actually didn't like him that much? Now, a bar might be the cooler thing to do—it was always easier to get rid of somebody in a bar. You could always do a 'Hey, there's my cousin Tillie from Idaho' routine, and get lost ...

"Why don't we have dinner?" he asked, butting right into my indecision. "Have you ever been to the Cattle Baron?"

I shut my eyes. I started to giggle a bit. The Cattle Baron was a huge, strictly-for-tourists-and/or-visiting-salesmen-on-expense-account place in mid-town Manhattan. Steaks. Over-sized shrimp cocktails. French fries made from half a baking potato. Waitresses in Miss Kitty drag. This was not the sort of place smart New Yorkers went to for a good time. "No," I answered. He suggested we go there. He could put the whole thing on his expense account.

I got home to my small dump in the West Fifties, flopped into bed, got about three more hours' sleep, and had some coffee. Now I was starting to feel more like myself. My authentic self. My real self, aside from the self that you became at the baths or in a bar. I'm not sure what self I was there, but it certainly wasn't the self I was at home. I put on a new Vivaldi album I'd just bought, read the Times, called two friends who told me what a dreadful Saturday night they'd had, and who asked me, separately, what I was doing for dinner. When I told them the Cattle Baron, they both almost dropped the phone. Then came the laughter. "It's a joke, right?" the first one said. By the second phone call, I had the explanation down pat. "No, not a joke," I said. "I met him last night. The baths. He's from Seattle. I guess you could say he's a real guy." 

"Listen, Smokes, you are not into real people."

My first friend, Jack, another writer, tried to talk sense to me. "Listen, Smokes—you are not into real people—you're a writer. If you were into real people, you'd give up your life and start making real money. That's what real people do."

"'Se-cuse me," I said.

Jack started chuckling again. My second friend, Vance, my Neo-Abstract-Expressionist-and-Performance-Art young friend from the East Village, this scrumptious, thin, young man with the vanilla-ice-cream body and the sausage cock, was more serious. "The Cattle Baron? Hmmm," he replied. "Smoky, just think of it like it's all one BIG piece of art."

Dorothy, our waitress, led us back into the Buffalo Bill Room. Jim had arrived wearing a coat and tie to my place. I decided to wear corduroy slacks and a decent, white shirt, tieless. We took a cab over. Dorothy gave Jim a knowing look. "I know you gentlemen must have a lot to talk over, so we're gonna give you a quiet corner," she said. She left. "She thinks you're a score," Jim said to me.

"A what?"

"Somebody I'm going to sell something to. Pitch? Get it?" Dorothy came back with a tray of hors d'oeuvres big as an elephant's feed trough. In most New York restaurants, hors d'oeuvres look like nose pickings. Not here. This was big. Cheese, bread, celery, shrimp: the whole deal. It was enough for any normal New Yorker to make a full meal from. I looked around the room. The other diners looked like they came from a foreign species. Fat, business types. "The idea of this place," Jim explained, "is that you eat until you bust. The company's paying for it." Jim went about ordering two large steaks. "Rare," he said, "but no blood." Dorothy and her serving colleague, Annie, much boobs poking out of her waist cincher, brought them back on huge, hot, pewter platters. The steaks were large enough to send you into protein overdose—or vegetarianism. "Hope you guys enjoy!" Annie said, and winked.

I have to admit the steak was good. Crunchy, peppery, but no blood. I could only eat about half of it, and two Scotches, one rusty nail, a lot of red wine, and an after-dinner drink that was very sweet and smelled somewhat like lighter fluid. Boy, was I lit. Jim was starting to look abso-fucking-lutely wonderful. Slightly wobbly; glowing. They were right: candy was dandy, but liquor was definitely quicker.

I decided I'd better go to the men's room, or else pass out on the table. I got up, while Jim smiled at me, and I excused myself. The Buffalo Bill Room suddenly looked very huge and very dark at the same time. And everybody, for the first time, looked very friendly. They didn't seem to mind the fact at all that I was grabbing the backs of their chairs just to stand up and walk.

This type of life can kill you, I decided, but somehow I found the men's room, which was located around several very tight corners—not kind at all to drunk people—in the basement. It, too, was large and dark. Then I realized that when you've had three times more alcohol than your nature intends, everything starts to spread out and become rather difficult to get to. The bathroom attendant, an older black man, must have been used to this, and kindly pointed me into the direction of the large, marble sinks that came equipped with ornate gilt knobs and fixtures. I knew I had to get some cold water on my face, but I couldn't figure out how these things that looked like flying dolphins and water nymphs worked. He turned on the cold water for me, and then offered me a towel, some yucky pink cologne, the use of a comb, and a bottle of red mouthwash. He smiled at me knowingly. "Lissen," I droned, "I'm not gonna take up residence here ... I jus' needed some of that cold water on my face."

A few seconds later, Jim appeared. He asked me if I was alright. I beamed. Boy, it was nice to see a familiar face. Didn't I know him? His face was starting to look like a marshmallow, but it was okay. Jesus, I liked this guy. Maybe I was falling for him. I hiccupped. Maybe I was just falling all over him. The attendant starting hovering over both of us—I was back at the sink, still spraying water on my face and trying to stand up on both feet—when Jim offered him a couple of dollars to go out and get him a cigar. "Good panatela," Jim specified. Wow, I thought, the guy even knows Italian. The attendant left. Jim found the lock to the men's room, snapped it shut, and took my cock out. He started gently squeezing it in his hand, and I started to like it. Even the Cattle Baron was getting to be great fun. I asked him what he was going to do when the guy came back. "Don't worry. They've been through worse before. Salesmen are notorious, you know." 

"Salesmen are notorious, you know."

He went down and started sucking my dick, just for a second. This was very nice. A moment later, there was a knock on the door. I managed to zip up again, and the attendant, with three customers waiting, flopped in. Jim had his arm around me. "My friend's not feeling too well," he explained to everybody. They all smiled knowingly, like we were in the middle of some rite de passage. Then Jim took his cigar, and we walked out.

We got back to the table, and found the bill waiting. Jim sat down, took out his plastic, and suddenly two rather professional looking ladies whom we noticed hanging around the bar, trumped up. "Looking for company?" one asked.

Jim smiled, said no, and handed the other, who looked like she'd seen many better days, a five. "Buy yourself a drink," he advised, and we left.

The air felt great outside. It was still early, and a purple haze of neon and late dusk wrapped itself around mid-town Manhattan. It was not yet summer, but it would be soon. Sinus season, I called it—that evil transition into warmer weather. It closed up my nose, but opened up every other sense. I suggested that despite my disgraceful state of inebriation (which I was starting to get an excellent kick out of), we walk back to my place. It was hard for me to control myself, and at one point we ducked into an empty alcove, and I groped the good hell out of Jim. He looked at me like he just couldn't believe what was going on—there, close to Times Square. I just laughed.

On the way back, Jim kept stopping at glass-walled, tourist art galleries, the ones that sold paintings of smiling Amish families, and snow geese, or sad-eyed kids and clowns. I laughed at all the junk on the walls, until I realized that Jim was serious, and despite my being exceedingly hot for him and wanting to get him back between the sheets as quickly as possible, he was actually eyeing this stuff to buy it. He kept insisting that one ghastly piece after the next—a Spanish dancer with a velvet rose stuck in her mouth, a seascape with bits of real balsa wood glued to it—would look great in his collection. "I collect," he said, seriously.

After the fourth gallery, we finally made it back. We had our clothes off in a jiffy, and half an hour later, I passed right out with his wonderful dick straight up my ass.

He moved in two nights later. It was one of those situations that you drift into without thinking hard about it. He was scheduled to stay in New York for nine more days, and it seemed silly for him to spend so much money at a hotel, when he could be using the same money to have fun with me. It has been said that sex can not keep two people together; but if you want it bad enough, it can't keep you apart either. Jim had a great number of things to do during the days—lots of scores to talk to—but at night we did very regular kinds of things: ate out at showy restaurants that he'd heard about back home. Went to buddy movies where one buddy was always chasing around with the other buddy, but they didn't sleep together. Saw several bad plays that salesmen feel they aren't supposed to leave New York without seeing. I introduced him to a great number of my friends. He would at some point in the conversation bring out his pocket calculator and explain to them the odds on the weather, the Russians actually taking Manhattan ("If they could land by sea, about 758 to one."), and the Mets winning this thing called the Pennant. He also had this strange way of referring to my friends as "Sir." Since they'd never had this done before, except in a sexual situation, they kept taking me aside one by one and telling me how lucky I was.

"One-hundred-and-sixty-five thousand to one," Jim said to me flatly. That was the odds on his staying nine days and things working out. Since we'd started out as strangers, except in that strangest and most wonderful of areas, sex, I was starting to see that they were pretty steep, but honest odds. I was also starting to feel that this odds business showed some truthfulness: although the sex thing with Jim York was not turning stale as fast as I thought, everything else was starting to gather dust and curl up around the edges pretty damn fast. The truth was: I was terribly bored with him. He came from a different world: the so-called real one, out there in America itself—and I was working too hard at being New York, for whatever that was worth. I tried to think about the reverse of the situation, and decided that I might end up boring him just as badly if I ever went back with him to the suburbs of Seattle, where he had a two-bedroom apartment. One bedroom "filled with art and my books," he explained. "I've read everything Stephen King's ever written," he added, then asked: "You ever heard of him?" 

"I've read everything Stephen King has ever written."

I felt that I had made in-roads, though. I felt proud that I'd given him a little polish, a little big-city sophistication. I got him to stop using the brand of reeked-to-hell cologne he doused himself with. It was called "Conquistador," and by the time he stopped, the scent of it—like cinnamon chewing gum and gardenias—had spread like the herds of jungle ants through my apartment. Even the toilet paper in my bathroom stunk of it. I decided to give him a bottle of bottle of Citron Imperiale, a light, lemony decoction that carried a pedigree back to Napoleon and that cost bucks. He loved the simple, imitation cut-crystal bottle and the grosgrain ribbon tastefully wrapped around the ground-glass stopper. It produced a wonderful beam on his clear, blond face. "You bought this for me?" he asked.

I told him I did. We stripped and went to bed. I wrapped my arms and tongue around his chest, and bit into his tits and neck like a wild dog. He was still punching the right buttons for me in the bedroom, if only I could manage to keep him there indefinitely. I guessed it all came down to a question of taste. I wondered why taste was such a big deal, anyway. I wanted to taste him alright, and I couldn't wait to get my mouth on his fat balls again. But those damn pictures of the cheery Amish families, the balsa wood seascapes, and the knit, polyester shirts he bought by the case ("Cheaper that way; you get 30% off the discount price. Let me tell you how much money I save.") were driving me kind of nuts.

Well, at least I got rid of the Conquistador cologne. That was a victory. Small, but it made me proud. I saw him take it into the bathroom and flush it down the john. In a way, I was almost sorry Jim did that. Perhaps I should have kept it to kill cockroaches with.

It was the last night that he was going to be with me in New York that things got rotten. I was set to go with him to the airport the next day. In a limousine, yet. "The company won't mind," he told me. "You'll love it. They have a real bar in back."

We went out to Mama Louisa's, a touristy Italian restaurant he'd always heard about. I'm not sure why, but Jim always picked those places where we would be taken for two out-of-town salesmen. The hostess, this very fat lady in very thin, very high heels asked, "Are you two with the National Light Bulb Show?" Jim smiled and told her he wasn't in light bulbs. "Computer relays."

She nodded her head which had a huge amount of hair piled on it. "Yeh," she said. "Computers are important these days." She led us to a small table in the back, and then a troop of waiters brought out what seemed like half a ton of freshly defrosted Italian dishes and whole loaves of garlic bread. There were strolling mandolin players. We polished off two bottles of Chianti. I started to forget about almost everything, except the possibility of throwing up so much pasta.

I groaned when we finally got up from the table. Luckily, we could walk back to my place again. I needed the walk and the air. "You know, I like you," he said on the way back. It was really touching. I had to hold myself back from wanting to jump him on the street, and peel his clothes off right there. But we did get home and I started to strip off his shirt—another of his famous polyester knits.

"Wait a second," he ordered. I did. "Close your eyes." I did that, too. I was hoping he'd produce a pair of handcuffs or run some marvelous dildo up my ass, but instead he took out from the living room closet this large thing wrapped in brown paper. "Oh," I said.

"I decided you had to have it," was all he said. I carefully unwrapped it, hoping it wasn't the worst. It was. It was the most awful painting I'd ever seen in my life. Something called "African Veldt"—a herd of zebras done on black linen in day-glow colors, with real pieces of "Authentic Jungle Grass" glued to the background. 

"I decided you to have it."

I didn't know what to say. I kept trying to smile, and then suddenly—without even controlling what was coming out, I said, "I can't accept this. I feel like it's—"

He understood immediately. His face fell. I felt like a shit and a half. He walked into the bathroom, which I knew—absolutely knew—still smelled deeply of Conquistador. He came out with the bottle of Citron Imperiale I'd given him and handed it back to me. "I think I'm going to leave," he said. He went to get his bags. "I can stay in a hotel."

I tried to hold him back, and told him that I was sure "African Veldt" cost a lot more than he could afford, which was a lie, but one that we call a socially excusable one.

"That's not the point," Jim said. "I just wanted you to have it."

So I took it and pretended to be extremely happy with it, and decided, while we were in bed that night, that as soon as Jim left, "African Veldt" was going back into the living room closet (in the same brown wrapper it arrived in), and I was going to have a very good time with Jim that night. And I did.

We woke up fairly late the next morning, after doing an almost unbearable amount of sexual activity, the type that would send the D.A.R. and the Salvation Army into near-fatal shock, and maybe even some envy. Some men seem to have everything—at least sexually, physically—that you want, and Jim was one of them. If I could pick men off of trees and bring them home, put them into the refrigerator, and just eat them when I wanted—before they started to go all mushy and I started to tire of the taste—well, certainly Jim York would be one of them. But the thought of two weeks in Seattle with him, like he'd been seriously suggesting, just did not "compute" as they would say in his business.

We took a shower and carried on like hot, naked seals in the water—I had my tongue up his ass so long I thought I might drown—then we dressed and I had some coffee. The limo came at three, and we went out to JFK, getting slightly sloshed along the way. He told me that business-wise, he'd done very well in New York, and everything-else-wise—he just beamed.

We got out of the limo, and I shook his hand, very business-like, and then got back in, and the driver took me home. A few days later, I got a very nice card from him, and "African Veldt" was still up on my living room wall. My friends came back and discussed it intelligently. Vance thought it was a piece of "Post-Modern sensibility that shows a critically earnest technique, though a bit mannered." I closed my eyes for a moment and tried not to look at "African Veldt" while I looked at Vance; then we got our clothes off as quickly as possible. With Vance lying under me, I forgot all about "African Veldt," or any veldt for that matter. Jack, my writer friend, thought it was a "stone gas" and "one of the ugliest things I've ever seen in all my life," but he made me promise to give it to him if I ever got tired of it myself.

Strangely enough, though, I did not. And, about eight months later, I flew to Seattle to see Jim York. He picked me up in a large, gas-guzzling car, and then I went back to his suburban Seattle apartment and I quickly got used to his bad art and his taste in books.

As for his taste, he was yummy. He cooked well, and we had great sex, sometimes more of it than even I could stand. One night, after he'd fucked me so long and so well—with smooth, tender, hard, fabulous strokes; know what I mean?—I sat up in bed, looking at the ceiling, while he slept. Then I remembered something my mother told me after I came out to her and she realized I wasn't going to be bringing girls home, but boys. "Listen," she said seriously. "No matter what a man looks like, ask him these three questions: Can he fix a flat tire? Can he fix a leaky faucet? And, can he fix a running toilet."
"Can he fix a flat tire?"

Her very wise advice kept running through my own mind. Then I fell asleep next to Jim.



Perry Brass’s 19 books include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and short stories. His work often deals with the intense, heartfelt feelings of men and women that came from his radical roots in New York’s Gay Liberation Front directly after the Stonewall Uprising. He is a founding coordinator of the Rainbow Book Fair. More info: www.perrybrass.com

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