A Short Story by William Grant
The following is a parody of Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose
On June 25th of 2014, something astounding happened in the city of Chicago. Living on Sheffield Avenue in the Lincoln Park area was a script supervisor for a porn studio who went by the name of Gary Perkle.
On the morning our story begins, Gary awoke in the small, three room apartment he had recently begun sharing with his lover, Levi Horowitz (Messianic Jew). They had met while filming the Frenulum Films classic Cloud Anus the year prior. Levi was a fluffer for the studio and had asked if he could “fluff” Gary after the wrap party. They had done more than fluff and had continued to do so for eight short, wonderful months. It had been an easy relationship for Gary, considering his previous one had been with a cinematographer named Peter Hamsberg (Buddhist) who just wanted to take pictures of Gary shoving various painted fruits into his asshole. It had ended after Peter tried to get him to step it up from a pear to a pineapple. His relationship with Levi was a much needed breath of fresh air.
The harsh morning sun was gleaming through the curtain-less windows as Gary Perkle opened his eyes. He was alone in bed, a circumstance he rarely enjoyed. Sitting up, he glanced around the messy bedroom. Clothes (dirty), magazines (Good Housekeeping), and porn scripts (Guardians of the Perineum) littered the floor.
Hearing a clang from what sounded like the kitchen, Gary swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, the cock ring they’d been using the night before falling from between his legs. Traipsing naked from the room, he crossed the hall into the kitchen where Levi was pulling a no-longer-frozen pizza from the oven.
“Good morning, handsome” he greeted the underwear-clad man.
“Mornin’, I made pizza for breakfast. It was all we had.” Levi responded, taking the pizza cutter out of the drawer by the sink.
“I’m not really hungry, so I’ll just have some juice.”
Better make it pineapple, Levi Horowitz thought to himself as he cut the pizza into slices, Especially if you want me to do what I did last night again.
Gary poured himself a tall glass of OJ and sat down at the small table, his sphincter clenching at the touch of the cold vinyl, “Are we going into work together?”
“I guess so,” Levi replied, placing the pizza on the table and pulling a slice onto his styrofoam plate. “I’m really not feeling it today.”
Gary took his hand, “Is this about last night? Come on, I’m sorry I didn’t give you a heads up first. I promise I won’t let it happen again. I mean, you’re really good with your tongue. You should be proud.” Gary smiled playfully. He knew Levi wouldn’t stay mad at him, he couldn’t. That was one of the things he loved about being with Levi. Even when things got tense between them, they would get past it quickly, going from fighting to laughing within minutes. He watched a smile spread across Levi’s face. Gary felt a pang of guilt hit his gut. The message.
“Uh, hi, it’s me. I was, um, I was wondering if we could talk. I feel like we never really talked about everything after, you know, what happened. It’s probably too late now. I don’t know. I just……I’m tired of seeing you every day and feeling so distant, so far away from you. You won’t talk to me at work, so please call me. Please, Gary.”
He had received the message from Richard, one of his ex-boyfriends, three days earlier. Since then, he had listened to it over a dozen times. He should have deleted it, he knew that. The fact that he hadn’t told Levi about it made him nervous whenever he was with him. Gary didn’t know why he hadn’t told Levi about it. They took pride in their honesty with each other. During the first few weeks of their relationship, they had many open conversations about past relationships and old regrets. Gary had been completely honest with him about all his ex’s, including Richard. With that kind of open communication in their relationship, Gary knew he shouldn’t be hiding the message. He was curious though, curious about what Richard had to say.
Gary pushed it out of his mind
“Maybe they should pay me more for it then,” Levi said with a wink.
“I keep telling you to find another job, but you still haven’t done anything. I can support us for a while until you find something else. We’ll be fine. If you don’t like what you’re doing than why do it?”
Levi put down his slice of pizza and wiped his hands on a napkin, “It’s not that I don’t like cock. It’s just that I’m tired of sucking it for a living. I’d rather do something else and just suck cock recreationally.”
“And you can do that. Just quit.”
Levi sighed, “Maybe I will.” “Good.” Smiling, Gary reached for a slice of the pizza, “All right, maybe I am a little hungry. Leave some for me, fat-ass.”
Gary Perkle bit into the sausage pizza and began to chew as he stared at Levi across the table. As the pizza was mushed up inside his mouth, he began to notice a strange texture amidst the cheese. Something smooth and knotted slid across his tongue. Lifting his hand, he reached inside his mouth and felt around for the offending pizza topping. Upon pulling it out, he saw that it was……it was……a nipple. A human nipple. But it couldn’t be! Why would a nipple be on a slice of pizza? How would a nipple end up on a slice of pizza? Shouldn’t it be clinging to the chest of its owner? Gary stared in shock at the nipple in his hand, seasoned with marinara and parmesan cheese.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Levi had dropped his pizza onto the table, completely missing his plate, and was looking at the piece of pink flesh in Gary’s hand. He tried to speak, mouth opening and shutting several times before he froze, shoving his hands up his shirt and running them all over his chest. Relieved that both of his own pink nubs were still attached to his chest (though the left a little higher than the right), Levi slammed his fist down on the table. “Where did you get that? Why do you have it? Where were you keeping it?”
Gary, still shocked, just looked down at his hand. He rolled the pink flap around between his fingers, looking at it from all sides and angles. There was something familiar about this nipple. There was a tunnel driven right through it, one hole on either side of the perky peak. Gary Perkle knew exactly who this nipple belonged to and the thought made his stomach flip. This was the star of Guardian’s of the Perineum and Gary’s ex-boyfriend, Richard Spurt’s, left nipple. Gary’s relationship with Richard had begun two years prior. They had been working on Captain America: The Winter Cockfest when they first met. They had gotten along well from the start, bonding over the craft service food that Richard couldn’t eat (“Can’t be a fat ass and have a big dick!”), and the bigger questions in life (“Do you think chicks can move their clits like a dick? Like back and forth and round and round and shit?”).
They went from meaningful conversations to meaningful fucking. Richard had searched Gary’s ass like a cave for three weeks before revealing that he had a boyfriend that was finally moving to town. Gary had slapped him and punched him and had angry break-up sex with him before being left sitting at the end of his bed, covered in cum and tears. Gary had not spoken to him for months afterwards, too angry to look at him. Unfortunately, looking at him was his job. Gary had been assigned to all of Richard’s films since their split. Several times Richard had tried to initiate conversions with Gary, but he had walked away without a word. Gary had fallen for Richard hard in their short time together and his feelings had plagued him ever since. He had thought about Richard and conversations they’d had about the absurdity of sex as Gary was pushing a neon green Granny Smits apple into his lubed anus. He thought about him with Levi when they were in bed together, chatting about work or family. Many times he had wondered if Richard was “his person” and maybe, as much as he loved him, Levi was who he was settling for.
Turning the nipple over in his hands, Gary remembered all the times he’d put his mouth on it, giving Richard that extra boost that would send him over the edge into orgasmic bliss. Thinking back to the memories of their time together, he began to feel a sickness beginning in his gut. He had Richard’s nipple. He had Richard’s nipple. He had Richard’s nipple. What did this mean? Would Richard know it was him? He couldn’t. There was no way that it could be traced to him. He didn’t even know how the nipple had ended up in his possession, so how could anybody trace the nipple back to him?
“You need to do something with that!” Levi stood up from the table, backing away up to the counter. “Get rid of it!”
Gary struggled for words, “But…it…it’s not like we know whose it is. It could be anybody’s.” Was his lie convincing? Levi didn’t seem to hesitate or catch on to his dishonesty. He couldn’t tell Levi that he knew who the owner of the nipple was. It wouldn’t make sense for him to have his ex-boyfriends nipple in his mouth. Gary feared that Levi would suspect him of having an affair.
Levi held his hands up. “I don’t care who it belongs to. Someone out there is missing a nipple and I don’t want it in my house. Whether they can find it or not, I don’t want it to be anywhere where it can be linked to us. I still don’t understand where you got it.”
“It was on the fucking pizza!”
“Don’t get an attitude, Gary! This isn’t my fault. You’re the one with someone else’s nipple in your mouth. Just get rid of it!”
Gary looked at him a moment longer before standing. He picked up a napkin and wrapped the nipple inside it before going to the bedroom. As he pulled his pants on, he felt the feeling in his gut deepen. Everything had changed within five minutes. He had gone from a simple man with a good boyfriend to a man who was hiding a nipple that use to belong to his porn star ex-boyfriend. Gary’s head spun, the situation too confusing to understand. He shook his head, stuffing the napkin into his pocket. Gary stepped out their front door into the blazing sunlight. The summer heat covered his skin, seeping into his pores and sliding down into his stomach to harass the coiled snake within.
What the fuck was he going to do? He had to get rid of it, he knew that much. Levi was right, it had to be gone from his possession, but he had to be smart about it. It had to be put away somewhere where nobody would find it. If it fell into the wrong hands it could be taken to the authorities. What would happen then? Would anything happen? Could they trace it back to him? The nipple had been right on his tongue, bathing in his DNA.
“Fuck!” he almost shouted. He should have poured bleach on it or at least scrubbed it with some hand soap. But it was too late for that. There was nothing he could do except put it away and pray to God that no one would ever find it.
He followed the steps down to the sidewalk and set off east. Moms with strollers, college kids weighed down with backpacks, and construction workers littered both sides of the street. Sweat beaded against Gary’s forehead and along his scrotum as he walked. They had to know. Each person he passed, every eye glancing his way knew his secret. He was sure of it.
How was this happening to him? Three days earlier he had gotten that message from Richard and now he had the man’s nipple in his pocket. It was just too fucked up. Was it some kind of sign? Was he supposed to take this as some kind of signal from God that he should talk to Richard? He didn’t want to. He couldn’t. He was with Levi now.
BZZZZzzzzzz!!! Gary jumped into the air, simultaneously slamming his knee into a black metal gate. An elderly woman stared at him from her stoop inside the gate. She definitely knows, he thought, gritting his teeth. Holding his throbbing knee with one hand, Gary reached into the left hip pocket of his jeans and pulled out his phone. A picture of his mother, smiling above her favorite Christmas sweater, stared up at him.
Gary looked around before pressing the green button on his screen, “Hi, Mom.”
“HONnnneeeeeeeey!!! How are you?” His mother’s nasally voice came blaring from his phone.
“I’m fine, Mom, can I call you back later?”
“Now, sweetie, I only call you once a week. Can’t you find time for your mother at least once during your busy, busy week?”
Gary rubbed one hand over his face, pressing into the bridge of his nose, “Yes, Mom, I can. I’m just really busy right now. I promise, I’ll call you later, okay?”
His mother sighed the same sigh she’d been sighing since he was four and caught him stealing cookies from the cupboard, “Cupcake, are you all right? You sound funny?”
“I’m fine, Mom, I’ve just got a lot to do today.”
“I told you, Pumpkin, you need to take a break from that studio. Go have sex instead of just watching it all the time.”
Gary closed his eyes. His family had always been very open about sex. Many nights when he was younger, he had heard his parents copulating in their room next to his. Sex was an active discussion in the Perkle household, frank conversation being encouraged at a young age. When he had moved into the city, Gary’s own mother had been the one to tell him about the opening at the studio. She had seen it on one of the sexual health blogs she followed. He had been thankful for the job, but his mother had seen it as another way to instigate discussions about his sex life.
“I’m having sex, Mom. I need to go now, okay?”
“Wait, gumdrop, who with? Are you seeing someone? Is he nice? When are you bringing him home to Mommy?”
He was going to die. “Yes, I’m seeing someone. Yes, he’s nice. No, I’m not bringing him home. Okay? I’m hanging up now.”
“No, monkey, wait! I-“ Gary hung up. He felt bad, but he had to focus on the task at hand.
Turning onto Armitage, he scanned the street. There were more people here, he would have to find somewhere out of the way. He walked on and found an alleyway between a convenience store and a bakery. He peered into it, trying to seem casual. It was dark and filled with garbage.
Gary slipped into the darkened alleyway, the scent of rotting fruit filling his nostrils. He stepped around the two green, convenience store dumpsters and crouched down behind them. Down on his knees, he leaned his back against the dumpster and took a breath of filth-scented air. Trash overflowed from the top of the one furthest into the alleyway, a half—empty trash bag hung over the rim, the other half of its contents on the ground beside it. Empty chip bags lay at Gary’s feet, pieces of orange peel were being squashed beneath his sneakers. A pleather couch sat across from him, an abandoned suitcase spread open along one end. Ants crawled across the interior lining. I can do it here, he thought, acutely aware of the wadded up napkin in his jeans pocket. Wiping his sweaty hands on his thighs, he brought one shaking hand down to his side, a physical confirmation that it was still there. I can do it here and just be done with it. I’ll never have to see it again.
This wasn’t true and he knew it. He would see Richard at the studio, that very day even. He would see Richard naked, his bare chest oiled and missing a very distinct part of his anatomy. He would have to watch as Richard fucked some twink, the twink that would reach up to tickle Richard’s famously sensitive nipples and find only one round, erogenous peak. What would happen then? Would they just continue fucking? Would production be halted until they were able to find Richard’s missing piece? Would Gary be able to hide the fact that he had been in possession of said nipple?
Gary took the napkin from his pocket. Unwrapping it in the same cautious manner he used when handling his mother’s Christmas china, he stared down at the pink nub that was nestled within the white fabric. It seemed so soft and gentle. He looked up at the couch and back down at the nipple. Did he have any other option? Could a nipple just be returned?
Gary stepped over to the couch. It had clearly been there for quite some time. The pleather was stained slightly with what looked like black ink. One of the cushions had been cut open sloppily, foam and old cigarettes bursting out. There was a faint odor of urine coming off of it.
Gary crouched down and lifted up the only good couch cushion. Underneath it he found seven used condoms, a dog collar (Digby, resident of Lakeview), and a flyer for a phone sex hotline specifically geared towards dacryphiles. This, he decided, was the place where he would leave it.
Gary tossed it into the mess and pressed the cushion back down. Then, when the paranoia didn’t immediately leave his body, he pulled the cushion back up and moved the napkin so it was beneath the flyer. He started to leave the alleyway, but stopped before stepping back into the sunlight. What if someone wanted the flyer? As he knew from work, there was certainly a market for the dacryphile community (They had made a film last year, featuring Gina Squirt, that included a girl sobbing her way through the best fuck of her life). If someone took the flyer than the napkin would just be sitting there, exposed and open for inspection. That couldn’t happen.
Walking over and lifting the cushion once more, he picked up the napkin. Where could he put it that no one would think to look or at least touch?
Gary pulled his shirtsleeves over his hands and reached down for one of the condoms. Balling up the napkin as small as possible, he pushed it inside the end of the latex sleeve. Pressing it down, he made sure it was as deep as it could go. He held up the condom. The napkin was pressed uncomfortably into the reservoir tip. He placed it back down beneath the cushion and got up.
Gary turned. A figure stood in the entrance to the alleyway, their silhouette outlined in the blaring sun. As they took several steps forward, Gary could see that it was Alan Halstead, one of the make-up artists for the studio. “Uh, hi, hey there.” Gary tried to act casual. He had spoken with Alan a few times, rarely about anything that wasn’t work related. They had casual conversations at wrap parties, played group games at a Christmas swingers party a few years prior and traded cooking recipes once after a Thanksgiving get-together the studio had hosted.
Alan and Gary shook hands, “What’s going on? Whatcha doin’ down here?”
“Oh, I, uh, I was just taking a leak.”
“You should be careful, the cops are cracking down on that public urination law. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down.” Alan winked. Gary had gotten the impression that he had a small crush on him. It had started when Alan was passing him at the Thanksgiving party and had not-intentionally-but-really-intentionally grazed his crotch. He had chosen to ignore it.
“Yeah, I don’t usually do it. What are you up to today?”
“Oh, not much, errands. Hey, what were you doing when I walked up?”
Shit. Gary searched his mind for a solid excuse, any option that would be believable enough to end Alan’s inquiry before it began.
“You were messing with this couch. Jeez, this thing’s a piece of shit.” Alan stepped over to the couch and gave it a gentle kick.
“I was just checking it out.” Please go away.
“What was underneath the cushion you were looking at?”
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. “Nothing!” Gary reacted too quickly and he could see that Alan had noticed. Alan turned and gave him a What’s up with you? look. Turning back to the couch, he reached for the cushion that hid Gary’s secret. He began to lift it.
Gary almost shouted, “No, wait!”
And here, to my great dismay, the morning sun shone too brightly for any more to be seen.
To the Offices of Frenulum Films:
First off, I would like to thank you all for the warmth you have shown me these past two years. When I came here from Prostate Productions I was feeling stretched thin. I had been in this business for five years and was starting to get run down. The people I had been working with were an unsavory crowd, the kind of people who were only in the business for sex. There was no respect for the art or the process of the production. No one cared about performance. No one cared for continuity.
When the time came for my contract to be up, I jumped at the chance to get out. Then I got a call from your offices. That first meeting with all of you was like a breath of fresh air. Your maturity and professionalism was a welcome change to what I’d been dealing with for the past five years. I immediately felt comfortable and welcome amongst your crew and actors. I will never be able to thank you enough for what you gave me. My life and overall happiness made a full turn-around within that first week on the job. Now, with that, I must get to the reason for my letter. It is with great sadness that I must inform you that I will be leaving Frenulum when my contract ends next month. It may seem like a rash decision, I know, considering my current level of success. I mean, last month I had a mold of my cock made for a new dildo to add to the company’s line. I’m not blind to the blessings that have come my way since joining your studio. This was not an easy decision, but I feel that it is the right one.
I lost something last week, something that is very key to my success in the company. And while I would prefer to not go into the details about the situation, (they are, frankly, still a mystery to me) I would like to share with you how this experience has woken me up to aspects of myself that had become confused and lost.
I used to be a nice guy, not a perfect man by any means, but I was nice. I had values and morals and I stuck to them. Since joining this industry, however, those values have changed. Well, not changed so much as become hazy. It started slow, mainly with the kinds of men I slept with. I wasn’t blind to the fact that this industry is about sex and, therefore, I would be having sex with men that didn’t quite fit my specific type. That was fine. That was work. But in my personal life, I took some of these guys home. Being with them on screen was a calculated act. It was choreographed and supervised. It wasn’t how real people fucked. Naturally, I became a little curious about them. I wanted to know what they were like when they weren’t being managed, being forced into positions that were camera-friendly. Did they meet my checklist of what I wanted in a guy? No, but they intrigued me. So I took them home. It was only a couple at first. Just trying things out. Then, as time went on, I began taking more of them home. After a scene was done, I would immediately ask my costar what their plans were for the evening. Pretty soon, I had slept with every actor under contract with the studio. This wasn’t terrible, but, looking back, I’m not proud. I sold my self out on physical desires. For years I had prided myself on being the kind of person who would only sleep with someone that I had an emotional connection with. I didn’t have an emotional connection with those men. It was entirely physical.
About a month after joining the company, I met someone. Callum Green. I was visiting my family during the Christmas holidays in Oakland and met him at a party one of my college buddies was hosting. Callum was my buddy’s cousin. We met and immediately hit it off. I fell hard for him, harder than I had fallen for anybody. Callum was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen. I’m surrounded by porn stars all day, groomed, muscled porn stars. And you know what? None of them could hold a flame to this boy. The only problem was that he was still in college. He was a senior and would graduate the following May. I could wait. I would wait. You wait when it’s the right person. He understood my business and was okay with it, turned on by it even. We both cried when he dropped me off at the airport. I called him as soon as the plane landed and every day after.
You know what the problem with long distance relationships is? Touch. Not even sex, really, just touch. Being able to touch the other person, hold them, feel their hands on your face, that’s the hardest part. I tried to distract myself with work. The job is all about touching other people, so when I was doing a scene I would imagine that it was Callum there with me. It worked for a little bit, but after a while it got harder to imagine him there. My costars moans were different from his, their dirty talk in, what felt like, a different dialect. After a while, I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t fuck Ben Fincter and imagine Callum’s hips pressed to mine. I needed more. I needed something different. And then I met different. I won’t say who it was because I know he would prefer to keep it quiet and I’ve already hurt him enough. When I met him, I got a feeling, a similar feeling to what I felt with Callum. It wasn’t love, no, it wasn’t even really close to that. It was that this man was similar enough to Callum that I could imagine it was him and it actually be believable. He had the same sense of humor as Callum, the same kind of laugh. When we would lay in bed together at night, he would curl up against me in the same way as Callum, one hand wrapped around mine, pulling it tight against his chest. It felt familiar. It felt like it was enough to get me through until Callum graduated and could come to Chicago.
It was wrong. I know that. It was wrong of me to be with someone else in that way when Callum was holding out for me back in Oakland. He was fine with my work, but he expected me to not bring work home. He expected my bed to be empty at night. But what was also wrong was how I led my Callum stand-in on for so long. During our time together, I didn’t share with him the details of my relationship, I didn’t share that I had a relationship at all. As far as he was concerned, I was his and his completely. I could see him getting attached, could feel it when he nuzzled into my neck at night while he slept. Still, I said nothing. When it came time for me to break things off, I hurt him terribly. My lies and withholding finally caught up to me and I regret it. I regret that I cheated on Callum. I regret that I hurt an innocent person who was looking for what I had already found with Callum.
Things never worked out with Callum. I was so angry at my self for how I’d acted that I broke it off with him before he moved out here. I told him that he deserved someone better, someone who wasn’t going to hurt him. He didn’t understand, but he didn’t need to. He just needed to be away from me so he could meet someone who would actually be good to him. He didn’t see that, but he would eventually.
Breaking up with Callum was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. I really thought he was it for me. Maybe he was. Either way, I fucked that up real nice. And with the other man, I never apologized. In the beginning, I was too ashamed to say I’m sorry. I was embarrassed that I was capable of treating someone like that. Eventually, when I finally got past my embarrassment and found the courage to apologize, I missed my chance. He didn’t want to see me, despite the fact that he had to every day at this studio. I would try to talk to him, try to work up to an apology, but he would just walk away. Never in my life had I hurt someone to the point of them not wanting to even speak to me. Now I have.
I’ve been living with this for the past two years. I’ve tried so many times to learn to deal with the choices I’ve made and move on, but it’s harder than I thought it would be. It’s hard to go to work every day and face the mistakes you’ve made, face the people you’ve hurt.
Now last week I found myself in a situation that could have ruined my film career. I lost something that would make it impossible for me to continue working the way I have over the past seven years. At first I was confused and scared. It didn’t make sense that something like that could happen. I spent a solid two days worried sick, afraid to leave my house, afraid to go to work. And then, as I was laying in my bed on the second night, thinking about how I would never work again, I realized something. I realized that maybe, as strange as the situation was, it might be the best thing that could have happened to me.
I know it all sounds incredibly vague and I’m sorry about that. I would tell you what happened, but, frankly, you wouldn’t believe me. My point is, it woke me up. It made me see all of these things that I’ve done, all these mistakes that I’ve made and realize that they didn’t start happening until I started this profession. Now, I’m not saying that this business is to blame. I made these choices. But if I’m going to try to fix thing, I have to take a step back. I have to step away from the industry and focus on me. I have to reevaluate my values and morals and get them back in alignment with my actions.
Please know that I am grateful for all the opportunities you have placed in front of me and for the people I’ve met through this studio. I will remember this place fondly.
With greatest thanks,
It had been a month and Gary Perkle still wasn’t ready. He stared up at the sign for Frenulum Films and felt his stomach twist. Could he just go back home? Curl up in bed and say he needed more time?
The sabbatical Gary had been on since the whole incident had taken place had gone by like a flash. After everything had gone down, he had been too afraid to go to work. He couldn’t face Richard. When the police had let him go (since they couldn’t find anything to charge him with), Gary had heard from a PA at the studio that they had given Richard the nipple back. Nobody had said if he had been able to get it put back on and, frankly, Gary hadn’t been interested in finding out. He had cut off all communication with the studio. Gary couldn’t decide if this had been a good or bad idea. On the good side, Richard wasn’t pressing charges. On the bad side, since he hadn’t seen Richard yet, he hadn’t had to face the possible anger or, at least, awkwardness that would come out of that situation. Either way, the fact remained that he’d had Richard Spurt’s nipple in his hand. It had been in his hand, separated from Richard’s body. That wasn’t something that he could forget and he was sure, whether he was angry or not, Richard couldn’t either. How could he face Richard after that? Hopefully he wouldn’t have to. Levi had told him that Richard had decided to not renew his contract and would be leaving within the week. Richard’s last film had already begun shooting and since Gary was on leave when it went into production, he hadn’t been assigned to it. Maybe he could go to work and never even have to see Richard. Regardless, the possibility of an encounter made him more nervous than he had been when losing his virginity (9th grade, back of his parents car, Lauren Beaufort).
Gary swallowed. He could feel sweat dripping from the palms of his hands. He couldn’t go in, but he had to. If he went back home, he would be a coward. Tightening his hands into fists, he began to step towards the building. As he moved forward, he felt his heart beating faster and faster. The door was getting closer with every step. He was reaching out. His hand wrapping around the door handle, pulling, pulling.
His heart almost stopped completely.
Richard Spurt stood in the middle of the lobby, picking up the contents he had apparently dropped out of his backpack (condoms, oil, laxatives). He was bent over, tight ass in the air, shoving a butt plug into his bag. As the door closed behind Gary, Richard looked up, his mouth falling open.
Richard stood, leaving his bag open on the floor, and paused, hesitating before walking over to Gary. His eyes watched his feet take slow steps forward. Gary’s stomach lurched as Richard approached him. His sweaty palms twitched. Of course it would happen here, in the lobby where they’d first met. Gary’s mouth went dry.
Richard stopped within three feet of Gary. Though a yard away, Gary could feel the heat coming off Richard’s body in waves. Richard had always run a little hotter than most people. Maybe it was the muscles, maybe it was the sledgehammer sized trouser meat, maybe it was both. Gary didn’t know. What he did know was how good all that extra heat had felt curled up against his body. Richard wore faded jeans and a tight t-shirt that showed off his chest, both nipples intact.
“Uh, hi.” Richard spoke first. Gary looked up from Richard’s chest to his face, shaved and smooth. The smell of expensive aftershave filled his nose. He looked down to where Gary’s eyes had just been, “Plastic surgery. It was pretty easy to reattach.” His eyes dropped down to his hands which were clasped in front of him
“Hey.” Gary licked his lips, tried to find his confidence. “Good, I’m glad. I-I heard you decided to leave the studio.”
Richard looked up at him quickly, eyes darting up and back down, “Yeah, it was……it was time. How’ve you been?”
“Oh, I’m good. I’ve been really sick lately, but I’m better now.” Gary’s shoulders relaxed slightly as he spoke. Maybe Richard wasn’t mad.
“That’s good, I’m glad you’re feeling better.” Richard rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes glancing up again and back down. “Are you still with that guy? The fluffer?”
“Yeah, uh, he’s actually not a fluffer anymore. He quit last week. He’s good though, yeah.”
“Good, that’s good.”
Silence. Gary looked at the man that he’d been worried about seeing for a month. He’d been expecting anger or…something. But this? This discomfort, not just on his side, but Richards? He had never expected that.
Gary tried to speak again, “Well, I guess I’ll—“
“Listen, I, uh, I’m, fuck, I’m sorry.”
Gary had to keep his mouth from falling open. Richard was sorry? Richard was sorry? Had Richard found someones nipple? Had Richard tried to get rid of it in a disgusting alleyway? No, so why the fuck was he sorry? Gary felt a small dose of anger that the situation wasn’t going how he had thought it would. Over the past month he had thought about the different ways this conversation could go and had prepared responses that would be appropriate to each outcome. This sudden change in script was throwing him for a loop.
Richard finally lifted his eyes to Gary’s, locking them there. Gary felt his body go still.
“I am. I never got to say it back when everything went down between us and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for both things.” A small, raspy laugh fell from his lips.
“Um……” Gary was speechless. What should he say to that? What could he say? He had waited for some kind of apology for so long after they had broken up. Eventually he stopped waiting. Gary thought that after so much time had passed he would be over it, that he wouldn’t need an apology anymore. But, as he stood there in front of an apologetic Richard, he realized that was what he had needed the whole time. This is what had kept him from moving on, from letting go of the situation and Richard himself. As the words of Richard’s apology replayed in his mind, Gary felt a breath flow through him. He felt the anger from their break-up and the embarrassment he felt at seeing him just disappear. Gary had given Richard so much power in their relationship and, with those two words, Richard had given it back to him.
Gary lifted his shoulders, his back straightening, the weight of their encounter leaving him. He thought back to the beautiful man that was sitting at home, waiting for him to come back from work later that day. It was the man who had encouraged him to face his fears and go to work. Levi Horowitz had given him love and support. All Richard had given him was some good conversation and rough sex. He had felt so connected to what they had because of how it had ended. Gary had put so much anger into the memory of him and Richard, giving him the power to take up space in his mind for months on end.
Maybe that was what the whole situation was about. Maybe finding Richard’s nipple was the beginning of Gary getting his power back.
He looked up into Richard’s hazel eyes, the eyes that he had been dreading, “Thank you. Thank you for finally saying that.”
Richard smiled, “I should have said it sooner, but I got so caught up in just trying to talk to you again that I never actually ended up saying it. Maybe if I had just come out with it, started with that before even saying hello, maybe we would have gotten to this point sooner. Preferably before I lost my nipple.”
They both laughed. Gary noticed how easy it felt to laugh around him again. Everything felt easier now.
“Well, I’m glad we got to talk before you left. I’m sorry I was so hardened against you for so long. I know it didn’t make it easy.”
“It’s my fault, not yours.”
“Either way, thank you for saying it.” Gary smiled before realizing he was late for his production meeting. “I better get going. You may not work here anymore, but I still do.”
Richard wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans and held one out, “I hope you have a good life, Gary, I really do.”
Gary reached out and shook Richard’s hand, no sparks flying now when their skin touched, “I wish the same for you, Richard.”
They smiled at each other for a moment longer before Richard turned around and walked back to his bag. Gary walked past him and through the door into the hallway where his office was, not looking back at Richard. He thought about the whole absurd experience he’d been through and laughed to himself, the first laugh he’d allowed to slip from his lips since that fateful morning. Sitting down at his desk, he picked up his phone and sent a text to Levi with just a single heart. Before getting to work for the day, Gary ran a hand over his chest, feeling his own nipples pressing against the cotton fabric.