LAST NIGHT IN NEW YORK

by Michael Perreault

ONE

In a flash he vaulted past me to the stairwell landing above. Climbing stairs was hard, what with the polio stuff and all, so I took little note of his leap, concentrating instead on each step. My eyes leveled with the landing and I saw his waiting feet. As my climb continued my glance rose from his knees to his hand; he held something shiny. For a split second, I didn't recognize it as the edge of a switchblade. When I stepped onto the tenement landing, my nose met the tip of the blade . . . point-to-point. "Do what I tell you," he ordered, "and maybe . . . you won't get hurt!"

It had been hot earlier that evening in Greenwich Village, the last night of my vacation, the air thick with humidity, sweat, cologne and the promise of sex. Men thronged the streets, many of them shirtless. Sometimes their eyes met mine, sometimes they averted their eyes. Occasionally I turned to see if anyone waited for me to look back; none did. I was not bad looking but my disability, at least on the street, got noticed first. Sized up, dismissed and forgotten in an instant, I felt like a day-old doughnut at half price. But with men everywhere, I figured I had to connect with someone.

My host told me about Peter Rabbit's, a Village bar where a black clientele mixed equally with whites. Whenever I went to an all-black bar, my presence was tolerated but never welcomed. I figured things would be different at Peter Rabbit's, where black men were looking for white men and vice versa. It was a tough place, I was warned, full of hustlers and addicts, just a short walk from "the trucks." I'd heard about the trucks, too, an "anything goes" environment, where robbery, rape and the occasional murder took place . . . or so the stories went. My disability prohibited that kind of adventure. It was too dangerous to walk on gravel and climb in and out of dark trucks where I might trip over a tangle of bodies devouring each other. I needed light, a place to sit and a nearby bathroom, so Peter Rabbit's it was for me on my last night in New York.

The place was full but not packed when I got there, the music good—Disco in its heyday. The men—lively, friendly and very much on the prowl—stood three or four deep at the bar. Finding a seat wasn't easy, but finally a stool emptied when its occupant scored for the night and left. Maybe this charmed bar stool will offer me the same reward, I thought.

I noticed a tall black man casually appraising the crowd. His cropped hair and long, fine-featured face caught my interest. I made a note to keep track of him and hoped he'd move within speaking range, but standing and maneuvering in crowded places was uncomfortable, so I couldn't risk losing my seat by following him. Patience coupled with destiny was my only strategy.

The more I drank the more I'd have to pee and possibly lose my seat, so I sipped my one beer. Just stay put and be patient, I thought. Suddenly, from behind, I felt the warmth of someone's lips butterfly my ear. A voice said, "Hi, my name is Beau!" Startled, I turned quickly and there he was in front of me, the man I'd noticed earlier. Patience and willpower had paid off. I swiveled on my stool to face him, gathered my wits and tried to look like I knew how to respond to a come-on. "Hi!" I said, forgetting to smile.

"May I talk to you," he asked? "I don't want to interrupt your evening but I noticed that you haven't been talking to anyone." "I don't know anyone." I answered. "I'm here on vacation." He flashed a wide smile. "Well then, welcome to the Big Apple. I hope you're enjoying your visit." And we were off on the usual pick-up-a-trick chitchat common for strangers soon to be casually intimate.

The noise of the music and the crowd forced him to move his lips closer to my ear. Our cheeks touched lightly again and my lust changed from hope to likelihood. He bought me a beer and when a seat opened up sat down next to me and slid one of his long legs between mine. The crush of the crowd invited him to push his knee into my thigh repeatedly. When I flushed with excitement he caught the brightening of my eyes. He smiled and his knowing eyes sparkled back. Finally I had to use the bathroom; Beau guarded my seat and held my jacket. Smiling again at my return, he leaned over and tenderly kissed my lips. That was it. I was hooked, anxious to be reeled in. Reaching over, I placed my hand behind his neck, pulled his mouth to mine and lingered there as my tongue probed between his lips. His hands found my torso and like a cat about to be stroked, my chest rose to meet the light flick of his thumbs against my hardening nipples, thumb tip to nipple, point to point.

TWO

"Now move up those two steps," he ordered, pointing to the next landing and stepping backward to let me pass. I felt weak, shaky, uncertain my legs would hold me. Unable to climb backward myself, I was terrified to turn my back to him, but gripping the stair rail I did as I was told, regained my balance and turned back to face him, our faces even now. He lowered the knife to my belly and my eyes widened with the realization that this was really happening. "Give me your money. All of it! Empty your pockets!" he demanded. His soft voice contrasted oddly with his actions.

It was an ugly place. Dirty. Light from a bare bulb glared off the nicotined green gloss of the walls. A hundred years of shiny black enamel had obliterated the details of the iron banister. Will I be obliterated too, I thought, as my panic increased? He looked different now in the glare of that harsh light, but all I could think of was meaningless details like the paint on the handrail.

I realized that the feeling of panic rising into my throat was vomit. No. Don't throw-up! Stay cool. Do what he says. Oh, God no, don't let this be happening! So went my inner pleas as I pulled paper money, loose notes, wallet and an abundance of coins from my pants and jacket. He grabbed my wallet and paper money and stuffed them into his pocket.

"Please, leave me enough for a taxi, please!"

"I don't want that change anyway. Now give me your watch!"

"No, not that," I shouted back. "That's my grandpa's retirement watch. My grandma gave it to me. Please, take anything you want, but not that. Please!"

THREE

A tap on my shoulder ended our kiss as the bartender pointed his finger toward the door and said to take it outside. Startled, we broke our hot embrace. "I want to spend the night with you," Beau said, "Do you have a place"?

"No, I don't. I'm sleeping on the floor of my friend's apartment. I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing someone there."

"Then come home with me," he brightened. "I live in the East Village. It'd be a long walk for you," he said as his eyebrows lowered in concern, "but we could take a cab if you want."

"No, let's walk, that'll give me a chance to get to know you better," I replied. I didn't say that I really wanted to savor the promise the remaining night held. As we stood up to leave I wondered for a split second about the tiny silver spoon I noticed hanging from a chain around his neck, but the course was charted for what remained of the night and off we went; I didn't know New York, much less the East Village, but Beau's gentle manner made me feel safe. He was so tall he had to pace himself to my slow gait, taking one step for every three of mine, talking easily while we walked down streets unknown to me.

As we approached a corner a middle-aged Asian man ran toward us, waving a piece of paper with an address scrawled on it. He spoke to us rapidly in what sounded like Chinese. With the unflustered aplomb of a UN delegate, Beau mimed what he thought the man wanted and within seconds both nodded in agreement. Beau motioned him to follow us and we continued down the street. Soon a bus drove into sight and signaled a right turn. Beau darted ahead on his long legs and waved it down. "Do you stop near to this address?" he yelled above the noise of the engine, pointing to the smudged paper. The driver squinted and nodded yes. "Will you make sure this man gets where he needs to go? He doesn't speak English." Again the driver nodded. By that time we had caught up with Beau and the stranger got on the bus, smiling his gratitude. Beau, almost breathless, said, "I hate to see people in trouble. You never know when it'll be your turn. Let's go," he said, locking eyes with me again.

What a nice thing to do, I thought. He's really sweet. I like him even more. Wow, what a night this is turning out to be. Walking down the streets of New York City with a handsome man I'll be spending the night with. Quite the finale to a vacation.

Two or three blocks away I saw the flashing lights of police cars and a small crowd. Beau stopped abruptly, paused and then said. "We're here." He patted his pockets for his keys and looked annoyed when he realized he didn't have them. "Damn. Wait here, I'll run up the steps and see if the front door is unlocked." He turned, dashed up the steps and tried the knob. No luck! He dashed back down the steps and said in passing, "The next building adjoins this one, if that door is open we can get to my apartment. My roommate will let us in. Stay put!" I turned and glanced down the street at the police action while he shot up the steps three at a time. "It's open, come on up," he yelled.

FOUR

"You want to keep your watch?" I nodded yes. He pointed with the tip of his switchblade to a step. "Then sit down." The cold terrazzo blackened my hands; my eyes were level now with his crotch. "Blow me!' he said. "If you do a good job, maybe I'll give you your watch back. But only if you're really good!" He unzipped his jeans and pulled out his soft dick. "Lick it, baby, c'mon, make it hard. Suck me good!" I felt his dick harden in my mouth and at the same time I could feel the tip of his knife on my neck. My head moved rhythmically while tears ran down my face, washing me with shame.

Bite, Michael, bite, I thought. Bite it off! But the pain would be mine too, when he cut my throat. Seared with humiliation, I saw the faces of my parents and grandparents. They'd want me to give him the watch, I knew; it was no match for my life. So I didn't bite. Instead I gave him the blowjob of my life. "Oooh, baby, I'm gonna come. Can I come in your mouth, baby? Please baby, let me come in your mouth!" Startled at how ridiculous that sounded, all I could do was grunt agreement. He made no sound as he emptied himself into me.

"Now get up and start climbing those stairs," he commanded, zipping up as fast as he'd drawn his knife on me, "And don't stop till you get to the top. That was a damn good blowjob, baby! I hope it was good for you too. Now up those stairs! Turn around too soon and you'll find me waiting for you. You're some cocksucker. Maybe you'll find your watch here when you come back down. Get movin!"

Obedient in my shame I turned and started to climb the dark stairs. I heard the sound of retreating sneakers hit the floor. "Please let this be over," I repeated with each step. Out of the darkness above came a fierce barking and the clatter of a dog's nails on the terrazzo. He was big, he was mad, and he was close. I knew I had to retreat and risk descending too early. My heart pounding and my knees weak, I slipped down three steps. If I was injured I didn't feel it. I hastened down to the lighted landing to find neither my assailant nor my watch. Somewhere above the dog still paced, but he'd stopped his barking. I took a few deep breaths to gather my wits, inventory my pockets and wipe my tears. Get a grip, I thought, the worst is over but you still have to get home. I fixed my face into a semblance of resolve. I would walk out as if I knew where I was going.

Descending the stairs, I looked in every dark corner along the way and finally reached the door to the street, where a thin line of blue lit up the east. I looked to the left and then the right and decided that retracing my steps was the best I could do. I felt defeated, but the expression on my face looked fierce. At least I hoped it did. You'll walk out just as you walked in, I repeated to myself.

A police car passed and, in an instant, I decided not to flag it down. At best, they'd figure it was just a simple mugging, and how do you find a mugger long gone. At worst, they might hassle me and decide I was just another faggot who got what he deserved. So I walked one block, then two, then more, till I finally reached an avenue with some traffic. I grabbed all the change from my pocket, counted it with trembling fingers and flagged a taxi. "Can seven dollars and forty-six cents get me to 22nd and Eighth Avenue? "Get in," the cabbie grunted.

Dodging potholes, the taxi lurched back and forth in the dawn traffic. The ride was rough. I was grateful; no one could see the shakes take over my body.

© Michael Perreault 2003

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Let us know what you think of this BENT feature.

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Michael Perreault's last piece for BENT was Marcus. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky, Harrington Park Press, December 2003.


 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2003