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The Trauma of Moving Along
Amazing how cruel threats from a violent ex-lover turned the heart into a bleeding mess. Violent Martin’s plan to stalk me like a wounded deer stumbling through the forest did not thrill me. The high priest of punching’s stalking felt uncool as fiery hell.
Why had I answered his call?
My lips tightened around the dwindling joint. The glowing tip flared bright. Pungent smoke filled my lungs and spilled from my nostrils. Someday I wanted to learn how to blow a nose smoke ring.
Someday I wanted to learn how to select a stable lover.
The nasty internal laughter bouncing around my skull needed to cease.
I pointed at my smoking pal. “Ernie, my dear, how is this for a sweet idea: Why don’t I move to Niagara Falls, crawl into a huge rubber ball, and roll off the wet edge every damned morning? Why not play the toss and retrieve game?” I waved my left hand in the air. “Wait, call on me, I know why not. After a few rescues, the irritated EMTs will let me drown in the raging water. Bounce-ouch-bleargh-glug.” Ouch, those harsh noises hurt my throat.
A nasty grin like bright-green acid greeted my words. “No one is stopping you from living your dangerous wet dream, dude.” Ernie accepted the joint, snapped the remainder into a clip, and sucked in the smoke.
“Gee, aren’t you a bundle of prime sympathy? Here’s a better idea. What about slapping local hospital logos on the ball’s exterior? Do you think the esteemed institutions will sponsor me? Maybe I’ll drum up enough funding to cover my interment.” The weird concept appealed to me. The stunt sounded more promising than the epic romantic disaster devouring my life.
My brain cells sparked in protest. Without Martin in my life, I should feel better. Yeah, right. Great cosmic dude in the sky, spin me another fairy tale.
Ernie peered through the bluish smoke haze curling between us. “Carl, time for me to state the obvious: you need to move along. You know you need to stop letting Martin mess up your mind.”
“I can’t halt his manic messing. Devious Martin is the ultimate interior mental mess maker.” Over the past weeks, my stupid Martin-plagued life had driven me to race in sweaty mental circles that sour old Dante had never envisioned. If I met a frenzied Jack Russell terrier overdosed on puppy uppers during my lunatic spins, I’d call him brother. We could run wobbly circles together. Skid, turn, and attack unsuspecting ankles.
I hated feeling on edge, or, more accurately, feeling ready to fall off the teetering, sharp-fanged edge. If I plunged down, it would be in grand bloody chaos sans the protective rubber ball.
I glanced at the utilitarian wall clock. The red second hand always clicked back twice before it lunged forward. Unnerving. The first Photo Two class of the shiny new fall semester started in a few minutes. Instead of wrapping my mind around the class, I hid in my office, sneaking in an herbal smoke break with my pal and fellow professor Ernie Sanders. Students expected their professor to project confidence and wisdom, not hare-brained scatterings and musing about bloody fangs or waterfalls. I needed to chill to achieve a level mind-set.
Sometimes a blissful little high helped my teaching skills.
Ernie handed me the joint’s remains. He stretched his lanky frame. My friend’s elongated appearance reminded me of an El Greco Christ, right down to his wavy brown hair and lush beard. “Thanks for the savory smoke treat, Carl. I need to scram. My aspiring Van Goghs await my sage advice. Wait, don’t you have a class across the street?”
“Yes, but I need another minute to compose my mangled thoughts.”
Ernie shook his unruly hair. “I will repeat the same thing to you. Maybe I’ll learn a few other languages to keep the concept fresh. Here goes: stop allowing good old manic Martin to poison your mind. You realize you let him win. Inside your brain, he still hits you. He still ruins your sad life.”
“My sensible friend, you are right, but you just heard Martin’s sick phone call. Clever speakerphone technology makes you my sane witness to his obsessive behavior. The nutcase plans to stalk me. Golly gee, my wicked ex suddenly feels the need for closure. How does stalking me help the problem?”
A sharp smirk curved Ernie’s lips. “Admit it, Carl, placing his stuff into storage, changing the locks, and leaving the city for a week never gave Sir Punch-a-Lot the chance to perform closure with you. Aw hell, don’t start with me again. Stop baring your teeth at me. Yes, splendid, I realize his last punch chipped your tooth and made you panic. Fine.” Ernie performed his classic frustration move. His fingers fluttered near his ears like spastic birds. “Damn, you sucked me into your drama again. Listen, here’s my simple advice. Find someone sane for once. Hell, I’ll lend you Bobby so you can hang out in a play park and meet a nice, normal dude raising a kid. To my thinking, any guy who raises a kid is grounded. That’s what you need, a Mr. Happy and Grounded in your tumultuous life.”
I bared my teeth one last time. “You know I don’t understand kids.”
“You teach kids.”
I held up my hand. “Ah, wait, I teach young adults. I understand them, except when they act like smartasses.”
“Fine, no playtime in the park.” One finger pointed at me. “Above all, you need to stop thinking with your dick. Constantly picking up your boyfriends in your favorite dance club is unwise. Please, join a reading group or a Photoshop-enthusiasts club or something equally civilized. Join a hamster-lovers group.”
I choked on laughter. Ernie groaned in disbelief. “Forget that I uttered those silly words. You know what I mean. Train Spazz to dance.” He shook his finger. “Above all, spend quality time talking to your prospective lover before you dive into fucking him silly.”
“Excuse me, physical attraction is important to me.”
“Dude, care to sound a little more shallow? Fine, don’t blame me when the next handsome nutcase you unearth turns out to be worse than Mayhem Martin. Now get off your ass and head to class. See you later.” Ernie opened the door, peered around, and left me with my smoky thoughts.
Dear Ernie meant well, but he tended to oversimplify life. His settled life with his devoted wife, Bridget, and their three wonderful kids defined fairy-tale perfection. Visiting their house almost gave me a sugar high. Ernie had enjoyed fifteen years of bliss and appeared ready to experience thirty more with sweet, sensible Bridget.
My longest relationship had clocked in at five years. Not bad, but now, as I grew older, I wanted to settle into stability. I wanted to experience a true long-term relationship. Perhaps it was a fantasy, but surely someone out there wanted to share their life with a successful, financially secure but emotionally insecure photographer who talked to his hamsters like they were people.
Ouch. My description sounded iffy. Common sense smacked away my doubts.
Imagine me falling for a man raising a five-year-old kid. Not a sane concept. I never planned to nurture a sensitive child. I understood my limitations. Raising a child topped my important “do not go there” list. At least I embraced my selfishness. Geesh, nurturing my hamsters sometimes challenged me.
Damn, I sounded like some kid-hating ogre. I didn’t hate them; instead I feared warping their impressionable minds. Children’s innocence struck me as too fragile, too special. No way did I want to be responsible for shaping a susceptible young mind. What if the child I raised turned into a criminal or, worse yet, a serial killer? Yikes, what a nasty concept.
I shook in apprehension. Come on, pot, mellow me out. Work the clean magic.
Sensible Ernie understood my problem.. Martin created my ugly stress. Everything, including any world crisis currently raging in sick destruction, could be traced back to Martin. I embraced the fact as divine truth. My troubled mind had transformed my rampaging ex into the Antichrist dressed in a slick Armani suit.
Wait, I needed to add in his four-hundred-dollar haircut. Definitely the Antichrist cloaked in Armani sporting an expensive haircut and custom leather shoes purchased on his frequent Italian weekend shopping trips, trips he wrote off as banking business. Martin’s high-end tastes alone should have told me he was the slithering embodiment of perfect evil. His skills as a habitual liar added more rusted links to his Jacob Marley-style chain. Amazing how he managed to survive in the financial sector.
Mocking alarms rang in my brain. I blinked in disbelief. Wait, had my thoughts produced such rabid nonsense? Dangerous Martin and the financial sector created a perfect monster match, unlike this forgiving hippie professor and bruise-creating Martin. Wall Street adored beating up everyone. Martin adored beating me. Ladies and gentlemen, what a cruel pairing.
Being hit in the mouth by a man wearing a scarab ring changed one’s point of view, especially when I had given said man the heavy silver ring as a birthday present. Hell, my violent ex should have gotten his classic line, “Really, I’ll change, Carl, please, I will,” tattooed across his aristocratic forehead. How wonderful—Martin had enjoyed changing from a hypercritical type-A lover into an occasionally enraged psycho who enjoyed a human punching bag near his bony fist. No, thanks. My not responding to his cell phone calls or e-mails had led to today’s surprise attack.
Why had I answered the flaming nutcase’s phone call? Tomorrow I planned to buy an external answering machine for my office phone. I needed to hear who was calling before I picked up the phone. If I endured another long, heated tirade on how Martin promised to change for me if only I accepted him back into my life, I’d go bonkers.
During the weeks after I kicked him out, Martin had never apologized for hitting me hard enough to break a tooth. Instead he called and threatened me. He claimed he needed me. He claimed he planned to wait for me outside my apartment in order to correct our relationship’s tragic problem.
What did he mean by “correct”? A snickering inner voice told me that Martin’s violent correction might place me in the hospital.
I warned Martin that if he stalked me, bam, time for a restraining order. A startled Ernie had sat and listened to the sordid, heated exchange via my glorious speakerphone.
My deranged ex made me want to run screaming in mad circles around Washington Square. The manic Jack Russell could join me. Yee-haw, we’d make the stubborn pigeons fly for cover. We’d scare the tourists and drug dealers. Someone might photograph our stunt and wonder why we resorted to performance art to release emotional pain.
I appreciated the concept. Imagine—we might end up on an artsy-fartsy TV show. Carl and the Crazy Terrier Performing Live in Washington Square.
One more deep herbal puff entered my lungs. I shut my eyes in order to find relaxation. My secret, silly mantra whispered free: be cool, be calm, be Carl. I breathed in, held, released. Ahh, better, much better. Smelling the herb-scented air calmed me down. My spiking blood pressure dropped a few points, much like the stock market.
Someday the antidrug screechers would try a few tokes and understand why marijuana needed legalization. A few puffs a day chased the anger away. The lyrics from “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” drifted through my mind. Yeah, go Bob D.
Annoying reality rattled my mental cage. Reality banished my relaxation. Did I have everything ready for class? My agitated mind blanked in cluttered confusion. Crap, I needed to hustle. I grabbed my battered leather satchel. Up, up, and away! Supermoron stumbled to the rescue! I should have left before Ernie.
I wondered if Ernie could lend me some of his common sense. He had plenty to spare.
The uncertain office lock required caressing and proper jiggling to engage. Great, locking my office door wasted another minute. I jogged down the hall. Now the touchy elevator refused to cooperate. Evil Martin had probably cut a cable. I thundered down five flights without tripping over my old clogs and paused at the lobby door to catch my breath. Joe the guard waved at my spastic hand gesture.
Flying pigs on high, no one ever listened to my endless heartfelt requests to move my office across the street. My classes occurred in the main building, but no, my cramped little office hid across the street because the main building lacked the proper space. Authority adored ignoring me.
Damn, I sounded whiny.
The light tending Broadway’s constant flow smiled on me. I started across the busy street, yelped, and danced my toes away from hungry tires. Gee, a senseless cabbie’s racing yellow deathmobile tried to send me to the big angel convention. In the city, sometimes red lights existed only for logical drivers.
I aimed the one-fingered NYC salute into the air. “You colorblind, crazy, moronic asshole!” There, cool—shouting gained me laughing pedestrian attention.
Damn, I needed therapy. I barely recognized the angry man messing around in my head. I wanted him to move out, wanted to serve him an eviction notice. Martin’s abuse had created the violent creature. His appearance in my mind sickened me.
The main building offered me solace from physical injury. Well, unless I tripped over my feet, which, with the way today was staggering along, might happen sooner than I expected. The grinning security guard waved at me. “’Lo, Prof C.”
“Hiya, Vince. Imagine, here I am, late as usual.”
Vince laughed. “At least you are here and not pushing up daisies, right, Prof?”
“Amen to that thought.” Yeah, everyone liked the wacky clog-wearing hippie photography professor. I was a legend and not necessarily a positive one, at least not with the grouchy establishment. Tough beans, my students loved me.
Unfortunately I had developed a bad habit of loving a few students. Silly boy. Here I had hoped that mature Martin would break the cycle. No, instead he tried to break my jaw.
Stop, I heard Ernie scold me. I needed to focus on my new class. I needed to move forward and evict the angry man from my life. Wait, which angry man? The one kicking my brain wall or—
My ragged sigh hurt my throat. I needed therapy, but the concept of spilling my deepest emotions to someone I had never made love to bothered me.
Geesh, such a weird dilemma meant I needed therapy.
Cupid Takes Aim
No more running. The thankfully working elevator hauled me upward. I pushed open the fingerprinted glass doors leading to the studio critique space. Leaping lizards, what a full class. Wait, I remembered asking the registrar to limit the student number to twelve. Granted, of late, plenty of minor life details escaped my notice, but I remembered that crucial detail.
More kids than that simple number crowded the room. The herbal cloud gently swirling in my brain still allowed me to count beyond my fingers. Cool, I recognized familiar faces from the spring semester’s Photo One class. Either they loved me enough to desire further artistic torment, or last semester I had granted enough As to ensure their return. Last semester I had handed out too many As mainly from trepidation. How sad. I feared a few students might report my erratic behavior to the dean.
Time to shove away negative thoughts. Pleasant to realize how my status as a popular photography professor held firm. During the last semester, my artistic concentration had wandered in the weeds. Hell, my lack of focus came from not knowing if my live-in lover planned to drop to his knees and beg me to keep him, or swing a big bad fist into my surprised face. Martin the loony part-time boxer loved using me as his astonished victim. He realized this pacifist never hit back; yeah, I threw things and yelled but never hit. I prided myself for my sterling nonviolent record.
Today refused to cut me any slack. I lost count of how many times I told myself to stop dwelling on the past and move along. New semester, new students; life swerved into the happy lane, correct? Correct, decorated with plump sugar cookies and twinkly red glitter.
Teaching photo classes for non-majors thrilled me. My classes supplied me sweet new young things to look at while I taught. The photo classes pulled in students from across the disciplines. A clever mix of ideas and concepts waited to challenge my artistic perception.
“Hello, everyone, sorry to be late. As you know, I’m Professor Carl Conrad. Wow, is everyone here for this class?” Their enthusiastic nods told me yes. Groan. “Really? Wow again. Well, let’s see what’s going on here.”
Someone had neglected to study the student list before arriving in class. The document had resided in my e-mail in-box for weeks, but as I planned my escape from Martin, reading the names lurked low on my priority list. Usually I enjoyed examining the names and trying to imagine what a student looked like ahead of time. To my surprise, my random guesses often rang true.
Had I brought the list with me? Whoops. I fumbled through my notes and papers. Amused little smiles aimed at me. I smiled back and took the time to examine faces. A lame joke about setting a bad example by being late almost emerged when the most amazing sensation hit me.
Great googly moogly on hot buttered cinnamon raisin toast, this wild feeling felt nothing like Martin’s hard fist hitting my cheek. Damn, I shouldn’t have skipped lunch.
I mentally aimed my inner camera lens and focused directly on achingly delicious subject matter. My lens zoomed in and ignored everyone else in the room. Buzz, click, frame, and drool. The wild scene lasted for a split second. Everything moved in slow motion. Fascinating how the world transformed into a weird fantasy.
Yes, I had been hit in the head too many times.
Today the new lust of my messed-up life sat before me in masculine perfection.
Okay, aside from his outrageous outfit, complete with magenta socks and orange Keds, the vision embraced masculine perfection.
Boom, done. My heart’s quick decision made sense to me. My cock and brain deliberated for a few seconds until they signed off on the magical contract. Master Lust stepped forward and turned Heart, Brain, and Cock into a strange version of the Supremes backing the divine Diana. They crooned in romantic urgency.
Did the manly subject matter at the other end of my lusting mental lens accept my desire? Falling in lust never seemed hard, but convincing the unaware victim he needed me as much as I desired him would provide the true challenge.
I located the wrinkled list. My waking brain operated on autopilot. My mouth opened and closed while I spoke to the students. The advanced class’s basic concepts filled the air. The new students learned what I expected from their creativity over the upcoming semester.
In the background, oozing lust kept shrieking in joy while turning cartwheels in my mind. Damn, lust needed to cut its jagged toenails.
The time came to scare certain students into dropping the class before they found themselves in serious trouble. Nothing upset me more than a heartbroken student wailing in distress when I smacked a dreaded “incomplete” on them. Well, lately Martin had upset me more, but—
Lust kicked and stomped me into focus. It controlled my primitive urges. The panting ooze admired the tasty man sitting a mere five feet away from my twitching right hand. Ooo-la-la, two simple steps would allow my happy fingers to caress his tea-hued cheek. Touching his tempting flesh might be worth dismissal.
Eager lust battered my senses into mush. My opening blather concluded. I needed to begin the roll call. The desire to attach a name to the appealing man ruled me.
The alpha-ordered list refused to cooperate. The sixth name jumped out at me. The letters danced, waved, and wiggled their taut asses at me before they calmed down and resumed spelling his name. I sensed the reality. The seductive man looked like his name in a luscious manner far beyond my lust-fried comprehension.
I clapped my hands in decision. Expectant young faces regarded me with varying emotions. “Before I call the roll, time for one last reality check. Is there anyone here who wants to drop the class? If you have any, and I mean any doubt about this class, please make it easy on everyone, especially me, and bail now. Remember this is an advanced class. We’ll mainly focus—hey, a little photo humor there—on learning the digital process, but if anyone is interested, we may play in the darkroom a few times. Don’t let my cuddly reputation fool you; I am a stickler about deadlines. Once a project is a week late, I lop off ten grade points, which means after a month you have an F. Above all, I expect performance, dedication, and drive.” I hoped that the students didn’t expect the same responsible trio from me.
No one screamed, “Please, you wicked, cruel bastard, let me leave now!” I hated turning away eager students, but a seventeen-person class meant mayhem in the critique situation.
Please, mayhem in an empty classroom with a classically muscled dark body pressed close in passion suited me.
Agggh. I needed to cease waffling. Sanity slapped me to move along and finally call the roll. In a minute I’d obtain a name for the exquisite face. Excitement flushed me until I feared my pores might spring lust leaks.
I shrugged and cast my special evil grin over the poor young dears. “Okay, everyone wants to stick around for the torment? You have been warned. Time to establish who belongs before I make my decisions. Jeremy Atkinson?”
A tall slender guy with long red dreads tossed me a friendly wave.
A Goth brunette sporting too much eyeliner and enough piercings to threaten a weather balloon managed a bored nod. There sat a potential attitude problem.
I tried not to grin. “Ralph Digglestaff?”
Not the name I expected to match with the burly, bald dark-skinned dude waving at me. What a great porn star handle.
A man who looked like James Dean’s long-lost love child nodded in lazy regard.
“Hello, Rachel. I guess I didn’t scare you away last time.”
The petite blonde woman snapped her gum and grinned. “Nope, Prof C, I am back for more.”
The moment arrived in grand glory. My heart tightened in anticipation. “Marcelino Moya?”
Bull’s-eye. Hold on, did I hear a faint accent? My desperate-for-more-words lust pushed me. I raised a curious eyebrow toward my new erotic partner. “I guess your parents wanted to give you a memorable name.” The seductive man looked like his name in a luscious manner far beyond my lust-fried comprehension.
Possibly the most sensual grin ever to grace human lips appeared. “It is a memorable name, which is helpful in the performing arts. I can’t wait to see the words ‘set designs by Marcelino Moya’ appear for real on the silver screen.” The way he rolled his name off his tongue threatened my tattered reason. His cock-stiffening grin grew wider and sexier. Now how was such a miracle possible? The man’s generous mouth shape needed a “proceed with caution” warning flashing beneath the succulent skin.
Yum, my dream was a performing arts hunk possessing a subtle Hispanic accent. Deeee-licious. Yippee on high, mark me smitten to the skies. Ha, if I walked back out onto Broadway and let the mad cabbie plow me down, I wouldn’t even feel the pain. Instead I’d float right over the problem held aloft by Cupid’s blessed wings. The blind bow boy’s arrows had pierced my heart. Now I needed to bribe him to aim at luscious Marcelino’s masculine bounty.
Mmm, Marcelino. The rare name tasted fine on my tongue. I wonder what he uses for a nickname? I wonder how his full lips taste?
An alarm rang in my mind. Lust scowled in annoyance. I wondered if he was gay. Yeeeeah, sigh, my heated lust always overlooked the crucial details.
I expected my sensible pal Ernie to burst through the door and scold my impetuous desire.
Gee, how fortuitous, the door remained closed.
Lust shut off the alarm and screamed full speed ahead.
I always imagined myself divided into thirds. Now one third of me laughed hysterically at this thirty-six-year-old professor drooling over a sleek student. The second, sensible third snapped, “Don’t even go there, you stupid man. He’s too damned young. He’s rebound material. Stop staring at him.”
The rebellious sexy third hissed, “Ohhh, yesss, imagine that sssmooth lussstrousss body under you in bed. Yessss. He’sss not too young. He looksss old enough to sssamba.” Hmm, since when did the snake from Eden occupy my wanton third? Fascinating. Snake, could you talk louder? I like your ssstyle.
Marcelino’s physical appeal required little imagination. This afternoon he offered me plenty of his wonderful body to admire. My future lover had dressed his sculpted body in a clinging, practically painted-on red tank top and tight black jean shorts. The shorts displayed muscular thighs. Yum—my dream either ran or biked. Bless this hot NYC September. I hoped the weather never turned cold. Did nipple rings press against the thin red fabric? Indeed they did. My arrow-pierced heart flipped in glee.
I ignored the magenta socks and orange Keds. The weird mix was a problem for later, but the faint scar looping around his throat demanded my attention. The scar added a rakish touch.
Marcelino inhaled a deep breath and stretched. Save me. Cupid needed to stop the rapid-fire arrow practice. I thanked the stars for my loose old jeans. I usually maintained control over my mature cock, but right now control jumped into a battered, rust-peppered van and rode off to New Jersey. Before roaring into the Lincoln Tunnel, control merrily waved bye-bye before hugging a blond surfer himbo. Ouch. Thanks.
Despite Cupid’s expert arrow skills, I marched through the remaining roll call. Unfortunately I suddenly existed in a room occupied by featureless mannequins and one wildly sexy breathing dream. My overheated lust imagined my precious Marcelino standing, strolling, and pressing the sweetest, wettest hard kiss ever concocted in the history of kissdom against my eager lips. Yeah, oh yeah, primal brain adored the silent movie. Lust urged primal brain to play the film a hundred more times. When our lips caressed together, pointy toenails pressed pause. Yum.
I had been hit in the head way too many times or maybe too much pot had entered my lungs. Today I endured waking hallucinations but still managed to teach. Remarkable. I dropped back into strict reality to monitor my progress. I talked to the students, registered four pleading souls who begged me to be let into the class, and discussed schedule conflicts with two others. Whee, I performed extremely well even as I completely ignored everyone aside from the man in the orange Keds.
Good old lust sprawled barefoot in its private theater. One oozing foot propped up on the back of the next row. Lust devoured dripping, buttery-slick popcorn—slurp, lick, lick, lick—while repeatedly watching the intense kissing scene. Smart move to put the searing kiss on the big screen.
Waking brain guided me as lust appreciated Marcelino’s dainty goatee and thin mustache. The careful grooming told me the sublime Marcelino worked at his facial hair. Such a calculated yet casual look demanded strict maintenance. His dusky complexion, jaunty facial fussings, long black hair decorated with hilarious purple streaks, and multiple earrings transformed my potential treat into a sweet pirate. I wanted to make him walk my plank.
Yikes. In a few more seconds lust seemed destined to enjoy a messy one-handed date.
I wondered if I had truly lost my mind. If that was the case, count me as insane, because I loved the bizarre sensation.
Hold on, did I announce the conclusion? No, surely we had more time than those brief minutes? No, aww, please, this special class doesn’t need to end. Please.
Wait, what about the information sheets? Yes, quick! My friendly but official voice took over. “Right, students, one last thing before you enjoy your freedom. You need to fill out these forms. I need basic nonsense: your name, a contact e-mail or phone number, your major, and anything else you feel I need to know. My office number and my cell phone number are there. I’m easy to track down. I can’t stress this enough: feel free to call me at any reasonable hour. Even if it’s not about this class, I’m still a good listener.” During my speech, I locked my gaze on my sweet erotic film star’s face.
Marcelino’s star turn in the major motion picture running through my head thrilled me. He starred in one hot homoerotic porn flick directed by me. The film also costarred me. The credits: written, produced, and art directed by me. Primal lust enjoyed the private screening. Okay, maybe two entities enjoyed the flick. Did jaunty little Cupid count as a person? No matter; the raunchy, sweaty sex scenes ranked in the amazing zone.
I planned to make my spicy Marcelino understand his crucial new role in my flick, because my imagination needed to fill in a few small details. This detailed-oriented dude demanded to see the naked territory for real. I prided myself on desiring factual realism.
The other students filed out. Marcelino, Jeremy, and Ralph sat and dutifully filled out their info sheets. I blessed my dear thoughtful student. How considerate of Marcelino to grant me a few more minutes of visual delight.
Ralph and Jeremy turned in their papers and escaped to enjoy the sunny day. Alone at lust! I tried not to watch him, but I noticed that Marcelino wrote in an extremely slow manner. Great, he could take all the time he needed. Perhaps English wasn’t his first language. I tried not to stare, but I noticed his lips moved as he wrote.
Another few minutes passed before Marcelino handed me his paper. He shook the same hand that had enjoyed imaginary wet fun in lust’s raunchy, pheromone-soaked theater. How wonderful. “Here you are, Professor Conrad. I’m extremely honored to squeak into your class. I own your photography books and have always admired your work. My set design classes inspire my creativity, but your class will stimulate my visual skills in a different manner, I know they will.” Marcelino rolled his eyes in dramatic exasperation. He swatted my arm. “Damn, when you’re not a major, it’s tough to take photo classes. The registrar told me your classes are always overbooked, but I begged shamelessly until she let me in. The woman grew sick of me haunting her office.”
Wise Sheila had succumbed to seductive begging. Whimper, moan, drool. Waking brain needed to remind me to send Sheila ninety white roses and a bottle of exquisite French wine.
Focus, here. Quick, I needed to talk the man. His speech’s flamboyant tone indicated I might have a chance with him. “Marcelino, have you been over here long?” Ouch, my query sounded inane.
Instead of regarding me like I turned into the conversational village idiot, Marcelino shook his thick, lustrous shoulder-length thick, lustrous, purple-streaked hair. After reeling off the adjective arsenal, my inflamed lust urged my fingers to touch the inviting mane.
I needed to cease acting like a dolt. Scaring away Marcelino occupied the same pain level as a sans-anesthesia root canal. No way. Focus.
“Over here? Oh, quite a while. My family moved to Atlanta from Argentina about thirteen years ago. What a huge change, but my papa scored a super position with Coke. I recently transferred here from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Their graphic design program is top-notch, but when the set design bug bit me, I switched schools. My parents aren’t thrilled with me changing majors after three years, but I need to follow my heart. To me, it makes sense to study set design in a city filled with theater and plays. I am over the moon in happiness. I moved in July to settle in for the new semester, and I dig the intense place. Such vitality and pulse, with wild twenty-four-hour party people who never seem to sleep.”
Cute and verbose, which suited me because I didn’t need to work at charming the splendid man. How the hell did my befuddled brain manage small talk? All I wanted to do was clamp my lips directly against Marcelino’s. “Right, exactly. That’s why I like teaching here. The Village surrounds us, Soho offers its many charms; hell, this area supplies constant stimulating paradise. You walk a few steps and there’s something exciting to do or see.”
Marcelino nodded in happy agreement. “I love the wicked vibe. I was lucky enough to score a dismal apartment with three other students down on Avenue B. The place is disgusting—damn, the roaches rule the floor, plus with one bathroom we’re in a constant state of waiting, but that’s the only way one can afford a apartment here.” Smiling again, Marcelino shook his head. “Although calling the dump an apartment is generous, but if I start calling the space the Roachery, people might think me crazy.”
Dear Marcelino wanted to join my insanity slide. “I like Roachery. When I first moved to New York, I experienced such a nasty place. Housing is too damned expensive.”
“You said it! Hopefully I’ll find something else soon, at least a place with less guys or an extra bathroom. I despise sharing a bathroom with those slobs. I’m the only dude who cleans anything! Time will tell.” Marcelino presented me with a playful little salute. “Like I said, Professor, I look forward to your class. I have loads of shots I snapped around the city. I want to explore collage technique aside from messing around in Photoshop. Your layering negative results look intense. I want to see what I can do with the heady mix.”
Prancing purple peanuts, not only was Marcelino adorable and sexy, but also he understood my recent work. Hello, hyperventilation. Dare I push now? What a moronic idea. Someone’s sexual orientation wasn’t obvious. In the art world, wearing flamboyant colors didn’t translate into gay. If I flirted too quickly, a fast fist might meet my face. The sexy, muscular male smiling at me came from Argentina, which meant, well, the news meant I needed to stop acting like a moron.
My silly mantra rang in my mind: be casual, be cool, be Carl. Acting coherent remained a priority. “Marcelino, you flatter me. I’m excited that you want to pursue more advanced concepts, but I want the ideas to come from directly your soul, all right? We can explore your ideas and, if you’re not too busy, set up a time to discuss your work aside from class.”
“You mean that? Wow, Professor, your plan is wonderful. I’ll keep it in mind. Marvelous, private study is a high honor.” Marcelino smiled again before he turned toward the door. “Time to enjoy the perfect day. Professor C, see you Thursday.” After winking at me, my walking, talking wet dream left the room. My internal lens zoomed in on the cute, tight black-clad ass sauntering away from me.
I suddenly breathed again. Whew, fuck me twice like a loaded dice.
I imitated an overwhelmed Southern belle with her stays tied too tight. My knees succumbed and collapsed. At least a stool caught my defeated ass. My pierced heart bled in satisfaction.
This semester promised me a hoot. Serious lust hammered me. And did I hear that Marcelino had already attended college for three years before transferring? Even better. I estimated he was twenty-one or twenty-two. If he had been nineteen, no way. Common sense commanded me to stay away from anyone under twenty.
I already had made a lethal mistake by courting sweet young Sam. What a cute head case. Our wild time together had turned into a romantic drama staring a fluffy neurotic puppy who refused to stop chewing my aching mental slippers.
When I broke up with him, unstable Sam didn’t appreciate the news. I feared he planned to pee on my bedroom floor in hysterical retaliation. What did I do to top my stunt? I hooked up with mentally unstable boxing banker boy Martin. Yep, from bad to worse.
Cupid whispered that my romantic luck deserved to change.
Lust needed to tone down the manic oozing. I scolded the wild entity. No more throwing popcorn at the ripe red lips filling the screen. I had already made the first move. Acting in haste created problems.
How thrilling to have my next lover’s address and phone number. I didn’t plan to show up on Marcelino’s front step, but knowing where he lived satisfied me.
Yeah, and I called Martin a stalker? Lust needed to calm down.
That afternoon, working in the darkroom didn’t appeal to me. I drifted home in a balmy daze. Everyone I passed received my finest smile. I barely remembered grabbing my mail, unlocking the many locks or entering my cluttered foyer. The mail dropped onto the small round wooden table next to the week’s pileup. My schedule called for mail sorting on Saturday.
Frantic rattling down the hall told me that Spazz had heard the locks click open. I owned one smart hamster. His fuzzy reddish-brown body pressed against the colorful plastic bars. The elaborate hamster habitat sprawled across the dim interior hallway atop low bookcases. Over the years I had added tubing, tunnels, and assorted hamster-pleasing compartments. My hallway looked like a demented science project.
I leaned close and blew him a kiss. “Hey, Spazz, ready to rock and roll?”
Hail the dancing hamster. Spazz reminded me of an old-school punk rocker pogoing at a Circle Jerks concert. He bounced up and down in relentless anticipation. The fuzzball knew what happened next—yes, his favorite activity in the universe: time in his clear travel ball. I twisted off the lid, held the opening to the habitat’s colorful door, and grinned as he barreled in. “Have fun, Spazz.”
He disappeared into the sunny living room before I finished my sentence. That crazy hamster loved to roll around the apartment.
“Einstein? Hello, Earth to Einstein. Hey, little dude, still with me?” Einstein had passed out in the exercise wheel again. He looked like a limp drunk after a serious bender. The little guy slept with such intensity that I reasoned he used his brain too much and passed out from the effort. I stroked his fuzzy back and received a slow, sleepy stare. He blinked, shifted, and returned to his learned dreamland.
There—I should have known that Martin had the potential to be a monster. He had never liked my hamsters, but I’ll give him this: at least he never went Fatal Attraction on my fuzzy guys. He ignored them or made snide comments when I added a section to the epic habitat. Wait, he did complain when Spazz’s travel ball had almost tripped him. Spazz seemed to aim for Martin.
Had Spazz deliberately attempted to bring down Martin? Hmm. Wise hamster.
I bet Marcelino adored all creatures great and small.
Now to convince him to adore me.