I hated the cold walking west on 58th street, 1am on January 20th. The freezing currents had a way of trapezing down from steel cut condos, making the walls of my nostrils suddenly raw. My arms crossed themselves as I braced my way toward 10th Avenue. I had been in New York for several months, and I was still negotiating the fact that an avenue was much longer than a block. I’m from Alaska, and studies have shown that people from the north develop thicker blood over time. Maybe this is true, but personally I don’t buy it.
I cursed myself for not wearing a thicker coat. I did have a puffy red one that made me look like a tomato, but I knew most clients would prefer slimming outerwear. So I wore a drab olive, form-fitting, trench-like-coat that looked great and provided no warmth.
Most of my clients stayed in hotels in Midtown East, SoHo, or Times Square–locations that required small walking. But today, I was to meet a surgeon named Tim on the 21st floor of his apartment building.
I didn’t know much about Tim. I didn’t know what he looked like or sounded like, just that his emails were laconic and he was willing to pay $300 at the conclusion of our session. With that kind of money, I didn’t want to offend him by asking what our session might entail. “No pain and I’m game” my profile on Rentboy.com said. I hoped he had read that.
Riding up an elevator with a glass door, I experienced the usual thrill of nerves. It was always risky meeting new clients, especially the ones like Tim who, in the name of discretion, were completely silent. But at this point, I had been a gay escort for four months. So far, I hadn’t run into any kind of trouble, and as an optimistic 22 year old, I couldn’t imagine any of my encounters ever going wrong.
I sent three firm but polite knocks into his door. Some facial muscles contracted, ready to spring into a smile as the hinge gave way.
He opened the door wide open; my smile turned on full blast.
“Hi there,” I said.
He was gaunt with thin black hair combed to the right of his forehead. His voice was library-low.
“Hello,” he said. His finely trimmed mustache made him look like John Waters.
I entered the amber glow of his apartment. He shut the door behind me. I stood in his kitchen.
“Mind if I place my things here?” I said, pointing to an island counter.
Ella Fitzgerald sung from a record player near an empty vase. I set my body to dancer mode: straight spine, all movements refined and seamless. A huge part of the job was figuring out in the first 10 seconds just what a client wanted. Tim, or whoever he was, wanted an elegant call boy. So that’s what I became.
He led me toward a sofa. It had an austere Bauhaus design and its leather was bleached white. It could double as a sarcophagus.
“Please, have a seat,” Tim said. “I have some merlot and sauvignon blanc.”
Pouring myself some white wine, I asked how his day was. He inched closer to me. He regarded me, and took a dainty sip of his merlot; his black eyes were wide and unremitting. I felt a dint in my smile. I looked around his apartment. He had a lot of abstract art whose maker I couldn’t place. He didn’t seem to have a bookshelf.
“You have a great view,” I told him, taking a sip.
He let out a “Mmmmm.”
Then his right hand reached out. His wan fingertips brushed my cheek. They rested there. They pulsated along my jaw. I imagined him reciting the anatomical names: index on the mandible, thumb on the submandibular fossa, pinkie on the mental foramen.
His hand withdrew. Then moved in toward my ear. His fingers ran up and past my cartilage; I thought of a girl brushing her hair back.
“So what do you want to do,” I blurted out.
“Drink your wine,” he said.
I smiled, and took another sip.
His hand planted itself on my stomach. It crept to my hip bone and around to the back of my pelvis. Then, like he was zipping me up, his fingers shot up the side of my torso.
“You can remove your clothes now,” he said. “All of your clothes. Then please meet me in the bedroom. Lie face up.”
I watched him, trying to figure out what came next. He saw my hesitation, and repeated himself that I should get undressed now. I started to remove my shirt.
“Don’t mind me,” he said. “I’ll be preparing dinner. It’s a time-consuming dish.”
“Of course,” I said.
I undressed looking at a dark Hudson river through his window. I folded the clothes on top of his white leather sofa. He removed some green peppers from his fridge, ignoring me.
I walked down the hall. An accordion door covered what I assumed to be a closet. I passed a bathroom with a deep blue tile floor. The room Tim had sent me to was surprisingly slender. I wondered if the main bedroom was behind the closed door; this room belonged to a fresh out of college type in Bushwick, not a surgeon in his 50s near Columbus Circle.
There was no comforter on the bed, just a thin white cotton sheet. I wondered if I should lie above or below it. I supposed he had a thing for walking into his room to find a young naked boy waiting for an examination. So I laid myself out above the sheet, naked.
I heard chopping noises from the kitchen. I thought of Dexter, and all the other stories of hookers getting killed in the line of duty. But what was the probability of that happening to me, I wondered.
I looked around the room for sharp objects. A non-descript red pen lay near a journal. If he did try to maim me, I imagined slamming it into his jugular. “That would buy me some time,” I thought.
I tried to think of a sexy way to just lie there face up. But sexiness didn’t seem to be the point with Tim. He probably wanted me how he met most of his unconscious patients before surgery. So I just lay there, supine, focusing on my breathing, ignoring the chilled wind permeating past his window.
He walked in wearing a pair of black, wispy briefs. He grinned at me. My face made some sign of mutual recognition. His cutlery had stayed in the kitchen.
He sat on the side of the bed, his eyes scanning my body. I waited, staring at the ceiling. I gathered that I wasn’t supposed to move as his eyes dissected me. He roved through the bones of my feet, the vellus hairs on each toe. He saw from my thin shins that I was into tennis and running. He scanned all the way up to my neck, and stopped.
Then his two hands reached for my stomach. I tried not to flinch. One hand coasted toward my pubes, the other to my chest. His palms brushed the interior of my arms. They smoothed past my thighs. He nudged them apart, and I spread my legs wider. He gripped one of my testicles and ran it between his thumb and middle finger. His other hand pinched my semi-erect penis and massaged it up and down with the same excitement a maid would have bringing up a pail of water. A hand examined my nipple; it pinched the tip.
“Please turn around,” he said.
I quickly turned over: acting before thinking was key to success as an escort.
His inspection of my person repeated itself. The back of his fingernails traced down my spine. He squeezed my calves. He scratched the arch of my heel.
“I will return,” he said. He left the room. I heard the bathroom door shut.
I flipped over. If he was going to kill me, I was going to see it coming.
Again, I waited.
A few minutes later, I heard the toilet flush. He returned to the room in a white robe, the previous reserve on his face finally released.
“Thank you, Matt,” he said. “You may leave now.”
I gave him, what I hoped to be, a calm and gracious smile.
I gathered my clothes from the couch. He went back to the kitchen and continued to cook. I replaced my clothes rapidly, then stepped into my shoes. His eyes caught mine. He inclined his head toward a white envelope on the table. I smiled and picked it up. The weight felt right.
“Thank you, Tim,” I said. “Have a great night.”
“Wait wait,” he said. I paused at the doorstep. “Let me look at you one more time.”
I smiled as his slim pointer fingers moved toward my eyes. I imagined him gouging them out, but they coursed below my eyes to the bay of my bags, then around and up to my eyebrows. They drew a line down my forehead, through my pinched nose, past the puddle above my lips, through my lips, terminating at my round chin.
He smiled for the first time that evening. “Stay warm,” he said.