Afflicted – Excerpt

Afflicted by love’s madness all are blind – Sextus Propertius

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gay romanceHunter knew this wasn’t one of those childish boy-whores trolling for perverts; this was a man. Young, but still a man. He couldn’t see him, but his voice told Hunter that he was a man that had done things of which he’d never spoken; a man who lent himself to situations where his precociousness could not have extracted him safely, yet he’d gone anyway. For the money, or the drugs, or the thrill, Hunter wasn’t sure which.

He had a hard street smell to him: the coarse weave of slightly greasy jeans; the soft, worn odor of a leather jacket; the musty, unwashed smell of lank hair. What would his feet be like trapped in boots all day? Hunter wondered. Not rank, no; a slight vinegar smell, like chips, only with a more sensual under-tongue taste.

Hunter also questioned himself about the haughtiness of the man’s poise. Did he hold a mild distance, unerringly begging you to pull him in close? Did he burn you with a cool, liquid stare that dried the mouth? Or did he bark a seductive, fuck me trash-boy look that would melt your eyes?

Hunter considered that his mouth might be fleshy and full; drawn cheeks buttressing a squared chin; a sinister, almost cool-sly secret smile hinting at the exciting mysteries of his flesh.

His eyes might be slightly pretentious; the slitted, oval shape of some Asian ancestry; or maybe the round, bedroomed look of some high European lineage. Their unsuccessful attempt at veiled sensuality would be lost on Hunter though, and it made him chuckle to think of the consternation it would cause.

The nose might be proud; Romanesque, or maybe buttoned up small, like a child’s; somehow lending innocence where there wasn’t any.

“All right, sorry,” the man/boy said as he started to walk off. He had a low voice, but solid, melting and caramel smooth. It was not quite foreign but had a rough edge to it, as if he’d been suppressing the roll of his R’s all his life in some small Southern town. Hunter wondered if the enunciation was purposefully false and used as something to subliminally throw potential customers off balance.

He was a mutt; had to be. But Hunter wouldn’t find out for sure until he could put his hands on him, feel him breathe; listen to the rasp of his voice in unguarded ecstasy.

“Okay,” Hunter said loud enough to halt the man/boy’s retreat.

His leather jacket creaked as he turned and studied Hunter, lighting a cigarette that was so obnoxious it had to be foreign.

Hunter sniffed. “Dunhills?”

“Rothmans,” he answered. There was a smile behind his voice. “You ever done this before?” he asked Hunter.

“Have you?” Hunter returned.

“Every day,” he answered casually, a small swagger in his voice that was not quite as triumphant as his words were meant to be.

“With a blind man?” Hunter asked.

“Mm, no, I admit, it’s a first.” There was another smile there too, but that response hadn’t seemed wholly truthful either.

“That makes two of us, come on.”

He fell in beside Hunter who could immediately smell some previous application of lotion or gel as the man/boy waved his hand in front of Hunter to see if he was really blind. Obviously, the red-tipped cane didn’t tell it enough.

“What’s your name?” Hunter asked as if oblivious to the little drafts caused by his waving hand.

“Frank. Yours?”

“Is that your real name?” Hunter queried.

“Are you going to give me yours?” Frank countered playfully.

Hunter smiled and wondered just what the hell he was doing. This was so dangerous. Anything could happen and he’d never be able to identify the guy after. In an hour he could be bleeding in a hospital bed trying to tell the cops what the guy sounded like. They would all shake their heads at his stupidity and give him assurances that the perp would be found, when everyone already knew it was impossible. But the sexual energy of this potential escapade was already making his prick stiff with fear and lust and nothing would be likely to change his mind now that the guy was right by his side.

“I’ve never seen you around here before,” Frank said as they walked.

Hunter noted that Frank hadn’t tried to grab him and ‘guide’ him through the intersection that they just walked through, so he was really off to a better start than he realized. Six months ago some idiot had thought he was going to be a boy scout for a day and had seized Hunter’s arm and tried to drag him across the street. It had taken all of Hunter’s self-discipline not to thump the man with his cane.

“Yeah, I usually drive through,” Hunter answered.

Frank took a minute before he laughed, not quite sure if it was supposed to be a joke.

“No, really. I had an argument with a friend, told her to fuck off, and decided to walk home when she finally stopped the car.”

“That must have been one hell of an argument,” Frank said, phrasing it as more of a question than a statement.

Hunter said nothing because it was and he didn’t want to relive it at that moment. Margie would call tonight and apologize and they would be friends again, after he apologized too.

“You didn’t tell me your name,” Frank said.

“Hunter.”

“Say again.”

“Hunter, as in a man chasing defenseless animals with a too powerful weapon,” Hunter told him. “It seems a little ridiculous for a blind man, but…” He shrugged. “There it is.”

“I never thought that was a real name,” Frank murmured.

“Me either, but it kind of grew on me,” Hunter replied. He stopped suddenly and listened as Frank stopped beside him. “Tell me what you see,” he instructed Frank. “What do you see?”

Frank was quiet for a few seconds, obviously trying to gauge his question.

Hunter let it hang there as a dapple of sunlight warmed his face; this meant the trees he heard whispering in the breeze were likely right overhead.

“A deep green melancholy,” Frank finally answered.

Impressive, Hunter thought, and definitely not what he’d expected to hear. He turned to start walking again and purposefully faltered his step to see if Frank would reach out. He could feel the firm, resistant flesh of Frank’s palm on his arm almost immediately; the hard curl of Frank’s fingers; the small scrape of his nails against the skin. Fast, firm grip and he has some strength.

“Why did you explain it like that?” Hunter asked as they paused again, the scurry of busy squirrels chattering overhead.

He sensed a shrug as Frank released his arm, and experienced the brush of his cigarette smoke even as Frank attempted to blow it away from him. “It’s true,” Frank answered.

“Explain it; give me the details that led you to that,” Hunter urged him. He had really asked the question to see if Frank was a moron. He didn’t like to lay claim to being pretentious but common sense and the ability to communicate beyond the bedroom was pretty high on his list of must haves, even for a prostitute.

Frank inhaled deeply on his cigarette then exhaled another burst of that obnoxious smoke as he pulled inward to focus his thoughts. “The road is still shiny and wet in splotches from the shower that came though earlier,” he said after a moment. “You can probably smell the water evaporating up off the tar. Otherwise the neighborhood looks, on the whole, dull and cracked and grey. There’s a yellow tom cat sitting on the corner preening itself while he soaks in the sun and watches traffic go by. He doesn’t seem as concerned about us as the guy trying to hide himself behind the soaped-up window of that little bistro they’re working on opening across the street.

“It looks like it will be interesting when they get it open. The building has a new brick facade on the front with dingy cinder blocks making up the rest of it. Across the street there’s a gay bookstore that smells of ink and coffee and new pastries, which you probably know already. The pace seems slow and worried, but I don’t think it is. There’s probably a vibrancy underneath that keeps it going but which isn’t seen too easily. I could be wrong there though.

“It almost seems like the whole little corner is trying to come alive again but at the same time avoid the little clichés that would make it haughty.  Some iron and these old oak trees and it might work for one of those old village concepts they seem so fond of these days,” he opined.

“How was that?” he asked as he turned back to Hunter.

“Good, except for the colors, I don’t have a reference for them. Do you write?” Hunter asked as they started toward his apartment again. “Your description was…interesting.”

Hunter felt him shrug through his voice again. “I can see more details than I could put on paper with any flair. You live far?” Frank asked.

“No, down the street, one block over.”

He could hear the pity in Frank’s words before he even spoke them, but it wasn’t the usual pretentious pity he normally got from sightlings; it was something different, something a little deeper than the shallow perceptions of haves and have-nots. “You must know the area well,” Frank said, omitting the ‘for a blind guy’ part.

“Well enough to know that you aren’t usually here,” Hunter told him. He knew the area very well in fact. He had spent weeks exploring it with a guide and then by himself so that he would be familiar with his surroundings and not be dependent on anyone to do something as simple as grab a half gallon of milk from the store.

“I wasn’t really…” Frank’s voice faded in distraction or shame; Hunter wasn’t sure which.

“You weren’t really what?” Hunter pushed. He had lived in the city for seven years now and this was the first time he had ever been approached by a male prostitute. Honestly, it felt pretty damned good.

“Working,” Frank answered. “I was just feeling the neighborhood out.”

“Reconnaissance?” Hunter asked.

The smile came back into Frank’s voice. “Not all neighborhoods have such rare poise,” he quipped.

Hunter wasn’t quite sure what Frank meant by that, but he chuckled anyway. He wondered, just for a fleeting second, if he had been lonely too long, and why, if Frank hadn’t been working, he had made him an offer. This wasn’t exactly the part of the city that prostitutes hung out in, and it was pretty early in the evening, and hey, Hunter was blind. But the more he thought about it, the more he said why not? Why wouldn’t Frank approach a blind man? Hunter was just as horny as any other homo, and he liked sex and he had money, so why not?

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