"I noticed you standing here, but then I noticed you much earlier." Who has an opening line like that? Only Franco. It worked because the man said it with such sincerity that Raf no longer felt alone in the cauldron of bare torsos and strobe lights. His Spanish accent was also music that soothed Raf's ears from the loud thumping.
Franco was standing by a post. His smile wasn't cocky as much as it was brave, the kind of smile a boy in junior high has at his first dance. Everything else about him, though, was far from shy. Shirtless underneath a down vest, hair cut military-style, and biceps rounded as sculpted rock, here was a man who was aware of the attention he got.
Why me? Raf wondered.
Nobody else looked at him the way Franco did at that moment. In some ways, Raf felt like a new kid in school. He had just moved to the City by the Bay, and he was still searching for his niche in a community divided into groups tagged by such labels as bear, gym bunny, and twink. Guys occasionally complimented him on his "cute little body," a slim physique with soft muscles still just hinting at the man he would someday be, but that didn't cut the grade in a sub-culture that held Marky Mark as the male prototype, and though he was 24, he seemed years younger, all bangs and bowed head as if he had just stepped off the airplane and into a strange country. After a string of silver-haired men who would offer companionship because they thought of him as a lost boy, Raf was at last face to face with someone close to him in age, yet old enough to have secured his own identity as a man who loves other men. Franco was 30.
I noticed you standing here, but then I noticed you much earlier.
"What a nice thing to be told," Raf said.
"It's the truth."
"Are you sure?" Raf asked, chagrined. He was probably the only guy at the club with a shirt on.
"Why the doubt?"
"So many others to notice here."
"True, but not like you."
The Colossus was as it was every Saturday night. Bass from loudspeakers shook the floor and bounced off walls. Men crowded the dance arena below, lounged in chairs that lined an upper floor gallery, and gathered at the bars. With everyone a spectacle of firm butts in tight jeans, the air reeked of sweat and sex. Even so, at a railing on the second floor, stuck in the middle between the flashing refulgence of the ceiling and the pit of gyrating bodies, Raf didn't know where to go. Until now.
"Accept the compliment," Franco said. "I'm not just talking."
Then came the perfunctory name introductions and handshake. Franco's grip had the strength of an athlete. Raf had visions of the guy lifting dumbbells, throwing a javelin, swinging a baseball bat. Forget conversation. Conversation was not the reason men were half-naked every weekend at the Colossus. With Franco's hand in his, he led the way to a backroom, where they lay on a pair of floor cushions underneath a window. The evening was murky behind black gauze curtains. Bracelet lights that glowed green and pink drifted about in the dimness like fluorescent birds.
Although Franco was hungry in his groping of Raf's ass, his kiss was gentle. His neck smelled of aftershave and man sweat. They were both in denim shorts. In spurts of moon glow that would enter the window upon the rustle of the curtain by a person glimpsing the night, his boots gleamed black. Thick heels and smooth leather complimented legs sculpted by bike rides up steep hills. Franco appeared as though he could bring the club down with a kick of a wall. As developed as he was, he wasn't so large as to make Raf feel small. At 5'9," he was a mere two inches taller than Raf, and the pressure of his thighs and chest didn't crush Raf's body as much as meld it into his.
Couples were making out on other floor cushions and on sofas. Guys were mingling at a bar at the opposite end of the room. Footsteps tapped so close to Raf's head that Raf would jolt. Franco sensed his distraction, which the man could have read as nervousness or uncertainty because upon every footfall, he would push his tongue deeper into Raf's mouth and tighten his hold of the boy's head as if offering assurance.
Raf was finally able to let himself go, to believe that he was the only other person in the world for this man, that he was everything needed and wanted. He had a momentary vision of the sunrise. But why think of that? Tomorrow was a long time away. Now had just begun.
Franco raised a hand up Raf's shirt, trailed his fingers from the navel up to the chest. He pinched a nipple.
Their tongues still interlocked, Raf groaned. It hurt. "Lightly," he said.
Franco released pressure.
"Both nipples are sensitive, but the right not as much. I don't know why. Maybe because that's not where my heart is."
Franco brought his face away a slight distance to look at Raf, really look as one does in search of contents behind a facade, and this gave Raf a chance to memorize the handsome sight in front of him - a high-bridged, narrow nose; translucent eyes that with every blink hooked him like fish to bate; and lips that glistened with both their saliva. That face was all he saw. That body was all he felt. That breathing was all he heard. Through their shorts, they rubbed their erections against one another. Raf was falling so deep into Franco that together they seemed on an eternal spin into a void in the universe.
For the first time in his life, Raf experienced how it is for time to stop. It stops upon the touch of another person, when looking into his eyes melts your heart into hot fluid that runs through your veins and reaches boiling point in your groin and in your head.
What did Franco see, feel, and hear? What was on his mind? Where did he come from and where was he going? Who was he?
I don't want this ever to end, Raf thought.
They decided on Raf's place. Raf lived in the city, while Franco lived across the bay at Berkeley. That much more of each other they learned in the midst of making out. The air was cool, but they were both hot. Walking beside Franco, their arms around each other's shoulders, Raf felt as a rush of summer wind the warmth of the other's flesh and breath. The stud was on fire. It was November.
Franco's car was silver; that Raf could not forget. It was shaped after a torpedo, and how it shone in its newness like a spacecraft.
"So that's where you're from," he said.
"Where would that be?"
Franco laughed. "No, just Berkeley like I said. Before that, Philly. Before that, Colombia."
"Right. Venus. And Mercury. Maybe even the moon."
"Are you on acid?"
"I'm high and I'm tripping, but on you and nothing else."
"Where did you ever learn to talk like that?"
"Only just now," Raf said. "Being with you brings it all out of me."
"You're a flirt."
"You're an Adonis."
Again, that laugh, deep and resounding as an echo in the night. "Where is all that coming from?"
Good question. Raf had read lots of books, seen lots of films, and although the information he had digested was helpful in discussing with friends deep shit about life, he never thought it would come in handy in seducing a dude. "I don't know," he said. "I really don't know."
On the ride to his place, buildings and revelers drunk on the street or hailing a taxi fleeted by. Everything and everyone provided a familiar midnight sight to what had started out as a typical Saturday, only this time a disconnect formed between Raf and the world outside. All those people, they were aimless and exhausted, off to the next party in search of... what?
"Why the move from Colombia to Philadelphia?" asked Raf.
"College at U. Penn. I've been at Berkeley for a couple of years now. I'm getting my Ph.D. in bio chemistry."
Not only is this guy hot, he's smart. Fuck me.
So Raf told him about his leaving the Philippines at 18 to attend college at NYU, his love of movies, and his aspiration to create stories - an ambition further fueled by a need to hold on to every beautiful moment that was unfolding at this instant before each faded in time as blue skies do at dusk.
The walls to Raf's room were as bare as a blank page.
"No pictures. Nothing. Why?" Franco asked.
"What happens on this bed is more interesting than anything that could hang up there."
"You're too much." A smile.
Naked, Franco stood before Raf a G.I. Joe figure come to life. Raf wanted to tell the man that he was hot, gorgeous, sexy - all the adjectives guys spit out when a fantasy image passes by, only this man wasn't a fleeting image. Neither was he a mere fantasy. His cock grew hard, increasing in girth and length, as if a part of him had just awoken, and he wasn't even touching it. He was touching Raf, sliding his hand down the boy's torso, caressing the navel, stroking the penis to erection. Franco's own penis would twitch. This would make the head expand even more. His scrotum was so large that it filled Raf's hand. Franco needed to fuck. He needed to unload.
Raf dropped to his knees and took that dick in his mouth. Spit mixed with pre-cum. They dripped down the corners of his mouth. He could feel the head pulsate in his throat, pound his larynx. Balls slapped against his chin. His breathing was more animal than human. Through gagging tears, he saw Franco look down at him with a curve of the lips that was part sneer, part smile. Veins from a workout pumped Franco's forearms. Perspiration glistened the soft hair on his chest.
Franco grabbed Raf by the hair, threw him on the bed, and thrust his legs in the air. The guy was anything but a science nerd. No geek could know how to eat ass the way Franco did. He didn't just suck on Raf's butthole. He smooched it as if it were a lover's lips. He would slide his tongue on Raf's buttocks and tease with a nibble here and there, which caused the boy to beg for more asshole worship.
"I want to make love to you," Franco said. He stood up a vision to behold in the lamplight over which they had draped a white tee. They were both a different shade of tan. While Raf had an earthy hue to him, Franco looked as though he had been cast in bronze. He gave Raf that blink. "Please. Let me make love to you."
Not fuck. Make love. "I don't know," Raf said. "You're big."
Franco's cock gave credence to the prevailing notion of the Latin lover, the stuff of porn. If those guys could take it, Raf thought, then so could I. But he was no porn hole. He was just a regular guy.
"You can take it. I'll teach you."
Second to "love," Franco said the magic word, "teach." That was what Raf wanted, someone to whom he could be a student to the art of lovemaking. "I'll try," he said.
"But first..." Franco stood on the bed, above Raf's face, then squatted down. "Show me what you've learned so far."
Raf did what Franco had just done to him and then some. Not only did he shove his tongue up that sex hole, but he also smothered his whole face with it so that he could savor the inner smell and taste of this hunk. He never knew until then how much strength a pair of butt cheeks could have. The man was swallowing his head.
Remember this, Raf thought. Remember the alpha musk. It was as intoxicating as bottled nitrate, frat boy jock straps, and dude armpits.
Franco climbed down the bed so that he was standing once more in between Raf's legs. Spit, lube, and finally a poke in the hole. Raf grunted. A tearing shock made him lose sense of his entire body. The only sensation was a throbbing of his butthole. He thrust his head back. Franco's hand was pressed palm down on the bed where he rested his eyes.
"Yes?" Franco asked.
"Yes," Raf said.
He took Franco's hand and placed it on his left nipple, there where his heart was. He didn't let go. He would never let go. Franco pinched the nipple, lightly and then with more force.
"Look at me, into my eyes," Franco said. "Keep on looking."
In those eyes Raf saw a reflection of himself, of a shared need to own and to belong. Franco was inside him now, deep in his core. If the fuck was painful, a look of love and a pinch of the heart were turning it into a pleasure that rippled throughout his body.
Franco leaned forward to kiss Raf. "Taste each other's assholes of our tongues," he said.
As they devoured mouths, cheeks, and ears, Franco thrust his hips with increasing might. Raf yelled, though not a yell entirely of agony. Franco's plowing tore open a spout of emotions buried in Raf. One hand still on Raf's heart, the other wrapped around him, Franco was holding Raf so close that the latter could feel their sweat and saliva fusing them into one.
And their cum.
"Possess me," Raf pleaded. "Please. Now and forever. Please."
Franco kept his eyes fixed on Raf's. There was an intensity to them. This wasn't simply sex anymore. He was now a man on a mission, a merciless butt fucker who wouldn't stop until he fulfilled a purpose. He exhaled a squall of breath over Raf's face. He was shooting his semen. Each shudder of his orgasm seemed to knock his soul out of him.
Since Franco's pleasure was Raf's, too, Raf stroked his dick, using as lube the sperm dripping out of his ass. As he shot his own wad, his butthole muscles tightened around the fingers Franco had rammed up there in place of his cock. That was how much Raf didn't want to let go.
"You okay?" asked Franco.
It was Raf's turn to laugh. "What do you think?"
"You look happy."
A friend told Raf shortly afterwards that neither rhyme nor reason exists to love and that heartache passes. The friend spoke from experience. He had entered the San Francisco gay community at Raf's age more than ten years ago, and he had had his share of male connections that started off brimming with possibilities but then had left him bereft at daybreak. Regardless, words of wisdom didn't explain Franco's indifference in the weeks that ensued whenever the man would run into Raf at Colossus. Everything that night had seemed perfect with Franco. The two had slept in each other's arms and had exchanged phone numbers the next morning.
"I will call in a few days," said Franco. "I promise."
He never did. When Raf had the guts to call him, the conversation was polite if stilted, punctuated with awkward moments of silence.
What happened to the spontaneity on the walk to the car? How could one not feel what the other does?
Raf had so many questions, but he would never find an answer.
The friend was right; the heartache did pass. Over the years, Raf would experience other heartaches and joys, as well. Yet he would never forget the man who seemed to descend from another planet, as if in a dream, and who spoke of making love. Franco was a rite of initiation. Because of him, Raf no longer felt lost. He was now a part of something. Bear, gym bunny, twink... whatever label it is gay men identify as, Raf learned they are united in their search of the same thing - one heart to hold and to keep for more than a night.