We had this guy on our books once. Loaded. Some suit from Hollywood. Bought a condo floor to himself. High ceilings—the works. Didnt ever rent it out, the dumb bastard.
Thats the kind of bullshit youre dealing with in this city.
I know all about propertythats my job. I can read you blind based on your real estate. I can tell you anything you like based on the shape of your apartment. I can guess your tastes, your kinks, your quirks. The type of man you are.
That knowledge was failing me fast that Saturday night in June, uptown, in a complex with a nice overlook set beside the river. Failing me fast, as was typical when applied to myself. Thats the way of it.
I have this habit of hooking up. We all need it. I make no apologies. Fran gets bored of me, I get bored of Fran. There is a symmetry. She watches television, I go out hunting. Wheres the difference?
I was sweating in this corridor, waiting for a man Id never met before to open his door, when I realised the agent was dead in me. Stone cold. I asked myself, What is this place meant to be, in any case?” The walls were thin—you could hear hookers whispering positions on every side. Hoodied kids were making deals at the head of the stairwell. In other words, all sorts of perverts and assholes congregated there, present company excluded.
The guy Id come to see opened up eventually. Just as well, as it felt like Id been busting his doorbell all afternoon. It was either that or leave the building.
The guy was called Chip. I knew this from his profile. When he opened the door I saw a face not shockingly unlike the photo he sent me that morning.
Neighbourhood alert, I said, striding through. The hall and living room looked as worn out as the corridor, but I felt a little calmer. I was finally out of reach of the block crazies.
Chip smoothed my shirt in a familiar way, so that I was almost startled. He put on big eyes and said, Sabroso. I love tall men. He had the manner of a dowdy, sex-starved wife, unwrapping her prey, but I forgave him because he had olive skin and liquid black eyes.
Hi, Chip, I said, noting that he seemed vaguely Mexican. I looked around hoping to soak up an ambience that might fuel this fantasy, but Chips place didnt look authentically Mexican. His living room was drab and American.
So, you want to sit down or something? Chip asked.
Oh, formality, I said, and conversation. How old fashioned.
Chip made even bigger eyes at me. Ill go fix drinks.”
I nodded. Not a bad beginning. I thought, Bring me hospitality liquor if you think it makes this feel less skeevy.
I looked around while Chip was playing host. Maisonette-style deal—check. Some frou-frou details thrown in that made the place seem tinselly. Check. No air con. Check. No view. Check.
I dropped my check.
There was a plastic dinosaur loitering on the floor of the balcony. Tyrannosaurus. Its face was frozen in a permanent roar.
Ha. Bingo. There we were already. Another disaster-area date with afters to follow.
Hey, honey, I said.
You wouldnt by any chance be married, would you?
I heard the apologetic tinkle of ice. Chip walked in with drinks on a tray. There was even a cute, air hostessish toucha miniature bowl of olives.
OK, I confess, Chip said. I have girlfriend. Who doesnt?
Listen, I said. I dont need a pre-history.
I said this as brutally as I could, but I was curious about old dino just the same.
I said, Buster, there is a kid in the equation somewhere, so tell me its your girlfriends kid who comes once a month for balcony bonanza with gay daddy.
My voice had got a bit liquorish and loud.
Whats a hookup without some pre-sex bravery?
Sssh, Chip said, youll wake Pedro Paulo. Hes asleep across the hall.
Nice, I said. Snug.
Chip blinked at me with those spidery eyelashes as if listening to the silence behind my words.
I considered my options. Id come out that night to escape the little darlings I tiptoed around every living second. Id come out that night looking for a sensual release, and now I was faced with the prospect of early-marriage sex—furtive, quick and unsatisfactory, with just a frisson of squeeze toys and diapers.
I was being hustled and not in a way I like.
OK, Chip, I said. This lacks thrill and comfort. I am entirely at ease here for that precise reason. If we kiss right now I will not be thinking of my wife and children. At all. Can you do similar?
Chip turned off a light. We have only forty minutes left before my wife returns, but you will find me atento.
He touched his chest daintily and then the Sacred Heart tattoo on his left bicep.
Here and here, he said. First my real and then my painted heart.
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