One Sunday in September…
Type, type, misspell, curse, backspace; type, type, type.
My partner Prof Sandy walks into the studio on her way to the kitchen. The Britta water pitcher needs refilling. She pauses next to me. “Do you know who Nora Roberts is?”
I peer at my screen and scowl at another typo. My typos could wrap around the world a billion times. “Yep. She’s a successful romance novelist.”
Prof Sandy sets down the empty pitcher. “Do you read her books?”
Sigh. I lean back and nod. “A few years ago I bought ten books on eBay in a bundle because her novels written as J.D. Robb sounded interesting.”
“Is she any good?”
By this time I am extremely curious. My partner does not read romantic fiction; in fact, she never reads fiction at all. Yeah, isn’t that a hoot? I discuss what I write with her; plus as a fellow artist she gives me great creative feedback. Where is this line of questioning headed? “Why are you asking me about Nora Roberts?”
“She was interviewed on the Sunday Morning Show.”
Aha, the plot thickens. By now my train of thought is derailed. I regard Prof Sandy and shrug. “She is pretty good. Easy to read but not cheesy. The trouble is I read a few of her J.D. Robb books in a row and needed to stop. I started to see her patterns which wasn’t her fault, it was mine for reading the books in a row. Someday I’ll go back and start again but let time pass between reading.”
Prof Sandy fiddles with the Britta pitcher. “Do you know how much money she makes a year?”
My brows arch. What a weird question. I know Nora Roberts writes tons of books. She’s been around for a while. I hazard a guess. “Eight million a year?
A longing sigh sounds. “It’s estimated that she makes sixty million a year.”
“Oh, good for her. That’s a lot of money.” My fingers begin abusing the keyboard again.
“Think, one book like hers and…”
Typos galore. I love my partner but I hate when she starts suggesting that I should steer my writing in a different direction. “You know it is not gonna happen.”
“What about that woman who just wrote that erotica that’s so popular?”
“Ha, Fifty Shades of Crap?”
“Doesn’t she have a movie deal?”
This is my fault. Prof Sandy never pays attention to pop culture. I told her, or more like bitched allll about the trilogy. “Yeah, because she wrote a pile of ridiculous crap. I read enough to tell me the truth. Worse yet she violated the BDSM rules. I’d need to lobotomize myself to write something that bad. Marketing does not make a good book.”
Silence. Type, type, curse, backspace, correct.
“Still, maybe someday you’ll give it a try? I know you have at least two guy/girl books finished.”
I never should have let that cliché cat out of the bag. “But they’re too long. They are so long they could be chopped into trilogies.”
“Yep.” Oooo, she zinged me! We both laugh. “It’s nice out today. Maybe we can have mint juleps on the porch tonight.”
“Sounds great. I’ll check to see if I need to make more sugar mint syrup.” Type, type, curse, backspace, correct.
“Can I put on music?”
“Sure, just not Bjork.” If I listen to Bjork while trying to type, my typos will morph into Icelandic.
As I return to abusing the keyboard, I think someday I’ll have my own studio. Someday we won’t live in an in-need-of-repair 1820’s Federal house where you need to walk through our shared studio to reach the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I love this old pile. I love the old birth record written on the wall untouched by later layers of paint. I’d love to move the old gal to a five acre plot surrounded by a boisterous cottage garden.
But first I need a bestsellering book. I cannot see that happening, not unless I compromise my weird and wonderful characters into cliches. And that, kittens, will never, ever happen. Did I tell Prof Sandy that I pitched one of the those male/female romances lurking on my hard drive to an agent and was told my hero was totally unlikable and too, well, unheroic for a romance novel? I don’t remember if I did tell her. For some reason when I write unheroic heros in m/m, that works out fine. People might hate them, but at least they aren’t brooding clichés.
Or, wait… excuse me while I drift off into a lovely fantasy. I imagine Marcelino and Carl happily sitting on a bestseller’s list with Cupid whizzing around them in feathery glee.
BLAM! Moby thunders into my hearing. “Ouch, damn, the music is too loud!”
“Sorry. How’s that?”
“Fine.” Type, type, misspell, curse, backspace; type, type, type.
When it comes to his professional life, photographer Carl Conrad is at the top of his game. He molds impressionable minds at university by day and jets off to Paris for gallery showings on long weekends. Unfortunately, he pays for it with his disastrous personal life: Carl kicked his boyfriend to the curb after one too many punches, so now it’s just him and his hamsters, one of which he suspects may be a space alien.
Then Cupid takes pity on Carl and hits him where it hurts. It takes Carl all of three seconds to fall head over heels in lust with set design student Marcelino Moya, despite the man’s questionable—okay, deplorable—fashion sense. Convincing Marcelino to give him a chance is the hard part, but Carl is up for the challenge, pun definitely intended.
Marcelino plays hard to get, but he isn’t immune to Carl’s charms. Carl talks him around to dinner, dating, and eventually moving in. There’s just one tiny word standing between Carl and perfect happiness. Why won’t Marcelino say it?
Where did my clever lover hide? I didn’t trust him. Once we connected, an elegant someone had turned ridiculously clumsy in the classroom. Marcelino lost his grace and transformed into a staggering klutz. My poor body was run into, brushed against, and leaned on for support while we searched for mysterious camera problems. Seductive Marcelino learned how to tease and torture me.
Before I turned my attention to the eight-by-ten enlarger, I needed to pinpoint his exact location. There: my suspect hovered close, but not close enough for a sneak attack. Good.
Marcelino smiled at me in full innocence. The room’s red safe light cast demonic shadows onto his structured face.
As I skillfully demonstrated an enlarger technique, strong fingers darted between my legs and gripped. Hard.
A strangled little yelp flew from my surprised lips. How did sneaky Marcelino maneuver behind me? Of course my amused students offered me the sadly familiar “what the hell is wrong with Carl now?” stare. Hell, I had grown used to the laughable expression. The look had been aimed at me for years. “Sorry, I experienced a weird muscle cramp. Must be old age attacking me.” More like virile youth.
During the next class, I planned to wear tight briefs, not my typical loose boxers. I needed protection against my wild suspect. I might resort to wearing a chastity belt or armor. Ouch.
Strange how the odd muscle cramp never tormented me again. The rest of the class passed sans further physical molestation.
I gathered the students for a few closing remarks concerning their upcoming quiz. What a pushover; I gave the class a take-home quiz. Somehow a few students still had wrong answers. They received a special note in my book marking them as slothful for not bothering to look up the correct answers.
A mocking light accent teased around my heart. “Professor, how does your muscle cramp feel?”
“Much better, thanks for asking.”
Marcelino shot me a fine Cheshire Cat smile. “You need to go home and rest up.”
“Why?” I leaned close and dropped my volume. “Isn’t tonight a torment-me evening?”
“Not really. Well, it is an I-am-not-hopping-into-bed-with-you evening. If you regard such a night as torment, then your description fits. I’ll come over for a quick visit after I close the shop.”
I tried making my words sound inviting. “Imagine, when you move in with me, you won’t have to work.”
Whoops, I failed. I received a supremely scolding stare, a stare designed to humble me. Marcelino never appreciated badgering about the hoped-for event. “Did it ever occur to you that I enjoy my part-time gig? Beside, I receive a serious discount.”
I almost said something rude about his lacking fashion sense, but surprise, this hippie understood fashion tact. Today’s tattered purple velvet bell-bottoms belonged in the tacky hall of fame. At least his mauve T-shirt almost matched.
“Forget I said anything. I treasure any time I spend with you.”
“There’s the proper attitude. I can only drop by for a drink and a cuddle.”
“Yeah, like I said, torment.”
My sadist pursed his full lips at me. He swatted my arm. “Boo-hoo. See you around nine thirty.”
Watching my sexual tormentor’s purple velvet-clad ass sway away from me added to my despair. I glanced into the photo equipment room. Hey, hold on, what had happened to the darkroom monitor? Instead of waiting for her to appear, I cleaned up after the students.
I plodded toward home like a tired mule. Sigh. I wanted Marcelino in my bed every night. Unfortunately he had early-morning classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. If he needed to rise early, he refused to stay over. His restraint stunned me. On nights when he didn’t work, dinner together was fine, but my sexy Latin lover refused to step into my bedroom. We cuddled on the couch or enjoyed walks through the Village holding hands, but absolutely no sex reared its lively head.
I resorted to calling them torment-me nights. My gentle coaxing about how I lived closer to school, we’d sleep before midnight, I’d rise early and make him breakfast, fell like rain in a rushing river. Useless. Nothing persuaded Marcelino from his stubborn schedule.
What the hell did hotter-than-habaneros Marcelino do to me? Did he doubt our future as a couple?
No. Acting ridiculous did not fit into my romantic plan. I acted like a horny ass. My overreaction to his logical rules sickened me. Marcelino, as wild as he was, responded to our new affair like a sane person. I acted like an obsessive madman chasing a sexy walking, talking dream.
Yoga, wine, and working on a proposal to teach a summer course promised to occupy my overheated mind until nine thirty.
Had I ever acted this obsessive over Martin? Huh, the fascinating thought teased me. For some reason Martin had never inspired the level of devotion I offered my sweet Marcelino.
My mind slapped around this absorbing topic until I entered my home. Had I always sensed something wrong in my last relationship? Weird.
Yes indeed, yoga to the rescue.
At 9:43, Marcelino’s custom two raps followed by three quick taps announced his arrival. My childish side considered not giving him the downstairs foyer keys until he moved in, but acting petty would destroy my cool mantra. I stood, avoided stepping on my travel ball-rolling hamster, and undid the final locks.
Our greeting kiss tempted me to grab Marcelino and haul him to the bedroom. No. I refused to act like a disrespectful dolt.
He leaned back against my supportive hand weave and sighed. “Today put me through the wringer. I am exhausted, but I wanted to see you.”
What a perfect opening line to jump on. “Why not stay here tonight?”
The scolding stare’s little brother arrived for a quick visit. “Because I still have work to finish for tomorrow.”
“Great, out of all the gay males roaming around this grand city, I find the dedicated one.”
“Precisely. Stop complaining and pour me a glass of something relaxing. Hey there, Spazz.” Marcelino waved at my hamster. He flopped onto the couch in dramatic sprawl. His eyes rolled heavenward in disgust. “To add to the day’s stress, I conducted a silly spat with Andre over how he wanted the sweaters folded. What an anal jackass. ‘No, Marceliiiiinoo, ‘ooo need to fooold theeem liiiike deeese, width theee arms just seeew.’ The weirdo fakes his French accent. What the hell, he’s from Toronto, not Paris or even Montréal. He lays his accent on so thick it’s a wonder our customers don’t trip over his words.”
I almost missed the glass from laughing. “You are a wicked mimic. He does sound like Pepé Le Pew.” I handed Marcelino his glass of Shiraz. We clinked and sipped.
“Ooo, how fine, Robin Hood. Errol Flynn is sexy eye candy in snug tights. Look at those thighs. Yummy.” Marcelino snuggled close. He rested his head on my shoulder. How pleasant to sit and relax, let the world drop away, and trust in heroic Robin Hood to save the day again. Watching Errol dash about in those revealing tights made me want to play a male variation of Maid Marian.
Common sense warned me to halt what evil lurked in my mind. Hey, life needed a little spice, correct? I finished my wine and set down the glass. Good, Marcelino’s glass also rested on the table. “I know exactly how to relax you.”
I reached to undo Marcelino’s zipper. In the next second, Marcelino stood and almost knocked me off the couch. Only the padded arm prevented me from hitting the floor. My lover moved like a snake!
Common sense snickered in glee. Marcelino stood over me, shaking a scolding finger in mock sternness. “You handsome bully, you have no intention of relaxing me. I refused to be seduced. I said one glass of wine and a cuddle. Sir, you just turned into a wicked pumpkin.”
I shrugged and tucked my hands behind my neck. “Can you blame a deprived man for trying?”
“Deprived! More like sneaky.” He finished his wine and sighed in fresh dismay. “Is it that late? Sorry, I need to dash. How about I make dinner for you tomorrow night?”
“Sounds fine to me. I’ll buy scallops.”
“Mmm, delicious. Hey, on Friday we celebrate our two-week anniversary.”
“Has it only been two weeks? Prepare yourself for a big cliché, but I feel like we have known each other forever.”
“You smoked too much pot today.”
“Honest, only one joint after my yoga session. I’m cutting back.”
“I advise you to smoke another to help you sleep. I don’t want you suffering from advanced sexual frustration.” Marcelino snickered.
I stood. He stepped back and grinned. “You know what? You are correct. Leave before I peel off your clothes and hide them to keep you from escaping.”
“I shall take my exit.” We kissed without embracing. “Sweet dreams.”
About the author:
Thirty years ago, I started writing gay male romance. My writing remained a secret lest my friends thought me a freak. Writing about men inserting tab A into slot B didn’t seem the norm for a suburban female teenager. Reading Gordon Merrick, John Rechy and Larry Kramer helped me fill in the serious informational gaps. Yes, I read those books in my bedroom. No wonder.
As the years progressed and I discovered my sexual path, I still wrote gay male romance, although the stories progressed from lurking in notebooks to hiding on the computer. I wrote fantasies, contemporaries, bodice rippers; I chugged along following my muse.
Now I am glad I kept the writing faith. After six published gay male novellas and novels along with a few spicy short stories, my life has turned into a fun quandary of too many stories hindered by my slow typing skills. I accept the silly challenge and blunder onward into more trauma, drama and humor.