Part Five “Devil in the Details”
Joey was submerged in the deepest of sleep, the kind that sits near death. Sweet dreams, better than life, more real in every way and without the heartache and pain.
He woke, breathed in the sweaty air of regret, as a slight feeling of nausea edged up from his gut. He sat up and the bed sloshed from left to right and furthered the feeling of vomiting. He had never liked waterbeds.
He was alone, in Mike’s room, and he could see the mid-day sun peeking through the closed blinds. The covers that wrapped him were satin and felt good against his skin. He had never slept in anything like them before. He climbed off the waterbed and realized he was naked. He looked around for his clothes but couldn’t find them.
Mike’s bedroom was just as strange as the rest of the house. There was mood lighting, and erotic art on the walls, but what stood out the most was the cleanliness. In his exhaustion, Joey hadn’t seen it, but there were the telltale signs of a neat freak. Everything was in its place, perfect and posed, any cloth ironed, and folded exactly. There were no clothes on the floor, no discarded shoes, or socks, just an immaculate, sexually themed room.
He needed to shower and dropped his sheets as he entered the bathroom. A large mirror occupied the entire wall. Joey looked into his own eyes and they were sunken in with dark circles, his hair was greasy, and he smelled horrible.
He looked at himself and saw an imperfect, scrawny, disgusting creature. This was all that God gave him to work with and his choices were limited. His gut turned with rage and anger at what he was becoming.
Steam rose around him, and he turned away from himself and stepped into the shower.
The hot water washed away the grime and eased the heavy feeling in his gut. The warmth and soothing sound calmed his anxious mind and let him breathe deep. His anger faded and he let all his thoughts go quiet.
He missed his grandparents but, by now they had probably heard what he did. There was no going back; this was his life, now. Wherever it went, whatever he became, that life was gone. Shed as the dirt from his skin. He absorbed the heat and comfort of this thought.
When the water turned cold, he shut it down and stood in the shower. He had come here to die, and in a way he had. His skin shuddered and signaled it was time to move.
He got out, dried off, wrapped a towel around his waist, and used another on his hair that he wore turban style. After another quick search, he still couldn’t find his clothes and was content to maintain the terrycloth garb for the moment. His stomach grumbled and he navigated to the fridge.
The kitchen, offset from the front room, seemed the least used area of the house. It was smaller, to accommodate the bachelor lifestyle, holding only the bare minimum kitchen utensils. In the fridge, there was a beer, three dozen eggs, two ketchup packets, and four gallons of non-fat milk. Every item seemed lined up at exacting angles. He closed the door and began to search the cupboards. Nothing but pasta.
The pantry had meticulously organized canned foods and more pasta. He couldn’t see on the highest shelf but had noted a small three-step ladder by the fridge. He unfolded it and hopped up to see what secret foods might be on the top shelf. Mike had to have something sweet or chocolaty somewhere. As he pushed up on his tippy toes, he could see a bag of spaghetti and an old shoebox shoved to the back. The box itself was hard to see and was not aligned with the shelf. He reached, nearly falling off the ladder, but managed to grab it.
He didn’t recognize the brand of shoe but opened it and found a wrinkled mess of cloth. He pulled out a weird black shirt with ruffles and lace. It was a tall, collared, button-up that looked like something a vampire would wear. The buttons were all missing except the last one and there was a rip on the shoulder. There was a monogram embroidered on the edge of the sleeve, ‘DJ’. He imagined it was for a costume of some kind. The shirt smelled like something spicy and something he hadn’t smelled before. It wasn’t a brand of cologne or perfume that he was familiar with and it reminded him of Christmas. It was a thick oily scent mixed with sweat, both pleasant and harsh. He put the discovery back deciding that it wasn’t much of a treasure and reeked too much to wear.
He didn’t want to rifle through Mike’s things any more than he had. He traded his towels for the satin sheets and slumped down on the couch and figured he’d watch something on the tube. Pure dissatisfaction overtook him; Mike’s house did not have a TV.
Sleep from boredom took him for a bit, but then he was awoken before he could dream.
“Hey, kid, you hungry?” Mike handed him a small white bag, “I went and grabbed some bagels and OJ. I figured you’d be hungry and there isn’t much to eat here.”
Joey grabbed the bag and pulled out his breakfast ravenously. He nodded in appreciation as he opened a carton of orange juice and drank it straight away. There were bagels, but he needed the quick energy of the orange juice.
“Your clothes are in the dryer downstairs— I washed ‘em for you,” Mike said as he moved into the kitchen, “Did you enjoy last night?”
“Yeah, it was cool,” Joey said with uncomfortable honesty. It wasn’t that he liked it, it was that it wasn’t the worst thing to happen to him.
“I was thinking about you needing a job,” Mike said as he re-entered the room with a tumbler.
“I don’t know what I can do.”
“Can you dance?” Mike sat next to him.
“You know; dance?” he asked, moving his arms about to emphasize.
“I don’t know, I don’t think so,” Joey shyly replied.
“Well, you have a very nice body. I think you can make money dancing,” Mike said with a salute of his tumbler. He took a long draw and left a foamy mustache on his mustache.
“I look like a kid.”
“I know,” Mike smiled.
“You’re fucking gross. I don’t think that’s what I want to do.”
“What if I told you that you could make a hundred dollars a day doing it?”
“Did you picked me up because you wanted me to be a professional sex toy?”
“Straight to business. Okay then; yes.”
“Look, I know that sounds wrong, hell, maybe it is, but that’s how the world works. I don’t know you, I don’t owe you, but I have a need. If you can fill it, then I can give you something back. Why would I help you otherwise?”
“Because you’re a nice guy.”
Mike sat next to Joey and leaned back in the green leather sofa.
“What do you feel?” Mike asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Right now, what emotion are you feeling?”
“I don’t know,” replied Joey.
“Let me focus this; compared to yesterday; how do you feel?”
“I feel better, I guess.”
“Who was the last person, other than me, that you had sex with?” asked Mike.
Joey physically convulsed.
“Did they give to you, or did they take from you? Did they give you a choice, did they ask?” asked Mike.
“No, not really.”
“You might not dig my looks, you might not even be gay, but you were respected last night. You gave me something and I gave something back to you. It’s that simple.”
Joey’s throat tightened, his eyes rimmed red, “I don’t’ know what to do. I don’t know who I am,” and he leaned over into Mike.
“What happened, what did he do to you?”
“They, what did they do to me,” Joey corrected.
Mike held him for a moment then gently pushed Joey back, holding him upright, at arm’s length.
“Please don’t make me go back out there, I’m done with that life,” whispered Joey desperately.
“You give, you get, you work, you earn. Once you have that, no one can take it away from you.”
“I’ll do whatever you want,” Joey surrendered.
Mike shook his head in immediate distaste. He took in a deep breath and looked Joey square in the eye; “That’s not how it works. It’s not what I want. You choose. You decide, not me. Now, you can go back out there, and maybe you’ll find a job. You might make it, you might not. You might live, you might die. You are free to walk out that door or, you can stay here for a few nights till you figure it out. In exchange, I like doing what we did, and that’s all I will ask of you. You don’t have to work, you don’t have to dance, just sit here and look pretty. Those, Joey, are your choices. Stay or go.”
“Yeah, a few nights, that’ll work,” nodded Joey.
“That’s your choice, your power. Turns me on to see you strong,” said Mike.
“What is wrong with you?”
“Men like me, something deep inside ain’t right. Something’s missing or stolen, I don’t know. I watch you in the moments, you know; during sex, and it fills that void.”
“I don’t understand,” said Joey.
“My point, kid, is you can be a victim on the street and hungry, or you can be a victim warm and with a full belly. I don’t write the narrative, you do.”
“So, if I need some new clothes,” Joey said and moved the sheets away to reveal his nakedness.
“Now, kid, now you’re getting it.”
The two went at it again. When it was over, Mike carried him to the bed and tucked him into the satin sheets. Joey fell asleep while Mike just watched.
When Joey woke again it was five in the afternoon and Mike was nowhere to be found.
He went to the front room and found a check for a hundred dollars, a key to the apartment, and a note on the coffee table. The check was written to ‘Fine clothes for men’ and the note instructed him to walk down to Castro Street to a specific address. It had a little map drawn with a stick figure of Joey. There was an address and the word Baby in quotes. Joey’s clothes were placed neatly on the couch and he noted his underwear was missing. There was definitely something wrong with Mike.
Joey is trading his body for some security. He’s still in trouble and still lost but he’s getting a minute to catch his breath. Mike is obviously a predator, but is he a house cat or a tyrannosaur? Can Joey control him or is this going to get worse? Who hurt Joey back in Northbay? Find out in the next Episode, “Fine clothes for men.”