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"No sir, we haven't carried those in quite some time. I'm not sure Nireedas even makes them anymore. We don't get many calls for 'em here in New York. But if you've got a minute, I'll find out. Mr. B, the factory rep, is in the stockroom."
Only a minute later the salesclerk returned with a tall, blue-eyed, blond man about my age, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows and his collar undone, tie pulled down an inch or so. Handsome as all get-out, with big shoulders, a wide chest, narrow waist, and slim hips--a football player. A friendly one. He had a smile from ear to ear.
"Hi, I'm Erik Bergstrom, the special accounts rep for Nireedas. You're the gentleman looking for canvas?"
This is how the day that changed my life began for me, David Staller, college professor, native Southerner, gay boy, or at least gay used-to-be boy. It's hard to think of anyone closing in on forty as a boy.
Let me go back to the beginning for just a minute. I had been on pins and needles all morning. Why, I didn't know. I just had a feeling this was going to be an extraordinary Wednesday, a day for a serendipitous event of some sort. I could tell as I made a quick trip uptown to exchange a gift from my sister, a shirt that wouldn't have fit me when I was ten years old.
My task accomplished, I had been walking through Bloomies glancing at workers take down what few Christmas decorations were left. It was the week after New Year's after all, time to get rid of all the reminders of the holidays for another year.
Passing the shoe department, I'd stopped to ask a clerk if they carried a Nireedas in canvas. And that's how our paths crossed.
"Yes, that's right. I've looked all overthe city and can't find them anymore. I'm rough on shoes and need something I can just throw in the washer when they get dirty, and they do get dirty in a hurry walking around the city. All my old ones have gotten pretty ragged from all that washing. Do you still make them?"
While I asked my question, I noticed his lack of jewelry. Just a watch, a very plain black Cuvando, nearly hidden on an arm forested with abundant, almost yellow hair. No wedding band on his huge hand, either. Couldn't be straight and single, I thought. Too good-looking. My gaydar was in gear.
I introduced myself, and we shook hands. I couldn't help but notice how small mine felt in his. Sure, I know what they say about big hands, big dick, but I always thought that was just a myth. On the other hand, it didn't hurt to wonder. We let our hands linger a few seconds longer than straight men would've; his gaze locked in on mine and mine on his.
"We haven't made canvas in a couple of years. You must've been buying the Club C model back then. We're beginning to get more calls for canvas, so we're bringing back the Club C and coming out with two new models in March. I think you'll like all three of them. Give me your phone number, and I'll give you a call when they're available."
"Great news, Erik, thanks, but I can't give you my number. Not unless you give me yours." Right to the crux of things. Suppose he said he couldn't--or wouldn't. I continued, "I'd offer to buy you a drink, but I don't drink, and just a latte at Starbucks wouldn't be enough. Instead, will you let me take you to dinner to show my appreciation? The other brands just don't fit right, and I was getting desperate." We shook hands. "You're a lifesaver, Erik."
I didn't believe I had actually been so bold. Several words could've been misinterpreted, and combined they might've given this hunk the wrong idea--or maybe the right idea if I'd gauged him correctly. But if Erik noticed, he didn't let on.
"Dinner's not necessary, David. I'm just doing my job, but sure, I'd like that. I'm out of town working a lot, but I'm free this evening. If you're not busy, that is. I know this is pretty short notice."
"No, I didn't have anything special planned for tonight, but now I do. Do you have any suggestions? Barbecue? Steak? Thai or Chinese? There's not much I won't put in my mouth." As the words came out of my mouth, I blushed. But again Erik seemed not to notice anything out of the ordinary.
He suggested we meet at seven o'clock at what he claimed was the best Chinese on the Upper West Side and, "even better, convenient, just around the corner from my place."
Bingo! I was right. There had to be a reason he added that last phrase.
We shook hands for a third time, and I left the shoe department with a Cheshire Cat grin on my face.
Wo Chin, the Chinese restaurant Erik had chosen, had only a dozen or so tables and even fewer customers, so he wasn't hard to spot. He wore a black T-shirt that contrasted strikingly with the curly, straw-colored hair poking out around the front of the neckband. Smiling, he stood when I approached the table, and I couldn't take my eyes off his faded designer jeans. They showed not only a high and tight ass but also a more-than-ample basket. Not that I'm a size queen, but perhaps those tales about big hands were occasionally right, and just maybe this was one of those events.
I sat next to him on the semicircular banquette, smiled, glanced at the menu, and told Erik to order me whatever he recommended since he was a regular. "I like it all." There. I'd done it again.
While we waited for our food, he accidentally nudged my knee, and then--on purpose--he did it again. I took the hint. I nudged him back, and then my left hand went into action, wandering up the inside of his thigh. Long before I reached his groin, my hand reached the prize. He was a boxers man, if he had on anything at all. If his jeans didn't hold a sequoia stretching toward his knee, there at least was a giant white pine and two plums in there, with nothing restraining them.
Erik's right hand wasn't idle either. He checked me out, and he could easily tell not only that I was going commando, but also what my religion was and that I had a lot of hard-core religion jammed into the crotch of my threadbare but not ripped Levi's.
Sweat beaded on my forehead.
The mu shu pork, Szechuan baby octopus, and Mongolian hot pot came just then. So much for timing. Both Erik and I ate quickly, leaving more than we ate, anxious to leave the restaurant and get to a place where we could continue our explorations without embarrassment or interruption.
Putting on his coat, Erik said, "As I told you, I live just around the corner." We trotted and arrived at the expensive-looking brownstone in a matter of seconds. Erik pulled out his key, grabbed my hand, then pulled me inside as our lips met.