Excerpt from “Poison”
It was summer; before sunrise.
The clouds were roaming in the sky.
You lay a long limb across my lap,
And undressed me with your eyes.
Kurt checked his watch: half past seven on a Friday night. Another grueling week at the office was finally over. Though the rush hour traffic had calmed, there were still plenty of cars and people packing the streets of Manhattan. A warm, balmy breeze indicated the arrival of summer. Ripe and rotten scents filled the air, causing a general confusion of the senses. Kurt inhaled the blossom-light sweetness of fresh strawberries as he walked past a produce stand, but the stench of a fly-ridden garbage bag tucked beneath the berry section ruined the fruit’s otherwise delicate perfume. It just goes to show, he thought, the bad things in life always outweigh the good.
On autopilot, he loosened his tie the second he descended the stairs leading to the subway’s cooling comfort. The strap on his laptop case dug into his shoulder with annoying pressure. He shuffled down the stairs with a tired gait, almost stumbling on the last step. His cheeks flushed an urgent red as he regained his footing.
Public humiliation. What a way to start the weekend.
Kurt was already in a foul mood. Work had left a sour taste in his mouth. This morning, his boss promised to let him leave early since he had already worked sixty hours and stayed until midnight on Wednesday and Thursday. As the clock struck five, however, the traitorous boss marched to his desk and ordered him to fix an incompetent coworker’s botched engineering report. Wanting to protest, but not daring to, he stayed late and completed the task—all the while hating his boss, hating his fat, lazy coworker; most of all, hating himself.
He had always been a bit soft, inclined to bend to the whims of others, unable to voice his opinion unless it was of dire importance—or unless someone directly asked for it. His brother Steve would tease him by remarking that his obedient, submissive nature was a “direct consequence” of his homosexuality. Of course, Steve’s statement reflected the application of a ridiculous stereotype, but his brother affirmed Kurt nonetheless fit the bill.
“. . . arriving in two minutes . . .”
The overhead announcement startled him out of his thoughts. Confused, Kurt looked around—realized he had unconsciously swiped his subway pass and made it to the correct location.
Damn. I really need to get some sleep.
Sluggishly, he ambled to the edge of the platform and prepared to board the approaching train. A rush of air blew sweaty, tea-colored bangs off his forehead as the train slowed to a stop. Thinking of the ice-cold beer waiting for him at home, he stepped inside the open doors.
Per usual, the subway car was jam-packed, the passengers crammed together like sardines. Kurt scanned the area for any open seats as he moved quickly down the aisle. There was one available next to a shaking, cracked-out woman; and another across from her, next to a well-groomed businessman.
He pondered his seat choice. Eeeny, meeny, miny moe. He didn’t feel like being harassed for drug money. Quickly, he sat down next to the businessman before anyone else could claim the spot. Kurt positioned his laptop case securely on his thighs and rested the back of his head against the seat. Fatigued, he shut his eyes. He couldn’t wait to get home, crack open a Sam Adams, and simply stare at the four white walls encasing him.
Hell, I’d be content with counting the cracks in the plaster—as long as it’s in my own living room.
Boring relaxation beat the stressful office environment any day. Kurt thought maybe he’d give himself a good whacking tonight—just to make sure his pipes were clog-free. It’s been too long since I got laid. He hunched over his laptop case. Although he hadn’t entertained many gentleman callers in his twenty-four years, Kurt usually enjoyed a good fucking at least once every other month or two (never with the same partner). These trysts occurred after a night at the bar, and lasted no longer than it took for the sun to rise. He didn’t have time for a serious relationship, since he expended all his energy into his career.
Intermittent celibacy was not ideal, but he made sure to take care of himself on a regular basis so he didn’t get desperate and try to penetrate Steve’s best friend, a horny tattoo artist named Sally. She wanted Kurt badly, even though she knew he was as gay as blazes. Kurt wasn’t her biggest fan—she was loud, obnoxious, and obvious—but he could almost imagine himself engaging in a drunken hay-romp with her if he got hammered enough to “forget” she wasn’t a man. He grimaced, disgusted by his crude thoughts. To ease his guilty conscience, he reassured himself that sexual frustration was the culprit. A whole season had passed since he had last engaged in an intimate act with a partner. He had become jumpy and sensitive to the touch, struggling to keep his composure even when someone accidently brushed by him in the hallways at work—or when the arm of a pleasant-smelling stranger pressed against him.
Kurt’s eyes flew open. He glanced down. Indeed, the stranger’s arm was touching his own. Embarrassed by the enjoyable jolt of sensation that coursed through his southward-moving blood, he turned his head to mutter an apology, and noticed the man’s eyes were shut. Apparently, he was asleep. Kurt breathed a silent sigh of relief. He peered at his seatmate again to make sure he wasn’t awake.
The stranger’s arrow-straight lashes lay long on his cheeks. His skin looked dewy. Well-moisturized. Despite the heat of the subway car, he didn’t appear sweaty. Kurt’s gaze moved to his lips. The upper was thin and cruel; the lower soft and generous. It was a mouth full of promise. Deceit. Endless possibilities. His jet-black hair was perfectly coiffed, slicked back from a smooth, wrinkle-free forehead. Kurt belatedly realized he was seated next to a fine-looking specimen of a man.
The best I’ve seen in a while.
Dismissing his lustful thoughts pertaining to the attractive presence beside him, Kurt shifted his arm out of reach and drifted into the place between sleeping and waking. However, the moment before he succumbed to slumber, he became aware of extra body warmth. The handsome stranger’s forearm had returned to its former position against his—only this time, there was no mistaking its presence. A sudden, wicked idea popped into Kurt’s head.
Maybe he’s doing it on purpose.
There was no way to tell for sure, but Kurt could have sworn the man’s previously relaxed mouth now wore a smirk. He contemplated his options. He could either move his arm farther away, or maneuver it closer. Nervous, he kept perfectly still. As the seconds ticked by, he forced his muscles to relax.
For the next five minutes, he waited with baited breath for his seatmate to respond; to deepen the body contact between them; to send a physical signal he was interested. There was nothing—and then, one stop before Kurt’s, the stranger made a small noise. It sounded like a pleasurable groan. Eager, Kurt slid his gaze to the stranger’s face. He nearly swallowed his tongue when he found the man’s glacier-colored eyes fixed upon him. Before he had a chance to speak, the automated overhead female voice was announcing his intended destination. The doors opened.
Shit! I’m gonna miss my stop! He tore his eyes away from the stranger’s and almost fell when he stood up. Clutching his laptop case, Kurt fled down the aisle. He dashed off the subway car with wobbly knees and slightly shaking thighs. His vision was still blurry with lust. Each step he took felt heavier than the last. When he had at last reached the top of the stairs, Kurt found the nearest wall and leaned against it, heaving for breath. What the hell’s gotten into me? He never thought he would see the day when he—Kurt Craven, semi-closeted homosexual—would make even the slightest advance upon another man in broad daylight. Unless, of course, he knew for a fact the man in question was gay. This alien streak of boldness he had displayed on the subway both worried and thrilled him. I guess working long hours lowers my inhibition.
“You didn’t wait to leave me your number,” said a silky voice directly behind him.
Kurt’s shoulders tensed. A familiar odor filled his nose. Impossible. He didn’t need to turn around to conclude it was the subway stranger.