City of Valleys – 6
Steven didn’t want to trade the air-conditioned restaurant for his afternoon rehearsal. No matter how many bodies moved in it, the damp, hot air on Church Street remained unmoved. The afternoon at Lubba’s had gone well. Paul fit in and worked out better than Steven expected one of Miss Ing’s love toys to work.
The sight of Paul’s tattoos was the highlight at the end of Steven’s shift. He changed in the staff room, while Paul took a breather there with his damp shirt hung over the air vent to cool it. Across his shoulders was a series of linked geometric knots based on a Celtic pattern he’d had found on a CD cover.
Steven wanted to know what the inked flesh felt like, but didn’t want a sexual harassment case on anyone’s first day of work.
Steven unlocked his bike and peddled to the East Side Community Centre. Evan was outside the centre with Tim McGuinn, one of the actors in the show, and Monica their stage manager.
“I though you were working today, Monica?” Steven locked his bike.
“We got taken over. Bookies is now an ex-bookstore.”
“Which means she won’t be missing rehearsals,” Evan added.
“Depends on the job market. Need anyone at Lubba’s, Steven?”
“Not unless there’s a sudden break-up.” He explained Paul as they went up to the rehearsal studio.
“Enough of that. If you wish to audition for Robert Ing, Monica, I’m sure Steven can book an appointment for you. But we are here for our true calling.”
“That sounds threatening,” Tim whispered.
“Today we’ll work on the scene between the two of you. Monica will prompt.”
“I hope our nudity won’t offend her heterosexual sensibility.”
“Tim, I had a light lunch just in case.”
Steven had tried not worry about the first nude rehearsal. It wasn’t Steven who was naked, but his character, John. He had never been naked on stage and wasn’t sure how he’d react.
“What we’ll do is run the lines, the blocking, and mime the undressing.” Evan explained
“You both off book, I hope.” Monica found the place in the text. “It isn’t easy to hold your text and your text-ticles as the same time.”
“I’ll take your word for that.” Tim swigged from a water bottle.
“The same for the kiss. You don’t have to go for it right away but remember these guys aren’t air kissers.”
“Ass kissers, Evan?” Tim pretended to mishear.
“Save that for the uncensored midnight production. But till then we will stick to what is here.”
The kiss was buried deeper in Steven’s mind. Like many actors, he didn’t pay attention to stage business when he concentrated on his lines and his cues. What would it be like to kiss Tim? Could he stay John when he got that intimate?
After a few simple stretches and vocal warm-ups, Evan said they were ready to commence. He sat at the far end of the room. A couple of chairs sketched in the set, with a quilt on the floor to represent the bed.
The first run throughs were rough. Steven saw that Tim was more apprehensive than he was.
“Okay, okay. I know it isn’t easy. You keep avoiding each other, when you are supposed to be ready for each other. Just sit and look at each other. Make eye contact and say the lines. Don’t act. Just look and speak.” Evan leaned forward in his chair.
They did that. Evan made them do it twice, and the third time they spoke the scripted actions.
“I’m unbuttoning John’s shirt.”
“Gabe unbuttons my shirt. I hold his hand over my heart.”
“John holds my hand over his heart. I feel it beat.”
After the fourth talk-through, they did a walk-through of the actions.
Steven touched Tim’s belt. Tim touched Steven’s buttons. At the point of the kiss, they leaned forward and their lips met. Brief, but actual contact was made.
“Good. I knew you had it in you. It’s time for a breather before we get down to brass tacks.”
Steven glanced at his watch. Almost two hours without a break. He was soaked with sweat from concentration and was grateful to sip water from his bottle. He went to the washroom and soaked his t-shirt and wrapped it around his neck.
When he got back Evan had orange popsicles for them.
“Go easy on these. Cold can slam the voice box shut,” Monica warned. “Rub them on the backs of your arms. That will cool you down quickly.”
“Aren’t we all cool enough?”
“As cucumbers, Evan.”
“Ready gentlemen?” Monica urged. “Then we’ll begin.”
The text of the scene flowed up to the first button.
“Do I ask him about the murders before, after or during?”
“Steve, just keep going!” Evan ordered. “Remember – do not anticipate. What happens here is a surprise to your characters. If we see the actors getting ready, there will be no surprise.”
As Tim’s hands touched him, and his touched Tim, he watched from Evan’s point of view. They were two actors at work. He saw his shirt come off and fall to the stage next to Tim’s pants. His pants fell on top of that. Each removed his own underwear. There was a cool damp of sweat in the small of his back as he pulled Tim to him. It was natural and easy. Nothing to question.
Tim’s body was now Gabe’s. His body was John’s. Tim’s musky aftershave was now Gabe’s. Steven wasn’t attracted to the ruddy Gabe but John was. He held Gabe’s eyes as their faces neared. Gabe’s pubic hair brushed his stomach. Gabe returned his look as they sank to the floor. Desire sparked as their lips parted and tongues touched.
Evan and Monica applauded.
As he rolled away from Tim he was aroused and saw that Tim saw that he was aroused. Tim grabbed a shirt and dropped it on Steven’s groin.
“That’s what I call method acting.”
“You’d think I wasn’t getting enough at home,” Steven joked.
“Once more?” Monica asked. “Or do we need cold showers.”
“Steven, I didn’t realize that you were so …” Evan glanced down.
“Not something one puts on a résumé.” Steven got dressed.
“You ready?” Tim asked.
“It seems I’m always ready!” Steven tried to forget their faces. It was that awed look that meant he was no longer Steven or John but a guy with a big dick.
Kevin studied the notices on the bulletin board at Rainbow Books there was so much queer stuff. Classes in American Sign Language. Something called Fire Breath Training. Groups for Asian Lesbians, Radical Faeries, Leather Daddies, Single Gay Fathers.
His brain stopped absorbing as his eyes moved over the flyers. Pink, yellow, mauve posters with naked, semi-naked, big, thin, hairy, muscular, bald, pierced, black, Asian, men and women that offered doors into gay worlds he never dreamed existed.
He tore a number off one that offered a room to let in a gay household. It was time to escape Mitch and Therese, but he’d have to tell them something. He couldn’t disappear and expect them not to want to see to where.
As he stood there he blocked the exit for a thin black man.
“Sorry. Am I in your way?” He asked the man.
The black guy went back into the store without an answer. Kevin put a copy of Pride Pages, a free guide to gay organizations and businesses, into his backpack and left. It was time to hit his target – Church and Wellesley.
On the walk to Church he passed preparations for the parade and street fair. Some side streets were already blocked off for a dance that night, and a stage was set up for the bands.
Many of the high-rise balconies sported rainbow flags. Some had Christmas lights, many with helium-filled silver and pink balloons, and one had a large inflated teddy bear tethered to its rail.
He was submerged in an alien culture where everyone spoke English but the words didn’t mean the same thing. From the flyers he figured that a bear wasn’t the woodland creature but a big, hairy man.
There was little chance he’d return to Mitch’s tonight, but he have to tell them and not blurt out the truth. He checked his watch and figured they might still be out.
He doubled back to a pay phone in the subway. He practiced several lies and even the truth. “Hi Mitch I’m staying downtown tonight to my dick sucked by sick faggots and to return the favour. See you at supper tomorrow.” The thought sent shivers up his spine.
When he called he got, as he’d hoped, the answering machine. As casual as possible he said, “Hi Therese.” She always checked the messages, something Mitch had never figured out. “Cuz Kevin here and I … uh … I don’t think I’ll get back tonight. Don’t worry if I don’t show. I’ll call in the morning. Love ya. Bye. I’ll do a double set next week at Ten Pennies to make up for tonight. A triple if that agent shows up. Bye.”
He hung up pleased he had managed not to lie yet not tell the truth. Next he’d need a place for the night. The fantasy of a nice man who would give him sex and a place to sleep had appeal, but he’d feel better if he didn’t have to risk homelessness this first night on his own.
He went to a nearby parkette, sat in the sun, and took out the Pride Pages to check if there were any gay hotels.
“Nice weather.” A guy in blue tank top and matching shorts sat beside him.
“Perfect,” Kevin glanced from the guide.
“Usually is for Pride. Rained once, but stopped as soon as the parade started.”
“God likes gays after all.”
“No doubt He’s one himself.” The man inched closer. “You from out of town?”
“Sort of.” Kevin’s heart beat a bit faster. Was this a pick up? He stared at the man. He appeared to be in his late thirties, needed a shave, but wasn’t in too bad shape.
The man adjusted his balls. “Going to be a warm day.”
“Yes.” Kevin covered his hard-on with the Pride Pages.
“I have cold beer at my place. Not far from here.”
“Sounds inviting, but I have to find a place for tonight.”
“There’s a couple of b’n’b’s on the way to my place. We can check them out.”
“Bed and breakfast. Not quite a hotel and cheaper.”
“All right. Kevin.” Kevin stuck out his hand.
“Mark.” The man shook Kevin’s.
“Pleased to meet you Mark.”
“If all goes well, the pleasure will be all mine.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License