And then in the same city but a different world there's Ned, who didn't come out until he was 50, I mean he was married with kids and everything. He says he's 53 now, so even though he’s more than double my age I have way more experience as a fag. I think that's one of the things that makes him listen really carefully: he knows he's clueless. At first I just talk about bullshit anyway, like the college I don't really go to, the sugar daddy I never really had, and maybe a bit here and there about Boston and my life but then he just keeps asking questions, so eventually I start talking about things that actually mean something to me, and since he actually listens I keep talking. I can't tell if it's a good idea yet, but I figure it's worth a try.
I tell him about JoAnne and heroin and our life together and he doesn’t act surprised, so then I even talk about how sometimes I miss drugs but I don't want to say anything to JoAnne because I don't want to fuck everything up.
Ned says he’s never been around drugs, he hasn't even smoked pot. He certainly knows how to drink, but I don't think he sees that as an addiction. It's just a habit — you get home, and pour a cocktail. I'm always ready for a cocktail, especially here at Ned’s place on the white sofas studying the lighting, how it can be so soft but not dreary.
When I first started coming here, I only glanced at the art because it just looked like pompous old European garbage — you know, nudes and crosses and God, but then I realized that everything gets flipped in these paintings, like in the one that looks like Adam and Eve from the distance, but then you get closer and they both have two heads, Picasso-style, one male and one female, and then coming out of their mouths are snakes instead of tongues, intertwining in the middle. JoAnne would like these snakes, maybe I’ll show her sometime.
And it turns out that that Adam-Eve and Eve-Adam are standing in supermarket bins of apples and oranges and pomegranates and pears, labels from all different countries. The piece is called "Bruised." Ned says it was the first one he bought, and then after that he started going to all the artist’s shows in New York.
Somehow I can't picture this pasty old guy with a ratty grey wig at some fancy New York opening, but he sounds so excited about it that I tell him sure, I'll go to the next one, whenever that is. Apparently this artist only has a show every few years, so I have plenty of time to change my mind.
And then upstairs, remember the first I just assumed all those photos of naked men on the walls were tacky gay garbage, and yes, some of them are definitely cheesy, but one day I find myself looking at this one of two naked dancers or gymnasts and the way their shadow plays out behind them on the wall and I realize I’m impressed by the lighting, by the way the photographer manages to capture the in-between expressions you're not supposed to see.
Then there's the one of some nude guy bending down to grab onto his ankles, his ass and legs forming a giant upside-down V against the sky. Yes, he's outside, and there's something amazing about all the variations in tone you can get with black-and-white film. Like the way the clouds are not exactly the same color as his inner thighs that somehow shine in the light, and the part that’s shining isn't exactly the same color as the bright white underneath this guy's head, and even that white isn't the same in the center as it is on the edges.
And the hairs on this guy’s legs, the way sometimes you see them, and sometimes you don't. And, how is it that his ass juts out, I mean that he bends that far over but we don't see any of the details of his face? We can see his balls hanging down like plums, I guess they've been shaved. And, what is that bone at the base of his back — I never noticed the way that one sticks out, I guess I've never stared at a guy in this position for so long. I can't decide if it's hot, the way the composition is so formal that it almost becomes abstract. This is the photo that's in my field of vision while I'm fucking Ned, this one or the one on the wall to my right of some guy bent over on his hands and knees, pulling his stomach in and that one’s hotter, more details of the hairs on legs and maybe the sneakers he's wearing add a kind of excitement. In the photo studio with blank walls. Are these photos old, or new?
And sure, the tennis shoes photo isn't as spectacular as the one with the sky all around us, ass in sky and that’s the one I end up staring at mostly anyway, since it's right in front of me. I start thinking about grabbing onto that guy’s back, kissing his neck, holding him and not Ned with the flab and liquor breath.
Every time we get ready for the bedroom I start to think how on earth am I going to get hard? Because all he wants to do is lie down while I fuck him. He's not even good at sucking cock. He doesn't know how to have sex at all. I have to coach him to do exactly what will keep me hard – yes, put your hand under my balls, even if I'm fucking your ass from behind. No, put your other hand on my thigh, keep it there, yes, right there.
Usually once I’m actually fucking Ned it's okay, I can just keep pumping away and grunting and moaning and rubbing his back and looking at the photos on the walls and the shadows the crystals in the ceiling lights cast over the walls, the way this room kind of glitters until I pretend to come in the condom and then pull out and lie down on top of him for a few minutes. He doesn't even care about coming. I wish he didn't care about the rest.