The saga continues. April in Paris. Romance in the air. Or not.
I know it's been a while, but I hope everyone likes this.
I left Julia feeling frustrated and angry. Angry at Lisa for setting me up for failure. Angry at myself for falling for Kenny. And especially angry at Julia. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because she had to ruin what I thought was a good thing with Kenny. Maybe because she made me rethink sixteen years of friendship with Lisa. Maybe because, I don’t know, she wasn’t entirely wrong. Anyway, I decided to work off my frustrations in the gym. I would’ve gone for a run, but the sky was cloudy and all I needed to cap off my day was getting caught in the rain. I went home and changed into my work-out clothes. I agonized whether to keep my breasts. On the one hand, by keeping them, I thought, I was admitting Julia was right - maybe I did want to be Jessica. On the other hand, why the hell what she or anyone else thought important? If I wanted to be Jessica today and not tomorrow, that was my choice. Besides, I liked being scoped out. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I liked being an object of attention. I know a lot of women resent it and feel like they’re being treated like a piece of meat. And, maybe, I’d be tired of it too. But, it’s not like I ever was one before and for now the novelty was still there. So, I went home and decided to get dressed. I put on my sports bra, belly T and shorts (a little baggy, so as not to show you-know-what, but still cute.)
“Hi, Miss Rosen,” said the desk attendant. “Those workouts are doing great, huh?” he said, ogling me. That felt good.
I smiled. “Stop, Jason.”
“I’m just saying...”
“Thank you,” I laughed. “It’s always nice to hear.”
“Tell my girlfriend that,” he laughed. “I tell her she looks good, she tells me I just want sex.”
He laughed again. “Yeah, but if I don’t compliment her, she gets pissed too. Women...no offense, you’re different.”
“None taken.” Then I thought, “More than you know, Jason.”
I started off lifting weights. Nothing heavy. Had to keep my girlish arms, although I was beginning to wonder why. I was on my second set of lat pulldowns when I heard, “You have good form, but you need to work at it a little more.”
I turned to face a decently built guy. Balding, but still cute and with the kind of build you get from working out regularly, but not “today, I’m doing delts” obsessively. “Does that line work often?” I said, giving him the once-over.
He turned beet red. “I meant your lifting form. You’re a little out of balance and, if you keep doing it that way, you won’t get the full benefit of your workout and may throw out your shoulder.”
“You sound conversant in the topic.”
“I am. I’m a chiropractor. Plus, I used to be a personal trainer. Most people figure that if they do the machines, they’ll do everything right, but they don’t. You naturally favor your stronger side.”
“That makes sense. I do feel stronger when I use my right arm.” Given my love life, my right arm got a regular workout.
“Do you mind if I show you how to do it?”
“Shouldn’t you at least introduce yourself first?” I said coquettishly.
He turned red again. He was so cute in his shyness. “Adam Connolly,” he stammered.
“Jessica Rosen. Relax. I was just playing with you. Sorry.”
He looked down. “It’s OK. I do have to relax. I just didn’t expect someone as beautiful as you to respond that way.”
Now it was my turn to blush. “OK. Stop. Show me what I’m doing wrong.”
“OK, start pulling down the bar.” I started pulling. “Stop.” He put his hands on my shoulders. “You’re pulling down faster on your right side than your left. Go slowly.” I started pulling down again.
“Wow, that feels much better, thanks.”
“You’re, uh, welcome,” he said, walking away. “Have a good workout.”
“Where are you going? What are you, the Lone Ranger? ‘My job is done.’ Unless you’re busy.”
“Not at all. I didn’t want to bother you. I was going to do the Stairmaster.”
“Hang on. I was just going to finish this set, and do that myself.”
“I don’t bite Adam,” I said, with a smile.
“My bad luck,” he said with a smile. “Sorry. That was inappropriate.”
He was so cute in his shyness. “Adam, it’s called flirting. Besides, I started.”
“Uh, ah, well...” he stammered. I thought he might be the only person who needed to get laid more than me.
“Tell you what, Adam. Let’s pick a harmless topic. Are you a Met fan or a Yankee fan?”
“Yankees. How could anybody be a Met fan? They never get it done. They spend, but they can’t get it done.”
“I’m a Met fan,” I grinned. He made me feel comfortable. He wasn’t trying to prove himself.
“Boy, I can’t get a break, can I?”
“It’s not the end of the world. Besides, you guys haven’t won since 2000.”
“When we beat you.”
“Now, you’re pushing it.” He looked down. “Kidding. Kidding. Adam, please.” I finished my set and we walked over to the Stairmasters.
We started talking. The conversation started off innocuously enough, about work and how we were both lucky to be able to set our own hours. Then it was more baseball and the shows on the TV over the Stairmaster. In thirty minutes, you can range pretty far afield and somehow we ended up on relationships.
“So, are you seeing anyone?” he asked cautiously.
“Not really. I mean I went out on a blind date with this guy last week. We had a great time and I’m supposed to go see him in two weeks...”
“Oh,” he said, looking crestfallen. “All of the good ones are taken.”
“Thanks. That’s really sweet.”
“That’s what I always get. Just before the ‘but as a friend’ speech.”
“Hang on, tiger. What I was going to say is that I don’t know if I should go or not.”
“I don’t think he’ll ever be able to commit fully to a relationship.”
“Kind of premature, no? I mean you’ve been on one date.”
“(A) I’m 34, so I need to think about that. (B) It’s kind of complicated. Besides, if you know that going in, why be with someone? I mean fun’s fun, but I need to be with someone ready to accept me for me.”
“What’s not to accept? You’re smart, beautiful, stand properly on the Stairmaster...”
“Something you always see in personal ads...”
“Anyway, what’s the problem? Why do you think he can’t accept you for you?”
“It’s too complicated. Personal stuff.” I wanted to say something, but knew that this was neither the time nor the place for it. Besides, as nice as he was, there was something I had that probably wasn’t up his alley.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Yes, but no. It’d freak you out.”
“Yeah. For the time being. So, what’s up with you? Seeing anybody?”
“Not now. I was. For two years.”
“My brother got divorced.”
“And this caused the breakup how?”
“Our relationship was two years of sheer misery, broken up by periods of less misery. I think we were together out of inertia. Anyway, my brother’s divorce was really acrimonious, and I think I looked and said, ‘Do I want to end up there?’ Because that’s where it was going. So I broke it off. It was unpleasant, but a hell of a lot better than it would’ve been if we had been married.”
“That’s actually a really rational response. I think we’d all be better off if more people did what you did.”
“So, what about you? What’s your most recent relationship?”
“They don’t last long enough to talk about.”
“Sex and the City girl, huh? Love ‘em and leave ‘em?” I stared at him. “Sorry, my ex used to watch it. The show sucks, but it seeped into my unconscious.”
“Not exactly. I’ve changed a lot lately. I’m like a different person.”
“Whatever you did, it worked.”
“Thanks, that’s really nice.”
“Nice and sweet. That’s my lot in life.”
“Nice and sweet is good. There comes a point when you no longer want an emotionally unavailable asshole.”
“The Monday after I get back,” I said with a smile.
“Is that when we’ll go out?”
“That’s the kind of move that works.”
“Did it? Will you do me the pleasure of having dinner with me?”
“I’m not who you think I am. I’m in a really strange place and...”
“OK. I understand,” he said, looking like a lost puppy. A lost puppy who had just done 40 minutes on the Stairmaster, but a lost puppy nonetheless.
“It’s not that. I just...there’s something...I wouldn’t want to lead you on...” I started to tear up, although god only knows why.
“Wow,” he said. “OK. Either you’re telling the truth or you’re one hell of an actress.”
“It’s true. You are a great guy and I can always use a friend.” I said, getting off the Stairmaster as did he.
“I knew it,” he said, shaking his head. “The ‘just a friend’ speech.”
“Come on Adam,” I pleaded. “That’s not it...”
“Now it’s my turn to tell you to relax,” he grinned. “I’m cool. I’ve been ‘Fresh Kills’ note to non-NYCers - it’s our former garbage dump guy enough to know that I don’t want to be him again. I would like to be your friend though. You seem really cool, despite the whole Met thing..” I punched him in the arm. “Hey! Besides, who knows? Maybe I can use you to pick up other women. You all seem to like guys who are with other girls.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “I can always use friends too. Are you still interested in dinner? I’ll even treat. It’s only fair for the workout tips.”
“A beautiful woman treating ME to dinner? I’ll take that. Can I get the large fries?”
“And the apple pie, if you want. Or we could even go to a place with waiters.”
“You’re just pure class,” he said. “I bet you even use a spoon to eat soup.”
“Depends. What kind?” I said, laughing. I borrowed a pen from the trainer’s desk and wrote down my number. “Call me later to schedule everything,” I said, giving him a peck. I don’t know why I did that, after the whole ‘leading on’ speech. He just seemed like such a nice guy and it felt right.
“Thanks,” he said, blushing. I swear I wondered what he did when he had sex - explode? “I’ll call you later.”
“You better not be lying.”
“This better not be fake,” he said, walking away. I suddenly felt, if not much better, better. I was establishing a life away from all of the bullshit with Kenny and Lisa and Julia. Now, one could argue that Adam thought I was Jessica and thus I was creating my own bullshit. Which wouldn’t be wrong, but at least it was my bullshit. Besides, it’s not like I was leading him on. I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in a date. If he didn’t understand that, it was his problem, right?
I won’t bore you with the next two weeks of my life. I spent most of it working which, as you now know, is how I avoid dealing with things. I know it’s not healthy, but it’s better than getting drunk, I guess. Lisa and I went out occasionally, and it was strained. She was so absorbed with the wedding that she couldn’t recognize that I was upset. I buried myself in work which, as I have said before, is how I avoid dealing with things. Specifically, Lisa things. We saw each other occasionally before I left and talked about the wedding, but it felt hollow, at least to me. She seemed fine, though. I think she decided that, since I was going to Paris to see Kenny, it was all good. Anyway, I was heading to Paris on a Thursday night flight. Wednesday night, I went to pack. It was much harder than I thought it would be. I wanted to pack the clothes I now wore by rote, but knew I shouldn’t. Kenny wouldn’t like them. Besides, I was Brian. Like I told Julia, Lisa, Melissa and everyone else, Jessica was temporary. I wanted to be Brian and Kenny, not Jessica and Kenny. I didn’t need the clothes. They were a prop until the wedding. Even still, it felt strange to leave everything in New York. No matter what I wanted to believe, they had become a part of me. I felt naked if I didn’t have make-up on. I felt short in anything less than a 3" heel. My legs felt constrained in pants. In short, I was a complete mess. So, I packed my breast forms. It just felt right. It made me feel whole and secure. Jeez, breasts making me feel secure. Could it get anymore Freudian? Anyway, about an hour after I finished packing, the phone rang. It was Lisa.
“Hey, Brian! I just wanted to call you before your trip!” she exclaimed.
“Thanks, I just finished packing up.”
“What are you bringing?” she said suggestively.
“What do you mean, what am I bringing? What, like whips and chains?”
She laughed. “Since 9/11, they won’t let you bring those. You know what I mean...who’s going?”
I sighed. “I knew what you meant and wasn’t going to respond. But, to answer your question, Brian is going.” A slight lie, I admit, but I really wasn’t interested in getting into it. She however was.
“Really?” she said, sounding let down.
“Did you expect a different answer?”
“I just thought...”
“Thought what? That I’d go as Jessica? We’ve covered this repeatedly. (A) Kenny made his feelings about Jessica abundantly clear, in your presence I might add and (B) I am not, repeat not, Jessica. I’m Brian. Prior to this, I was. I am currently Brian. After your wedding, I will still be Brian. That’s it.”
“Have you convinced yourself yet?”
“Basta, Lisa. Enough.”
“I just..never mind, let’s not leave this on a down note. Are you excited?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Why? You two had a great time on your date. At least, that’s what Kenny said.”
“One good date does not obviate his behavior, Lise. I mean, I saw his true colors that first night.”
“But, if you’re not into being Jessica, why does it matter?”
“Because why? Because you like being Jessica?”
“That’s not it. No.”
“Because he was so smug and self-righteous. It’s annoying when anyone does it. When some closet case does it, it’s like a thousand times worse.”
“So, why are you going then?”
“I don’t know. To see which Kenny is the real one? Day One Kenny or Date Kenny?”
“Just go with the flow. Enjoy the weekend and see where it goes. It’d make life easy for me if you two ended up together, but I just want what you want.”
“I really do, Bri. Just have a good time. Call me when you get there, so I know you’re OK.”
“OK, Mom.” I laughed.
“Shut up,” she mock protested. “I just don’t want to have to find someone else to be a bridesmaid. I don’t know any size 6s, you anorexic.”
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
“I hate you because you’re mental. Have a good time.”
“Thanks.” And I hung up. Then, the phone rang again. What do people have, radar? This time it was Adam. We had actually spoken a few times since the gym. He was a great guy. I only wished that I could be the woman he thought I was. No, scratch that. That’s not what I meant. Really. I meant that I could make him happy. That being me would make him happy. That’s what I meant.
“Jessica? Hi, it’s Adam.”
“Hey! I’m so glad you called,” I said, sincerely meaning it.
“Cool. Anyway, I wanted to call and wish you a good trip, and to firm up plans for when you get back.”
“Great. How about Wednesday? That’ll give me a chance to recover. What do you want? Remember it’s my treat.”
“I forgot. But, since you reminded me, Le Cirque is always nice. So’s Daniel.”
“Ha ha. Try again.”
“You like Turkish? There’s this place, Beyoglu, on like 82nd and 3rd looks interesting.”
“Sounds great. 7:30?”
“I’ll make the reservation. Do you want to meet there or at your place?”
“I’ll meet you here,” I said, giving the address.
“I can’t wait,” he said happily. “So, excited about the trip?”
“More so apprehensive.”
“Just nervous about what’s going to happen. You know, for all the reasons we’ve talked about.”
“So why are you going?”
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“Seems like a lot for some guy.”
“I know. I just feel something and want to see where it goes. I’m sorry, do you mind talking about this? I mean, you know, I mean, is it a problem?”
He laughed. “Don’t worry, Jess. I brought it up. We’re friends, remember? No, I’m not sitting here plotting Kenny’s demise so I can have you.”
“Well, that’s depressing,” I laughed. “Couldn’t you lie a little?”
“OK,” he laughed, “I must have you. And he shall rue taking you from me. That feel better?”
“Yes. Yes it does,” I laughed. “Anyway, I just don’t know what to do.”
“Go. Have a good time. If he’s an asshole, it’s one weekend and write him off. That’s what my dates do.”
“Stop it. You’re a...”
“I know. I know. A great guy. And I’ll find the right woman.”
“Sorry. It is true, though.”
“Thanks. Anyway, have a great trip. Bring me back a souvenir.”
“You got it. I’ll call you when I get back.” We hung up, and I felt all at once happy and sad. Happy because Adam was a really great guy. He was being a friend, with no agenda that I could discern. But sad because he was so open with me, while I was keeping this huge secret from him.
The next night, I went to the airport. It felt strange being dressed in khakis, a shirt and guy’s shoes. I felt like I was playing dress-up. Between that, no make-up and no boobs, I felt like a different person. I know this was who I really was, but it still felt strange. I felt like I was hiding something. I made a note NOT to talk about this with Julia. I had enough on my plate without needing her snide comments. I handed the desk agent my ticket and passport.
“YOU’RE Brian Rosen?” she said, in disbelief.
“Yes,” I said with exasperation. “Is there a problem?”
“No, it’s just that...well...you don’t look like a Brian.”
“What do I look like?” I said, with a touch of sarcasm. Probably not a great idea. She was probably putting me on an FBI watch list as I spoke. Still, I didn’t need her attitude to go with my mixed feelings.
“Never mind,” she said, “Whatever works for you, I say. Enjoy your flight, MR. Rosen.”
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing my ticket.
When I landed in Paris, the customs agent scanned my passport. “Brian Rosen,” he said, pronouncing it “Bree-Anne.”
“Purpose of your visit, Mademoiselle?”
I hesitated, on ‘Mademoiselle,’ but decided to let it go. “Visiting a friend.”
“Bienvenue,” he said, not lifting his head. “Enjoy your trip.” ‘Mademoiselle,’ I thought. This is going to be an interesting trip. Kenny met me as I left customs processing.
“Hey Skipper,” he said, brightly. He looked gorgeous. I remembered what attracted me in the first place.
“Hey Kenny.” Then we had that awkward moment gay men have when meeting a romantic partner in public. Straights can hug and kiss each other, while we’re left standing awkwardly. We gave each other a ‘man hug,’ when an older man said, “Kiss her you idiot. She travels across an ocean and you give her a hug.”
Kenny smiled. “You heard the man,” and he gave me a deep kiss and spun me around in the air.. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Me too,” I said, wondering why neither one of us felt the need to correct him. Maybe because we got to do what we could never do in public, except maybe in Chelsea or the Castro. Whatever. We did it and that’s what counted. We chatted about the flight and took a cab back to his place.
“So, what do you want to do today? It’s your choice,” he said, brightly.
“You don’t have to go to work?”
“I should be there, but I told them I had someone coming in. I’ll just be working 23 hour days next week.”
“I’m sorry. I can amuse myself if you need to work.”
He took my hand. I liked this confusion thing. “”I’m sure you could amuse yourself, but you’re only here for the weekend, so I want to spend as much time with you as I can. Besides, I have the Crackberry, if they really need me,” he said, holding up his Blackberry.
This felt good. He was being so nice. Maybe day one Kenny was just scared. “I want to see the Louvre addition. Otherwise, we can just hang around. Go all over. I’m in your hands,” I said, giving him a peck on the lips. I loved that I had to stand on tip-toes to do it. It felt so romantic.
He smiled. “My hands, huh? You’ll regret that, Skipper,” he said grabbing my ass. I think both of us were really enjoying this ‘public affection’ thing.
In the cab on the way back to his place, we fooled around. He nibbled my neck. I played with his thigh. Throughout, the cabbie didn’t bat an eyelash. I don’t know if it was because he thought I was a girl, or because he just didn’t care at all. I know, I know. I was giving in to this closet case. But it felt good. And Jessica was only temporary. That he got upset with her was irrelevant since she had a shelf life of June 25. He paid the driver and we went upstairs. “Voila,” he said, opening the door.
“Wow, nice place!” It was. Two bedrooms. A view of a park. Immaculately furnished, in a mid-century modern yet perfectly masculine style. A hell of lot better than the dump I lived in when I lived in Paris. While it didn’t have a park view, I did have the view of the back of a Moroccan restaurant. Nothing says Paris to me like rotting lamb and couscous. “I love the furniture.”
“It’s home,” he said offhandedly. “The bathroom’s over there, if you want to clean up.”
“Sounds great. Mind if I shower?”
“No problem. I’ll get you a towel.”
I decided to shower and change my clothes. The ones I was wearing were all wrinkled. I got in the shower and let the water run over me. I was soaping myself up, when suddenly I felt Kenny’s arms around me.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” I mock protested.
“You tell me,” he said, nibbling on my neck again. God, it felt good. “I just wanted to make sure you were getting all nice and clean.”
“Thank you for your concern,” I said, turning to face him. I took the soap in my hand and started soaping his chest. “It’s only fair that I do the same...mmmm, do you like this?” He moaned. Clearly, he did. I started soaping his cock. “Mmmm....somebody likes this.” Two somebodies, actually. I was also getting hard. I knelt and started to take him in my mouth.
“Stop,” he said. “Let’s take this to the bed.” He turned off the water, opened the door and scooped me up. He was really big on this. It made me feel strange. No one else had ever done this, and I had been with some big guys before. It felt good. I liked the feeling of powerlessness. But, still, it was kind of unusual. I leaned over and kissed him on the mouth. He threw me on the bed. “Last stop!” he said, laughing. I went to get on all fours. “Stop,” he said. “Get on your back.”
‘My back,’ I thought. ‘Where’s he going with this.’ We fooled around some more. God, he could kiss. I felt tingling all through my body. Then, something really strange happened. “Put your legs on my shoulders,” he commanded.
“If you say so,” I said, flirtatiously. “I mean, where could little old me go? You’re such a big guy. I’m at your mercy. Please don’t hurt me.” I congratulated myself. I now sounded more pathetic than ever. Like the world’s worst porn movie.
“Damn right,” he snarled. Or mock snarled. I really couldn’t tell. It was extremely off-putting. He pulled a tube of K-Y warming gel out of his night stand, and began lubing himself up. “Are you ready, bitch?” ‘Bitch?’ OK, someone needed some help. Big time. But, I forgot all about it as soon as he started penetrating me.
“Oh god!” I moaned. “That feels so good. Keep going. Keep going.” And he pumped harder and harder. “Yes, ohmigod. Don’t stop,” I said, arching my back and bucking my hips in rhythm with him. He and I came simultaneously, and he pulled out.
“Did you like that?” he asked, leaning over to kiss my stomach.
“What do you think?” I smiled.
“I thought you’d like it like that.”
‘Huh,’ I thought. ‘What does that mean?’ What I said was, “Oh, really? Quite full of yourself, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t hear any complaints,” he said, with a Cheshire Cat grin.
I leaned over and kissed him full on the mouth, “You’re lucky you’re so good, or else I wouldn’t put up with that.” What the hell was wrong with me? I sounded needy and pathetic. Not that he was listening to it. He was just, pardon the pun, eating it all up.
“I could stay here all day, but we really should get going,” he said, rolling over and getting up. “Let’s get dressed. Tell me where you want to go.”
I got up and went over to my suitcase, and started rifling through it. I found the breast forms, and made sure to quickly cover those before Kenny saw them. “I don’t know. Whatever you want.”
“Well,” he said, rolling his eyes, “we’ll hit the Louvre addition, so I don’t have to hear about it anymore, then we’ll just play it by ear, how about that?”
“Sounds great,” I said. “What’s the weather supposed to be?”
“Mid 50s. Take a sweater or jacket.”
“OK,” I said, rifling through my suitcase. I put on a baby blue Polo shirt and jeans. “How’s this? Too wrinkled.”
He smiled. “You look great Skipper. Did you bring a jacket?” ‘Skipper?’ I thought, ‘he’s a little too fixated on that.’
“Yeah, I’ve got a blue blazer in here. I hope it survived the flight.”
“Don’t worry about it. Worst comes to worst, I’ve got a portable clothes steamer.”
“A steamer?” I laughed. “You are soooo queer.”
“Oh really,” he laughed. “That’s high praise from a guy who wears a dress.”
“That’s temporary,” I shot back, a little too stridently. “The steamer’s forever, you homo.”
He picked me up and held me in the air. “Take it back,” he said, with a laugh.
“Put me down, you oaf!”
“No,” he said, coyly.
I started mock-pounding him with my fists. “You are in such trouble,” I said, unable to suppress the giggles.
“Oh please, you girl.”
“Girl, huh?” I said, flirtatiously. “Is that what you want? Jessica back?” I said, regretting it the minute I saw his eyes.
He put me down abruptly. “I thought that was temporary,” he said coldly.
“I was kidding,” I whimpered. “Come on, you know it is.”
“Is this how the weekend’s going to be? Because if it is, I can go.”
He slumped. “I’m sorry Brian. I was out of line.”
“So was I.”
He picked me up again. This was weird. “OK. Let’s just enjoy ourselves.”
“Fine. Just put me down, you ape.”
He grunted. “Last stop, bottom floor,” he said, emphasizing the word ‘bottom.’
I slapped his ass. “Don’t get too full of yourself, sweetie.”
He got out the steamer, and started steaming my blazer. “Wow,”I said. “Very good. If the law ever fails, you could be a dry cleaner.”
“I hear there’s a pressing need...”
“That’s awful,” I giggled. “Now I’m really going to go.”
The rest of the afternoon was wonderful. We went to the Louvre, we walked along the Seine, all the touristy stuff. We held hands and no one batted an eyelash. But, something still felt strange. As we walked along the Rue Fauborg St. Honore, I kept sneaking furtive glances at the shop windows. There were so many beautiful clothes, but I couldn’t even look at them, much less try them on. I wanted to be Brian, but still something was missing.
“Earth to Skipper, come in Skipper,” said Kenny, as I was daydreaming. Or day-nightmaring. One or the other, I don’t know which.
“Huh, what?” I said.
He laughed. “Penny for your thoughts.”
“Client stuff,” I lied. “Thinking about a project.”
He put his arms around me. “Let it go. I know it’s hard. But let’s just not think about work today, OK Skipper?” He said, giving me a great kiss.
“Wow. Aren’t you worried?” I whispered.
He smiled. “No one’s even looking, Skipper.”
“What’s with the Skipper stuff?” I asked.
“Does it bother you?” he said defensively.
“No, I just was wondering...”
“I just thought it was a good nickname for you,” he said, somewhat angrily. “I’ll stop.”
“It’s OK,” I said, a little too apologetically. Actually, it wasn’t OK. But I didn’t want to ruin this. What ‘this’ was was another issue entirely. But, I liked being liked. Or at least paid attention to. “I don’t mind at all. What should I call you?” I said.
“I don’t like to lie.”
“Ha ha. I haven’t heard any complaints.”
“Would it matter?” I said, grabbing his ass.
“Not really, no,” he said, lifting me in the air. Between this and Skipper, I really wondered about him.
“I’ve got it! You already have your nickname. If I’m Skipper, you must be Ken! Can I dress you up and play with you?” I said, nibbling his ear and playing with his crotch.
“Bad Skipper,” he said, spanking my ass and laughing. I still felt like shit though. I was sitting here flirting pathetically with this closet case who treated me like crap. Julia would tell me just to go, and I should have. But I didn’t. Instead, we walked around some more and went for an early dinner. Once again, the waiter called me ‘Mademoiselle,’ and he said nothing. I overheard a woman look at me and say to her husband, “American women don’t know how to dress. Look at her. Pants and a men’s shirt. She should be in a skirt.” When her husband looked me up and down and said, “With those legs? Of course, she should,” I felt great. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to wear a fitted knit jersey dress with 3" heels and turn every man’s head. But I couldn’t. I knew it was better to me with Kenny than Jessica alone. But I just couldn’t get her out of my head.
The next morning, Kenny woke up about 8:00 AM. I woke up fifteen minutes later to see him getting dressed in a soccer jersey and shorts.
“Hey, where are you going?” I said groggily.
“Go back to sleep,” he said, giving me a peck. “I’ve got a soccer game. I’ll be back by 11.”
“Wait,” I said, getting up. “Let me get dressed. I want to see you play.”
“You don’t have to...”
“I know,” I said. “But I want to. It’ll be fun.”
“If you get bored, you can leave.”
“Thanks for that optimistic outlook,” I said, heading into the bathroom. “Let me wash up and get dressed. Give me fifteen minutes?”
“Sure,” he said. “I’m going to make myself some coffee. You want any?”
“Sounds great,” I said, washing my face and brushing my teeth. I went to get dressed and saw the breast forms. I don’t know what possessed me, but I glued them on. ‘Oh shit,’ I thought. ‘Now what, genius?’ Well, necessity is the mother of invention and this was necessity at its finest. “Kenny,” I yelled. “Do you have a sweatshirt I could borrow?”
“Sure, second drawer.”
I took out an NYU law sweatshirt. It was perfect. It was a XXL, and it smelled like him. I put it on. With my shorts, I looked like every sorority girl at college, wearing her boyfriend’s too big sweatshirt. Even better, it covered my boobs.
“Let’s go,” I said, taking the coffee.
“You look adorable,” he said quizically. “Nice outfit.”
“I’m just going to watch you play soccer. Is this a formal game? Should I put on a tie?”
“Relax. I’m just kidding.”
We went to a local park and he went off to play. I was standing alone, when a woman came over to me. “Not very interesting, no?”
“It’s not so bad.”
“You’re new. It gets old quickly. Catherine,” she said, holding out her hand. She was about 5'7", 125 lbs with brown hair and emerald green eyes. She was the picture of understated elegance and femininity. And clearly French. I knew not only by the accent, but by her clothes She was wearing a green sweater, black wool pants and 2" heels. No American woman would be dressed that way on a Saturday morning. And no French woman would be caught dead in a sweatshirt and shorts. Even to watch her boyfriend play soccer. I felt embarrassed by my outfit.
“Brian,” I said.
“Unusual. Family name?”
“Something like that,” I lied.
“You must be here with Kenny.”
“Actually, yes. How did you know?”
“The NYU Law sweatshirt. Plus, everyone else’s girlfriends have stopped coming.”
“Why are you here then?”
She laughed. “Good question. Actually, I do it for Henri. He likes when I’m here. So I come. I’m surprised to see you.”
“I always assumed Kenny was gay.”
I nearly spat out my coffee. “What?”
“He’s never with a woman. He’s too fastidious for an American. I just thought...nothing personal, it doesn’t bother anyone.”
“Anyone? Who else thinks it?”
“Everyone. Well, everyone’s girlfriends and wives.”
“Huh,” I said. Deep down, I was laughing hysterically. “That’s interesting.”
“Well, anyway, I can’t believe you came. Did he make you?”
“No, I volunteered.”
“Do you live here?”
“No, in New York. I’m just visiting for the weekend.”
“And you came to watch him play soccer. New romance is an amazing thing,” she laughed.
“Something like that,” I laughed. “Besides, it’s not like anything’s open yet. So I figured I’d watch him.” He went to head the ball into the goal and missed it entirely. “He’s not very good, is he?” I asked.
“I think you make him nervous. He’s usually fairly good, for an American. What are you doing for the rest of today?”
“We figured we’d play it by ear. Why?”
“No offense, but interesting outfit.”
“It is 8:15 in the morning,” I protested. “Besides,” I lied. “My luggage is missing. All I had was what was in my carry-on, and this sweatshirt.” I have no idea why I got defensive. Or why I lied. It just came viscerally. Which was frightening.
“Ah,” she said. “Do you need to go shopping, or do you plan to wear that all weekend?”
“I wasn’t planning on wearing much all weekend,” I said slyly.
She rolled her eyes. “New romance again. You will have to eat, you know, and we don’t have delivery here. Besides, they usually go out after the game. Do you want to join them or would you like to go shopping?”
My heart leapt. I knew just the stores I’d want to hit. But, then, I remembered. Kenny would have a fit. Besides, I was Brian. Not Jessica. Brian. I felt nauseous. “Let me check with Kenny. I mean we only have two days together.”
“Of course,” she said. “I understand.”
We watched the game for another hour or so, and talked. She was an official in the Economics Ministry, specializing in relations with the former French colonies. She and Henri had been married for four years. They had no children, and as she said, “I don’t know that I want any. The world is overcrowded and, besides, I like my life. What about you?”
“It’s a bit premature,” I said. “We’ve just met each other. Besides, I work crazy hours,” I semi-lied. I also left out the fact that I was (a) gay and (b) a guy. But, these are petty details.
“Ah,” she said, as Henri and Kenny came over. “Henri, this is Brian. Brian, Henri.”
He took my hand and, if as to play up the stereotype, kissed it and said, “Enchante, mademoiselle.”
Kenny made fake barfing noises, “Having fun, Henri?” he said with a laugh. I noticed he didn’t correct him for ‘mademoiselle,’ though.
“Ah, Kenny, the curable romantic,” Henri said. “Are you enjoying the game? I can’t believe Kenny dragged you out here.”
I laughed. “The game’s really good, other than Kenny’s “header.” Also, he didn’t drag me. I offered.”
Catherine smiled. “New romance,” she sighed. “Anyway, I told Brian how you go out after the game, and I offered to take her shopping. Her luggage is lost, so she needs some new clothes.” Kenny raised an eyebrow, but again said nothing.
“Do you mind, Kenny?”
He shuffled uneasily. “Uh, no. Not at all, if that’s what you want. I mean, I’d like to spend as much time together...”
“Nonsense,” said Catherine. “I’m not kidnapping her, just going shopping. We’ll meet you at the bar at 2:30 P.M. That will give you plenty of time together. Besides, it saves you from getting dragged to the shops, no?”
“I suppose.” He looked extremely uncomfortable. I understood. I didn’t help. I mean, I could’ve said I was a guy at any point during this. But I didn’t. But, the, neither did he. I mean, I wasn’t going to out him to his friends. If he wanted to be closeted, it wasn’t my place to fix things. Right?
“Then, it’s settled. Come on Brian, we’ll get started. Do you want to go like that, or would you prefer to wear something more..ah..appropriate.”
“Uh, whatever you think,” I said, looking at Kenny. His face was now impassive. I was scared. But, if he wanted, he could’ve stopped this at any time. So, if he wasn’t going to, I wouldn’t either.
“You’re about my size. American 6?”
“We live two avenues away. I’ll lend you something.”
“Uh, thanks. You sure you’re OK with this, Kenny?”
“Please, don’t worry, Skipper,” he said, with a nauseous smile. “See you at 2:30. Have a good time.”
I kissed him on the lips. “See you at 2:30.”
Catherine and I walked to her apartment and went into her bedroom. “Take a look in the closet. Wear whatever you want.” I opened her closet, and I was in love. Rows of beautiful skirts, dresses and slacks. Not a single sweatshirt or pair of sweats. And the shoes were beautiful. Only two or three pairs of flats. She dressed the way women should dress. Stylish, feminine. Perfect.
“You have immaculate taste,” I called to her.
“Merci,” she said. “Pick something. Let’s get going.”
I picked out a blue and white floral print skirt that came about mid-calf and a baby blue sweater. I looked in the mirror and loved what I saw. I knew, though, that Kenny would be disgusted. And then I felt worse. I mean, I wasn’t Jessica. I was Brian. I wanted to be Brian. With Kenny. And this was the ultimate act of sabotage. But, yet, I felt comfortable too. I was a mess. Julia was going to have a field day.
Catherine came in. “Beautiful. Now you look right. Why cover yourself up with sweatshirts and shorts? Show what you have.”
I blushed. “Thank you.”
“Please,” she said. “You look good. Use it to your advantage.”
“True. Well, lead on, Madame.”
We spent the next several hours shopping. I bought everything from top to bottom. Dresses, skirts, shoes, lingerie. Everything, well everything except pants or anything remotely masculine. I heard Julia’s voice the entire time (“Isn’t that interesting? No pants or even man-tailored shirts. Just dresses, skirts and heels. But, Jessica is only temporary?”), but it wasn’t that. It’s just that Catherine said that I had such a gorgeous figure, I had to dress Parisian not “like some frumpy American housewife,”and I felt it rude to insult her. Yep, that’s it.
Anyway, in Galeries Lafayette just before we had to go meet Kenny and Henri, I saw the most gorgeous sundress. A white bodice with a black and white print mid-calf skirt. I tried it on and it was just perfect. I looked stunning. I decided to wear it out, with a pair of black 3" heels I had just bought.
“Perfect,” said Catherine with a whistle, as I left the dressing room. “Perhaps, I should call ahead and tell Kenny to meet you somewhere. I don’t want to lose Henri.”
I laughed. “Please, compared to you, I’m the ugly duckling. I should have half your style.”
“Ah, style can be learned. Legs can’t. And you have the style. You just need to stop thinking like an American.”
“Fine,” I said with a grin. “Merci. Besides, you needn’t worry about me. Kenny’s enough.”
She half-smiled. “If you say so. Let’s go.”
When we walked into the bar, Henri looked at me and laughed. “My god, look at all those packages. Kenny, you’re lucky she’s just your girlfriend. I mean, she’s beautiful, but with spending like that, you’d be in the poorhouse.”
Kenny just looked me up and down. “Nice outfit,” he said, non-committally.
“What?” I said, under my breath.
“Nothing,”he snarled back.
“Let’s just play this out until it’s time to go.”
Kenny, like all good lawyers, was also a good liar. We spent another a couple of hours with Catherine and Henri, laughing and joking like any normal couple. At about 5 PM, Kenny said, “This has been fun, but I would like some time alone with Brian, so if you don’t mind...”
“New romance,” said Catherine, with a grin. “Try to stop and eat at some point, to keep up your strength.”
“Catherine,” I blushed.
Henri laughed. “Perhaps, we should follow suit? This is one time it would be useful to follow the Americans,” he said, with a leer.
She ignored him. “Please give me your phone number. Next time, I’m in New York...”
I wrote it on a napkin. “I’d love that,” and we kissed on both cheeks. It’s funny. I always thought that was just a TV French thing. Like wearing berets and striped shirts, or riding a bike with a baguette in the basket.
Kenny said nothing in the cab on the way back. We walked in the door and said, “It’s 5:30. Get that off and we can return it.”
“The afternoon’s over. You don’t need to do that anymore. So, we’ll take it back. Get your money back.”
“You heard me. We’ll return it.”
“You know why.”
“No, I don’t. Please clarify, counselor.”
“Real fucking funny, Brian. The day is done. Take that shit off.”
“The day is done, huh? It served its purpose, so let’s take it back.”
“What did you say?”
“You heard me. It served its purpose. I was your “girlfriend” when it suited you, but now it’s done so it goes back.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t work for you. You know what I mean. You could’ve stopped this at any point and told them. But you didn’t.”
“You didn’t either.”
“It’s not my job to out you. Besides, you know what, I’m comfortable with who I am. Can you say the same?”
“Look,” he snarled. “Just take it off...”
“Just take that shit off,” he said, clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Are you going to hit me, you prick. Real fucking tough. You have what, eight inches on me? Or are you hitting yourself, because you’re a piece of shit closet case who can’t deal.”
He kept clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Come on. Try it, big shot. Take one shot and I’ll call the cops. Big fucking tough guy.”
“The cops will laugh at you. Little fucking drag queen gets beat up and you think they care?”
“You think they’ll see a drag queen? Take a look, you pathetic piece of shit. They’ll drag you off. So, try it. Try and hit me. Big macho asshole.”
He blanched. and dropped his hands to his sides “Sorry, but take that shit off.”
“I knew it. Drag queen.”
“Closet case, and...” I almost told him that everyone thought he was gay, but quite frankly, I didn’t want to put Catherine in an awkward position later on. “From the airport forward, you could’ve told everyone I was a guy. Hell, from our first date forward. But you didn’t. Instead, you reveled in the mistake. Every time someone said ‘mademoiselle.” or used ‘she’ or ‘her’ for me, you didn’t say a word. But, now, behind closed doors, you’re mister big shot. Fuck you.”
“Are you through? You told me that you were just doing this for the wedding. But, my, my, my. Look at all the clothes you bought. Donating it to charity, Tinkerbelle?”
“I’ll wear whatever the fuck I want. You know what, I knew this trip was a mistake. You showed me who you were the first night, you piece of shit. I hope you enjoy the rest of your life picking up rough trade, you scumbag. Maybe one day you’ll grow up.” With that, I went it to the bedroom and packed up my things. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” he smirked. “Where are you going to stay,”
“Let’s get something straight, Kenneth,” I said, lisping exaggeratedly. “I make more than you. I can afford any room in this city. So don’t worry about me. Go find someone in the park to fuck. Someone where you don’t have to worry about actually behaving like an adult.”
“Brian..” he said.
“No, Kenny. Fuck you. And do me a favor, lose my number.”
“Fine,” and I slammed the door. I found a cab at the cab stand, and went to stay at the Crillon. Extremely pricey, but I had to prove that I could to Kenny, even if he wasn’t there. Besides, it was one night. I was crying at the check-in desk.
“What’s wrong, Mademoiselle?” asked the clerk.
“Nothing,” I sniffled. “Just...never mind.”
“They are all pigs,” she smiled. “Give them foie gras and they want hamburger.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
“Room 413, enjoy your night.”
I got upstairs, and wanted to call someone. I started to dial Lisa, but stopped. I felt like this was somehow her fault. I don’t know exactly why. She had no idea Kenny was going to be like this. But I wouldn’t be here, across an ocean if it wasn’t for her. I wouldn’t be in a dress and heels either. I just felt like she would have nothing useful to say. So I called Adam.
“Hi Adam, it’s Br..Jessica.” Close call. “Is this a bad time?”
“No, I was just going out to go food shopping. Life on the edge. What happened?”
“What makes you say that?”
“You’re in Paris. If everything was good, I have to imagine you wouldn’t be calling.”
“Nothing. I mean I don’t want to bother you.”
“It’s no bother. Besides, one day,” he said, doing the world’s worst Brando imitation, “there will come a day when I need a favor...I’ll call you with a problem and then you’ll have to listen. So, I’m not being nice. I’m merely accumulating debt.”
I laughed. “Don’t quit your day job. So, collecting debts, huh?”
“Just tell me.”
I then told him the whole story. Well, obviously, not the whole story. I mean, I left out the whole ‘I’m a guy, dressed like a girl’ part. I just said he acted like an asshole in private about things he laughed about in public. And then I told him about the fists.
“What?” he said angrily. “He did what?”
“He didn’t do anything. It was just a gesture.”
“That piece of shit. You don’t even threaten that shit. I’ll fly there and fucking kill him. Let’s see him try it with a guy.” You don’t even know the half of it, I thought.
“Calm down. I left. I’m at the Crillon, and he can go fuck himself.”
“Damn right, he can. What kind of jackass gives up someone like you?”
“I’m blushing. Stop it.”
“It’s just,” he stammered. “I just don’t see that you did anything so awful.”
“What are you going to do about the wedding?”
“Nothing I can do. Besides, I walk down the aisle with him, smile in some pictures and that’s it. I can do that for Lisa.”
“You’re a hell of a friend. Most women I know would drop out.”
“You don’t ditch 16 years because of some prick.”
“Mature of you. I’d be out of there.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You think you would, but you’re too good a guy to do that to a friend.”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s my lot in life.”
“Stop it. When I get back, we’re getting you a girlfriend.”
He laughed. “Good luck.”
“Stop it, Adam. You’re a great guy.”
“Thank you,” he said. “And you’re great. Someone’s going to snatch you up. I’d offer my friends, but I want to stay friends with you.”
“Thanks. I feel much better.”
“Now, I’m blushing. I’ll see you Monday.”
“I can’t wait.”
I ordered room service. I feared the bill, but wasn’t in the mood to go out. When the waiter delivered the food, he looked me up and down, like he couldn’t figure out why I was alone. I smiled and gave him a good tip. I don’t know why, but I decided to try on all my new clothes. I know, I know. For someone who was only doing this as a favor, I was sure having a good time. I put on my little plaid skirt, Mary Janes and white shirt, with my black lace bra peeking through. I started making suggestive poses in the mirror. I honestly don’t know why I bought it, except that Catherine pushed.
When she proposed it, I rolled my eyes. “Isn’t this a little tacky?”
She laughed. “Of course, it is. But all men love it. I think they all want to fuck Catholic school girls.”
“I’m Jewish,” I laughed.
“Trust me. Kenny will love it.” ‘I doubt that,’ I thought.
I was trying on a blue shift, with blue 3" heels, when my phone rang. It was Lisa.
“Where are you?” she yelled. “I was worried.”
“Hello to you too.” I said calmly.
“Where are you?”
“In a hotel.”
“Why? You obviously found me.”
“Kenny can go fuck himself. In fact, I think that’s the only thing that would make him happy.”
“Come on. What happened?”
“Nothing. I wasted money on plane tickets and, now, a hotel. He’s an asshole, like I initially thought. That’s it.”
“Something happened for you to leave. He said you two had a fight. That you lied.”
“I didn’t do shit.”
“Then, why did he say you did? Tell me, so I know who to believe.”
“What?” I said flatly. “Excuse me...who to believe?”
“You misinterpreted what I said.”
“I imagine I didn’t. You’re going to believe him over me. Your quote ‘best friend of sixteen years,’ unquote. Versus a guy you saw treat me like shit. Nice to know where I stand.”
“That’s not what I meant. I just, I mean...”
“I know what you mean. This is all your fault.”
“Bri,” she started, whimpering.
“Let’s end this conversation now, Lise. Before it gets uglier.”
“Bri, please. I apologize.”
“Whatever,” I said, hanging up.
I laid on the bed and stared at the ceiling. What the hell was going on in my life? I have one psycho who treats me like shit, who I knew treated me like shit when I flew six hours to see him. I had another guy, who was great but would lose it if he found out I had a penis. I was sitting a blue dress an ocean away from someone who I thought was my best friend. I was a real prize. I was reveling in my self-loathing, when the phone rang. Guess who?
“Hello,” I said tentatively.
“I’m getting a little tired of this, Brian.”
“Let me ask you a question. What do I do for a living?”
“You’re an architect. Why do you ask?”
“Do you know why I became an architect, and not a pyschiatrist?”
“Because I don’t like dealing with emotional crises. Tell me what happened, so I can decide which fag’s ass I’m going to kick. I want to watch the Yankees and I can’t because of you and Kenny.”
“You should be thankful I’m sparing you from the Yankees.”
“I’m not in the mood. What happened?”
I started with the airport, and ‘kiss her, you idiot.’ “So, he doesn’t say anything...”
“Did you expect him to say this is my boyfriend?”
“OK. Can I get the Cliffs’ Notes version of this? Not that it’s not interesting...”
“I understand totally,” so I told him about the waiters, Catherine, everything...
“Again, were you expecting something different? Besides, you didn’t say anything...”
“I’m supposed to out him? C’mon, Jim, I expect more from you.”
He laughed. “As well you should. So, how do you end up in a hotel?”
I told him about what happened in the apartment.
“Take that shit off, huh?” he laughed. “You don’t know him, but that’s classic Kenny.”
“Uses a situation to his advantage, then shifts when it doesn’t anymore and wonders why everyone didn’t know the game had changed.”
“Thanks for setting me up with him.”
“Lisa did that. Blame her. Oh, wait, you did. Which brings me back to the initial reason for this call.”
“I’m not finished. When I wouldn’t do what he said, he started clenching his fists...”
“What? That is not cool. No women. No weaker guys. Prick. This will be taken care of.”
“Thank you. Don’t ruin your friendship for me.”
“Whatever. You still haven’t told me why Lisa’s all bent.”
“Did she tell you what she said? She said, and I quote, ‘tell me what happened, so I know who to believe.”
“Whoa is right. I’m pissed.”
“If you ever repeat this, I’ll kill you. But you’re right. You know that’s not how she meant it.”
“I know. I’m not apologizing though.”
“Think about it. For my sake. You owe me one. Or several.”
“I know, Jim. You’ve been incredibly patient throughout this.”
“Don’t get arrogant.”
“It ain’t arrogance, if you can back it up.” We both laughed. “Can I ask you a question? Why are you there? ”
“No, it’s not. You want to know why?”
“Why, I ask with trepidation?”
“Because you’re an idiot.”
“Thanks a lot. I shouldn’t ask why, but explain.”
“He treats you like shit here, so you go out with him. Which is bad enough. Then you fly there, on your own dime, which is exponentially more stupid. So, unless there’s some fucked up gay shit I don’t want to know about, you are an idiot. Case closed.”
“You’re a putz, Jim. You know that, right?”
“I do. But that doesn’t make me any less right. One last question...”
“Don’t you want to watch the Yankees?”
“I am. Besides, it’s the fourth inning. I’m fine. Anyway, you keep saying this is temporary. But, you seem to be getting more into it, am I wrong? I mean, buying all the clothes is not a temporary act.”
“Whatever works for you. I don’t care. You need to think about that.”
“If I was your shrink, you’d be cured,” he laughed.
“It doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, it’d be fixed.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Now, back to the last and worst topic, Lisa. You can’t hang up on her.”
“She doubted me over Kenny, after everything.”
“She didn’t doubt you. She was just confused. You know her, she’s a romantic.”
“She keeps thinking you two will work this out.”
“You and Kenny.”
“I don’t think so.”
“I hope not. If you two hook up again, I don’t want to hear it. Fucking crazy butt monkeys.”
“You want in?” I laughed.
“Not likely, although I know why you want it. If I’m switching teams, it’s not for either of you. Anyway, that’s not what she meant.”
“Lately I don’t know what she means.”
“Me either. But, she’s freaking out again. She loves you.”
“She has a weird way of showing it.”
“Maybe, but she didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know,” he sighed. “But make this up with her when you get back. I need peace in my life, and this is not working.”
“I’ll do it for you.”
“You need some hope, what with the Yankees and all.”
“The bet still stands, Fifi.”
“Freak,” I said, laughing.
“Homo,” he said, “just take care of this. Besides, I can’t have my French maids all pissed at each other. You’ll drop drinks.”
“You were my first love...”I began singing.
“Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Are you sure you’re gay?”
“You’re welcome. Just fix this. I drop fifteen gs on a ring, and all I have to show for it is grief.”
“Me too. I’ll do what I can.” And we both hung up. I started to dial Lisa, but decided to hold off until I got back. Sometimes, you need to see someone’s face to understand what they’re thinking. All I knew was I didn’t know anything.
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