“He’s a married man.” my confidant started. “Not a huge obstacle, but it’s the first thing you get told if you try to sit with him. He’s turned down every man who’s made a play for him and most of us don’t even try anymore. He’s been using that table three times a week for the past three years, he sits, he drinks, he watches the show (a stage, currently bare, was at one end of the bar) and he leaves.”
“One time, I actually saw him crying.” another man at the table put in. “While he was leaving.”
“A total closet case.” my man (well, the guy I’d come to talk to) concludes. “So honey, if you’re on the hunt, pick yourself another duck to give the goose.”
I stood. “Actually, I think I’ll try to talk to the guy myself.” I said.
“If anyone can land him, it’ll be you.” the man eyed my body appreciatively.
“He’ll never make it.” The man who’d spotted Eric crying challenged. “Five dollars says Blond Bomber gets shot down like everyone else."
My man looked at me and something in my eyes told him the odds were in his favor. “I’ll take you on that. Go get him, cutie.”
“Wish me luck.” and I moved off to Eric’s table.
He looked up and saw me and blanched. “Gary!”
“Relax.” I said. “I won’t say a thing to Sally.”
He gestured to me to sit down and I did. “What are you doing here?”
“I could say hunting for a date.” I admitted. “But that would be a lie. The real reason I’m here is that Sally asked me to check on you.” I forestalled the question behind his lips. “No, not to see if you’re cheating on her. Just see if you wanted to stay married to her. I’m told you just come here to sit and drink. Is that why?”
“Yes. No.” Eric made a face, sighed. “It’s kind of complicated.”
“I got time to listen.” I lifted the full glass of wine they’d just brought me at our table. Set it down untouched, I don’t drink, it was decorative only.
“You know I met Sally in college.” Eric began. I nodded, and he said, “What you don’t know is what I learned when I hit my final year.”
I cocked my head on one side in lieu of an “uh-huh” or such.
“If you want to get ahead in the corporate world, you have to be married.” Eric declared. “You can find and point to unmarried corporate successes, but in every case, you’ll find they started a small business and built their own major corporation from there. If you want to join an established corporation and get ahead, you have to be married.”
I couldn’t deny it, my family’s corporation heads were all chosen from family, but the structure otherwise had that unmentioned point on any executive above the first two layers, an established, reliable family man (or woman) was required for any job.
“So I met Sally and I could see that I could get her and so I married her.” Eric tossed back his drink (he was taking shots of whiskey) and signaled for another. “At first, things were good, I didn’t have to pretend to be in love with her, Sally’s a terrific girl. Then our first child came.”
“And suddenly you weren’t her first love anymore?” I nodded understanding.
“Not that clear. Sally was a wife and a mother and I was a husband and a father and then the second child came and we were a real family. You can hold a woman, pretend she’s a man, and make love to her, when it’s just the two of you. Suddenly, I couldn’t shut out everything that told me out loud and over and over that she was not a man, not what I wanted, not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sally and I love our children, just...not that way.”
Eric got his second drink and it went down just as quickly. To my relief, he didn’t order a third. If it was his third and not his fourth. “So what do I do? I can’t hurt Sally, hurt my kids, with a scandal, and with another guy! I’d lose my family, lose my career, lose my future, everything I care about and have worked for, for the last twelve years or more, all of it gone. But I’m trapped by those same things, blocked off from the one thing I really want, the one core fact of my existence.”
“Sally would understand.” I said to him. “She’s a terrific person, really. You just have to talk to her, tell her what you told me.”
Eric cocked an eyebrow my way. “You know Sally as well as I do. You tell me. Would she stay with a man who only wants to have sex with another man?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” I admitted. “But you have one other card to play here.”
“The family wants you to stay with her.”
Eric wasn’t surprised by this. “So that’s it. You came out here to make sure Sally and I stay together.”
“Not entirely.” I admitted. “I was traveling and available and Grandpa asked me to look into things while I was traveling, make sure the family is staying together. A divorce could be nasty on several levels, after all. Sally asked me just to find out if you wanted to stay married to her. Nothing else.”
“So I’ll stay married to her, to keep my job with your family corporation. Sure.” Eric signaled for another drink. “So your job here is done. You can move on down to the next town on the list, protecting your family fortunes.”
When he got the drink (the bartender seemed to anticipate him, have his drinks ready at a second’s notice) and lifted it to his lips, he sloshed it, over half the shot went onto his shirt.
“I think you and I have had enough.” I said to him. “If you’ll give me your car keys, I’ll give you my glass of wine.” I hadn’t touched it, it was decorative only, I don’t drink at all.
“Forget it.” Eric stood up, swaying. “You can drive me home.”
“We’ll take your car.” I said. “I can call the rental company and ask them to come pick up mine.”
I had to help Eric keep his feet on the walk to his car. He’d drunk more than I’d thought, that or he had a very limited capacity for alcohol. Which also didn’t jibe with him hanging out in a bar. He must have spent his time just sitting there, looking around, at all the beautiful men he couldn’t ever, ever have.
I got him back to the house and into his bed and went back to my own. I’d done my duty here, I could move on down the road. This marriage was a train-wreck, but as long as the family stayed together, my job was done. So why was I having such a hell of a time getting to sleep?
But sleep I finally did, to wake up about ten a.m. the next day. Nothing too surprising about sleeping until ten on a Saturday morning. But the reason I woke up was that Eric was crawling into bed with me! Stark naked!
“Eric?” I said, trying to keep my eyes away from that dark patch at his crotch, the dong dangling from it like a tasty, browned bratwurst.
“To stay in my job, I have to stay married to a member of your family, right?”
Had I admitted that last night? It was a secret! “Right.” I said in lieu of a silence that would have said the same thing.
“Does it say anything about which member of the family?” Eric snuggled in next to me and lowered the covers over both of us. “Or does it have a rule that says I can’t run in a substitution among the members of the family, without losing my position.”
His lips were reaching for mine. I just had enough time to say, “No rule I know of.” before those lips closed upon mine and I got kissed. Long, slow and passionate. I was getting all the sexual need of a man who had been denying himself for at least a decade. It left me more than a bit breathless, but when he let go, I managed to gasp out, “Eric, talk with Sally. Our family really wants to keep you right where you are, you know.”
“What about you? What do you want?”
“I want you right where you are, too.” I said and this time I reached to kiss him, and he rolled to bring his body up on top of mine. I felt that dong of his, hardened now, pressing against my crotch and my only regret was that I had on my briefs, that prevented it from nuzzling right up against my own manhood.
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