Young jock offers oral sex for magazine subscription

The fourth of a four-part blog series on Bridge Across the Ocean, Randy Boyd’s second novel and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Best Small Press Title.

The cover of my second novel Bridge Across the Ocean reads: one black gay man, two straight white boys, three lives forever changed. The story was inspired by my platonic friendship with two teenage brothers during my “getaway from AIDS” vacation in Cancun in 1988.

The trip turned out to be anything but a getaway, what with coping with a death sentence, my attraction to a heterosexual minor, and my serving as the introduction to black people, gay people and people with HIV/AIDS for two straight white teenage brothers out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Yep, the movie in my mind was rolling from the moment I knew what I had gotten myself into …

Another boy, another bridge

However, the cameras in my brain were not rolling one quiet September afternoon in 2004. The storyteller was on break. Time for lunch and some All My Children. I had just sat down in front of the tube, plate of juicy burgers in one hand, remote in the other … when there was a knock on the door.

Bridge Across the Ocean @ 20

The solicitor was too gorgeous to simply dismiss. I think it was the eyes, hopeful and radiant. He was a young white man in his early twenties with a body by sports. He lit up when he saw me. I lit up when I saw him light up at the sight of me.

Still, lunch and Erica Kane were waiting. She was up to something that held my interest. But so did the young man at the door. The soaps could wait. The burgers could cool.

I stepped outside and listened to the young man’s pitch about magazine subscriptions I knew I’d never buy. Did I listen? Or did I simply gaze into his eyes, soaking up the light emanating from his youthful core?

The security guard inside my brain was distracted from his responsibilities. Next thing I knew, the young man and I had agreed that he might as well come inside my house, where it would be easier to finalize my new subscription to ESPN the Magazine. The justification department’s verdict: hey, I’m a writer about homos in sports. This is money put to good use.

He sat at the computer desk in my living room and we chatted as he wrote out the receipt. He told me he was 21 years-old, played soccer and had a girlfriend.

“What do you do?” he got around to asking, eyes fixed on the monitor in front of him. On the screen was a mockup of an early draft of the book cover for Walt Loves the Bearcat. The graphics were crude, but he could tell the subject was football.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“I wanna read it,” he said eagerly. I told him it was only a work-in-progress, which brought up the subject of my other novels. My books are like my kids, so I proceeded to tell this curious, 21-year-old kid about my offspring: my novels based on my dreams as a black man who is also a lover of men.

Did he flinch? Not so much. Run? Nope. He held his ground, well, except for swinging side to side in my office chair.

“Oh, yeah?” he said, casual but anxious. “I’m bi.”

“Oh, really?” Cut to the life of a 42 year-old black man blurring into a Matrix-like sequence of slow motion chaos in his head.

“I like sucking off black guys,” mouths the white kid, his voice deeper than deep, his words drawn out.

“You do?” mouths the black man. Images swirl inside his head, flashes of a future with a cool young friend, perhaps with benefits this time!

The black man’s brain begins speaking of hanging out together, beers, sports, being buds! But the kid is more focused on the present. Kids live for the Now, especially in Matrix-like sequences.

“Cool,” mouths the white kid, then laughs and imagines: “my dad would go crazy if he knew I was hanging out with a 40-something-year-old black man.”

Somehow, we make our way back to the subject of my books. To escape the Matrix-like mind fuck …

… I disappeared to another part of the house, to catch my breath … steady my nerves and retrieve a copy of Bridge Across the Ocean. When I returned to the living room, the world was once again running at normal speed and the young white jock boy salesman was still seated at my desk.

Bridge Across the Ocean

“That looks like me!” were his first words when he saw the cover of Bridge Across the Ocean. He was pointing to the artist’s rendering of the fictional teenager Rob on the warm sandy beaches of Cancun. He was right. The boy on the book cover had materialized and was sitting at my desk. Rob, Jr.

We were too astonished to truly appreciate the moment.

After all, this was a boy who had magazines to sell. And more than just my one little subscription. That was chump change. What he really needed was a bigger deal. More subscriptions meant more reward for him. He explained all this while eyeing his likeness on my book cover. Shortly thereafter, he offered to suck my dick if I agreed to the bigger subscription deal, leading to his bigger reward from his employer.

But I thought having an intelligent older black man for a friend was the bigger reward.

Sex for subscriptions is not a deal I’d make or take. I tried to have a discussion with him about ethics. He turned it into a debate. Scamming his employer and sucking my dick for profit didn’t seem to bother him at all.

However, this kid’s indecent proposal bothered me, all the more because he was an impressionable young soul. I imagined basking in his sunlight, not stealing it. I envisioned being a cool-older-bro type, not an enabler to a lesser version of himself. And we hadn’t even broached the subject of HIV/AIDS and safe sex, which was possible between us, not today, but perhaps sometime in the future, when we’re better—

He was still sitting at my desk, waiting for an answer: blow job for bigger subscription, deal or no deal, sir?

I looked him in the eye and told him I was HIV-positive. I had envisioned teaching him about safe sex, for his own sake, but life turned into a blurry dream again.

I can only remember the fear in his eyes. It was the same kind of fear I saw in people’s eyes in the 90s when I told them I was positive, the kind of fear that reads: I could have made a horrible mistake, getting to know you better.

The offer to suck my dick was never revisited. Ditto for any talk about hanging out, watching sports and being friends. We talked a bit more, but it was getting late. He had to get to soccer practice after all. Plus, his policeman father would be wondering where he was, the same dad who “would go crazy if he knew I was hanging out with a 40-something-year-old black man.”

I made a different deal with my highly-efficient young salesman that day. I went along with his scam for his bigger reward (subscribe, then cancel), but only if he agreed to read a complimentary copy of Bridge Across the Ocean. At the very least, I dreamed of him learning what the young boys in the book learned about a black gay man living with AIDS.

The young salesman said he planned to read the book regardless of the deal. He also said he’d call me sometime and we’d hang out, even gave me a cell number. Then he said he was really, really running late now. I wanted to believe that was the only reason for his nervousness and rush to get out of my home.

I never heard from Rob, Jr., and yet, I still feel as if I failed him, and therefore, myself. He charmed me into scamming his employer, and in doing so, I failed to live up to the standards and expectations I create for myself. But if I failed Rob, Jr., he also failed me. Turns out, he lied about living nearby, playing soccer nearby, and who knows what else.

I wonder how his father would feel about his son lying and scheming his way through life, and causing just a little bit of heartbreak in mine. I wonder if Rob, Jr. ever read the copy of Bridge Across the Ocean I gave him. I wonder if he ever sees me as more than an AIDS monster he almost touched.

But I thought having an intelligent older black man for a friend was the bigger reward.

  • The fourth of a four-part blog series about Bridge Across the Ocean, Randy Boyd’s second novel, and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Best Small Press Title

Bridge Across the Ocean @ 20: A four-part series
1 – Bridge Across the Ocean @ 20
2 – Bridge to somewhere: where the boys are today
3 – What is a lesbian? 1988-2008
4 – Young jock offers oral sex for magazine subscription