Friday, 4 July 2008

Nexis Pas

© 2008 by the author
Nexis Pas asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

(This story came about as a challenge. I much admire the work of a writer who uses the pen name of Julian Obedient. You can find his stories on Nifty; he’s listed in the Authors section, although not quite in alphabetical order [in his case ‘o’ follows ‘p’]. We were exchanging a series of bad puns, and I told him that I would write a ‘vice verso’ story if he wrote the ‘vice recto’. His response was a story called ‘Ramesh’, which can be found in the Gay--Beginnings section of Nifty. It was posted on June 11. This is my take on his tale. Since Julian’s story takes place in New York, I attempted to write this with an American accent and, what proved in the event to be more difficult, American-style punctuation.--Nex)

I spotted him a half mile or so past the exit ramp to Wheeler College. He was sitting on a tree stump along one of the few straight stretches of that road. As my car approached, he stood up and stuck his thumb out. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a hitchhiker. He had a small backpack slung over one shoulder. That was the only thing he had and even that didn’t appear to have much in it. He looked like a college student trying to get a ride into the next town.

I had been driving for a couple of hours and needed something to occupy my mind besides the endless forest on either side of the road. I slowed the car to check to make sure he wasn’t a crazed serial murderer, although I don’t know why I expected that to be apparent. At least he wasn’t carrying a bloody ax or waving a pistol. That was enough for me. By the time I had made up my mind to give him a lift, I was just passing him. When I got the car stopped, I was a hundred feet beyond him. I rolled down my window and motioned him to jump in. As I watched him speed toward me in the rearview mirror, I allowed myself a few seconds of visual enjoyment. He had a lithe, muscular body. He wasn’t even winded when he opened the door and hopped in.

“Car broke down?”

“Don’t have a car. You going to the city?”

“New York?”

“New York.”

I admitted that I was. He nodded with satisfaction. For the next few miles, I tried to engage him in conversation. Every attempt I made to find out him was turned back with a smile and a refusal to give any information. After much joking from me, he finally gave me a name.

“Rasheem? Is that an Indian name?”


“You don’t look Egyptian.”

“My grandfather’s second wife was Egyptian. I’m named after him.”

I glanced over at him. He gave me another smile, revealing a set of even white teeth. “Your grandfather’s second wife’s name was Rasheem.”

“No, my grandfather was named Rasheem.”

“You could be Egyptian. You look exotic enough.” And he did. His flesh was golden, his hair dark, his eyes black.

He nodded. Evidently discussion of his looks bored him. He had seen them every day of his life, I suppose. But he couldn’t have been unaware of the effect he must have on others. “You a student at Wheeler?”

“Not any more.”

“What are you studying?”
“I just told you I’m not a student anymore.” He turned away from me then and looked out the side window at the passing trees. Another subject he didn’t want to discuss.

So who was riding beside me? Was I sharing the car with Holden Caulfield or Ferris Bueller? Someone following the great American tradition of escaping to the city at any rate. I’d made that journey myself a few years before. Only I just moved from Long Island into the Village.

“What’s the music?” He pointed toward the car’s music player.

“That, Rasheem, is me playing ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.’ I suppose you never listen to music like this.”

Rasheem, or whatever his name was, snorted with derision. The idea that he might listen to an old song was clearly laughable. “So you a musician?”

“I play in a dive called Benny’s. It’s at . . .”

“I know where it is. And it’s not a dive.”

“So you have revealed something about yourself. You know New York.”

“A bit. Places. A few places.” He admitted grudgingly.

“Drop by and hear me play some night. I’ll buy you a drink. That is, if you’re old enough.”

“I’m almost twenty. How old are you?”



“Be careful there, kid. I can still stop the car and let you off here.”

“You won’t do that.”

“No, I wouldn’t. But why are you so sure?”

“For the same reason you stopped to pick me up in the first place.”

“And that would be?”

“Because of this.” Rasheem reached over and squeezed my near leg just above the knee and then ran his hand up toward my crotch.

“Be careful. I’m driving.” I picked his hand up and returned it to his leg, squeezing his thigh while I had my hand over there. It was a very dense thigh. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to make a play for you.”

“Why not? Everyone else does.”

“I can understand that. Perhaps I want more than just your body.”

“And that would be?” He mocked my voice almost perfectly.

“Well, what role should I offer you? What part appeals to you? No, don’t answer that. It’s more a question of what part I should offer myself. You’re going to be the supporting actor. Once I know what role I will play, your role will follow automatically.”

“Perhaps I already have a part.”

“Quiet. I haven’t yet decided whether your part will have dialogue.”

He mimed a look of surprise.

“I can say positively that there will be no miming.”

Rasheem mumbled something without opening his mouth.

“Hmmm, perhaps a lot of moaning on your part. Let’s try you out in that part. Pretend you’re overcome with passion and lust for me and moan, baby.”

Rasheem tilted his head back, squeezed his eyes shut, opened his mouth wide, and started moaning. The volume escalated, as he threw himself into the role.

“You’ve got the part.” I shouted over a chorus of sharp, panting screams. “Let’s try post-coital languor. Quiet, post-coital languor.”

“What’s that? I just need a few minutes to recharge and then I’m ready to go again.”

“Not if I get my hands on you. I guarantee languor.”

“Nah, you just think everyone’s an old man like yourself. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young and virile. I don’t need Viagra.” He giggled with delight. I was suddenly aware both of how young he was and of how experienced he probably was. With his looks, he most likely had more sexual partners in a month than I had had in my life.

We rode in silence for the rest of the way. I didn’t want to chance more conversation, especially a flirtatious one. There wasn’t room in my apartment or my life for a complication like Rasheem, even if he had wanted to be part of it. I didn’t need a young man who was running away from something he wouldn’t discuss and toward something that hadn’t been decided yet. Just as I turned onto the road leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, he asked to be let off at the first subway entrance. “My sister lives a few stops uptown.” The traffic was heavy as usual, and the moment I slowed to let him off, the cars behind me started honking. He said “Thanks” and hopped out. The last I saw of him, he was running down the stairs to the subway tracks, hurrying to get somewhere, or maybe to get away from something.

For a few days afterward, the sight of a dark head of hair on a young body was enough to make me crane my head to see if it was Rasheem. I had to avoid Chinatown.


Two weeks later, I was halfway through my second set at Benny’s. I had just finished playing “Moonlight and Roses” and was modulating down through the keys to “Night and Day.” As I often do, I glanced up to look at the crowd sitting around the piano. Establishing eye contact. It’s supposed to make each member of the audience feel as if I’m playing just for him. Rasheem was standing near the end of the piano. He smiled shyly at me, as if unsure that I would remember him. My hands started playing “You Do Something to Me.” I didn’t even think about it. I played fifteen bars or so before I realized what I was doing. I played an extra long set that night. Really upbeat numbers. It was probably the first time Rasheem had heard any of them. I couldn’t remember any song written after 1940--not for want of trying. For my attempt to impress with my knowledge of contemporary music to have been successful, Rasheem would have had to be in his 80s. The other patrons loved the music, however. When I finished, the applause was loud, and my tips jar was full. Perhaps that impressed Rasheem. Since the crowd at Benny’s tends to be older, successful, moneyed gays, he may have felt it was elevator music for the executive suite.

Except for his age, however, Rasheem fit right in with the crowd. He was dressed in that expensive, casual style that looks good only on the very slim, the very athletic, and the very young, although few young people have the money to afford such clothes. It was quite a change from the jeans and t-shirt and scruffy jacket he had been wearing the last time I saw him. My first thought was that his parents must have money for him to have an allowance that ran to such clothes.

“I didn’t expect to see you again.”

“I was free tonight and in the neighborhood. I remembered that you said you played at Benny’s. Is that your name—Victor Timothy Keenam?” He pointed to the discreet sign on the piano that spelled out my name in an ornate script.

I nodded yes. “I think I promised you a drink. Let’s see if we can get Blake to serve you one.” I waved to the bartender as we grabbed two seats at the back end of the bar. “A vodka and tonic for me, Blake. And one for my friend Rasheem. He’s much older than he looks.” Blake looked askance at Rasheem over the top of his half-moon glasses. His chin was so pushed so low, it covered the black bowtie he wore.

“White soda is fine for me. And the name is Phillip.”

“Another grandfather?”

“Some ancestor. I have the usual number of them. One of them must have been named Phillip.”

“You made it to your sister’s?”

“What? I don’t have a sister.”

“The night you got off at the subway, you said you were going to your sister’s place.”

“Oh, she’s not my sister. Just a businesswoman I know. She found me a job.”

“Doing what?”

“I’m a ‘personal assistant’ to a vice-president at —.” He named one of the leading brokerage firms in New York.

“And what does a ‘personal assistant’ do?”

“You could say that I provide stress relief.”

“And what is that in plain Anglo-Saxon.”

“Massage, sucking, fucking. More if he’s tense.”


Rasheem-Phillip nodded and looked away. We had crossed one of his conversational boundaries again. I let my eyes linger on the clothes he was wearing. I was trying to guess how much they might cost, when I realized that he had turned back and was watching me with amusement.

“He took me to Sven’s and told the manager to make me look presentable. Nothing but the best for the boy toy.” He pronounced “boy toy” with a light sardonic grimace of his mouth.

“And why isn’t the toy providing stress relief tonight?”
“His parents are here for a few days. He visits me at lunch or sometimes he has an ‘unavoidable meeting’ at night. Tonight there is some sort of family dinner. I wasn’t invited. He stashed me at the Eastmark Motor Lodge on Seventh for the duration.”

“Not the Park-Cotillion?”

“No. The help doesn’t rate the Park-Cotillion when he’s by himself.”

“So you are free.”

“At least for tonight. I won’t charge you.” He gazed at the jumble of bills in the tip jar and did a quick mental calculation. “You couldn’t afford me anyway.”

It was my turn to shrug and remain silent.

“Did you ever figure out what roles you wanted us to play?”

“Is Phillip your real name?”

“It will do for tonight.”

My drink tasted flat. I was getting tired of Rasheem/Phillip and his posturing. We were beginning to sound like a French movie. “I think I will have your left nipple pierced and a gold-plated ring put in it. Tell your boss that a gang of marines on shore leave kidnapped you, and it was either a nipple piercing or a tattoo of a dollar sign on your ass.”

“The cock would be more appropriate.”


“That should be obvious.”

“I didn’t mean why the tattoo on the cock. I meant why be a rent boy.”

“I’m beyond the rent boy category. I’m prime real estate, with a view overlooking the park. Why shouldn’t I lease it out to the highest bidder?” He pointed to the tip jar. “We both work for tips. Only my line of work is more profitable.”

“But I don’t have to be stashed away when the family visits.”

“I could get you a job. A boy toy that plays the piano could command a high price.”

“No thanks. I’ll pass on that.” I glanced at my wristwatch. “I have to start the next set. You can sit here until I finish, if you want.”

“No, I’d better get back to the motel. The family dinner should be over by now, and he might call. Thanks for the drink.”

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