I needed to talk to someone. Immediately. The first person I wanted to talk to was Aaron, but I shoved that idea out of my head. There was no way I was going to open myself up to that again after I'd just left him in such a messy manner. Rich was probably in class at this time of the day. Besides, I didn't know where his office or classes were held. Forest City is a large university and I didn't know my way around it.
I drove down Euclid Avenue, heading back to my home turf on the West Side, passing the Cleveland Clinic. Almost without thinking, I turned into the complex.
"Is Dr. Kumar around today?" I asked the woman at the desk.
She recognized me. I'd just been there with the old man. "Do you have an appointment?" She peered past me, expecting to see my father.
"No, I don't. I just wanted to talk to him." Now I felt ridiculous. "Listen -- forget it. I'm sorry. It's nothing." I turned and started to walk away.
"Shea?" I turned back around. Raj Kumar was standing there in his white coat. "What are you doing here? Is there a problem with your father?"
"No. I just... it's... I wanted to see you."
He broke into a large smile. "I'm delighted! Please, come this way." He leaned down to the receptionist. "Hold my calls. I'll be a few minutes."
The second he closed the door to his office, Raj was all over me. And I admit that I didn't exactly push him away.
"Hold it," I said finally. "This isn't a good time."
"You're right." He straightened his white coat. "Not here. I have a patient waiting. Tonight. I will have Sanjay pick you up at 7:30."
"Okay," I said. "7:30."
Sanjay picked me up precisely at 7:30. At 8:05 I was having my first orgasm of the evening. But not my last. And it felt great.
Maybe I am a whore, I thought as Raj worked his Indian magic on my willing ass. I lie awake at night, crying over Aaron. I moon over some straight musician I barely know. I let Rich buy me dinner and think he's got a chance. And then I let my father's oncologist fuck me senseless whenever I need a little attention.
Maybe Marcello Barbuto had it right. Maybe Las Vegas wasn't such a bad idea.
At least I'd make some money out of the deal. My mother could keep her house and I'd get to say "Fuck you!" to my old man. I'd love to have him know that his balls were pulled out of the fire by his queer son, who made it all happen by sucking cock for pay. That would be some kind of sweet revenge.
Maybe I was never meant to be a professor. Maybe I found my life's calling when I was 16 and just didn't want to admit it.
Yeah, maybe a lot of things.
"Would you like a drink?" Raj was the perfect host, especially after he'd gotten his rocks off.
"Sure. Something strong. Vodka and whatever. Anything that will get me sloshed very quickly."
Raj frowned. "That's not like you, Shea. You always seem quite moderate in your intake of alcohol."
"Well, I need to start changing what's like me and look to the future." I rolled over in Raj's large, comfy bed and stretched. "I need to start drinking like a real Desmond and not like some little fruit who's afraid to let himself get out of control. Out of control is my new motto. Wild and crazy! Party boy! I need to see myself in a new light and learn to enjoy it."
Raj shook his head and strolled out into the living room. He came back with two glasses. "Here is a small vodka and orange juice. And I have a neat whiskey for myself."
I grabbed his whiskey and took a gulp of it. And coughed most of it back up. "Jesus! That stuff tastes like cologne!"
"I thought you didn't like hard liquor? You usually just have a glass of wine and even then you rarely finish it." He took the glass from my hand and set it on the nightstand. "Tell me what is the matter. I know you didn't come to see me because you adore me so, although I wish that were the case, because I quite adore you."
"I like you fine," I said. But I couldn't look him in the eye.
"You are still in love with your partner, that much is clear," said Raj. "Did you quarrel with him on the telephone?"
"No. I haven't spoken to him at all since I left him, even though he keeps calling." Even as I said the words, they hurt me to the core. Raj was right -- I was still in love with Aaron, which was why I was terrified to talk to him. I was afraid he'd say something to me that would make me forget how angry I was at him, some magic word that would make me drop everything and race back to Indiana to his waiting, arrogant arms.
Raj laid down on the bed next to me. His barrel chest was brown and muscular and his cock was thick and uncut. In so many ways he was the opposite of Aaron, with his long, pale torso and his long, trimmed cock. One dark and mysterious, the other bright and transparent as glass. But both were brilliant, driven men; men who were successful and confident and overwhelming.
I'd even found Marcello Barbuto hot; he reminded me of my leather-master psychiatrist in Boston, Dr. DiGiglio.
That's what I gravitated to -- powerful, sexy, and impossible men.
I was screwed.
The last thing I wanted to do was to cry in front of Raj Kumar, but I couldn't help myself. And once I started, I bawled like little Danny.
"Please, Shea, stop!" Raj begged. He was obviously at a loss for what had set me off. He got me a handful of tissues and a glass of water and after a while the tears sputtered to a halt.
"Sorry," I whispered, afraid that the waterworks would begin again.
"Tell me," he said. "You can trust me."
"I can't." Because I already knew what he'd say.
So I told him everything. The old man. The debt. Marcello Barbuto and his two colleagues. The house. My past. The solution.
And Raj listened attentively. Listened without interrupting me. In that he and Aaron were worlds apart.
After I finished we sat there for a few moments, silently. Finally he said, "You aren't seriously considering this?"
I didn't reply.
"Shea!" he was almost shouting. "You must not! These people are unscrupulous! Dangerous! You have no idea what you would be getting into! We have these gangsters in India as well and they are heartless men. Once they have you in their power they will never let you go!"
"This isn't 'The Godfather'," I rationalized. "It's an escort service. Guys do it all the time. I'll make the money I need and that will be the end of it."
He began pacing the bedroom. "I will give you the money. That is the only answer. You should have come to me first before you even spoke to these people! I will handle everything."
"No!" I said adamantly. "That's why I didn't want to tell you. And it's why I can't tell Aaron! He'll want to handle it, too. That's been the story of my life -- some guy saving my ass. Handling everything. And then I owe him everything. I owe him my whole life. I have to do this myself, otherwise my life will never be my own. I can never repay you any more than I can ever repay Aaron. I'll never have enough money to repay you, Raj, so I'll have to repay you just like this -- in bed. Either way, I'm still a whore. With Barbuto, at least it isn't personal."
"That is a cynical way to look at it," said Raj. "A loan or a gift -- it makes no difference to me. The money is not an issue. It is your safety that concerns me!"
"I'll be fine." I got out of bed. "I better get going."
"Shea!" Raj grabbed my arm and held it tightly until I winced. "You must not do this!"
"You're not my lover!" I jerked away. "And even if you were, this is my problem. It's about my father and my family! Maybe I'm a stubborn little faggy Mick, but I know what I have to do! I can't spend my whole life running to some daddy figure to bail me out when things get tough. I can do this. And I'm going to do it."
Raj stood very still. "I'm sorry if I hurt you."
"I'm okay." I began gathering up my clothes.
"I don't think so."
"Please. I won't say any more about this plan of yours."
I laughed. "It's not my plan. It's Marcello Barbuto's plan. What does the big guy say in 'Blazing Saddles'? 'Mongo only pawn in game of life'! That's me -- pawn in game of life!"
Raj shook his head. "I do not know the reference, but I understand the context."
"Stay." This time he touched my arm more gently. "And promise me you won't go back to this man until you have time to think about it more clearly."
"Maybe." I didn't really want to go home and see my father sitting in that chair in the darkened living room. Or think about my mother, sleeping cluelessly while her world was about to crash down on top of her. "Okay. But don't try to talk me out of it."
"I give my word," said Raj, pushing me down on the bed.
But there are other ways to communicate besides speech. I was learning that I did much better without talking at all. I let my body take over and could forget the rest.
Forget for a few hours. That wasn't much, but it was something.