On Saturday I slept late and then took the car and drove out to the mall.
It was crowded on a Saturday, but sometimes I like a crowded place. You can blend in. You don't have to think. All you have to do is go with the flow.
I went with the flow.
I didn't buy anything -- we already had enough stuff to pack and move -- but I enjoyed just meandering without any pressure.
I left the mall and drove to campus. The gym was busy, but not so much that I wasn't able to get on the tread after a fairly short wait. It was mostly students, blowing off steam before exams began on Monday. I looked around for Gabe, the hunky rower, but he was nowhere to be seen.
I still had Gabe's number, shoved in a pocket somewhere. I needed to throw that out.
So many guys. Most of them straight. But not all of them. Not all.
"Aren't you Professor Desmond?"
He was tall and muscular. A runner's build. Dark curly hair and brown eyes.
"Yes," I said.
"My friend, Vaughn, took one of your classes last year. Expository Writing." He leaned against the tread. I could smell him -- clean sweat and lemon shampoo.
"I remember Vaughn." An amber-eyed redhead. He came into my office halfway through the semester to tell me he was gay. That happens a lot -- once they feel safe, they come out to me. But they rarely share it with the rest of the class. Vaughn followed the pattern. "What's he up to?"
"Not much." He was staring at me intently. "I'm Lucas, by the way."
"And I'm Shea." I usually don't get too personal with students, but what the hell? He wasn't in my class. And I was leaving the university soon.
"I had to take that course, too, but I got Murray."
Jeff Murray was another part-timer. Nice guy. Good teacher. "How did you do?"
Lucas shrugged. "Okay. I got a B+. I could have gotten an A, but I had other things going on. You know how it is."
I nodded. "Yeah, I know how it is." He was leaning closer. "Do you need to use this tread?"
"Naw!" He grinned. "I'm finished. I was just about to head for the showers." He turned his head and looked away, but lowered his voice as he spoke. "You're fucking hot. Do you know that?"
I knew he was going to say that. "Thanks."
"Vaughn said he enjoyed your class," Lucas's breath was warm. "He told me he got a hard-on every time you turned around and showed the class that ass in a pair of tight jeans."
Interesting, especially since I never wear jeans when I'm teaching.
"Is Vaughn your boyfriend?"
Lucas flipped his hand dismissively. "We fuck sometimes, but I'm not interested in settling down. What's the point?"
Indeed. "Right. What's the point."
"I'm too young for that shit! That's what I keep telling Vaughn."
"Excuse me." I got off the tread. "It was nice talking to you, Lucas."
He caught my arm. Then he stopped and glanced around. A straight gym isn't always the best place to make a pass at another guy. "You ever fuck students?" he whispered. "I mean, not from your class or anything. But in general."
"No," I said. "I don't. It's my policy." Not to mention a firm rule of the university.
"Too bad. Because I'm hot. In case you hadn't noticed."
"Oh, I noticed."
He let go of my arm. "There's nothing wrong with a friendly fuck. Maybe another time -- if you change your policy."
"Probably not. I'm leaving town as soon as the semester ends."
Lucas raised his water bottle and drank. He knew I was watching his throat. His lips. He took the bottle away and licked those lips. "See ya." Then he sauntered away.
It amazed me how horny I was. One thing about being with Aaron, I never go for more than 12 hours without sex. Even when we aren't speaking to each other -- or more likely I'm not speaking to him -- that doesn't stop us from wearing out the sheets. Aaron had been gone for less than three days and I was already going through withdrawal.
I watched Lucas's ass as he crossed the gym. Before he went into the locker room, he turned and leered at me.
I grabbed my bag and didn't bother to shower.
When I got back to the apartment I checked the answering machine, but there was no message from Aaron.
I wasn't all that surprised. When Aaron is focused on something, like impressing the people at Eastern Indiana, calling home isn't a big priority. But after my little encounter with Lucas at the gym, I needed to hear my partner's voice. I needed to reassure myself that he loved me. And that I loved him.
I realize that getting a hard-on for another guy is no indication of my genuine feelings for Aaron, but it still bothered me. I could feel my face getting hot, thinking of Lucas's body. His smell. His lewd, inviting grin. And the fact that he was a student made it worse. Being attracted to a student was a no-no; imagining fucking one was really crossing the line.
My stomach was rumbling, so I walked to the deli on the corner and bought a corned beef sandwich. The delis in Boston were all right; not as good as the ones in New York, or even Philly, but good enough to stifle my hunger. I also bought some cookies and another trashy magazine and walked home.
Standing on the steps of our building was Lowell, one of Aaron's TA's.
"Where is he?" Lowell demanded, without even a hi-how-are-you as preface. "Where's Aaron?" He paused and coughed nervously. "I mean, where is Professor Blumenthal?"
"He's in Indiana. Is there a problem with one of the students?" So far I hadn't gotten any of the panicked calls Aaron had warned me about.
"Indiana." Lowell grimaced. "So it's true! Why the fuck didn't he tell me? I had to hear it from Professor Foradis!"
"You mean about his new job?" I took out my key and opened the door. "Didn't he tell you and Frieda?"
"No!" Lowell practically shouted in my face. He was a short, stocky guy with large, myopic blue eyes and a manic aura. Aaron said he was a good editor, but lacked original ideas. From the way he talked about his two grad students, I gathered Aaron thought Frieda was the more talented, although he always added that it was harder for a woman to get ahead in film, harder even than for a gay man. "He can't leave! He's directing my program! I still have another year until I finish my MFA!"
I stood in the doorway. Lowell kept glancing over my shoulder, as if Aaron were lurking in the shadows. Or as if I was about to invite him inside. But there was no way I was going to let this kid into the apartment. I didn't invite my own students over, let alone Aaron's. And certainly not the semi-hysterical Lowell.
"Sorry, but Aaron took a another position. I'm sure Nick Foradis will find you a new advisor." I was trying to be cordial, but Lowell was beginning to creep me out.
"He can't do this to me!" Lowell's face was red. "After I... I mean... after..." He stared at me, his blue eyes glassy. "Are you going with him?"
"Of course." What did the kid think?
"Stupid!" he mumbled, holding his head. "So fucking stupid!" He looked up at me. "I'm fucked! Do you know that?"
"I'm sorry." Man, Aaron was going to pay for making me deal with this one! "There's nothing I can do. You'll have to speak to him when he gets back."
"And when is that?" Lowell growled.
"I'm sure he'll be available Monday." Yeah, the last thing we needed was this kid showing up at the apartment on Sunday night. Aaron would hit the roof.
Lowell kicked at the step in frustration. He started walking back down, but then he stopped and looked back at me. "You really don't know anything, do you?"
Huh? "What are you talking about?"
"You'll find out," he said darkly. "Then you'll be fucked, too! That'll be a laugh! The perfect Shea! The beautiful Shea! That's how much you know!"
"I think you better leave now." I shut the door and locked it. There was something majorly wrong with Lowell, but I knew I didn't want to deal with it. He reminded me of those old guys I used to see down on the Bowery, stumbling along, ranting to themselves.
I watched Lowell stomp down the steps and up the street. Then I went up to our apartment. I didn't feel like eating my sandwich anymore.