As soon as the plane’s down and you’re cleared to go off airplane mode you open Grindr and gape. Men. Horny men. Everywhere. Scores of them within just a few miles’ radius. The population grows even thicker once you’re downtown and in the hotel room. You expected the French Quarter to be wild but never imagined this level of bounty. Not like back home, where there are maybe all of two unappealing or headless guys within thirty miles. You feel like you won the lottery, like a kid in a candy store, every cliché of sudden incredible abundance that you can think of. You browse, awestruck. Some are mere hundreds of feet away, perhaps in this very hotel.
Miguel: Online 1 hour ago, .8 miles away, 36, 5’8”, 155 lb, Toned, Vers Bottom, Latino, Jock, Single.
CJ: Online now, 325 feet away, 6’, Muscular, Versatile, Black, Married, Daddy, Leather, Looking for discreet, dates, right now.
Let’s get naked: Online 18 minutes ago, 752 feet away, 54, 5’11”, White, Bottom, Single, Looking for chat, dates, right now, Negative, on PrEP.
Bontemps: Online 26 minutes ago, 402 feet away, 29, 5’10”, 140 lbs, Slim, Bottom, Black, Single, Twink, Looking for chat, dates, friends, relationship.
Total top lOOking: Online now, 112 feet away, 47, 6’2”, 190 lb, Mixed, Top, Open relationship, Looking for right now, Negative, Condoms, My place, Your place, fully vaccinated.
He’s nearby, your generation, dominant, looks masculine but non-threatening. Open relationship. You tap Total top lOOking, can’t believe what you just did, throw down the phone and start to unpack. Two minutes later a tap and a message.
Greetings handsome. Nice photo and interestingly minimalist profile. Intrigued that you classify yourself as single and discreet. Are you a closeted actor? NFL quarterback? US senator?
You suddenly find no reason to lie in this city that bares all.
I’m married. Letting other married guys know they’re safe with me.
You’re safe with me. Are you in the Monteleone?
You both text in complete sentences with punctuation and no abbreviations or emojis. It creates a bond.
We too. My husband’s here on business and I’m tagging along with naught to do. Do you bottom? You don’t say.
Splendid. Are you busy now?
A deep breath. Would you like to get together?
Can you meet downstairs at the bar in say half an hour? I believe in chatting before anything else happens. You might be a dick, and not in a good way.
I can do that. I look forward to it.
I’ll be the one in white who looks like my profile photo.
The famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone is indeed modeled after an old, grand carousel, Barnum and Bailey chic and hundreds of lightbulbs, fantastical animals, and it revolves, slowly and surely, past the Old South hotel interior and then the windowed view of an active Rue Royal. Total Top is seated with his back to the lobby, chatting with a bartender, dressed in a white linen suit, a white Panama hat occupying the next seat over. There’s a lion painted on the back of his chair and something resembling a gazelle on the back of the hat’s. Unable to call his name, you simply take up the hat and replace it with yourself, feeling gauche in mere cargo shorts and a Minnesota Vikings tee shirt.
Gratefully, he looks very much like his photo. Handsome but far from classically so. He introduces himself as Raymond, looks you over, and thanks you for having an honest profile.
Well, you shrug, if I said I was six-three and one-ninety and left my age out altogether you’d be pretty disappointed right now.
The bartender approaches and Raymond orders two Sazeracs. You look like a beer guy to me but have one. It’s what all the better tourists drink here and I’m told this bar’s are the best in town. Best Sazeracs and tourists, that is. I never tap anyone who leaves out their age. By the way, it’s endearing of you to hold my hat but unnecessary. And he takes it from you and hangs it from a brass hook under the bar. His backdrop is currently the boisterous non-rotating depths of the barroom, and the white suit is an oasis amidst all the activity. You remark that he looks very southern.
And yet I’m a life-long Berkeleyite, or Berkeleyan, depending on whom one talks to, and dress this way routinely. You see I teach a course at UC Berkeley on Restoration comedy, and find that behaving like a modern-day fop brings the material alive for the students.
And so you’re here on your summer break.
My husband is an author of absurdly butch cookbooks on barbecuing. He’s here doing appearances in bookshops, signing copies of his latest in a sleeveless tee-shirt with grease spots and about eight days of five o’clock shadow. I’m killing time hanging out at the Carousel Bar with a hot new acquaintance.
Thanks. And you say it’s an open relationship.
I too have an honest profile. His backdrop is now the sundrenched pedestrian and motor traffic on Royal. The Sazeracs arrive and Raymond thanks the bartender by name. Always ask the bartender’s name, he says. You’re intrigued by his face and say, Your profile says mixed race.
Ah. My father is mostly Portuguese and my mother is half Chinese-American and half indigenous Pomo. I have more than a hemisphere on my face. And my husband Seyyed is half Iranian and half Sephardic Jew, and he sells his barbecue books under the name of Buck Baskin so go figure.
You feel utterly uninteresting but he appears fascinated by you.
I’d say, in your case, northern, or maybe eastern European.
Polish-American through and through.
Wonderful. Stanley Kowalski. The Ignoble Savage. So out of simple curiosity, is your spouse male or female?
The Sazerac is cold and an intriguing, complex balance of sweet and bitter. And just a little fruity. Much like Raymond. You are a beer guy but you’re far from home and this thing is tasty.
You tell him female and he asks how long you’ve been sleeping with men. You look up and catch your own reflection in a big oval mirror set into the carousel’s canopy. He’s intent on examining your face as if he’s trying to read behind your words. You say a few years but not very often, and when he asks why, you explain that you live in a rural part of Minnesota. You now have your backs to the windows and you imagine that the crowds here must always be as buoyant as this one. You tell yourself that you don’t need to think about Marianne in this context. You need to express yourself here so that you can then go back home, happy with your life. He says that it would be kind of you to give him your undivided attention. You’re in town, you say, because you were sent to confer with some engineers from the wind energy industry.
Wind machine engineers? Brawn and brain. Do you have any involvement with those glorious forests of turbines scattered across the Mojave Desert?
You can’t help smiling. He’s funny to the point of self-parody and that somehow makes him sexier. They don’t make them like this where you come from, or at least they don’t stick around for very long.
Not those specifically. There’s a facility here that’s doing really innovative work on the design of offshore turbine blades, and my company’s planning on establishing wind farms on Lake Superior. You sound to yourself like the dullest person on earth.
He says, Say something sexy about wind farms.
Oh my. The only thing that springs to mind is, Power equals energy over time.
He grabs your knee. It does indeed, he says. Keep going.
And so, his hand holding your knee and his eyes inches from yours, you ramble, trying to keep your voice low and even, about wind kinetic energy, wind resource assessment, power output, turbine models, economically extractable power, probability distribution function, full-scale power converters, grid codes, power factors, submarine cables. Power grid integration. Capacity factors. Load fluctuations. Maximum penetration.
He says, You don’t look like a bottom.
You don’t fit the usual description of a top.
No. But I love to fuck me a real man.
The carousel is back to where you started. You read somewhere that it does a complete revolution every fifteen minutes. You’ve just been through a year in carousel time.
He says, Let’s get our drinks refreshed and take them to my room.
Feeling a little unsteady, for a couple reasons, you’re super careful moving off the slowly moving floor.
Unlike your room, his is a two-room suite. You’re barely inside when he tells you to take your clothes off. You’re flattered and turned on by his bluntness. His hands are everywhere. You’ve been hard since his hand met your knee. You need to express yourself here so you can go back home happy for a while.
Just when you’re starting to think he doesn’t intend to get undressed, sheets of white linen drop to the floor. He’s naked in no time and the two of you are on the bed before you’ve had a chance to check out his body. But he feels well proportioned and solid. Hairy but not hirsute. You’re both passionate kissers, in between which he’s calling you boy which is silly but so hot. He flips onto his back and pushes down on your shoulders, sending your mouth skittering down his torso. You need to express yourself so you can stand going home. Your mouth finds his cock.
There’s someone else in the room. Raymond shouts, Buckie! How was it? You’re on your feet. He’s short and swarthy and unshaven and in fact wearing a grease-spotted wife-beater. He says, Forgive the intrusion. I’m headed for the bar and want a civilized shirt. Raymond introduces you to Sayyed. You want to cover yourself but your clothes are in the other room. Sayyed shakes your hand, glancing at your lost erection. He apologizes to it. You try to imagine Marianne in his situation and then push her out of your mind. Don’t rush out on our accounts, says Raymond. You think for a moment that he’s going to propose a threesome and you’ve never had one and Sayyed isn’t your type but no. Oh I’m out of here, says Sayyed. Buck Baskin has shaken the hands of way too many drunks with a horrifying if lucrative love of fire. There’s a Vieux Carre down there with my name on it. He’s taken a Hawaiian shirt from the closet and is heading out. I’ll be gone for at least four revolutions. Have fun, boys! You too, doll. Give my best to Andre if he’s still on duty. Sayyed closes the bedroom door behind him.
What just happened? What happened is that nothing just happened. How can that be? Hello, says Raymond, reaching from the bed to give your limp cock a squeeze. You say, He doesn’t care?
Oh, he cares very much. For my happiness. As do I for his. Now come back here.
You’re thinking, nobody’s like that. He must care to some extent. He must. He tolerates it, that’s all. He puts up with it to save the marriage. Raymond is up and he pushes you back onto the bed. No worries. I’m negative and on PrEP but as an added precaution I always use a rubber with men who are cheating on their partners. And then he’s on top of you. He sees that you’re still limp. No worries there either, he says. You don’t need that for what I’m about to do. He takes one of your ankles in each hand.
You need to get fucked and then go home.
You’re wondering if he’s still in the other room and you don’t want him to see you naked again but Raymond opens the door and he’s gone. Once Raymond had his orgasm he was done and now he’s gathering up his clothes. You find your boxer briefs near the bedroom door and sit on the couch to pull them on. He says, I’ll escort you to the elevators. I’ll meet Sayyed at the bar. He’s slightly less likely to be accosted by his adoring public if he’s with someone.
You find your socks in front of the couch. Your shorts should be next but you look around and don’t see them, nor your tee shirt. Clothes dropped without forethought but this isn’t that big a room—you should see them and instead the wife-beater is over the back of the desk chair. You were right. He took them! Took what? My clothes—I mean my shirt and shorts. He stole them! Sayyed? Yes, he’s punishing me! Why on earth would he do that? He’s not even your size. He hated seeing me with you! That’s absurd. He stole my clothes! He wants me to walk back to my room in my underpants so people will see! You see Marianne coming across photos of you on the internet, in a hotel corridor in briefs and sneakers, the walk of shame, and demanding an explanation. He had it in for me the minute he saw us! Raymond, mostly dressed, is watching you in (feigned?) disbelief and starts to laugh, so much and so suddenly that he quakes, loses his grip on the linen blazer and it falls back to the floor. Was he in on it? Does this happen often? The two of you are going to sit at that bar and have a good laugh, aren’t you? He staggers to the chair opposite you and falls onto it. At me! Four revolutions is long enough to tell the story to all the buoyant crowd and make you the laughing stock of the hotel, of the city, as you’re facing certain and utter annihilation back home. What have I done! What have you done! Stop laughing! He says your name. Stop laughing! Mr. Offshore Turbine. What!
Apparently while we were fucking a Minnesota Vikings fan came in and left his clothes under the couch and then went out again. This being the French Quarter I can only imagine that stranger things have happened. You, for example.
You’re on your knees, pulling the rest of your clothing out from under the couch. At least you’re not looking at Raymond who’s no longer laughing. You suck at all this. He’s fascinating and free and you’re neither of those things and never will be. You’re just a stranger thing, that gazelle, here to be inelegantly taken down, a joke, did you hear the one about the guy…on second thought, that one’s not funny.
You get dressed while he watches and then he does escort you to the elevator as if it didn’t happen, you don’t remember the elevator being this far from the room and then he’s with you down to the second floor, all the while one pithy, perfect observation after the other about the city, the hotel, the corridor, the elevator. Finally back in your room, you strip immediately, in need of a shower on multiple levels. The shower head puts out intense needles of water that feel almost painful on your back. Your muscles submit to them. You soap yourself up and run your hands over your torso, arms, neck. Your hands feel like his hands, exploring your body for the first time, masculine and insistent but non-threatening. At the same time they’re your hands exploring him, glad to find him well proportioned and solid, like yourself. One of you goes for your cock but no, you won’t be needing that.
After, you hear a ping coming from your discarded shorts. You retrieve your phone and you’ve been tapped by CJ, now a mere 74 feet away, versatile, Black, married, looking for discreet, right now.
Thanks for the tap
Yes, maybe found.
public meet up first
I’m at the Monteleone.
me 2 bar in 20?
I’ll be wearing a Minnesota Twins tee shirt.
bald black dude in red tank cu there
You put on fresh underwear, socks, the Twins tee, the same shorts and sneakers. You take the elevator back downstairs. Raymond and Sayyed are seated across the bar. They spot you, smile, and salute. CJ is nearer at hand. His shoulders and arms in the red tank are stunning. You need to get this right so you can go home okay. You get back on the carousel.
Bill Hemmig is the author of “Americana: Stories” and “Brethren Hollow,” both published by Read Furiously. His short stories appear in Read Furiously’s “Life in the Garden State” anthologies, “The World Takes” and “Stay Salty,” and in the Toho Publishing anthology, “The Best Short Stories of Philadelphia, 2021.” He has had stories published in the journals The Madison Review, Philadelphia Stories, Swamp Pink, and Children, Churches and Daddies (cc&d), and he is a three-time finalist in the New Millennium Writing Awards. https://www.bucksarts.org/bill-hemmig/