Copyright© 2003 by Carlos Malenkov
The contents of the suitcase overflowed onto the rumpled bed. Sport jackets and underwear mingled with battered paperback novels, bars of hand soap, and creased snapshots of a middle-aged couple embracing a gangling adolescent.
Ben could barely contain his excitement. He had arrived in Manhattan all of three hours ago, and already he felt he belonged. Even the luggage tag proclaimed him an official inhabitant of the city: "Benjamin Davis Carper, New York, NY."
He had plans. Big plans.
Just think of all the lonely women out there in the Big Town. Women who needed a man at their side. Women who needed a man to warm their bed. Women desperate enough to pay for sex. He was going to be an escort, a boyfriend for hire, a gigolo.
There were a couple of minor barriers between him and the realization of his dream. He didn't have enough money to establish himself. Not even enough to buy nice threads, the kind a classy woman had a right to expect of someone squiring her around.
The other little complication was that he was a virgin. He had no clue as to how to please a woman in bed. Well then, it took a lot of balls to charge women for on-the-job training. He had the balls, all right. He could figure out how to use them later.
Three hundred dollars left. That should cover two more nights in this fleabag hotel, with enough left over for mels. First objective: get some kind of job until the bucks started rolling in from all the lonely broads.
They had laughed at him. Just three short weeks ago he had still been walking the halls of Warren Harding High, enduring the taunts and snickers of his classmates. Supernerd, they called him. Well, anyone with more of an interest in reading than TV watching, anyone who preferred 60's folk rock to hip hop and heavy metal, anyone who actually studied and learned was bound to be labeled weird. But he had become an outcast. A pariah. A scapegoat. The butt of cruel pranks. The all-purpose victim.
No girlfriend, no affection, no affirmation of self-worth. He was starved for sex. He craved to be touched, just to be touched in a loving way by a woman. He had even, on a couple of occasions, worked up the courage to ask a classmate for a date. The girls had laughingly turned him down. Unwanted. Rejected. A reject, that's what he was.
Was. That was the past, but this was the present. He had done a lot of thinking while serving time in that damn prison of a school. He was going to change his life. Not only was he going to have a love life, but he'd make a damn fine living from it. He'd show them.
He had spent an entire day in the employment office sitting on a hard wooden bench with his thumb up his butt. Finally got to speak to a counselor. She hadn't been very encouraging.
"You just blew into town, did you? And you're expecting a job to be waiting? We're in the middle of a major recession here, or hadn't you noticed? Unfortunately, we can't refer you for any positions at this time, but you might want to come back next week. Maybe something will turn up by then."
Next week? If he waited that long, he'd be living in a shelter and eating out of a tin plate at a mission. A change in strategy was definitely in order.
Homesteading in Tompkin Square Park was hardly his idea of luxurious accommodations. Crawling out of the sleeping bag in the morning with the sun in his eyes and a stiff back truly bit the big one. At least it was warm at night this time of year.
Time to get some food and hot coffee into his belly before work. It was only a couple of blocks' walk to the nearest "All Things For All People" branch. It was similar to a mission, but you didn't have to listen to a sermon and sing hymns before eating. They fed the homeless and did assorted other good works.
It was convenient, "living" within walking distance of work. Didn't have to use precious funds for transportation. A hell of a strange workplace, though. It was actually a vacant lot amid tinned-up abandoned tenements.
"Juan no more. I new boss, Tony. Get'a you ass a working."
Ben grabbed the cutting torch and crawled under the nearest car. Funny, he had never thought he'd actually be using the rudimentary skills learned in metal shop for making money. Making money dismantling cars. He was a chop man in a chop shop. Fifty bucks a day take-home -- no deductions -- taking apart stolen cars for parts. Life was strange.
A long, hot day finally over. Nine hours straight. No lunch. "Hey bossman, you pay me now. Fifty. Remember me? Ben?"
There was a knife blade poking into his belly. A long, sharp knife blade.
"You go now, boy. Lucky I nice guy. Let you live. You go police, huh? Good joke. We pay money police."
Ben began slowly backing away, then turned and ran. He heard baying laughter somewhere behind him.
A change in strategy was definitely in order. Like looking for a different job.
Strangely enough, Ben's love life had begun to improve. It didn't take much, considering he was starting from dead zero.
Rolling up his sleeping bag the following morning, he saw a woman strolling by on the far side of the wrought iron fence bounding the south end of the park. She stopped. Why was she staring at him like that?
Quite an attractive woman, even if she was old and graying. Old enough to be his mother, in fact. He smiled at her (why not, it didn't cost extra). She smiled back and it illuminated her face and brightened his day. And so he met Helene.
"Young man, how long has it been since you had a hot shower? Or a hot meal under your belt?"
"Long. Way too long. And I thank you for your concern, ma'am. I'm new in town and I seem to have run into a streak of bad luck."
"Extremely bad luck, by the looks of it."
She invited him home for a hot meal and a hot shower.
He was soaping himself and singing out of tune in the deliciously steamy shower stall when something pinched his butt.
"Ow! Is that you, Helene?"
"Sorry. I came in to check if I had left you a fresh bar of soap. Saw your beautiful bare buns and I just couldn't help myself."
He turned away in embarrassment, trying to hide his erection.
She sat across from him at the dining room table, smiling as he shoveled in the hot food. He hadn't had a decent meal for weeks and he couldn't... stop... eating.
He was sick. He lurched from the table and barely made it into the bathroom. She was kneeling there beside him, supporting him and gently stroking his forehead as he puked his guts out into the toilet bowl.
He awoke and she was lying beside him under the covers.
"My dear child. Please forgive me. Of course you couldn't tolerate so much food on an empty stomach. I should have known."
She was stroking his forehead. His erection was back.
The moment she saw that pitiful bedraggled creature in the park, Helene felt an immense wash of compassion for the poor soul. Such a young man. Just a boy, really. Beaten down by life already. So much potential going to waste. And she was so lonely.
Taking him home had been a simple act of charity... and maybe a bit more. It was so nice to have a man around the house. Since her husband had died fifteen years ago she had slept in an empty bed and lived an empty life.
Helene was his first woman. The touch of her flesh was too much for him and he came immediately.
She cradled his face on her soft breasts and told him it was all right. Just his touch, his warmth, his presence was enough for her. He fell asleep in her arms and when he awoke he was hard again.
She welcomed him into her body, and he kissed her gently on the lips as he entered. She was so warm inside.
"You want to what? Make money escorting women? Become a gigolo? A male whore? Haven't you seen Midnight Cowboy? Sorry, didn't mean to rain on your parade, but it's been tried. Believe me.
"It's not that you're a bad lover, Ben. On the contrary. I can't fault you for enthusiasm, and if your technique leaves something to be desired, you're still very young, and you have all the years ahead of you to learn. It's just that, well, there's just not much of a market for your services. Women won't pay for sex. They simply won't. They'll make fools of themselves and even self-destruct for love, or just plain old infatuation, but they won't demean themselves by paying for the act. No."
"So, you're saying I blew it, Hel. You're telling me I made a major league mistake coming to New York. I should have just stayed in Brinton, Idaho, right? Then we would never have met. I would never have tasted your sweet lips and... "
"Poor child. I'm so glad you're here in New York, and here in my bed. I thrill to the feel of you inside me and I feel secure waking up in your arms. It's just that your expectations are a bit, shall we say, unrealistic."
"I'm beginning to realize that, Hel. It does raise the issue, though, of how I'm supposed to support myself. Haven't had much luck in the welding game, I don't guess."
"Let me introduce you to an dear friend of mine. He knows a great deal about surviving in this town. I'm sure he could give you some useful advice."