Back to New York

January 17th, 2017

Back to New York

Years later, when I was in my late 40’s, I was in New York for a computer conference.  Late one night, after a long session of nerd speak followed by a leisurely dinner in a restaurant on Third Avenue, a friend and I were walking back to our hotel, when we saw ahead of us the form of someone lying on the concrete stoop in front of the door to a shuttered office building.  As we got closer, we could see it was a young man, a good-looking young man, who had spread a blanket and some cardboard on the pavement to protect him from the cold of the earth.  At our approach he looked up, and held out his hand.

“Don’t look at him!” my friend, Bill, odered me, pulling me along when I slowed to see what was the problem.  “Don’t you know, he just wants to get more drugs!”

That scene has haunted me ever since — for, had I been not quite so lucky those years before, that might very well have been me lying on the pavement, hungry, scared, and alone.  Instead, I found myself waking up.

I didn’t know where I was.  Shifting shapes shone through my eyelids.  Warm.  Wet.  Comfy, but….what was going on?

Yesterday.  I’d got back to New York from Philadelphia on the bus.  Checked my bag in a locker  (you could do that then) at “the port of authority”, and ventured out onto 34th Street.  What to do  now?

It’s a hot day, and I wander the streets for hours.  The cacophony of the city is oddly comforting.  It goes with the stench of the streets, steam rising from sidewalk grates, trash in the gutters, the incessant honking and roaring of the traffic in the roadway with hints of motor oil and gasoline exhaust, and the delightful smell of human sweat broiling in the hot sun.

I can’t go to the Y, no money yet, although Mom had promised she would wire me some, but it’s not there yet.  So I’m broke again, or almost, with a couple of bucks in my pocket.  I see my reflection in a store window; I straighten up as well as I can, fingers through the hair, align the shirt, hike up the pants.  Half-way respectable?

I wander uptown, and find myself in Central Park, where I find a comfy bench, shared with an old man in the corner who seems to be asleep, his head lolling on the top rail, rather an uncomfortable position I think, but it’s none of my business.  This seat is a fine spot from which to observe people.  Couples hand-in-hand, men in business suits striding by in a hurry since it’s a work day, a gaggle of black youths   jostling each other for possession of the boom box one of them carries.  Later, I count three small dogs, each walking its owner.  And the ubiquitous squirrels, and the ratty pigeons pecking at the concrete.

But this is not Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Not really a pick-up spot, no not at all, too straight and open and sunshiny.  I know about The Rambles, just north and on Central Park West, a notorious cruising area (it’s said the philosopher Wittgenstein was arrested for indecency there), a place of dark, winding paths in overgrown vegetation, perfect for illicit liaisons, but I am afraid of that scene and anyway, that’s not what I need right now.

It’s getting late in the evening, time to move on.  I wander over to Fifth Avenue, and head downtown.  Down the cobblestone sidewalk, amongst baby carriages pushed by brown nannies, the stone wall running along the park’s edge, Finally to the gaudy fountain and Sherman up there on his stupid prancing horse, a sign says ‘Grand Army Plaza’ and there’s traffic going everywhere,

I go on, the hour starts to get late.  I find a White Tower, and grab a fifteen-cent hamburger, some fries and a coke, that’s almost all my money now, but it’s something, quick energy to keep me going a while longer.  57th street, go west, young man, and oh, there’s Carnegie Hall, and I haven’t even practiced, and here’s Broadway, old Broadway, and I’m feeling rather loopy now, slow down, no hurry, nowhere to go, if I keep walking I’m sure to get somewhere.

Sometime after one in the morning, I’m at Times Square, and turn west on 42nd street.  Don’t know what I’m going to do, I’ll just stand here, watch the parade go by.

“Hey!”  Someone’s talking to me.  “Watcha doin’?”

It’s a young man, about my age.  He’s dressed no better than I am, jeans, scuffed-up shoes,a shirt rumpled around his chest.  He looks me up and down.

“Nothing,” I say.

“Where you from?”

I tell him.

We chat for a few minutes.  He seems a pleasant enough guy, and it’s nice to have someone to talk to.  He looks to be maybe a couple of years older than I am, sandy disheveled hair, a clear complexion, clean shaven.   And he has a nice smile.  He says his name is Hugh.

“So, where you staying?” he asks.

“Well,” I say, “right now I don’t know.”  The sidewalk?  A park bench?

“You could stay with me if you want.”

I hesitate.  Of course I want!  But…

“It’s just down the street,” he says.  “Down there, on East 42nd.”

The prospect of a concrete bed in an alley does not appeal to me.

“Okay, let’s go.”

He wasn’t lying.  We walked straight east.  Not just a couple of blocks, but it didn’t seem to take long.  Almost to the East River, he says, “It’s right in here.”

We’re at a tall, red-brick building, with a rather drab vestibule.  We go inside.

We get on an elevator.  When the doors have closed, Hugh punches a button.  “Penthouse,” he grins.

Twenty-third floor, and we’re there.  The elevator doors open to a narrow hallway, with just one door.  Hugh knocks.  The doorway opens.

“Hugh!” a man’s voice booms out, “Come in, come in.  And who’s your friend?”

“Lenny, meet Tom.  Tom, this is Lenny.  Tom needs a drink,” says Hugh.

“Tommy!” bellows Lenny.  “Come in, come in.  Let me get you something.”

It’s a gloomy room, a large room with just a couple of lights in the corners, some tired furniture scattered around: a sagging sofa, There are windows–rather old-style windows, wooden frames, with lower sashes that can be opened by tilting them inside–all around.  A browning floral print wallpaper decorates the walls.  There seem to be some other rooms opening off the end of the room.  A door in the wall, like you find in any home, is set in one side of the room.

“You want to look around?” says Hugh.  He walks over and opens the door, beckoning me.  I join him, step through the door.

We’re on a wide terrace, one that seems to run all the way around the apartment we were in.  Below is a riot of lights moving with the traffic below.  I look around, and can now make out other buildings, looming on all sides, many of them much lower that we are, some towering above us.

“Pretty neat, huh?” asks Hugh.

I really don’t have anything to say, but “Wow.”  My gawking finished, we go back inside, for which I am much grateful.  I feel awful.  I’m tired; I’m hungry; I haven’t slept for two days.

Lenny, a large, almost portly older man, hands me a drink.  “Here, this will wake you up,” he says.

Of course, it does no such thing.  In fact, I can remember nothing more of that evening.

So now, I’m waking up, rather surprised to find that my penis is being treated to a massage by some large, warm, moist lips.  I’m lying on my back, on the floor.  My pants seem to be pulled down, and this Lenny personage is busy with me, and I’m already tumescent, so I just go with the flow, let it come and live in this moment.  Lenny manages to draw out this moment as long as possible, but I’m young and full of it and I’m always eager for this, having had some practice, and in not too long that electric warmth has filled by body and my muscles have spasmed and I’ve climaxed and ejaculated into Lenny’s mouth.

Then it’s over.  To my relief, Lenny  backs off, he goes to the nearby sofa, where another gentleman sits with his hands busily doing something in his lap.  The sun seems to be coming up on the city the other side of the windows.

Half-sitting up,I look around the room.  In some tired-out easy chairs are two men talking and trading some papers with each other.  In a corner far from the door are Hugh and another young man. They look like lovers, very gently, lovingly helping each other with some task, they’re doing something with…there’s a rubber tube around the other young man’s arm just below the biceps, and Hugh seems to be….  Okay, they’re shooting up.

This doesn’t seem to be a scene I want to be involved in.  I struggle to my feet, close my pants.

“Where’s the bathroom?”

Lenny points to a door at the end of the room.  Boy, do I have to pee!  Having just cum, it stings a bit, but it feels so good to empty my bladder out, I could do that all day.  But I don’t.

At the sink, I splash some cold water on my face, run my fingers through my hair. Presentable?  Not hardly.  But I’m lucky. I realize, that I have hardly any beard.

I go out of the bathroom back into the now unwelcoming room.  I gotta get outa here.  I may actually have said that, “I gotta get outta here.”

Someone nods toward the door.

I left that place.  Just what happened I’m not sure.

But I’d found a place to stay.  I’d been warm.  The carpeted floor had not been concrete.  No one beat me up in an alley.  Lots of things to be thankful for.  But not something I want to do again.

Although, I remember the two boys, Hugh and the other, being so close, so concerned with each other, helping each other shoot up their drugs so very gently, tenderly, so lovingly.  It’s not all bad.

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