By Rick Segreda
Wednesday night was the fat man's special night out at the YMCA. His work schedule didn't give him weekends off, and even if it did, it wouldn't improve his social life. Fat, balding, and middle-aged; those were his distinguishing characteristics, how even he defined himself, with narrow shoulders and short legs that made him appear not so much a Buddha but Humpty Dumpty. Thus he saw no use in going to the Pride Tavern and being invisible to the slim, young men he longed for.
So to the YMCA he went, where every Wednesday night he would ogle young men of the sort he'd never otherwise see naked, and engage in a fantasy life that dulled his loneliness with fleeting bliss.
Exchanging his membership card for a locker room key, the fat man went upstairs, undressed, and headed for the steam room, clad only in his large blue towel. The steam faucet had been left on for some time, making the air around him as opaque as well as very, very hot. He felt his way towards his usual bench and sat down, carefully resting the towel over his lap.
He could not see anyone, but he knew that this being yoga night, popular with the college crowd, it would only be a matter of time before some young Adonis walked in. In the meanwhile, large beads of sweat began to roll down his forehead, onto his breasts, and over his massive stomach. His towel grew heavy with steam and perspiration.
Twenty minutes passed and no one came in. The fat man became restless. The bug of loneliness, that slightly anguished feeling in his heart he was always trying to avoid suddenly became more pronounced. For some reason, he began to think of his much older brother, who was straight, handsome, married, and unlike the fat man, financially well off. The fat man always felt victimized by his inability to cope with his emotions well enough to make it in this world. His loneliness was now coupled with a bitter feeling of resentment. He hated these feelings. Gripping his towel, he despaired of his one good night being a bust if at least one cute guy didn't appear.
Gradually the steam began to condense, and the fat man could see that he had not been alone during all this time. There was the outline of a body, lying face up, on the bench across from his. More steam lifted and the fat man felt lucky. It was an uncommonly beautiful young man, with long, curly black hair, who seemed to be no more than twenty. He was well toned, muscular, with a face that projected an ethereal beauty that was both masculine and feminine, yet neither. His skin was olive. He sported four tattoos; an ivy leaf branch that circled his left arm, an Escher pair of intertwined lizards on his right, a carefully drawn black teardrop on his left cheek, and a large Krazy Kat cartoon on his chest. His left leg featured a leather ankle bracelet with the word "ferrelli."
The young man appeared to be sleeping. The fat man looked him up and down, and, moving his hand under his towel slowly began to masturbate. At this point the steam room door quickly opened and in came a very, very old man-he looked to be almost 90. He was not an example of growing old gracefully. His pale, wrinkled, almost transparent skin, with so many varicose veins present, hung very loosely from his thin frame.
The fat man quickly pulled his hand back, crossed his legs, and looked at the ceiling. The old man sat next to him, coughed several times, spit on the drainage grid, then got up and walked out
The fat man went back to his lap, carefully starting to play with himself, intently focussing his eyes on the young man as a happy image memory that he would take home with him to get through his long nights the rest of the week.
Within a minute the young man opened his eyes, so the fat man stopped again. The young man sat up, and, facing the fat man, stared at him. The fat man sheepishly smiled and nodded his head as a way of gesturing "hello," but the young man didn't smile or nod back. Rather, he kept staring at the fat man, grimly, making him nervous. The young man then sucked in some of the hot, steamy air, but without taking his eyes off the fat man.
The fat man worried that one day a difficult situation like this would arise, but he decided that for the moment the best thing to do was to pretend he neither noticed or was concerned about the young Adonis staring at him. He turned his large head away from the young man and stared at the tiles on the wall. A few minutes passed. The young man had not left the steam room, but he hadn't said anything either. Then out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the young man had not taken his eyes off him.
Maybe he had misread this along, the fat man thought-this might be one of those once in a lifetime situations. Maybe the young man, he wondered, saw something in him that he found appealing. The fat man turned, smiled at him, and, becoming aroused in the possibility of fantasy becoming real, asked the young man, "how are you doing?" He didn't respond. The fat man rationalized that as shyness. He felt that all he had to do was wait.
The young man stood up. The fat man's heart beat with anticipation. The young man walked towards him, and, standing over him, stared directly into the fat man's eyes. It was not a friendly look.
He got nervous. There was something different, something very different about the young man. His dark green eyes blazed with an intensity that peered directly into the fat man's soul. He shifted uncomfortably on the bench. Those eyes were very much like his mother's. He now felt as he did when his mother caught him misbehaving and no matter how good his alibi he couldn't lie to her. He almost felt like crying. Strangely enough, he remained aroused.
The fat man crossed his legs. He just wanted to leave, but couldn't in his current state. The young man curled his hands into tight fists. The fat man's heart was pounding. He was now ready to just run out of the steam room, but the young man was blocking his way.
The steam room door swung open and in walked two black men. "That mother is always calling me 'spook' because I scare his ass, " one said to the other while the other laughed. The young man walked out. The fat man grabbed the cold water hose and used it on himself till he was presentable in his nakedness.
He was exhausted, not relaxed and happy as he hoped his one good night would leave him. Quickly getting dressed he went down to the front desk to return his locker key.
There was an unusually long line of YMCA members at the moment at the front desk. The fat man grew restless. All he wanted to do is go home, and he worried about running into that young man if he was still in the building. He counted the number of people at the desk, and sighed. He eyes began to wander around the lobby, where he looked at the usual stuff he ignored; banners promoting a new activity or class, as well as nutrition and exercise posters. By the coke machine, the fat man saw someone who from the back had long dark curly hair. He was wearing a tie dye tee shirt. The fat man became edgy. The machine released the soda pop can, this fellow grabbed it, and turned around. The fat man relaxed-it wasn't him. He then thought about trying to forget the whole evening, maybe stop at Jack in the Box on the way home and buy a few cheeseburgers as a way to change his still shaken emotional state.
It was finally his turn to give back his locker key. He smiled at the young woman behind the desk and handed it over. At which point his eyes widened and his face became pale white. Above the desk, over the first aid kit, he saw on the wall above the desk a picture frame with a 5" by 7" glossy photo of a young man. The fat man looked more intently. It was HIM, the young man in the steam room. He was looking straight into the camera with his green eyes, smiling. Beneath the picture was a caption, in large, bold, letters, which read:
Donation of Climbing Wall,
In Honor of Robert G. Ferrelli,
1973-1993, by his mother, Margaret
Ferrelli, for her son,
who loved life.
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