“Picture Perfect”: Part II
The next day – Saturday – began as a sunny, brisk day. The muffled voices of some news show commentators on a TV in a neighboring room lulled him out of his stupor, though venturing out for breakfast, he was surprised how quiet the rest of the corridor of hotel suites was.
As he was walking down one of the streets, intending to grab something at a small restaurant in the square he had remembered from the previous night, he passed a few antique shops, then a huge photo gallery. That’s when he caught it in the corner of his eye. There, hanging from wires in the gallery’s street front floor-to- ceiling window.
Ralph stood there for what seemed forever, surprised by what he saw and pleased that he hadn’t changed much at all.
What had it been? Three years, maybe longer when that graduate student from Columbia – Doug, right? – reached out to him on one of the hook-up sites, but not for sex. For his doctoral dissertation in fine arts, Doug was working on a photo project called “Guys in Their Living Space.” He liked Ralph’s toughie demeanor and asked if he would pose nude for him in his own apartment for the project, doing things guys do. The best of the shoot would be displayed, wall mural size, along with those of a dozen other men at some small gallery in the Village that April.
The shoot took a few hours and Doug, tall, thin and geeky, was purely professional about the whole thing. There were shots in Ralph’s tiny work kitchen, shots of Ralph trimming his beard in his bathroom, shots of Ralph sprawled on his living room sofa, and shots of Ralph in bed. All nude, of course, but tasteful. No erections here, more like Michelangelo’s soft-cocked Adam.
Nor did Ralph care if someone from work might end up seeing the exhibition. After all, he had sacrificed a lot of hours in the gym for that body so why not leave something of it to posterity? Hell, it might even earn him a few tricks.
Ralph never mentioned the mural even to his Manhattan fuck buddies Vinnie and Pete and the opening night of the exhibition in the Village Ralph went alone. Doug had selected the bathroom shot with Ralph’s face reflecting in his bathroom mirror, his firm fuzzy butt turned to the camera but with more than a hint of his thick uncut cock gently touching the door of the bathroom vanity. After pondering himself up on a wall, bigger than life, ten feet by six feet, and feeling a bit of a bulge in his jeans, Ralph stepped back and quietly observed the reactions of his admirers, mostly retro hippy collegiate types, with a sprinkling of older couples and smartly dressed yuppies. The only other gay men in the room were those like him up on the wall, all with friends or lovers. It looked to Ralph like he had been the youngest of Doug’s models.
Only one man, sixtyish, dressed in a blazer and slacks, actually recognized him as the guy in the picture and coming up to him at the refreshment table quipped, “Nice posterior, young man.” Doug was huddled most of the time Ralph was there with fellow geeks and, hesitant to disturb the little coterie, Ralph quietly left. It was getting to be bar time on Christopher and he had had his fifteen minutes of fame.
But how had the mural ended up here, more than a thousand miles away from New York in some photo gallery in Florida? Ralph had to wait until after breakfast and the gallery had opened to speak with the manager, an aged lady with a fluffy orange dress, still clinging to some genteel era of her life, who described how a guy who fit Doug perfectly had sold the mural to the gallery owner – a woman – almost a year ago. And, yes, while it was technically for sale, the gallery owner was more bent on keeping it as a “conversation piece” for her window and had even refused a few offers. Ralph didn’t let on to Miz Scarlet that he was the guy in the photo and she apparently didn’t make the connection or chose not to let on if she had.
He killed time at a small museum about Ybor City and, rambling around, discovered a farmers flea market in progress in a park a few blocks away. Back in his room, he found no responses from any of the guys he had lined up back in Jax and only two messages from local guys who wanted him to come to them. With the car safely stowed away in the municipal garage, Ralph wasn’t ready to drive around on strange roads just to get off.
Leaving his tablet on, he strolled over to the courtyard hot tub where he found two ancient bears in from Orlando bobbling in the water. He made small talk for all of ten minutes, then went back, figuring a nap might be the best way to spend the afternoon until things picked up. Somehow. Somewhere.
He was pulling the blinds closed in his room when he heard that familiar beep that he had received a message on furryguys.com. It was from “Just Another Guy’s Guy:”
“Hey, hot man, would you be available this afternoon? I live in the neighborhood and can come over if interested. Eric here.”
Ralph clicked on the guy’s profile. There were no tempting shirtless pics or ass or hard cock shots, just a portrait of an Italian or black Irish looking man, classically handsome, with wavy dark hair and beard and right on dark eyes. His specs read 42, five, seven, 145, moderately hairy, and he was a top/versatile.
Ralph was getting a hard-on as he typed his reply, “Sure, how’s 2? I’m staying at Ybor City Resort, Suite 17. Ralph here.”
He checked that the guy was still online and sat staring at the screen, waiting for a reply.
When ten minutes passed and none came, Ralph figured “Just Another Guy’s Guy” was just another one of those cockteasers he had encountered all too often on the sites, coming on to you, then suddenly vanishing when it was ready to close the deal. He walked back to his bed, and had unlaced his boots and stripped down to his underwear when he heard the beep again.
“2 is fine. See you soon.”
Though he made it clear in his own profile he was a top, Ralph was surprised the guy hadn’t interrogated him like guys usually did on what he was “into.” He lay in bed for about a half hour trying not to think about his date so he could catch a cat nap but when his dick refused to cooperate, Ralph bounced up, grabbed a towel and walked down the empty corridor to the shower room with its shiny white tiled row of stalls.
He was all lathered up when from out of the steam he heard a voice.
“Hello. Ralph? Is that you?”
Ralph turned off the faucets and pulled back the shower curtain.
There, standing just a few feet away, wearing only a towel, was a short, slim, lightly muscular guy who looked just like his profile picture.
The conclusion of “Picture Perfect,” Friday…