Grab Ass – Anthony Dragonetti

I was in my early 20s. Maybe even 19 when I started. It was easier once I could legally drink in bars. If you can still be called cute in your mid-20s, it does something to you. Some boys were already seeing their hair thin. Perpetual stubble no matter how often they shaved. Love handles, even.

Not me. Baby faced with a slight bubble butt and shaggy hair. It helped that I was skinny and suffering from a bit of scoliosis as my shoulders appeared slight and slumped like a meek bird. One look at me and you’d see innocence, shyness, passiveness. Just waiting for a guy who knows what he’s doing to scoop me up.

I wasn’t stupid and I needed the money. I knew what I had. It’s the reserve currency and the exchange rate was in my favor. The married ones with a wife and kids would try it with me, but it never went anywhere too useful. Maybe a hotel. A one-time score. You can’t make a living like that. You need men on retainers. Reliable, constant income. The down low ones get spooked easily.

The real deals, the insatiable ones, the ones that grab your ass right at the bar during the first drink, now those are meal tickets. They’re hungry and once they know you’re willing, the phone doesn’t stop ringing.

I’d spend their money on clothes, weed, whatever. I’d spend a lot of it on girls, too. I had my own appetite to consider. I wouldn’t tell them where the money came from unless I knew they’d be into it.

One night this guy took me home. Bought me a couple drinks and we were out of there. Efficiency is the name of the game. If I could bag two in one night, it felt like my luck would carry me forever and I’d never die. When he approached me, nothing about him struck me as unusual. Middle-aged, fairly attractive. Obviously faded, like he was probably handsome when he was young, and he was trying to hold on. Someone I wouldn’t need to disembody with when they were having fun with me. A pleasant enough treat.

He had this nice apartment. There wasn’t much in it, but I could tell he had good taste. I sat on his bed looking at the art on the walls while he used the bathroom. On his dresser was a picture of four boys. I got up to take a closer look. One of the boys was him. I could tell. He was gorgeous. Far more handsome than I initially guessed. He stepped out of the bathroom and saw me looking at the photo.

He said something like “not bad, huh” or “pretty good.” I agreed, trying not to draw attention to what time had done while still being flattering. His mouth was smiling, but his eyes weren’t. I didn’t know what to do. Usually it was all dirty talk and throwing me around. Now this guy was sheepishly taking his shirt off, looking over his shoulder at me. When he turned around, I saw the giant, jagged scar on his chest.

Of course, I stared. There was no way I couldn’t. He explained, in an almost apologizing tone, that he had suffered a heart attack and emergency surgery was performed to save his life. I said that scars give character and that it was actually attractive. I was horrified, really, but the sadness he was filling the room with got to me.

I tried to get back into hustler mode, but the energy he had at the bar clearly was gone. I reassured him that we were going to have a good time and then excused myself to use the bathroom. As I was flushing the toilet, I noticed there was something in the shower. I pulled the curtain back to see a CPAP machine with the mask soaking in a bucket of soapy water. I muttered “poor guy” to myself and practiced my flirty face in the mirror. I had to save this thing. When I got out of the bathroom, I saw him holding the photo. He was completely naked, facing away from me. His body sagged where his impressive muscles used to be. He looked at me and said he was the only person in the picture that was still alive.

My head was spinning. It was too much. I couldn’t take this. There were too many things I was being forced to think about. I told him I had to go, and he didn’t put up a fight at all. He said he understood and that things often went this way. He couldn’t help it. A lot had happened to him and he was having a hard time.

As I got to the front door, I let him kiss my cheek. He looked me in the face and said something to me. I remember it exactly.

“I used to be cute, too. It doesn’t last. Have fun with all this while you can. One day, you wake up and you see me in the mirror.”

He smiled like he thought what he told me was advice wrapped in a little joke at his own expense. I didn’t smile back. I turned and walked home. I couldn’t sit in a cab. I couldn’t get him out of my head.

The entire walk home I felt like every muscle in my chest was squeezing as hard as it could. I caught my reflection in darkened car windows. I didn’t see a cute boy. I saw death waiting. Time would have its way with me. I would stop being happy.

My number was up. I stopped going to the bars so much. I got a job at my uncle’s furniture store. That was all a lifetime ago.

I’m married now. We own a house and have a son. My wife travels a lot for work. Sometimes, not often, I’ll leave the kid with her parents and go out. I like to sit in the bars and watch people.

I try to strike up a conversation with some cute boy. I flash a little cash. I’m good looking again. I am not old and sad. I get him drunk and take him to a hotel. I take off his clothes. I look at his pretty, practiced flirty face. I pull out a knife. I hold it above the tip of his nose. I watch his face change. He’s not flirting, he’s crying. He begs. I would never hurt anyone. I want him to know something. I want him to know that a twitch in my arm would make him ugly. No more drinks. No more cash. Game over. It’s done.

Knowing that he knows this, I let him go. I hope he walks home and never feels the way he felt before he met me again. That’s my revenge. Time will do the work for me.