A Conversation With Carlton

by Rick Beck

Part 6

"I'm not very bright, when it comes to figuring out what to do, if I don't follow the leads of the people I'm with. There aren't many people I want to be with," I said. "If you don't do this very often, I don't do this at all. You are looking for something you aren't going to find on 42nd Street," I said. "Even I know that."

"Until tonight, I'd have said you're right, but it's no longer true. You're living proof."

"Except I'm not a hustler. You don't know how unusual it was for me to even walk over to your car. Until tonight, getting into a strange man's car would have been out of the question."

"But you got into my car, and I found you on 42nd Street," he said.

"You've got me there," I said.

"Picking up young men twenty years my junior isn't that good an idea, but there are few other ways for me to come into contact with men who would like to go out with me. There is a limited supply of available young men who are going to go out with a man like me, on short notice."

"A man like you, with a wife and two daughters," I said. "A man of color. A Filipino man."

"Exactly. So you see why I need to be discrete," he said.

"But Frank knows you have a family. He's sure I'm not your son. How could he not know what's going on, Carlton?"

"A proprietor of a business that services the needs of his clients, doesn't want to know what you are doing with the person you bring to dinner. He wants to do all within his power to keep me coming back."

"That makes sense, but there are people who know that you like men, in spite of your wife and daughters."

"That is the risk I take. I like the company of men, even when it's obviously a charade. I'm not really with the guys I bring here, but we play the game as if there is meaning to it all," he said, folding his hands in front of him, as if it made perfect sense to him.

"While we're being so honest with each other, I wasn't completely truthful, when I said there was nothing else I wanted to do. I wanted to play baseball," he confessed.

"You wanted to play for the Yankees," I said.

"No, I wanted to play professional baseball. That dream died when I was seventeen. A lot of things took place, when I was seventeen. Things that assured I'd work for my father, and eventually, become the man you see before you now."

"What happened to baseball?" I asked.

"It's a long story, Rick, a very long story."

"Where's your bus going?" I asked.

"What bus?" Carlton asked, and a light came on in his eyes. "I can see I need to be careful with what I say to you. You turned what I said back on me. Very clever. You're an unusual young man."

"Would I do that?" I asked, smiling.

"You just did. I'll make you a deal. I'll tell you what happened to baseball, and then, you'll tell me how it is you came to be the pleasant, quick-witted young man I see before me," he said. "You're like no one I've met before."

"As you wish, Carlton. You go first. I'll bring up the rear."

"I've never told anyone about this episode. I hardly think about it anymore. It almost seems like it didn't happen to me, but it did happen. Like I said, I was seventeen," he said, losing momentum.

"It involved your desire to play baseball," I said.

"That, and another desire I've spent some time trying to deny. There was a teammate I was close to. We started playing baseball together at about thirteen or fourteen, in middle school. We were always the best hitters on whatever team we joined," he said, seeming to picture it.

"Once we reached high school, Chase and I played all our high school games in the outfield. Even as sophomores, we were better hitters than the older boys on the team. He became the starting center-fielder. I was the starting left fielder."

Once again, Carlton lost his momentum.

I said nothing. I watched Carlton processing his memories.

"It actually started when I was 12. That was the year my mother died. I went out for baseball to help me deal with my grief."

As I listened to Carlton, I noticed Frank approaching the table. He carried a bottle of wine. He opened it and he poured a tiny bit in Carlton's wine glass. Carlton picked it up, swished it around, smelled it, and he drank it down.

"Delightful, Frank. That's the wine I want."

Frank poured Carlton's wine glass two thirds full, and he took my glass and poured me wine before I had a chance to stop him. I rarely drank. If I did drink, I had a bottle of beer. The wine of American rednecks.

I said nothing. Carlton took a few sips of the white wine. He had a far away look in his eyes, and the wine ceremony didn't bring him completely back to Evelyn's dining room.

"Chase and I were... well, we were close. Even at thirteen, we stuck together. We'd gone to a party a girl at school gave. On the way home, Chase said he had to pee, and we stepped into an alley. He started talking about how stiff his dick was. It made my face turn hot and I got an erection, as he peed. 'You must need to pee. You had more punch than I did. Don't be bashful.' I got my dick out and he sees that I'm as erect as he is, and he said, 'Feel mine, and I'll feel yours.' I was stunned by the suggestion. I wanted to say that, but I was too big a chicken to take that risk.

Then, there we are, giving each other a hand job. I lasted about forty seconds, but he kept me pumping on his for quite a while. He'd gotten me off, and I had to get him off. Believe me when I say, I didn't mind at all."

"I could see the confusion in his eyes. It was obviously traumatic. I was 12 when it happened to me. We have that in common. I was born the year I turned 12, and you lost your mother that year. Both our lives were forever changed," I said.

I could see it. It was like the last ten years didn't exist, as I felt a twinge of sorrow. I was on the edge of panic, when I steady myself.

"You were kids. Some kids go through that phase," I said. "I believe some boys are far more sexual than other boys. It's difficult to do what society says to do, abstain, while your hormones rage."

Carlton was staring at my face.

"I believe that's true. Chase was way more... willing to interact that way than I ever was. Had we not walked into that alley together, well..., I might not have realized I liked a boy that way." Carlton said.

"You believe that one, and I got a bridge over in Brooklyn I'll make you a real deal on," I said without humor in my voice.

He laughed.

"You see right through me, don't you. It was no phase for me, Rick. Believe me when I say, I was addicted to Chase. He knew every spot in and around the baseball fields to have enough privacy to get our hands on each other. I can't believe I'm telling someone this. I was horrified someone might find out. Chase, not so much. He was always ready."

Carlton stopped talking. Our food had arrived.

I was still hungry, but I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

The plate could hardly contain the turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes. The gravy dripped over everything on the plate. There were dishes for the two casseroles, rice, peas, and cranberry sauce. I couldn't wait to dig in.

Carlton's plate was sizzling. The thick piece of fish had been grilled to a careful tan color. A bowl of rice and a crisp salad were put in front of him. The waiter retreated, and we went to work on the food.

Evelyn's was without question the top of the line as restaurants went. We arrived before eight, I don't know how much before, but before nine, the restaurant was nearly full. I figured on a week night, even Thanksgiving eve, the well-to-do took their time.

Carlton had a bit of a ritual, he'd take a bite of his fish, some rice, he'd dab the linen napkin on his lips, sip some water, then he'd take a sip of wine. He'd then take a bite of salad, chewing carefully, and then he took a bite of fish, and so on.

I don't usually notice how people eat, because I'm pretty busy eating myself. In DC, Big Mike took me to the Astor from time to time. It's where I ate my first lobster tail, and the mainly Greek menu gave me samples of flavors I'd never experienced before.

I was from a lower middle class family. We weren't poor, because we always had food. It might be bean soup a few times a week, and grilled cheese sandwiches with the bean soup, when times were better. We always had a roast, or chicken, on Sunday, and bean soup Friday nights.

While we weren't poor, and there was always food, my parents were always there, at six o'clock every night, and at two on Sunday afternoon. If my parents were there, my brother and I were going to be yelled at. My brother was three years older than I was, so he'd been yelled at for a lot longer than I had. If we knew what was good for us.

The one and only time we came together each day, and this took careful planning on my part, was at the dinner table. The sun could explode, the oceans could flood the land, but we better have our asses at the table at six o'clock each evening.

Sitting in Evelyn's with a sumptuous meal in front of me, the last thing I wanted to do was remember my childhood experiences at dinner. I dug in. I was soon lost in a flood of exceptional flavors.

Over the years, the yelling, the beatings, the constant and unrelenting anger, had me working overtime to figure out ways to avoid the inevitable. When I tried something new one night, I was 8, maybe 9. My plate was filled and handed to me. I said, 'Thank you," as was required.

I sat next to my mother. My brother sat next to my father, and if my mother became perturbed by something I said, or didn't say, I'd get a quick backhand in the chops. She used the hand with her wedding ring on it. It had a raised tiny diamond, and it hurt like hell.

I'd tried to argue a point or two over my short lifespan. It was 'back sassing,' according to my mother, and I got that wedding ring in the mouth. I rarely said anything at the table anymore. What I did say was, "May I be excused?" As soon as I emptied my plate.

I was always excused.

One day I figured I'd gobble my food straight down, ask to be excused, while the rest of them were just getting started, and see what happened. After two minutes of shoveling in the food, I asked, 'May I be excused?" I was excused. It worked.

How I didn't have ulcers or some kind of stomach problems, I don't know, but every night I gobbled my food straight down, and I got excused from the nightly inquisition. If they had something to yell at me about, they had to get straight to it, before I was gone.

"Where'd you go?" Carlton asked. "Your food is getting cold."

"Oh," I said. "It was a little hot. I'm fine," I reassured him, trying to stop doing, what it was I was doing.

"The food isn't to your liking?" He asked.

"It's wonderful. It's my favorite meal."

"Where'd you go, really?" Carlton asked,sensing a change in me.

I took careful control of my fork, after being ready to gobble my food in front of Carlton. I caught myself in time. Why was I thinking about that stuff? I never thought about my childhood.

"I said your name twice," he said. "You were totally spaced out."

"I was just thinking," I said.

"You aren't uncomfortable with me, I hope," he said.

"Oh, no. You've been a perfect gentlemen. I was just thinking."

He continued his routine. A bite of fish, a bite of rice, the napkin to his lips. A little water, a little wine, and a bite of salad, before he went back to his fish. He had impeccable manors. I was a slob compared to Carlton. I took my time and I not to gross him out.

I focused on the meal in front of me, pushing my past aside. No one wanted to hear my tale of woe, but at 8, I became a food gobbler. Why it never earned me a pop in the chops, I'll never know. My parents seemed to lose track of their grievances once I left the table. It was so simple, Why hadn't I thought of it before?

I cut some turkey, dipped it in gravy, and I savored the flavor. It was all delicious, and I was hungry. I took food from every dish that sat in front of me. I couldn't possibly eat it all, and I wasn't trying to empty my plate.

Why had my past picked now to ambush me?

I'd been starving, and in short order, I wasn't. There was nothing I wanted to turn my nose up at.

"Would you like anything else?" Carlton asked.

"A glass of milk," I said. "I bet they don't even have milk."

"Of course they do, my daughters eat here and they drink milk," Carlton said, leaning back in his chair to signal the waiter.

In short order, there was a glass of milk delivered to me, and I drank half of it immediately. It was pleasing to feel it slide into my stomach. I didn't have ulcers, and I didn't know why I didn't, but milk soothed my stomach, while eating a big meal. I made a point of slowing the pace of my shoveling, so I enjoyed so many unique flavors.

I didn't touch my wine. Carlton didn't ask me about it. He did nothing to alert me to any possible flaw in his makeup. I had more flaws that you could shake a stick at, but I could keep them hidden for short periods. I could eat my dinner like a gentlemen, even if the gentlemen had a fast fork. I didn't want any of it getting away.

If the pace of my eating worried Carlton, he didn't mention it. When I'd had enough, half his fish was still on his plate, as he went through the same motions, over and over. He had perfect posture, and his clothes fit him like a snug glove fits your hand.

Just before nine, the soft and mellow music, went off, and a live trio began playing on the opposite side of the restaurant. Carlton looked that way, smiled, and he went back to his fish.

"We have apple, pumpkin, and, a superb mincemeat, pies. Six flavors of ice cream, Black Forest Cake, or a sumptuous rice pudding," the waiter told us.

"I couldn't eat another bite," I said.

"We'll, pass, Raymond. Thank you," Carlton said. "What did you think?"

"I had to stop myself. I'd make myself sick if I ate anymore, but it was some of the best food I've ever had. It was all very good," I said.

Carlton smiled as if he'd had some hand in it, and he had, he'd brought me to Evelyn's, and it was a meal I'd remember.

The next time the waiter passed, he brought the check, Carlton signed his signature on the document, and the waiter smiled, thanking him, and we exited the restaurant by taking the long way around. After reaching the trio, Carlton stopped to listen.

As soon as Mr. Calderone reached the front entrance, Jeffrey went into action, jogging toward the side of the restaurant. In no time he was parking Carlton's car at the front door.

When Jeffrey jumped out, a bill was passed into his white gloved hand, I didn't see the amount, but Jeffrey bid us a pleasant evening, and he told us to come back soon.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Carlton said.

"It's the nicest restaurant I've ever been in," I said.

Carlton smiled, but it had a dozen questions hidden in it.

"Do you eat out much?" He asked.

"Yes, I'm out a lot. I drive a lot, but fine dining for me is Sidley's hamburger joint, on Marlboro Pike, a mile from the DC line," I said.

Carlton didn't speak. Traffic had picked up, but we were deeper in the city now. I'd lost track of how we got where we were.

"What happened to Chase," I asked.

He didn't speak for a while.

He finally said, "I don't know. Went away to college. I stayed in town. I went to New York University. I took business."

"As was the plan," I said.

"As was the plan," he said. "As I said, Chase and I were making the most of what we did for each other. In our senior year, about the time baseball season was ending, and we were about to graduate, Chase started going with Marsha Whitfield. She was giving him head, and it's all he could talk about. I was jealous. I didn't want to hear about Marsha Whitfield."

"I can imagine. You really liked Chase," I said.

"I'm sure I was in love with him. He was getting hand jobs, and I was making love to him, while he did. Marsha put a crimp in our plans. We were going to go to the same college. We were going to continue to play ball together."

"But that's not what happened," I calculated.

"No, it isn't. Chase began asking me to give him head. I was holding out for him to return the favor, but he said, "I'm not a queer."

"Not cool," I said. "What did he think he was doing with you all that time."

"Not cool," Carlton said. "But after a while, I decided I wanted to do it for him. Maybe he'd rather me do it for him, but I wasn't doing it in public. Hand jobs could be covered up fairly fast. A guy on his knees in front of another guy is more difficult to disguise."

"What happened?" I asked.

"I figured we'd go home and do it in my bed. I had a fantasy about getting Chase in my bed. If I told him I was going to give him what he asked for, he'd go for doing it in my bedroom, and my father never came home from work until after dark. Shandra, our maid, left the apartment about the time I got home from school. She cleans house and cooks for us, since my mother passed. So, baseball had ended, and we head for my house after last period. Chase is anxious to get to it. He had an erection that he kept rubbing. He didn't know I noticed, but I noticed everything about him. He had this incredibly exciting smell," Carlton said.

"You were in love," I said.

Carlton smiled.

"I was. I was about to get the man of my dreams into my bed. Once we got into the apartment, we went straight to my room, after we stopped in the kitchen for Cokes. We argued about where to do the deed. I favor the bed. He favors standing up with me kneeling in front of him. The argument didn't last long. We did it his way, of course. He pushed his pants down below his knees. He was always ready. I felt like I could eat him alive," Carlton said.

"I was always all in for Chase. Now I was about to put him in my mouth. It was so incredibly erotic. Even his sneer made it hotter. I was servicing my man. He got his hands on the back of my head. I don't know what he thought he was doing, but he pushed for all he was worth, and he pushed himself across my teeth. I know that had to hurt, but it didn't slow him down any. I was just trying to survive. I couldn't breathe, and he kept pushing, pushing, and then, out of character for him, he began to unload. It was in my throat, and I had to figure out what to do with it as he pumped out his jizz. It was all over in a couple of minutes. I was the one with the quick trigger. Chase could lean back and he'd keep telling me, 'Faster. Do it harder." He didn't say anything that day, and I was impaled on his erection, until it started to soften."

"Sounds hot," I said, not enjoying rough sex myself.

"It might have been, if my father wasn't standing in the doorway of my room. He had to travel to Chicago. He came home to pack. He heard us in my bedroom. He came in to tell me he'd be gone for three days. Calderone Industries was merging with a smaller company in Chicago. He was going to meet the men who ran Western Computing."

"Bummer," I said. "What happened?"

"Chase was horrified. I was apologetic. He pulled up his pants and left. I wiped my mouth off before getting up to face my father. It was time to face the music for my mortal sin," Carlton said.

"That's a bit much, isn't it. You gave a guy a blow job, you didn't kill anyone," I foolishly said.

"My father was a hardcore church going Catholic. There was no greater sin than for a man to lie with another man as a man would lie with a woman," he said. "It's fundamental Catholicism. It has been made into one of the worst sins you can commit."

"The way this society views sex, it's a wonder anyone gets born," I said. "We have a sex drive that leads us to having sex. No matter what form the sex takes, bible thumpers are going to condemn it. The human body isn't dirty. Seeing it doesn't make you go blind."

"All true, but to a dyed in the wool Catholic, it's all true, no matter how cockeyed it is. I knew this when I took Chase home. I was playing with fire, and I got my ass burned up."

"That sounds serious," I said.

"I thought he was going to kill me," Carlton said.

"Come on," I said. "You're exaggerating."

"My father never hit me, while I was growing up, until that day."

"You don't know what you missed. I got beat every day," I said.

"That deserves its own time, but my father got out his father's cane, and he had me bend over my bed, after I took off my clothes. He began beating me, and I didn't think he'd stop. Some time before he left, I collapsed on the floor. I don't know how long I laid there, but it was dark when I woke up. I couldn't move. I was bruised from my feet to the top of my head. He literally beat the shit out of me."

"What happened after that?" I asked.

"Nothing. It was never mentioned again. Oh, I knew every time he looked at me, he saw me on my knees with me taking care of Chase. I had no idea he was there. I only knew where Chase was.

The smell of him was so completely erotic. I got drunk on hearing the sounds he made. The slight undulation of his hips. His powerful hands on my face. Those hands that held the bat that struck like lightning at a baseball. We were both lost in the most incredible thing we'd even shared. It was our best and last moment together."

I had no illusions about that. My father told me that I would no longer play baseball. I would enroll in New York University, and I'd take business courses, while working at Calderone Industries. There was no time for any fooling around," Carlton said.

"What happened to Chase?" I asked.

"I don't know. He went away to college. We never talked again. I mean if he saw me coming, he went the other way. What I thought could bring us closer together, had driven us completely apart. I had to live with that, until my father died, and then it was over."

"That's harsh. There were no more guys like Chase?" I asked.

"No. I met my wife at school and we married the year I graduated from New York University. A year later we had our first daughter, and a year after that we had my second daughter."

"Did she know about what happened?" I asked. "You and Chase."

"Yes, I told her. I knew I liked men. Sex with her was more like work than what it should be like. I really became devoted to my work. We slept in different bedrooms, and we raised our daughters. I run Calderone Industries. It's not a bad life."

"But you need to go to 42nd Street, from time to time," I said.

"I do," he said. "It's never sexual. It's almost not social. I keep hoping."

"I'm sorry how it turned out for you. People deserve to be happy, Carlton. Why people who have power want to make it as tough as they can on people who have none, is a mystery to me. They should all go to hell, so we can find a way to enjoy this life," I said.

"You are enjoying your life?" Carlton asked.

"I'm young. I'll find my way. I'm still learning," I said.

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