When Damien sent Levi a text message asking for pictures of his dick, Levi—who had never taken a photo of his penis and had no plans to—texted back photos of dicks or rather. . . Dicks. Specifically, Dick York. Dick Sargent. Dick Van Patten. Dick Clark . . .
“This last has been known to speak with a cockney accent and trip over ottomans each week,” Levi typed as he attached a photo of Dick Van Dyke.
Levi hoped Damien noticed that Levi did not ask for pictures of Damien’s penis and that Damien would not take it upon himself to snap a pic or two and forward them to him. The dick pics thing just was not his style. Thankfully, after the barrage of pics of famous Hollywood Dicks, Damien did not make the request again.
He was back in Los Angeles by the weekend, following a tiring run of interviews to promote that damned movie he had done because a.) his agent had talked him into it (she had long felt she was missing out on a bigger paychecks due to his favoring lower-budget dramas as opposed to big blockbusters which he could earn a portion of and from which she would extract her percentage), b.) He wanted to make at least one film Track could see and understand before he was old enough to vote, and c.) The director and producer had both been so keen to work with him. Putting up with the endless interviews, always the same lazy questions, had just been part of his job. As his assistant and a driver drove him from LAX, he laughed tiredly, remembering the furor caused by Lady Gaga’s repeating the same answer to reporter after reporter when she had promoted “A Star Is Born”, something about a hundred people being in a room and needing just one person to believe in her. People picked up on her answer, its initial sincerity lost in endless repetition, and ridiculed her for it; no one bothered to ask why the damned reporters never came up with any new material. If they weren’t asking her the same damned question over and over, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write and deliver a scripted answer. He didn’t know any of her music and he hadn’t liked Bradley Cooper’s movie, thinking the latter half a colossal mess. But he did find the whole thing funny, including how obtuse the media was for picking on her without realizing that they themselves were the ones deserving the ridicule.
It was already past midnight and the driver was heading to Levi’s apartment. The assistant and driver would head on to Damien’s house and return his luggage to its proper place after Damien was dropped off at his latest boyfriend’s apartment. Not that there had been many. In fact, just a few. He lived a pretty quiet life, particularly after he had rid himself of that fake wife and her drug addiction. It was gossiped about in Hollywood that Track had been conceived by artificial insemination, but carried by a surrogate even though the beard known as Juliette Lake pretended to be pregnant via ever-increasing baby bump pillows—“Beyonce-style!”, some websites hissed with dual bullets. Everyone knew Juliette was shooting up. She never would have been able to carry a baby to term with her drug habits. Hell, she entered rehab when Track was only two months old; she couldn’t have been really carrying a baby, the gossips had surmised like a lawyer before a jury, because if she needed rehab so soon after delivering a baby, she would have been using during her pregnancy—and Track had been born perfectly healthy. But off Juliette went to rehab, and later divorce, and out came Damien from the closet and the publicist-driven ruse of a marriage. Juliette, the rumors persisted, was still a drug user, rehab stint aside, and still. . .secretly. . .a lesbian. A bigger star than Damien, Juliette was still targeted by gossips supporting the surrogate theory, while Damien’s personal life—being gay, his romances were apparently not as appealing to the middling tastes of People Magazine and Us Weekly—returned to near obscurity unless he had a film to promote. Those gossips also noted that though Damien and Juliette were on friendly terms, Damien had full custody of Track and Juliette? No contact with him at all. Any maternal needs were provided by a nanny.
Had he been a bigger star, TMZ and the other paparazzis looking for a quick paycheck would have followed the SUV into Hollywood and to the mid-rise apartment building sitting atop a subterranean parking garage to capture whatever this latest of Hollywood’s attempts to build another big male movie star would be doing in the dead of night. Instead, a man sitting alone on the building’s front steps looked up and Damien leapt from the SUV before it even came to a full stop, shouting back at the driver, “Be back at six!” He wanted to be back at home when Track awoke from his night’s sleep.
The man on the steps—a lean blond, nicely dressed, and with a bit of nervousness in his stance which was visible even from a distance—stepped toward him in the orange streetlight and vanished in its harsh shadows as Damien engulfed him and covered him with kisses. No paparazzi shot a single frame of their reunion nor overheard Damien say in a near moan, “Let’s continue our first date.”
That’s how Damien referred to their long phone calls and text messages. Continuing that first date. . .
And so Levi unlocked the front door to the building’s lobby and shyly brought Damien up into his world.
“I can’t stop kissing you,“ Damien apologized, his hand almost crushing Levi’s lips together. “You’re so fucking sweet!”
“Well by all means, let me give you diabetes,” Levi mumbled, his words getting slurred in another meeting of two sets of hungry lips. Damien’s latest kissing attack was in response to Levi’s massaging Damien’s lower back, which was killing him after the five hour flight from LaGuardia, first class comfy seat or not. And in response to the spread Levi had set out for him on the tiny, square, four-seat dining table in his dining room, figuring Damien might be hungry after a flight. And in response to the drink Levi handed him after they made out at the door for five or so minutes. And in response to all those phone calls they had exchanged over this past week, each one revealing a bit more of the other, each one lasting longer and longer, each one drawing the other deeper and deeper into whatever this would turn into. Words that were funny, touching, insightful, and, eventually, quite sexual before going back to being tender and admiring and sweet all over again. It was like a date that was so good, so rare, he never wanted it to end.
He loved holding Levi, almost crushing him, when they made love. Loved how their bodies felt together; whether primal or romantic or on a cognitive plane, whatever it was about their two bodies together and how Damien could punish him and please him, their connection was a turn-on to him. He loved seeing those damned green eyes, so damned loving, so real and without that goddamned agenda all the men he met seemed to have.
“I’ll blow you if you take care of me”, the Men with Agendas always seemed to imply with their eyes. “I’ll let you fuck me if you get me a part in a movie.” No love. No connection. No submission because Damien liked to dominate but submission because it would have a payoff.
Not this one. Not Levi. Levi was sweet. Able to communicate. Full of some funny stories. Thoughtful—look at how he rubbed Damien’s temples. Look how he set the alarm so Damien would awake in time to be driven back to his house so he would be there when Track awoke for breakfast.
They rarely talked about his illness. But before Damien left that morning, as they kissed–Levi seated atop the kitchen counter, looking down into Damien’s face as he brushed Damien’s tousled hair back with his hands and Damien smacking little kisses on his lips that were intermittently interrupted by deep, long ones that found Damien nearly crushing Levi’s ribs in his arms–there came a moment, a flash of something different in those gentle green eyes. A hurting. A loneliness. Something unique and deep from all the joy and light he had seen before.
“What?” Damien had asked, afraid he had hurt him in some way.
Levi, the slip restored like a practiced mask he had long ago learned to wear, laughed off the question. “What back to you?”
Damien lowered Levi’s face to kiss each eyebrow. “You just looked sad. Just all of a sudden. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” Levi told him with a smile, as if to imply the question was preposterous.
“Yes, Damie. I’m sure.”
“I love it when you call me ‘Damie’.”
“I love it when you look at me like that. Oh—that fucking smile.”
Damien squeezed him, lifting him off the counter top and whirled them both about, pushing him gently up against the column that divided the little walkway outside the kitchen from the otherwise open space some architect had called the “dining area”.
“You really have to work this weekend?”
“Yep. It’s how I afford all this glamour and opulence.” Levi indicated with a sarcastic wave of his hands the tiny apartment in which he lived, an apartment about the same size as Damien’s bedroom.
Damien sighed regretfully. “I’m slammed busy next week with the west coast interviews and the premiere and—”
“I’ll still be here whenever you have time,” Levi reminded him. “This is your moment. Revel in it.”
“It’s a moment I’m not all that sure I want, though,” Damien reminded him. They kissed again and Damien ventured, “Would you want to come to the premiere? You know the neighborhood well. . .”
“Is it at Grauman’s?” Levi laughed.
“It is. Right next door to your place of employ.”
“Gee. Maybe I can pop in on my break!” Levi joked. “’Lee—where did you go on your thirty minute lunch?’ “Gee, Judy, I went to the premiere of the latest box office blockbuster!’ ‘Levi, you get to do the damndest things!’”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“I think this is really Track’s moment with his dad, don’t you?” Levi asked. “I’ll go if you want me there but really. . .you made this movie for Track. Maybe he should be your only date.”
For a moment, Levi’s rejection visibly etched itself into an uncomfortable recognition across Damien’s face. “Fuck!” he cried, startling Levi who thought, in a panic, “Oh, shit. Here we go. First argument.”
But it wasn’t anger prompting Damien’s shout. He pressed against Levi and whispered in his ears, “You are so fucking thoughtful.” He kissed him and, as Levi’s mouth silently begged for more, he added, “I—” and stopped himself suddenly. “Anyone else—” Damien said, looking into those green eyes, “Would have let me missed that chance to be close to Track. You are one in a million.”
After Damien left that morning, Levi thought about what had just transpired. He had been thoughtful. Considerate. He was destroying the poison inherent in him, according to the Braunstein Center. He was making himself better so as to be good enough to deserve Damien. And, to his surprise, it was working.
He didn’t believe in The Candle or a god or all that religious stuff they extracted, strained, and mixed together from all the world’s major religions, adding a dash of pop psychology and a sprinkling of merchandising. . .but maybe there was something to trying to make oneself better.
He unconsciously rubbed his cheeks, burning from the scratching of Damien’s coarse stubble against his skin from all the kissing and lovemaking they had done, when his phone vibrated.
“Let’s never let this date end. I’ll be free by ten tonight. Can I come by and we can continue this first date?”
“Absolutely,” Levi wrote back. Mischievously, he added, “But first, send me a Dick Pick.”
A few moments later, Levi received a text message, “Get ready. It’s the biggest dick of them all. . .”
This was followed by a photo of Dick Cheney.
It made Levi laugh so hard and long he forgot that a few moments ago he was saddened because he had been looking at Damien and thinking how sad it was that someone so beautiful and wonderful would, like so many others, one day stop seeing all the kindness and thoughtfulness and generosity he meant to show the world and instead see only his craziness, taste his moods, become trapped in by their currents and their related behaviors, and come to hate him.