This short story first appeared in The Fiction Pool.
Levi’s bare feet—toes flexed, ankles crossed—rest on the tub’s rim. Suds patch his hairy gams all the way to the water’s surface, where he has expertly arranged the bubbles to obscure his privates, to tease his followers. With his free hand he presents this week’s novel, a neo-gothic romance loosely inspired by Mary and Percy Shelley.
He captions the tastefully filtered photo: picked this up on a whim. not my usual jam. tho it’s bloody good. #bookporn. Levi then provides a link to his blog’s full review. I never read those.
His handle had introduced me to the word “bibliophile” awhile back, and the suffix had led me to presume that it described a type of pervert—and with only Levi’s posts as context clues, that conclusion would add up for almost anyone unfamiliar with the definition, since his social media presence frequently lends itself toward the erotic.
Last week, Levi had snapped a pic of himself, without a stitch on, in front of an ornate full-length mirror, a beat-up paperback serving as a substitute loincloth. The caption: returned a book a day late & the library biddies took my garb as punishment! to peep my bookworm! #nakedguy.
I often revisit the photo responsible for familiarizing me with Levi. I’d been searching for posts marked with #gaygeek, and one of the most popular results had been a selfie of his—sans bottoms, showing off a tank top plastered with Joyce Carol Oates’ image, stretching the fabric down so as to cover his genitals, with a smirk and an arched brow.
A door creaks, and I look up from where I sit. Levi enters the twenty-four hour hipster coffee shop, right on time, where I’ve been nursing a rooibos tea while perusing his old pics for fifteen minutes. He’s, as per usual, in athletic gear. Short-shorts that expose every ripple of his muscular lower half. A form-fitting shirt does the same for his wiry top half. As he orders his regular iced black coffee, I shift from his recent bubble bath post to that inaugural tank top selfie.
Levi’s non-lit photos regularly pledge his allegiance to this establishment’s “exquisite midnight joe.” Selfies with to-go coffee galore. He, reportedly, swings by every evening for his pre-jogging fix. And now, starting tonight, I’m a regular too.
Levi pays for his coffee and exits. He, staring at his phone the whole time, doesn’t spot me. Through the storefront window, I watch him take a sip then set the cup on a bench to stretch under the illumination of a street light. He bends over and grabs his toes, backside to me, to work his hamstrings…and to tantalize me.
His side stretches compel me to go out and announce my presence. I exit the coffee shop and round the bench to enter his peripheral sight. He sees me while changing sides. He freezes.
Levi aborts his warmup and takes a step back. “You shitting me?” he whispers.
I’m at a loss.
“I had to come up with a new route—not an easy fucking thing to do when you run by yourself at night by the way—and now I’ve gotta find someplace else for caffeine?”
I shake my head. “You can keep coming here. And you didn’t need a new route.” I chuckle. So that’s why he hasn’t been around. “Just because we had sex on your old one—”
“No, no, no, no, no.” He walks in a circle. “Not sex. We never had sex. Because that was not sex.”
“I mean, yeah, there was no anal, no. But I gave you a tug. And you sucked on my dick, so…” My focus naturally goes to his soft lips.
Levi, wide-eyed and mouth agape, turns and departs. Head bowed, he caresses his face with his hands. His shoulders tremble.
He sprints down the block and around the corner. His chilled coffee sweats on the bench.
For two weeks, Levi doesn’t post anything whatsoever. He also hasn’t been by for coffee. Must be sick, I deduce.
Levi, untrimmed and hair askew, appears dark under the eyes. The selfie seems unfiltered. He wears a plain white t-shirt, a v-neck that reveals his fuzzy chest. His free arm embraces raised knees—bare knees. Levi gazes directly into the camera. Virtual eye contact. His eyes don’t smolder in this one. They’re glassy and somber. No smile, no smirk. Aloof.
This is perhaps Levi’s least overtly suggestive post, though I have to admit, there’s something about it that gets my blood pumping.
His caption confuses me: been away. needed to sort out some feelings. stay tuned. #survivor.
I guide my cursor to the hashtag and let it hover there. I decided it’s not something I want to click on. Instead I search for an older Levi post—a funny one where he’s nude (of course) and trapped under the weight of several thick novels, the biggest three stacked on top of—and supposedly crushing—his junk. He makes a comical face with twinkly eyes and a pearly white grin.
His toes peek into the bottom edge of the frame. In front of them, on a hardwood floor, lay running shoes with socks between them, tiny shorts, and a breathable shirt. The ensemble rings a bell, obviously. It’s the outfit he wore that night in the park—the night he sucked me off as I steered his throat with his ears.
this is what i was wearing. #survivor
That hashtag again.
Garments on the floor. His piggies. I wonder if he’s naked right now, as he took the picture. Does he ever wear clothes at home? Hopefully not. No reason to. I don’t. And I wouldn’t allow him to, either.
Men as exquisite as us should never have to cover up our glory.
That’s why I stripped him that night. He didn’t want me to at first. We were in a public park after all. But it was nighttime, and no one was around—plus, we were beyond the reach of the lampposts.
I maneuvered him into a tree and peeled off his soaking wet shirt. Since I tower over him, it was any easy thing to do.
I told him to drop his drawers. He hesitated. He begged me, implicitly, to do it for him with a simple, “please, mister.” So I went ahead and yanked them down. He was everything I’d hoped he’d be—slightly hairier, slightly fitter, and definitely smaller than me. And he kept calling me “mister.”
Owning his perfection made me godlike.
For weeks, Levi only posts glamour shots of book covers. Photos of whatever he’s reading, for instance, amidst candles or on a sandy beach. He’s nowhere in them—not a hand or even a shadow—and he marks each one with #booklove.
I wish he’d upload some new skin. The old ones still get the job done, I guess.
Also no sign of him out and about. He hasn’t been through the park or the hipster coffee shop. And since he hasn’t posted anything about discovering a new place, I must just be missing him.
Levi’s first post with him in it in a long time puts, in washy black and white, every bit of his impeccable physique on display in front of a wall jam-packed with cracked spines. Fingers interlaced behind his neck, he offers up his wholly naked self—cock and balls fully visible—no effort made to mask that package.
His firm face, topped with a sharp new cut, stares directly down the barrel of the lens. His eyes burn.
done with shame. over hiding. if ur reading this … i’m re-claiming ownership. i’m mine again.
By the next morning, it’s his most liked and shared post.
It takes several attempts to get the angle just right because my phone keeps slipping. But I eventually nail it.
I’m looking downward at the camera with my hands on my hips and my shoulders thrust back. My torso swells and my biceps bulge as I give the camera a devilish little sneer.
I slap the filter on it that makes me the most majestic. Then, before uploading, I change my handle, so he’ll know it’s me when he gets the notification.
My profile until now has only existed for the sole purpose of seeing other people’s stuff, and although it’s technically a reply, this photo and its caption serve as my debut post.
I hit the share button.
@THE_MISTER1: NICE @TheMascBibliophile!!! #WOW. LET’S GET DRINKS.
He’ll come around.