The Mayor Takes a Walk

It’s impossible to just go for a nice lunchtime walk with Drin to a restaurant. He’s too tall, he just looks too authoritative. On his way out the door, people who know him at the Metro run up and chatter at him as he walks. But knowing him doesn’t matter, either. Out on the street, total strangers come up and talk to him.

Drin opens the side door, squints down the street. “Okay, sweetheart, stay with me here. We got the tourist crowds going here, all this nice weather.”

It’s nothing like the anonymity Dance is used to, trotting about with papers in his arms, just another small man in old sweatshirts and ragged tennis shoes. Poor ethnic people are never noticed, never acknowledged, in tourist areas downtown. Now, he’s getting stares just for being Drin’s companion. Get used to it, he tells himself.

In a four-block walk, five people try to stop Drin and speak to him. Nobody begs him for money, which is unusual for the area. Two ask directions. One asks about the parking meters, another about how late the city permitting office is open. The last one asks if he can figure out her income for her on her tax documents. He is happy to answer these questions from total strangers. But he doesn’t slow his leisurely long-legged stride, either, he just keeps walking. If they want to talk to him, they trot with him for a moment.

“Courthouse is about three blocks east. The records section charges a fee these days, though.”
“You have to pay for parking at that kiosk down at this end.”
“I think they close early these days, you could ask at any of the other city offices, or call them. Yeah, try that 411 call feature on your phone.”
“No, but you could get help from volunteer tax preparers who work with seniors at tax season workshops. Try calling AARP and getting a local number to call. Some of the local senior daycare facilities have workshops for the families, too.”

Dance watches, bemused. The way people come up at Drin in waves, and magically part for him to go through, seems just like Poseidon going for a stroll, or Moses parting the Red Sea, or something. Dance feels like a dolphin riding on his bow-wave. A slightly nervous one, given how oddly some of the people act when they approach Drin. They keep startling him.

man's furry bottom jeans down
ginger distractions

Part of it is that he’s distracted. Dance tries to focus on them, but his gaze keeps drifting back to Drin. He has a hard time watching anything besides that lazy walk, the maddening planes in those soft, faded high-pockets jeans, and how the belt rides on Drin’s hips. The way the zipper tab glints in the light. That’s the problem with having a good memory. Dance tells the impatient little man in his own pants to shut up.

Drin gives a crooked smile at Dance, with a nod after the tax lady. “First time Bud Innes saw that stuff, he started calling me Mister Mayor.”

“How do they know our Drin has all these answers?”

“Same way you did? I guess I just got a bossy face. Hell, do I have auditor stamped on my ass?”

Dance peers at him, squinting in the bright light. He blurts, “Our Drin has a very fine ass.”

Drin’s eyes come round in surprise, and then he chuckles. “Well, now we know what you had in mind for lunch!”

Dance can feel his neck burning, his whole head heating in furious embarrassment. He tries again. “Not looking bossy to us– to me. Not knowing about auditor markings, but our Drin looks like a– like this big wonderful hot-looking bear rolling through these streets.”

“If you start calling me Daddy right in front of the Metro, I’ll have to spank you on the spot.”

“Promise?” Dance grins.

“Believe me, I’ve got much better ways of marking you in front of everybody as my sweetie.”

“Yes?” Dance asks, worried and delighted and apprehensive all at once. He doesn’t want to spoil it by acting the wrong way, if Drin surprises him with something.

Drin just gives that slow killer grin, and winks at him. The one that Emma calls his bush-rider grin.

Dance is delighted when Drin stops at a tiny hole-in-the-wall place. It’s a favorite cheap lunch place for Metro people, too, and Dance introduces Drin to those who look interested. Drin waves at folks, reaches out those long arms and shakes hands with those he doesn’t know yet. For awhile they’re talking to lots of people, shifting about here and there. Gradually many of the musicians drift out, obligated for a practice by the winds, one which Dance was told he didn’t have to attend. He may rejoin it later on, to keep an eye on things.

When he and Drin finally get to eat, they end up sitting outside under umbrellas just so they can hear themselves talk. The tiny chairs creak under Drin’s weight. They eat bowl after bowl of pho soup and untidy noodles.

Vietnamese noodle soup
Needs More Cilantro and Garlic

Dance still knows he’s being watched. He feels constrained, gesturing while he’s trying to describe graphics for the next order of program guides to go out. “Yes, I think– Drin, what is it?”

“I’m distracted,” Drin says, looking up over the rim of his noodle bowl.

Dance hesitates. Would it be rude to ask, or should he–

“Here, you have a spot,” Drin murmurs, and leans in with a napkin, and gravely dabs the spot from Dance’s third-best rehearsal sweatshirt, sliding those freckled fingers up inside Dance’s collar and frowning at his work until he’s sure he’s got it clean. Then he slides his fingers up Dance’s neck to cup the back of his head, and he gives Dance a kiss on the cheek. And chuckles.

Dance looks up into the man’s eyes. “Bastard,” he says, with his train of thought a derailed wreck, and his whole being focused on the heat throbbing all over him.

Drin gusts another breath of warm air into his neck and kisses him again, and sits back, looking very satisfied. “Distracting?”

“Very!”

“Well, I’m done with work, even if you have to work on a Saturday. Is this where we decide if I’m going to disrupt your afternoon practices, or be a really good patron?”

Dance gives a tight little whining noise, breathing in tight short bursts. It is astonishing how much he wants the man he’s looking at. “Neither. I put things in a locker in the top floor green room.”

Drin’s pupils zoom out to huge black disks. “You’re sure we can–”

“I have a key.”

“You want to lock me in with you?”

Dance looks down, taking more short breaths. “Oh yes. Yes, I do. But not now. Not lunchtime, the office people notice, they laugh so much, telling stories. First break. Also, then our tummies must be less stuffed, yes?”

“So I can sit watching and torture you properly the whoooole time, and you have to behave.” He rubs one hand leisurely up and down his shirt, and he sighs like a man who’s eaten too much, which only emphasizes things. The upper slope of his chest, the arch of his ribs, the points of his nipples– all kinds of things.

Dance sighs. “I’ll be lucky if I make it to the restroom here before I–” he gives a helpless little wave of his hand.

Drin laughs again. “Talk to me about the membership mailers, maybe that’ll cool down your problem.” He gives Dance another wicked look. “Of course it won’t help me a bit, I love hearing you talk about stuff. Anything.”

“Drin, you are very naughty!”

“Oh, I am,” he agrees, and slurps up another noodle sloooowly, in a lascivious manner.

Dance groans. It’s going to be a long, horrible afternoon, especially if he has to waddle out hastily at every break. Walking back is the first challenge. He tries to think about what he has to deal with next, in practice, and that helps, but every time he looks at Drin, his penis stiffens all over again. Dance says crossly, “You keep giving me a hard-on.”

“Turn about is fair play,” Drin says, and leans back perilously in the chair, stretching his legs, planting his feet wide apart, and his jeans– Oh, indeed, looking at that doesn’t help a bit.

Selling Romance

Emma makes a disgusted noise. “Well, so much for Bud’s expensive photographer! Look at what our webmistress did with it!”

Drin stares at her aged computer screen, turns his head sidwise like an owl, and makes her laugh. “I saw those pictures. The original shots were wonderful.”

To his puzzled look, Emma says, “I know, I know–you’re going to say, ‘How did she do that to them?'”

“It’s a gift,” Drin says solemnly.

“She ought to love the originals, they were all very pretty pretty, ribbons and organza and all.”

“Not your choice of style?”

Emma squints. “Not for Robert. I always thought he was the rumpled pillows type.”

Drin laughs, surprised by the bluntness.

She waves a pen at the screen. “Okay, let’s imagine the real Romantics here. The Wild Bunch. Keats and Byron and that lot, stormy fights and fucking like bunnies and all. Knock it off with the pretty bowdlerized drippy Pre-Rafaelite simpering over Robert’s curls. Oh hell no. Let’s do some shoots with him looking debauched and liking it, let’s do some goddamn powerful Caravaggio with that pretty cock-teasing face. That’s Robert’s truth. That’s what Robert’s patrons are looking for. Aside from Bud, they’re not into longevity. Get that big fluffy poet’s shirt unbuttoned for crying out loud, he’s got a string player’s chest! Put the puppy in the window, man.”

“But don’t let him talk.”

Emma laughs.

Memory persists in resurrecting the penetrating whine of Robert’s voice. He’d much rather listen to Emma’s laugh. Or stare at Dance’s smile. Drin’s brain irritably erases Robert in the poet’s shirt, and puts Dance there instead. Much better contrast. Far more dangerous, too, when you catch the arousal glinting under those lowered eyelids. The image makes him want to go find a camera and yank back the bedcovers on Dance’s nap. Eventually he manages to form words. “Not the only one who’d look great like that. Contrast.”

She grins at him. “Oh, yeah. Use textures, too, but something better than all those corny mud-splattered wedding shots in the park.”

He can imagine the younger members dressed in half-nothing, and some of them would look pretty damn good that way. And so pan-ethnic, too, the Anglo-Saxon pale peppered with golden-brown and deep ebony and everything in between. “Yes. Dead leaves and satin. Lace fallen in the woods. Fairy candles and park lamposts and old trees. Bare skin and instruments and bark.”

Emma groans, and gives that gurgling laugh. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful?”

Thinking it out, he says, “Do some other styles too. Get the playboy jazz guys with the basses all decked out in sharp suits, against neon lights, looking like the limo is waiting. Trip out on patterns and drumsticks flying with that sweet little mustachioed percussion player who loves batik prints. And that great big solemn guy among his xylophones, with all his huge collection of African thumb pianos, get a shot of how he loves showing them off.”

She nods, paws through paper, taps a catalog. “Hell, you could do classy shots in black and white, elegantly, and end up with the kind of graphics that go into these high-end things they put out for fund-raising. Have you seen how boring the Metro’s schedules are? It’s such a good idea, and the other day I went to email to send it off to… Who? fuck, absolutely no one in the steering committee has that kind of vision!”

“Fixing that is on my to-do list,” he says. He can’t help it. Looking at her determined expression, he starts to chuckle.

Emma flings her hand out toward the bedrooms. “You know how pretty Dance is!”

Drin just smiles.

Another wave. “Christ, has anybody ever taken a decent picture of him?”

Drin looks at the soft lamplight on the curves of the librarian’s passionate face. God, she’s fabulous in her own right. “He’s always moving.”

She nods. “Get those cheekbones lit properly. Have him wear–”

Have him naked– have him right on that chair– just take him, right there– It’s been a couple of weeks and he’s still thinking up new ways to get that soft cry out of Dance: Oh! He wrestles back his rioting imagination. He interrupts firmly. “Have Dance wear dark clothes with a hint of gold. I can see him wearing a good slubbed silk jacket. If I can talk him into letting my tailor work on him.”

Her eyes catch a sudden pale marine light. Reminds him of glitter on waves. “–oh yes, I’ll have a chat about that one– shots of him playing with the quartet–”

He can see them all, Dance playing in what they call jokingly the Genghis Khan quartet, with the scowling Polish cellist, the sad lantern-jawed Russian bassist, and the violist, a sheet-pale Armenian girl with Slavic eyes who’s stacked like an emperor’s concubine. He nods. “In a different series, have them all dressed in brocades, in ethnic costume–”

“In the Library atrium, against the marbles. All that cold blue light for the winter events. Get those contrasts going. Perfect. I bet their violist knows where to find great costumes, she’s a real fashionista.” Emma paws out a notepad and scribbles madly, consulting her calendar and nodding. She jabs out a finger at the air. “Oh yeah, we should talk to Bud about figuring out how best to retire some of the non-visual fogeys on the steering committee to jobs better suited to their real talents in admin–because they do have some serious and valuable capabilities there–but that’s a longer project.”

“Adding it to the to-do list.” Drin smiles. “Now, about getting some decent, interesting rehearsal and summer performance shots.”

“Get some of the other smaller groups in their best outfits, too,” Emma adds more notes to her pad.”–and ask Bud’s photographer to get outdoor shots of the Metro’s musicians for promo graphics and the website. ”

“Add that to our to-do list too.”

“Our list? You’re sure? You know what a terrible nag I am, right?”

He nods at her solemnly. She can probably see he’s trying not to laugh. He says, “Get all the women into some outdoor photography with pretty leaf shadows, gauzy stuff like Midsummer Night’s Dream gone wacky.”

She waves her hand in agreement. “Oh yes. And before we get them all muddy, put the flute-and-harp ladies with a really big floral arrangement behind them, self-referential irony.”

Emma the much-feared coordinator will leap on that with her teeth bared, joyfully wrangling it into play.

Drin can feel his lips twitching. “I have it on very good authority that you eat florists for snacks, and terrify delivery men.”

“They aren’t crunchy if you take the bones out!” and she gives him that laugh of hers. “Put the ladies posed in front of a huge billowy charity ball display, warm colors… get some better lights, yes, use pale peach walls… they begged us to show off the porcelain room in the museum wing more often… get everyone laced up into period clothes, show off all of that formidable pink and brown frontage cinched up on show. Make sure the charity credits are big and unmissable. Shameless promotion, that’s the ticket.”

His brain insists on putting Emma’s own frontage right in the middle of the picture, supported in truly outrageous eighteenth-century fashion. Just because he has his beautiful musician now does not silence the monkey-brain. Oh, it’s always commenting on Emma’s particular beauties. It can be distracting. “Antique fans,” he manages to say weakly, at last. “Gloves. Little silk bags. Frilly things.”

“Absolutely! Plus, we can catch great garter belt shots for your infamous Metro underwear calendar. Get Robert to make a nice leg too. Have you noticed he looks his best when he’s bowing and scraping, the insufferable brat? Now, what are we doing with Dance for the underpants calendar? Sports netting on those abs, or microscopic Lycra trunks and a wet towel, or bending over in baggy shorts that fall down off his butt– Ummm, Drin, luv? Would you mind swabbing off my keyboard? You’re drooling.”
He’s becoming absurdly fond of making that sound come out of her, too.