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"OK, you ready, man? Here's number sixteen."
"Still too strong."
[pause] "Not too bad from up here."
"All right, ladies and gentlemen, that contestant advances to the next level. Number nineteen?"
"Shit! Cap it, cap it, cap it!" [sneeze]
"OK, OK, dial it down!"
[barrage of sneezes]
"Damn. That was one of my favorites."
"You're trying to kill me. I know it."
"Well, that's it. Seventeen no ways and two maybes. I'm going to the foot of the stairs now, OK?"
"Wait a second. Don't open anything just yet." [sneeze] [blowing nose] "OK, ready."
"The new number one."
"Nope. Nope. Too strong."
"Too ... Jim, it's unscented!"
"Unscented my ass. It smells like an artificial rose garden."
"Well, we've only got one more to try. Here goes ... the moment of truth ..."
[pause] "Pretty mild, actually. That one might be OK."
"Ha! Fooled you. Haven't opened it yet. OK, now..."
"Ptah! Smells like a chemical factory. No way, Chief. Sorry."
"Aw, shit! That was the last one. What are we going to do?"
"Maybe we just have to do without."
"Nope. No way, man. Maybe you're OK with being dried up like a mummy, but I have got to have some moisture here. Napes of necks all over the state rely on me to keep these hands soft."
"Well, seriously, Jim. We found a shampoo you could use without getting a headache. We found a soap. We found laundry detergent and toothpaste and window cleaner and fucking floor wax. Why can't we find a hand lotion that doesn't send you off the scale?"
"I don't know. But I've got a killer headache just from smelling that shit from up here. I do not want to think about what would happen if I put any of it on my skin."
"Maybe it's not the scents at all. Maybe it's something they use to make it, you know, lotion. The very, I don't know, lotionness of it. The soul of lotion, man. The defining lotion characteristic."
"Are you done? Can I go back to sanding down the furniture with my elbows here?"
"Ha ha. Very funny." [pause] "Wait a minute. I've got an idea. Just a second."
[long-suffering sigh] "Just don't do anything that's going to require me to take another sick day, OK, Sandburg?"
"Hey, man, I said I was sorry. How was I to know that Pine-Sol would make you react like that?"
"If it clears up your sinuses, you should know not to get it anywhere near mine, Sherlock."
[distant clatter] "OK, I'm ready. Here goes. I'm back in the kitchen now. See how this is."
"Is this another trick? I can't smell anything but ... Oh no no no. No. No way."
"Aw, man, give it a chance!"
"Sandburg, that is just too weird."
"Look. Is it giving you a headache?"
"No, but ..."
"Does it smell bad to you?"
[sniff] "Well, no. Not bad bad. Just ... Sandburg, I am not putting olive oil on my skin."
"All right then. You go right ahead and make the pronouncement. You're not using it, and so I can't use it, and so I get to spend the winter with the skin scaling off that spot on the inside of my ankles, and that itch in the middle of my back that I can't reach, and the backs of my hands alligatoring all up, and the skin around my fingernails peeling ..."
[sigh] "All right. See if it passes the foot-of-the-stairs test."
"All right! The mountain takes a step towards Mohammed!"
"But I'm making no promises."
"OK, I'm here. How is it now?"
"Still smells like food."
"But really good food, right? The kind of food you don't mind being reminded of in the middle of the day, right? The kind of food ..."
"Sandburg. Bring it up here and we'll see how it does at close range."
"Don't take the cap off yet."
"I'm not taking the cap off yet. What is with you?"
"I need a minute to prepare for these things."
"What, like meditation? A little smell hypnosis?"
"You mock. You have no idea what it's like. It's like ... OK, look, you like Thai curries, but you wouldn't want to get a spoonful of one in the morning when you were expecting Wheaties, would you?"
"I wouldn't be eating Wheaties, man, I don't believe in reinforcing cultural stereotypes of a narrow and life-denying caricature of masculinity. Which is not even to mention the fact that despite the implication that it's a health food, you're actually getting so little fiber and so few micronutrients that you might be better off to shred the box and pour milk over ..."
"Jesus! All I meant was that if I'm going to get an assault on my senses, I'd like to be prepared. That's all."
"Yeah, OK, I got that. So are you prepared now, or would you like me to give you and this bottle a little time alone together?"
"Just open it, smartass."
"Jim? Is it OK?"
[reluctantly] "Well, it isn't giving me a headache."
"Yess! Success at last!" [dribble]
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like? I'm finally giving my poor dried-up hands some relief after long ..."
"Shit! Pay attention to where you're pouring! You're going to get it all over the bed!"
"Oops -- shit, man, I'm sorry! I'm just ... oops, where am I going to ... look, you want some of this? Because I'm not going to be able to hold it much longer ..."
[long-suffering sigh] "Sandburg, your sloppiness knows no bounds. All right, here, put it in my hands."
"There. I told you so. You've been suffering from this as much as I ... What's the matter now?"
"It's not sinking in."
"Well, of course it's not. It's not lotion, man, it's pure oil. You can't just do that brusque little I'm-too-manly-to-linger-over-my-hands rub. You've got to put some muscle into it."
"Am I really going to regret it if I ask you how you come to be such an expert in the cosmetic uses of olive oil?"
"I'll give you the short version. Corinne McPherson ... camping ... backrub ... extremely limited backpack rations ..."
"Ah. Well, I bow to your superior experience."
"About time. Here, give me your hands. I'll show you."
[prolonged pause] [relaxed sigh] [even more relaxed sigh]
"Man, you should really see about getting regular massages. I've never seen anybody carry so much tension. I mean, your hands are tense. God only knows what the rest of you ..." [rustle]
"Hey! What are you doing?"
[rustle] "Take it easy. You'll thank me later, trust me." [dribble]
"Sandburg, what ... ahhhh ... no, lower, lower ... to the right ... scratch a little ..."
"Ha! I knew it. There is nobody in the world who doesn't have an itch right under their shoulderblade. I defy you to find somebody who doesn't have an itch right under their shoulderblade. I'll bet I could walk right up to the Dalai Lama and ..."
"... the head of the Teamsters, Gong Li, Daniel Day-Lewis ..."
"You do realize this is the reason people live together in groups, right, Jim? We may talk about saving rent money or the sanctity of the traditional family or the housing shortage, but what it all comes down to is the good old primate grooming instinct."
"Any fleas you find are yours."
"Uh huh. I free you from the scourge of itchy back, and fleas are the thanks I get?"
"You have another suggestion?"
"Well, I've got this shoulderblade that needs attention ..." [rustle] [rustle] [rustle] [rustle]
"Jesus, how many shirts do you have on, Sandburg?" [dribble]
"Ahhhh. Oh. Oh yes yes yes. Higher ... toward the center ... there. There. Ahhh."
"Any fleas I find, I'm giving them to you."
"Oh no. You've earned your fleas fair and square. Far be it from me to deprive ... ahhh."
"You don't have to do that all day, you know. Not that I'm complaining, man, but your hands must be getting tired."
"They are, but they're still pretty greasy."
"Yeah, I know, mine too. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
"No, no, it's the best of the available options. I'm just wondering ..." [rustle] [rustle]
"Ticklish, huh. I'll be more careful."
"Jim, my feet don't need ... Oh. Well, maybe they do." [pause] "Yeah, they definitely do." [longer pause]
"If I'd known it was this easy to shut you up, I would have tried this long ago."
"Yeah, I can just see you at the station ..." [sigh] "Hey, let me try that."
[thump] [thump] [rustle] [rustle] "There you go."
[dribble] "You know, you are, like, the only person on the planet who wears shoes in his own bedroom. The rest of us, man, we know how to relax a little, but you ..."
"You can keep talking as long as you keep rubbing."
"And I take it you are not ticklish."
"Not there anyway."
"Oh, a challenge."
[gesture of surrender]
"You know, the way to do this without the greasy hand problem would be to put it on right after you got out of the shower. Before you dried off. 'Course, then all the towels would smell like pasta primavera. Or -- here, I've got it. Take baths instead of showers. Just pour it in the bath water. 'Course, then you've got this edible bathtub ring problem. Maybe afterwards you just rub the bathtub with a little clove of garlic, toss a salad in there .."
[happy vacant smile]
"You're not listening to a word I say, are you?"
"Of course I'm listening to you. I always listen to you. You're saying some damned thing or other."
"Just for that I'm not going to offer to do your elbows."
"Yeah, your mouth says no, no, but there's olive oil in your hands. Ahhh, that's a relief."
"You OK, Chief?"
[too quickly] "Sure! Why?"
"You're ... tense. It's ... if you're uncomfortable with all this bare skin and everything ..."
"You think I'm having a Wheaties moment here? Can't handle touching another guy? Come on, Jim, you know me better than ..."
"No. I know that's not what it is. But if ..."
"You know ... oh. Shit. You can smell it on me, can't you. Shit. Jim --"
"I suppose the possibility of convincing you that that smell is the smell of, I don't know, aesthetic appreciation is, like, slim to none, right? Brotherly affection? Naw, don't even answer that, never mind, I should have known, there is no way to hide anything from you ..."
"... but all this time you've been pretending not to notice, keep the illusion of privacy, man, very nice ... "
"Did I say I minded?"
[more stunned silence]
"What do you know. Two ways to shut you up in one day." [pause. deep breath. more quietly] "It smells good on you. I like that smell on you. I've been enjoying that smell on you for some time now."
"For some time now?"
"Well, yeah. You used to bring it home with you sometimes, and I'd just breathe it in. Didn't even know what it was at first. And then when I noticed that... well, that I might have something to do with that smell, I started ... You know, it just occurred to me that you're not going to like this much."
"Like what much? What did you do?"
"Well, I started doing things. To you. On purpose. To make you smell like that. Because I liked it."
"Jeez, you get Hemingway when you're nervous. What things? Things like what? Everything seemed normal to me."
"Oh, come on there, Chief. I can't believe you never noticed. Guys do not go around putting their hands on other guys' faces. You know? Guys have some respect for other guys', what, personal space."
"I just thought you were ... oh. Yeah. I see now."
"Guys are not, for that matter, sitting half naked on their beds rubbing fucking olive oil on other guys' feet."
"Right, right, I see that."
"So this is, like, old hat to you? You know, guys, guys?"
[irritably] "No, it is not, like, old hat to me, Sandburg, it really screwed with my brain, you want to know the truth. Sitting up here thinking, you sick fuck, regular guys do not go around sniffing their roommates."
"So you're not sniffing, like, Simon or somebody?"
"Because, I mean, Simon's a good-looking guy, and he probably has his own sort of smell, you know ..."
"I do not know. I'm not sniffing anybody but you."
"Are you sniffing other guys? Are you saying Simon smells good to you?"
"Jim, I can't smell any of this stuff, you know that."
"You know what I meant. Are you? Other guys? Old hat?"
"The really scary thing is that I know exactly what you mean."
"And ... well, I wouldn't say I'm exactly what you'd call, you know, straight, but except for your drunken dorm party curiosity kisses, my non-straight-ness is pretty well hypothetical at this point in my life and ... that's not what you're asking, is it." [pause] [quietly] "No. Nobody else. Just you."
[release of held breath]
"Jim ... you knew? All this time? And you never said anything? That's kind of cold, man, to leave me hanging like that."
"Yeah. I know. I just ... well, I knew what your body wanted, but I know better than anybody that there's a big difference between what you want and what you would choose. What you would take the consequences of. And I figured that since you didn't say anything, that was your choice. And I should respect that." [snort] "Not that you could call it respectful to keep on teasing you with it. Turn you on on purpose just because I liked the way you smelled. No, I couldn't really call that respecting your choice ..."
"Not a choice, man. It wasn't choosing. It was just cowardice."
"Yeah. I mean, I don't have your advantages here, I couldn't tell what you felt. And I knew if you turned me down you'd do it in the nicest possible way, but then it would always be there, you know, between us, like a dead pig in the living room --"
[bark of laughter]
"Well, you know it would. And I couldn't stand that."
"No. I guess in a way I was afraid of the same thing."
"I wanted to, though, man, I wanted to tell you, no matter how many times I told myself it was a bad idea. I can't tell you how often I've just imagined being able to tell you ..."
[whispered] "Say it. You can say it."
[whispered] "Tell you I want you. Tell you I want to touch you. Taste you. Touch your beautiful body, see those eyes close. For me. For me."
"Wanted to kiss you ... to ... mmmmph!"
[panting] "Ohhhh. Again."
[almost to himself] "Jesus. It really is different."
"Well, when I used to think about it ..."
"You thought about it? Really, man?"
"You have no idea."
"Well, I would think, how different could it be? But it's different, it is different. Your mouth, your mouth is as big as mine is. And you taste ... your mouth tastes ... your neck ..." [whoop of breath] "And your skin is ... hard..."
"Rough, a little bit. I can feel the beard. And your hands, your hands are hard too ... Kiss me again before I succumb to the temptation of the obvious pun here, Chief ...
"Oh yeah. Yeah. Let me taste you. Yeah."
[strangled sigh] "Sandburg. Blair."
"What are ... oh fuck. Yes. Harder. Pinch them."
"Harder. Let me feel it."
"Oh yeah. That's ... it's so ..."
[dribble] "Show me."
"Oh fuck yes. Let me ..."
"Does this ... is it really different with the, you know, the ring?"
[gasp] "Shit. Oh god. Oh shit. Oh Jim. Oh please. Oh please."
[thickly] "Different, yeah, looks like it's different. ... What?"
[panting] "Stop. You've got to ... too much ... god, Jim ..."
"Don't wanna stop."
"No no no. Oh god. No." [brief struggle] "Jim!"
"Don't wanna ..."
"Jim, I'm gonna lose it in, like, five seconds, man! I don't want to waste it!"
[more quietly] "I just ... there are so many things I've imagined. Doing. To you. I don't ... we only get one first time. I want it to be ... perfect."
[wryly] "No pressure there."
"No, but I just mean ..."
"Yeah, I know. You want to slow it down, Chief, we'll slow it down. Take off your jeans and come down here."
"Hey, I'm not gettin' naked all alone, man."
[squirm] [rustle] [sigh]
"Yeah. Good. Just hold me."
"Now. Tell me about some of those things you've imagined."
[pause] "Ah feen tf fnn ..."
"Sound carries better through air than through skin, Chief."
"Nooo. You think?"
[cuff] "Come on. Never saw you so reluctant to talk before."
"Hey, I was talking. Just because I wasn't talking in the exact direction you wanted me to be talking in ..." [with great dignity] "Now. As I was saying."
"I seem to think about you blowing me in the truck a lot."
[quick intake of breath]
"There. You thought I was going to wimp out. You thought I was going to make you, you know, coax it out of me, though it's now occurring to me that I could have maybe gotten some sort of reward out of you if I'd played a little more hard to get, made you make me some sort of promise, and ..."
"Where's the truck? In these ... visions of yours."
"Oh." [pause] "Well, on campus sometimes, and here sometimes, but actually, it's outside the station mostly."
"People passing by can't see you. But I have to be totally careful what shows on my face."
"Mmm. That's nice. Do that again."
"Easy -- that tickles! Better. Yeah. And ... I imagine you're in the shower, you know, and I open the door ... you know I'm there, of course, you could hear my heart beat even if you didn't feel the cooler air coming in ... but you keep your back turned to me, pretend you don't hear me, keep on rinsing out your hair, and I climb in behind you and put my arms around you, you're hard already and I put my teeth in your shoulder and my hands on your cock at the same time ..."
"... and you let out this groan, man, it gets me so hot, no words, just my hands on you, moving faster and faster, and you put your hand over mine and speed me up, tighten down my fist, and you're just pushing into our hands and breathing so loud, it's echoing off the walls, and you just, you just say my name, really soft, and you come all over my hand, all over the wall, I can see it hitting the tiles." [deep breath] [slower] "I like that one a lot."
[strangled laugh] "You do." [breath] "Tell me more."
"More. OK. OK, this one's a little weird, but it's not my fault because it was a dream the first time, I dreamed I was, like, a sculptor, in a studio, you know? It had a skylight, too. And the sculpture I was making, it was you, life size. I had you as one of those reclining heroes, you know?" [poses dramatically]
[breathless chuckle] "Yeah?"
"Only I hadn't done your hands yet, just your face and your body. Your eyes were shut, and your lips were just a little apart, like when you fall asleep on the couch ..."
"I do not fall asleep on the couch. I rest sometimes."
"Yeah right. But in the dream, you look so good, your mouth looks so good, and I just have to ... I kiss you."
"Yeah ... So ... So at first you're cold, like marble, and then ... you know the story of Pygmalion and Galatea, right? Where the sculptor ..."
"I know the story, Chief. Believe it or not, I do read."
"Right. So anyway, all of a sudden it's not marble under my mouth but skin, your mouth, and you're kissing me back, and I put my arms around you, but you can't hold me, see, because I haven't done your arms yet. And then I realize I can put my hands anywhere I want, put my mouth anywhere I want, all the places I've looked at and thought about and imagined, and ... Ohhh. Guess I'm going to get that reward ... anyway ... god, Jim ..."
"I can't ... you expect me to concentrate when you're ... no no no, don't stop, I'll talk ..." [gasp] [talking faster] "So I start, you know, kissing you all over, your neck, your chest, licking your nipples ... and if I'd known then how rough you like it, Jim, it would have been twice as hot, but I didn't know, I had to guess, I had to imagine, how you might like it, and ... ohhhh, that's good, that's so good ... moving on down your body, you're still but you're breathing hard, you're not saying anything but you want me ..."
"I want you."
"God. Oh god. Jim, just like that. Yeah."
"What ... what happens next."
"Next? Oh ... yeah ... well, here's where it gets a little weird, though, because there's not just me and the sculpture, there's ... oh, god, a little slower ... there's a model, too ... don't stop! What are you stopping for?"
"Yeah, he's you, too, lying on this platform ... Oh. Oh yeah."
"Don't stop. I'm lying on a platform?"
"Ohhh. OK. Well, I've got my tongue in your navel and I look up and there you are, lying on the platform. Watching me. Watching us. Ohhh yeah. And everywhere I touch you over here, you touch yourself over there. Just watching me. So then I slow down a little, you know, getting into the ... ah ... the game, and I go back up, because I want to see your fingers on your nipples ..."
[rasp of breath]
"And then I go down, slowly, I'm teasing you, you know, and all the while the other you, the sculpture, is sighing and moaning and trying to get me to go faster. And I'm watching you as your hand slides down your chest and over your belly, fingertips into the hair, and I lick up your cock fast, base to head, and then go back down and do it again, slowly, and the Jim underneath me arches up and moans and the Jim over there wraps his hand around his cock and starts to pull, slowly, keeping the same pace as my mouth, and I can taste you, I can smell you, and I can see you, too, see the flush starting on your neck and your chest, see your mouth open when your breathing speeds up."
[Thickly] "Oh, fuck, Blair ..."
"And then the taste and the smell catch my attention and I close my eyes and just concentrate, getting the tip of my tongue into the little notch under the head and then pulling the whole head into my mouth and ... Oh! Oh god! Yeah, just like that ... god, Jim ..." [deep quick breath] "And then there's more, because I don't hear you get up but suddenly you're draped across my back, all that hot skin, and I feel your tongue behind my ear, and it makes me suck hard, and underneath me you start to snap your hips up, like you're trying not to but you can't help it ... oh god, not yet, give me a minute ..."
"Then ... what?"
"Oh, it's so ... I'm taking more, you know, opening my mouth wider, I don't really know what to do but I know what I like, so I'm just trying everything, and I feel you pressed up behind me, hard for me, looking over my shoulder, watching my mouth on you ... and then I feel your finger down the crack of my ass, god, it's not anything I thought I'd ever want but it feels so hot, I just want ... I want more but I can't ask you for more, but you don't wait for me to ask, you just ..."
"Ohhhhh. Oh Jim."
"Is it ... do you like it?"
[very softly] "Like it. Yeah."
"Burns ... a little ... no, don't stop! Just ... take them out and put them in again ... slow ... yeah ..."
"OK, easy ... Blair ... if you want me to stop ..."
"Noooo. Don't stop."
"Ah, it's ... shit! What the fuck was that? -- no, don't stop! Do that ag -- god. Jim. There's something ..."
"Breathe. Blair. Turn your face this way. Let me look at you."
"Shit, that's hot, that's so incredible, what is that, man? Oh, yeah, a little ... more ..."
"Wanna be in you."
"If you want to. I mean. I'll be careful, I won't hurt you ..."
"Jim. Oh, god, I want to, but ..."
"That's OK ... too soon ..."
"No, it's not ... I would, you know I would, it's just ... stop a minute, I can't think ..." [deep breath] "Shit. What it is --- you can't use a condom with oil, man, it'll eat right through that sucker."
"Fuck. You're right. Fuck. We need to slow down and ... ahhh, don't ... and talk about that anyway." [deep breath] "In fact, we need to talk about that some other time. When some blood is getting through to the brain."
"That's honorable, man. I'm so touched. Come up here and kiss me some more."
"So what do you want to do, then?"
"No, wait, I have an idea. Sit up a minute. Lean on the railing ... no, your legs go over mine ..."
"Ah, fuck, Sandburg ..."
"Yeah. 'S good. Now give me your hand ..." [dribble] "OK, now you just ... no, you hold 'em both, and you ... god yes. Just like that."
"Oh, fuck, Blair. I can feel your heart beat."
"Yeah. So can I. Little faster ... Jim ..."
"Put your hands on me. On my ... fuck, it's so stupid, it's hard to say ..."
"On your nipples, Jim? Is this what you want?"
"Fuck yes. Oh. Oh, Blair, it's so ..."
"Uhhh. Shit. Kiss me."
"Jim. Oh god. Almost there. You close?"
"Yeah ... yeah ... now, now, now ..."
"... now, now, now!"
[whispered] "Oh yessss."
"Blair. Fuck. Kiss me. You're incredible."
"What a mess, man. Let me get ..."
"Jim? Is that you?"
[cuff] "Yeah, just because I don't hose you down with bleach doesn't mean it isn't me."
[sigh] "That was so good, Jim."
[squirm] [slide] "Yeah, you know what, you've got some imagination. That sculptor thing. How do you come up with that shit?"
"I told you. That was a dream."
"Not that I didn't, like, elaborate on it mentally. Every now and then. For a month or two. All the fucking time."
"That stuff in the shower?"
"Really? You wouldn't be mad?"
"Would I be mad? Sandburg, do I look insane to you?"
"Well .. but it would make you late, man, I know how you like your routine in the mornings ..."
"I'll get up earlier."
"That thing in the truck?"
"When you least expect it."
"What do you know. Another way to shut you up."
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Read the story notes
Read the sequel, "Midnight Oil"
Read the follow-up snippets: "Cold Feet"
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