Written by Beth

We're walking side by side down Chase Street toward the bookstore. It's April, but it's one of those cold and grey days that admits absolutely no hope that spring will arrive soon. It's misting a little and all of the colors around us seem subdued.

I look over at Tim and instantly feel better. He's tall and lanky and relaxed, insanely, ridiculously hot in blue jeans, flannel shirt, and some sort of lumberjack coat. He looks all-American and wholesome and healthy, his cheeks and ears a little pink from the cold and his eyes large and bright behind his glasses. And he's just perfect--every fantasy I've ever had about the boy next door come to life. If there were a little old lady around, he'd help her cross the street; if a cat got stuck in a tree, he'd rescue it. He's honorable and kind and passionate about helping people, and he's a cop for God's sake, and he was a jock in high school, and he's probably fucked any number of women, and he'll probably marry one someday and produce stunning children every bit as beautiful as he is.

But last night, I had his cock in my mouth, and he screamed when he came, a full-throated release of tension and excitement, very loud, very intense. Jesus Christ but it was sexy, and I want to hear it again, I want to push him down the nearest alley right now, in fact, rip open those buttons on his fly one by one and--

". . . close yet? Because it's cold out here!"

I cough a couple of times, bring myself back. "Just another block," I say and Tim nods in relief.

And a few minutes later we're stepping into Lambda Rising, and Tim's rubbing his hands together to warm them up. I watch him adjust to the environment, watch him slowly look around, squint a little bit behind the glasses, which have fogged up a little bit. I'm fairly certain that this is his first time in a gay bookstore, and so I've decided to stay with him for a bit in case he seems uneasy. It's not like this is an adult bookstore, although there is a pornography section in the back, but I want to be with him because it can be overwhelming to do something like this for the first time, most particularly for All-American boys next door.

Although by now I know that Tim's definitely interested in being with me, I still don't have a firm grasp on how he feels about his sexual orientation, how he'd define himself if he were asked to. In fact, I don't even know if he's thought consciously about these things at all, and I don't want to pressure him to label himself before he's ready. So I want this outing to be very casual and relaxed.

It's actually a really lovely place, with hard wood floors that creak reassuringly when you walk on them and lots of very tall shelves stuffed with books. The ceiling is very high and there's lots of light--the atmosphere is open and airy. Tim follows me as I slowly walk the perimeter of the store, past the queer theory section and the fiction and the biographies and the history. I'm dying to let loose and browse--I can spend hours in here.

Tim's eyes widen a little bit when we reach the back of the store. He looks a little uncertainly at the half-naked men on the covers of magazines, but says only "Oh" in a noncommittal fashion--as if he's just noted something of minor interest.

A man walks past us and neatly steps behind the curtain dividing the really hard core stuff from the rest of the store. Tim raises eyebrows but says nothing, and we complete our tour of the store, ending up where we started.

"So go look for that book you wanted," Tim urges me, voice perfectly normal.

"Yeah. Come and get me if you want to leave, okay?" I'm incredibly relieved that he's handling this so well.

He nods at me, then ambles off. I watch for just a second, then let him go. I love bookstores, love wandering through them slowly and touching as many books as I can. I love the smell of the ink, the texture of the paper. I relate to books almost like I do food--very sensually, very physically, and, to make a bad joke, I love to devour them both. So of course, the marriage of these two pleasures comes in the form of the cookbook--I'm in heaven when I look at them, and indeed I'm heading to the cooking section right now.

I spend at least twenty minutes thoroughly checking out a new Italian cookbook I've heard a lot about. It looks good, so I decide to buy it, and also a biography I find later, and a novel. I realize then that we've been in the store for forty-five minutes and feel very bad for Tim, who certainly didn't ask for this. I scan the store, find him in the history section, and approach him from behind. He's standing with legs slightly parted and head bowed, obviously reading.

"Hey Tim," I say, then wince a little bit when he jumps, feeling bad for startling him.

"Chris, uh, hi!" he says, a little too brightly, too quickly, looking around the store with wide eyes.

I look carefully at him: his face is flushed, his breathing is heightened, and he's not meeting my eyes. It's a classic shame response.

"What're you looking at?" I ask, slowly moving toward him. He looks so gorgeous with that blush on, so incredibly sexy and guilty and unsettled. I step very close to him, eyebrows raised, curiosity radiating through me as intense as desire.

"It's nothing. Nothing!" he repeats in a stage whisper when he sees the look on my face. He's holding the book behind his back just like a little boy.

"If it's nothing, then you won't mind letting me see it, right?" I say gently, seductively, and he makes a noise of frustration and embarrassment.

"Someone must have put it in the history section by accident," he quickly says, then hands the book to me.

I want very badly to laugh at that comment but I bite the insides of my cheeks and keep a straight face, so to speak. Then I check out the book, murmur "Hmmm" as I take in the erotic painting on the cover. I read the title, open the book and scan the table of contents. It's a collection called Taking It: An Erotic Anthology for Gay Men, and suddenly the world stops and I'm hearing nothing but my own deep breathing as I realize that the book that has made Tim so excited is a collection of memoirs about gay men's first time fucking, or getting fucked. I swallow and I feel deep heat spreading through me.

So he's been thinking about it. He's been thinking about it and, well, now he's been reading about it, and it's made him turn pink and stammer and get flustered. Sweet Jesus, Tim. Are you getting ready to let me . . .

I crush that thought because I'm in a public place, and because Tim is standing very close to me radiating nervousness and insecurity, and I need to tone it down, to be very casual and laid back and not draw any attention to this moment in order to make it okay for him.

"Looks interesting," I say, then place it on top of the pile of books I've selected, start to head to the front of the store.

Before I take two steps, though, Tim grips me by the arm, pulls me to a halt.

"You--you're gonna buy it?" he asks in a low voice, his eyes blazing at me.

"Sure," I say, voice steady and calm, no big deal.

Tim tightens his grip on me, looks down, his body telegraphing a combination of desperation and excitement. He takes a deep breath, then laughs a little.

"You . . . you're buying it for me?"

"I'm buying it for you, Tim," I repeat, and then I can't help myself. "I'd really like for you to have it," I add softly.

"Jesus, Chris," he whispers, then goes scarlet, steps back a bit.

"Relax," I say. "Tim, it's okay. Really."

"No, no. I know that. I know. It's fine, I'm fine. Good," he says rapidly.

I try to think of something to say that will help him settle down, but I come up blank.

"Come on, let's go," I finally get out, and he wordlessly follows me up to the cash register.


And just fuck. Fuck it. I'm standing behind Chris, my face still flaming and heart still pounding as he buys his books . . . and my book. I should be buying it myself, but I can't. I can't do it, and I'm ashamed of myself for it, and I'm also ashamed that Chris now knows that I can't do it--and what a mess.

And I just--I didn't want to show it to him, I didn't want him to know that I was reading it. It was something . . . private, a way for me to get some questions answered, to feel my way around the idea of anal sex without having to commit to anything or even to think too hard about it. Because I'm certainly not about to say "How, exactly, do we do this?" to Chris, for god's sake.

But now that's blown, and now he'll probably go back to sexual teacher mode, which really stinks, especially since we only just recently got out of that. I've so enjoyed being ready, feeling ready, and confident, and, well, like his equal. But now the balance is all fucked up again.

Okay, so I shouldn't probably have conducted my research in a public bookstore with him not twenty feet away from me, but really--it's not like I'm going to get back there again soon, not like Frank and I will go browsing in the local gay bookstore during our next lunch break. Well, maybe . . . but probably not.

"Ready to go?" Chris asks, and I mutter, "Yeah, yeah," and follow him toward the door. But he stops before we leave the bookstore, stops and tilts his head just a little and then looks at me, looks hard, his blue? gray?--they change--eyes searching for something. I'll be damned if I know what it is. The whole thing takes only a couple of seconds, and then we're back outside, heading for the car.

Once we get in the car, I look cautiously at him, squinting a little in the dim light of the parking garage. We're silent for a moment; I hear his soft breathing, the leather of his jacket squeaking as he situates himself in the seat.

Chris has his keys in his hand, but he doesn't move to start the car. He's perfectly still, waiting, thinking, poised. It's incredible, his stillness. Why the fuck can't he be more nervous, more antsy? Why can't he make a fool of himself for once?

"Tim," he says gently. "Tell me why you're upset."

Right. Throw it all in my court. He's smooth, all right.

"I'm not," I say and his mouth quirks. "I'm not," I repeat a little more urgently. I can be smooth, too.

"Okay, Tim," he says. "We'll do it this way, then. When I found you reading the erotica in the bookstore, it--that was incredibly exciting for me. And although I'm not quite sure, because you're obviously completely fine about it all, I think that maybe you saw that I was excited and, well, delighted to see you with that particular book in your hand, and that that made you a little uneasy."

"No, see, no. That's not--that's not it," I quickly reply.

Chris leans forward, scratches his calf through his black jeans, then straightens up. "So I imagined it all?" he skeptically asks.

"Wait--you were turned on by me?" I ask, because it's just registered, and I'm suddenly very pleased.

Chris laughs out loud. "I find you doing heavy breathing in a public place and I'm going to be a little interested, Tim."

"Oh," I say, then "Oh!" There's a moment of silence, and then I laugh a bit myself. Now I'm a bit turned on by him. It's the straightforward thing--gets me every time.

He goes back to his line of questioning. "So you weren't upset by my response to you. What was going through your mind, then? What happened in there? Because really, Tim--you clammed up."

"Okay," I say, then sigh. "I'll say this, but it's stupid. You caught me reading about sex acts that I'm just a bit, uh, apprehensive about, Chris, and I was just--See, it's embarrassing. And I'm sick of always being the one who doesn't know anything, the one who worries, who doesn't know what things will be like."

Chris blinks. "Why?" he softly asks. "Why would you be embarrassed about being inexperienced? There's no shame in that."

"It's just--it's uncomfortable for me! I haven't felt this way in years. You've got all this . . . experience and knowledge, and I'm feeling--I feel like a fucking teenager sometimes, Chris. Or a blushing bride."

"You see yourself as my bride?" he asks, obviously amused, and I groan a bit. But he doesn't tease me any further. Instead, he speaks rather seriously.

"Tim, look. Honestly? Seeing you experience all of this for the first time has been--it's been just wonderful. And I--really. Do not be embarrassed about it--just . . ." He gives me a charged look. "Just let me watch you, okay?"

"That--really, Chris--that doesn't exactly help," I say drily.

"Well I don't see why not. You were worried about being embarrassed; I'm telling you that the things you're worrying about are precisely the ones I'm getting off on. So it's not like you're losing any face. You just need to relax a little."

"I was scared to buy that book myself," I tell him, wanting to show him exactly how bad things are, to shock him a little.

He smiles. "Look. I took you into an environment that was completely unfamiliar to you, and you were fine. You walked around, you relaxed--hell, you got right into the spirit of things and found a book that turned you on."

"For god's sake--"

"So it's not a big deal that you weren't comfortable buying anything. You will next time."

"Chris, you're not understanding," I say. "I am trying to tell you that I am just--I'm freaking out left and right, and I'm making a fool of myself, and I'm--I don't want you to see me that way, okay?"

Suddenly he's sliding toward me, pulling me into his arms and kissing me. I hear myself moan a bit, then slowly open my mouth to him, let him inside. He presses very close to me for a few moments, then slowly moves back.

"You are not a fool," he says, breathing quickly. "No one who makes me feel this fucking good is a fool."

I smile at that, then reach out and gently touch the side of his face.

"It'll be okay," I say.

He laughs. "Yes, Tim. It'll be just fine. You're going to relax for me and it'll be just fine."