September 24, 2012
New York, USA
THEY sat themselves in front of the plasma screen with a large bowl of low-fat popcorn in front of them, gathered for a viewing party—friends and frenemies, some of them lovers (the past, present, and future kind)—to watch a movie all about them, a segment on Anderson Cooper 360 about the Olympic and tabloid experience they had recently shared, and the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars.
The entire US men’s Olympic gymnastics team showed up, plus a few from the ladies’. Various other American Olympians had been invited too, and also one from Canada. And rounding out the guest list was an oddball Winter Olympics British ice dancing medalist, a close friend of the host. The Ukrainian weight lifter they had only recently come to know, he’d make an appearance eventually. Well, sort of.
Benjamin Thornton, the high bar hottie party host whom both the film and the news segment focused on, picked up the remote and sighed. He wasn’t certain he was ready to relive the sweeping drama, betrayal, intrigue, and romance of the XXX Olympiad, as the quickly slapped-together made-for-TV movie blurb described those sixteen days in his life. He’d bet they had tied it all up with a neat little bow at the end too. Sometimes life didn’t work out that way, Ben had learned, even when it seemed as if it had.
He flipped on the TV.
“Oh my God!” someone squealed.
The Ben character was rolling around the bed with his pre-Olympic lover, both flashing all sorts of body parts not showable on network.
“They have to establish—” real Ben began.
“That this is pay cable?” his Olympic teammate Richie Stoker joked.
“The kissing is a little fake,” Ben’s still slightly bitter ex said.
“We kissed,” Ben objected.
“Never like that!” replied Taylor Hin.
“Thor saves up all his best kissing,” said Booger Fisher, the ice dancer who’d once kissed him. “Forget not bein’ able to keep his hands off someone. When he can’t keep his lips off ’em, that’s when you know he’s a goner.”
As fictional Ben kissed down his athletic lover’s chest, the actual Ben, who couldn’t disagree with anything said by his friends, turned the channel.
“Hey! That was hot!” Adam Stoker groused.
Ben had known twin brothers Adam and Richie Stoker for nearly eight years. Sometimes it seemed he was closer to each one than they were to each other.
“Is that the rhumba?” Richie asked.
Ben had landed on the dancing competition.
“It’s an Argentine tango, doof,” Adam responded.
“Excuse me for not being proficient in ballroom dancing, ass hat,” the minutes-older brother grumbled. “And you’re the doof!”
“Boys, simmer down.” Ben’s BFFF—best female friend forever—Ekaterina Mischen, a modern-day Mary Lou Retton he called Kat, tried to maintain order between the often sniping sibs.
Since the “star” they were waiting for wasn’t yet dancing anyway, in order to avoid more ballroom bickering, Ben just turned to the news show.
“Coming up later,” Cooper was in the middle of saying, “it had all the makings of an Olympic scandal—warring nations, conflicting personalities, spurned lovers, a sleazy tabloid blogger—”
“Boo!” said the Brit.
“Ssh,” Kat scolded.
“—and also,” the white-haired fox said in his mellifluous, dreamy, in-the-know way, “a sex tape.”
“Which sex tape?” asked Booger Fisher, refusing to ssh. “There turned out to be more than one, now, didn’t there?”
Everyone turned to the star of the second one.
“Listen to anchor-stud,” he said with a smirk.
“But an unlikely third party—” A.C. continued.
“Three-way? Is there one in the movie?” This again from the skater.
“There was never one in real life,” Ben said.
“—uncovered a series of love letters that helped turn a five ring circus into a happily ever after romance.”
There was never one of those, either, Ben thought.
“We’ll tell you all about it,” Cooper promised, “later in the show.”
Not interested in the commercial that came on next, Ben flipped back to Olympian Lovers: Romance Under the Rings.
“Oh my God! Does anyone wear clothes in this movie?” Kat asked.
The US men’s gymnastics team, a fictionalized version, was lined up in a shower scene, a row of bare butts, wet and shiny, spreading deliciously across forty inches. Ben and his other real-life counterpart squirmed a bit, watching their fictional equivalents wash each other—something they had never done. And when the titular Olympian Lovers shared their first kiss right in front of their naked teammates in what seemed to be a dream sequence, Ben glanced at the man right beside him, recalling the first time they had kissed. Then he closed his eyes really tight and he imagined his lips on someone else.
“Turn the channel,” Adam Stoker mumbled between toothy crunches, suddenly not digging what he saw.
“I thought you wanted to watch the movie.” Ben opened his eyes.
“It’s, uh, kinda suck-tacular, don’t ya think?” Adam answered. “How’s what we check-see if it’s Iggy’s turn to dance yet instead?”
Ben hit Channel Up. “There he is,” he squealed excitedly. He thought it was pretty cool his sweet, shy Ukrainian bear had ended up on Dancing With the Stars!
“Look at the size of those feet!” Adam Stoker said.
“Indicative of other things?” Ben was asked by the Brit.
“Is that a rhumba?” Richie Stoker, watching the rehearsal footage, was gonna keep asking till he got it right.
“Ssh, they’re starting,” said Kat.
“Dancing the jive—” began the British announcer.
“He looks petrified,” Ben said.
“He knows his mouse is watching,” Kat said. “That’ll help.”
“—Igor Krestchenovetch and his partner, Karina Smirnoff.”
“That guy sounds like you, Booger,” Adam Stoker declared, complete with mocking Cockney accent.
“He does not,” Booger objected.
“Say ‘The judges’ scores. Carrie Ann Inaba…,” Richie Stoker requested.
The ribbing didn’t bother Fisher. It made him part of the gang. No one was holding his secret identity against him.
“Iggy’s partner is hot!” said the Canadian female gymnast sitting right beside Kat.
“Look at him go!” Adam Stoker marveled at the three-hundred-pound-plus athlete’s dance floor prowess. “Fast feet for a huge guy, huh, Shrimpy?” he said with his trademark head tilt and grin.
The whole room cheered as Iggy finished dancing.
Except Ben, who hadn’t been paying attention.
Everyone turned to look his way. He hadn’t meant to speak. He’d been somewhere else in his head most of the night, thinking about England, about the Games—about texts, and e-mails, and unsigned notes: the love letters the news hunk had spoken of.
Then a gesture, a subtle movement made by the one he truly longed to be with, suddenly cleared the London fog that had clouded his mind for nearly eight weeks, allowing a question that should have been answered on the street in front of a British hotel to finally come to the forefront. The response could change everything, except the end to the stupid movie already filmed.
What did he mean he never sent the notes he wrote?
July 27, 2012
HUNDREDS of thousands of people in London’s vast Olympic Stadium for the start of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and his eyes went directly to diminutive five-foot-one hottie Benjamin Thornton, up on a buddy’s broad shoulders, hoisted up for a prime view of events. Igor Krestchenovetch, Iggy to his Ukrainian teammates, stood nearly as tall as the pair, one atop the other, and outweighed their combined kilos, for sure. As he watched the short cutie bop, he had a difficult time concentrating on the lights, music, and twirling, acrobatic costumed Brits. Once he spotted Benjamin Thornton, everything else ceased to matter. The little mouse of a man was the answer to his prayers.
Kat Mischen fixed her flip-cam on Igor. “Dude’s checking you out,” she shouted upward, stretching her arm to bring the electronic device closer to Ben’s face. “See?”
“What?” He couldn’t hear her.
“He’s hot for a huge guy.”
“I’ll tell ya later.”
The din of the crowd thwarted conversation.
In the stands, Kale Omlet set his sights on the same hot gymnast. Omlet was an Internet blogger with a few thousand followers. He was a self-centered, not too nice son of a bitch—maybe it was living with such a stupid name—who wrote about such things as the growing size of Prince William’s bald spot and the declining beauty of Hugh Grant’s dates as he aged. His favorite topic: outing studly celebrities as gay. In the Olympic Village’s Parade of Nations, there had to be dozens of butt monkeys who secretly hooked up in the wee hours of the morning. Omlet was determined to expose at least one—hopefully one people had heard of. Unfortunately, Phelps was as hetero as they came, but there had to be someone whom Europe, and hopefully the US—Kale Omlet dreamt of international notoriety—would flip over being outed.
Though not superstar famous, four years ago, for a couple of weeks, Ben Thornton’s name had been on the news often as he returned from Beijing with all-around bronze. He popped up on Ellen, The David Letterman Show, and The View to discuss his medals—the US team also came home with bronze—and in a nude pictorial in a sports magazine. The tasteful, artistic, shadowy side views titillated but also disappointed. Even though Benjamin Thornton had one hell of a side view, his female fans—a whole lotta male ones too—studied the page up close, held it to the light, and turned it in every direction possible, hoping to catch a bit of pubic hair, a hint of nut sack, or the curved ridge circling the tip of dickhead, wanting desperately to see the fine feller’s full frontal.
The compact bar phenom—parallel and high—had wavy brown hair and blue eyes. His small-waisted, broad-shouldered body with deep, etched muscular lines seemed to be sculpted from a tiny piece of pure white Greek statuary marble. He’d have been every teen girl’s tiny dream were he better known. For years, teen boys into guys and plenty of older men had followed the hot little package and his hot little package on gay blogs, especially the one featuring The Bulge Report. Thornton’s, in his long, footie-strap pommel-horse pants, was nearly as impressive as the way he threw himself in the air.
DOWN, boy, Igor Krestchenovetch thought—or, ya know, the Ukrainian equivalent—as he remembered the pictorial. Damned good thing he was wearing loose-fitting sweats and not his clingy singlet or those little weight lifting briefs he sometimes wore. He imagined, in great detail, what the magazine hadn’t shown, recalling the sneaky locker room shots of alleged Ben Thornton boner he’d seen on some websites. He pasted the two—the body shot in glossy print and the online stiffy—together in his mind. As he pulled his jacket down to cover the growing tent at his crotch, he wondered if the gossip about the handsome American liking men in a sexual way was true. He certainly hoped that it was.
UP IN the nosebleed seats, Kale Omlet wooded up as well. Despite the way Ben Thornton and Kat Mischen laughed and hung all over each other like lovers, he wondered—and hoped—the same thing. Of course, reality wasn’t all that important when it came to attracting surfers to Morning Omlet, the insipid title he had given his insipid website. Innuendo brought them in. He’d print whatever wouldn’t get him sued. Still, proof—the photographic kind—attracted the most readers. The picture before him might be worth a million words, but it was too tame to draw a million followers—the number he hoped to hit by the end of the Games. It was a start, though, one that led to a fantasy about Ben Thornton—about screwing the boy, maybe literally, maybe figuratively, depending upon which opportunity presented itself first. Maybe, he thought as the loud musical extravaganza progressed toward its end, I’ll be lucky enough to do both.