WHEN the plane touched down in Barcelona, it was the middle of the night, but I was still on New York time, so I was actually less tired than I would be after a hard day’s work. Traveling first class had its perks, not least the almost personal service the airline provided in the form of a charming and rather buff male flight attendant who made sure my every need was met. Okay, maybe not my every need. His service didn’t provide that. He did, however, make sure I slept soundly for a good three hours in a seat that was more comfortable than the one in my own living room, and that when I woke, the meal I’d skipped was still hot. He also made sure the cabin lights were low, and the only sound was the humming of the engines. His perfect service even made sure I barely registered there were other businessmen sharing the cabin with me. For once, during my waking hours I actually got some work done. I kept thinking the flight attendant could make some rich guy a very attentive but inconspicuous butler. And he was a treat to look at as well.
Walking down the concourse on route to the baggage claim, I felt more invigorated than a transatlantic passenger had the right to be, and as I passed the droves of cattle car passengers and their tired kids, I tried not to smile too much. At least they didn’t do this once a week. I was so used to the time change it no longer bothered me. If all went well, I’d be back in the Big Apple before the weekend with time off to go clubbing. That was all in my future. For now, it was business all the way.
At immigration, a few words of Spanish, a stern, businesslike look, and my almost-full passport made the immigration officer put aside his prejudice against my shaven head and muscular bad-boy physique as he returned my passport to me, and let me enter the country. Luckily my numerous tattoos were covered by my travel attire, or he might have had a different reaction. I picked up my garment bag and the small suitcase I could hook my laptop bag to, and briskly walked toward the terminal’s outer lobby, where a portly driver stood with my name printed on a placard. Jeremy Robinson. But friends call me Jez.
“Good flight, sir?” the driver asked in heavily accented English after I had settled in the back of his car.
“Perfect, thank you,” I answered. I recognized the logo on his lapel as the one from the company I was going to visit. “Will you be picking me up in the morning?”
“Yes, sir. When would you like me to be there?”
“Eight is fine.” That would give me time to review some of my notes while driving, and would take into account that traffic in downtown Barcelona was notoriously difficult to predict. Also, I preferred to arrive early and see how ready they were for my arrival. I admit that seeing them scurry around nervously while I keep my notorious cool strokes my ego.
As I settled into my hotel room and hung up my suits, I mentally went over my agenda for the next few days. I was invited to a company where the CEO was looking for “a new challenge.” Officially I was contracted to review which of the VPs could be promoted to a higher position, but unofficially I was bringing several lucrative offers from other companies to the CEO. Meeting with everyone, and drafting an official report, would take three days. The networking necessary to do my job would occupy just one night. The date for my visit had been chosen to include an evening of brushing shoulders with a whole dining hall full of captains of industry, so I hoped I’d meet prospective customers there. I was always on the lookout for the next lucrative job.
For now I ordered a room service dinner of chicken Caesar salad and turned on the TV while I took my laptop out. After flicking through numerous channels of loud and chatty debate programs and frantic news, I settled for a nature channel and turned the TV to mute. The sudden silence in the room helped me focus on the e-mails that popped up on my laptop.
ALTHOUGH my job rarely bored me, this trip was more of the same. I always did my best to look focused, asked all the right questions, and in this case interviewed all the people at the VP level, but they all tried too hard to suck up to me, so I found my mind drifting off. My last interviewee was a particularly good-looking young man who turned on the charm. He was one of the most junior VPs and only in his position for a meager three months, but I caught myself imagining what he’d look like without his dark grey suit, and wondered what he did to get to the position at his early age. The CEO looked like the type who could bend a guy over his designer desk before offering him a promotion.
Damn, I never did this. There was a wall the caliber of the Berlin one between my private life and my business persona, and nothing penetrated it. Usually. So I had to excuse myself and left the guy behind looking stunned. I made my way to the restrooms and entered a stall where I sat on the closed toilet. Wiping my hands over my shaved head, I knew what I needed. I took out my cell phone and searched for leather clubs. I was sure that twinky VP had a twin in some club in Barcelona, and nailing him would make maintaining my wall so much easier. Just a few more hours of work and an evening of networking, and then I’d get to do my favorite kind of networking. Making a connection of the physical kind.
Maybe I needed a vacation? I knew myself, though. I’d still be working if I booked a cruise or paradise holiday. Nothing better to do anyway.
WHEN I woke up on my last day in Barcelona, my body was still humming. I felt invigorated. The club I’d found online turned out to be a gem and then some, with tight male bodies eager to please. My favorite was probably the muscle guy I ended up fucking in full view of about four or five other guys, two of which took over the show after we were finished. Not that I asked his name or had any intention of ever meeting him again. There was no need. I got what I wanted, and I was pretty sure he did as well.
While packing my bags, I turned the TV to CNN. There was an item about a volcano in Iceland erupting and spewing ash into the atmosphere, but it only drew my attention because they were talking about closing airports. My flight to NYC was in twelve hours, and I hoped the cloud wouldn’t interfere with the path my pilot needed to take.
By the time I’d finished submitting my report to the CEO and discussing his personal options with him, he told me that all transatlantic flights were canceled. He offered me accommodation at his country home, but I declined. Like I said, I don’t mix business with pleasure, and my work there was done. I called my office in New York, but they already knew the score and told me to enjoy some time off. What the hell was I going to do with myself in a city I’d only ever been to for business?
When I arrived back at my hotel, the manager came over to me, smiling apologetically. Apparently they were swamped by all the tourists stranded in the city, and they asked me whether I’d consider moving to a smaller room so they could use my suite to house a family. Of course they would foot the bill for this. I didn’t care much for luxury, so I agreed, figuring it would last one or two days at most. My new room was tiny but comfortable, and I got a bottle of cava as a thank you.
I decided to surf the net for porn, but after the live action of the night before, it bored me to tears. When I opened Twitter, I came across a few haphazard posts from a man I hadn’t seen in years: porn star Nick Stone. The pictures he tweeted looked vaguely familiar, and then he talked about his villa outside Barcelona. I smiled when I realized we were in the same city, and I had time on my hands.
Nick and I went way back. When I met him he was this godlike creature with seven percent body fat, tirelessly worked muscles, and a cock that always seemed ready for action. In the days before Internet porn, he was everywhere and worked for the biggest gay porn production houses. He even managed to make the transition to the Internet, starting his own site and selling his videos there. I got to know the man behind the larger than life persona and found a man who had a voracious appetite for life and fun but could just as easily enjoy silence and sitting on a couch reading a book. And then eight years ago, he went off the grid. I only found him again when someone retweeted his messages.
A few phone calls to mutual friends later, I had Nick’s cell phone number, and I was starting to feel excited about catching up with him again. Being a no-holds-barred kind of guy, I didn’t hesitate to dial his number.
The silence at the other end made me uneasy for just a moment.
“Who is this?”
“Jez Robinson,” I answered calmly.
“Oh. My God. The Red Robin.”
I chuckled at my old nickname. “Not so red anymore, Stud Muffin. I got hair with character. It’d rather fall out than turn grey, so I shaved it all off.”
“Your leather boys should appreciate that look.”
I drank in Nick’s cultured English accent, which he’d always kept up even though his vocabulary over the years had been peppered with American words. “Oh, they do.”
“My hair is almost white,” Nick replied.
“I saw your pictures,” I admitted. Some of his tweets had contained a link to a fashion website where I found pictures of him fully clothed, and looking stunning. “So you turned into a bona fide fashion model in your old age?”
“Who are you calling old?” he asked with a hearty belly laugh. Then he coughed. Repeatedly.
“Ever thought about quitting those cigarettes?” I quipped.
“Quit six years ago,” Nick said after he finally got his breathing under control. “Hey, a guy’s got to do something to keep the money flowing in, Jez. So what made you call me?”
“I’m in Barcelona,” I said softly. “Stuck here by that volcano. I should be on a plane back to New York right now, but it’s canceled.” There was a silence at the other end of the line, and I could almost see Nick smile. I imagined him reclined on the sofa, stretching out his long, elegant limbs.
“You have to come see me. You can stay over. I have plenty of room. We can catch up. It’s been way too long, Jezzie.”
I decided this was the best offer I’d had in a while. “Tell me where I can find you.”