“You got any rubbers, or do we need to pick up a few here?” Allen asked, counting the quarters in his palm.
I eyed the rusty condom machine on the men’s room wall. There were two different types of condoms for sale (glow-in-the-dark and banana-flavored), plus some horrifying rubber monstrosity advertised as a “Dual! Stimulating! Pleasure Sleeve—Ribbed for His and Her’s Pleasure.”
“No way am I trusting my dick to a company that can’t even use an apostrophe correctly,” I said. “There’ll be candy jars full of condoms at the party anyway, right?”
Allen dropped four quarters into the machine. He cranked a knob and the machine spit out a small silver package into his waiting hand. “Here.” He handed it to me. “Just in case.”
I imagined myself amidst a sea of naked bodies, plunging balls-deep into a blank-faced stranger. Only this stranger turns his head, and he’s no random hookup. It’s Allen, grinning like a schoolboy. A schoolboy who just got fucked by his best friend.
“No thanks,” I said, snapping back to reality. “You keep it. I couldn’t possibly accept such an extravagant gift.”
“You have to take it. It won’t fit me.”
A middle-aged man in a beat-up Cardinals cap burst into the restroom, shooting us a wary eye before making a beeline for the urinals. “Prom night?” he asked over his shoulder.
Allen and I exchanged glances. Sure, we were both juniors in college. But with our black tuxes, baby blue cummerbunds, and matching bow ties, we could easily pass as a couple of twelfth-grade cherry-poppin’ daddies.
“We’re on our way to prom,” Allen said. “Fag prom.”
The man snorted. “Sounds better than my prom.”
Exiting the restroom, I stashed the condom in my jacket pocket. “That’s the last time we go to the bathroom together,” I told Allen. “We might be gay, but we’re not a couple of girls.”
“You worry too much about what other people think,” he said, grabbing a large sugar-free Red Bull from a cooler.
I picked up a bottled water. “I grew up around here. Saying the wrong thing in the wrong place to the wrong guy can land you in the hospital. Iowa City is a college town. We can play by different rules there. But here in this no-name dump off I–80—you have to watch what you say.”
“You worried people will think we’re a couple?” Allen set the Red Bull on the counter. He put an arm around my waist and stepped closer to me as the clerk rang him up.
Allen plucked the bottle from my hand. “Let me pay for that.”
I shrugged him off. “Do whatever you want. I’ll be in the car.”
The truth was, I wasn’t worried that people would think we were a couple—far from it. I’d been fantasizing about that for the past two years since freshman year, when Allen was the big man on campus from the Chicago ’burbs and I was the small-town boy struggling to fit in. Not that there was one definitive “big man” on a campus of thirty thousand, but he was the tallest guy in my Intro to English Lit class. When I first laid eyes on him from the back of the room, Allen looked like the kind of guy who could have played ball in high school. A real jock.
In other words, just my type.
I moved one seat closer to him every afternoon that first semester, until I had him in checkmate. If I made another move, I’d end up sitting on his lap. Perhaps that’s what I was shooting for. It took me a few classes directly beside him to say anything. When I finally worked up the courage to talk to him, my mouth betrayed me, destroying the month-long buildup in one fell swoop.
“So what were you, like, the quarterback in high school?”
“No,” Allen said, “but I fucked the quarterback.”
“But that was high school,” he added. “I don’t want you to get any ideas about me—I was experimenting.”
My heart sank. “Of course.”
Allen must have seen the look of disappointment in my eyes, because he winked at me. “I’m not into jocks anymore.”
I thought we were going to hook up right there in the middle of the classroom. Unfortunately, I was too intimidated to return his flirtatious wink. Later, I learned that Allen flirted with everyone. That was just his modus operandi. I wasn’t special. He was dating some poet at the time, which meant he was off-limits anyway. When they broke up, I thought about making a move. I thought about it long and hard. By the time I worked up the courage to say something, he had a new boy toy. After seeing him pump and dump a few more boys (and girls) that semester, I realized the friendzone wasn’t such a bad place to be. I saw how he treated the people he slept with. They were as disposable as the paper plates he was so fond of. “I’m an equal opportunity lover,” he once told me, “but you can call me a slut.”
On a crisp fall day three weeks before our road trip, we met at the Chipotle on campus for lunch. I asked Allen if he’d seen the event page for the Beta Theta Pi Halloween party.
“No,” he said. “Where’d you see that? Facebook?”
Allen shook his head. “I don’t have a Facebook account anymore.”
“Thought I hadn’t seen any posts from you in a while.”
“I ditched that shit. Never used it. Never cared.”
“I like to keep in touch with my family.”
“Really? There’s plenty of time to catch up with them online when you move back home after graduation and can’t find a job. Right now, you’re young and away from home. Make the most of it.”
I thought about it as I picked at my salad. He was right. I had less than a year left of college unless I decided to go to grad school for an MFA. And what was I doing with my time? Losing hours of my life to Facebook and Skype, chatting with my family—family that lived an hour away. If I really missed them, I could go home anytime. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed I was pissing away my entire college experience tethered to family. I loved them, yes, but I hadn’t even come out to any of my relatives except my aunt and her partner.
“Fuck family,” I said.
“Whoa,” Allen said. “I don’t know if I’d go that far. Family is important, man. I call my mom once a week. I text my brothers every day. My point was more like, fuck Facebook.”
“Anyway, what’s up with this frat party?”
“The Beta Theta Pi thing? It’s next Friday. Supposed to be an orgy.”
Allen raised an eyebrow.
“At least according to the invite,” I added. “We’re supposed to wear togas and—”
“We?” he said. “Are you really thinking of going?”
“Well, yeah. I know plenty of guys there. Daniel, Mike…someone else that I’m forgetting. Why not go?”
“Why not? It’s just a frat party, not Caligula.”
I shrugged. “It just sounded like something to do.”
“Christ, we need to get you out of your apartment more. Get your nose out of your books and into someone’s ass crack. And that’s not going to happen at Beta Theta Pumpkin Pie. No matter how much they want to disguise their little party, it’s not going to be a real orgy.”
“I bet you’ve been to plenty of real orgies, huh?”
He paused. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to one. I had a threesome with two chicks once, but that wasn’t really an orgy.”
I wasn’t a virgin, but felt like one around Allen at times. “How many people do you need before it becomes an orgy?”
“At least four,” he said. “I have a friend in Chicago who’s in the scene. If you really want to go to an orgy, I’m sure she can hook us up.”
“There’s an orgy ‘scene’?”
“There’s a scene for everything.”
I’d never even contemplated going to an orgy before, but it felt like the right thing to do, like the sort of thing you would never see on Facebook and definitely not in any of those college textbooks that I—according to Allen—buried my nose in too often. “Let’s do it.”
“Really?” he said, raising his eyebrow again. “I’ll see if she knows of anything happening later this month. It’ll be an experience. Cool?”
“Will it be okay with Chris?”
Allen shrugged. “I haven’t talked to him in a while.”
“Did you guys break up?”
“We weren’t ever really dating,” he said. “So, are you in or what?”
I drew in a deep breath and let it out. I nodded. “I’m in.”
A week later, Allen texted to let me know the orgy was a go. I met him at a men’s wear shop at the mall near campus. The party had a formal dress code, which meant we needed to rent tuxes. The girl measuring us had asked if we were going to a party.
Allen and I looked at each other and laughed.
A brilliant white tux caught my eye. I asked Allen if we should drop the extra fifty bucks on the upgrade.
“Why? You think there’s going to be so much cum flying around that we need to wear white? We should keep it simple. Black is always in style.”
That was easy for him to say, but I needed something to stand out. Not all of us were six-foot-two, barrel-chested monsters like Allen. I opted for a standard-issue black tuxedo with a top hat. Unlike the rest of my rented outfit, I had to buy the hat. Forty bucks. I looked at it as an investment, my first real adult purchase. Not that I planned to become an orgy regular, but hey—a boy could dream.
After three hours on the road and another forty-five minutes circling the neighborhood for parking, Allen backed into a spot between two cars and killed the engine. We’d scoured every square foot of the far northwest edge of Chicago for parking—a blur of CVS pharmacies, Burger Kings, and Spanish-language signs I couldn’t read—and by some miracle found a space on the same block as our destination. It was our twelfth pass, so it was more of a minor miracle, like the Virgin Mary burned into a slice of toast. I hopped out to examine his parking job.
He rolled down the passenger window. “We good?”
The space separating him from the cars on either side couldn’t have been more than three inches. I bent down and gave him a thumbs-up. “I don’t know how you did that without lubrication.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said, exiting the car. “Shall we?”
I studied the rows of identical brick townhouses on either side of the street. “Which way to your friend’s house?”
“It’s not Justine’s house—it’s her friend’s house,” Allen said, joining me on the sidewalk. He handed me my top hat. “Don’t forget this bad boy.”
“Thanks.” I took it from him but didn’t put it on. The hat was supposed to make me stand out. Right now on the deserted sidewalk, standing out was the last thing I wanted. “Which way do we go?”
Allen looked left and then right. “I think it’s that way,” he said, pointing left.
He threw an arm around my shoulders. “I’ve never been in this area of town before. If we go the wrong way, just think of it as an adventure.”
“Getting shot isn’t an adventure,” I said. “What’s the address?”
He told me, and I read the numbers on the houses closest to us to see which direction the numbers ran.
“What’s the verdict?” he asked.
“You were right.”
Allen did a quick fist pump. I started off toward our destination.
“Hold up,” Allen said, quickly catching up to me. “No need to hurry. There’ll be plenty of dicks to suck, my friend.”
I wasn’t in a hurry. Just the opposite. Now that we were so close, second thoughts had begun to plague me. I really had no idea what was going to happen at the party. The only orgies I’d ever heard of were in movies, such as Eyes Wide Shut. To learn more about real-life orgies, I’d taken to Wikipedia. The first thing I learned was that ancient Greek orgies didn’t even involve sex. Orgies were rituals meant to unite practitioners with the divine. According to the site,
Orgia were ecstatic rites characteristic of the Greek and Hellenistic mystery religions… Some rites were held at night. Orgia were part of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, and the cult of Cybele, which involved the castration of her priests in a frenzied trance.
Today, orgies are just one of many different types of sex parties, like swinger parties, key parties, rainbow parties, etc. I say “et cetera,” because once I got to the term “bunga bunga parties,” I halted my investigation. Reading about sex parties linked to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was not how I’d envisioned spending a Sunday afternoon, especially when I had a paper due. If I couldn’t handle reading about sex parties, what right did I have to go to one? I’d had weeks to mentally prepare. Now, at the last possible moment, I was on the verge of chickening out.
When our destination was finally in front of us, I stopped. My legs refused to climb the stairs. “Let’s go back to the car.”
“Did you forget the rubber?”
“I didn’t forget anything. I’m thinking this hat is a bit much,” I said. In my hands, the top hat ceased to be ornamental headgear and instead became a symbol of my anxieties. “Can I just return it to the car? It will only take a minute.”
Allen swiped it from me. He carefully studied its black velvet sheen under the streetlamp before placing it on my head. “It gives you character.”
“Gives me character, or turns me into a character? They’re two different things.”
Allen started toward our destination again. “Does it matter? Everybody needs a little character in their life.”
I grumbled in response. I resolved to toss the damned thing into a darkened corner at the party and forget to pick it up when we left.
“Now remember,” Allen said, climbing the stairs. “The password is fellatio.”
I followed him, nodding.
“I’m kidding,” he said.
“Then what is the password?”
He laughed. “There isn’t one.”
Allen knocked and we stepped back. I listened hard for the clichéd sounds of lovemaking—moaning women, grunting men, squeaking beds—but heard nothing from the doorstep.
“Maybe you should knock again,” I said.
“Maybe,” Allen said.
“Or maybe you should ring the doorbell.”
“No,” he said. “I don’t want to startle anyone. I know if a doorbell was ringing all night every five minutes, I probably couldn’t concentrate on my erection.”
“Every five minutes? Damn, how many people are they expecting?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know, it was just a figure of—”
The door swung open, revealing a bald, middle-aged man dressed casually in a white tank top. My eyes went straight to the tribal tats snaking around his biceps—visible because he was wearing a white tank top. Not only was the top hat a bit much, but our tuxedos and bow ties were clearly over the top as well.
“Allen!” he said in a voice so high-pitched that I couldn’t help but appear shocked. This wasn’t Mike Tyson—this was Mike Tyson on helium. He embraced Allen in a bear hug, and then turned to me. “And say hello to your little friend.”
I told him my name. He threw his arms around me, ignoring my outstretched palm and crushing my body against his oversized pecs. He smelled of Axe body spray and desperation. “You can call me Omar, because that’s the name my mother gave me,” he said, releasing me. “Come on in. I’ll find Justine.”
I peered over his shoulder into the darkened room behind him. All I could see were a few flickering candles and the dim glow of a television from another room. As we entered the house, I thought about turning and running. This was the point of no return.
I stepped into the house last and pulled the door shut behind me.
In the entryway, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. Instead of being confronted with a copulating sea of flesh, the only people I could see from my vantage point were fully clothed. T-shirts. Jeans. Sneakers. And they weren’t having sex, or even dry-humping—they were sitting on couches, beer bottles in hand, chatting. As Omar led us through the house, I counted about a dozen people on the first floor, most of them about twice our age. All clothed. In the living room, a woman was sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor, playing Mario Kart on an enormous television.
“Where’s the orgy?” I whispered to Allen.
“It’s early,” he whispered back.
We stopped in the kitchen, where Omar opened the fridge. “You guys want Bud Light or Miller?” he asked over his shoulder.
“Do you have any wine?” I asked.
“For a couple of dandies like you? Of course,” Omar said, pulling out two peach wine coolers and handing them to us. “Let me find the bottle opener …”
“It’s okay,” Allen said, twisting his cap off. “These are easy access.”
I opened my bottle and took a sip. Mmmmm…Jolly Rancher candy. I tried to recall the last time I’d had a wine cooler. Sometime in high school. My sophomore year, at Randy Miller’s house. The only thing sweeter than the watermelon wine coolers that night had been Randy.
“It’s very…fruity,” I told Omar. “Thanks.”
A tall woman with dyed black hair and tattooed sleeves entered the kitchen. Allen hugged her and introduced us. This was Justine, a friend from Allen’s high school days.
“Nice costumes,” she said, slurring her speech and patting my top hat.
Omar disappeared with a wink.
Justine led us on a tour of the two-story, four-bedroom townhouse. Each room had been transformed into a theme room for the orgy. In the bondage-themed room, for instance, a solitary steel chair sat in the middle with a rope at its feet. A whip, riding crop, and some other tools I didn’t recognize hung unused on the wall. The room wasn’t just empty of nude people sixty-nining on the floor; the room was empty of anyone doing anything at all. The nudity we’d been expecting eluded us. Perhaps it was, as Allen said, early in the night.
We sat down in a bedroom with iron shackles bolted to the wall. It was supposed to be a dungeon, but the framed vintage New Kids on the Block posters on the wall destroyed the dark vibe—or made it infinitely creepier. I learned that Justine was an art student at Columbia College, not to be confused with the Ivy League Columbia University in New York City. I was familiar with both Columbias, because they were on my short list of graduate schools with writing programs I was think of applying to. Columbia College was a far more likely bet than the Ivy League school, and not just because of the odds of acceptance. I didn’t have fifty-plus grand for tuition, to say nothing of the cost of living in the Big Apple.
After an hour or so of chatting, Justine’s brother arrived with an eightball of coke. Justine left to get high with him in another room. Allen and I declined to join them. We didn’t have anything against drugs, but we didn’t need coke dick if the orgy ever started.
Alone in the dungeon, we started talking and lost track of time. Another hour passed. We made a sweep of the house to see if the orgy had begun. Everyone was still clothed, as if awaiting some executive order. And that girl was still playing Mario Kart in the living room. What was the point of the sexy candle mood lighting if you were just going to ruin it with a Nintendo game? We found Justine in a jungle-themed room and asked if she had any idea when the orgy might begin. She stared past us and giggled. Her brother cut a line on the coffee table and snorted it in front of us. He threw his head back and howled like a wolf.
We returned to the dungeon. When I sat down, a fat, gray-haired kitty darted out from under the futon. Allen closed the door once it was gone.
“I’m allergic to cats,” he said, sitting down next to me.
“What a coincidence,” I said. “I’m allergic to pussy too.”
“You’re not missing much.”
“Then tonight wasn’t a total bust.”
I wasn’t as irritated as I sounded. On the one hand, we’d just driven over two hundred miles on a Saturday night to hang out in rented tuxes at a house party. On the other hand, I no longer had to worry about what would happen if Allen and I ended up naked across from each other, our dicks cocked and loaded. I knew what I wanted to happen between us—I fantasized about it often enough—which is why it worried me. What did Allen want? The thought had to have crossed his mind in the weeks leading up to the party.
“Sorry things turned out so shitty,” Allen said.
“It’s not your fault,” I said without looking at him. Donnie Wahlberg’s abs had momentarily stolen my attention.
“I know, but I kind of dragged you into this whole mess.”
I shrugged. “It hasn’t been a total waste of time. At least I know the kind of gay man I don’t want to be when I’m in my forties.”
“What kind of gay man is that?”
“The kind that bathes in Axe body spray,” I said.
Allen laughed. “It’s nice to see you in good spirits. You always seem so gloomy.”
“You never want to leave the house, dude.”
“I like to dance.”
He glared at me. “Like once a year, and only when your friend Molly is around.”
“So I like to stay in. I enjoy reading. That’s not a crime.”
“I envy you. I’ve never told you that, but it’s true. I can’t stand to be at my own apartment. My own thoughts are suffocating. Even when I leave the house, I still can’t get away from myself. Why do you think I’m always drinking?”
“Are you serious?”
Allen nodded. “If I stayed in as much as you do, I would go crazy. I need to always be on the move, like a shark.” Then, under his breath, he added, “Like a drunk shark.”
It had never occurred to me that he might consider his own drinking problematic. It’s not as if we were alcoholics. We were just doing what you do when you’re twenty-one. The ambient light lit up Allen’s face, highlighting his perfect cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. It was ridiculous to think that anyone who looked like this could have any problems.
“You’ve been drinking tonight, but you don’t seem drunk now,” I said, trying to reassure him. I was in the unfamiliar position of comforting Allen, whose self-esteem never seemed to flag. Now he was crumbling before me.
“You’re right,” he said. “I was holding back. It takes enormous willpower to not get tanked.”
“Why hold back? I thought we were staying with Justine after the party. You said she lives close by, right?”
“I’ve been thinking we might just head home.”
That didn’t sound like a bad idea. If we were lucky, we could get back to Iowa before the sun came up, meaning I could get a few hours of shut-eye before my study group at one. “If you were thinking of leaving early, I’m always happy to be the designated driver. You know that.”
“You’re too good to me,” he said. “Why is that?”
“We’re friends,” I said quickly.
Allen was silent. I sensed some tension brewing just below the surface of our conversation. We’d gotten too deep, too fast. I’d been worried about seeing him naked at the orgy; instead, I wound up seeing him more naked than I’d ever expected.
“Bunga bunga,” I said.
Allen shot me a sideways glance.
“Berlusconi used to throw these parties—”
“The Italian prime minister,” I said. “He threw these wild orgies that he called bunga bunga parties. I don’t know anything about them. The thought of politicians having sex grosses me out.”
“You’d make a shit intern.”
“Duh. So anyway, I don’t even know what the phrase means. I just like the sound of it. Bunga bunga.”
“Bunga bunga,” Allen repeated. “That’s the punch line to a joke my dad told me when I was a kid.”
“Was it funny?”
“I laughed. But then again, I was in junior high.”
“You still remember it?” I asked.
“Like it was yesterday,” he said, staring off into the distant past. “It starts off with two English explorers getting captured by an African tribe—”
“This isn’t racist, is it?”
“It’s a dad joke,” Allen said, shrugging. “Anyway, the chief tells them they’re guilty of trespassing. They have a choice: bunga bunga or death. The explorers have no idea what bunga bunga is, but they figure it can’t be worse than death. The first explorer says he’ll take bunga bunga. The chief nods, and a tribesman tears the prisoner’s pants off and starts fucking him in the ass. The rest of the men in the tribe line up for their turn—”
“Wait, how old were you when your dad told this to you?”
“Like eleven,” Allen said. “Anyway, once the tribesmen are finished gangbanging the first explorer, the chief turns to the second one. Again, he gives him a choice: bunga bunga—or death. ‘Death,’ the prisoner says. ‘Give me death!’ The chief nods. ‘Okay. Death it is,’ he says. ‘But first—bunga bunga!’”
Everything about the joke was wrong, wrong, wrong. Something about the way he told it made me grin nonetheless.
Allen wasn’t smiling. In fact, he looked tense. His eyes were tightly shut, as if he was trying to hold back tears. “You okay?”
He exhaled a heavy breath and looked at me. His eyes were dry. “Sorry. Just thinking about my dad. I wish I remembered something about him besides his dumb jokes.”
“The joke wasn’t that dumb.”
“You didn’t laugh,” he said.
“I guess I found the joke a little sad.”
“Well, these two English explorers had to go all the way to Africa to find out what butt sex was.”
“Maybe sometimes you have to leave everything you know behind to find what it is you really want,” Allen said, placing a hand on my thigh. His touch was electric. Now it was my turn to close my eyes. I didn’t want to jinx the moment by talking about it or even looking at Allen—if I’d mistaken his innocent touch for something more…
I felt his hand touch mine, and then his breath was on my neck.
I hadn’t mistaken anything.
This was happening.
The short hairs on his face scratched my own and his lips brushed mine. I latched on to him, kissing deeply, hungrily, as if we’d just invented French kissing. Finally, he pulled away.
I opened my eyes. “What are you doing?”
“Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
“Just a minute ago, you were about to cry.”
“I’ve never cried in my life,” Allen said. He grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me on top of him. He flung my top hat across the room. “You have that condom?”
I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled it out. Only it wasn’t a condom as I’d thought. It was one of the studded rubber cock rings. “This isn’t going to work,” I said, shoving it back in my pocket.
“This was supposed to be an orgy. We can find a real condom somewhere,” Allen said, his voice heavy and breathless. “But before we go any further, there’s something you need to know about me.”
“What is it?” My mind raced with possibilities. I thought I knew everything about my friend, but he could have been holding out on me. I have hep C. I have HIV. I have three balls.
“I don’t know how to say this …”
“It’s okay. Really, it’s okay.”
He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “I’m pretty sure my dick is bigger than yours.”
“You’re an idiot,” I said, unzipping his tuxedo pants. I could see the outline of his manhood through his boxer briefs. I slipped my fingers through his fly, brushing against his cock at first and then gripping it. I couldn’t make a fist or even wrap my fingers around it. He wasn’t kidding—his dick was bigger than mine.
He wiggled out of his pants, and I peeled his boxer briefs down. “So I guess you really are the big man on campus,” I said, eyeing him.
“Who called me that?”
“I did. In my head at least, when I saw you in class that first day.”
Allen laughed. “What class was that? I don’t even remember. Creative writing?”
“English lit,” I said, massaging his cock. A low grunt of pleasure sounded from his throat.
“How do you remember stuff like that?”
I shrugged. “The same way you remember your dad’s jokes. Some things stick with you. Like this moment…I’m never going to forget.”
He smiled. “I won’t either.”
As I went down on him, I tried not to overanalyze his promise. Was he just trying to do me a favor by finally giving in to my pleading eyes? I didn’t know if this was the start of something new between us—or if this was just Allen needing someone to take care of him for the night. We would talk about it later, on the trip back. For now, I would love him as best as I could. If all we had was this moment, I would make it last. Before death, there would be bunga bunga.
This story originally appeared in Fifty First Times: A New Adult Anthology.