Brenno the Baritone
Rehearsals start up again for the next production of the Raser City Lyric Opera. The opera this time is Rusalka by Dvorak, which is a little obscure, but it's based on fairy tales, and we're singing it in English. All of the women's chorus will be dressed as fairies and rehearsals will be intense as we will have to learn to dance as well as sing. It's only been a few weeks since the last show closed, but I'm so happy to be back singing with my friends again.
After one of the first chorus rehearsals, I'm chatting with my old friend Brenno. I tell him that I'm going to New Orleans for a conference in a few weeks, because I know he grew up there, although his family doesn't live there anymore.
"NOLA!! Hell yeah!" He grins down at me. He's a tall, skinny, excitable guy, at least a foot taller than I am. I've always thought he was cute in a gangly way, with his long blond hair and easy smile, but truthfully we've never been that close. Aside from talking after rehearsals, we've never done anything one on one before.
Impulsively, I say, "You should come with me."
"Ok, yeah! Ecco mi qua!" Brenno has been taking Italian classes in his spare time, because his office is near the Lester State campus. Lately he's been in the habit of shouting out random Italian phrases.
"Really? Are you sure?" I can't quite believe he said yes.
"Sure! It's a long weekend, right? I won't have to miss work, and I've been wanting an excuse to go back for a while. Come on, man, let's do it!"
Two weeks later, I'm on a Friday morning flight to New Orleans with a guy I had only ever thought of as a somewhat distant friend, but who I always kind of liked. There's an awkward moment when we're checking into the hotel. The room is under my name, and the clerk asks if we want a king size bed or two queens. I hadn't even thought about that. I glance at Brenno nervously, but he just smiles, giving no indication of his preference. Surely we're just here as friends, right? I don't want him to think I'm making any assumptions. He seemed pretty clear that he just wanted an excuse to go visit his old haunts. I'm too embarrassed to hash it out with him in front of the hotel staff, so I say quickly, "Two queens."
We drop our bags in the room, then go our separate ways almost immediately. I have to spend all of Friday afternoon and evening at the conference. I still feel like a fraud in my conservative professional clothes, but Brenno cheers me on and I do my best to act like a semi-competent adult and not a socially awkward teenager. Saturday morning Brenno takes me out to a diner to get sausage and grits for breakfast, then it's back to the conference all day while he goes off to meet some old friends.
Finally, after dinner on Saturday, I'm finished with my professional obligations, and Brenno comes back from seeing his friends, cheerful and bouncing with energy as usual. I change into my pajamas in the bathroom, then collapse onto my queen bed with a sigh.
Brenno comes and sits next to me on my bed with a shy kind of smile.
"Um, what are you doing?" I ask.
"What do you think I'm doing?" He leans in and kisses me.
I'm completely stunned, but in a good way. Kissing him feels nice--familiar and exciting at the same time.
"Wait a minute," I say, after kissing him back good and hard so he knows I enjoyed it. "Was this your plan the whole time?"
He just shrugs, grinning and ducking his head. "I dunno, I was hoping you've be interested." I've never seen him act so shy. It's cute.
"But we've been here almost two days already. What were you waiting for?"
"I knew you were nervous about the conference, and I didn't want to throw off your concentration."
"Wow, thank you. That's amazingly considerate."
"But you're finished now, right?"
"Yeah, now I can enjoy myself." I give him a look and he leans in to kiss me again.
Neither of us brought condoms, though, so we have oral sex then spend the night sleeping together in my queen bed. I'm kicking myself for not getting the king.
The next morning we go for a jazz brunch, and I absolutely stuff myself. I can still hardly believe that Brenno is interested in me in that way. I've known him for about three years, and while he was always friendly, he's got a loud, theater kid type of personality--he's friendly with everyone. I never noticed him treating me differently than anyone else.
"So how come you never asked me out before now?" I ask as we move on to our third mimosas.
"You always had a boyfriend," he points out.
I laugh. I guess it's true.
"You could have asked me out," he counters.
"But you always seemed to have a girlfriend." Now it's his turn to laugh. "You're not seeing anyone right now, are you?" I have to check.
"Uh...not really. I mean, nothing serious."
After brunch, we spend the afternoon walking around the French Quarter and end up having chicory coffee and beignets at Café du Monde while Brenno tones down his usual loud persona to tells me some serious shit about growing up in New Orleans. He comes from a well-off, WASPy kind of family. His father's a surgeon. But his stories of high school are surprisingly violent, and several of the kids in his high school died young. The city I grew up in on the East Coast had a lot of mafia but nothing like the kind of casual violence he describes.
The defining event of Brenno's life, I discover, was his idolized older brother's death in a car crash at age nineteen.
"He was drinking so they called it an accident," he says in a low voice. "But I know it was really a kind of suicide. He was depressed, even though he was so cool and popular. And you know, after he died, my parents never talked about it once. Not even once! After the funeral my mother was like, 'Let's put all that behind us.' And that was it! Fuck!"
I don't really have anything to say to that, aside from trying to be supportive. I'm surprised that someone who always seems so cheerful has so much darkness in him.
We do some more sightseeing, and Brenno bounces back to his usual self, gesturing wildly as he shows me around, and bursting into song as we're walking down the street, then shouting "Ecco mi qua!"
"We should do a duet," I suggest, singing the opening notes of the famous drinking song from La Traviata.
"I can't sing that!" he laughs. "Non sono un tenore! Che sono baritono!"
After dinner and a few drinks on Bourbon Street, we bail on the drunken tourist scene and head back to the hotel early, stopping at a drug store on the way to pick up some condoms.
We both turn a bit shy again back in the hotel room. It still feels a little strange to be getting naked with someone who I always thought of as just a friend. Brenno pulls off his shirt to reveal a thin, wiry frame, but with solid muscles.
"Wow," I say admiringly, running my hands over his smooth chest. He laughs nervously.
"I'm getting fat in my old age."
I just snort. He's only thirty-two and he's as lean as marathon runner.
"I have a belly!" he insists, pointing to literally a teaspoon of fat on his lower belly. "That didn't used to be there!"
"I wish my belly was as 'fat' as yours," I joke.
"What are you talking about," he murmurs, suddenly earnest. He buries his face in my neck. I get it; he's too shy to give a real compliment, but I can tell how turned on he is by the way he looks at me.
We have sex in the ordinary, vanilla way. I know he's not into the BDSM scene. I barely even have to ask, but I sort of hint at it anyway. He gives me that wild-eyed, nervous look that vanilla boys get, so I drop the topic quickly. It's sweet, the way we have sex, but there's always something hesitant about the way he touches me, like he can't fully let himself go. When we kiss, his mouth is tense and tight.
The next week, back in Raser City, he invites me to meet him at work in the evening then get dinner, since his office is so close to the Lester State campus. He works as an architect at a small firm. When I arrive, he's the only one still there, so he shows me around the open plan office, all glass and exposed concrete.
"Wow, impressive," I say, eyeing the elaborate paperclip structure festooned over the lamp above his desk.
"Hey, don't be mean!" He actually looks embarrassed.
I hug him around his slender waist. "Aw, don't take it that way. It really is an impressive paperclip sculpture. Definitely a good use of your time."
We both laugh.
It's another amazingly sweet evening: easy talk over dinner, then tender sex back at my place. He doesn't even remark on how shitty and not up to code my apartment is.
"If I say anything I'm legally liable," he says. "I didn't see anything."
I'm starting to think that Brenno has serious relationship potential. He's boringly able-bodied and not into being tied up and spanked, but he's cute and kind and he has the job of the love interest in every romantic comedy ever. We've been friends for years and never run out of things to talk about, and we're both into opera. Why not give it a try?
I run all this past my gardener poet friend as we carpool to the next rehearsal for Rusalka.
"Brenno? The tall nervous guy?" he says.
"Huh, I never thought of him as nervous. He's always so outgoing and loud. He seems very confident to me."
"No way, he's overcompensating. Definitely nervous. He's got some issues."
"Now that you mention it, he does have some family trauma he probably hasn't worked through yet."
"Yeah. Trust me, that guy is not ready for a serious relationship yet."
From there he shifts the conversation back to himself. The old flame he's pined for for twenty-five years is back in Raser City suddenly, and he's hanging out with her again, contemplating starting things up with her. I nod along, half-listening, pondering how I really feel about Brenno and how to tactfully ask him how he feels about me.
I need not have bothered. On Friday evening, Brenno comes over to my place again with big news: he's moving to Italy.
"I just got the official offer from an architectural firm in Milan," he explains, bubbling over with excitement. "How cool is that, man! I sent in my application months ago, but so much time went by, I assumed they threw it in the trash. But no! They called me up, we had an interview over the phone, and they made me an offer on the spot. Sono meravigliato! Sto spostando a Milano!"
I try to share his excitement, stifling my disappointment that he does not seem the slightest bit conflicted about leaving me behind. At least now I have my answer.
"So are you leaving right away?"
"What, are you kidding? No way, these things take time. I haven't even got a visa yet. My start date is the beginning of August."
I can't even bring myself to ask Brenno where we stand in our not-quite relationship. It seems pretty clear--he likes me but not enough to change any major plans. I guess I'm the dumb one for making life plans around guys who have no intention of sticking around. Like moving to a crap apartment for Rollerboy, or applying to a short term instead of year long internship for Skip. And honestly, although I feel great tenderness for Brenno, I'm not head over heels for him. After all, the sex is good but not great and we're not fully compatible in that department. Him leaving now is probably for the best.
On the other hand, it's going to be several months before he leaves. Without really discussing it, we sort of fall into a friends with benefits zone.
Atom the Archaeologist continues to show up at random times to ask me out. Every time I think he's disappeared for good, he phones me again out of the blue. This time, when I meet him in the evening at the gelato place next to campus, he's changed his look. He's grown his wiry blond hair out a bit and styled his beard into giant muttonchops. He looks like Hyde from That 70s Show.
Atom explains that this self-styled makeover is just a temporary look for a costume party he's going to next week with some friends. Apparently they are going as 1970s dirtbags. He excitedly tells me in great detail about the costume he has assembled by combing through the Raser City thrift stores, including an oversized belt buckle, bell bottom jeans and a thin leather jacket.
"I tried growing out a mustache, but then I really looked like a child molester," he laughs. "So I decided to stick with just the chops. What do you think?" he asks, raking his fingers through his lush sideburns.
"Um, it's cool?" Honestly, it's not his best look but he's so ridiculously handsome it doesn't really matter; he can somehow pull it off.
We go back to my place and I peg him again, to his delight. Lulu once asked me what I get out of it, fucking him with a fake dick. After all, it's not like I can feel it. But that doesn't matter. It's fun to take the guy's role for a change. Watching him writhe underneath me, offering himself up and making himself vulnerable is hot as hell. Anyway I make sure he goes down on me before we start, so I get mine too.
Rehearsals for Rusalka are grueling. The music is more challenging that anything I've done before, and the director expects the women's chorus to dance at the same time. We're all singers, not dancers, but we do our best, practicing over and over, even working extra in the alley behind the warehouse rehearsal space while the leads do their blocking, our thin ballet slippers scraping on the asphalt.
Brenno drops out of the men's chorus, since he'll be leaving before the performance dates. I'm sad not to see him at rehearsals, but we're still getting together on a semi-regular basis.
William, the super genius marathon runner with the booming bass voice and craggy good looks of a romance novel hero, is back in a lead role again, this time as the villain of the opera. Lulu keeps dropping hints to me that he's single but I still feel too intimidated to do more than awkwardly say hello to him. Also it's painfully obvious that all the other women in the chorus are in love with him as well, and I have no intention of competing for his attention. He can ask any of them out if he wants to; I don't care.
Actually I'm becoming quite close friends with almost all the women in the chorus. The long, taxing rehearsals are forging a bond between us, especially me and Lulu. We often go out for drinks after rehearsal at a bar nearby. In the previous shows, there were several underage teens in the chorus, which limited the group's after hours socializing options. But this time almost all the women are in their twenties and thirties, single or at least with no kids. We're all at kind of the same stage in life, and we start to seem like a real circle of friends. Lulu and I don't keep our BDSM activities secret, and while the others don't share our kinks, they don't judge us for it.
Saturday is one of the few days we don't have rehearsal. Lulu and I have plans to go out to a Sub Rosa event at Lollygag in the evening, so we spend the afternoon hanging out together at her apartment. She lives in a much nicer, more central apartment than I can afford, because her parents own the building. She's working for them in real estate but in her mind it's just temporary until she can figure out what dream to pursue: her mother's (marry a rich Jewish doctor/lawyer), her father's (become a professional opera singer) or her own (???).
We order Chinese food for dinner as we're getting ready, because literally the only things Lulu has in her refrigerator are mustard and a jar of gefilte fish. I tease her for not knowing how to cook, but she doesn't care. It's like the one girly trait she hasn't picked up.
I change into my standard fetish club outfit: my Betty DeLuxe red vinyl pants and matching jacket, with a mesh t shirt and black velvet bra underneath. Lulu criticizes me for wearing my favorite John Fluevog men's shoes instead of heels, for how I put on makeup, for how I style my hair, but I just ignore her. Whenever she starts picking at me for my appearance, I know she's just channeling the way her mother talks to her. I feel sorry for her. It must be exhausting to have a voice like that in your head.
Anyway once we're dressed she lets it go, and we have some fun, waiting for Marty to come pick us up. She looks so hot in her corset and choker. I grab a handful of her straight blond hair at the nape of her neck and tug. She moans and tilts her head back.
Lulu loves to have her hair pulled, and it's so sexy the way it instantly turns her on.
"Oh hey, I almost forgot--look what I got the other day." She opens the drawer of her bedside table and pulls out a leather-wrapped paddle with holes in the shape of hearts. Paddles with holes deliver more of a sting, since you can swing them faster.
"So cute! Wanna try?" I ask.
Instead of replying, she jumps on the bed on all fours, waving her butt suggestively in my face. I whack her a few times while she moans and laughs. Just as we're really getting into it, Marty bangs the door open.
"Hey, ladies! Let's go!" he shouts from the doorway, still holding the door open. The apartment is not that big, and we can be seen from the hallway, but we just continue on, hoping maybe someone will walk by and see us.
"Ok ok, there'll be enough time for that later," Marty orders. "Let's go, I'm double parked!"
We pile into his car and head off to Lollygag. The event is a kind of variety show of BDSM and related acts, and the club is already pretty crowded by the time we get there. We stand near the back of the crowd, watching the contortionists and sword swallowers, the fire breathers and rope dancers. For the last act, a muscley guy covered in tattoos pierces himself with increasing large rods, then sticks hooks through the flesh of his back and suspends himself from wires from the ceiling. It's impressive but also a bit gross, and I'm feeling a little lightheaded by the time it's over.
After the final act, the crowd in front of the stage slowly disperses and the dance music starts up. The last few people near the stage drift away, like the curtain parting on the next act, and suddenly I see him. There's a guy in a manual wheelchair right up near the front of the stage.
He's very tall, or long. What do you say when a guy is sitting down? If he were standing, he'd be at least six and a half feet. He's a little bit slouched in his chair, his legs sticking out at sharp angles. He's very thin, with barely any belly that SCI guys usually have, instead his torso forms a lean curve. His head is a little small compared to the rest of him, and he's wearing little wire-framed glasses and a goatee. All this gives him a slightly insect-like appearance.
I can scarcely believe my luck. I've spent years combing through personal ads, just hoping to come across a cute para guy, and here is one right in front of me, and in a fetish club, no less. I'm not going to let this opportunity pass me by.
I march right up to him and give him my sexiest, most confident grin. The music is too loud for talking, so I just gesture towards the dance floor. He smiles back and follows me, his long skinny arms pumping easily as he pushes.
On the dance floor, I gyrate my hips in time to the music, while he puts his hands on my ass. His arms are so long that even sitting down he can easily reach around me. He squeezes my ass with his big strong hands, and I step so close that my knees are bumping up against his. I thrust my hips at him again, as he runs his hands up my waist, my jacket gaping open. I imagine that everyone in the club is staring at us, the hot girl with the guy in the wheelchair, and it turns me on even more.
After grinding for a while, pretty soon I'm sitting in his lap, straddling him. This is a tricky move that I never quite perfected with Rollerboy, because my legs are short and the wheels get in the way. Also Rollerboy did not have great balance, being a quad in a manual chair with a very low back and no anti-tips. This guy is a para but has a somewhat higher back on his chair and seems more stable. I lean in and kiss him, at the same time grabbing his wrists and yanking down, in a bondage kind of hold, even though I don't have any actual restraints. I'm just letting him know who's in charge. He responds immediately, kissing me harder, his mouth stretching in an excited grin even as he's kissing me.
"Hi," I say in his ear, the first thing I've said so far.
"Hey you." He gives me a kind of goofy, shy grin, showing crooked front teeth. He tells me his name, and asks for mine.
"Call me Mistress," I order.
"Yes Mistress," he answers, grinning even more broadly.
Oh my god, he's a natural submissive. I can tell by the way he responds that he is loving this, not just playing along to humor me. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.
We make out for what feels like hours. I run my hands through his short, spiky light brown hair, forcing his head back as I kiss him harder. He moans a little.
Out of nowhere, Marty appears at my side.
"Hey!" he shouts over the music, "It's time to go!"
I glance at my watch. It's past midnight. Wow, we really have been making out for hours. My car is back across town at Lulu's apartment, and I don't want to be stranded alone at the club, but there's no way I'm leaving without this guy's phone number.
"Give me a minute!" I shout back. Marty disappears.
"Sorry about that," I say to the hot para guy I'm sitting on. "My friends want to leave." We kiss a few more times, but when I ask for his phone number, he doesn't answer right away.
A minute later, Marty appears again with his serious face on. "Lulu wants to go!"
"Hold on!" I shout back.
"No! Lulu said she wants to go, so we're leaving NOW!"
I ignore him and turn back to hot para guy. "I guess I gotta go now. Come on, give me your number."
"I don't have a pen."
"Me neither, but just tell it to me and I'll put it in my phone."
But he still won't do it. We go back and forth a few more times, with Marty agitating behind him, until he finally relents and gives me his email address. I repeat it a few times to make sure I've got it. It's a simple but unexpectedly cheesy one @aol.com.
I give him one last kiss and follow Marty out the door. Lulu is already waiting for us by his car.
"Hey, are you ok?" I ask her as we pile in.
"Yeah, I'm fine, why?"
"Marty kept saying we had to leave RIGHT THIS MINUTE because of you."
Lulu looks confused, "No, I just said I was tired and ready to go."
I shoot Marty a look in the driver's seat, but he is unapologetic. "What?" he shrugs. "If she said she wants to go, that means now, not in an hour when you get done fucking that guy in the wheelchair."
"I knew you were just being bossy for no good reason," I reply.
"I saw you with that guy!" Lulu says excitedly. "He's cute! So did you get his number?"
"Email," I shrug with a little grin.
"Oh my god, that's so awesome! He's perfect for you!"
I lean back in the seat and sigh with happiness. The only thing nicer than unexpectedly running into my para dream guy is being able to share the experience with friends who know I am a devotee.
The next day I tell Sarah the whole story. We're both working part time jobs on campus, her because she got kicked out of the graduate program and me because I'm dragging my feet on finishing my last requirements. We're hanging out at a computer cluster, wasting time as usual. She is less excited than Lulu to hear about the hot para guy.
"That's it, you're getting married now," she says glumly. I know she's feeling unhappy about being single again. She's had a few internet hookups but nothing serious, and she keeps undercutting herself by hanging around with her ex all the time, even though he's seeing someone else now.
I'm too excited to reassure her petty jealousy and competitiveness. Before I can forget his address, I compose a quick email to para dream guy.
This is the Mistress. I order you to meet me for a date next week.