I finished wiping the sweat off my face, opened my eyes, and looked at the guy asking for a spot. “Yeah, give me a minute.” I replaced the two forty-five pound dumbbells I’d been doing alternating curls with on the rack against the gym’s mirrored wall. Reaching for the disinfectant spray bottle, I spritzed the seat and back of the bench.
“Where do you want me?” I tried to keep my tone casual. The guy was borderline scary. He had to be around six and a half feet, had hair curling over his muscle-shirt neckline, and I was not about to venture a guess on his weight. His damn biceps were nearly the size of my thighs.
“One arm shoulder press to exhaustion.” He pointed at the sixty-five pounder on the floor between his legs. The bright smile he flashed me looked incongruous, shining through the dark, heavy beard. It did somewhat soften his brutish appearance.
“You got it.” Standing behind him, I readied myself to help. Considering the size of his lats, shoulders, and guns, I did not think I would have to step in. At some point, I lost count of his reps.
After a while, he panted with effort and switched the iron to his left hand again. “One more set. I can tell I’m near the end.” He wiped his forehead with his free hand and flicked sweat drops to the floor. The concentration on his face as we locked eyes in the mirror was evident.
When his arm trembled and he appeared to run out of gas, I placed a hand on his triceps and helped him push. “Damn, man. You’re a beast!” I shook my head in disbelief. If I had tried the same exercise with the same weight, I would have been lucky to squeeze out a handful.
Not the type to socialize at the gym, I usually came in, kept my head down, and avoided distractions while working out. Ignoring the men lingering on the floor or in the locker room looking for hook ups was second nature.
My situation had changed in the past month. There was no longer a need to sprint to the station to catch the train for the office in the mornings, or run the few blocks home in the evenings. Unemployment and another failed relationship left me with no one to answer to. My time was my own, and lifting weights at the gym occupied more of it than it had in a long time. The mid-morning crowd was sparse compared to the before or after working hours mob I was accustomed to. Not having to wait for equipment to become available was an enjoyable side benefit of my new normal.
“Good job, man.” Patting him on the shoulder, I moved away. After picking up a dumbbell—inspired by the beast and unconsciously competitive, it was five pounds heavier than normal—I reclaimed my previous spot. A knee on the padded bench and a foot on the ground, it was time for some rows to work the triceps.
“Thanks for the help.” He once again flashed me his pearly whites. “I’m Apollo. Let me know if I can return the favor.”
“Colt here.” I bumped the proffered fist and smirked. “You named after the theater?” Doubtful considering how pale he was under the hair covering his arms and legs. Harlem’s Apollo Theatre was world renowned for being the first stage on which black people were allowed to perform.
His laughter, like rumbling thunder, echoed from the far walls. “Nah… After the Greek god. Last name’s Paterko.”
“Well, you have the build of a Greek god, so the name fits. See you around.”
Inspired by Apollo’s efforts, I worked a little harder than usual for the next hour or so before calling it quits. Exhaustion forced me to. Sweat ran down my body and a trickle slid between my butt cheeks. When I lifted my arms to again dry my face, my nose caught a whiff of musk. I sort of liked it, but someone else might find it offensive. Since I had lunch plans, a fresh change of clothes waited in the gym bag for me to shower.
“Come here often?” Apollo’s subsequent sonorous laugh reverberated in the shower room.
The place was old, the water pressure was weak, and the water heater was sufficiently cantankerous to now and then surprise you with bursts of scalding or freezing water. It was why I rarely showered at the gym. Turning my face upwards, I allowed the spray to rinse soap off my face. With my eyes open, I was momentarily speechless. A naked Apollo stood a few feet away under another showerhead.
If the man looked impressive out on the gym floor, naked he was incredible. He was big everywhere. When my sight dawdled on his midsection longer than a straight man’s would, he chuckled.
“Not often enough, I think.” I smirked at him when I was at last able to look at his face.
“Is this the time you normally work out?”
“Yeah, pretty much these days.”
“Cool. I could use a gym buddy.”
“Did you just call me a gym bunny?”
That deep laughter once again ran through my body like an electric jolt. “Nah… You have the muscles, but you don’t sound like an airhead. I’m serious, man. If you come in at this time every day, we’re gonna keep bumping into each other. Let’s work out together.”
In early December 2012, I decided to take a Friday off from work to do Christmas shopping. Battling crowds of New Yorkers trying to find the perfect gift was not appealing. There was no way I would venture into Macy’s or Bloomindale’s at the last minute.
By lunchtime, I had purchased gifts for the family and arranged to have them shipped home to Iowa. Carrying them on the plane would have been inconvenient to say the least. The rest of my shopping I would take care of over the weekend at smaller shops in the Chelsea neighborhood.
My boyfriend, a grad student at New York University, had classes in the morning. He had a key to my place and it was normal for him to spend weekends with me away from his roommates. He was usually waiting there when I escaped the office on Fridays, so I decided to head home and surprise him. Maybe we could enjoy a late lunch together, something the long hours at work normally precluded.
Home was the top floor of a four story building on the corner of 8th Avenue and 18th Street. I had purchased the whole thing with my year-end bonus a few of years before, and income from the first floor retail and the rental units below me paid the mortgage, insurance, and taxes. Investment properties in New York City were a good bet. With limited space to build, appreciation was constant.
If I wanted to surprise my boyfriend by showing up hours earlier than expected, it did not work. The surprise was mine when I opened the door and heard moans. Between grunts and the slap of flesh against flesh, his calls to be fucked harder left no doubt about what was going on. He was on his knees panting, as someone I’d never seen before slammed into him from behind.
Somehow, I did not scream at him. Surprised and angry, I managed to control myself. My sudden appearance and calm tone shattered their intimacy. “Sorry to interrupt, but I want the two of you off my bed and out the door in sixty seconds.” The stranger ran out of the room, carrying a shirt and sneakers in his hands, with his dick sticking out of his pants; he had not bothered to fully undress. My boyfriend did not move as fast. He cried and pleaded to no avail. Who knew how many times something similar had taken place. I am not the forgiving type and his tears did not move me. Early on, I made it clear playing together with others was okay in my book but cheating was unacceptable. We were finished and his pleading would not change my mind.
“Hey, Colt.” Apollo stood at the end of the row of lockers, a towel wrapped around his waist while water drops clung to his body hair; every time he moved, a few plunked to the floor. “I was serious about wanting a workout partner. Do you work nights? Do you usually come here mid-morning?”
The guy was persistent; I sort of expected him to start tapping his foot waiting for my answer. “Nope. Don’t work nights. Don’t work days either for that matter. I quit my job in December and haven’t even started looking for a new one. Not sure what I want to do when I grow up.”
The baritone laughter exploded from him again. In the smaller confines of the locker room, it sounded even louder. “My kind of man: independently wealthy.”
He surprised me. Belatedly, I had figured out my ex was more interested in my money than in my dick, my ass, or anything else about me. Apollo did not radiate gold digger vibes. “I wouldn’t say I’m wealthy. I’ve done well, but—”
“Just kidding, man. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor. I do well on my own. But I would like a gym buddy. You seem more interested in lifting weights than chatting about the latest Lady Gaga music. Come on. Work out with me.”
The smirk may have given me away. “I’ll have you know I like Lady Gaga. How about nine or so tomorrow?”
He rewarded my acquiescence with another bout of laughter. “I happen to like her too. See you tomorrow, bud.”
The weekend I walked in on my boyfriend getting fucked on my bed, I spent sulking and feeling sorry for myself. It was time to reevaluate my life. Since moving to the City, working for a private equity fund I made more money in a year than most people do in their lifetime.
Eighty-hour workweeks were not conducive to normal social life. The office took most of my time and the gym was my daily stress relief. Tiredness or reading reports about potential acquisitions precluded much partying on weekends. I was living the life of a monk. Even having a boyfriend, I was getting laid far too infrequently. About my only escape was a week’s share of a Fire Island house during the summers. That felt a long way off at the time. I decided to make a few changes.
On Monday, I managed to snag an afternoon appointment with the managing partner. He tried hard to dissuade me, but I had made up my mind. By the time I left his office, we had a bare-bones plan to transfer my responsibilities to colleagues and liquidate my shares in the company. Christmas in Iowa with my parents was the first time I had really relaxed in years. They were concerned about the expense of living in New York City without a job, but relaxed once I revealed the amount of money I would get for my final bonus and the sale of my equity in the business.
“Your turn.” Apollo helped me slide a forty-five pound plate off each end of the bar, and I laid on the bench. Chest day was definitely his favorite, he pushed hard, and the massive pecs were proof of his dedication. “We need to pump up those little titties of yours.”
“Little my ass!” Over the prior week, our comradery had led to mutual teasing and lots of trash talk. “Just because you’re a freak doesn’t mean I have a puny chest.”
“Shut up and lift.” Apollo positioned himself behind my head and kept two fingers beneath the bar while I grunted. Those digits would likely be enough to hold the iron I was struggling with.
I was happy with the budding friendship and wanted to take it further. Although the man was hot, I was not trying to get in his pants; not all friendships between gay men were predicated on fucking. I wanted to know more about him.
“So you know why I come here this time of day”—I had given Apollo a thumbnail sketch of my December—“but I have no idea why you do.” Out on the floor, our conversation was limited, as we concentrated on our workout. But in the locker room, our interaction was of a more personal nature. I had taken to showering in the gym because of him. I enjoyed our time together.
“Well, this isn’t my usual gym. I’m staying with a friend nearby and this is the closest fitness center to his place. He broke both arms skiing, so I volunteered to help him out.” His laughter once again filled the room. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to wipe someone’s ass after they take a dump because they can’t do it? I can’t wait until the casts come off, although I might miss washing his dick and jerking him off every other day or so.”
“That’s Mr. Pig to you. Anyway, I work for the family business. My parents own a diner in Astoria, and my uncle owns a cleaning service. I work for both and took a month off to help my buddy.”
“Are you planning to take over the diner when your parents retire?”
Apollo looked terrified. “Are you nuts? They work six days a week and too many damn hours. Not for me, man. My younger sister will probably run it if and when our parents quit.”
One of the things I liked about Apollo was his easygoing nature. Nothing seemed to bother him much. He was friendly to everyone who talked to him but usually left those who flirted with him wanting more than the wink he gave them whenever the conversations ended. He was hot—without that too-many-facials-and-too-much-moisturizer look so common amongst the Chelsea boys. And those boys flocked to his unassuming masculinity.
“So, what do you want to do when you grow up?” It was my turn to laugh. My question echoed what I’d said when he asked me what my plans were for the future.
“Not sure… I’ve been thinking about what a dump this place is and wondering what it would take to open a nice gym around here.”
At that moment, without realizing it, Apollo planted a seed in my mind. I had no idea what was involved in opening and running a fitness center, but I was intrigued. My analytical skills had made me a star at a Wall Street firm, and I decided to do a little research. The throwaway comment from my workout partner might just be the answer to both our futures.
Another day, another gym session. “You have lunch plans?” I finished drying myself and threw the towel on my end of the bench. It was the end of January and we had just finished showering after a strenuous workout. Apollo had pushed me hard, and it was having an effect on my body. My shirts were tighter around the chest and arms but looser around the waist.
“Nope, what do you have in mind?” Apollo’s buddy had recovered, but my Greek friend continued to meet me at the gym every morning. Being employed by the family allowed him flexibility; he worked the dinner shift at his parents’ diner and managed cleaning crews for his uncle into the late hours.
“Come over to my place. I’ll fix us something to eat and we can talk.”
“Talk?” Apollo’s wiggling eyebrows made me chuckle.
Although we constantly flirted, we had yet to cross the line from gym buddies to fuck buddies. I was amenable to jumping in bed with him but had been apprehensive about it. After my last experience with a boyfriend, I had become a sexual recluse. I did not want to get too close to another man.My sex life was restricted to my hand
“Remember your comment about opening up a classy gym in Chelsea? The idea intrigued me, so I’ve done a little research and think it’s feasible. Interested?”
His eyes appeared to shine a little brighter. “Hell yeah, I’m interested.”
“Good.” I finished closing my backpack and stood from the bench. “We can talk about it while eating. If you’re a good boy, and since you planted the seed in my mind about a gym, I may reward you by spreading my legs and let you plant your seed in me.”
He stretched me open a couple of times that afternoon.
Welcome to the discussion thread for CJ’s series.
All things CJ are fair game, I simply ask you be respectful of others.
I will actively participate in the discussion. Ask questions, speculate about what’s coming, or bitch about what happened.
We’re now open for business!