Quality Check: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria
Although it was only evening, many had already gathered on the street. They milled about with lingering gait, sizing up and checking out one another. Gao Zhun stood at the entrance of an understated bar with his phone pressed to his ear. This was the third call he had made within the last five minutes, and there was still no response on the other end.
Today, he donned a cashmere overcoat, accessorized by a single metal brooch fashioned in the shape of Orion. His fingers and ears were unadorned. Under the coat, he wore a tan blazer paired with washed jeans and high cut boots. He looked dashing in the outfit, but the expression on his face was so miserable and wretched that he seemed almost pitiful.
It had been almost a month. Every last trace of Fang Chi’s existence had vanished from his life. The clinic was deserted; its gates, locked. Apart from a phone log filled with endless rows of outgoing calls, he had nothing left. It was so surreal. Everything had become a blur, reduced to little more than passing fancies in a long, bewildering daydream.
The line went dead after ringing into emptiness for far too long. Teeth bit down on lips uncontrollably; eyelids trembled with aggrieved indignance. Gao Zhun put away his phone and glanced at the glass doors right before him. Just as he was about to walk over, someone approached him. “Hey,” came the greeting from a fresh-faced, well-dressed youth. He had neat teeth and a very nice smile. “Are you here alone, mister?” It took only a single glance for Gao Zhun to recognize the boy for what he was. Members of that trade always wore the same cheap prettiness and formulaic smiles, and the boy before him was no different. Brushing off the youth with a wave of his hand, Gao Zhun mustered his courage and entered the bar.
The door opened. The pleasing scent of jasmine wafted through the air, and its sweetness settled Gao Zhun’s nerves somewhat. All at once, the occupants turned their heads towards the doorway – towards him – and the air froze for a brief moment as all eyes became transfixed by the sight of this newcomer. No one looked away. For reasons he did not understand, Gao Zhun braved the pressure and made his way to a seat at the counter. There were no mixologists around this early in the evening. Only two bartenders stood in sight, cleaning glasses behind the counter. Gao Zhun lowered his head. “Chivas on the rocks, please.”
The atmosphere changed, as if Gao Zhun had flipped an invisible switch with his order. Men began moving around their tables, stepping out of their booths, and Gao Zhun could sense that they were all coming for him. Panic, curiosity, and the fear of unfamiliar men assailed him at once, and he almost drowned in the chaos of feelings. The door opened again from the outside. Gao Zhun was too nervous to take notice until a pair of John Lobbs stopped before him. It stepped into his line of vision, and all other footsteps stilled into silence. Only then did Gao Zhun look up once more.
“Good evening. Are you here by yourself?” Gao Zhun was greeted by a gentle voice and a kind smile. A middle-aged man stood before him, mellow and sophisticated. His face was framed by a pair of luxury spectacles and scattered strands of silver on his temples, while his wide necktie bunched a little at his chest. He seemed to fit the descriptions of what one would call a yuppie gentleman. Feeling discomfited, Gao Zhun ignored the man. The man, in turn, sat down right next to him instead. When the bartender asked for his order, he replied with a gesture towards Gao Zhun’s glass, “I’ll have the same.”
What followed was a prolonged moment of awkward silence. Seeming undaunted by the painful lull, the man savored his drink in a calm, leisurely manner. Gao Zhun appeared less collected. Perhaps feeling the effects of the alcohol, or the unease of seeking a hookup for the first time, Gao Zhun kept turning his glass between his hands as his face reddened.
“Is this your first time here?” the man asked. Gao Zhun put down his glass, still refusing to utter a word. He was afraid, but his manner seemed closer to arrogance than fear. Music drifted into the air; “Kouga” by S.E.N.S.1 began playing behind the counter. The elegant melody, a flute and drum ensemble, transformed the atmosphere with its suggestive touch. The mood softened, and the burn of hard liquor eased into a gentle effervescence in the chest. Gao Zhun stole a glance at the man out of the corners of his eyes. The man was in his forties, Gao Zhun supposed. He had rather decent looks, and a certain mature charm.
“Would you like to go somewhere else?” The man smiled, as if he had seen through Gao Zhun’s gaze, and took out his business card holder as he spoke. He picked out a card for Gao Zhun, but the younger man stared at the snow-white card for a long time, guarded and cautious, before taking it at last. “You’re… a doctor?”
“Neurosurgeon,” the man answered. He knocked back the last of his drink, left enough money under his glass for both their tabs, and got to his feet. Gao Zhun, on the other hand, was surprised by how quick and easy it was for him to develop ‘favorable feelings’ for this stranger. “I…” he mumbled, as if he were talking to himself, “I need to make a call first.” While the man left to get his car, Gao Zhun waited in front of the entrance and called the same number again. There was still no answer. A car horn sounded as a Jaguar XJ pulled up before him. Gao Zhun dialed the number one more time before getting into the vehicle, heavy with disappointment.
Once he was in the car, confusion swallowed Gao Zhun. He missed Fang Chi with every fiber of his being. He wanted to see him – so, so much that it hurt even just to breathe. Now, as he shared the confined space with another man, it became clear that Fang Chi was forever lost to him. Even if he allowed someone else to do him again, to use his body as Fang Chi did, he would never be able to recover the slightest trace of the man he wanted the most.
Gao Zhun lost himself in thought. Whenever he came back to his senses, however, he would find the man’s eyes on him, watching him while he drove. Though the gaze was neither blatant nor intrusive, it lingered on his skin. “I’m sorry,” the man apologized with a bashful smile, once again picking up on Gao Zhun’s unspoken feelings with startling astuteness. “It’s just that I can’t believe you’d really get in my car,” the man continued. He was very frank in his manner, and very excited at the same time. “I was so nervous back in the bar that my palms were all clammy with sweat.” Stunned, Gao Zhun stared in apprehension while the man continued in an impassioned voice, “You have no idea how… gorgeous, precious, and irresistible you are.” Fire blazed in the man’s heated gaze. “I won’t let you down.”
Imperceptibly, Gao Zhun shrank towards the door. “Where are we going?”
“Which would you prefer: the Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La, or the Hilton?” The man waited for Gao Zhun to take his pick, but no answer came. After a long, drawn-out pause, Gao Zhun responded instead with a cautious question, “Are you really… a doctor?”
That was the last conversation between them before they entered the room – a couple’s suite with scarlet roses in a vase and the most splendorous night view from its French window. The man embraced Gao Zhun from behind, but Gao Zhun shuddered in his arms and flinched away with tense shoulders. “You… you’re not going to take a shower?”
The man released his hold like a perfect gentleman and made his way around Gao Zhun to stand before him. “I’m scared…” the man said, unhurried. Even as he longed to touch Gao Zhun, he was far too enamored to bear the thought of laying hands on the younger man. “I’m scared that you’ll run away the moment I turn my back.”
The man was right; Gao Zhun had indeed gotten cold feet. He dropped his gaze in awkward silence, but this response seemed to have little effect on the man. Shrugging off his woolen jacket to reveal the broad expanse of his chest, the man pressed in to undo the belt on Gao Zhun’s overcoat. Gao Zhun shoved the hand away at once, then turned and strode quickly towards the door. The man rushed after him and beat him to the doorway. “Please don’t go.” Crowding Gao Zhun against the wall, he asked, “Can’t you at least give me a chance?” Gao Zhun peered at him in fear and shook his head a little. The man kept his hands to himself; he was polite and restrained as he continued to plead his case, “We’ll do it your way, however you want it. We can stop anytime, if you don’t like where it’s going. Your call.” As he spoke, he leaned over and gave Gao Zhun a gentle nudge on the face with the tip of his nose. “You…” His voice took on an edge of excitement. “Is this your first time?” Gao Zhun nodded, but shook his head in the next instant. The man smiled. “I’ll be very, very careful. I promise,” he murmured as he pulled Gao Zhun once more into his arms, “I’ll make you feel real good…”
The next thing Gao Zhun knew, they were sitting on the edge of the bed, bodies flush against each other, while his blazer and coat lay across the carpeted floor. Slow kisses traced the outline of his ear and trailed along the curve of his cheek as the man’s hand undid his shirt buttons one by one. Gao Zhun, trembling from head to toe, closed his eyes. When the kisses finally reached the corner of his mouth, he imagined them to be the fluttering touch of Fang Chi’s lips, within the familiar blue walls of that home where he longed to be.
All of a sudden, he found himself pressed onto the mattress. The bed, rising and falling like the sea, embraced his body with its gentle waves. A sweat-drenched hand slipped through the open collar to knead the flesh on his right chest without restraint. Kisses, now burning with desire, probed deep into his mouth and sparked flames of arousal wherever they landed. Then, his shirt was peeled away to expose the perfect curve of a shoulder. “Scared?” Gao Zhun heard the man ask, but he uttered not a syllable in reply. He would not even move. So still, so inanimate was he, that he seemed like a lifeless doll thrown upon the sheets.
The man continued undressing him. Gao Zhun’s belt came undone with a tug. The next instant, the man’s entire palm was in Gao Zhun’s trousers, darting with ease between his clamped thighs for a feel of his crotch. “You’re already hard,” the man murmured, his breath hot against Gao Zhun’s skin. At last, Gao Zhun reacted. Helpless hands flew to his face while his waist bucked a little into the man’s heated grasp. The man needed no further encouragement to rip away those pants at once and drag Gao Zhun towards the center of the bed. “I’m really clean,” he said in an urgent rasp as he started fishing out the contents of his pockets, “may I do it raw?”
- “Kouga” by S.E.N.S.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUZrWFljrt8