MONDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER, 2009
On Monday, I began a four-day gig at the Royal Bank of Canada, courtesy of the good people at Manpower, one of the many temp agencies that I’m registered with. The night before, I received a call from the agency, and they needed someone at the last minute to take on the filing gig. Since I had nothing lined up, I agreed to do it.
When I arrived at the RBC headquarters, I reported immediately to a guy named Levon Kardashian. As far as I know, he wasn’t related to Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney. And he made that clear as soon as I stepped into his office. Other than that, he was very nice. He pointed me toward a pile of 20 boxes, which had about 200 documents each. No sweat.
My workspace overlooked downtown Toronto, which I liked. I began at 10AM and filed until 4PM. By then, I had completed five boxes and 1,000 documents. I worked for five hours, and had a lunch break at 12:30, which I spent alone in the cafeteria, eating a veggie burger that I had made the night before. On average, I did about 3.33 documents per minute. Of course, some took longer to file, and others I did in a snap.
That first day, I kept to myself for the most part. The people who worked on the floor were mostly middle-aged women. There weren’t any cute guys, though. Hell, I was the only person under 30 working in the entire building, as far as I knew.
When I got home, Brandon and I exchanged stories about our day over Korean takeout, which was dominated by bulgogi (barbecue). This was great, because I was exhausted from operating on a veggie burger and San Pellegrino. I thought it would be a change of pace for me, but instead I felt deprived. I like eating vegetables, and I try to maintain an ethical diet. But at the end of the day, I want some meat.
TUESDAY, 3RD NOVEMBER, 2009
Tuesday morning saw me tackle another five boxes. I won’t bore you with the minutiae of filing; let’s just say that for as hard as worker as I am, I’ve never fallen prey to a paper cut. In addition, I began to interact more with the regulars on the floor. Everyone worked hard, but they were also nice and charming. Still, when my lunch break came, I ate by myself. And this time, I had a sandwich made with bulgogi and kimchi. And I downed it all with some President’s Choice Diet Soda. By the end of the day, I wasn’t deprived in the least.
Dinner on Tuesday was non-existent, however. Brandon had a meeting with some of his fellow professors that night, which left me and Britney alone. I made a bowl of soup instead, and watched Les invasions barbares on DVD, with Britney curled up in my lap. I went to bed around 10PM, and was asleep by the time Brandon came home… an hour later.
WEDNESDAY, 4TH NOVEMBER, 2009
Wednesday was the penultimate day of my gig at the RBC. By the time the work day was over, my hands were sore. Nonetheless, I had finished ¾ of my workload, and was looking forward to completing the whole thing on Thursday. After signing out, I went over to the YMCA and worked out. You’re probably wondering, what do I do at the gym? What’s my normal routine?
When I was in competitive shape, I would refer to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout routine as published in the October 1991 edition of Muscle Mag. He followed one routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and another on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. During my competitive years, I followed it verbatim, even though I didn’t have to. After I quit, I used it as a point of reference and complemented it with other muscle-building exercises and cardio training, which I do to this day. Upon joining the YMCA, I started swimming. Now, I don’t have a swimmer’s build, but I can swim 50 metres in about 30 seconds. I almost didn’t want to swim because of that douche-bag Michael Phelps, but when I heard about the Australian legend Ian Thorpe, that did it for me.
What are my best attributes? Of course, I have to begin with my chest. It’s my favourite part of the human body. Contrary to most Italians, I have a naturally smooth body, and I like it that way. I also don’t have any tattoos on my body. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t decorated it in some way; one time, I slathered my chest with whipped cream. Evan loved it so much. Of course, my butt is on the list of best attributes. I pride myself on having black girl booty in a white boy body. I also like my arms and legs; in fact, every part of my body is spectacular. Even the ones that have scars on them. And I don’t say that out of vanity or conceit. I’m the least vain person on the planet, but I know that, body-wise, I have it going on. Of course, I’ve never been one to base my self-worth on what I look like on the outside.
When I was growing up and finding my way in the gay world, however, having a ripped body was both an asset and a liability. On one hand, I got a lot of attention from guys. On the other hand, there was this assumption that I was only about muscle-building and nothing else. And that I had a small dick. It hurt my feelings. I did get satisfaction from whipping it out and showing them that, on the contrary, I was packing heat and it was all real. I didn’t do it in public, though.
After working out for two hours, I left the YMCA and headed for the World’s Biggest Bookstore. In terms of space, it’s NOT. There are three stores in the States that claim to be the “world’s biggest”. In terms of amount of titles, it IS. The WBB is one of my favourite spots in Toronto. Sometimes, I just like to spend time browsing, and I’m satisfied.
I was in the LGBT section, when I noticed this guy ten feet away from me, looking through a book. He looked familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure. I could only see his profile. He had a platinum blond hairdo, cropped, and his bodily proportions were similar to mine. One part of me thought, “WHAT A HUNK!” The other part was searching through my internal Rolodex for the identity of this mysterious man. And then, it hit me: this was MYKHAYLO KARBANENKO! This was the boy that I had spent the better part of four years with, riding the subway to and from secondary school. The last time I saw him was in 2000, at graduation. Back then, he was a skinny bookworm with sandy blond hair and pasty white Ukrainian skin. I never forgot him, but I hadn’t even performed a Facebook search on him!
My knees were shaking. My pulse was racing. My crotch was tingling with excitement. I had to steady myself with a bookcase, lest I faint to the ground. He soon turned toward me, but I immediately darted in the opposite direction. I wanted to see him, but I didn’t want to see him at the same time. I was just so nervous that I ended up in the children’s section for no reason whatsoever. I continued on with my shopping, hoping to avoid Mykhaylo. And then, I wondered, “Maybe he saw me and is also too afraid to approach me.”
At the check-out counter, I laid out my purchases: a Toronto & Area Street Guide from Mapart, which I thought I had at home but in all truth didn’t, and The Joy of Gay Sex: Fully Revised and Expanded Third Edition, which I also thought I had at home but didn’t. As the cashier rang up my total, I heard someone’s step behind me. I turned around, just to make sure that it wasn’t someone out to kill me, and…
“Hi, Graz!” It was Mykhaylo.
“Hi, Mykhaylo,” I said, this time turning from a nervous wreck into a love struck schoolboy. He looked nothing like he did almost ten years earlier. The passage of time had done wonders for him. He looked so… strong, so confident, and so HOT. I didn’t know what else to say at that point, but then the cashier tapped me on the shoulder.
“Oh, okay.” I paid for my books, collected them, and headed outside, glimpsing at him as I went. I stood outside for a few minutes, and then Mykhaylo came out of the store.
“Hi, again,” I said.
“Hi.” He took me in his arms and hugged me. I had forgotten how good Mykhaylo’s hugs were. Even as a skinny kid, he gave the best hugs. “It’s great to see you!”
“Great to see you, too.”
“Are you busy right now?”
I shook my head. “Why do you ask?”
“I was wondering… would you like to get a cup of coffee or something?”
I thought about it for a moment. “Okay.”
We went to the nearest Second Cup, which was located at the Eaton Centre. Soon, we were sitting at a small table; him with butter pecan latte, and me with vanilla bean hot chocolate, and us with a chocolate croissant each, talking about what we had been up to in the past nine years.
“You finally got the fuck out,” Mykhaylo said. “I’m proud of you. How does it feel to break free?”
“It’s been hard,” I said, sipping my hot chocolate. “But things are looking up. I like living with Brandon, and I’m seeing a psychotherapist, and I’m not crying as much. What happened after you left Earl Haig?”
“I went to McGill, and then spent a few years working in Europe. I moved back to Toronto two years ago.”
“What did you do in Europe?”
I froze, the hot chocolate still going down my throat. My epiglottis could have exploded, so I set the cup down. “Porn?”
Mykhaylo nodded proudly. “I did both hetero and gay porn.”
“You didn’t.” I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Here’s the thing: the hetero companies didn’t know that I was gay, and the gay companies didn’t know that I was doing hetero porn.”
“You didn’t tell them?” Don’t get me wrong. I love porn. But I never expected Mykhaylo to be like that. I didn’t know him much growing up, but I had no idea that he had that hidden in him. But then again, I never expected him to be a sex bomb, either. And to be a gay man playing both the hetero and gay porn fields; well, that’s talent that you won’t find on a reality show.
“It didn’t come up.”
“Why did you even get in the business?”
“I was at a gay bar in Budapest when this guy came up to me and, in broken English, asked if I would like to be in porn, as you do. He handed me his card, and after some thought, I decided to go for it. The straight porn thing came along afterwards.”
“Did you have some silly-ass stage name?”
“Fuck yeah,” Mykhaylo responded. “They take Slavic and Hungarian dudes and give them Western names. I knew one guy named Csaba, spelled C-S-A-B-A, and his porn name was Johnny Hardrock.”
“How original,” I rolled my eyes. “Did you fuck him?”
“Oddly enough, we never shared a scene. Anyway, they gave me the name Jake Paris.” Mykhaylo groaned. “Dumb-ass name, I know. But I did it anyway, because the money was surprisingly good. You make more money in the gay porn world than in the straight porn world, you know.”
“Why did you even do straight porn?”
Mykhaylo chuckled. “I wanted to grow as an actor. At the end of the day, I preferred getting my ass fucked by some Hungarian dude with an Italian name, than eating out some Czech Jenna Jameson wannabe’s pussy. Here’s something funny: one time, I was going down on this girl, and you know what happened?”
“What?” I asked.
“Her tampon went into my mouth!”
I laughed. “Oh my Goddess on a wheel, that is gross! Was it all bloody?”
Mykhaylo nodded. That was beyond disgusting. “They forgot to clean her out before that scene. I was lucky that I didn’t swallow! That night, I gargled with so much Listerine, I nearly threw up.”
I could not believe that we were having this conversation. But I mostly couldn’t believe that Mykhaylo, my main man as a teenager, was back in my life.
“Would you do it again?” I asked.
“Sure,” Mykhaylo said without any hesitation. “Though I would concentrate on gay porn.”
“Since you moved back to Toronto, what have you been up to?”
“I’m working on a graduate degree in communications and culture at York. I have a part-time job at the CBC. Nothing glamorous, but at least I have a foot in the door.”
“That’s great,” I said. “I wish I could have done something with my Italian Studies degree. I’ve only been able to get part-time gigs in the past five years.”
“You can always go back, you know,” Mykhaylo said. “My aunt Olena got married and became a housewife after she graduated from the University of L’viw. Her husband was a real ass-hole; he beat her up so many times, she miscarried twice, and she tried to take her own life. After the Soviet Union collapsed, she divorced the bastard, moved to Canada, got her life together, and today she runs a spa in Mississauga. I see her at least once a week. She’s very lovely.”
And then, he touched my hand. It was a soft, firm touch. I slowly melted. “I never thought that you would make it out alive,” he said. “These past nine years, I’ve always wondered about the guy who I rode the bus and subway with… whether or not his family would finally kill him. I’m glad that you’re out of those woods, Graziano. I’m proud of you, buddy.”
I got choked up. I finished my hot chocolate, teary-eyed. I didn’t know what to say, so I dabbed my eyes with a napkin. I noticed Mykhaylo’s eyes. They were hazel and deep. Evan’s eyes were the same colour. My grandparents, ditto. I felt a strange sense of serenity at that moment.
“Are you doing anything Saturday night?” he asked. “I’d like to take you out to dinner.”
He was asking me out on a date. A date. I hadn’t been on a date in years. Booty calls don’t count.
“Sure thing,” I said.
He smiled back at me. “Thanks.”