I don't want to let him down. He always looks at me with sad, tired eyes, telling me who to save and how. I just want to make him proud. Sometimes it feels like we've run out of ways to reassure each other. And sometimes I think that maybe we can't be reassured. Maybe this is just how I'm going to have to live the rest of my life.
But I don't have time to think about that right now. There isn't much time to dwell on personal problems when I'm in the middle of a leap.
Right now, I'm in the body of a man about my age, perhaps a bit older. I've got short brown hair and blue eyes. I've got to be around six feet tall. For once, I'm in a body that closely resembles my own. It's almost worse that way, feeling so close and so far from where I want to be...
I walk away from the bathroom mirror before I start crying. Seeing a face that isn't mine is jarring. It's sometimes more than I can bear. I walk into what must be my bedroom and sit down on the bed. Luckily, there's no one here to see me break down. In the semi-dark of early evening, I decide to call it an early day, pull the covers up to my chin, and let the tears fall. Big, fat tears that I try not to feel ashamed of.
Suddenly, I hear a whirring noise that signals that Al isn't far behind, and then he is stepping out of the imaging chamber and into my bedroom. I quickly swipe at the tears that have stained my face and sit up, but I know that Al knows me better. I just hope he won't give me too much of a ribbing for it.
"Oh Jesus, Sam. Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?"
"No, no, nothing like that."
I sit up and try to clear my throat. It doesn't help much, and I feel my face heat from embarrassment from crying in front of Al. I don't want to worry him.
"Easy. Easy, Sam. Shhh, just calm down. Take a deep breath. Breathe and tell me what's wrong, kid."
"What's wrong is that I wanna go home, Al. I wanna go home. My home."
Al sighs and sits next to me after pressing a few buttons on the handlink.
"I know. I know, kid. I wish there was something I could do."
"I wish you could hold me. Or I wish I could hold you. I need it."
I wrap my arms around myself, but it doesn't help much.
"Sam, you know you can, ah, search for company. There's nothing that says you can't go out there and find some comfort."
I shake my head. The idea of having someone else's face and going out there trawling for a one night stand doesn't seem right, though it sure as hell sounds better than this.
I'm quiet for a moment, mulling it over, wanting so badly to reach out and touch Al. How easy it would be—were Al really here—to just let Al take care of me, comfort me. I watch a trail of white smoke leave his mouth. His lips look so appealing wrapped around his cigar right now...
Jesus, I don't even know what I'm saying.
"If I, ah, if I go out there and find someone, will you—will you stay here? Will you be here when I get back?"
Al's eyes widen. I don't think he's ever heard me talk so dirty before. If I have, I don't remember saying it. I hope Al will be sympathetic.
"You want me to watch you, ah...?"
My face heats up at that. The thought of Al watching me gives me a strange mixture of shame and arousal. It comes to settle low in my gut.
"Maybe talk to me, you know, talk me through it."
"Jesus, I don't know about that. It's a, ah, very appealing offer, but for you and me, well..."
"I just want something that'll feel real. If you're with me, then I'll know it's not my Swiss cheese memory playing tricks on me. Please, Al."
Al puffs on his cigar before answering. I can't help but hold my breath. I worry what he'll say or do. I feel like my heart is breaking, and I don't even know why.
Al sighs, rubs his forehead.
"Alright," he finally tells me. "Alright, kid. If that's really what you need, I'll be here."
Once I’m sure that Al’s not going anywhere, I quickly get dressed and freshen up. Tonight’s not gonna end well if no one finds me attractive, and there’s not much that’s attractive about a grown man with puffy eyes from crying so much. As I splash water in my face, I remember that Al once told me I'd look great with wet lips. When I come back out of the bathroom to leave, Al's gaze doesn't quite meet my eyes..
“I’ll—I’ll be home soon. I hope.”
I cringe over my use of the word “home.”
“I’ll be here,” Al says once more.
He gives a little wave as I close the door behind me.
Someone must be looking out for me tonight because I’ve got a gorgeous girl in my arms in the back of the taxi that’s taking us back to the apartment. I feel guilty, but Tiffany’s lips are soft and her hands are gentle. Eventually, my attraction wins out.
It’s a quick elevator ride up to the fifth floor and I press her up against the inside of the door. When I get the go-ahead, my hand goes up her skirt when I hear a throat being cleared.
“Jesus, Al,” I moan.
“Al?” Tiffany asks.
I hear Al chuckle behind me.
“Is this a record for you?” Al asks.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I mean, my name’s Tiffany, remember? Now, if you tell me where your bathroom is, I can go freshen up.”
“And I mean that I don’t think I’ve ever seen you hook a girl that fast. I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so worried about you right now."
I swallow hard.
“Just off my bedroom, actually,” I answer her, pointing.
She smiles coyly at me as we make our way into my bedroom. I plop down onto the bed and begin taking off my clothes as I wait for her to finish up.
“Sam, are you sure you still want me here for this? I mean, I appreciate the offer, but a man needs his privacy sometimes. She’s a real beauty though. I wish I wasn’t a hologram or else I’d—”
“Or else you’d what?”
“Ah, forget it.”
“Tell me, Al. What would you do…if you weren’t a hologram?”
Al’s not stupid. I know he’s probably picked up on the deeper meaning that I’m still too afraid to voice aloud. He scratches the back of his head nervously.
“Well, I guess I’d grab her by the hips as soon as she shuts off that sink in there. Pull her in real tight. Get a real good handful of her, you know?”
Al can’t even look at me right now. For the first time in all the years I’ve known him, he’s getting shy talking about sex with all of his usual lurid details.
“And then what?” I ask.
“And then,” Tiffany answers from the door-frame, “we get to have some fun.”
She’s holding her panties out with one delicate finger until she lets them drop to the floor.
That’s a loaded statement if I’ve ever heard one even if it’s just my name. It’s all in the way he says it. That’s when I decide to bite the bullet. I spring up from the bed and go to her. I grab her by her hips and pull her flush against me. She kisses me hard, and then I grab her by her rear and lift her until she’s locking her legs around me.
I look over at Al.
“Just like you said.”
She smiles mischievously.
“Let’s get on the bed.”
It’s just a few steps back and then I feel the back of my knees hit the bed. I sit down and suddenly I’ve got a lapful of Tiffany.
“Take off her dress,” Al says.
With a few clicks on the handlink, he’s sitting so close to me on the bed that his shoulder disappears into mine. I'm embarrassingly hard just watching this all unfold.
I reach up and pull down the zipper until her dress crumples around her in an ocean of blue silk. And then I’m face to face with her breasts. I have to take a second to breathe before I really embarrass myself.
“Easy. Easy, Sam. Don’t even think about shooting off now. Okay?”
“Do you like what you see?”
“Yeah,” is all my brain will let me say.
She laughs good-naturedly.
“They look even better when my bra’s off.”
I hear Al groan.
My hands quickly wrap around her back to fiddle with the clasp. I fumble at it the first few times.
“How old are you again, Sam?”
“36, I think.”
“Aren’t you a flatterer,” Tiffany gushes. “More like 32. You’re such a sweetheart.”
Al rolls his eyes at me.
“Clever, kid. Really clever.”
Once her bra comes off, she stands up to let her unzipped dress fall to the floor, and she’s naked as the day she was born. She does a cute little over the shoulder grin that gives me a good view of her ass, and I have to grip myself hard to put myself off.
“Look at you, you’re gagging for it,” Al says. “I mean, I don’t blame you or nothing. Anyone who writes off small tits in a madman. Look how perky she is. I just wanna bury my face in there.”
I can’t stand it. How can he speak so calmly like that? I stand up again and pull her into me so I can tip us into the middle of the bed.
From the side of the bed, Al asks, "What's your move now, lover boy?"
“Can I, ah, can I go down on you?”
“Well sure, baby doll.”
She spreads her legs just then, and I’m sure that even Al is having a hard time keeping it together. Just as I’m kissing down her thighs, I hear Al again, talking me through it like I asked.
“Sam, if we were in the same room, I'd strangle you for the opportunity to take your place right now.”
I give a breathy chuckle, and Tiffany moans softly. For some reason, I can picture Al biting his fist as he watches.
“She’s really into you, but I think she wants you into her.”
I smile against Tiffany’s skin. Al was such cad, but I couldn't even be upset since he was doing such a good job keeping me grounded.
I take things to the next level by putting my tongue and lips to good use. I feel my pride swell—among other things—when she wraps her legs around me.
“Use your fingers. Chicks go nuts for that.”
I pull one of my hands away from gripping her thighs, and slip two fingers, slowly, carefully inside her. I really do hope she does like it. This night is supposed to be as much for her as it is for me.
“Alright, now go like this.”
I dart my eyes over to him, never stopping my movements. I copy him, and Tiffany suddenly yelps and bucks up like she’s on fire.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong! Just keep doing that.”
I keep my fingers moving and my mouth on her until I feel her clench up tight around my fingers and wetness spills down my face. When she finally lets me go, I feel pretty proud of myself as I try to fix my disheveled appearance.
Al laughs at me, and I remind myself to punch him if I ever get home.
That tight feeling comes back into my chest, and suddenly I remember why I’m doing this in the first place. I feel bad, but I pull away from Tiffany before I start crying on her.
They both stop talking when she sees my tears fall. Maybe that’s why she’s been calling me “baby” all evening.
“It’s—it’s nothing. You’re just so beautiful.”
I lean over her and brush her hair back. Her pupils are blown wide, and it’s gratifying to know she wasn’t faking it.
She doesn’t say anything, just pulls my face towards her. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Al adjust his trousers. In a way, I was glad he felt good too. In the back of my head I guess I knew that this was a possibility.
“I want to return the favor, Dave.”
Tiffany takes my dick in her hands, and I lose my train of thought completely.
Next thing I know, I’m getting in real close to her, and I hear Al in my ear.
“She’s wetter than Niagara Falls. God, just look at her. Ease in slow though. You don’t want to startle her.”
I press just the tip inside her.
“Okay?” I ask.
Apparently, I can only manage one-word responses now.
“No,” she moans. “You feel great. More.”
I slip in just a little bit further. I can barely focus.
“Sorry if this is indecent of me,” Al says, and I detect a heavy layer of irony, “but, you’re generously endowed, Sam. Can’t rush these things you know. Make her want it. Make her beg.”
“Oh, baby, don’t make me beg. You know how much I want you. I need you to take me. Please?”
Before I give myself too much time to freak out, I slide the rest of the way in. She’s so incredible that for a moment, there isn’t that nagging feeling like I’m doing something wrong. I pull back and press forward, and from the way she’s keening, I take it she’s enjoying herself just as much as I am.
“Don’t forget to pay her attention. Kiss her neck, stroke her arm, lick her breasts, you know. Girls like touchy-feely stuff.”
I knew Al had some pretty depraved stories and experiences, but to have them apply to me and be possibly helpful is disconcerting. I’m not entirely sure if he’s telling me this for Tiffany’s benefit or mine…or maybe even his.
“Harder, Sam. Really go for it. You look like you’re about to burst.”
“I am. I mean, I might. I want to.”
“Come on, Dave. So close.”
“Get your fingers on her. If you want to see an explosion, that’ll do it.”
Of course, he’s right.
“Oh, Al,” I say before I can help it.
I guess I didn’t even realize I’d said that out loud. But then we’re both coming hard, and the thought slips my mind.
When I’ve finally calmed down, I notice Al is wearing different pants than before, and Tiffany is pulling a blanket up around us.
“So who is Al?” she asks.
Wide-eyed, Al and I share a look. Can she see him too?
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“You called me ‘Al’ before, and just when things were going good, you started crying. And then you said ‘Al’ just a minute ago. Is there someone else? Someone you’re trying to forget?”
We share another look.
“There’s someone else.”
“Oh,” they say at the same time.
“But Al and I haven’t been together for a very long time.”
“But you still miss her.”
“Him,” I say, correcting her pronoun usage without even thinking.
“You’ve really done it now, Sam.”
“I know,” I say, answering both of them.
“Maybe I should go, then. Maybe you should call Al and tell him you miss him.”
She stands up and begins redressing.
“He already knows that I miss him.”
“Then why am I here, Dave?”
I look at Al before answering.
“Because I’m trying to forget that he and I can never be together. I’m trying to forget that I’m all alone.”
Tiffany looks at me sadly as she takes my face into her hands.
“If this Al guy doesn’t see what kind of person you are, then he’s crazy. I don’t know you, but there was something about you that drew me to you tonight. I know you gotta be hush-hush for liking men, but maybe the two of you can kiss and make up one day.”
She quickly redresses and walks out the front door, and I’m left naked and messy and alone with Al.
“That was, ah, quite a performance, Sam.”
I hang my head.
“That’s a compliment, you know.”
There’s a long pause. I’m struggling to find words to express how I’m feeling. Luckily, Al jumps in first.
“You know I miss you too, don’t you?”
I nod. I know. All too well.
“I shouldn’t have done this. I just didn’t…”
He gives me a sort of half smile.
“I know, kid.”
“Al, there’s something I want to ask you, and I want you to be honest with me.”
There’s a look of dread in his eyes, but he nods his head and starts on a new cigar.
“Did you—did you change your pants because of her, or, ah, because of me?”
Al lets out a deep breath. Smoke billows out of his nose and mouth and then disappears.
“Nothing can happen between us, you know.”
I hang my head again. I know.
“Even if we wanted to. We can’t even touch each other.” A beat. "But as soon as we get you home, well, maybe we can figure some things out.”
I look up. I’m just glad that I’m not hearing an emphatic “no.”
“Okay, Al. That sounds good.”
“Good. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ve been keeping Tina waiting long enough.”
“Good night, Al.”
Al steps into the door of the imaging chamber.
“Good night, Sam.”