Max? Sure, I can still take him. Have half a mind to rough him up right now.
Max wraps a towel around his waist and steps out of the shower, dripping wet, scratching his left ear. He’s thirty-eight, five-ten, one-hundred-eighty, olive skin, dark curly hair cut short, a full messianic beard, thick chest hair that narrows to a line pointing down to his vertical belly button, hairy thighs and calves that look firm, heavy, and impressive. A self-professed “tough Jew.” He has a breathtaking natural body built on little more than swimming, yard work, and Wild Turkey.
Known him all my life.
I’ve two inches and almost fifteen pounds on him. I’m Rusty. It’s my name, hair color, and overall skin tone, a mass of freckles and one fading tattoo that reads “No Problemo” in Gothic letters arching over my shoulder blades. Corrugated gym-toned abs. A trapezoid of auburn hair over my heart, between two studiously round pecs. I’m forty, but guys tell me I look no more than thirty. Most guess late twenties.
I feint a few jabs to his belly. He tells me to knock it off. He’s had his twenty laps. Time to head back to the wife and kids.
Not so fast, Max. Not so fast. I think you might be forgetting something.
He unhitches the towel, winds it up, and snaps it in my direction, a half-smile on his lips, showing a little teeth, white carnivorous teeth.
He fiddles with the combination lock, distracted, forgets his numbers, then quits halfway through. Light bulb lights over his head. Oh, yeah.
Oh, yeah, I say, dragging the word out for comic effect. The bet.
The bet, sure.
Last Sunday night watching widescreen football, I challenged him. For weeks we’d talked about fighting, hand to hand, what a charge it gives. Instant hard-on every time. The hard-to-speak-of eroticism of manly combat.
He confided that Becca and he used to wrestle in the bedroom, foreplay and just horsing around both, but she could never beat him. Sexy as hell, but not even enough action to work up a sweat. No competition, but a lot of fun. Gave it up after the twins.
I told him I still liked to wrestle—missed the old days at Waterville Academy when he and I would meet up at the gym and fight to submission in the mat room—guiltily beating off afterwards. Might he be interested in a wager, say, fifty bucks? A hundred, he said … next Thursday at HealthWorks. We shook on it.
Still on? I ask.
It’s on, chief. And I don’t take personal checks.
I pick up keys at the front desk and unlock the back room where the manager teaches Taekwondo to boys on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Switch on the overheads and do some stretches on the mats to limber up. Room smells of preteen angst and stale jockstraps. Max struts in a minute later, his damp navy-white Speedo back on, with towel round his neck.
I’m ready to pack some action, he says. Tingle some spine. Hope you like looking at the ceiling, Rusty.
Under his swagger I detect some shyness and nerves—it’s been more than twenty years since boarding school. It’s a tell the way he strokes his beard just now.
He shakes his arms and legs loose like a diving champ, then hunches down to a semi-squat.
Up or down? I ask. He chooses top, so I get down on all fours, huffing deeply, more for psychological effect than respiration. He kneels down beside me, grips my left forearm in his left hand, wraps the other arm around my back, resting his right hand gently on my abs. For several seconds neither of us moves. We synchronize our breathing. Then Max thumps my solar plexus with his fingertips.
Max tries to shove me down, but I pull in my knees and land on my butt, grab Max’s left arm and twist, driving his forehead down to the mat. I straddle his back with my knees pressed to his lats.
With unexpected agility, he rolls forward, springs to his feet, and reverses the armlock.
Pain shoots out my shoulder joint, jangling every nerve in my body.
Max maintains the hold, staring down at my kinked shoulder like I am a difficult math problem he needs to solve. We both breathe heavily, the first shine of sweat lighting our bodies.
Like him, I tumble forward. He tries to intercept, but I slide through his hands. Both on our feet now, we lock up, hands roving each other’s gaps and muscles, searching for a weak spot. Our left ears are pressed against each other, and I feel his beard scrape against my neck. Heat radiates off our skin.
He grabs my upper thigh and yanks it up. I hop on one foot, which he tries to kick out from under me. One strong push and he has me down on the mat. Our arms and legs knotted together.
Used to be, when we wrestled in high school, we could almost read each other’s thoughts, making each match a bigger challenge than the last. The physical closeness tuned us in to details we were not conscious of and, even if we had been, could not have found the words to express—changes in body temperature, smell, subtle shifts in eye direction, the sound of our pulses—we registered and decoded them, in a silent language of proximity, pressure, and motion.
Our hands clasp over our heads. I lock my thighs round his midsection. He bears down on me. I try to steer his body with my knees. I snap my hands from his and curl my right arm round his neck. His nose and beard scrape the skin under my armpit. I lean back, pushing his face to the mat while stretching my legs to jerk his trunk in the opposite direction.
I want him to tap out, but he just takes it, groaning. I raise my crossed ankles and drive them down hard on the small of his back. He grunts. I tell him to submit. He won’t.
I flex my biceps and squeeze his head tighter. The sweat on the back of his neck glistens under my armpit. I smash the heels of my feet to his ass. It pisses me off when a fighter doesn’t know he’s beat.
Then in one deft movement, Max slips his head free of my grip, lurches up higher on my body, escaping my thighs, and returns the favor, his hard bicep jamming my jaw, bending my neck back down to the mat.
He and I breathe heavily. His back rises and falls. Our bellies bump and slip on each other’s sweat. My legs thrash on the mat.
Not what you expected, eh?
He gives my head a slight twist. He slides off me and rises to his knees, still clamping my head tight to his ribcage. My left hand reaches up to his head, hunting for something to grab. He turns his head to evade my grasp.
He manages to stand and pull me up to my feet. He breaks his hold on my head and slips me into a half nelson. My right arm locked at a dire angle. His sweating hairy chest warms my shoulder blades. The pressure of his hand against the back of my neck is firm and punishing.
I’m getting hard now and wonder whether Max is, too. The friction of flesh on flesh makes the heart thump harder and tightens the scrotum. With no timidity, he lets me know he’s hard, too, mashing his wood against my butt.
I ball my right hand into a fist and twist suddenly to the left. Max follows but trips on the heels of my feet. I pull him down to the mat and drop on top of him with my full weight. I smash his chest with my elbow for good measure.
Max grunts and rolls over on his stomach. I straddle his waist and hook my forearm under his chin, resisting the urge to torture his beard. My cock nests comfortably in the crack between his tight glutes. His sinewy back slides under my chest and abs. I pin his knees to the mat with mine.
He moans. I give his head a chastising jerk backward. I slip up a little higher on him so I can grind my chin into the back of his head, a favored torment from our teenage years.
He reaches back and slaps my face. Hard. I taste blood. And all of a sudden the insides of my nostrils feel rusted.
I yank the back of his head against my breastbone.
Submit. I hiss the word.
Max groans but refuses to give up.
I maintain the hold, hoping the strain on his neck and shoulder muscles will wear him down. I rock him back and forth like a toy pony. For almost a minute here, we are frozen together, paralyzed in the elegant knot we have made of our bodies. The sound of our breathing fills the room. Max grunts and whimpers in a deep register, almost a lion’s purr.
I don’t mean to but I relax my grip, just enough for Max to slide down, thrust up his hips, flip me over, and land on top. His weight on my belly knocks the wind out of me.
I twist and buck him off me. Side by side, we seize each other’s arms and legs, shove and pull. Rapid negotiations, flashing muscle. Our necks locked together. Hot exhalations and muttered curses. I grab his Speedo in my fist, but he squirms loose. He grabs the back of my knee, but I pull back, and his body tumbles over mine. We roll over the mat and trap ourselves against the wall.
Without breaking our grip on each other, we propel ourselves away from the wall and roll back to the center of the mat.
Both of us are tired now, having started the match after a full workout. I grab Max’s wrists and cross his arms on his chest. He resists, of course, but I manage to overpower him. I nail his forearms to his chest with my left knee. He’s pinned. I reach back and hook his legs together and cradle them at the ankles in my armpit. I lean forward, over his head. He’s locked in a tight knot.
His face is wet, red, and veiny. I slap my hands three times on the mat right next to his left ear. I make it a slow count, adding insult to injury.
Max roars through gritted teeth. I hop off him, and he stretches out his arms and legs, breathing deep, staring at the overhead lights. I’m kneeling next to him, my hands palms down on my quads. We both drip sweat.
We both have throbbing and decidedly unsubtle erections to contend with.
As victor, I have right to firsts. I rub my fingers over the Lycra sheathing but not hiding my erection. As if hypnotized, Max turns his head to watch. My stiff cock pokes through the top of my briefs. I slide my fingers in the gap created between elastic and skin, letting my knuckles nudge the waistline down.
Max fondles the line of hair under his well-cut navel. His fingers working down to his Speedo.
I spit into my hand and massage the saliva onto my cock. Max rolls on his side, props his head up on his right hand, uses his left hand to stroke.
I’m not thinking of women. I’m thinking of Max. I’m not thinking of sex. I’m thinking of wrestling Max. I can’t speak for what Max is thinking about.
I roll my sensitive glans between my thumb and forefinger. I breathe through my mouth and lick my lips. The latticed veins fatten and stiffen.
Max strokes his penis languorously in the palm of his hand.
My dick is at the bursting point. I crawl over to Max on all fours, spread my knees wide, and lean back at the waist.
Do it, bro, I say.
I fondle the skin at the base of my rod. First, Max puts his fingers around my fingers as if to guide them. He matches the liquid rhythm of my stroke, and I pull my hand away.
His fingertips roll my sweaty nads to the same rhythm. He pulls the loose skin away from the tightening balls and works it between his middle finger and forefinger.
I pull myself up and reach over to reciprocate. His cock is straight and firmly set against his lower abdomen. I reach under his scrotum and massage the perineum, daring to reach as far as the edge of the anus.
Relax, I say. This is sweet.
His cock is shiny and pink. His pubes are silky black, unlike mine, which are coarse and orange. As I stroke his balls, his cock stretches up to his belly button and slaps against his taut skin. I press his penis against his treasure trail, warm it between my hand and his skin. Mine is stiff, pointing to the ceiling, balancing in midair—a teardrop of pre-cum at the tip.
Max and I look directly into each other’s eyes. We make soft grunting noises as the strokes accelerate, intensify. The slapping of flesh sounds nearly combative.
I shoot first. It’s like something silently pops in the brain when this happens. Then Max shoots … an agile streamer that seems to land on his abs in slow motion.
He relaxes and rests his head back down on the mat. I lie down next to him, our knuckles barely touching. We listen to our own breathing. Then, gradually, we hear the sounds of the world outside this room, distant and indifferent to us.