Prism Book Alliance would like to thank Felice Picano Ed. for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: Best Gay Romance 2015
Author: Felice Picano Ed.
Publisher: Cleis Press
Genre/Sub-Genre: Erotica, Gay
A Diverse Collection of Love and Lust
The newest series editor for Big Gay Romance 2015, Felice Picano, has carefully selected the best of the best short stories of gay love. With relationships that go from sweet and dreamy to quick and gritty, each sexy romance is overflowing with lust and pleasure. Best Gay Romance 2015 features elaborate tales of coming out, exhilarating secret romances, and even the excitement of a couple who’ve just met. Picano’s passion for reading and writing stories of this genre has led him to collect a diverse array of erotic encounters that maintain this series’ reputation. Called “a queer literary renaissance man” by founding series editor Richard Labonté and “a leading light in the gay literary world,” by Library Journal, Picano has put together the widest range of gay romance that is thrilling, sexy, and passionate.
“And when you are done reading them you will perhaps see other ways in which they reflect our wonderfully expanded and diverse gay life and queer authoring.”
By: Guillermo Luna
Looking back, I should have immediately noticed him when I walked into the bar but my overwhelming need for liquor, any kind, focused my vision on the bartender and the alluring glow of the illuminated bar behind him. After I got my drink I sat near him but only because there was no one else in the bar. That’s what I get for drinking before happy hour. What started, years ago, as a need to become more social has brought me to afternoons like this. His name was Duke and his large husky frame was partially hidden by not only the darkness of the room but also the fact that he was sitting down and his lower half was hidden behind the short part of an L-shaped bar.
He wasn’t my type and it didn’t help when he said he liked small, geeky guys with glasses. He had a shaved head, a ZZ Top beard, a pirate earring in his left ear and he wore a leather jacket, so I don’t know why I agreed to go on a date with him. I glared at him when he called me “sweetie” instead of Rodrigo, but I have to admit I came to like that term of endearment simply because nobody had ever called me that before.
When he stood up I realized I had probably made a mistake. He was six foot four and at least 250 pounds. A looker? I don’t know, but he did have a manly way about him. We talked outside the bar later that night and I did feel a twinge of something as I watched him PEEL out on his motorcycle. I continued to see him for a year. It was twelve months of drinks, cigarettes, fights, threats and getting banned from respectable establishments.
He was the jealous type. It stemmed from his insecurity at being such a big and frightful man and yet failing to be scary, almost disappointing really, in the one place that mattered most to men. The best example of his jealousy was when the two of us went out with my friend Andrew. Andrew was the one accused that night—just because he was there—and it ended with me pulling to a quick stop in a dark alley. The car was running and the lights were on when Andrew jumped out, followed by Duke. He chased Andrew around my Suzuki while stumbling in his big, Frankenstein, steel-toed motorcycle boots and threatening my friend with every drunken step.
That winter a motorcycle accident put a crimp in our routine.
Duke ended up in intensive care for two weeks and then was sent to a rehab facility out in Pomona for six months. I faithfully drove out to see him three or four times a week and witnessed many of the inappropriate comments that sprang from his foul mouth. Words and phrases that people normally suppress in public punctuated his rehab environment nonstop. The nurses seemed embarrassed even though they said they had heard it all before. The doctor said his brain was trying to find its way back but it was misfiring on its way there. When he was released he wanted to live with me. Since his father was elderly and his brother had a family of his own, it fell on me. Living together worked out for approximately ninety days. What wasn’t working was his brain or at least not the way it had before. The salty language had stopped but he had brain damage on both sides and while he seemed perfectly fine to anyone who met him, if they talked to him for more than thirty minutes it became apparent that he wasn’t fine. The clue was that he would repeat the same stories he had just told you minutes before.
My old dad once told me a story about how he learned to lay bricks. He didn’t speak English at the time and the man who taught him didn’t speak Spanish. “How did he teach you?” I asked. My old dad said, “Through patience and kindness.” I don’t possess those qualities.
When I couldn’t handle Duke anymore—when it got to the point where I was slamming doors and throwing stuff—I contacted Duke’s father and told him he had to take him. I couldn’t take care of someone for the rest of my life whom I had only known for a year and a half, when I wasn’t even married to the guy. It was an awkward and angry good-bye. He flew back to the Midwest and the memory of him and the good times we had together faded with the years until I was ordered into a 12-step program by the court.
I dreaded getting up, getting dressed and going to the nightly 12-step meetings once I found my way home (who wants to go out again once they’ve taken off their shoes?), so I started doing my wash three times a week. I would go from work to the Laundromat to my 12-step meeting. I had the cleanest clothes for the longest time. Luckily, I found a convenient Laundromat between the train station and my 12-step meeting place. The Laundromat was a dump. It was open twenty-four hours, without a guard on duty, so you can imagine its shape. I was standing out front waiting for my clothes to dry one evening when I saw him. He was sitting outside, far across a big parking lot, at one of those coffee places. I squinted my eyes to make sure it was him. It was.
How did he get back here? Did his father die? Maybe his brother who had a wife and kids didn’t want a brain-damaged monster living with them? Whatever the reason, I stood watching him as he smoked a cigarette with an empty look on his face.
It was the same look he had that Christmas Eve. We had been at a place called The Tool, but after Duke got belligerent with the bartender we were immediately told to “Get the fuck out.” No warning, just “Get the fuck out.” Duke didn’t want to leave but when the bartender reached under the bar for a bat we both knew we wouldn’t be closing this bar that night, so we stumbled across the street to this lesbian bar. It was a place called The Two of Hearts. The Two of Hearts was a neighborhood bar where they had poetry readings (female poets only), there was an active book club (uh, women authors), they mobilized politically (lady issues) and the smell of clove cigarettes permeated the place. Duke stormed toward The Two of Hearts front door ahead of me, at full throttle and pissed. He hit the door with the side of his balled-up fist with so much force that the door flew open, banged on the wall behind it and started to close again. That just made him angrier so he karate chopped the door as it advanced toward him with the side of his hand, and it flung back and banged against the wall again. He topped off his entrance with a bit of holiday cheer. I watched as he stood in the doorway and yelled, at the very top of his lungs, “MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!!!!” Then he threw his head back like a drunk, unhinged Santa and started laughing. I followed Duke as he entered the bar and made his way through the crowd. The patrons treated him like royalty and this was patently evident when they scurried out of his way as he advanced toward them. They were a courteous group of lady lovers.
Behind the bar stood a tiny blonde with a flat top. Duke yelled his drink order at her as the whole jittery bar watched. She looked away, over her shoulder, but no one came to her aid. She didn’t have a choice so she cleared her throat, but heaven help her, when she spoke it still came out high and pip-squeaky. She said it calmly, with her 105 pounds backing her up, “Sir, I cannot serve you a drink because you’re drunk.”
Duke blinked his eyes. It was as if he didn’t understand what she was saying or he couldn’t hear the high pitch of her voice. He looked at me with bloodshot eyes and a heaving chest. I did not respond so he turned away from me and lowered his whole upper body down onto the bar. He rested on his elbows so he could be face to face with her. When he opened his mouth he said only three words: “What the fuck?” The little bartender looked down before she turned to me and did something weasely and unfair: she pleaded with me, mutely, with her eyes. She wanted ME to help HER? Christ! I turned to Duke and pushed the arm that was closest to me off the bar. He glared at me. I said, “Would you stop bothering her? It’s Christmas. Have a little decency.”
I grabbed Duke by the arm of his leather jacket and pushed him toward a bar stool. He stumbled momentarily but regained his balance and responded by raising his arms in the air and saying very loudly, “HEY! HEY! HEY!” I ignored him, smiled at the bartender and said, “Can we get a couple of waters?”
I reached in Duke’s pocket and pulled out his cigarettes. The corner of his top lip went up and exposed his teeth before he growled and said, “Give me a kiss.” I looked up at him unsure of what I wanted to do so he pulled me toward him and I obliged. When I was released from his grip I lit a cigarette and put it in his mouth. Either the cigarette or the kiss placated him because he sat down and, with that act, all the fight oozed out of him. He sucked on the cigarette, exhaling the smoke at me. He looked exhausted. Under his breath I heard him mumble, “Merry Fucking Christmas,” but it was missing all the bravado of the earlier one. He looked defeated and empty, so quietly, almost in a whisper, and just for him I began to sing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—but I did it in a very manly way. He listened to me as his smoke swirled around both of us. When I finished he put his cigarette out and took his large, beefy hand and gently brushed my hair away from my face. What must I have looked like? He sat in front of me sweaty and disheveled. He smelled of smoke. I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders at the whole situation. He continued to stare at me for the longest time in silence, then, rather lovingly, the big bear leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek.
He was scary and desirable at the same time. At bars, overeager guys would get shot down in front of me but, in the end, I was the one who was envied. He was what I wanted. Now, here he was again—fifty feet away. I was staring at him when he turned his head and looked in my direction. In that second I did what I had to do. I turned away. I turned away because I didn’t want him to see me. I turned away because I wanted to forget him and all of it. But I turned away, mostly, because I couldn’t care about him anymore. I had to save myself.
I raced back inside, frantically pulled my clothes out of the dryer, shoved the balled-up mess that’s my life into a plastic laundry basket and fled out the back door.
About the Author:
Felice Picano graduated cum laude from Queens College in 1964 with English Department honors. He founded SeaHorse Press in 1977 and, with Terry Helbing and Larry Mitchell, The Gay Presses of New York in 1981 where he was editor-in-chief. He was an editor and writer for The Advocate, Blueboy, Mandate, Gaysweek, and Christopher Street. He was the Books Editor of The New York Native and a culture reviewer at The Los Angeles Examiner, San Francisco Examiner, New York Native, Harvard Lesbian and Gay Review, and the Lamdba Book Report. He lives in West Hollywood, CA.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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