The Naked Man



The man scooped up the blanket and stuffed it into his backpack. He turned away from me to dress. I watched him pull on a pair of cargo shorts and slip into some Birkenstocks. I didn’t move, couldn’t move. I was momentarily paralyzed, oblivious to the patchy grass on my bare and burning ass, a patina of sweat, saliva, and still-drying cum on my summer-brown chest. I tried to say something, to remind him that while he’d hurt me pretty bad, I was okay, just fine, really, that I’d asked for it, that I’d wanted it all along. But that fully-formed thought stuck in my windpipe. The clotted sound that came out instead was more wounded animal than American adolescent.

Now fully dressed, the man turned back to face me. He smiled, shook his head, then put his index finger to his lips – the universal signal for silence. Perhaps because he was so much older than I was he understood there was nothing left to say, that what we had just done could not be undone, and that I would have to find those words some other time. He then put his hand on my shoulder, a last gesture of reassurance that life would go on for both of us. He brushed away a loitering teardrop with that same omniscient finger. I wanted more than anything at this moment for the man to wrap his thick arms around my still-naked body and hold me close one last time. I imagined a last kiss, the back-lit final scene from some cheesy movie. Parting is such sweet sorrow and all that.

It was not to be. The man smiled at me again – it was his habit when he was out of words – then trundled off into the afternoon, disappearing into the trees, gone forever in an instant, a vapor trail on the horizon. I sighed and fought back fresh tears, managing somehow to acknowledge to myself that I was a hot mess and needed to get moving. I wiped myself clean with my black Calvin undies. My married sister, Elena, had given them to me for my birthday – not as a gag, but as evidence that I wasn’t a little boy anymore. She’d chuckled when I unwrapped the package, telling me with what I understood to be pride that if I seriously wanted to model for Wilhelmina, I’d better get some fashion sense. Fat chance, I’d told her then, but I understood she had no reason to lie to me. Big sisters don’t flatter as a means to an end. I tossed the stained briefs with a flourish into some nearby bushes, and got dressed. I’d have to freeball my way back to town. An hour before, this might have seemed like a delicious transgression, letting the breeze whistle up the legs of my shorts and tickle my bits, but now it was simple necessity. My life had changed forever, I knew that much. I surveyed one final time the clearing in the woods where I’d just discarded the last toys of my childhood, and headed back to Ponferrada.

I’d never asked the man his name, though if I had I suspect he might have lied – as I also had a few times on that July afternoon almost 30 years ago, as most of us do when staring down the barrel of an uncomfortable truth. It’s what I’ve done my whole life when common sense takes flight and I make a fool of myself. His name didn’t really matter anyway. In an hour he had become indelible, a birthmark, a part of me forever. He was destined to live on in my memory as The Naked Man, and even though I’ve replayed that afternoon a thousand times, until now I have not told anyone the story about what he did with me – or rather what we did with each other.


I’d turned 16 in May. If somebody had guessed 13, I could have understood their reasoning. I’d never heard the word, of course, but I was unquestionably androgynous. Lay on a little blush and some lip gloss, some mascara to frame my hazel eyes, and you might have said, “pretty girl, that one.” Delicate, gamine even, though if one of my smart-ass friends had ever said any of this to my face, I’d probably have punched him. Punch first, apologize later was my M.O. at the time. Yes, this late-bloomer could have lived in peace without the burden of epicene beauty.

Like most kids I struggled to figure out exactly what I wanted from my life, but I already knew one thing for certain: I was all boy, all the time. 46,XY. No question about that. So, too, my fever dreams: all boys, all the time. Every once in a while, as an experiment, I tried sneaking a hologram of Natalie Portman into the mix, imagined Julia Stiles by my side whispering lines from Othello into my ear. Didn’t really do the trick. I tried hard to convince myself that this gay thing was just a phase, that I’d hook up soon enough with the drop-dead girl in Geometry class. Alas, when my dick was stiff in my grip at 3:00 AM, not one single girl ever appeared in the video streaming in the ether above me. Dicks, I’ve come to learn, speak true.

Happily, my balls had dropped a while back and my voice had dropped down with them. And while I was still ectomorphic, I was strong and healthy. My shoulders had broadened noticeably and my pecs were starting to thicken. I had biceps-in-training and futbolista calves. Anyone with a degree in physiology could see that soon enough, after the testosterone finished its elongated mission, I’d be one tough-ass motherfucker. One tough-ass gay motherfucker, to be honest, though in 1995 I hadn’t yet mastered the concept of honesty.

Anyway, this was the boy who accompanied his mother to her homeland in early July. Her father, my abuelo Quino, was calling it quits on a long, good life, and she had joined her siblings at his bedside. They had gathered to grieve the inevitable, bury him, and settle accounts. I could have stayed home in Sacramento with my dad, spending the heart of the summer lounging at the pool or playing Virtua Fighter 2, but she seemed to need me. Even then something about Spain whispered to me, so I tagged along.

There wasn’t much for a kid like me to do in Ponferrada. Recognizing this, the grown-ups tried to keep me occupied, though their hearts were otherwise engaged. My mother took me on an overnight to visit cousins in the capital city of Leon, where I got buzzed on cañas at the corner bar and rode criminally unsafe rides at the feria. My Tio Lázaro took me fishing at the pantano, sensing I needed a little guy-time. Otherwise, I sat in my room and read books. I wasn’t unhappy, just unmoored. I’d spoken Spanish all my life, so this was not an issue, but even back home in California on the mean streets of Lakeside, where everybody but the nanny spoke English and had a Beemer, I didn’t walk up to strangers and ask, “do you want to be my friend?” If potential friends were out there, they appeared to be hiding from me. So, most days I spent alone.

I discovered walking. Ponferrada is great for walking. I rarely had a destination of any consequence (the chino for chips and litros of soda, the open-air market near the Plaza Mayor to buy fruit and cheap CD’s from the gitanos), but I found that the more I walked the better I felt – and the better I was able to process the mess going on in my pointy little head. Sometimes I’d walk two miles to the edge of town and across the highway to the foothills before turning back and heading home to Tia Carmen’s place. I almost never got lost in the twist of streets in the Old City, and I started what has become a lifetime obsession with finding secret places, caves, copses and bowers, blind alleys, culverts, places where I imagined I could hide out for a few minutes and dive into my expanding portfolio of daydreams.

The local kids stared at me, or at least I felt their eyes boring into my back when I passed by. The guys whistled at the pretty-boy streetwalker. The girls behind them whistled, too. They called me guiri, pijo, puto maricon and worse, not knowing I understood every syllable. They knew I was American and they discerned I was rich. My baggy shorts were Patagonia and my Jordan’s were legit. That was enough to excite them. They didn’t intend harm, they didn’t really hate me, they were just marking territory. Still, I picked up my pace whenever I passed a pack on the street. I saw these kids – my age or thereabouts – as more nuisance than nemesis, but caught between the urge to flick them off and turning around, I always opted to walk right past them with what I hoped was a credible smile. I often wondered if I had gone up to the Alpha, the big, thick, sneering kid with the soul-patch, and introduced myself, if he wouldn’t have invited me to join them. Bueno, majete, bienvenidos a Ponferrada! Te presento a mis compañeros. Como te llamas, guiri? What ees jor name? Quieres que te chupe la polla?

Do you want me to suck your dick? Yes, I would have answered. I’d love for you to suck my dick, I really would. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve wanted for some time now. Pues,de todos modos me llamo Alejo. Alejo Montero. Y sí, soy guiri. Welcome to Ponferrada, indeed.

As I’ve said, though I was 16, I was only about nine months into puberty. Whisker-free. Corn silk on my arms and legs, but nary a wisp sprouting in my pits. I’d grown a patch of thick brown curlies down there (thank God), but had he decided to go down on me, the boy with the soul-patch might first have asked, “sure you’re old enough, faggot?”

And then when he saw it, his eyes would have bulged out of their sockets. He might have marveled at the thing he was set to consume. It was big. Well, not big exactly, as in thick and bulky like a gourd, but extremely long, tapered at the end like a Rocket Pop, a dangler to be reckoned with in any case. My friend Danny had dubbed it The Schlong, as if it were a creature from another planet. “Tripod! Tripod!” they’d all whisper when the girls were within earshot, supposing (incorrectly) this public revelation might embarrass me. “Watch out, here comes Capitán Kielbasa!” I shrugged it off, pretty sure even then that this was envy talking. I had no valid point of comparison, anyway – except to theirs, and that was a statistically insignificant sampling. The internet was still in its infancy then. The Monteros had cutting edge dial-up at the time, so I hadn’t yet had occasion to confirm on gay porn sites that my dick was, well, ninth decile. I thrilled to what a big dick might portend once I grew up and practiced with it. I was equally terrified I might be a freak.

And then there was the foreskin thing. Or nineskin as Danny cleverly put it, appropriate in his mind as a disguise for The Schlong. Most of my buddies were circumcised. I thought their dicks looked vaguely damaged with that hem stitched around the head, but I suppose I would have played happily with any of them if they’d been offered to me. A couple of curious types had actually asked me what it was like to sport a hoodie. I wanted to tell them, but then I would have had to show them, let them touch it and slide it gently back and forth over my Bing-cherry glans, and that would have been super gay, and then I would have been exposed before I was ready, compromised for the rest of high school, at least. Capitán Kielbasa was an aardvark. El Capitán wore a turtleneck. The moment I persuaded myself my dick was no big deal, it seemed to rise up and contradict me. I needed to find out just how big, and that would necessitate busting a move sometime soon. My penis was starting to take over my life, and it was time to wrest back control by any means necessary.

And so, on that midsummer afternoon, right after la comida, I headed straight out of town, crossed the highway near the Puerta Principal, scrambled up the embankment, crossed a little footbridge over a culvert, then sprinted a quarter-mile into the woods, with one project in mind: to go as high up the mountainside as I could in 20 minutes. There I hoped to find a big boulder, a promontory from which I could gaze down on the town below me in all its medieval splendor and meditate on the state of things in my britches. For a moment I was ten years old again, dodging invisible wildlife and enemy warriors, an intrepid young explorer, the first American ever to scale these daunting heights. Unlike Orpheus, who could not, young Alejo Montero kept looking back, measuring his progress, amazed at how quickly Ponferrada was disappearing behind him.

Seemingly out of nowhere a worn path emerged. Clearly, somebody had been here before me. A lot of somebodies, it seemed. So much for boldly going where none had gone before. The adventure having fizzled, I changed course and followed the path. There must be something to it, I thought, a trail out here in the middle of nowhere. It must lead somewhere. It soon crossed a stream lined with purple wildflowers. I wondered if the water was safe to drink, figured no livestock could reach this height to crap in it, said what the hell, and drank deep. It was delicious. I splashed my face, then took off my Pearl Jam Vs. t-shirt and wrapped it around my waist. Nobody anywhere to critique my lack of physique. The sun was pretty fierce on my back, but the breeze cooled me down considerably. I was happier than I’d been in weeks.

About 100 yards from the path, I saw an outcropping of boulders that appeared to have an unobstructed view of the valley. I clambered my way cautiously to the highest point. I sat down on the sunbaked granite and dangled my legs over the edge, dizzy with exhilaration. I thought to myself, if I fall, nobody will find my body for weeks. I shuddered and pulled back a bit from the brink. I had to pee, so I stood up, pulled out my limp and blameless penis and launched a golden stream that splashed loudly onto the rocks below. I’m not sure why, but this excited me. My dick started to chub without stimulation and I thought, maybe it’s telling me it’s time to bust a nut. Right then and there. I’d been celibate for two weeks, after all, since a polite boy like me didn’t feel comfortable masturbating in his girl cousin’s childhood bedroom. I held back, told myself there’d be time, and returned to the path.

Ten minutes later, I wandered back into the woods, and soon found myself descending about 50 feet into a clearing about the size of a football field, surrounded and shielded by old-growth robles. A meadow colored with bright flowers, a living Monet in the mountains. It was there that I first saw the Naked Man, sleeping on a blanket in the shade of the oaks, his bare ass a beacon calling me towards him.

I could have turned around right then and there, slipped away like a fawn, and left the man to his siesta. I probably should have, this far from civilization. But I’d been feeling strange all day, and the little schoolteacher voice that cautioned me to mind my own business was quickly drowned out by a much louder one telling me to go for it. That man is naked. You like naked men. He’s n-a-k-e-d, you little fuck. This had to be a sign, a scene scripted by my restless libido. The answer to my novenas. My destiny. What was the likelihood that the only other human being within a three-mile radius besides a seriously horny gay boy was a naked man taking a nap?

I tiptoed towards him, holding my breath. I didn’t want to startle him, but more than that I was stricken with wonder. When I was no more than five feet away, I stopped. I took inventory of his powerful backside, stunned by the taut musculature, so different from mine, intoxicated by the sheer adult maleness of his body, knowing instantly what I had sensed all along, that I was chasing my grail, that God had sent me on this journey, that this was why He’d made me the way He did.

Sensing my presence (or a presence) the Naked Man woke up with a jolt, shook his head, and saw me there staring at him like a child at the zoo. He didn’t scream – after all, I’m not very threatening despite everything I’ve said, and he could have crushed me like a Coke can with one mighty hand – but he definitely had the biggest what-the-fuck? look I’d ever seen on his face. He was pretty cool about it, though. Didn’t roll over, having the presence of mind not to expose himself to a kid. He grabbed his shirt, wrapped it modestly and adroitly around his waist, and sat up.

“Sorry. You’ve caught me unawares. I probably should ask you what you are doing here, but then you might ask me the same thing.” There was something playful about him, and I recognized right away that he wasn’t from around here. His Spanish was stiff and schoolbook. He had gray-blue eyes and a cleft chin.

“You have an accent,” I said.

“I have an accent in five languages. But, yes, I’m not originally Spanish.”

“Neither am I,” I said. “Well, my parents were born in Spain, and I come here a lot, but I’m from California. That’s how come I speak Spanish. I’m staying in Ponferrada this summer.”

“American. That’s crazy. We meet here in the middle of nowhere in another country.” He shifted to English. “I’m from Germany. Deutschland. Alemania.” He sounded a little British, and nothing at all like Arnold the Terminator.

“Cool. So why are you here?”

“Here on the mountain or here in Spain?”

“Here. This field. Sleeping. Nak…Without your clothes. I mean, I had to walk really far to get here. I didn’t even know this valley or whatever was here. To be honest, I don’t really know where I am right now. I’ve been walking for hours.” I was babbling.

The Naked Man measured his words. If he was annoyed by my sudden intrusion into his reverie, it didn’t show. If he intended to kill me, I couldn’t read it in his grin. “Well, I’ve come to this very spot several times. It’s quite pretty, don’t you think? I’m a hiker. Wherever I travel, I – how do you say it? – wherever I travel I like to hike off the path. I found this place a week ago. It keeps calling me back, I guess.”

“Do you always sleep naked?” I asked. I was staring again. The man’s body was hard and lean, all contours and hollows.

“Well, I seem to have forgotten my pajamas, and I wasn’t expecting company.” Nothing sinister in his laugh.

“Sorry. Do you want me to leave now?” My voice sort of cracked when I said it. “I know I’m being annoying. Everybody tells me I’m annoying. It’s part of my charm.”

“Not at all, boy. Not at all. You can stay as long as you like. These are your woods, too. We can share this space. There’s room for both of us.”

“I guess so,” I whispered. His German Shepherd eyes seemed to pierce all my defenses. I suddenly shuddered, though it was 85 degrees in the shade. I blurted, “Do you like being naked?”

“Very much. It’s natural.” That inscrutable smile again. I was flustered. He most certainly was not. Voice, flatline soft.

“Then can I see you? Now? I know this sounds stupid, but I want you to be the way you were when I first saw you from the hill. Naked.”

The man stood up for the first time. He removed the shirt he’d tied on for modesty, and revealed himself in all his considerable glory. “Here I am, boy. Have a look,” he seemed to say. My eyes traveled quickly from head to toe, pausing a few extra seconds to take in the spectacle of his penis and testicles. I found them beautiful. His dick was substantial, not quite as long as mine, but thicker. It was slightly darker than the rest of his skin, unlike my own, which is as white as I am. A blue vein ran down the side. The head just peeked out of the shortish foreskin. His balls hung down like plums in a marble bag. It all fit together perfectly. He could have been 30 or 50, I’ve never been any good at guessing ages, but all that hiking had kept him in great physical condition. I thought for a crazy second that I was looking at a statue in a museum coming suddenly to life.

“May I sit down now? Now that you’ve finished your, uh, inspection.” Still smiling. He knew, or at least I feared he knew, there was more than simple curiosity in my request.

“Yes, sure. Sorry for staring. I’m not thinking straight today. I’m not usually so rude.”

“You’re thinking just fine, lad. It’s not every day one meets a naked man in the woods. Feast your eyes. And look, if you’d feel more comfortable, you can take off your shorts, too, and then we’ll both be naked. The same. Two guys taking the sun. As we were when we came into the world.”

“Uh, I don’t know. I don’t think I can.” I sounded whiny.

“That’s okay. Whatever you wish. That’s cool, ja. I’m a grown man and you’re a kid. Don’t want any strangeness here. You are, what, 13? 14? Still changing down there, I suppose.”

These words finally shook me into action. The tough-ass gay motherfucker who rents a room near my heart bristled. “No sir. I’m sixteen, if you want to know the truth. And I can’t take off my shorts just now because I have a boner. An erection. And it won’t go down. That’s why.” I exhaled a year’s worth of poison with those words. “But goddamn, I want to. I really want to.” The first tears of the day welled up in my eyes. Please don’t cry, I pleaded with myself.

“Hey, boy. It’s okay. No hay de que. I’m just having fun with you. You’re so amazingly pret- handsome.”

The awkwardness silenced both of us for a moment. I looked down at my knees as if they were long lost friends. He clasped his hands together, brought them to his mouth, and blew into them.

Then suddenly I stood up, looked him straight in the eye with all the ferocity I could muster, deciding after all these months of shame and confusion and aching desire to dislodge the offending pebble from my shoe. I uncinched my belt, pulled down the zipper, kicked my oversized Patagonias off my feet. Then I ditched my briefs. And my Jordans. And stood there before him as he had stood before me. The Naked Man surveyed in wonder as I morphed into the Naked Boy. Freed from captivity The Schlong arced proudly into open space like a Gatling gun on a swivel, a rainbow trout on a five-lb. test. I knew it had never been longer, and for the first time in my life I understood I had been blessed.

Ach du heilige Scheibe! I didn’t expect such a thing. You’ll make the girls crazy.” He laughed and shook his head. “You’re bigger than me, and mein schwanz isn’t, uh, small.” He whistled. “You’re bigger than me and I’m 45.”

“There are no girls here that I can see. I’m not really into girls, I guess,” I mumbled. I almost choked on the next sentence. “I’m hard because of you. I look at you and what I see makes me hard.” Now I couldn’t stop. It was like I was throwing up Truth. “That’s why I woke you up. I wanted to see all of you because I knew how it would make me feel. Now I want to touch you, to see how that makes me feel. I’ve never touched anyone else. Not a girl or a boy. Just myself.”

“Oh my. Okay. You’re homosexual, bub? Gay? Shit. That’s cool. But you can’t really know that yet, junge. But I understand. I do understand. I guess you want to know who you are. And that’s good.”

The Naked Man hugged me, pulled me into him. Then he placed his giant hands on my chin. I thought he might kiss me, but instead he spoke to me like the guidance counselor at a nudist camp for wayward gay teens. “Then we’ll do this thing together, ja. I don’t want to lie to you. How should I say, to misrepresent myself. I am not gay. I have an ex-wife in Munich and two daughters in university. But I want to help you know how it feels, these things you’ve been telling me about. I want you to feel good, mein schoner junge. I want you to know yourself better. You’re an odd duck, boy, but I guess for you I can be gay for a day, if this would make you happy.”

I understood despite my confessional delirium that he, too, was in an unfamiliar place. He backed away, pulled his arms to his sides. “You can touch me now. I’m ready. Take it.”

His thick dick swelled in my hand. I massaged it into full hardness. The man stroked my tousled sandy hair and told me I could suck it if I wished. I learned on the job, you might say, opening wide for the unsheathed head, licking the mustiness from under the skin. I went down as far as I could before I gagged, my nose tickled by his pubic bush. I was careful with my teeth, but I’m pretty sure I grazed the skin of the shaft a few times, bobbing up and down. When I got tired, I looked up at the Naked Man. His eyes told me he was knowing pleasure. I jacked him with some vigor, then slowed down, pulling the foreskin over the crown, then pinching, trying to replicate on someone else what I did so expertly with myself. The man inhaled, then gently pushed me away.

“Come here,” he commanded. He motioned me to the blanket he’d spread out on the grass. “Let’s lie down together.” Our bodies, his hard and sinewy, mine soft and embryonic, merged. My dick collided with his pubic bone. His found a space between my thighs. We squirmed and contorted. And finally, as I opened my mouth to tell him everything I was feeling, he kissed me. His tongue probed my mouth expertly. Then my inexperienced tongue launched its own gentle expedition. He nibbled on my ear, so I nibbled on his. His tongue flicked and flitted its way down my chest, a hummingbird buzzing the honeysuckle. He tweaked my little nipples between his thumb and index finger for a few seconds, then tugged at them as gently as he could manage with his teeth. This was simultaneously painful and delightful, which, I would soon learn, is the essence of intimacy, the stop-stop-don’t stop commandment of sex. Then he descended to my groin.

The man was in charge now, and I knew it. He picked up my pulsating dick with his right hand and cupped my balls with his left, measuring things with untrained eyes for what was to come. The chemistry was easy but the physics were tricky. He did to me what I had been doing to him, seeking just the right balance between friction and tenderness. He intuited that because my foreskin was long and a little tight, he ought not pull down too hard. I had winced audibly a few times, and he was aware of my discomfort. He’d observed that my glans, once exposed, was the color of maraschino liqueur and likely to be sensitive, so he guarded it from the harshest of his manipulations. Then the man began in earnest to deliver what I imagine was his first blow-job. I didn’t care that he was a novice. He did great. He could only take in about half of my dick’s length, but it was the vital half. He did magic tricks with that nimble tongue, swirling it around the circumference of my dickhead, then plunging the tautened tip into my pee-hole. He sucked up my foreskin with his lips, then closed them around it, pulling it out an extra inch. He went fast, then slow, a fascinating rhythm I hoped would never end. At one point I felt his middle finger, moistened with suntan lotion, poking at my asshole. I was delirious enough to relax and let it in, so sated with sensation that I didn’t care what was going on down there. Then another finger, stretching things a bit, massaging my prostate. That did it.

“I’m going to shoot, mister!” I pleaded, not sure if he wanted to swallow my cum. He took my dick in both hands and pointed it at his open mouth. I’d been leaking for minutes, and it was awash in fluids of indeterminate origin. Now was the time for Krakatoa to blow. “I’m serious! Please! Aaaaarrh!” I shuddered. A sound I’d never heard before issued from my mouth, part mourner’s wail, part monkey screech, all ecstasy.

I fired five or six white blobs in the general vicinity of the man’s face, most landing on the ground next to us, a couple landing harmlessly on his throat. Then three or four aftershocks. Some watery droplets pooled near my belly-button. Again, I thought I was going to cry.

“My God, son. What did you eat for breakfast?” The Naked Man licked my semen from his fingers.

The man was still hard. I suspected it was time for me to apply the Golden Rule, but when I grabbed for his dick, he brushed me off.

“I have a question for you, mein junge. You need to answer honestly.”

I caught my breath. “Of course. I want to make you feel as good as I feel right now. You told me you’re not gay, but I can see that you’re ready. I owe you.”

“You owe me nothing. Nothing.”

“So what’s the question?” I watched him tug at his penis, the first one I’d ever sucked, and wondered for a second if I would end up liking the taste of his sperm.

“Well, I’d really like to fuck you. You know? Are you willing? It will hurt, I think, when I stick it in.” He looked ashamed, almost apologetic. “I will be gentle, but . . . you know…” His voice trailed off.

I didn’t know. I’d stuck stuff up my butt, I think even straight boys do that sometimes, and he’d managed to insert a couple fingers all the way in, but his dick was much bigger than any of that. I was pretty scared.

“Well? Tell me no, and it’s okay. I go without complaint. I’ve already done things I never thought I’d do, stuff I’ve always thought was wrong.” He was rubbing his dick all the while.

The little schoolteacher voice again advised me to cut my losses. Save it for a rainy day. The ol’ gal didn’t stand a chance. Not against the power of the sunshine and the flowers and a naked man with a boner.

“Yes. I want to feel it inside me. You can fuck me. I won’t cry.” Brave words from a virgin.

We lay down again. He kissed me with amazing intensity, as if he wanted to drown me in his open mouth. This time I matched everything he did with equal enthusiasm. The Schlong snapped back to attention. I was good for anything – not that I had any idea where I was headed.

The man grabbed a jar of tanning butter and slathered it on his dick. The scent of coconut permeated the air. Then he turned me over on my stomach, grabbed my butt cheeks, and wedged his hand between them.

“Relax, lad. Relax,” he purred. And I relaxed. He gently massaged the crack with a lubricated hand, pausing at the doorstep before poking through with his fingers. I tightened up again – it’s a natural response, I suppose. He told me to breathe slowly, in and out, to pretend that I had to poop, and that seemed to help. He commanded me to get up on my haunches, to give him an angle, and when I did, he pried open my butt cheeks, and said, “I will go in now,” like I was an elevator or something.

It took a while to get it right. At first the pain was excruciating, but once I figured out that if I pushed back while he pushed in, we could create a kind of suction. Once the man understood that he wasn’t killing me, that I was starting to enjoy myself, he pushed deeper and I sucked in harder, and eventually we found something like communion, something as primal as the tides.

He pulled out, then pleaded, “please sit on it, yes, that will be wonderful.” He then defected to German, having no words in English for what we were doing. I squatted over him and aligned my butt as best I could. With one hand I guided his pulsating dick ever so carefully into my slickened hole. Again, the process was hit or miss, but once we synchronized, I could tell that this was what he liked best, me straddling him, looking at him from above. His eyes were bright with rapture. I thought to myself should the Naked Man ever decide that he really was gay, this was how he would choose to do it. My dick windmilled above him, propelled by his thrusts. My thighs burned with lactic acid, my back ached, my breathing was labored from all the exertion, and I could feel another explosion was imminent. I grabbed my penis at this point, retracted the foreskin, groaned ecstatically, and shot out several more dollops of watery semen. Seeing this, the man grunted, muttered something in German, pulled away from me, took his dick in his right hand, pumped furiously a few times, pointed the head at my face, and spit out half of his life-force. Spent. Nothing left to give. And still I wanted more.

Tears came again, not so much from the pain of damaged tissue or the recognition that what we had done was unrepeatable, as from the terrible finality of it all. There would never be another first time for either of us. I’d never felt more alive, yet it seemed as if the wildflowers were dying before my eyes.

CODA: 2024

I’m 45 now. Most of my questions have been answered, and those that haven’t can wait.

Anyway, my butt healed quickly. Acknowledgement took much longer. As it was in the beginning so shall it be in the end.

The Naked Man went his way that long-ago July day, and I went mine. It was dark when I reached Tia Carmen’s. Dónde has estado, hijo? Worry was etched into her lovely face. She asked me if I’d been in a fight. No, I told her, no fight, just playing soccer. I chuckled grimly. I lost track of time, Tia. I’m sorry. At least that much was true. I said I wasn’t hungry and that I needed a shower. Instead, I ran a hot bath, soaking my bruised, exhausted body for 20 minutes, trying with soap bubbles to clean the knowledge from my pores. I was determined to take my secret with me to the grave.

My grandfather died a week later. My mother mourned for an appropriate time, then packed us up for our return, each of us with memories we were unable or unwilling to share. I wouldn’t return to Spain until after I graduated college. With my boyfriend, Caleb the set designer, and then again a couple of years later with my first (and only) girl-crush, Jada, who dreamed of eating snails in Barcelona and washing them down with sangria. I always had fun on these trips, tour guide and lover, but the ghost of the Naked Man hung around the periphery and invaded my dreams.

Coming out was actually easy. Towards the end of my junior year, some nine months after I returned from Ponferrada, I was watching TV in the basement with Danny. Conversation was lagging, the customary banter totally uninspired. I figured it was time to shake some trees and see what fell out.

Out of the blue, I asked him if he wanted to ditch this burrito truck and see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Tower Theater. “It sounds pretty out-there. Right up your alley, Danny-Boy.”

Then a curious silence, pregnant with portent.

“OMG. Revelation Day at last!,” he said. “Is this where you finally tell me you’re gay?” he asked. “Jesus, Alejo, you’re so fucking convoluted. But sure. Let’s go check out the drag queens.”

“You know?” Talk about anti-climax.

“Alejo Montero, I’ve known, like, forever. It’s a vibe. You wear it like bad cologne.”

“I do not. Wear cologne.”

“Kidding, dude. Trying to take the edge off your moment. Look, I’ll spare you this time. I’ve had my speech prepared since 9th grade. So listen to me carefully.” He placed his hand on my shoulder, an oddly paternal gesture. “I love you, Alejo. I always have, since you first invited me over to play Super Mario that day in second grade.”

“Thanks, Danny. Really. I’ve been scripting this for weeks. I had it all planned out. I guess I wasn’t ready for the spoiler alert.”

“Well, this script is mine, so shut up. You’re a moron, you know. You’re the best-looking guy in school, which is apparently lost on you. I know better than anybody you’ve never ever done anything with a girl, and trust me, they’d like to do everything with you. Well, fuck that. What am I, carne asada? They come up to me in the hallway, Danny, you know Alejo Montero – and they get this dreamy fangirl look – do you think maybe he’d want to hook up? And I always say, sure, go for it! And they never do, because in the back of their minds they know you’re not interested. In the meantime, Alejo, you have me. Igor, your loyal heterosexual servant. It’s very frustrating.

“Look, if I was gay – and as you know, I’m not – I’d be your butt pirate in a San Francisco minute. I’d let you squeeze The Schlong into my pooper and scream with delight. You’re amazing, Alejo. You just need to figure that out. So if being gay makes you happy, then it makes me happy. It’s time to tell the world, buddy. I already knew. A long time ago. Now, can we give it a rest?”


Now that I’ve finally told the story, I feel unburdened, light on my feet (to coin a phrase). I suppose you don’t really understand something until you’ve explained it to somebody else. Until you’ve put it out there. Now, there’s only one thing left to do.

I’ve come back to Ponferrada, a gay American with a beard and a mission: to give the Naked Man a proper burial. Something I’ve been meaning to do for almost 30 years.

I’ve been scrambling for a couple of hours around the foothills, looking for the path. I’m not as nimble as I used to be. The backpack weighs me down, and I have to stop every five minutes to take a breath.

Then I see the stream I crossed all those years ago. I cup my hands and drink the cold spring water. I splash my face and remove my shirt. And suddenly, just as surely as there’s sunshine in Castilla-Leon, I know exactly where I am.

I follow the path up and over a couple of ridges. I see a hill beyond the tree line. I step through the oaks and walk down into the clearing. I feel the tears coming, and this time I let them flow.

When I find the spot, the spot where I saw the Naked Man sleeping, I set down my pack, pull out a blanket, a bottle of Solares, and some tanning lotion – SPF 30. Then I take off my shorts and my Bombas and stand there, naked again, saluting the heavens. I know my body now, its lines and contours. It no longer is a skittish animal, a work in progress. I am a man, after all. And, of course, I know my dick, my trusty companion, my pride and joy. It seems happy to be back to where it all began, and I give it a few nostalgic tugs.

Then I take out the gift, my offering. A leatherbound early edition of Rilke’s love poems – translated, of course, since I don’t speak German. For the Naked Man. I read aloud, the sunlight and the flowers the only audience:

Put out my eyes, and I can see you still,
Slam my ears to, and I can hear you yet;
And without any feet can go to you;
And tongueless, I can conjure you at will.
Break off my arms, I shall take hold of you
And grasp you with my heart as with a hand;
Arrest my heart, my brain will beat as true;
And if you set this brain of mine afire,
Then on my blood-stream I yet will carry you.

Then I take a folded printout of this story I have written in his honor, tuck it into the book’s pages, and set it among the wildflowers. In pace requiescat!

The Naked Man is dead. Long live the Naked Man.