It's nobody's business really, what keywords Brendan* uses to search Google. But in order to retrieve the Powerpoint he's prepared for his very first day teaching at a private university in New York, he'll have to sign into Google Drive on the classroom computer, which will be hooked up to a projector screen.
His browsing history will then be available to any students who choose to look up from their cellphones and pay attention. If they see that last Thursday he searched for “Queens Thai restaurants,” they'll assume he went on a date, which he did.
If they see that yesterday he searched for “best jogging route to Astoria Park,” they'll know that he takes care of his body, which he does. But if they see that last night he searched for “f4m pegging vids,” they'll think he's a freak, which he isn't. And then they'll drop out of his course, demand their tuition back, and he'll get fired. And then he'll die. Alone, unhappy, and jobless.
Brendan grew up assuming that people in the arts are open-minded, liberal and non-judgmental. It's a welcoming world where one isn't considered gay because he likes colors and rhymes and art and songs, unlike middle school, where Brendan was called gay for enjoying precisely all of those things.
He was happy to find himself among like-minded folk in his college program, and even happier to find that many of those same types of people exist in the real world as well, particularly among his professional circles, and in his performance groups.
But somewhere along the line, jazz morphed into a career. He began viewing it as a more professional, less recreational activity, and hence decided that his image, in fact, does matter.
So, again, he finds himself worrying about what his colleagues, fellow musicians, and employers think of him, much like he did in middle school. He finds himself the outsider again, except this time, among those he once assumed to be like-minded folk.
Brendan hopes this is a sensation he will grow out of, but doubts it. He hates that people's perception of him is subject to change based off of what he does in bed.
He is a man – a man who treats people well and genders equally, values his job, his friends, his family, does laundry and dishes and exercises and eats and sleeps and commutes every day, and nobody ever, ever gives him a second glance, as if he could be anyone, anything, anywhere.
But he knows with certainty that if anyone who's known him for any number of years in varying contexts found out that his absolute favorite thing to do in bed is get pegged with a purple sparkly strap-on by a woman, nobody would look at him the same way ever again. He might as well sign his name onto the child sex offenders registry before opening up about that.
Needless to say, Brendan dreads first dates.
In the corner of Brendan's room there is a silver fold-out stand with sheet music on top, various instrument cases open and unopened around it, one revealing a polished but clearly used alto sax. His date Stacey* gravitates toward it, impressed by his apparent musicianship.
Their date tonight took a turn for the better and Brendan is for once, hopeful. He's pretty certain she won't be open to exploring pegging, but that's something he's willing to overlook in the face of an otherwise promising relationship.
It saddens him to do so, but Brendan is beginning to realize he may not be able to find a partner who would make both a loving wife and mother and also be sexually compatible with him. At least to his knowledge thus far, he has never heard of such things going together.
Something purple and sparkly peeks out from underneath Brendan's bed. For a second, he wonders what an object of such color and texture could possibly be. But then he remembers and identifies it as the strap-on attachment gifted to him by an ex.
He looks at Stacey; her back is facing him. He could conceivably retrieve it from under his bed and move it without her noticing, but where would he put it?
He only rents out a room in this apartment, and doesn't have many options beyond hiding it underneath his bed, cramming it into a paper-filled desk drawer, or throwing it into his closet, which is situated exactly next to where Stacey is perched on the floor.
There is of course, the added obstacle that Stacey could turn around at any moment and find him standing behind her with a long, sparkly, purple synthetic penis in his hand. What would she think then? That he's gay because he likes things that are sparkly and purple?
With the tip of his sneaker, Brendan nudges the dildo further underneath his bed, hoping this will temporarily conceal it. Maybe later she will need to use the bathroom, and Brendan will then have opportunity to aptly hide the sex toy.
Stacey asks for a glass of water. Water will fill her bladder, which will give her a reason to use the bathroom, which will give Brendan the opportunity to bury his dildo deep in his closet where sparkles don't shine.
He goes into his kitchen and grabs two glasses, fills them with water, and returns to his room. Stacey is on his bed with an iPhone in her hands, the case of which looks strikingly like Brendan's, because it is Brendan's. He's never before had to confront anyone about using a phone that doesn't belong to them, particularly his. He wonders how she even unlocked it.
“Um, is your phone dead? I've got a charger if you have the 5s.” He stands in the doorway of his bedroom with two glasses of water feeling more like an intruder than anyone should in their own home.
“Oh no, my phone's on full battery. I'm just looking through your pictures.”
Relief washes over Brendan. The only thing he takes pictures of is food. “That's fine, just don't open Google Chrome, if you don't mind. I haven't cleared my browser history yet.”
Stacey looks up from his phone. Bluish white light shines on her face, making her look a conflicting combination of angelic and evil.
“Look, I don't mean to be rude, but it's my phone. I don't need to let you go through it.”
Stacey sits up and swings her legs onto the floor, bending down to gather her shoes and purse.
“Are you leaving?”
She walks to Brendan, angles her face upward like she's going in for a kiss, and slides his phone into his front pocket.
“I don't want to be with someone who keeps secrets.” Then, she turns and leaves.
Brendan remains in his room and hears the door to his apartment open and close. He eyes the dildo still sticking out slightly from underneath his bed. At least she didn't find out what the secret is, he thinks.
Main photo: Jenavieve/Flickr
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