Ridge City Mall is far away. It takes about two hours to walk there, past long rows of evenly spaced paper box factories, then around a few tricky corners filled with crisscrossing, unexpected traffic. You then walk over a small highway with a very narrow shoulder, past a sickly sweet smelling Tootsie Roll factory and a lone Pizza Hut, until you hit the mall itself. Sometimes Kyle walked all the way there, but today he was going to splurge, spend some money, take the bus.
Kyle had three hundred dollars in his pocket. For half a year he had stashed away the money his parents gave him for lunch, hoarding it in a heavy black box with a lock his grandfather gave him on an early birthday. The night before, Kyle had counted all his limp and dirty twenty dollar bills, feeling their texture with dreamy, absent satisfaction. Surely his parents had noticed his drastic weight loss, but they had said nothing.
The people on the bus do not look at him. They are mostly old ladies, and if they aren't, they might as well be. It takes awhile. Kyle thinks about what he wants to buy, things he'd be embarrassed to ask his parents for. Bikini underwear, for instance, in bright colors. Sexy clothes. Kyle wants to buy sexy clothes , tight clothes. Clothes that show he has a body. Kyle is very skinny now, but tight with slender muscle; he hasn't been eating lunch, but he's been working out all summer. Sometimes at night he goes into the backyard and strips naked. As he looks at his body in the moonlight, Kyle pretends he is being filmed for a nude scene in a movie. Hi is sure someone is watching him, but he doesn't know who. An older man probably. An older man might want him.
After getting off the bus, Kyle went directly to a small clothing store at the far end of the mall. The store rarely had any customers. On his trips to Ridge City, Kyle always found himself drifting to this store because Joe, the store manager had actually started talking to him a few months ago. Joe was in his late thirties, probably, a little goofy looking with glasses and big white teeth and slight acne scarring on his cheeks. To compensate, he apparently worked out every day, because his solid body was ostentatiously attractive, especially in contrast to his affable, plain face. Joe smiled when he saw Kyle come into the store, and he swung his heavy body lightly over the counter.
"Hey, kiddo," Joe said. "You gonna buy something today or just look around?" he asked.
"Probably just look," Kyle said, barely able to look at Joe walking ahead of him. "But I might buy something."
"What do you want to get?" Joe asked, as he stared at Kyle from behind.
"I'd like to get some underwear," Kyle said quietly, over his shoulder.
"Oh, really," Joe said. "What kind of underwear?" he asked.
"Um...I don't know. I thought...maybe...some bikini underwear?" Kyle hoped that Joe didn't laugh.
"Bikini underwear?" Joe tried to laugh but started to blush. Kyle turned around and hugged his skinny torso with his arms. Joe shifted his weight restlessly from one leg to another and stole a glance at Kyle's lower body from the front, whip-thin in tight blue jeans.
"Yeah. I saw this show on TV where the guy was wearing red bikini underwear, and I liked the way he looked," Kyle said shyly, his words tumbling out fast.
"Who was wearing it? What show?" Joe asked, his hands on his hips, leaning forward slightly, looking right into Kyle's shifting eyes.
"Um, I think it was an old episode of 'Melrose Place." The guys are cute," Kyle said.
"Okay," Joe said. "Let me get you what you want."
As Joe walked slowly to the underwear section, he was almost certain Kyle was staring at him. Joe smiled. He was turned on by the attention and touched by Kyle's need. Months before, Joe had sensed Kyle's loneliness, and he recognized it as similar to his own at an earlier age.
"Here you go, try these," Joe said, passing an underwear package to Kyle. He smiled and rubbed his big hands together. "They get good-looking guys to pose for those things, huh?" he asked, cocking his head and sidling closer to Kyle.
"Yeah," Kyle said. "They're pretty cute."
"You know, if you turn the package over, you can see what that same guy looks like in the underwear from the back," Joe said.
"I know," Kyle said, too quickly. He looked mortified, and Joe patted him on the shoulder, placatingly. THe brief physical contact gave Kyle goose pimples all over his bare arms.
"Don't worry, buddy. You don't have to worry with me," Joe said.
"Okay," Kyle said. His heart started to beat in his right ear.
"I like the guys on those packages," Joe said, confidentially, leaning in very close. "I spend so much time here by myself...it's cool to have pictures like that to look at. I almost feel like I know them." Joe suddenly felt he had said way too much. Kyle looked at the package and turned it over. They stared intently at the model, who was slightly turned profile the tighty whities. The angle of the shot was quite flattering.
"He's got a nice butt, huh?" asked Joe.
"Yeah," Kyle said.
"A really nice butt. Tight," Joe emphasized, as he stared at Kyle's hips and the sweet curve in the back of his jeans.
"He must work out a lot to get it to look like that," Kyle said.
"When a guy gets older, you need to work at it a little more," confided Joe.
Kyle flipped the package back over. "These are small... are you sure they'd fit me?" he asked.
"You've got a really tiny waist," Joe said, staring straight at Kyle's hips. Suddenly, he had an urge to pull Kyle's jeans down. He wanted to see this kid completely naked, make him bend over and show his asshole. This kid must be so tight down there...for a daring second, Joe wrapped his big hands around Kyle's waist, as if he were measuring it. "I'd say a small is what you need right now."
Kyle stood for a second, almost gasping, not yet processing the press of Joe's hands on his hips, before moving away. "Can I try these on?" he asked. "I want to see how they look."
"Well...you're actually not supposed to open the underwear before you buy it," Joe said. A thought struck him. "How old are you, buddy?" he asked.
"I'm seventeen," Kyle said, embarrassed.
"Really?" Joe asked. He started to inch away from Kyle. "I would have never guessed you were so...you don't seem that young."
"I know," Kyle said. "When I look at my face in the mirror, I see a thirty-five year old, or something." He stared at the floor and gulped.
"I wouldn't go that far," Joe said softly. He felt hurt, for reasons he couldn't explain to himself.
"Can I try these on?" Kyle asked, still staring at the floor.
"Okay, just for you," Joe said. "Here's the key to the dressing room." Joe pressed it into Kyle's hand. As Kyle was walking away, Joe suddenly said, "I bet you'll look really hot in them."
Kyle stopped in his tracks, then turned around quickly. "Yeah?" he asked.
"Yeah. Really sexy. You've got a nice butt yourself, kiddo, anybody ever told you? Sticks out a little bit. And I bet you don't work on it."
They were silent for a moment. Kyle waiting for Joe to continue talking.
"You've firmed up from when you first started coming in here," Joe said. "You been exercising?
"A little," Kyle said. "I use my dad's free weights."
Joe hesitated, started to turn away, then said, "Hand in there. You'll look like that guy on TV in no time."
A customer came in, a middle-aged woman with long blonde hair, and Joe went to see if she needed help. Kyle went into the dressing room and opened the underwear package. He took off his pants and loose white underwear slowly and stared at his body, which looked pale in the unflattering light.
Kyle took out a bright red pair of the bikini underwear and tried to put them on. They were too tight. Kyle got hard instantly from the pressure. He looked at himself in the mirror for a long time. He looked better and better as time passed.
After about forty-five minutes, Kyle heard a knock on the door. He felt like he was waking up from a deep sleep.
“Hey, kiddo, you still alive in there?” Joe asked.
“Yeah, I’m still alive,” Kyle said, in a flat, speculative voice. His eyes shifted to the changing room door.
“How do they look?” Joe asked, trying to sound professional.
“They’re way too tight. I think,” Kyle said. He felt a flush of courage. “Do you think I could get your opinion on how they look.
Joe wondered if he had heard him correctly. This kid was just so lonely, dying for attention. After a moment, Joe decided not to keep Kyle waiting. This kid was brave, he had to admit. Plus, Joe was so turned on that the rational part of his brain shut off. The job? Who cared, who cared about the boring job.
“Yeah, I’ll take a look, kiddo,” Joe said. “Open the door.”
Kyle’s heart thumped loudly in his ears, and he felt like he was going to pass out. He opened the door and stood as far away from the glaring overheard light as he could.
“Nice,” Joe said, his eyes clouding over with lust; a hint of Kyle’s dark pubic hair curled out of the top of the underwear waistband. Joe wondered whether he should continue, somehow, with customer/employee formality. But when he saw Kyle’s anticipatory, bright-eyed face, he knew he couldnt.
“Turn around,” he said. “I want to see you from the back. Like on the package.” Joe’s mouth was slightly open and he was nodding his head. He was beginning to enjoy the role of older guy/teacher.
Kyle turned, arched his back, and widened his stance slightly. He was shaking with pleasure.
“They’re way too small, buddy,” Joe said, softly, as he cocked his head to get a better view. “They barely cover you back there. Sorry I got the smalls.”
“You are?” Kyle asked.
A bit of silence.
“No…no…I’m not sorry,” Joe said deliberately. “You look so hot. Like neutron hot.” There was a long silence. Kyle stood for an eternity while Joe surveyed him from every angle, keeping his distance.
“Okay,” Kyle said, finally. “Could you get me the mediums?” he asked, not knowing what else to say.
His trance broken, Joe said, “Yeah, stay right there.” He turned and dashed to the underwear section. His palms broke out in a sweat as he ran back to the changing room. Kyle hadn’t moved an inch. Joe opened the medium package and threw Kyle a red pair. They landed on the floor.
“Take the ones you have off and putt those on,” Joe said, closing the changing room door and locking it. Kyle flinched when he heard the door lock, and he stared at the package on the floor. “Bend over and pick them up,” Joe said softly. Kyle did as he was told, and the top half of his butt popped out of the size small briefs. Joe licked his lips.
“Look at me,” Joe said. Kyle shifted his gaze from the floor and turned around. Their eyes met. A connection was made, a strong connection, welded willingly by mutual smiles. The smile on Kyle’s face was big and toothy, and it transformed his gawky appearance. All at once, for the first time, Kyle felt sexy, and he looked radioactively sexy to Joe.
“Take them off,” Joe said softly, not wanting to scare Kyle. After a moment, Kyle stripped and stood naked.
Without missing a beat, Joe said, “You’re beautiful.”
Kyle’s smile got wider and he felt blessed. He felt as if he were going to cry, too. He’d been so unhappy for so many years. This first taste of adult happiness was new to him, and it demanded everything he had.
“Turn around now, kiddo,” Joe said, his lowered voice daring to edge this exchange into something smutty. “I want to look at your tight teenage ass,” he said, fetishing their age difference.
Kyle turned and Joe let out an involuntary grunt.
“Can I see you, too?” Kyle asked, tentatively.
Joe stepped closer to Kyle and stripped off his shirt, then his shoes, then his pants and underwear.
They weren’t Joe and Kyle, finally, and they weren’t in a dressing room in Ridge City Mall anymore. They created another location.
At last, Joe asked, “When are you eighteen?”
They both laughed, coming down to earth.
“Next summer,” Kyle said.
Carefully, Joe asked, “Are you a virgin?”
“I don’t have any friends,” Kyle said, skipping the smaller point and arriving at the larger issue. Somehow, he felt that he had permission to jump to what was important---he felt that this man would understand. “I don’t really have anyone. I’m alone all the time,” Kyle said. Then, he felt he had gone too far.
There was a pause. Kyle was in agony.
“You’ll have me,” Joe said.
All during the fall, winter, and spring of Kyle’s senior year in high school, he walked to Ridge City and tried on clothes in front of Joe. White briefs, black briefs, sleeveless shirts, and jeans, lots of jeans. “You look so great in tight jeans,” Joe said, running his eyes from Kyle’s tiny hips down to his feet. Joe started giving Kyle tips on how to bulk up, and though the young man remained almost painfully skinny, by the spring his body had developed more definition.
Joe talked lovingly about every little change and improvement he saw in Kyle’s body, and he talked and talked about what they were going to do on Kyle’s eighteenth birthday. Hypnotically, Joe would murmur detailed, fantastically dirty things he was going to do to Kyle, always coming back tenderly to what he was going to do to Kyle’s “tight little teenaged ass.” The repetition of this phrase grew more powerful each time Joe said it.
Kyle would constantly interrupt and say he wanted to do all that now, but Joe would shake his head and say, “We have to wait until you’re legal, sweetie. You can wait, can’t you? Let’s go over some of the different positions we’re going to use…”
Kyle would stare at himself in the mirror as Joe stared at him. Most of the time Joe brought in clothes, leaned against the door, and half whispered instructions to Kyle, spiked with lurid commentary. Kyle was ordered to turn and stretch and bend, to hold strange and difficult poses. “We have to train that cute little body of yours,” Joe said. “It has to be flexible and ready to take cock. That’s all you’re gonna do, is take cock. I’m going to fuck your tight little teenaged ass every single day.”
“You are?” Kyle would ask.
“Every single day,” Joe would repeat.
“Yes, Joe,” Kyle would say.
“On your eighteenth birthday, you’re going to take my dick.
Kyle smiled happily and put his arms around his savior.
One day, a month before his eagerly awaited eighteenth birthday, Kyle asked, “Would you try on clothes in front of me?”
Joe smiled. “You want to see me do that? He asked.
“Yeah, I want to look at you again,” Kyle said.
Joe went off and got himself a pair of small-sized blue jeans. He came into the dressing room and slowly started to take his clothes off in front of the mirror. Kyle was dazzled, and Joe was proud of his strapping body.
“This is yours,” Joe said, running his hands down his body and then grabbing his dick.
“Mine,” Kyle said.
It took Joe a while to get into the jeans. When they were on, Kyle went to Joe and kneeled down. Joe took Kyle’s head and rubbed it deep into his crotch, then leaned back into a wall and let out a contented moan. Joe looked at them in the mirror and smiled at Kyle’s fresh young nakedness, crouched over awkwardly, worshipping his maturity and largesse. They stayed in this position for such a long time that it felt to Kyle like he was not quite there anymore, like he was looking at himself in a movie on television.
Finally, Joe pulled Kyle upright. “You’re so sweet,” he said. “You’d do anything I asked, wouldn’t you?” Kyle nodded eagerly. “You’d even give your tight little teenaged butt to an old, ugly fat guy if I told you to, wouldn’t you?” Joe asked. “I want to see the oldest, nastiest, fattest guy come right in your sweet little face,” he continued. The sound of a customer finally broke up their scene. Kyle left in a hurry.
On his eighteenth birthday, Kyle walked all the way to Ridge City for the first time in weeks, in the tightest blue jeans he owned; underneath he wore the red bikini underwear he had bought on their first day together in the changing room. When he got to Joe’s store, Kyle stood and blinked, over and over. The store was gone, closed; boarded up and abandoned. Kyle’s hands broke into a sweat. He ran around the mall, the ugly, boring mall, hoping to see Joe. He wondered if he could ask anyone what had happened to the store, but he knew no one there, only Joe.
For an hour or two, he walked around jerkily, trying not to cry. Finally, he sat down in front of the bus stop, and he did cry. He cried for all the years of waiting. He cried for feeling like the most rejected reject. He cried, at last, for no reason at all. An old lady lumbered up to him and, without saying a word, offered him a Kleenex. He sat next to her on the otherwise empty bus all the way home. As his stop neared, Kyle dried his tears a final time and murmured, “He liked me. At least someone liked me.”