“This is a spiritual body. This is joy.” A short story in which an apprentice blossoms into the master, becoming a guiding figure to others into a subculture where all are encouraged to be exactly who they are…
by: Mason Cashman
“I’m still shocked that we match,” Chris tells Ulysses with a nervous laugh.
Ulysses places his leather-gloved hand on my shoulder, his warm eyes passing over us under the red glow in this bar I don’t yet know well.
But I know the people, and it feels like home.
“I’m sure matching your guide isn’t the only fun you’ll have tonight,” Ulysses offers to Chris while excusing himself to greet the next arrivals paying their cover.
Our street clothes are pulled away to unveil reality: black leather with red accents, harness, jockstrap, straps tracing the sides of my ribs, combat boots, wrist cuffs, arm band, and Daddy’s collar on my neck.
Chris wears the same but with blue, and borrowing my old boots.
This is his first time at Fascination, Boston’s longest-standing queer leather and fetish night. This is his first time in leather in public.
We reach the coat check and I kiss David on the cheek as he hands me our tag.
“Enjoy yourself sexy!” David says with a wink.
“Don’t forget to come check on me — it gets lonely back there!”
“Don’t worry mister, I’ll be back for you,” I chide him. “I still owe you a drink. Remember last time?”
With Ulysses now at the helm as creative director and host — and at that point the presiding Mr. New England Leather, a public-facing representative of the region’s gay leather subculture — Fascination is expanding. The monthly queer leather and fetish event now has an updated direct code of conduct: all genders welcome, explicitly no dress code. Come as you are, as you wish.
This was his platform when competing for the Leather title. I was there when Ulysses won, working the show. Steve, my Daddy, is the originating title holder of Mr. New England Leather, and now Den Daddy of each year’s contestants, managing them backstage. Steve, Ulysses, and I are on the event weekend’s production board, behind the scenes. My unofficial title is Executive Bitch.
Ulysses, as titleholder of Mr. New England Leather, has used newfound title to make needed changes, to make our community a home for anyone who needs the space to be sexually, sensually, queerly themselves.
Chris is uncharacteristically quiet as we make our way into the cavernous main space of the bar, red and amber lights swirling with synth and bass. His hand grazes the back of my arm. I stop before we reach the throng of bodies entangling the dancefloor.
All shapes, all expressions and attires, all movements, all bodies unencumbered by the feeling of feeling unheard and unseen, all now moving under the warmth of the lights and the warmth of one another and the softness of skin to skin without care, together. Leather and lace, latex and cotton, colors and hues, heels and harnesses, boots and bodices, corsets and collars, chains and straps, tits and testosterone. Men and women and people of all bodies and all bloods, boys and daddies, pups and mistresses, gimps and girls, dykes and pigs, faggots and pussies, newcomers and friends, and reveling strangers.
This is a spiritual body. This is joy.
Standing behind me, looking to what lie ahead, Chris leans in.
“You know a lot of people here, don’t you?” He softly grips my bare arm, an anchor.
His nervous smile matches his shifted stance to one foot. I think about all we’d talked through on the two-hour drive down into Boston for the night.
His excitement to finally experience this side of himself. His intentions to take it slow but hopes to still meet new people. His wanting to explore, his worry that he’s starting too late, fear that he’s probably doing it wrong.
His questions after that first confession to me of his desire to experience the leather scene, of his genuine inquiry of these sacrilegious sacraments of my experiences in this community that I now consider family, were questions that make me stop and consider how I found myself here. Found myself again, after I’d realized that I was not meant to be a Catholic priest and lost what I knew as faith, knew as community. Lost who I was and ached to open myself to exploring some kind of authenticity. Chris reminds me of my own choice to begin to rebuild as myself.
Chris had asked for me to be a guide in this glorious maze of revelations, a congregation in praise of releasing yourself to the acceptance of your sexuality being your own.
I know, in that moment, that Kevin and Ryan, my battle buddies of gay bars and leather nights since we all moved to Boston that same fall when I was barely eighteen, when we were all completely lost and trying so desperately to find our way, will both embrace Chris with open arms and unwavering support.
I know that Roberto and Carlos, a duo of “bonus gay uncles” who have become confidants and caregivers at no expectation but to know that I’m okay, will graciously offer us their guest bedroom should we not be comfortable driving home tonight, as they offer to me every time.
I know that Carl will ask urgently and politely before pushing me against the wall in the shadowy back corner and I will giddily oblige, at which Doug will tsk and Brendan will bashfully smile, and we’ll all laugh in recollection the next evening we’re together.
I watch Chris glance over the crowd of bodies moving with an effortless sensuality, a comfort in knowing that there is no expectation but honesty.
His smile softens, the nerves easing.
“Yeah,” I say, finally responding, taking his hand, leading toward the dancefloor.
“I have a few friends here. And so will you.”
Mason Cashman uses words and photos to tell (usually) true stories. He’s the managing editor of Barnstorm Journal, in the MFA Nonfiction Creative Writing program at the University of New Hampshire, a local to the state, and a fifth-generation townie. His words have been published in/are forthcoming from Bullshit Lit, The Hopper, New Feathers, upstreet, and elsewhere. He’s on Twitter and Instagram @MasonMCashman.