Man for Man

Act Two


It began to rain hard a few minutes before two that Saturday afternoon, preventing me from meeting Robert at the Lincoln Center fountain. Forced indoors, I stood dripping wet in the cavernous lobby of Avery Fisher Hall, searching among the similarly hapless figures hurrying by outside in the central plaza, fearing that I might miss him altogether. I needn't have worried.


"Jim! There you are." The commanding voice was exactly as I remembered. I turned and saw Robert striding across the lobby, shaking an umbrella. He projected an effortless authority that made him seem taller than he in fact was. The beard he had grown for the current run of _Eugene Onegin_ at the Met softened the determined lines of his jaw, and enhanced the brightness of his smile. His nearly forty years rested lightly on him; time had burnished his looks as it had his art.

"I'm so glad I found you," he said, coming up to where I stood. "Can you believe this rain? How are you?" he cried, clasping me in a damp embrace. After a moment, I hugged him back.

He released me and stepped away, still beaming. "You look great, my friend."

"Likewise, Signor Lucarelli," I replied. "Metropolitan Opera stardom agrees with you."

"So formal, Professor," he mocked. "I'm not quite a star, yet."

"You've changed your name. Don't stars do that?"

"Oh, that," Robert said. "It makes people think of another tenor named Roberto."

"I'm sure no one was wishing for Alagna last night--your Lensky was wonderful." It had always been easy to be Robert's fan, far more difficult to be his coach and critic.

"Thank you, Jim. It was good last night. I'm glad you heard it." A pause, then Robert said, "Listen, I haven't had lunch. How about you?"

We sat in a crowded coffee shop across Broadway. Robert continued to smile, as if his good will alone could bring back the old days.

"I really haven't changed that much, have I?" he said.

"You have. Usually, you say to someone you haven't seen in a long time, 'You haven't changed a bit.' Well, I can't say that to you. You look different. Your name is different. You even talk with an accent now."

"That might be true. I've spent so much time in Europe the last few years."

"So," I said, "Bobby Lucarelli, kid from the Connecticut suburbs, has become Roberto Lucarelli, tenor of mysterious origin. No wonder my post bugged you--it blew your cover."

Months before, someone on Usenet had mentioned Robert's singing of Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly in Chicago in glowing terms, and wondered if his rise signaled a new era of great Italian voices. Unable to resist, I had posted a response: "Roberto Lucarelli's success is not a signal of the comeback of Italian singing, because he's no Italian. When I knew and accompanied him at the University of Texas and Tanglewood in the early 80s he was Bob Lucarelli, tenor, from Stamford, Connecticut." My message had gone out into cyberspace signed with my screen name, Tailorman. To my surprise, an e-mail had appeared in my in-box a few days later: "Tailorman, how is it you know so much of my dark past? Could you possibly be Jim Schneider, pianist extraordinaire? Would love to hear from you. Regards, Bob Lucarelli." So when the University sent me up to New York to look at new Steinway grand pianos for our main concert hall, I had told Robert of my impending visit. I received a delighted response and a ticket to one of his performances at the Met. Now, here we were, and already things were starting to go much as they had during our last few months together as lovers.

"If you're going to make me sound like a CIA spy, at least give me credit for figuring out your identity from your screen name."

Robert's good-humored refusal to rise to my bait perversely irritated me. "Well," I said, "something stuck from those late-night German study sessions." It was true that I wouldn't have thought he'd remember that "Schneider" meant "tailor." Robert had hated German.

"Yes, it did. You were a great teacher."

"The man behind Lucarelli's fame," I said, "I'm sure that's how the world knows me today."

"Jim, I know we lost touch, but I didn't plan it that way. Anyway, I didn't think you'd be particularly interested in what I was doing."

"Not true. I heard you sing a few years back."

"Really?" Robert said. "Where? What?"

"_La Rondine_ in Houston, spring of '89."

"So how did you like it?"

"Do I need to tell you it was magnificent?" It was the first time I had heard him since our break. His high B-flats in the second act quartet had brought me to tears.


"That's the only time I've sung Ruggero." He frowned quizzically. "Why didn't you come see me? We could have had this out years ago and be having a good time now."

"I am having a good time," I retorted. "I don't know why I didn't look you up. Maybe I couldn't stand the sight of you successful and happy."

"You won't believe this, but I would have enjoyed seeing you. I've often wished you were here, especially when I had to sing with some wretched pianist at an audition."

"Yes, I was a useful pair of hands, wasn't I?"

"Jim. Is there any point in continuing this? Maybe I should go." His tone was even, but exasperation glinted in his eyes. He had walked out more than a decade ago, after our last, incendiary quarrel. He was about to do it again, thanks to me.

I felt tired, and ashamed. "No, Robert, stay. I'm sorry." The rain had ceased and gray afternoon light filtered through the restaurant window. "You know what I'd like to do? Take the subway to the Village and walk around. Do you have time?"

I thought he would refuse, but after a moment he shrugged and said, "Sure. I haven't been there in ages." We rose and Robert paid the check, waving away my protests. Outside it was still damp, an unseasonably warm March day. We took the A train to 14th Street, then wended our way toward the river on foot, Robert taking a wool scarf from his coat pocket and carefully wrapping it around his throat. Determined to keep things pleasant, I adhered to safe topics, his travels, his singing. He was to do Pinkerton, and Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Met next season, Lensky again at Covent Garden. La Scala was not a reality yet, but his management was working on it. He asked about his former professors at the university, now my colleagues.

"How's Margaret?"

Margaret Foster had been Robert's voice teacher. "Pretty frail, but as sharp as ever. She'll be glad to know I saw you. She still talks about that Fledermaus we all did."

Robert was amused. "The low-budget Fledermaus with no onstage party in Act Two? What happened to that girl who tried to sing Rosalinda?"

"LeAnne Millsaps is now the wife of a Texas Senator. She is not singing."

"Thank God. And Falke, that lean baritone with the incredibly blue eyes, what was his name--Brian Jones?"

"Died of AIDS, about five years ago."

"Oh. Sad, I liked Brian."

"Yes," I said dryly. "Enough to give him head on our living room couch. Too bad my piano lesson was cancelled that day."

Robert groaned. "You'll never let me live that down."

"Oh, I've long since forgiven you for that," I said. "Anyway, he came over the next week while you were auditioning in Houston and fucked me silly."

Robert's look of astonishment was so transparently sincere that I laughed. "What can I say, Roberto, that singing cowboy was a slut. Fastest zipper in the West."

He shook his head. "I never knew. You still amaze me, Jim, after all these years."

Silence fell between us. By now we had reached the river, and watched the Westway traffic rush by.

Suddenly I felt my hand enfolded in his. "James," he said. The tone of his voice compelled me to look into his sorrowful eyes. "Why didn't you come with me? We would have had fun."

His fury on the night I refused to make the move to New York with him had been a dark memory shadowing this day together. I had been anticipating and dreading this moment, but his gentleness took me by surprise--so much so that I answered honestly.

"Fear--and ego," I said.

"What are you talking about? You were always so humble."

"All an act. I was afraid that if we came here together, your career would take off while I labored in obscurity." I shrugged. "That's more or less what happened anyway."

Robert thought about this. "So you thought I was good back then?"

"I knew you were the best. You know, I don't play with any singers regularly now. After you, what's the point?"

A silence, then an ironic chuckle. "Christ, Jim, you might have let me in on the secret. When I left I was sure you thought I was a stupid no-talent. You know the one thing that kept me going? I wasn't going to give you the satisfaction of not making it. "


"I guess you showed me," I said. By now, it was almost dark. Rain began to fall again, lightly, as we stood looking at the New Jersey shoreline.

Robert said softly, "It's good to have you here at last." He kissed me, his mustache tickling my upper lip, his beard scratching my chin. Somehow I wasn't surprised. Nor were any of the few people walking past--this was, after all, Saturday evening in the Village.

"Where are you staying?" he asked. What was surprising was that I wanted him so much. I had been angry all day, sure that he wouldn't feel the same. It seemed he did, and the revelation overwhelmed what feeble defenses remained in my heart.

"The Parker Meridien, on West 57th," I replied. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes I do, James." He kissed me again, longer. Tears came then, and I buried my face in the damp lapels of his raincoat. His arms encircled me and held me against his broad chest.

"Don't be angry anymore. I know what I owe you," Robert said, his hands in my hair. "Can you believe that?"

I nodded, trying to compose myself.

"So can we go back to your room? I left my umbrella in that restaurant and we're getting soaked."

Shaky laughter bubbled up out of me. "You always could get a guy into bed, Lucarelli."

As he stripped back in my hotel room, I drank in the sight of his broad, hairy chest. Robert's solid musculature had always been living proof that classical singers are really athletes. Then I saw something startling. His stomach curved out a bit more than I remembered, but that wasn't why I gaped.

One thick bicep was encircled by a studded, black leather armband, and one large, dark nipple was pierced with a small, neat golden ring.

Robert grinned at my reaction, but there was a bit of anxiety in his face as well. "What do you think?" he asked.

I looked into his eyes. "When did you get into this stuff?"

"Well, I'm not really into it. I did have a buddy for a while who was. He talked me into getting this nipple ring. I actually own a full leather getup, but I don't wear it often. I like the armband, though. It's fun to have it on under your clothes," he smiled, "and watch people's reactions when they see it for the first time."

I looked at Robert, his pressed, charcoal gray woolen suit pants and expensive shoes making an incongruous contrast with all that was visible above his waist. "Damn hot-sir," I said, softly. His eyebrows arched in appreciation and he nodded silently.

I sensed the unspoken command in his attitude and moved closer to him, reaching out and gently tugging the ring. He drew in his breath. I leaned down and brushed my tongue lightly across his nipple. His hand clamped on my head and pushed me downward to my knees. "Take it out and suck it," he said flatly.

I unbuckled his belt, lowered his zipper and drew down the waistband of his white cotton briefs. His thick circumcised cock emerged, a drop of clear fluid at its tip. I lapped it up with my tongue before letting my lips surround the dark, conical head. Slowly I moved forward until I had taken in as much of the rod as I could handle. The next moment my breath was cut off as his hands roughly shoved my head into his crotch. I choked as he forced his entire length down my throat, my nose buried in his coarse, dark pubic hair.

He released me at last and I fell back, gasping for breath, my eyes watering. I was humiliated and furious-but I also felt my own hard cock pressing painfully against the pants I still had on. I looked up at Robert and saw his triumphant smile.

"Ready for more?" Without waiting for an answer, he pulled me forward. My mouth opened involuntarily as his cock approached, and once again it threatened to choke me as it descended my gullet. This time I was ready, though, and managed not to gag as I desperately tried to relax enough to accommodate his length. He sensed this and kept me off balance, fucking my face with powerful thrusts, both his hands preventing my escape. Finally he released me again. I turned my face upward, drinking in air in great gulps, my eyes closed but tears escaping, running down my cheeks.


"Stand up and strip. Leave your underwear on."

I obeyed, pulling off my shoes and socks, unbuttoning my shirt and tossing it on the bed, then unbuckling my belt and letting my pants drop to the floor. I stood with downcast eyes--instinctively I knew not to meet his. My erection jutted upward, tenting the front of my own briefs.

He had stripped off the remainder of his clothing as well. Now he approached and my breath quickened as I felt the heat of his body. By now I was totally disoriented by the scene that he had thrust me into, not knowing what to expect next. I closed my eyes and felt a gentle touch on my chest. I shivered with delight as a single finger on Robert's hand passed gently downward and slowly fondled my right nipple, then cried out as he abruptly twisted it hard, sending a sharp dart of pain through me.

I then felt the front waistband of my briefs pulled forward, exposing my erection. "Just as nice as I remember it," Robert said softly. Just as I opened my eyes, he let go and the elastic snapped back hard, directly against the head of my cock. My yelp of pain was loud and genuine, and for a moment anger overcame my submission. "You asshole-"

"Shut up!" Robert barked. "For that you're going to be punished." The harsh voice was totally unlike that of the man I knew. I sensed that he was getting caught up in the scene too, letting himself be carried into something he perhaps had not intended. There was a force in the room barely under control. Thoroughly cowed, I fell silent.

Robert took my briefs again and roughly pulled them all the way down. He lifted my feet one after the other, compelling me to step out of my remaining clothing, then picked it up and tossed it across the room. The pants hit the wall, spilling the contents of one pocket. Loose change jingled softly as it scattered across the carpet.

I worked up the nerve to meet Robert's eyes for an instant. In the dim light of one lamp they were dark and wild, his expression granite. "Turn around and grab your ankles. Stay that way."

I obeyed him without question, as he moved away to the other side of the room. The position he had commanded me to assume stretched my hamstrings, and within a few seconds the backs of my legs were aching. Nevertheless, I held it until he returned. Peering up at him through my legs I saw that he held two neckties in one hand, one of them his, the other, one of mine that he had found. In the other hand he held the small bottle of hand lotion placed in the bathroom by the hotel. He bent down, put the lotion on the floor and proceeded to lash each of my wrists to my legs. Now I was trapped in this uncomfortable and humiliating pose, my ass in the air, the hole between my cheeks fully exposed.

Robert saw me looking up at him and grinned. "Very nice," was all he said. He picked up the bottle, uncorked it and squeezed lotion out onto his hand. A moment later I felt cold wetness between my cheeks. He withdrew and used the rest to grease his own cock. I closed my eyes in anticipation of what was coming. I felt a hard blunt object press against my hole, then screamed as it broke through and slid in. Robert showed me no mercy, pushing further into me, gripping my hips and preventing my escape. "Please," I begged, tears, this time of pain, starting again out of my eyes.

"Shh," he said, for the first time in a gentler tone. "Just relax. I won't go any further right now."

Bound and bent double, I was unable to maintain my own balance. Only Robert's strong arms were preventing me from falling over. I had to place my total trust in him, impaled on his cock, held in place like an object. At last my body began to accept the invasion and the pain receded. I drew a long, shuddering sigh.

Then Robert began to move his hips, still holding me firmly, and I forgot the pain that had shot through me, forgot my aching thighs, forgot my humiliation. He thrust into me, now rapidly, now slowly, manipulating his body so that his cock slid into me at different angles, hitting new places inside me every time he changed our positions. I began to moan softly, wishing my hands were free so I could grip his thighs, his buttocks and draw him ever further into me, knowing I could never feel this complete again without his cock inside me.


As he continued to fuck me, Robert reached underneath with his slick hand, grasping my erect cock and masturbating it while he continued to thrust into me. I began to grunt rhythmically as I felt my climax approach. Hearing this, he pointed my cock directly at my face as he pushed me over the edge with his final strokes. The wail that emerged from my throat was garbled as hot salty fluid shot into my mouth and splattered over my face and chest. I eagerly swallowed, reveling in the debasement of being forced to eat my own cum. I heard Robert's harsh gasps as his own cock throbbed in my ass, dumping its load at the other end of my body.

He withdrew, and released my bonds. I stood up shakily and turned. When I tried to walk my strained muscles would not cooperate and my knees buckled. Robert caught me before I fell. "Easy, guy," he whispered. Supported by his arm around me, I made my way to the bed and collapsed onto it on my back. I saw his face above me, looking down with a worried expression.

"Was I too rough?" he asked.

Slowly, I shook my head. I tried to speak. It was a moment before the words would come out of my throat, still sore from being rammed with his cock. "Actually, I could get to like this," I croaked.

He chuckled. I reached up toward him with my arms and he laid his body on top of mine. We exchanged a long, exhausted kiss, which turned into a tongue bath as he licked off the cum that remained on my face. When he was done we continued to hold each other. I stroked his hair and beard. Nestled against his hairy chest, I felt utterly relaxed and content. After a while, Robert spoke.

"If you want to know the truth, I've never done anything like that before."

"You sure acted like you knew what you were doing."

"But I've never forced anyone into it who didn't know it was going to happen, Jim." Robert sighed and shifted his position. "I shouldn't have done that."

I shrugged. "I went with it, didn't I? I probably deserved it for being such an asshole to you today."

I saw the slow smile spread again across his face, his teeth brilliant against his dark facial hair. "Maybe something like that was on my mind, yeah. Stay in line, Jimbo, and I won't do it again."

"Aww," I groaned in mock disappointment. He laughed.

"Still up for trying new things. I always did like that about you." Robert gave a huge yawn and stretched. "God, I'm exhausted. Hope I'll be up to Lensky again on Tuesday."

I snorted. "It ain't Tristan, worrywart. God, you tenors." I sat up. "I'm hungry. Let's eat."

Dinner revived Robert enough so that when we came back to the room we had another round, more conventional but very passionate. Then, spent at last, we fell asleep in each other's arms. To this day I remember the sight of his body, glowing white in the reflected light from the street, as he walked across the room to close the curtain just before we turned in.

At breakfast, he said, "Did I tell you there's going to be an Opera News article about me? By Will Crutchfield. I'm not sure of the exact issue, but make sure and read it."

"Any special reason, other than to look at pictures of you?"

He laughed warmly, my bear with the sweet bronze voice, and squeezed my knee under the table. "You'll like it. I'll send you a copy."

It actually did arrive in mid-July. "Roberto Lucarelli, the Fourth Tenor?" was the title, and below was a photo of him, bearded. Toward the bottom of the first page, he had highlighted this passage:

[the article said] Lucarelli credits his vocal security, readily apparent in Met performances as Lensky in Eugene Onegin this season, to solid early training. His voice teacher at the University of Texas at Austin was former operatic diva Margaret Foster, but there were other formative influences that he considers equally important. "I had an accompanist and coach named Jim Schneider who I think is one of the greats. Madame Foster taught me how to sing, but Jim taught me how to pronounce languages, to interpret, to perform. He's still at the University, and I hope, working with young singers. They'd be lucky to have him."


I accepted the congratulations of my colleagues with a smile, but inside, guilt struggled with indignation. I had been blustering and bitching at Robert about having forgotten me, when he had already thanked me in a public interview. Instead of calling me on it, he had let me vent. He had the moral high ground, as well as the international career, damn him. Finally, with a sigh, I made a copy and put it in my professional file. Then I sent an e-mail to thank him.

I picked up the ringing phone in my office one afternoon and there he was on the line. "I hear there's going to be an opening at the City Opera for a repetiteur and assistant conductor," Robert said. "Say the word and the job is yours, James. I'm serious."

I was excited against my better judgment. I had long since settled into the academic life. Now, here was a belated opportunity to leap into the professional world being presented.

"What's the catch?" I couldn't help asking.

"There's no catch, Jim. I've even got a lead on a place you could rent. This actor friend of mine's moving out to L.A. but doesn't want to give up his New York digs. It's a nice apartment on the upper East Side. He has a grand piano. I'll vouch for you if you want to sublet it."

"Why are you doing all this for me, Robert?"

"Jim," his voice was pained, "Do you have to make me say it? Seeing you again last spring was wonderful. I miss you. I'm not suggesting we get back together again. It would just be nice to-have you around."

I said nothing.

"Please. At least say you'll consider it."

I sighed. "I'm not ungrateful, Bobbo. I know it's the opportunity of a lifetime. I'll think about it."

Six weeks later I sat on the plane for New York, waiting to depart. I wondered for the thousandth time whether I was doing the right thing. It had all happened so fast. The awestruck adoration of some of my summer students on hearing that their professor was leaving for a "real job" had been sweet. The thinly disguised envy of some of my peers in the Music Department, those who had failed professionally, made it a bit easier to leave. Having to leave the dogs behind made it much harder. Thinking about them now, my eyes watered, and I wasn't ashamed.

Trying to take my mind off what made me sad, I pulled out the plastic headset from the compartment in front of my seat and plugged it in. I flipped the selector until I heard classical music. It was opera, and after a few seconds I sat up alertly, listening with concentration until the selection from Puccini's _Turandot_ ended, the tenor voice soaring triumphantly to the high B and the orchestra blaring the postlude.

"That was the voice of Roberto Lucarelli, singing the lovely 'Nessun dorma,'" intoned the suave voice of the announcer. How appropriate, I thought. "Vincero, I will win," the character sings in the opera, and yes, Robert had won. I wasn't abandoning the contented life I had built so carefully, and flying off to the big city for the opportunity to join one of the great opera companies of the world. I wasn't grasping at the professional success I had refused to try for so many years ago.

I was flying across the continent to answer the plangent call of Robert's clarion tenor voice, to see his brilliant smile shine from his bearded face, to seek the comfort of his strong arms, to lose myself in his burly, strong body. Act One of the opera had ended with our quarrel, and his departure for New York. Act Two had been our reunion at Lincoln Center, and the bittersweet day and night that had followed. Now, Act Three was beginning, and only time would tell how it would all end.

I closed my eyes and leaned back, letting go of the past once and for all, as the engines roared and the plane took off for the future.


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In fictional stories it is fine to have sex without condoms, but in reality you should always use a rubber, regardless if you use Prep or not. Prep only protects for HIV, thats why other diaseases spread among Prep users that practice bareback sex.