I was never the gay teenager who experimented with curious “straight” boys. It’s not that I wasn’t open to it. Believe me, as a closeted horny gay kid in Texas, I fantasized about it constantly but the opportunity passed me by—until now.
Earlier this summer, I was on my way home from the gym—in full mask and gloves, and before Los Angeles gyms shut down for a second round of closures—when I saw a face I recognized on Grindr.
“Just moved here,” his bio read. I made the move from New York City to L.A. last fall, so I figured we must have met at some point while I was living back east. Suddenly my phone buzzed and I saw the dots moving: “I know you,” he wrote. Then it dawned on me.
This guy was a personal trainer at my old gym in Queens whom I side-eyed routinely. He would always bring his girlfriend to the gym. One day I remember complimenting her perfect lunges, which he credited to himself before wrapping his arm around her hips and rubbing her forearm with his giant fingers.
Turns out, he made the move to the West Coast just before the pandemic went into full swing. His only experience of L.A. was that of his locked-down apartment building and a few short weeks of open hiking trails. But it was the latter part that got his attention most. Apparently he didn’t realize how sexy the hikers would be at Runyon Canyon, a popular hiking trail in the Hollywood Hills. He said he’d gone there the day before and felt a new sexual awakening (I blame it on the incline).
“The focus on fitness here is on a whole other level,” he wrote, which was a total personal trainer cliché. I imagined him reaching his arms around to pull down his man bun, which as I remember was never ratty but always slicked, as his apple-like biceps peeked from inside his shirt and his shoulder-length locks fell just behind his ears. Ugh, he was a sight.
“Definitely,” I wrote. Then, the elephant in the room: “The men here are sexy,” he wrote.
Bingo. “I didn’t realize you were open to guys,” I said, to which he replied, “I actually have never hooked up with a guy before… I wanted to with my ex-gf but it never happened…. I’m kinda just browsing on here and seeing what’s up…. You want to meet?”
Straight to the point, spoken like a true New Yorker. I had to reprimand myself. Was the middle of a pandemic the right time to break someone’s gay cherry? To play devil’s advocate, if we were distant and up front, couldn’t there be a way around it that’s safe? My body was nearly convulsing thinking about it. I heard my best friend’s judgmental voice saying, “Don’t do it. COVID is a tricky bitch. Don’t do it.”
“Sure, let’s do it,” I replied.
We met at Runyon Canyon 20 minutes later, almost an hour before sunset. At the top of the trail there is a slight curve leading to a lookout point. There was no one in sight. Then I saw him turn the corner, slightly out of breath. My knees almost buckled.
First of all, his man bun was no more— probably a good thing. His teeth were more perfect than I remembered, and it took all my energy not to stare at the silver spandex peeking out of his red gym shorts. The hairs on his legs were just fuzzy enough for me to wonder what the rest of the package looked like.
We knew what we were there to do, though we weren’t sure how, so small talk was short. We moved to the bench, which looks out on a beautiful view of Hollywood. I was surprised at how eager he was for this being his first time. With my consent, he grabbed my hand and pulled it down to his shorts, which were slightly damp but odorless and clean. We didn’t kiss, but I certainly went in to smell his neck and ears before moving my head down the curve of his left pectoral, which was poking out of his loose sleeveless shirt.
He reached over to my lap too, with my consent, and like a pro began to touch all the right places. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was looking behind us to ensure our privacy, but I also found it hard to not stare into this man’s eyes—which, by the way, never looked away.
I could feel him growing between my fingers. “You’re good at that,” he whispered. In any normal circumstance I’d respond, but in this moment I remained frozen and unnerved. I’d never experienced anything like it. I was anxious but also completely free.
He pulled his shorts down, unabashed and unafraid, and started touching himself. As a former church kid, I kept waiting for God to intervene but was very happy she turned a blind eye. I continued to look behind us to make sure no one was watching. He ultimately finished on the dirt beneath the bench, just as the sun was starting to turn red-orange.
He pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer and poured a generous amount into my hands before we parted ways. He continued hiking downward as I walked up toward my car near Mulholland Drive. I looked back and said, “Hit me up sometime.”
He smiled. I smiled. In my opinion, all New Yorkers look better in California.
David Artavia is an award-winning writer. Follow his adventures @DMArtavia.