Read the first chapter of An Older Man:
Moe Pearlman only went to the beach at night.
He wasn’t scared of the mid-day sun’s ultraviolet rays, even though he’d recently gotten his first sunburn on his scalp — where a bald patch rapidly spreading across the center of his salt-and-pepper buzz cut left him newly exposed to such things. And he wasn’t afraid that someone might see him in a swimsuit, although he had to admit that it wasn’t a good look for someone carrying around an extra twenty pounds. Or thirty.
No, the reason Moe always waited for dark before hitting the beach during his annual trip to Provincetown was simple: sex.
Whatever the tourist brochures touted as the town’s top attractions — the Pilgrim Monument, the art museum, the bike trails through the dunes — Moe was drawn to the spot that never made it into print, the Dick Dock. It wasn’t glamorous: a crummy strip of sand on the town beach, the unloveliest of Provincetown’s many beaches, under the Boatslip, a bayside hotel known for its popular daily tea dance. Many of the guys who danced and dished and sipped planter’s punch on the Boatslip’s wooden deck in the afternoon returned to get their rocks off several hours later beneath the same creaking planks, the sound of the cleaning crew sweeping away discarded short straws and lime wedges just over their bobbing heads.
Including Moe, who thought of himself as the mayor of the Dick Dock. Or at least its goodwill ambassador.
The Dick Dock was what drove Moe, a basically lazy New Yorker who rarely ventured beyond lower Manhattan, to schlep seven hours to the tip of Cape Cod every summer. The sex was that good. And even when it wasn’t good, it was easy. Which, Moe had realized long ago, was nearly the same thing.
So when Moe arrived Sunday night on the last ferry from Boston, he already knew his evening’s plans.
“I can’t wait to get to the beach,” Moe told Gene as they walked up MacMillan Wharf, wheeling their suitcases behind them.
“Going fishing?” Gene teased.
“More like bear-hunting,” said Moe. “Did you get a load of the guys on that ferry? Major woof.”
Bear Week in Provincetown drew big, hairy guys from across the country by the thousands. Some had muscles, some just bellies; all had come to frolic with like-minded, like-bearded guys who had similar appetites and similar kitschy tattoos. Moe had been to Bear Week before, so he was prepared. Gene had been to Provincetown many times, but never for Bear Week, so the crowd on the ferry was his first taste of what awaited him.
“My horoscope said an older man would bring unexpected romance,” said Moe.
“You don’t actually believe that,” said Gene.
“No, it’s a bunch of bullshit,” said Moe. “Except that it’s always true.”
Gene raised an eyebrow. “And you’re going to find romance under the dock?”
“I’ve found it in stranger places,” he said, looking into Gene’s eyes. He didn’t need to finish that thought: I met you in a tearoom, didn’t I?
“Well, good luck,” said Gene. “I’ve already trapped my bear for the week.”
“And he can’t get away unless he gnaws off his own leg.”
Moe stopped and turned around. “Where is your huzbear?” he asked.
Gene smacked Moe’s hand. “God, I hate that word,” he said. “And he’s right . . . here. . . . Well, he was here a minute ago.”
“Lost another one?”
Gene scowled at Moe, then cupped his hands over his mouth and called, “Carlos? Carlos?!
Carlos was a good fifty feet behind them, dragging his own suitcase while also trying to manage a knapsack, a mesh tote bag, and a footlong hot dog he’d just bought. He heard Gene calling and picked up his pace, the wheels of his luggage clicking in a hurried rhythm on the wooden boardwalk.
“A hot dog?” Moe whispered to Gene. “Didn’t he have a sandwich on the train? And a whole package of powdered doughnuts on the boat?”
“You’re one to talk,” Gene whispered back. “You think I don’t know that when you said you were going to the men’s room on the ferry, you were really scarfing down an ice cream sandwich?”
“It’s Bear Week,” said Moe, patting his belly. “I’ve got to stay in shape.”
“Well, the same goes for Carlos,” said Gene. “So don’t say a word. I don’t need some kind of stupid bear fight this week.”
Moe locked his mouth shut with a tiny, imaginary key. Gene sighed.
Carlos caught up to them.
“I thought we lost you,” Gene said.
“You two were gabbing away as usual,” said Carlos, peevish, “and you just walked ahead without me.”
Gene took his hand. “Sorry,” he said, leaning in for a kiss. Carlos took a bite of his hot dog and offered Gene his cheek.
“Brrr,” said Moe, pretending to shiver. “It’s getting pretty cold for July.”
“Pay no attention to him,” Gene advised Carlos, taking the tote bag and the knapsack off his hands, as a means of apologizing. “He’s just antsy to get to the beach.”
“Tomorrow morning?” Carlos asked, with complete innocence.
Moe rolled his eyes at Gene, who returned the gesture in kind.
“Tonight,” Moe clarified, “as soon as I drop off this suitcase.”
* * *
In fact, it took Moe a bit longer than that to get ready, but only because he obsessed over details that most guys never thought about.
After unpacking and organizing his clothes in the condo’s smaller bedroom — he’d graciously offered the larger bedroom to Gene and Carlos, since there were two of them and he was, for the moment, alone — he started to plan his outfit. He’d packed a ratty pair of old jeans specifically for the Dick Dock; shorts were impractical, because he’d only end up scraping his knees on the damp sand, and there was no sense scuffing up the new 501s he’d bought just a few days before. He stuffed a light blue bandana in his rear right pocket, in case anyone was old enough to remember the hanky code. (“Cocksucker,” Moe had informed a younger man the previous summer who’d stopped him on the street to ask what it meant. “It means I’m a cocksucker. Don’t you kids learn anything about gay history in school?”) Then he looked for the perfect shirt. Something light in color, so he’d be easy to identify even in the dark, and something with buttons — better to unbutton an oxford and leave it on than to take off a T-shirt and risk losing it. He picked a green-and-white sleeveless flannel shirt, and unbuttoned it enough to show off his chest hair, which would be a major asset in this fur-loving crowd.
He stuffed a twenty in his front right pocket and left his wallet on his nightstand. He sprayed his bare arms with unscented bug spray, since he wanted to avoid mosquito bites but didn’t want to stink of Deep Woods Off or, worse, Skin So Soft. He grabbed a pack of Listerine strips, a travel-sized bottle of Purel, and the key to the condo and dropped them in his front left pocket. He checked the tide charts in Provincetown magazine to find out when high tide would soak the sands under the Boatslip’s deck, ending the fun for all but the most desperate. (At ten o’clock that Sunday night, he still had a few hours of prime time left.) Last, he put on his watch with the light-up face, since keeping track of time was essential at the Dick Dock, where waves of men washed in and out depending on the hour, much like the tides in Cape Cod Bay.
He took one last look in the mirror. He wasn’t happy with how he looked; he never was. But he figured, This is as good as it’s going to get — and anyway, it’ll be dark. He switched off the light and headed out.
Gene and Carlos were on the front porch, standing shoulder to shoulder, watching the bears heading toward the bars up Commercial Street.
“You’ve got the place to yourself,” Moe said. “Just try to finish up before I get home. These walls seem pretty thin.”
Gene didn’t respond, but Carlos did: “We’ll try,” he said, rubbing Gene’s shoulder. “But I can’t make any promises.”
Carlos seemed happier now that the two of them were going to get some time alone. Moe tried to be sympathetic; it can’t be easy, he told himself, for Carlos to take a vacation with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Then again, he thought, Carlos didn’t have to come.
“See you later, then,” said Moe. “If you need me, you know where to find me.”
“Sugar bear, everyone knows where to find you,” said Gene. “You practically posted it on Facebook.”
Moe, who was always careful about timing, stepped out of the house at five past ten. Walking from their condo in the East End to the Dick Dock in the West End would normally take almost a half hour, Moe knew. He’d been coming to Provincetown for more than a decade, and he had it all down to a science. But he also knew that tonight, it would take longer because he’d have to stop along the way.
The first part of the walk was the quietest, past the guesthouses and art galleries in the East End. The flow of people was entirely one-way at this hour: single guys and couples and groups of friends, all men, heading west on foot or on their rented bicycles — either way, in the middle of the street — ready for a big night out.
Next Moe came to the center of town, the straightest part of Provincetown. Day trippers from the Lower Cape filled mediocre outdoor restaurants. Straight locals — skinny teenage boys wearing oversized skater shorts, sun-wrinkled older men who’d been drinking since morning, young Jamaican guys who came to town to wash dishes for the summer, and the giggling, gum-chomping girls who garnered attention from all of them — gathered outside the handful of straight bars that Moe had walked by for years without ever entering. Vacationing families with little kids sat on the benches in front of Town Hall, listening to a young woman mumbling folk songs as she strummed her beat-up guitar. The gay men who were merely passing through this section of Commercial Street grew quieter for a while, staying on the sidewalk and trying not to attract attention. They needn’t have worried; straight people in Provincetown loved gay guys — although they were fond of showier types, like shirtless gym bunnies with impossible bodies and glowstick necklaces, or drag queens with towering wigs and bright green eye shadow. Bears didn’t register on their poorly tuned gaydar. To them, the bears were just a bunch of fat guys. So the gays and the straights slipped by each other, for a change, nearly unnoticed.
An invisible line ran across Commercial Street just past Town Hall where straight people always turned back like dogs at an electronic fence, saying things like “That’s pretty much the end of it,” or “There’s nothing further up this way.” Gay men understood that the West End is where Provincetown actually begins, and that everything up until that point is a mere prelude. An amuse bouche, some might say, with exaggerated French accents.
Once Moe crossed that line, he slowed down and watched the crowds get gayer and hairier and more densely packed. Other weeks, lesbians made up closer to half of the people on the street, and a whole variety of gay men of every possible type would be present. But on that Sunday night, the bears roamed the West End unchallenged.
On the sidewalk outside the Crown and Anchor, Moe felt a hand on his ass, and another hand slipped over his eyes. A deep baritone growled, “Nice hanky,” in his ear, and he knew immediately who it was: Vic, a six-foot-something daddy who was one of his longtime buddies from New York. Moe turned to give him a hug, his face pressed into Vic’s marvelous chest, a wall of muscles and gray fur. He pulled away a few seconds later when he saw Paul, Vic’s partner, standing next to him; it’s not that Paul didn’t know exactly who Moe was and exactly what he and Vic did together, but still, Moe thought, there’s no need to be tacky. He politely kissed them both hello.
“When’d you get here?” Vic asked. This was the standard question he’d be asked a hundred times in the next two days.
“About an hour ago,” said Moe.
“Great crowd, right?” said Paul, taking Vic’s hand in his.
Moe, who had been focused on his destination, hadn’t taken the time to step back and survey the crowd. But now that Paul mentioned it…
It was like someone had tapped into Moe’s erotic wish list while he slept, and assembled a crowd just to turn him on. Moe loved beards — and here, nine out of ten faces had them, some bushy and some trimmed. Moe craved beefy guys, who were present in abundance, broad shoulders and solid pecs, thick waists and muscular thighs. And Moe had a serious thing for daddies, Vic being just one of dozens of examples in his sexual stable; Moe was happy to note that most, though hardly all, of the guys at Bear Week seemed to be over forty, which put him — even at forty-two — toward the young end of the spectrum.
“This is going to be an incredible week,” said Moe, who was now scanning the crowd instead of looking at Vic and Paul. His eyes stopped when he spotted one particularly beefy specimen in the crowd, tall and broad, sporting a full red beard. Their eyes locked. Moe swallowed hard.
“Careful, Moe, or you’ll drool all over yourself,” said Vic.
“Where are you off to?” asked Paul. “We were just headed to the Vault.”
The Vault, the leather bar at the Crown and Anchor, wasn’t a bad place, but Moe had his plan, and he was sticking to it.
“I’m headed to the Boatslip,” he said.
“I didn’t think that place was open at night,” said Vic.
“Who said I wanted to go inside?” Moe asked with a wink.
“Ah, I see,” said Vic. “I’m sure you’ll be very popular there.”
He reached over and undid another button on Moe’s shirt.
“That’s better,” he said. “Now go show ’em what you got.”
The next hundred yards were the heart of the bar district: in addition to the several bars in the Crown complex, there were three bars that made up the Atlantic House, plus a couple up the hill on Carver Street. Guys who weren’t sure where to start their evenings typically stood in the middle of Commercial Street until they found a hot man they wanted to follow wherever he was going. This made the middle of the road a very busy place, so the final few blocks to the Boatslip took Moe another twenty minutes. He bumped into six more familiar faces along the way: three other buddies from home, one guy from Philadelphia he’d tricked with a few times on earlier trips to Provincetown, one local who flirted with him every summer, and one guy he’d had a weekend fling with more than twenty years earlier when he was still in college. (Neither of them had been a bear back them, but, as Moe liked to say: By the time gay men hit forty, sheer inertia takes them halfway to beardom.) Three more guys came up to introduce themselves to Moe because they’d seen his photo online, or heard about his legendary talents from one of their friends. And for several minutes, Moe stopped to sit by Spiritus Pizza simply to watch the guys from the far West End heading east toward the bars, in a mirror image of the East End commute he witnessed at the beginning of his journey.
He got some positive reinforcement at Spiritus: a wink, a raised eyebrow, and at least three strangers who woofed at him. The highest compliment a bear can get. Moe checked his watch: four minutes past eleven, time to go. He puffed out his chest and got up, ready to walk the last two blocks.
* * *
Some guys play it coy when they make the turn to the Dick Dock, as if they’re looking for a different address and have wandered down this alley by mistake. Others are petrified that someone will see them going somewhere so disreputable — and, perhaps, rat them out to their friends and boyfriends; these frightened fellows walk back and forth and back and forth until there’s nobody on Commercial Street close enough to recognize them as they turn the corner by the Boatslip.
Moe had no compunctions about being seen. He strode without shame to the corner, and turned with determination toward the Dick Dock, his sneakers scratching loudly against the sand on the pavement. He popped a Listerine strip in his mouth, checked his watch again, and walked down the steps to the sand. One man stood nonchalantly by the water’s edge, acting like he just happened to be taking a moonlight stroll past this random spot — The Dick Dock? Here? I had no idea — while checking out the latest arrivals. Moe met his gaze, nodded, and turned under the deck, ducking his head instinctively. (Only novices and drunks bumped their heads against the wooden beams.) And he was in.
He did a brief, methodical survey to find the best spot — a place close enough to any action to attract a stream of guys on the prowl, but far enough away that they wouldn’t constantly be looking over their shoulders to see who was next. He stopped just shy of the middle of the Dick Dock, next to one of the pilings holding up the deck, on the side that caught a bit of moonlight off the water. He dug his sneakers into the sand, undid one more button, and waited for the bears.
They were mostly browsing at first, like a line of hungry stoners perusing the ice cream aisle late at night: That one looks good. No, this one looks even better. Ooh, I’ve never tried that kind before. Wait, maybe I’ll just stick to what I usually get. Unless . . .
Moe got some second looks, but he knew this was just the warm-up, guys making mental notes about who was standing where, and in what order they might want to revisit them. It was tough to distinguish one person from another in the dark, especially when all the bears had certain common physical characteristics, so Moe made his own mental notes about the guys he saw. The one with the kilt? No — never a kilt, easy access be damned. The pair of daddies with matching Bear Cruise T-shirts from the previous summer? Hot separately, but too cutesy together. The guy snorting poppers all alone? No way. Moe also pre-rejected anyone who was smoking, anyone who was too fucked up to walk a straight line in the dark, and anyone chatting about anything other than sex.
That still left him dozens to choose from. And more showed up every minute, entering at one end, waiting for their eyes to adjust, and then walking up and down between the two facing rows of men — the back row ready to play, the row closer to the water watching and waiting.
It was cocksucker heaven. Yes, there was the occasional fuck that happened under the Boatslip. But whether it’s because vertical fucking is simply more difficult when you’re trying to keep your balance on the sand, or because sand and lube are natural enemies, such things were rare. There were really only two reasons most people went to the Dick Dock: to blow, or to get blown.
As the crowd got denser, the tension started to rise. All that randy male energy could only build for so long until it bubbled over into an orgy, or a fistfight, or a lavish production number — and, at least at that hour, only one of those options seemed promising. Someone’s got to get this shit started, Moe said to himself. When a burly guy in a tanktop stopped in front of Moe and fixed his eyes on him, Moe responded silently with a brief nod and a smile, and the fun finally began.
After ten seconds of kissing and a few more seconds running hands through Mister Tanktop’s carpet of thick chest hair, Moe sank to his knees in the sand. By the time Moe had undone the man’s belt, two more men had gathered to look. By the time Moe had the man’s cock out of his fly, those two men had taken out their own cocks. By the time Mister Tanktop was fucking Moe’s throat in a steady rhythm, his hands gently holding Moe’s head in place, those two men were jerking their cocks near Moe’s face — hoping to be next in line. A small crowd gathered: one barking orders at Moe in a stage whisper (Suck that fat cock! Yeah, all the way down!), one kissing Mister Tanktop and another tickling his balls as they brushed against Moe’s whiskered chin, a few more onlookers waiting for a shot at Moe’s mouth (now that they were assured it was “awesome” and “fucking amazing”), and one greedy little cocksucker who had squeezed in next to Moe, hoping to steal a few of those cocks-in-waiting away before Moe was done. When the group got too large, it split into smaller groups, just a few feet apart in either direction, like a microscopic organism replicating itself.
It was a perfect way to start Bear Week, Moe thought, as he started a running tally in his head. He got off five guys in that first group before he even had a chance to stand, but eventually that crowd dissipated, and Moe got up and looked for another spot for a fresh beginning. He moved toward the far end of the crowd — the place where only the most committed cruisers would go, those looking for a bit of privacy rather than a huge group scene.
Here he lured a bald man with a nose ring, a skinny otter wearing nylon running shorts, and a short muscle man with tattoos stretching across his chest from shoulder to shoulder. Moe played with them one at a time, in quick succession. They had a few things in common: They were all hairy, bearded, and older than Moe. And they all wanted what only Moe Pearlman could deliver: the best blowjob in Provincetown.
He’d been coming to town long enough to have a reputation. Which didn’t bother Moe at all. It was good for business.
There was a brief lull as the Dick Dock thinned out. Some guys stopped there before going out, and they usually started to leave before midnight, to catch one last drink at the bars. Moe checked his watch — they were right on time. But he knew this was just a temporary intermission, the tide washing out before it comes rushing back in, stronger than ever.
A few minutes later, several men showed up in leather — shorts, armbands, vests, chaps. This wasn’t exactly common; sand and salt water are not kind to leather, and no queens are more uptight about their outfits than leathermen. But Sunday night was a big night for leather in Provincetown, the night that Club Purgatory hosted a leather dance party in the basement of the Gifford House, a venue with terrible traffic flow, uneven air conditioning, and treacherously low ceilings that still managed to draw a stunningly hot crowd of sweaty men for a reliably good time. There was still another hour left before last call, so Moe deduced that either the party was a dud, leading guys to hit the Dick Dock instead, or it was so hopping that they were turning people away at the door. On a busy night like tonight, probably the latter.
One hot number looked like something out of a Tom of Finland drawing, his muscles bulging exaggeratedly in every direction, straining against his studded harness. He stopped a few feet away. Moe licked his lips. The man raised an eyebrow. Moe knelt in the sand. Message received. The man approached.
“Suck it, boy,” the man said.
He did as he was told, although at forty-two, he was hardly a boy. He’d been sucking dick for a quarter century. That thought crossed his mind as he unzipped the man’s leather pants. And as he pulled out the man’s fairly impressive uncut cock and brought it to his lips, he had another thought: As long as I live, I’ll never get tired of doing this.
He swallowed. Nine down.
Moe started looking around for number ten. A lucky number in these situations, he’d found.
And sure enough, luck brought Moe just what he was looking for: a man he’d been staring at on the ferry, someone so brutally hot that Moe — not usually a timid guy — was dumbstruck, afraid to approach him or even make prolonged eye contact on the boat. He had a silver-gray flat top, his hair close cropped on the sides, with incongruously dark eyebrows peaked over blue eyes; his gray beard was bushy around the mouth, pulling down to a point under his chin. He had gray hair everywhere — shoulders, forearms, chest, and belly — which, now that he was shirtless, was plainly visible. Even on the backs of his upper arms; could he possibly have known that Moe had the most specific, arcane fetish of all: hairy triceps? He had it all, from his mischievous smile to the thick, stubby legs peeking out of his khaki shorts.
Now that’s someone who could call me boy and make me believe it, Moe thought.
The man took a step toward Moe, who assumed his usual position on his knees. “Not yet,” the man said, leaning over and pulling Moe to his feet. He planted his lips on Moe’s and let his tongue wander. He wrapped one arm around Moe’s back and held him close, while he kissed him slowly, his tongue tracing Moe’s teeth, his lips, the roof of his mouth. Moe relaxed into the man’s embrace, tilting his head back and allowing himself to be devoured.
It was several minutes before they came up for air. The man looked Moe in the eyes, and asked, “What’s your name?”
Moe managed to get his name out.
“I’m Lou,” he said, keeping his arm hooked behind Moe.
“I want to suck your dick, Lou,” said Moe.
“I know you do, and I’m gonna let you. But we’re gonna do it . . . real . . . slow.”
More kissing followed. Lou’s beard rubbing against Moe’s neck. Moe’s lips on Lou’s nipples, his biceps, his fuzz-covered beer gut. More kissing, and more, and more, before Moe finally got his reward. Lou stood over him, looking him in the eye. Others gathered around to watch, but they remained mere spectators; Lou didn’t allow anyone to join, or to touch either one of them. They were the show, the star performers. Everyone there at that moment, Moe thought, was envious of at least one of them.
As Moe blew Lou, he looked up and took in the image of this daddy looming above, focused entirely on him. Ten was his lucky number, after all. Moe closed his eyes, and his mind wandered: Look at how he looks at me. This isn’t just a blowjob. This guy is really into me. He really likes me.
Moe gave it his all, pulled out every trick. He used his tongue in ways that tongues have never been used before, working his lips and his teeth in synch to drive Lou crazy. This was the one, the one Moe had traveled to Provincetown for, the one who was going to make this the best fucking vacation he’d ever had.
Lou said, “Here it comes!” and Moe opened his eyes again. A circle of others had formed around them, and this circle waited, all eyes on Moe, to see where he’d take the load. Moe scanned their eyes, then looked back up at Lou, and pulled him all the way in, holding onto his meaty thighs to keep him from backing away.
Spent, Lou pulled out and tucked himself back into his shorts. An arm reached down to pull Moe up — his knees weren’t as nimble as they used to be — but the arm didn’t belong to Lou. “That was fucking hot,” said a kid in a red hoodie who’d been watching; he’s the one who helped Moe up. A skinny little otter with a wispy blond beard and wide eyes. Young, really young, maybe still in college.
“Thanks,” said Moe, brushing the sand off his jeans.
Moe looked around for Lou. He was ready to stop counting for the night. He’d found the guy he wanted to get off with, that one he always waited for who would end the evening. Lou wouldn’t have to do much more than hold him again, kiss him again, while he jerked off. It would only take maybe twenty seconds — he’d been on the edge since Lou had first touched him. Then they’d walk up to Commercial Street together, chatting a bit, maybe stop for some ice cream, make a plan to get together the next day. They’d flirt idly on the street, Moe finding any excuse to touch Lou’s arms, Lou kissing Moe absent-mindedly.
But Lou was gone.
Moe walked the length of the Dick Dock, just to make sure. He checked by the water, thinking maybe Lou was taking a piss. He peeked by the entrance, thinking Lou might be waiting for him. But no.
Moe was dejected. He stood against a piling in the dark, and checked his watch. It was nearly one in the morning. The bars were closing, and the Dick Dock would soon be filling up with a new wave of horny, half-in-the-bag guys who’d struck out over cocktails — guys who came to cruise after they hit the bars. Moe wasn’t interested: Drunks were too sloppy, and couldn’t keep it up.
Spiritus Pizza was the only place that stayed open until two, so it became a sort of nightly cruising ground and after-hours street party, where everyone caught up with the friends they’d lost track of hours before, and dished about what they’d done. The idea of pizza got Moe’s stomach growling, and he had a rule about such situations: Whenever food seems more appealing than cock, it’s time to stop having sex.