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People in Mirrors by Zero
People in Mirrors | Closer Than They Appear
They weren't supposed to ask questions. Or not that kind anyway. The discretion of their employees was the hallmark of a good hotel. Damian knew, understood and adhered to that principle like a creed. And still...
The phone rang in the hotel reception. By mandate of heaven or hell, it seemed that he always was the one that took those calls in the reception. The bass-baritone voice on the other side of the line recognized his own tenor’s one.
"Suite for two? All-included, right?" he had memorized all of his requests at this point. He even knew what he would want for breakfast the day he left. Salmon avocado toast with honey mustard and cream cheese. Mango slices. Orange juice. Scrambled eggs with tomato and caramelized onion. Not overcooked. Macchiato. Brown sugar.
"Yes, the usual" in the ring of that voice, he could read the end of a smile. No. Not a smile. A smirk. A trigger.
"We’ll be expecting you then, Mr. Samson" he answered, polite, professional and proper, the way he always was "Thank you and have a nice day".
The call ended. Just like that, there it was again. The questions. The images inside his mind, robbing him of his ability to focus.
Thaddeus Samson was a guest that made him uneasy, like an itch or a fever.
He always stayed a night, two at most, three on a rare occasion. His weren't tourist escapades, oh, but they weren't business ones either.
His stays were sporadic, but they were recurrent enough for him to remember names. Damian wondered if he knew his.
"Samson, huh?" his colleague asked him after he had dismissed an elderly couple.
"Yes" he nodded curtly.
"Accompanied, am I right?"
"He didn’t say" Damian wasn’t going to pry about Thaddeus Samson with the other. He was his junior. He had to set an example. He couldn’t let him in with nonsensical gossip about their guests. It was unethical.
"When is he coming?".
His colleague put the key they handed back away "Do you think he’s married?".
"No". He would have a tan line from the ring around his hand, if he was, wouldn’t he? Damian didn’t voice that hypothesis out loud.
"What he does kind of gives me the creeps, to be honest".
Seeing they had a minute alone, he let loose his hair, feeling his bun was coming undone "It isn't anything illegal, tho".
"Well, he tips well" his younger colleague shrugged "I don't want to know what he's doing to those twinks he comes in with, but I don't want him to leave either".
Those twinks he comes in with. Damian didn’t say any further.
If he knew one thing about Thaddeus Samson at all, (which, again, he shouldn’t) was that he definitely had a type. He had seen dozens of young, good-looking men come in with him. He didn't think they were escorts. (Maybe some of them were, but he refused to believe a man like Thaddeus Samson would have the need to hire someone to please him).
He would summarize them all like this: Younger, angelical and symmetrical faces, clean-shaven, slender, tall but never taller than him, well-groomed, usually dressed with that minimum/excessive effort convergence in their style, either wide-eyed, nervous and green or with the overconfident demeanor of amateurs.
And above all that, they always had long hair. Black, blond, red, curls, waves, straight hair that fell in perpendicular to their shoulders, that was indifferent as long as it touched their jawbone at the shortest, shoulder blades at their longest.
And every morning, the day he left, there was always a full head of hair on the floor of the suite he occupied.
He reminded himself that he shouldn’t be having questions. His curiosity was unjustified. It was a dangerous, pervasive thing whispering at the edge of his ear that he had to keep under control.
They had had more morally-dubious guests, of course.
But they didn’t have any other guests like Thaddeus Samson.
Their predictions had materialized. On Thursday, Thaddeus Samson’s figure was reflected in the mirror of the wall of the hall as he came in. It was almost like watching him come in doubles, twice. That second him in the corridor added to his otherness. Like he could be in more than one place at the same time.
At first, Damian thought he wasn’t a local. Then, he thought that maybe the man actually lived in this city. But it was him who, as an outsider, assumed that everyone had been in the city longer than him, even the very first drops of rain from April seemed to belong more to this place than Damian did.
Thaddeus Samson’s eyes were quickly on him. He dismissed his colleague for him, because of the familiarity he had developed for his face and voice. Did he know his name?
He welcomed him in with a smile. As instructed in all the hospitality courses he had taken. As he stared at the man who came back like seasons, like a wave to their gates. Broad-shouldered and framed. Almost always the tallest man in the reception, in the restaurant, in the elevator. Piercing, sharp, green eyes. He had expression lines at the corner of his eyes when he grinned. Dense, dark stubble on his face, not a millimeter growing astray. Thinly sprinkled with gray hairs. Then, above his eyebrows, the most perfectly shaven head Damian had ever seen.
Maybe Thaddeus Samson had battled and lost against male-pattern baldness or a receding hairline. But nothing on his scalp hinted that he had ever had hair at all. Damian knew he had it shaved because he had caught sight of him getting it done in the hotel’s barbershop once. Thaddeus Samson had a vanity to him that both repulsed and attracted him.
Damian knew it shouldn’t. Yet, he had walked past that barbershop more than once when he had seen Thaddeus Samson in it.
Then, beside him, Damian saw his companion. Twenty-five? No. Younger. Twenty-two, perhaps. He stood there with his hands in his front pockets, in what was a poor imitation of the older man’s demeanor. Oh, this was the feisty, overconfident type. White polo. Designer jeans. White Chuck Taylors. Anchor tattoo on his wrist. Straight, light hair down to his chin. Natural blond, sun-highlighted strands. His best feature, actually.
This one was not going to be okay with losing it. He could see it in the way he wore it like a trophy, in how he fingered it like a weapon of seduction.
"Did I remember to ask for an extra set of towels?" the man asked him, taking off his leather jacket.
"No, we’ll have them sent to your room in no time, sir" Damian stretched his shoulders as he went through the reservation on the system, he rotated his head slightly to the side.
"Excuse me, but, what's that on your neck?".
The polite phrasing that Thaddeus Samson used still seemed to invade his boundaries.
"It's a birthmark, sir".
He fixed the collar of his shirt, getting it to engulf that horrid stain that crept up his neck. He could feel his eyes like hands over his throat.
That thing that gained him unwarranted attention from bullies back when he was a kid, that he had been looking into getting surgically removed if possible.
"Your key, sir" he smiled at him. His customer-centered, trained smile.
"Would you set me up an appointment with Jude in the barbershop for tomorrow morning?".
"Of course, sir".
Thaddeus Samson flashed him an engulfing grin "Thanks, Damian".
He knew his name.
He saw him run a single hand through the hair of his younger companion, then he watched him leave. His reflection seemed to linger in the mirror of the hall beyond his footsteps. Just like that he was dimensions and planes of existence away.
Whenever they crossed paths in the entrance, their own images on the wall seemed close enough to touch each other, at an arm-length distance.
The sound of his name in that bass-baritone rang in his ears as day became night. It followed him around when he we left the hotel and watched that light on behind the curtains in room 505, facing east.
He shouldn’t be asking himself questions. He shouldn’t be wondering.
Most of all, he shouldn’t be imagining anything.
Damian arrived early next morning. He got dressed in the staff’s restrooms. He would have night shift that weekend. He covered for a colleague. He needed the extra hours to pay his tuition. He saw himself with his hair down for a second. It was down to his breastbones. Long enough to cover his awful, red-pink birthmark that stretched behind his ear, into his scalp.
He felt grateful that the uniform had a high collar that covered most of it. He did his hair into a sleek bun. It was a relief that the hotel didn’t have a policy concerning the length of his hair. He had still asked if he had to get it cut during the interview.
He went past the hotel’s barbershop as he went through the inner corridors of the hotel towards the hall. Thaddeus Samson would be there as soon as it opened. The thought had found its way to creep into his head. He shook it away. It wasn’t his place to dwell on that. He set an appointment. He would remind him if necessary. That was it.
Then out of the elevator, he saw him. Thaddeus Samson’s companion. He still had the white polo from yesterday. He recognized the anchor tattoo on his wrist. Pale, stark white, shaved head now. He made eye contact with him for a split second and then Damian saw him drop his gaze as he remembered his face.
He walked past him. He shouldn’t be asking himself things. He shouldn’t have images in his head. But Damian looked over his shoulder and then into the mirror and saw that raw, bare, exposed scalp of that other youth with his heart thundering.
He wondered if Thaddeus Samson told them anything beforehand. If they agreed or if he lured them in and captured them. He reminded himself he shouldn’t.
Then, a while later, Thaddeus Samson went to his reception desk. Damian saw something very akin to satisfaction and victory in the depth of his eyes when he arrived. He had come to ask him for their conference rooms capacities and equipment.
Damian remembered suddenly as he finished describing the area to him "Sir, I believe you have an appointment in the barbershop, today?".
"Oh, yes! I do! Thanks for the reminder!" the man slid his hand across his naked scalp.
"No problem, sir" he nodded and smiled.
"You look like you could also use an appointment with a barber" the humor in his tone decreased at the end, and Damian wasn’t sure what to make of it.
"I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks, sir" politeness and courtesy came natural to him, like defense mechanisms.
Thaddeus Samson’s golden eyes flickered "Don’t just keep it in mind, son".
There was an edge of a demand in his deep voice that Damian felt pierced through him. Thaddeus Samson dismantled it with a booming laugh as he left. His reflection in the mirror’s hall held such weight and mass, he could almost touch it.
He knows he shouldn’t.
Yet he does.
He avoided the hotel’s barbershop. He went about his day. He didn’t hear Thaddeus Samson’s voice echoing in his mind. He swore he didn’t hear him saying his name or asking him anything. Not through the day. Not through the afternoon.
That changed in nightfall. The phone rang at the hotel reception past midnight. When his shift was almost over and he was just getting ready to leave "Damian?".
"Mr. Samson, yes?" his heartbeat quickened, he tightened his grip around his ballpoint pen.
"Could you come for a second to my suite? I can’t seem to turn on the hot water".
Proper. Professional. Polite. "I’ll send you a plumber right away, sir".
"Oh, I tried calling maintenance already. No one is answering, that’s why I decided to call you instead" there was a pause on the other side of the line "Could you come?".
The guests come first. They always do. This is what he should do "Of course, sir".
In four minutes, Damian was knocking the door of room 505 and Thaddeus Samson was opening the door to him. He removed his uniform’s jacket, wrapped up his sleeves up to elbows and went into the bathroom.
He turned on the faucet. The water was cold indeed. The older man stood at in the door frame watching. Damian could see him in the mirror above the sink. He knelt underneath to reach for the pipes. He turned one of the safes. Tried to. It was harder than it appeared. He pushed harder until it subdued and moved.
Then, he put his hand under the water running in the faucet. It started to warm up. Mist and vapor floated around the stream.
"Well, looks like that is taken care of, sir" Damian dried his hands on the towel.
"Thanks, son, let me serve you a drink!".
"Sir, that’s not necessary" as soon as he stepped out of the bathroom, Thaddeus Samson had a grip on his shoulder and led him to the suite’s corner.
He hurried to pour him whiskey. Expensive kind, he could see in the bottle. He took a light sip and thanked his gesture.
"Yesterday night was hard to do a shave with cold water, you know?".
"I can imagine, sir" Damian choked slightly on his drink, then he caressed his jaw, he had never been able to grow a full beard.
"But you fixed it, so now, I can do it properly" Thaddeus Samson got up his chair and Damian heard drawers being opened and closed.
He came back and set a full barbering kit over the table, in his line of sight. He took a heavy set of hair clippers in his hand and oiled them with great care.
"I should be going, sir. I was glad I was of assistance" he put his glass down.
"Damian. You know what I do. And I know that you’re very discrete and polite. And I’ve also noticed the way you look at me and the boys I’ve had here" Thaddeus Samson cut to the chase "Now, I know this can be compromising for you. And I’m a decent man, I won’t try to coax you into anything... but I have a feeling that you want a shave".
"This is..." Damian was at loss for words.
"Your call. Not mine, son" the older man shot his hands up in the air, showing him his palms.
"I’m afraid you’re confused, sir".
"Am I?" Thaddeus Samson bent forward with his arms over his knees "I promise you I won’t do anything you don’t want me to or force you into anything. But I will be rough if you want me to" he added "If you want just a shave, then I’ll keep my word to just that. Now, if you’d like something else...".
He used and discarded all those other men. He consumed them like cigarettes. Damian had no reason to believe it would be any different with him. But he didn’t expect it should be at all.
He wouldn’t fall in love with Thaddeus Samson. Thaddeus Samson wouldn’t fall in love with him. This wouldn’t lead to unfulfilled promises or broken hearts. Damian thought that ephemerality was something they both understood on equal terms. The freedom of them being uncompromised after this. They could stay clear on that.
He wasn’t stupid or feeble, and if Thaddeus Samson didn’t pretend otherwise, this could be a fuse that was gone in a blink and they would both be at peace with that.
Besides, he really wanted to stop wondering.
Damian slid into the chair. Before the barbering implements. He found himself oddly calm at the idea of letting Thaddeus Samson shave his head. That wouldn’t last for long, tho.
"Can I kiss you and touch you?" he felt the older man slide his hand down to the buttons of his shirt and undo them.
"Call me sir, son" Samson quickly worked his way around the last button of his shirt. Damian removed it from his shoulders.
"Yes, you can, sir" he corrected himself.
The older man raked his fingers through his hair, digging deep into his scalp. He enjoyed the slight pull of his hand "I like you, son" Samson snaked his fingers through the bun to set his mane loose around his shoulders "And I’m going to like you even more after we’re done".
He saw the edge of a hungry smirk in his face as he picked up the hair clippers.
"Do you want me to like you more, Damian?".
The sound of his name on his lips, on that deep bass made him lose his mind.
"I want you to like me more, sir".
A loud snap was followed by the buzz of the clippers. Samson secured his chin in one hand, forcing him to look at him "Don’t turn your eyes away from mine".
Suddenly, his bronze eyes were the only mirror in the world he wanted to see himself reflected in "I won’t, sir".
He placed the metallic teeth against the center of his forehead, in a way that evoked a baptism for him. Damian held his breath. He focused on Samson’s golden gaze. Then, softly, he felt the clippers go across the curve of the top of his head.
"You’re going to thank me for this, son" he felt him lift the clippers from his head, and the locks of his hair sliding down.
"I will, sir" the metallic teeth glided over his scalp a second time.
Damian noticed that there weren’t any mirrors he could see himself or Samson in nearby. They had finally solidified, and his hands were not duplicating, and they had fused into singular visions of themselves.
They became real.
Samson finished buzzing the top of his head and rubbed it with his fingertips for a minute. He heard a guttural moan of pleasure being born inside his throat. Damian found himself purring, craving that touch on the rest of him.
"Don’t enjoy it too much. You’re getting razored after this" Samson tilted his head to the side rather forcefully and placed the clippers up his sideburn.
Damian abandoned himself to the sensations as Samson passed the clippers multiple times around his ear, until he had fully buzzed his temple all down to stubble. Oh, how it showed that he had done this a thousand times.
He complied. He submitted to his every command. He admitted to himself that he had fantasized of doing so. Samson placed the clippers on the base of his neck. He went up to his crown. Damian saw his hair falling around him. It pooled on the floor, where a mass of blond locks had been yesterday night.
His hair was joining that recollection of indiscrete gossip from the cleaning staff, those hallway stories about the guest who had a thing for guys with long hair he locked himself with and shaved bald. It didn’t mortify him at all. Not that they would see him come with a shaved head in a couple days, either.
Quickly, Samson was clearing his other side of his hair, working his fast-feeding, deafening clippers around his other ear. He hardly needed to go over his head again and Damian could tell he had hardly missed anything in the first passes.
He turned the machine off and blew into the blades softly. Damian could see tiny bits of his hair flying off the blades as he did.
Samson put the clippers down and held his head on both his hands, caressing with his thumbs his freshly buzzed temples while looking into his eyes. To be the sole center of attention of this man, to feel his gaze and his hands on him was beyond Damian’s fantasies.
"You look so sweet" the tenderness of Samson’s smile took him by surprise, as the gleeful tone of his remark.
The older man asked him to stay put. Damian brushed the hair off his shoulders and ventured to touch the stubble on his head. He guessed some men looked tougher with buzzed hair; it wouldn’t be his case. To be fair, he had always known he had never been called sexy, mostly cute, so this was expected.
Samson wrapped his head in a hot towel. It was the first time ever. God. That felt incredible. He let it set for a minute or so. Then, he started lathering his scalp. Damian saw the straight razor over the table with his heart pounding.
He had very short buzzcuts before as a kid, so being clipped down by Samson wasn’t too bad. But he had never had a razor to his scalp.
"Stay still. Breathe. Calm down" Samson massaged his bare shoulders, seeming to notice his agitation.
He closed his eyes when he saw him angle the razor first towards his sideburns. He guessed that he started there since it would be a part of his head, he had a blade close to before. He still had chills all over his body when he felt it scraping his temple.
Samson finished the first side, slowly and rubbed his index and middle finger against the freshly shaved skin. It slid effortlessly over the smooth surface. Damian couldn’t feel anything between his fingertips and his skin now "So? Full razor shave? That’s what I usually do, but you’re freaking out, so, we can do just sides and back up to your crown".
"Is that obvious?" Damian croaked, feeling himself fluster.
"Damian. Please" Samson laughed.
"No, full shave. I can handle it" he let out a breath.
"Oh, now you’re going to have to ask me properly" Samson held him with his hands on his shoulders and put his face centimeters from his "I want to listen to you ask me to shave you".
"I want you to shave me, sir" Damian smirked at the older man.
"I’m not leaving a single hair on your head, son" Samson leaned forward to his face, his tongue went through his lips into his mouth.
Damian felt him toss his head around and maneuver the razor deftly around his scalp. He watched his hair on the floor. He picked a stray lock from his lap while he did. Touched it, soft and glossy, and long. He knew he wasn’t going to do this again. But he was glad to have done it once.
Samson went over his head a second time, against the grain. Next, he was cleaning him with a warm, slightly humid towel. He finished with oil and a massage on his head. He recalled that he had not seen himself in a mirror so far. Then, he remembered its existence, when Samson had finished.
"This disgusting, ugly s**t on my neck is in plain sight now, isn’t it?" Damian touched his birthmark, covering most of it with his hand as he did.
Without warning, Samson held his wrist and approached his ear "It’s beautiful".
He brought his mouth to that side of his neck. His other hand down, below his navel, under his pants.
The sound of his name in that bass-baritone rang in his ears as night became daybreak. It followed him around when he we left the hotel and watched that lights off behind the curtains in room 505, facing east.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey, guys. Just a little something that had been in my system for a while after reading some interesting real-life accounts a while ago. Felt good to let it out :). As always, feedback is appreciated!]