21-Year-Old Scotch: Chapter 1
published January 17, 2017
On his 50th birthday, a closeted man enters a gay bar and is given a drink with an unexpected side effect.
On a slow Tuesday evening, a nervous-looking man in a white Oxford shirt and relaxed-fit jeans stepped tentatively into the Rusty Nail. He was simultaneously relieved and disappointed that the place was so unpopulated. Relieved, because it reduced the chances that he would be recognized, although the odds of anyone he knew back home being in this place were slim-to-nonexistent to begin with – and anyone he did recognize would likely have just as much trouble explaining their presence there as he would. Disappointed, because what was the point of checking out a gay bar if there were no gay guys to check out?
He took a deep breath and approached the bar, his hesitant gait making it appear that he had suddenly forgotten how to walk casually. Music he didn’t recognize was echoing through the nearly empty space, something with an incessant beat from heavily programmed drums and a wash of female vocals buried in electronic effects. He grabbed a stool at the far end of the bar, where he had a good view of the dance floor but was personally shrouded in shadows. He silently congratulated himself on making it this far, but knew he was going to need something strong to settle his nerves. He raised a finger to get the attention of the shirtless bartender, who was lazily drying off a beer stein. The insanely ripped blond responded with a nod and strode over, wiping his wet hands on the faded denim stretched tight across his quads. “Evening, sir. What can I do for you?”
The customer always hated being called “sir”, even though he realized it was totally appropriate. To avoid gawking shamelessly at the bartender’s physique, the customer diverted his attention to the array of bottles behind him, but a mirror behind the bar thwarted this plan by offering him an equally distracting view of the broad expanse of the bartender’s muscular back which bore an impressive tattoo of a massive pair of wings. Finally, the customer spoke, his voice soft and shaky. “Maybe you could suggest something. I kinda want something different and special.” He added with an embarrassed grin, “It’s my birthday.”
“Your birthday?” The bartender broke into a grin and sang a booming “Hap…” before the customer gestured frantically for him to stop. Even with such a sparse crowd, he didn’t care to bring attention to himself. The bartender clammed up with an understanding smile as deep dimples punctuated his cheeks. “Completely understand. Birthdays can be tough.” The customer had trouble believing that this hunk had ever had a tough day in his life, but he appreciated the attempt to relate.
“Yeah, birthdays don’t usually bug me, but this one’s…kind of a big one,” the customer said, unwilling to utter the word “fifty”. “Guess being back in the city has got me kinda nostalgic. I used to walk past this place all the time when I was going to college here, but I never had the balls to come in.”
“Well, I’m happy you and your balls could make it tonight,” the bartender said. It was clear this customer was going to need extra attention, which shouldn’t be a problem on such a quiet night. He extended a hand in friendship. “I’m Trey.”
The customer took his hand and shook. He hesitated for a moment, unsure about giving his real name, but when he accidentally made contact with Trey’s piercing blue eyes, he felt compelled to blurt out the truth. “I’m Scott.”
“Welcome to the Rusty Nail, Scott. So, what’s your usual preference?”
Scott’s mouth dried up instantly. He’d never been asked so bluntly, but having made it this far, he figured he may as well be honest. “Well, I’m married, but I guess I’ve always known deep down that I was…ya know…into guys.” Saying the words gave him an immense feeling of relief.
Trey stifled a laugh behind his concerned-barkeep expression, giving a light tap on the back of Scott’s right hand which was nervously drumming on the bar’s surface. “Well, you’ve come to the right place.” He rephrased himself to make his original intent clear. “So, tell me what sort of drinks you usually enjoy. It’ll give me an idea of what to recommend.”
“Oh. OH!” Scott grew flushed, realizing his mistake, but there was no reeling back his admission now. Flustered, he became uncharacteristically verbose. “Well, let’s see, I used to drink nothing but beer, but I’ve been getting more into whiskey and bourbon lately. Sign of delayed maturity, I suppose. Plus they’re not supposed be as bad for…” Scott patted his belly with a grimace, the buttonholes noticeably taut across the most distended part of his gut. “It’s crazy. I used to be able to eat and drink anything I wanted and never gain an ounce when I was young like you. Well, I was never young like YOU, but I wasn’t always so…” He glanced down at his doughy torso and his words dwindled away.
“Yeah, you really gotta watch those extra calories,” Trey nodded empathetically, unconsciously sliding a hand across the perfectly symmetrical eight-pack that seemed vacuum-sealed beneath his tanned skin.
Scott looked around the dimly-lit club, soaking in the details of the place. Never having set foot inside the Rusty Nail, it had grown to mythic stature in his mind, so it came as something of a letdown to discover that it wasn’t much different from an ordinary sports bar, only the TVs were all showing a fuzzy ’80s workout video featuring an oily instructor in tiny shorts whose abundant body hair was glistening with sweat. He chuckled at the cheesy nostalgia, which sent his thoughts back to his anxious younger days when he was first grappling with his identity, awkwardly dating the woman who would eventually become his wife while surreptitiously sneaking peeks at the International Male catalogue and renting Jean-Claude Van Damme movies on VHS with suspicious frequency.
Scott’s life certainly hadn’t been terrible. He and Amanda genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and shared many interests, at least at first. In their small town, the notion of coming out seemed impossible in those days, especially for a rising young businessman trying to ingratiate himself with the conservative elders in the Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus. Scott and Amanda made an attractive couple, charming, funny, actively involved in community events. The fact that they never had children raised a few disapproving eyebrows, but Scott dropped just enough hints of unspoken medical issues that it stopped most prying questions in their tracks. In truth, Amanda had never seemed terribly interested in sex, even at the beginning of their courtship, which relieved Scott, as it took the pressure off of him to perform. As a young man, he had toyed with joining the priesthood, so he was already mentally prepared for a vow of celibacy. This one just didn’t require all the other religious trappings.
Over the years, he had discreetly satisfied his urges where he could. He never minded accompanying his wife to the mall, willingly killing time browsing the menswear section, trying not to be obvious as his eyes scanned the Calvin Klein packages in the underwear section or as the young jocks of town slumped out of the dressing rooms to reluctantly model something acid-washed for their approving girlfriends. Only on his out-of-town business trips had Scott even taken the slightest baby steps toward exploring his desires more openly, but he’d still remained skittish if not outright terrified. On one visit to Las Vegas a few years back, he had practically emptied the mini-bar psyching himself up to order a male escort sent to his room, only to chicken out and slip a hundred-dollar bill under the door when the rent boy arrived. Scott spent the rest of the night with his cheek pressed against the cool porcelain of the toilet bowl, grimly awaiting each successive wave of nausea. He left Sin City depressed, having lost his shirt, his lunch and his nerve. Even as he saw the world at large become more accepting of different sexualities, Scott continued to feel trapped by his own circumstances.
As Scott noticed his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, his sense of despair grew. If he ever did summon up his courage, even for something as minor and harmless as asking a guy to dance, he feared immediate rejection from the young athletic types whom he had always found most attractive. What hot virile guy would be the slightest bit interested in some middle-aged, overweight closet case with a double chin, dwindling gray hair and erectile dysfunction? Oh, sure, he knew there were some guys who got turned on by older “daddy” types, but he didn’t see himself in that role. If anything, he saw himself as a twink who had become trapped under more and more layers of flesh over time until he now resided inside the body of Wilford Brimley. Besides, the thought of him with some young stud seemed just as pathetic, desperate and downright laughable as his contemporaries back home who were dealing with their own midlife crises by buying fast new cars or speedboats and carrying on affairs with their female employees or their kids’ babysitters or the graveyard clerk at the Kum-N-Go. No, Scott had come to a grudging acceptance that he had missed his opportunity for happiness back when he was younger and cuter and thinner, back when he wasn’t so beaten down by life. Now, he just hoped to live vicariously by watching other dudes experience a freedom he felt he could never have.
Scott sighed. “I should’ve come in here thirty years ago. My life might have turned out totally different.” He barely realized that he was saying these words aloud.
With a twinkle in his eye, Trey nodded. “I think I’ve figured out exactly what you need.” He moved down the bar and selected a key from the ring that hung from his leather belt. Unlocking a hidden cabinet under the cash register, he extracted an ornate bottle half-full of an amber liquid which almost looked to be glowing. He carried it down the bar to Scott, along with a glass.
“What’s this?”, Scott asked, eyeing the bottle curiously.
“Something different and special, just as you requested. 21-year-old whiskey. Very rare. I think you’ll love it.”
Trey removed the glass stopper from the bottle, and a rich oaky scent immediately wafted toward Scott. He practically swooned. “Mmm, I like it already.”
Trey carefully poured half an inch of the precious liquid into the glass and slid it toward Scott, hovering his hand above the glass and saying playfully, “First, I’m going to need to see an I.D.”
Scott nervously pulled his wallet from his back pocket and was fumbling for his driver’s license when he had the realization that Trey was obviously joking. Scott forced a strained chuckle to suggest that he was onto the joke all along. “Yeah, right. Have you had your eyes checked lately?” He pulled out a twenty and placed it on the bar, but Trey backed away, palms forward, like a blackjack dealer ending his shift.
“On me. Happy birthday.”
Scott shrugged happily, never foolish enough to turn down a free drink. He picked up the glass and raised it toward his lips, pausing a moment to give Trey an appreciative nod. The aroma grew stronger and more intoxicating as the whiskey got closer to his nose. He took a sip, amazed by its smoothness, with only a slight burn as it slid down his throat. His tastebuds tingled as they detected hints of orange and vanilla, while his other senses were overwhelmed by an enveloping warmth. Somehow the whiskey reminded him of the smell of burning autumn leaves and the cozy feel of huddling under a handmade quilt on a snowy night. He continued to sip until the glass had been drained. The music in the club became muffled as Scott had the uncanny sensation of being wrapped in a warm cocoon, as if he had been transported back into the safety and innocence of the womb. A smile spread across his face as he leaned back, surrendering to the whiskey’s blissful spell. He could swear that time had stopped and he was floating in midair. For one perfect moment, all of his anxieties had been washed away.
He was free.
Then, as if a two-by-four had been slammed into the back of his head, Scott was jolted back to full consciousness. His eyes popped open, giving him two overlapping views of the ceiling which gradually merged into one. A craggy-faced man with the crew cut and demeanor of a drill sergeant leaned into his field of vision, barking, “You okay, kid?”
Scott quickly assessed his situation. Other than being sprawled on his back on a sticky barroom floor, he felt remarkably good. The vibration from whacking his head onto the floor was even dissipating quickly. Crew-Cut and a chunky guy in a royal-blue tank top each grabbed an arm and hoisted Scott to his feet with remarkable ease, holding him in place as he regained his bearings. Scott wobbled unsteadily, his center of gravity feeling off. He gestured that he was okay, only to fall forward when they released their grip. Scott braced his hands against the bar and caught himself. “I’m fine,” he declared, sounding like he was trying to convince himself.
“You scared me, kid,” Crew-Cut said, more annoyed than concerned. “Where’d you even come from?”
“Huh? I was just sitting here, having a drink.” He looked at the bar, but the empty glass and bottle of whiskey were no longer there. He couldn’t even see a wet circle to indicate where the glass might have been resting. Scott glanced at the floor to see if the glass had fallen with him and shattered, but all he could see was his outline, snow-angel style, in the sawdust which covered the floor. Funny, Scott didn’t remember seeing that sawdust when he came in.
Turning his attention back to the bar, he was amazed how busy the place had gotten all of a sudden. Guys were squeezed tightly together down the full length of the bar, and the dance floor was packed as strobe lights flashed and the speakers blasted Prince’s recording of “1999”. Scott craned his neck, scanning the crowd.
“Lookin’ for something?”, Crew-Cut asked as he returned to his post behind the bar.
Crew-Cut was puzzled. “Whattaya need a tray for?”
“No. Trey, your bartender. He was just here.”
Crew-Cut crossed his wiry arms, pushing together his pecs under his plain-white tee. “We ain’t got no bartender named Trey. Only one bartender here and that’s me. You sure you’re okay, kid?”
Scott was baffled by Trey’s inexplicable disappearance and by this guy’s insistence on calling him “kid”. If anything, Crew-Cut was younger than him, although Scott had to admit that it was refreshing for a stranger to call him something besides “sir” for a change.
As Prince gave way to Natalie Cole’s version of “Pink Cadillac”, Scott took a closer look at the crowd. Lots of white slacks and sleeveless pastel tees. Everyone’s hair seemed to be either blow-dried or Jheri-curled. Scott was impressed by their authenticity and shouted over the music to Crew-Cut, “So, I guess this Eighties Night?”
Crew-Cut cupped a hand to his ear, then barked dismissively with a sweep of his arm, “This look like Ladies’ Night to you?”
Scott replied emphatically, “No, EIGHTIES Night!”
“Kid, what’s the matter with you? Every night is Eighties Night.” Crew-Cut was exasperated, dealing with this guy. “C’mon, you want a drink or what?”
“Sure, can I have a Corona with a lemon wedge in the top?”, Scott asked without a moment’s thought.
Crew-Cut rolled his eyes at the order. “Sure thing, kid. Lemme see some I.D. first.”
Scott laughed. This I.D. check business must be a running gag here. Going along with the joke, he reached toward his back pocket, only to discover he had no wallet…nor a back pocket. All he felt was smooth fabric stretched across the curve of his butt. Startled, he looked down. What he saw made his knees buckle. He had to grab the edge of the bar to keep from falling.
His relaxed jeans and business shirt had vanished, replaced by white spandex short-shorts and a sleeveless tee the color of Maraschino cherries. Even more startling, this new wardrobe was wrapped around a trim, muscular body. Wide-eyed, Scott’s head swiveled to look in the mirror behind the bar, only to notice that all of the bar’s walls were now covered in mirrors, and they all showed him the same reflection of a kid with a thick head of blond curls and a youthful face that Scott recognized instantly, like a long-lost friend. His jaw fell slack as he took in the sight.
He was young again.
Maybe everyone looks better if you strip away the wrinkles and extra pounds and other accumulations of age, but Scott was shocked to realize that his younger self was downright cute. He’d always considered himself decent looking, but never felt even his best features measured up to those of the truly handsome men he had met.
“Hey, pretty boy, stop admirin’ yourself and fork over some I.D.,” Crew-Cut demanded.
Flustered, Scott had the sudden awareness of something heavy hanging around his neck. He stuck a hand through the collar of his shirt and pulled out a plastic sleeve suspended from a leather lanyard, a makeshift replacement for a wallet when your wardrobe had no pockets. Inside the plastic were a driver’s license, a student I.D. and several haphazardly folded bills. Scott slid the driver’s license out of the casing and handed it to Crew-Cut, who studied it closely, then looked up with a glint in his eye. “Hey, boys,” he announced in a loud voice, “look what we got here.”
Scott swallowed as everyone within earshot turned their attention in his direction. He was mortified to be standing essentially in his underwear, encircled by dozens of men with their eyes fixed on him.
“We got us,” Crew-Cut shouted, pausing dramatically, “…a birthday boy!”
The crowd let out a whoop and spontaneously began to sing a slightly drunken but boisterous version of “Happy Birthday”. When they reached the third line, everyone paused after the word “dear”, waiting to be told the birthday boy’s name. Scott squeaked out his name, which seemingly everyone transformed into “Scotty” when they sang it. Scott hadn’t been called “Scotty” since he was six, but he kinda liked the sound of it coming from this all-male chorale. When the song concluded, Scott found himself at the center of a jubilant huddle, as these total strangers hugged him, kissed him on the cheeks and lips, and gave his butt a prolonged series of enthusiastic pats and pinches.
When Scott finally emerged from the scrum, his hair dissheveled and his face bright red, he saw a Corona with lemon on the bar before him. He moved to get some money, but Crew-Cut just shook his head. “Your money’s no good tonight,” he said, handing the license back to Scott. “Happy 21st, Scotty.”
Scott thanked the bartender, took the card and studied it. It was definitely his I.D. with his actual birthday, but the photo depicted him as he now appeared, with bountiful unruly curls and a goofy smile on his face. In his memory, he had never had hair that long or an expression that carefree. He recognized the address as that of the off-campus house he had shared with three buddies during his senior year. The vital statistics seemed about right except for the weight, which was easily eighty pounds less than when he had entered the bar…but ten pounds more than he remembered weighing in college. Scott had been a bookish and sedentary student, but this toned body was clearly that of a dedicated runner.
By now, Scott was certain that he was hallucinating, wondering if there had been a mezcal worm lurking in the bottom of that scotch bottle. That seemed like a much more reasonable explanation than that a shot of 21-year-old whiskey had actually made him 21 years old again. But other than a slight sense of discombobulation and dizziness, everything felt absolutely real to Scott. He pushed the lemon wedge down the neck of the Corona bottle and tossed back its contents in a single swallow. He’d forgotten how much he missed the taste of beer, even one as anemic as Corona.
“All right!”, cheered a voice from behind Scott as a heavy hand landed with a slap on Scott’s shoulder. “Shemp, give Scotty another Corona, on me!” Crew-Cut, who apparently answered to the name Shemp, responded to the request.
Scott turned around to say “Thank you” and found himself face to face with a bare chest thickly forested with dark curly hair. He took a step back and tilted his head to get a look at the towering figure. The man was easily six foot four with a buzz cut and a heavy black mustache. His shirtless torso and arms were naturally muscular but not particularly cut, and his long legs were encased in fringed black leather pants stuffed into thigh-high black boots. The big man flashed a sparkling grin and said, “My pleasure, boy,” in a booming voice that vibrated Scott’s testicles.
Scott realized he was sporting a major erection which his form-fitting shorts put clearly on display for everyone to see. From the gleam in his eyes, the big guy had definitely noticed it. Flustered, Scott grabbed the fresh bottle of Corona and excused himself from the awkward silence he and the leather man were sharing. Scott scanned the club frantically for the restrooms. When he finally located them, he noted that both doors read “MEN”. He chose one at random and entered, relieved to find it empty.
Scott braced his hands against the counter, closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath, in hopes that, when he opened his eyes, everything would be back to normal. But as he squinted at his reflection, it was the alternate-reality version of his 21-year-old self who squinted back. Scott chugged down some beer, ran the faucet and splashed cold water on his face, but still no change. “This is real,” he muttered softly, watching the droplets of water trickle down his face. And that realization – and his acceptance of it – brought a smile to his face and a surge in his shorts. Glancing down, he saw that his hard-on had grown further and a small wet spot was spreading across the fabric as pre-cum oozed from his cock.
Somehow, impossible as it might seem, he was 21 again, but with a difference. This time, he wasn’t petrified of his sexuality. He was in a gay bar on his 21st birthday…and had never felt more comfortable, more welcomed. He turned sideways and admired the curvature of his ass, spreading a palm across it to feel the solidity of his glutes. His cock stiffened even more. He thought of ducking into one of the doorless stalls to jerk off and relieve the escalating pressure, but he frankly was warming the idea of walking back out into the bar with a visible boner. He paused to look in the mirror again, then peeled off his shirt to reveal solid pecs and a shallow six-pack. “Nice,” he said with a cocky grin, tucking the shirt into the rear waistband of his shorts, giving the appearance that he had sprouted a long red tail. He fussed with his hair to make sure it looked perfect. He slammed down the rest of the Corona and chucked it into the trash, then swung open the door, eager to see where this night would lead.