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The Bathhouse

I turned, under the water, in such a way as to see more clearly the youth showering beside me. He was lightly sudsing the flat pectoral muscles of his honey-tanned chest, the points of his grape-dark nipples distending under the caressings of his fingers. His eyes, beautifully shaped, were light green, set in a handsome, intelligent face which sported a neatly trimmed mustache. Those eyes, the color of the sea off Fire Island on a sparkling green day, looked around him with a level clearness but at nothing or anyone in particular. His soapy hands moved down slowly and lingeringly over the lean, corded muscles of his belly, then ever so gradually farther down to the thatch of deeper-honeyed pubic hair, his fingers straying lightly through it, then the tips of his fingers playing down slowly over his prick, soaping it carefully in deft small whorls of lather. It was then his eyes, unself-consciously, without embarrassment or the leer of the tease, looked out at us, from one to the other, as if to say, Look, I want to show it off to you. Like the naiveté of a boy proud to display his most gorgeous possession, to share the look of it, the pleasure he had in it. And rightly: it was well-shaped; even more shapely as it thickened and lengthened like a blood-snake in his caressing fingers. I watched, not furtive, likewise unembarrassed in my looking, content only to watch, as seemed the others, including the two lads who also paused in their showering to look over the youth.

Now his eyes, with their absorbed smile of serious pleasure and play, held the hint of an inward secret of barely contained happiness. They were also eyes that looked out at those of us in the shower room and clearly said, Isn't this a wonder?

Michael Rumaker, A Day and a Night at the Baths, 1977.


George Bellows (1882-1925), The Shower-Bath, Lithograph, 1917.

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