Finally, March 13, 2021, had arrived. The concert of the year, "Quarantine 2020", was an appropriate title song and name for a show. What was funny was the singer's stage name, "Iso Lation!". Yes, with an Exclamation Point. This was his first concert. The news said that they've never heard music like his—a mix of electronic, pop, and R&B. Songs of his life during 2020.
The songs were played as singles throughout the year. Pieces of how he lost his fiancée and his job as a sound stage manager for famous bands and groups. The sacrifices of losing his house, taking care of his ailing father, and losing him to COVID-19. His honesty made him unique, and he only focused on his life. He never mentioned the government or anything negative about the pandemic.
When he announced the concert and had two select tickets be in the front row and a backstage pass, I signed up. The requirements were simple, submit an essay about your own life during the pandemic, what you would do to help prevent the spread and what you have done to help your fellow man. I did just that, every requirement necessary to see him live.
In February, I got an invitation to a live virtual meeting with Iso Lation. A final interview that he was doing personally with the semi-finalists. I called in sick that day. Or actually, I called in unavailable since I already worked from home. To be ready for the virtual call, I got a haircut. My hair was getting long, and I hated it. Haircuts are different now. You have to wear a mask during the process. Before going into the store, you wait in your car after your temperature check and sign in. I ordered a new redshirt from an online store. Luckily it fitted after gaining the COVID-19 weight. I didn't have time to lose nineteen pounds in 6 weeks.
I was afraid of telling anyone that I was going to a concert. I didn't want to hear it from those who exaggerate the pandemic. "You can't go. You'll get sick." Or "There's no flu, just go without a mask. The government is lying." Or "If I were you, I'd stay home and not go out." I'd listen to them, but they did it themselves for each stupid comment they made. In the "There's no Covid-19," the guy wears a mask and bathes in hand sanitizer, and lets no one in his house. The ones that say, "Wear a mask everywhere," don't wear it because they don't own one or care—freaking hypocrites.
On the day of the virtual meeting, I took a bath. I wanted to be extra clean. I put on my new shirt and tie and jeans. I did everything possible to look good, short from wearing makeup. I'm gay, but not that gay. The meeting was scheduled for half an hour to forty-five minutes.
I logged in, and there in front of me was Iso Lation. Fuck, he was more handsome than what the media made him look. I couldn't stop staring at him as my audio was connecting. He wore his signature sleeveless hoodie and no shirt. The hoddie did little to cover his short curly hair. His silver eyes shined from his olive complex. I enhanced his long face with those lips that I, at that moment, wanted to taste. I had to focus.
"Hi. Can you hear me?"
I nodded. I said, "Hi."
He smiles, points to his ear, and cups it to tell me that he couldn't hear me.
I click the buttons, trying to get the microphone, and the screen goes blank. "Fuck. I lost him." I talk with people all day through video chat, and I can't get this right?
My phone goes off—a number I didn't recognize.
-It's Iso. Try logging in again.-
He texts me instructions on how to fix the audio.
I go back to my email and click on the link. Tada. I'm back in. I follow his directions. Trying not to stare at his smiling face. He was holding back a laugh.
"Hi," I said. "I'm sorry, I don't know what happened."
"Hi. Don't worry. It happens all the time to me." His voice was gentle, sultry, masculine.
"I really love your music and your lyrics. They touched me on a personal level. I could identify with you."
"Thank you. I'm just sharing my life. I'm glad you like them."
We continued talking for over two hours about ourselves. He would respond if I brought up anything about the pandemic or the government. "Let's talk about us. Nothing more," he would say calmly and reassuringly. I was so glad to have met him. I thought we had a personal connection as two humans during a world crisis.
Three days later, I got a text from Iso Lation asking me to get back on the virtual chat. I did.
"Thank you for meeting me." His red hoodie kept distracting me.
"My pleasure. Love the hoodie. I've only seen you in blues, greys, and blacks."
"I know your favorite color is red, so I ordered a few. Keep an eye on the mail. I sent you a signed one."
Did he just tell me that he dressed for me and sent me a hoodie? "Wow. Thank you, I'll wear it at the concert. I mean, if I won." We both laughed.
"That's why I'm contacting you. Unfortunately, you didn't win. I'm sorry." His face saddens. Shit. I was crushed. I wouldn't get to see him in concert.
"Okay. Thank you for letting me know in person. I do appreciate that."
"Hey. Don't thank me yet. You haven't let me finish. I have good news for you."
What could be better than to see him in concert and meet him backstage?
"I want you to come to the concert, but not part of the audience."
"Hold on." He winked and gave a wide smile. "I want you as part of my Entourage. You'll be with me all day. We'll have breakfast, talk, lunch, get ready for the concert, and you'll be backstage with a great view."
"Huh?" I thought I was dreaming.
"You there. You froze."
"Uhm. I'm here. Sorry, I'm trying to absorb all this."
"Do you want to think it over and get back to me?"
"What? No. I mean, yes. Yes, I'll hang out with you all day."
"Not just hang out. I might need your assistance."
Assistance? Am I going to help him change? Take off his clothes? "Of course. Whatever you need from me. I'll be there."
"Good. I have to go for now. Is it okay if I call you or text you?"
"Great. Call you soon. Bye."
The video chat went dark, so I closed the window. I stared at the desktop where his picture was staring at me. I clicked next, and he was, whole body with the open hoodie, wishing I could pat dry his abs. Okay, not just his abs. Clicked next and saw his eyes staring back at me.
My phone beeped and got me out of the trance. "It's him." My heart skipped a beat. Maybe we could be in a romantic situation.
-Can you work? We're shorthanded.
"Fuck." I responded that I could be on in the next hour. I needed to get my bearings after the video chat.
On the concert day, a limo picked me up at six a.m. and took me to the venue. Iso Lation greeted me and introduced me to his manager. The manager took me with me to explain what I was to do. Basically, I had to do nothing, just answer Iso Lation's texts, messages, and calls. Everyone knew that they'd be talking to me and was patient when I answered wrong or was delayed. Okay. Not all of them. A few told me where to go, some told me who my mother was, and one said he would fuck me hard when this was over. I don't think he meant having sex. The day went by quickly. I didn't feel it. When we had small breaks, we would talk about ourselves again. He gave me a lot of attention even though he was swamped.
When the concert started, I sat next to the Stage Manager. I could see him close. When he changed clothes, I gave him water a few times. He always thanked me with a smile. When the concert was over, he spent time at the front signing autographs and talking to people. I waited for him in his changing room. Waiting for my future husband, that's come from a long day at work, to give me a kiss, and he would sit down and eat the dinner I made just for him. His favorite, Shrimp Alfredo Fettuccine, is made from scratch.
"So. What did you think?" Iso Lation asked me. He came through the door and took the water I handed to him. He turned to lift his mask to take a sip.
"I don't have words. This was exciting. I don't know how you do it?"
"Trust me. I don't know either. My manager is really good at this." He took his clothes off, except for his mask, and walked to the shower while we were still having a conversation. I stared at his body, and flaccid or not, he was big, and I licked my lips.
"Is it okay if I take you home in my limo after the after-party," Iso yelled from the shower. "Get in here. I hate screaming."
I went into the bathroom, and the shower glass door did nothing to hide. "I feel like I'm invading your privacy."
"I'm sorry. If I make you uncomfortable, you don't have to be in here. You can wait outside if you like."
"No. I'm okay, as long as you're okay."
"I forget about modesty. I grew up on a farm with a large family. We were always naked, swimming in the lake or seeing each other naked when we were five to a room. We don't think anything of it. I apologize."
"Don't apologize. I'm okay."
"Towel." He opened the glass door. "Mask?"
What a view. Iso grew a bit in the shower.
"Mask," he said louder.
"Here. I'm sorry."
Iso dried himself, and he changed clothes.
"I suggest you take a shower too. I got you some clothes."
Since he didn't mind being naked, I took my clothes off and took a quick shower.
He put on a red hoodie with a black stripe on the back. "I got you one to wear with me tonight. Is the same style. We'll match tonight."
I came out of the shower and dressed. We both looked like twins with the same outfit and look. The mask he was wearing had his logo on it. It was big on the side and his name on the other. The phone ranged, and he stepped out to look for some papers.
The mask he gave me had a smaller logo and my name. I thought I was in love. He was so attentive and got me gifts. I saw him naked and enjoyed it. I sat on the vanity chair, tears welled in my eyes, and I couldn't breathe and felt weak.
Iso stood behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders. "Overwhelmed? I know the feeling. I remember the first time I had to get on stage and the aftermath. It's exciting, but it's also too much to take in. Plus, I don't think you've eaten."
"I'm so sorry. I don't know…."
"Shoosh." Iso squeezed my shoulders again and massaged them. "Don't apologize. Let me give you a moment to collect yourself, and we'll go eat at the after-party." He squeezed my shoulders again. "If you're up to it."
At the after-party, we ate shrimp. No. Pawns, the big ones, salmon, steak, vegetable trays, cheese platters, a chocolate fountain, and lots of booze. During the dinner, he was taken away from me. I sat by myself, and people watched. Other artists showed up to be with him. Reporters interviewed him. The winners of the contest took selfies with him. Every time he saw me, he would smile and wave. I think at one point, he blew me a kiss. I turned, and there was a beautiful woman behind me. Great I imagined a relationship with him again.
At three a.m., everyone started stepping out. Iso greeted his guests as they left the party. "Ready?"
I yawned. "Yup." I'm tired.
"Come on. the limo is ready." Iso placed his arm over my shoulders and guided me to the limo. He held the door for me and jumped in.
The trip to my home was mostly quiet. We were both tired. I fell asleep on his shoulder, and he put his head on top of mine. When we arrived at my house, he walked me to the door.
"Thank you for a great day. I had so much fun," I said.
"No. Thank you. My first concert and you were my support. I can't thank you enough. You mean so much to me." He held my hand and pulled me toward him.
He startled me as he pulled me into a crushing embrace. Hidden in the darkness of my front door. Hidden away from spectators. Iso held me tight, almost blending me into him and becoming one. His other hand clasped the nape of my neck, pressing my face into the curve of his neck and shoulder.
"I want you!" Iso's voice was full of want, desire, and anguish.
My arms went around the small of his back, feeling under his shirt to his soft skin underneath. This is the moment that I had dreamt for the past day, weeks.
Our hearts beat wildly. Our breathing was loud and strained. Our bodies humming with resonance, like a guitar strumming. The heat from his body engulfed mine. His mouth was close to my ear. His breathing warmed my neck. "I want to kiss you."
"I'm about to cross a line and take off this mask." Desire in his voice made me tremble. "If you look at me, right now... I swear to God, I will." He took a deep breath. "I'll kiss you, and I won't stop. I will cross that line," he whispered. "I can't do this. I'm scared of the pandemic."
"You can. Don't be afraid." I yearned for him to release his grip and pull my face against his neck. That he'd tilt up my chin, rip off our masks, and put his lips on mine. Refusing any resistance, stealing, taking, demanding from me. I inhaled his manly scent. The proof of his excitement, the taboo was pressed hard against me, straining for my attention, love, and life.
"I can't." His voice quivered. "I'm not… You know? COVID-19. I get tested every week. I was positive four weeks ago."
I placed my mask-covered lips against his neck, his beads of sweat absorbed into the material. I tasted the ambrosia of the gods. Letting out a shuddering breath. I whispered. "I also tested positive. My doctor said I still have to be careful. We won't test negative for months." We both trembled.
"I know. I hate that." We linger for a moment of torment, of hope. "I want you too." He tightens his grip, squeezing my ribs. I can't breathe.
"I've never done this before. All I could think of was being with you." He held his breath. "I saw something in you, and I don't care to know what it is." A teardrop fell on my neck. "I'm scared to let you go."
"Then don't." I caressed his back. I wanted to be with him. be part of his heart, his soul, and in him, him in my body as one. "Take a chance. Be that man who says no to convention and breaks the last rules that shackle you in this life. We have taken the necessary precautions."
"I can't. Not now. Not ever." He released his hold but didn't let go. "I would never come back. As I said, I'm not…."
"You are ready."
He pushed me off him, held me by the arms, and took my mask off gently. "Those lips are mine now."
I trembled. I was about to kiss him. "Now? I thought we were going to wait for a negative test."
"The hell with convention," he yells as he takes his mask off.
Our first kiss was awkward, clumsy, and hesitant. Then his kisses became exploring, loving, and hungry. Breaking the kiss, he pulled back and smiled a delight. "I'm yours."
In Isolation Anthology 2020
October 19, 2020
Word Count 2,794