When I first met Merlin, he was nursing the last dribbles of gin and tonic as the dense liquid colluded greasily with the residue melting from the remaining slivers of ice at the bottom of his glass. He had been twirling his moustache while sitting at the far end of the bar, trying to size up the distance between the date on my fake ID and my actual age, and simultaneously considering whether that deficit was large enough to turn the odds against his up-to-that-point clean record. I had been transfixed by the amorphous pouch of perspiration-flecked g-string surrounding an angular go-go boy’s hypnotically weightless basket. Merlin was close enough to the billowing man-mass to get his cheek occasionally tickled by errant peach fuzz. Our eyes inevitably met. He summoned a c-note out of thin air, tucked it in the waistband above that insistent, moist gob of flesh and began sauntering his way over, his clumsy gait hampered further by his endearing nearsightedness. He offered me something stiff for my throat. I instead asked if he had any sugar, my voice still cracking under the pressure of late-surging testosterone. I presumed I was kissing him off, but little did I realize I was predestined to learn the tricks of Merlin’s trade from the business end of his magic wand. He picked up the tab, even if my wafting pheromones were what really loosened his purse strings. And so it was, just like that, without potion, without alchemy, that I was shown the ropes at the tender age of 17. Merlin brought out in me the animals I never knew I could be. He had my heart racing like a squirrel. He had my body soaring into the stratosphere like a bird. He had me slippery and firm like a fresh young perch. It, of course, didn’t last forever. Eventually my taste for knowledge outpaced his stamina to teach, and he eventually flew south to the Keys for a winter that eventually became the next few winters. I suppose I could’ve felt betrayed, but the more people I reduce to calling me “Your Majesty,” the more I realize I could’ve never had the confidence to lay my sword into their rock-hard crevasses without Merlin’s guiding hand.
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