orange and gray tunnel painting

Stories No. 87 – T. B. Grennan

The Translator

by T. B. Grennan

And then, slow as you like, Fernando reaches back and peels his cheeks apart. Staring over one shoulder, his lips wet from kissing, his hair still perfect despite all that rolling around. Eyes saying, come on, please—I need it. Mouth saying nothing at all.

Cole’s sitting back on the cheap carpeting, feeling the same excited nerves he used to get on high school first dates. His car pulling up in front of the girl’s house at the end of the night; her head turning his way. Knowing what she wanted, but unsure in the moment if he had the guts to do it.

Fernando catches his eyes. Says something short and desperate. Says it in Spanish, a language Cole doesn’t know.

“Please, baby.”

A pause.

“Well, technically it’s more like ‘Please, my sky,” but we’d probably say ‘baby’ in English.” The voice floating from across the room belongs to Lily—Cole’s girlfriend—who sits with one leg hooked over the arm of a chair. Enjoying the show. “Either way, he wants your mouth, babe. You going to give it to him?”

And Cole gazes ahead. Feeling the whole of his focus disappear into the dark, hairless ring. Knowing that he’s going to do it only after he’s already begun. His head dipping forward. His hands spreading Fernando wider; his tongue sliding top-to-bottom. A sudden taste—sour, intoxicating—exploding in his mouth.

Two hours ago, he and Lily had been in a student bar near the city center. Drinking rioja and eating profoundly salty olives from a little ceramic dish. Enjoying their last night in Spain before heading home for winter break. The two of them whispered heatedly between sips. Extending the erotic thrill of their late afternoon fuck with a line of dirty conversation, excitement clinging to them like the smell of sex.

It made Lily hot to playact being on the prowl, to search out possible thirds while her boyfriend’s hand slid under her skirt. Holding the stare of a dark-eyed woman by the cigarette machine. Feeling the heat of her gaze and remembering the electric charge that spread across her shoulders when her ex-girlfriend licked her just so.

Shivering. Whispering to Cole that maybe they should do it. After all, it was a different country, a different life. One decadent night here didn’t have to change anything back in Ann Arbor. They could share this—touching, kissing, watching—then travel six hours back in time, like nothing ever happened.

Cole was nervous, reluctant—but that didn’t mean he wasn’t in. His mind racing as they inched closer to the dark-eyed woman, who was talking to some friends in rat-a-tat Catalan. Wondering what she was saying, what she might think of him. Of them.

“Hey,” Lily whispered, “she’s talking about you!”

And she was, saying that Cole had a nice body, for an American. Then turning to her friend—Fernando—and complaining that he’s not even listening, that he’s too busy staring at Cole’s culo. Fernando told her to hush. Saying that Cole’s probably not even gay…

Cole listened intently, nursing the last of his wine. Trying to pick up something, anything, from their tone, their facial expressions. Finally whispering, “What are they saying?”

“Shhh,” Lily told him. “This is getting good.”

Now she’s lying back, eyes heavy with wine, and taking in the scene. Something she’d dreamed of, but never thought she’d see. Her boyfriend. His knees bent, hips thrusting forward as a panting stranger kneels in front of him. Watching Cole shudder, his left knee buckling for a moment at the sensation, at the pure joy of it.

What makes this so special? Cole’s had dozens of blowjobs—hundreds, probably—and, sure, Fernando is good, really good. A hand sliding up the inside of one leg. His mouth shifting, turning. Pulling teasingly at Cole every step of the way.

But it’s more than that. There’s something about this specific moment, its dreamy, narcotic pull. Knowing that it be rude to guide Fernando’s head. But as his hands curl against the other boy’s shoulders, his hips fight every instinct inside him, struggling to keep from fucking their way forward.

And Fernando can feel the restraint, feel the tremble in his lover’s thigh. Showing how close Cole is, how much he wants to finish at the back of Fernando’s mouth. It’s hot to imagine, yes. But Fernando’s been through this before.

That moment of bashful pride at how much he was wanted, how completely he’d satisfied. But these American boys, they’re not used to it—the late Spanish hours, the dry heat. So, the moment you taste them, they start to flag. Becoming effusive about your beauty, your generosity of spirit. And if you turn away, even for a moment, you’ll find them dozing happily atop whatever couch or bed or bath mat you’ve been rendezvousing on. Looking gorgeous and peaceful…and utterly useless except as a visual aid while you frantically take care of yourself a couple feet away.

So, dial it back. Be great, but not too great. Let him plateau, grow desperate for more. For a deeper pleasure—one that both of you can share.

“He wants you to…make love to him.”

Cole glances at Fernando, then back at Lily. “He said that?”

She considers. “Well, not like verbatim. But that’s definitely the gist.”

And, sure enough, Fernando smiles, licks his lips, and lies back on the bed. Expectant. Waiting. Then, eyes wide, he says something in heated Spanish. Lily responds sharply. Gestures at Cole, at herself. Fernando shakes his head. And pouts, still spread-eagled.

Lily sighs, stands.

“What was that about?” Cole asks.

“It’s nothing,” she says. “Go make out with him or something; I’ll be right back.”

“What? Where are you going?”

“Be right back!”

And as the elevator doors close, Lily curses her Spanish classes for their lack of a Sex Ed curriculum…or maybe her Sex Ed classes for their lack of a Spanish one. Fernando needs lube, she’s 80-85% sure of it. But they don’t have any on hand; she’s never needed it, and even if she did, it’s not something you can pack in your carry-on without getting a lot of rude questions from airport security.

The elevator opens on the hostel’s ground floor. The light are low, the hostel bar is closing up. At the front desk, a bored girl reads a Spanish edition of Cosmopolitan and watches the clock.

 “Excuse me,” Lily says, surprised at how embarrassing this is. “Do you happen to carry, um, lube?”

“I’m sorry?”

Okay, Lily’s definitely blushing now. “Like, personal, um, oil. For when one person and another person…get personal?”

The girl frowns, confused. Lily tries in Spanish, talking around her vocabulary gap by discussing wetness and slickness and the avoidance of friction like she’s the narrator of a particularly conceptual Iberian Astroglide commercial.


It’s only when she pretends to put a condom on the front desk’s pen-on-a-chain and then mimes adding a big old squirt from a two-euro bottle of hand sanitizer that the girl perks up, her mouth an impressed, scandalized “O.”

“Three streets from here, to the left,” she says. “It will be open.”

Which is how Lily finds herself racing across the city’s rain-slick streets a few minutes before two in the morning, in search of lube.

And when she returns to the room a full twenty minutes later, her hair wet and frizzy and plastered to her head, grasping a single tiny bottle with “Euroslick” printed on the front in Comic Sans, she finds Cole and Fernando kissing gently, their hands on each other’s dicks. The two of them startled apart when the bottle of lube lands at the foot of the bed.

“All right, showtime!” Lily calls out, in English and then in Spanish.

The lube is gloopy and surprisingly cool. The sensation’s muted by the condom, but downright startling when it reaches the base of Cole’s cock. He gasps, then plays it off like it’s the results of Fernando’s tongue at play on the underside of his balls—which, don’t get him wrong, is quite nice.

“Almost ready?” Lily calls out.

He shoots her a look. “Almost.”

Then they’re on the bed. Fernando facedown and hissing happily; Cole wide-eyes and hyperventilating. Feeling the pressure relax as the tip—slowly, slowly—begins to enter, the sensation reminding him of the tingly perfect discomfort that comes when someone flares their fingertips on your kneecap.

Cole’s hips rock gently. Exhaling with every slow slide-back. Enjoying the long shiver that rolls down his spine whenever he pushes back in. Their bodies move together, communicating in ways their owners can’t. Cole’s deep groans followed a half-second later by Fernando’s soft, overwhelmed sighs, like a backup singer coming in for a call-and-response.

The world slips away. Shrinking to the size of the bed, the circle of faint lamplight. Their shared excitement and building pleasure. The sweat on their bodies. That scent of musk and latex and berry-flavored lube. Until there’s nothing else. Nothing.

That perfect erotic bubble shimmering and shimmering. Until it’s punctured suddenly by Lily’s husky voice. Calling out, “Fuck, that’s hot,” like the realization has just now come to her.

She’s in an endorphin haze. Half-dressed, eyes hooded. Hips rising as she watches the boys, grinding insistently against the heel of her hand. So wet now that she can feel it through the crotch of her underwear.

Wait. Wait.

But here it comes. Distant at first, then arriving all at once. Hitting like a wave that sweeps you out to sea, swirling you this way and that, then leaving you sprawling on the wet sand. Exhausted. Gasping.

She’s exhilarated…and a little embarrassed. Remembering her high school boyfriend, the one who always seemed to finish before she’d really gotten going. Remembering the way she’d grumbled about his hair-trigger. Wondering if this is how he’d felt.

It takes a moment for Fernando to realize what’s happened. The thrusts continue, the happy chills keep bubbling up—but there’s a distance now. A mechanical urgency. It’s only when he glances back that he sees it, sees everything.

Lily, open-mouthed, breasts falling out of her top as she peaks. Cole’s head turned sideways, watching his girlfriend watch them.

Fernando feels it—a flash of jealousy. The kind he used to get when his ex would play with other guys in front of him. Knowing this is different; it’s just a night, just a fuck. But still. He wants the whole of his lover’s attention. If not for the night, then at least for now. Right now.

Cole feels Fernando’s hand on his thigh, feels a sudden squeeze. Their eyes meet. Fernando whispers something, and though Cole can’t understand a word, he understands enough to pull out, sit back, and wait. Watching Fernando roll onto his back, erection slapping against stomach and thigh. Spreading his legs. Then summoning Cole forward, impatient.

This time, they slide together so easily. Faces contorting in unison, even their groans in sync. So caught up in each other that they don’t notice Lily getting up to take a pull from her Nalgene or hear the bleat of someone’s phone ringing in the next room.

No, it’s a race to the finish. Fernando stroking himself frantically; Cole’s hands on his lover’s hips, pulling himself forward again and again. Meeting in a fierce kiss as Fernando loses it—clenching suddenly and then covering the other boy’s stomach. And when that happens, Cole knows he’s done for, that nothing on earth can hold him back. That he’s going to fill that condom in three, two…

When he wakes, the other two are crouched together in front of their packed luggage. Whispering quietly as Lily opens her guidebook with a plasticky crackle, as Fernando squints and considers and points to an intersection on the map. Indicating the spot where, in a couple hours, the three of them will share a quiet, awkward, pre-flight breakfast.

T. B. GRENNAN was born in Vermont, lives in Brooklyn, and once read the entirety of Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus while stuck on a delayed plane. His writing has appeared in the Indiana Review, The Seventh Wave, TIMBER, and Spaces We Have Known, an anthology of LGBT+ fiction.

Photo by tyler hendy on