Nails torn and ragged, pads of fingertips rubbed raw, I smeared red across mortar while struggling to find purchase on the abrasive brick. The repulsive stench of piss and rotting garbage overwhelmed my senses, burning my nose and coating my tongue with a pungent flavor. I wasn’t sure which was worse, smelling it or tasting it, but it didn’t matter.
There was no choice.
I harshly breathed in the acrid odor through flared nostrils. I didn’t dare unclench my jaw or unclamp the teeth that were nestled deep in the meaty flesh of my bottom lip. At least the coppery tang of blood made the taste of the alley bearable. The salty flavor kept the nausea in check that threatened from racing up and spilling out in retching waves. But to relax for even a second put me in danger of crying out at the searing pain.
I refused to give my pain a voice.
“What’s the matter, boy, can’t take it like a man?” the stranger’s taunting voice had challenged when he'd met me in the alley.
This nobody. A trick. In his expertly tailored dark suit, Ferragamo lace-up shoes, and black cashmere overcoat. Slumming on the wrong side of the tracks to fuck men in dark, rotting alleyways. He had dared to think I wasn’t man enough?