Todd, the Model with the Big Ass, Part 1
I put the bag of groceries on the counter. I wiped the sweat off my face. It was 101 degrees outside (38 Celsius) and with every intention to go jogging, I ended up walking down to the grocery store instead. But I had been sweating like it had been a workout.
I looked around my small apartment and sighed. How had I gotten myself here? Here, in Laredo, Texas, a city so close to Mexico, there was a Nuevo Laredo across the border, about a mile from my apartment. The city, with all its cute Mexican restaurants and 95% Latino population, made it hard to miss just how close the border was.
I, on the other hand, was born in New York. My parents emigrated there from the Philippines and still lived there. After college I worked in a gallery for a few years and did my own photography on the side. Photography had always been my passion but I wasn’t sure if and how I could make it into my profession. When I was 26, I met this cute guy on Fire Island. Within the time span of a summer we fell in love. Luis had always said that at the end of the summer he was going to go back to his job and family in Laredo. He proposed to do the long distance thing for the first year, but I refused. I took a chance and went back with him.
And we were happy. I got a job at the biggest gallery in Laredo. I was able to set up a studio and I even used Luis as a model for my increasingly erotic photography. I got a few photography jobs, but nothing I was going to be able to live off of. A nude print of Luis hung in the gallery. His muscled back, his bubbly backside and his gorgeous face looking back at the camera got quite the attention. People who visited the gallery all gave it a good look, but people didn’t seem interested in buying it. I got more and more responsibility in the gallery, managing events, working directly under the owner. I was bringing in more money, so I felt less guilty towards Luis, who as a dental assistant had brought most of the income into our relationship.
However, after a relationship of four years, Luis and I broke up. I had continued to see him as the love of my life, but he told me one day he had fallen out of love. Something I had started to notice in his behavior the months before. But still, it had come as a shock. And only now, a year later, in my own small apartment, working more than ever at the gallery, I was still in Laredo and realizing I didn’t really belong here anymore.
I had been thinking about how I could leave Laredo for quite some time. I needed to go to one of the big cities, where photography, or art in general, is thriving. The easiest option would be to go back to New York and live with my parents until I got a job. But I had decided to make that plan B. I would much rather find a way to do this by myself. Unfortunately this had turned out more difficult than I had hoped. Maybe it was time to call my Mom.
Just as I finished putting my groceries away, my phone buzzed. It was an e-mail. Troy Almond. That name sounded vaguely familiar. Definitely work-related, but I couldn’t exactly place him. I opened it.
‘Hey Vincent! You might not remember me, as you took photos of my proposal and later wedding to my husband about three years ago? Anyway, my husband Charlie and I moved to Palm Springs and are opening a gay resort. We’re in the process of getting everything finalized and we were hoping you would take photos for our website? We were so happy with the photos you took during two other very special times in our lives, so we thought of you immediately. Maybe you can call me when you have time so we can discuss and plan it. We can cover your travel costs and obviously your accommodation. ;-)
Would love to hear from you,
Oh. My. God. Palm Springs. Loads of art galleries. Gay men abound. This was the job of a lifetime. Mom was going to get a completely different kind of call. Like with any job, I first wrote down all the things I needed to discuss with the potential new client. But I remember Troy and Charlie as this middle-aged, very friendly, wealthy couple, I felt like we were going to come to an agreement either way.
When I called Troy, he immediately started off by telling me again how thankful he is for the pictures I took back in 2014. It was good for me to remember that even though jobs for me sometimes just blend together, for some people the photos stay with them forever. He asked me if business had been good, if I was still in Laredo and if I was still with that handsome guy whose picture was up at the 201 Gallery. I decided to come clean and say I had plans to leave Laredo and that I hoped that this job would be a good first step. “You are more than welcome to stay in the resort until things get going, Vincent, it would be our pleasure. And even after, we have a guest room in our villa not far from the resort. I have always supported the arts and I do believe you have a talent that could get you so far out here.” I was starting to get emotional that someone would do this for me. I knew I couldn’t overstay my welcome, but I would have a place to stay for at least a few weeks.
When Troy told me about what he had in mind for the shoot, it sounded very cool. He had already picked out four male models. He wanted the pictures to be both inviting and sexy. He wanted photos of the interior of one of the studio apartments and one of the one-bedroom apartments. He was thinking implied nudity in the bedroom and bathrooms, shooting two models as a couple each time. He also mentioned a group shot in Speedos by the pool. His ideas seemed really amazing and hot! We talked about timing and other details and we stayed in touch over e-mail over the following few weeks. I quit my job at the gallery, which was scary but also a relief. The owner, Calvin, got quite emotional, but he wished me all the luck in the world. I decided to also get rid of my apartment. That was possibly even scarier. But I knew I couldn’t look back now.
The day before I got on the plane, Troy forwarded an e-mail that he got from the modeling agency.
‘Dear Mr Almond,
For your photoshoot at the Laredo Resort in Palm Springs on August 7th you ordered four male models. During your visit with us at our LA Agency you selected the following models: Andre Junior Keegan Todd
They will arrive on location at 10:00 AM. We have included a make-up artist who will arrive at the same time. A photographer, wardrobe, or any equipment is not included. If you have any questions, let me know.
Bonnie Crockett PEER International Models’
Each of the model’s names linked to a profile on the agency’s website, which was very exciting to me.
Andre Corrales was a very nice Hispanic man with a fluffy beard. His brown hair was cropped short. His pictures were a wide variety of serious to fun. Out of the 8 pictures, 5 were shirtless. One of which was in the shower where we only saw his upper body. Another one was semi-nude as there was a strategically placed silhouette covering his private parts as he sat on a bed. There were two others in Speedos. His hairy body was muscular and sexy. I was kind of jealous of Troy that he got to pick out the models. Then again, I would be able to get close to them very soon.
I clicked the second link. Junior Silva was Brazilian, it said. He had a neatly trimmed beard and seemed more conservative in his pictures. Out of his nine photos, two were shirtless, and in another one he wore an unbuttoned shirt. This guy was ripped! He clearly shaved his upper body as it was completely smooth. Junior had black hair and only smiled in two of his pictures. Even though he had a nice smile, in the other pictures there was something very mysterious and wildly attractive about him.
Keegan Haynes also had 9 pictures in his profile. He was shirtless in 8 of them. He had dark blond hair and bright brown eyes. Although he had a nice body, that was also shaven smooth, he was a completely different type from the other two. His face stole the show for its symmetry, his eyes and his gorgeous jawline. Dimples appeared when he smiled in two of the pictures. He wore swimwear in three of the pictures, two of which were Speedos. What was also interesting to me is that he wore a cap in three of the pictures, making him look young. Keegan was pretty above all, maybe less traditionally masculine than the previous two.
Finally there was Todd Barlow. Oddly, Todd only had 5 pictures in his profile. Two of which were shirtless and in underwear. Briefs to be exact, one blue, one white pair. Todd seemed a little older than the other models, his body seemed beefier, yet he clearly had 8-pack abs. He was bald with some light scruff in some of the pictures. In one of the pictures he had some light chest hair and a neat happy trail from his belly button downwards. In the other one his body was shaven smooth. His dark brown eyes laid deep, and he gave a brooding look to the camera in every photo.
I felt like I was instantly in love with all four of them and already got semi-hard at the thought of meeting them.
The next day I was already planning out what the photos should look like in my mind, as I travelled to Palm Springs. Troy and Charlie picked me up from the airport, which was only about an 8-minute drive to the resort. The weather was similar as back in Texas, but I had more of a holiday feeling, so it was somehow less annoying. With the palm trees everywhere and the mountains in the distance, I took a deep breath and realized I was making a new start. And before I knew it, we parked by a white wall that said ‘Laredo Resort & Spa / Recharge & Reconnect’, underlined in rainbow colors.
Troy and Charlie were so kind to give me a studio apartment in the resort. With a queen size bed, a nice bathroom and a small kitchen, I had more than I could possibly hope for. They gave me a tour of the resort which had 4 luxury one-bedroom apartments and 6 studio apartments. In the middle was a large pool and there was also a communal bar, for which they were still looking for staff. The one-bedroom apartments also had a large Jacuzzi bath-tub in the bathroom and a seating area in the living room, that I was thinking I needed to display in the photos. The lighting in all of the rooms was actually quite good and I knew I would be fine without much extra equipment, even though Troy offered to buy me anything I needed.
Troy and Charlie then took me to a separate area where there was a gym, which included a small sauna. There was a closed-off area with two massage tables, specifically for couples’ massages. The largest building on the plot was for a restaurant. With only a few tables, with two chairs at each, they were going for a romantic vibe. There’s something painful about being single in a romantic place. I was missing Luis more than ever. He would have loved it here.
That night Troy and Charlie took me out to dinner and said they were so happy with their decision to fly me in. They were convinced that Palm Springs was going to be the start of this big career for me. At first I thought they were just being nice, but it turned out that they both knew their stuff, speaking in technical terms about the photos they had seen of me, which weren’t just the ones I did for them. They had looked me up online. Which was very flattering. I told them I was overwhelmed by their kindness and I didn’t really know what to say. “Us gay men, we need to stick together and help each other out. It’s a tough world out there for us.” With anyone else I would be suspicious that they would ask for sexual favors. But with these guys it had never crossed my mind. There was 15 to 20 years between us and they hadn’t in the slightest shown any behavior that would make me think that. I was convinced they had faith in my talent and were doing me a favor that was small to them, yet huge to me.
They told me about their inspiration for the resort. Having lived through the last few decades as a couple, seeing gay relationships get more accepted while they stayed monogamous throughout, they felt it was time for a gay resort with a romantic atmosphere as opposed to a sexual one. They hoped that would make their resort stand out from the bunch. “There are already so many resorts that are clothing optional. We hope this will also appeal to the community”, Charlie said. “I’ll try to refrain from swimming nude in your pool then”, I said. They laughed. They made it clear that the photos should show passion and love in between the models. “It has to be sexy, but like, nothing full frontal. It can’t be porn. But definitely some nice asses”, Charlie declared.
Because they were in their late forties (Troy) and early fifties (Charlie), they had stories about the gay community in the 80s. Sad stories. But stories I needed to hear. Because it made me understand why they felt compelled to help out other gay men and that the community needs to stick together. They were so inspiring and I knew that when those models were going to arrive two days later that I needed to prove that their faith in me was justified.
The next morning I got up early and took a swim in the pool. I could get used to this. Troy fixed me some breakfast in the restaurant. Charlie was already getting to work as I saw him talking to someone from a moving company. Clearly not all of the apartments were finished yet. As I ate, Troy filled me in on some details on the models. Junior was the only one uncomfortable with rear nudity, but I could easily work around that. He also said that he fully trusted my judgment when it came to the photos, yet he mentioned a few things he really wanted to be in them, like the Jacuzzi in the one-bedroom apartment.
I started setting up, Troy helping me very well where he could. He became my assistant for the day. Soon enough, the models started showing up. “This is Vincent Aquino, he’ll be the one with the camera”, Troy introduced me. “So nice to meet you, I’m Junior”, he said with a lovely accent. He wore large sunglasses, but I recognized his meticulously trimmed beard. “Hi, I’m Keegan”, the short guy behind him said. His green eyes were magically beautiful. His cheekbones and light scruff completed the perfection that was his face. I shook both of their hands and immediately said they were going to be coupled together. I showed them the one-bedroom apartment and said we were going to do one photo in the bed, one in the Jacuzzi and one in the kitchen. Later, they would also be doing shoots in the gym and in the restaurant. Troy said he would take them to make-up, which was actually in another one of the apartments where we weren’t shooting.
A few minutes later, Troy came back with the other two models, who had apparently carpooled in pairs. What was interesting about that, is that Troy and I had already coupled them up based on what we thought their chemistry would be. So that was promising. Andre was the next one to very politely shake my hand, aying he was happy to work with a new photographer. He was clearly the beardiest of them all, even though they all had some facial hair. All four of them had been surprisingly short, not that much taller than me. I felt attracted to all four of them. But Todd was something else. Todd was wearing a backwards cap and a white sleeveless shirt. He smiled a crooked smile as he shook my hand and in his deep voice said how nice it was to meet me. His dark eyes seemed to look right through me and I very suddenly got flustered. I tried to tell Andre and Todd that we were going to be shooting in the studio apartment, but stuttered throughout. Beside a shoot in the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen, they would also shoot in the sauna and while getting massages. When I finally managed to say all of this, Troy took them to make-up.
When he came back, Troy couldn’t resist. “You and Todd… I saw a spark!” “Stop it”, I laughed.
But I couldn’t help fantasizing.
To be continued…