I’m standing in the hallway of a Montreal high-rise, wearing my best approximation of a professional-seeming outfit — a pair of dress pants with a button down shirt and a tie. I’m holding a clipboard I found in the closet of the sublet where I’m staying, a stack of papers on it culled from the recycling bin.
I’ve decided to forgo contact lenses today; instead I’m wearing my glasses to give me a more scientific vibe. Unfortunately, I don’t have any dress shoes, so I’ve had to settle for a faded pair of black Converse to complete my outfit.
After giving my tie a little tug, I take a deep breath and knock on the door in front of me three times. Almost immediately, it’s opened by a large man, probably a good inch taller than me and at least 300 pounds. He’s wearing a burgundy bathrobe and slippers, and has a ring on every finger. He’s clean shaven and deeply tanned with shocking blue eyes. His bleach-blond hair is gelled into vicious looking spikes.
“Hello, sir. I’m with the pharmacology research lab at McGill University,” I say. “We’re conducting research on a new drug and looking for subjects who might be interested in participating.”
“Well,” he replies. “I don’t have a lot of time. Is this going to take a lot of time? I have to go out soon.”
“Oh no,” I say. “The study will only take a few minutes.”
“Well, alright then, come in,” he says with mock annoyance, and steps back to let me pass.
I ditch my shoes at the door and follow him into the apartment. He takes a seat on one side of a large sectional sofa, his bathrobe falling open to reveal his waxed chest. He stares at me intently, waiting for me to make the next move.
I go into a lot of homes that are cluttered — spaces stacked with trinkets and mementos carefully amassed over decades, or just piles of things the host can’t bear to part with — but this place is different. There’s a collection of close to 100 elephant figurines on a shelf in one corner. One the wall opposite the couch, there’s a frame cluster of a bunch of drawings of flamingos. Three racks of collectable spoons, decorative plates with images of Persian cats, and another frame cluster with photographs of orchids hang on the wall next to the kitchen.
The coffee table has probably a dozen spheres of different sizes and colours, balanced on tiny stands that look like a mock solar system.
And if the collections weren’t enough, there’s another decorative layer on top of the entire scene.
It’s early March and the place looks like a bag of leprechauns exploded. All of the picture frames and shelves are decorated with shamrock garlands. The various faux-floral arrangements and the collection of cuckoo clocks have been adorned with shiny green ribbons. The couch is littered with Irish-themed throw pillows. The dining room table is set for eight people with themed placemats and napkins. Each of the elephant figurines is wearing a tiny green top hat.
The effect is, in a word, overwhelming. How does someone live in a space with this much visual stimulation? Does he only go to this much effort for St Patrick’s Day, or does he have a separate decorating scheme for every holiday?
My host sees me eyeing his space and seems slightly annoyed.
“I don’t have a lot of time,” he says. “What’s this drug you were telling me you wanted to test?”
I reach into my pocket and put a bottle of poppers he asked me to bring on the coffee table.
“We don’t have a name for it yet,” I say. “Right now we’re just trying to figure out how it affects people. What I’m hoping is that you can try it out and I can observe your reactions as part of my research.”
He eyes the bottle.
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Well, we’re studying the drug’s effects and various forms of administration,” I say. “It’s in the bottle in a liquid form. We want to test how it affects people when they inhale the vapour. All I want you to do is to inhale a bit of it and then I will observe your reactions.”
“Okay,” he says stiffly. “So I just inhale it and tell you how I feel?”
“That’s right,” I reply.
I open the bottle and pass it to him.
“Anytime you’re ready to begin the experiment you can start.”
He holds the bottle to his nose and inhales for a long time, then places it back on the table, screwing the cap on tight.
I wait about 10 seconds, and ask him how he feels.
“It’s a bit strange,” he says. “I feel a bit warm.”
“Interesting,” I say. “Would you also say you feel more . . . relaxed?”
“I see. Very interesting.”
I pretend to make some notes on my clipboard and glance at the grandfather clock, which is sporting a crown of sparkly green shamrocks with ribbons cascading down the sides.
“This time, I’d like you to try inhaling twice.”
He reaches forward, picks up the bottle and takes two long inhales, before placing it back on the table.
“And how do you feel now?” I ask. “Do you notice any difference in the sensation?”
“I feel warmer.”
“Ah, yes. That’s a common effect we’ve noticed,” I say. “Let’s just adjust things so you don’t overheat.”
I manoeuvre my way around the sofa so I’m sitting closer to him, and grab the two halves of his bathrobe to pull it open. It’s not belted, so it parts easily to reveal his spray-tanned torso and tiny, leopard print bikini briefs.
“You’re not trying something on me, right?” he says. “Because I’m not gay.”
“Certainly not. That would be a violation of our ethical standards and would adversely affect the data we’re trying to collect.”
“Alright, that’s good,” he says. “Because I’m not gay.”
“So I’d like to try out the next phase in the experiment,” I say. “Are you okay to continue?”
“What are you going to do?”
“This time, I’d like you to inhale three times.”
He obliges, and his body eases back into the couch.
“Alright,” I say. “Now I’d like you to begin rubbing your nipples very gently.”
“Yes. We’re testing . . . uh . . . how the drug affects blood flow to the chest region. Rubbing your nipples will . . . cause the necessary neurological stimulation . . . uh . . . so I can test.”
“Okay,” he says. “But I’m not gay.”
“Just try rubbing your nipples and see what happens.”
He begins to stroke himself and I notice his cock getting hard in his leopard print briefs.
“Alright, now I’d like you to continue rubbing your nipples and let me know of any other sensations you’re having.”
“Well,” he says. “I’m starting to . . . can I try some more?”
“Certainly. Why don’t you try four inhales this time?” . . .