THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

—featuring Will Shakespeare the gay optometrist

I: VIC’S STORY

My mother wore glasses. They weren’t all that strong, but she was already a full time wearer when I was born. Before I was conscious of anything, my subconscious knew that mother love looked at me through lenses with frames round them. Dad had glasses too; he put them on with a bit of a flourish every time he had to look at anything in detail and then took them off when he thought of it. I probably inherited my astigmatism from him—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For as long as I can remember anything, I remember finding glasses interesting—attractive—fascinating—exciting—and, yes, arousing. Long before puberty, if I’d known enough I’d have spelled ‘SEX’ with a ‘P’, and I had a secret, almost guilty, longing to have my own spex. Yes, it was a guilty longing, and I felt I had to keep it secret. I was never the one to ask to try another kid’s new specs; I would try them on with everybody else, but I never showed any interest in what I saw through them—I was too busy trying to conceal my erection! When it came to choosing courses and aiming for a career, how I longed to go for optometry! But that, I reasoned, would give away my secret, and I opted instead for dentistry, which I’m still practising, and enjoying; but it isn’t my first love. At the same time I secretly devoured books and articles about eyesight and its correction, and had a good grasp of the essential facts.

When I realized in the sixth form that the writing on the board and the images on the OHP screen weren’t as clear as they used to be, I knew at once what that meant: the beginning of myopia, which was sure to increase. The obvious thing to do was mention it to my parents, have an eye test and get the pair of specs I craved—but not this child! My myopia was as guilty a secret as my optic obsession. I struggled to conceal my problem. I was fairly successful too; if I sat in the front row I could usually see enough to make sense of the rest, and I discovered, as so many young myopes do, that I could see better through half-closed eyes. After all (I reasoned) a dentist’s work is done at close range, and it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t see the other side of the street. I had no desire to drive a car, and in the city I could manage perfectly well on public transport.

So I went up to the university dental school, a mixed-up youth, gay as a daisy, ready to admit in some company that I liked boys, but desperate to conceal that I liked them even better if they wore glasses—and that I ought to have had glasses myself, especially in the bigger halls where I had to attend lectures. I was a virgin: many a night I’d shared a bed with my younger brother and we’d explored each other’s bodies, but we’d never gone the whole way. Sometimes I’d had to get out of bed and jerk off in the bathroom, but I pretended I was just going to pee. Perhaps Philip even believed me.

There were all sorts of groups in the university, all trying to recruit new members; and I decided, with great daring, to investigate the Gaysoc. The first meeting was a social with no serious speaker; It was all very tame really; the more emancipated had a ladylike scream or two after the single glass of plonk we were allowed, but most of us were overawed by our temerity in joining such a group, nervous about what it might lead to, and above all anxious not to put a foot wrong, so we stood about trying not to be conspicuous. After a few minutes I realized there was a small fair guy looking me up and down. He was just out of range, so as usual I half-closed my eyes to get him in focus; and yes, he really was very good-looking. It seemed as if he thought the same about me, and I gave an involuntary smile—it would be another year before I got into real dentistry, but I have always had good teeth and known how to look after them, so I do look good when I smile. “Hi,” he said; “I’m Will.” “Vic,” I answered. “How about another drink, Vic?” said Will. “I thought they were strictly rationed.” “They are here, but I’ve got supplies if you’d like to come round.” I was agreeable, and off we went.

It turned out Will lived in a flat just off campus. It had a pleasantly ‘lived-in’ feel: Will opened a bottle of wine—better stuff than the Gaysoc had offered—and we sat down with a glass. I felt relaxed and at ease (the drink may have helped) and when Will began to stroke my thigh I responded in kind; I turned towards him and found myself caught in a long deep kiss such as I’d never experienced before... We didn’t go so very far, but further than I’d ever gone before; doing it with someone else is a different ball game entirely (so to speak); I was ecstatic, and Will seemed pretty happy too. We kissed some more, and then sat down. The television was in the corner; Will picked up the remote and switched on; then I caught my breath as I saw him pull out a pair of gold-rimmed glasses and put them on! As if he hadn’t been utterly desirable already! Between sexual excitement and the wine I’d drunk, my guard was down; I heard my own awed tones as I said, “You wear glasses?” “Most of the time, yes. You’d better put yours on if you want to see the telly.” “But—uh—I don’t have glasses.” “What?” The telly was forgotten. “You don’t have glasses?” “Well, no.” “For God’s sake, how do you cope?” “Why, what makes you think I need glasses?” “Oh, give us a break! Even if I weren’t a budding optometrist I’d have to be blind to miss the way you squinted at me when I was cruising you just now! Don’t tell me you didn’t know you’re short-sighted!” “Well...” “I thought as much! Look, try these a minute.” He handed me his glasses, and with a strange mixture of eagerness and reluctance, I put them on—and the earth moved. Everything sprang into focus, I had to admit it. I don’t have to describe the sensation; every myope remembers that first moment of clear vision. “Right!” said Will. “We’d better get you sorted out; I need more patients for clinical practice anyway. Come round to the school of optometry tomorrow afternoon. Three o’clock OK? Wait at reception and I’ll come and get you.” The evening had changed: I had started out as a conquest (and I’d enjoyed that part); now I was a patient. What was going to happen next?

Will gave a great yawn; “I’m dead on my feet,” he said. “See you on the ice.” One last lingering kiss, and I stumbled out of the flat and back to my college room, a jumble of mixed emotions. Was I in love? I wasn’t sure. What was in no doubt was that my cover was blown. Somebody knew I needed glasses—and was determined to get me into them; and that somebody had just given me the experience of a lifetime. My glasses fetish was still a secret, as far as I knew, but could I avoid giving myself away when he tested my eyes?

I didn’t sleep much that night. I thought of Will. I thought of the moment when he put his glasses on. I thought of the moment when I put his glasses on. I thought of the moment when I would put my own glasses on for the first time. I thought of the moment when I felt his hand on my thigh, and I relived all that followed...oh no, I didn’t sleep much that night, and when I did I overslept and was late for my first lecture. The front seats were all taken; I had to sit a third of the way back and the blackboard was a blur; I began to look forward to wearing the glasses Will would prescribe for me and seeing things the way I used to. All the same, I was too nervous to eat a proper lunch and for the hour before the test I was like a cat on hot bricks—and a randy tomcat at that!

Three o’clock found me, a little more composed, pushing the revolving door of the school of optometry. There were plenty of seats in the reception area, and in a few minutes Will appeared, looking incredibly sexy in a white ‘bumfreezer’ jacket; his specs sparkled as he looked round for me—and was it my imagination or did his eyes light up when he saw me?

I don’t need to describe an eye test to anybody who’s reading this. The difference in this case was that from the moment Will turned the lights down and lit up the eye chart (which I couldn’t read much of) I had an erection that my slacks wouldn’t hide. Then, as he leaned over me to look into my eyes, I could tell by his breathing that he was as excited as I was. What had I got myself into? One thing was perfectly obvious as the test went on: I had got myself into glasses. Gradually, as he swapped the lenses round, the chart became clearer until at last I could read the bottom line. “Hmm,” he said; “astigmatism as well as myopia. I can’t think how you’ve managed all this time.” The next thing was to have Will’s results checked by a tutor—that was OK, and by the way that was when I discovered Will’s other name was Shakespeare; mine’s Macbeth so we were well matched. Getting the prescription made up meant a trip to another floor, but Will had made sure he had time to spare and came to supervise my choice of frames. I was bemused by the variety on offer, but I had an idea: “Look,” I said; “I’d quite like glasses like yours.” “Aha!” said Will; “I have a better idea; I’m just about due for a new pair. Why don’t we find something that suits us both, then you have yours made now and I’ll get a matching pair in a few weeks. That appeals to me.”

So we toured the racks, both trying on frame after frame, till we hit on a black oblong, pretty narrow, almost like a letterbox. “That’s definitely the one for you,” said Will; “and it’s all right on me. Is that settled?” It was, and I went on to have all the measurements taken and place the order. Will had to get on, but made sure before he left that the one-hour service was operating, and made me promise to go round after dinner and show him the new bespectacled me.

In due course, actually under an hour, a technician brought my glasses out from the lab, a student checked and adjusted them, and gave me a case for them. The last bit of business was to pay the bill, which was a lot less than at a commercial outlet (I know that now; I didn’t then). Everywhere I looked, everything was sparkling clear, but I wasn’t quite ready to ‘come out’ as a glasses wearer, so as I went out through the revolving doors I slipped them into their case and walked out into the familiar blur.

After dinner and a cup of muddy coffee I headed for Will’s, my glasses still in their case in my pocket. My ring at the doorbell was quickly answered. When Will saw me he scowled: “So where are they?” he said as he followed me into his sitting room. I produced them and put them on, and once again everything sprang into focus. “What the fuck are you playing at?” he demanded. “You get all my skill and all the resources of the optometry school to correct your eyesight, we fit you with a fabulous frame, and you put the frigging things in your pocket! Those specs were made for wearing—WEAR THEM! You know as well as I do you can’t see worth shit without them—and besides,” the temper subsided and he finished gently, “you are just so fucking hot in those specs. I could eat you; in fact—“ and before I knew what was happening he was on his knees in front of me, undoing my belt, unzipping my fly...being Will’s friend seemed to mean a new experience every time we met.

By the end of the evening I had been brainwashed with Will’s view that “Spexy guys are sexy guys; squinting is the great passion killer.” The next morning I got up and left my glasses by my bed while I had a shit, a shave, a shower and a shampoo. I hung them from the front of my shirt to go down to breakfast, but when I got to the dining room all the faces were a blur, just as they always had been. I unhooked my specs and put them on. It was my coming out as a glasses wearer: clear vision, my very own specs; what more could I ask? A few weeks later Will had his eyes checked and emerged with new and slightly stronger glasses that matched mine. At the end of that term I gave up my room in college and moved in with Will. His flat was in a block called Verona House and some of the guys in the Gaysoc started calling us the TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA. The following year my parents were killed in a road accident; I don’t like to dwell on that time except to say that I became my brother’s legal guardian—he was a promising young actor; his eyesight turned out to be far worse than mine, but he’s told that story (All’s well that ends well). He’s also described how Will and I lived happily—not ever after but for a while. When we broke up it was my fault: I was foolish enough to think I was turning straight. I’m over that nonsense; Phil and Will ended up together, and I’m with a gorgeous young man called Frank who’s also in the vision care business and (of course) wears glasses. He’s a bit more myopic than I am, without the astigmatism, and of course we wear matching frames. He’s written a lot of our story (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) so I shan’t tell it again here.

 

 

II—WILL’S STORY

There was just no way I was going to grow up straight. As far back as I can remember I felt ‘different’ in some way; I have simply never felt any interest in girls—no, not ever—though I am good friends with some of them. In senior school my feelings about the other boys became more explicit and, below the belt, tangible. In the showers after rugger (I was quite a useful little forward) my excitement was ecstatic and my erection obvious—to my embarrassment and everyone else’s amusement. Not that it was the only one: there were other boys who were obviously aroused, sometimes, but not every single time like me. After showering I used to take refuge in the bog and deal with my problem in the traditional way. One day another boy followed me in and I discovered how much better duets are than solos. After that I began to get a reputation as the school tart but honestly it only happened maybe three or four times in a couple of years. I guess I was lucky that the nickname that stuck was Willy—for my age I was quite well-endowed—but at one point I thought I was going to be labelled Pansy Bill, what with my excitement in the showers and something in my manner...I may as well admit it, I was as camp as a row of army tents.

Everybody wasn’t as understanding as the rugby team; one day in a crowded school bus I was pressed hard against an older boy who was facing away from me, and the inevitable started to happen. He turned (with difficulty), kneed me in the groin and said, “You cheeky little bugger!” I preferred the usual way of cooling myself off!

As time went on I noticed that I found the few boys who wore glasses more exciting than the rest, and when the physics class got to optics I was fascinated. The idea of a career in optometry (when I learned the word) began to grow on me. I studied the careers leaflets and it seemed as if the entry qualifications were within reach; I was bright enough.

All the time I was eyeing up the spexy guys in school and outside, it never once occurred to me that there might be anything wrong with my own eyes. I couldn’t always tell whether a guy on the other side of the street was wearing glasses, but that was just the way things were. Likewise when the board wasn’t too clear but half-closing my eyes made it easier to read. For me as for so many others the crunch came when I reached the magic age, got my provisional licence, and went for my first driving lesson. “Just read me that number plate over there, will you?” said the instructor. Well, I couldn’t, could I? That brought my first lesson to an end before it began. I was furious; I’d been looking forward so much to driving a car, and I choked back tears of disappointment as I walked home. Then it occurred to me—I was going to have to get glasses, I was going to be like the spexy guys I fancied. I arrived home with a spring in my step and a bulge in my jeans that needed to be dealt with before I broke the news to my mother.

Mum took it all quite calmly: “That’s exactly what happened to your uncle George.” She herself was very slightly myopic and had a pair of glasses that I hardly ever saw her wearing; my father had recently got his first pair of readers and was valiantly pretending he didn’t really need them; and several other members of the family wore glasses of various sorts (Uncle George’s were quite thick and he seemed to be pretty blind without them—was that what I was heading for?). So a teenage son turning out to be short-sighted was nothing to worry about. Did I want her to come with me when I went for my test? No, I reckoned I could cope on my own, so she rang the opticians where we had an account, made an appointment for me after school the next day, Thursday, and (just to be on the safe side) put a maximum on the amount I could spend.

The next day in school I had a new awareness of just how much I was squinting to see the board, but I missed very little, if anything . Still, I thought, life was going to be easier when I got my glasses. I had plenty of time to get to the opticians after school, so I walked, noticing that, yes, the street names and shop signs were a bit indistinct. At the shop the receptionist took my particulars and suggested I try some frames till Mr Falstaff was free. Presently I was called in and greeted by a stout man, not very old. We laughed about our names, and I relaxed. To a developing optic obsessive the test was a fascinating experience; I asked quite a lot of questions and got very clear answers. No surprises about the result of the test—a low minus prescription and a few words of advice: “Billy, you must wear your glasses to drive, and you’ll find them a big help in class and for films and TV. How much more you wear them is up to you. Now go and find a nice set of frames. Oh, but before I forget, we have a vacancy for a weekend assistant. Read the notice in the shop and talk to Howard if you’re interested. The work might appeal to you.”

My heart missed a beat as the dispenser came over to help me; he was a really good-looking guy in his 20s with a signet ring on his little finger and a badge saying his name was Howard. He was very attentive as I browsed over the racks of frames. I eventually selected an oblong plastic frame, honey coloured with flecks of black. Howard nodded his approval, took all the measurements, and after checking with the lab said my glasses would be ready in an hour. Things were moving fast: this time yesterday I had no idea I needed glasses, and in an hour I’d be wearing them! There was a stirring in my groin again. While I waited I studied the notice about the weekend assistant’s job and thought: on the one hand it would put a stop to my Saturday rugby; on the other it would be good experience, and I’d quite enjoy being around Howard every Saturday. If only he’d worn glasses... Before my specs were ready my mind was made up. It seemed Howard was the practice manager as well; and after a quick confab with Mr Falstaff he offered me the job; subject to the usual conditions—parents’ agreement and stuff like that—I could start right away, that very week.

By this time my glasses were ready; a technician delivered them to the reception desk and Howard brought them over, polished them with a cloth, put them on me for a moment, whipped them off again to make an adjustment, put them back on and invited me to look at them in a mirror and through them and the shop window. Everything was fine. He gave me the bill and a case for my specs and pressed my hand as he said, “See you on Saturday then.”

I was delighted with my glasses, both the way they looked on me and the way things looked through them, but now that I was about to face the world I was suddenly bashful; I wasn’t quite ready to be seen in them, so I slipped them into their case and pocketed it.

As I walked down the High Street I was more conscious than ever of not seeing properly. Never mind, I thought, if there’s anything I really want to see...then I saw Him. He was tall, extremely tall, with broad shoulders and gingerish hair. He was wearing jeans and a sweater. He looked remarkably sexy, and I thought he was wearing glasses, but he was on the other side of the street and I couldn’t be sure. I could hardly put my own brand new specs on just to stare at him—or could I?

Fortunately I was just by a bus stop, a bus was approaching and I couldn’t read the destination. I whipped my glasses out, put them on and squinted (as I was accustomed to doing) at the bus. Once it had gone by I looked all round, especially at the dishy guy across the road. Yes, he did have glasses, with preppy round gold frames. That moment of clear vision was a moment of revelation; as I put my glasses away again I knew that, not immediately but very, very soon, I was going to be a full-time wearer. And the stirring in my groin told me I liked the idea.

Back home, there was no hassle from my parents about wearing them or not wearing them. I went upstairs and did my homework bareyed—stopping at intervals to put them on and admire my bespectacled reflection in the mirror, and enjoy even more the clear view of the trees outside my window. Homework finished, I hooked them to my shirt and went downstairs...they certainly improved the TV picture. At bed time I went upstairs, still wearing them, and feeling a bit apprehensive about school the next day.

My plan was to go into school bareyed as usual, put my glasses on as soon as I felt the need of them, and, probably, leave them on as long as I felt like it. That’s what I did, even though I was—so soon—missing the help of my low minus lenses. The first lesson was a discussion of a book we had been reading; there were some notes to take, but nothing to tax my distance vision. This was followed by music, another ball game entirely. The music we were practising was projected on a screen, and I realized this was the moment for my ‘coming out’; I slipped my glasses on and heard a voice behind me mutter, “Hey. how about Willy’s specs?” but for the time being I was enjoying the clearest view I’d ever had of the screen—how had I managed NOT to realize I was short-sighted?

You know how it is; someone appearing in school in glasses for the first time is a nine days’ wonder, if that; at break time, the class gathered round asking all the obvious questions. I explained my eyesight wasn’t good enough to drive, and the specs were the result; one guy said, “My God Willy, you were so fucking camp already, but with those on...” Then everybody wanted to try them on. That was only to be expected, and they were passed round the class, to a string of comments like, “You must be fucking blind!” and “God, these are strong!” (I wasn’t, and they weren’t!). There were two guys whose response was different—I noticed if no one else did. When Andrew Tudor put my specs on he gave a gasp and looked kind of startled, went as white as a sheet, took them off quickly and passed them on. A couple of minutes later Peter Fraser went through the same sequence—except that, being as black as the ace of spades (and amazingly beautiful with it) he didn’t go white. What was up with them, I wondered; a moment’s reflection, and it was obvious: each of those guys had discovered how much better he could see with my glasses; for each of them it was the first hint that he was short-sighted; each of them was trying to get his head round the prospect of having to wear glasses in the near future. I would await developments...and I was starting work the very next day at the busiest optician’s in town.

As it turned out I had a long wait. It was only as their birthdays approached, with the prospect of a vision check before they could drive, that first Peter and later Andrew appeared in the shop, both disconcerted to find me working there, both, as it turned out, needing a slightly stronger prescription than mine—they were both -1.25 in both eyes while I was -0.75-0.25—both determined to wear their glasses only when it was absolutely necessary. I argued with them, I pointed out that their eyes were worse then mine; but there was no moving them. And, of course, neither knew that the other had glasses, and the confidentiality code meant I couldn’t tell them. Each of them was just too short-sighted to see how badly the other squinted—and each was just too short-sighted to see how longingly the other squinted at him! I was sure in my own mind that they were panting for each other, but there was no way I could play Cupid.

Later still came the Monday morning when I noticed Andrew and Peter exchange an affectionate, kind of reminiscent smile as they came into school. That got my gaydar going, and I kept an eye on them during the first lesson, which was maths. Sure enough, when the teacher started to write equations on the board, they glanced reasssuringly at each other, took out their glasses and put them on. They kept them on the rest of the day too, and I was no longer the only speccy guy in the class. At break time everybody wanted to try them on of course (and there was a guy, new that term, who obviously had the same experience they had had six months before, but only the three of us noticed) and they explained they had met at the driving school when they were both wearing their glasses, and agreed they couldn’t manage without them in class any longer. I was sure there was more to it than that; but when I got them on their own all they told me was that each had thought that if he wore his glasses it might put the other off him, but each thought the other was hot in glasses. From the way they intertwined their fingers as they told me this much, I was pretty sure they had found more in common than a bit of myopia. From then on they were inseparable—and bespectacled. I’d found myself wearing my specs full-time even sooner than I’d expected: at the end of that first day at school I took them off and put them away; but after wearing them all day I found the blur so annoying that I put them back on within five minutes of walking out of the school gates, and from then on they were on by the time I left home in the morning, and often before that.

All this time I was spending my Saturdays in the optician’s shop: I was getting quite good at fitting and adjusting frames, and also at guessing the strength of a lens. I understood the paperwork too. The work was interesting too—the only disappointment was the way the old ladies in need of stronger readers outnumbered the nice young men who looked so sexy in their new glasses. We had our moments though. On day the hunk I’d seen in the High Street the day I got my specs came in saying he wasn’t seeing so well any more. We were able to fit him in for a test right away, and he’d gone up from -1.75 to -3. No wonder he wasn’t seeing well; his increase was more than my total correction! As he left, wearing his new rimless ovals with gunmetal temples, Howard muttered so that I could hear, “Gawdstrewth, it’s too much for a white woman!” We understood each other well enough to camp it up when the occasion arose. I liked Howard and found him quite attractive, and I had a feeling he’d have liked to get closer. If only he’d worn glasses...

The Saturday after Peter and Andrew ‘came out’ (in more ways than one as far as I was concerned) I arrived at work to find Howard sitting at the reception desk; his eyes were red and bloodshot. “Good grief, Howard,” I said; “whatever’s the matter?” “I think I’ve got an infection,” he said. “Sorry, but I’ve got to get these contact lenses out NOW”—and he got up and went upstairs (as practice manager he lived in the flat over the shop). I felt the blood rush to my head (and other extremities!) All those months I’d worked alongside Howard and wished he wore glasses, I hadn’t known about the contacts. Was he going to come back down in glasses, or would he be bareyed and struggling? I expected glasses—but what would they be like? WELL! After ten minutes or so he reappeared, and of course he was wearing glasses. To my amazement the frames were, as far as I could tell, identical to mine, but the lenses were nothing like—my educated guess was -10 or 11: power rings, cut-in, minification; they were all there, and Howard’s big brown eyes were tiny pin-points. The twitching in my groin became a raging stand, and I gasped. “Gosh!” “Howard smiled ruefully. “So I’m stuck with these rotten coke bottles for the next two or three weeks. As you can see I’m as blind as a bat without them.” “Oh, but Howard,” I said, “you look great in glasses. They’re really sexy.”

Till that day I’d never kissed a man—later in the day, you understand, after the shop closed. Between us, Howard and I had managed things so that I had a few minutes’ work left at five o’clock, and he’d promised me ‘a cup of tea’ when I was done. Over the next couple of years, that cup of tea came to cover a multitude of sins (or so the school Christian Union would have thought). By the time I left school and went to the optometry college I was more experienced sexually than most boys of my age; and the nice part of it was that Howard and I weren’t just ‘having sex’, we were making love! I was led along gradually: at first no more than I’d already done at school, but as time went on I was introduced to new ways of making love—and it was love, it wasn’t just sex. Each Saturday Howard nipped upstairs ‘to put on the kettle’ and (once the eye infection was cleared up) by the time I joined him he had taken his contacts out and was gazing lovingly at me through those wonderful thick coke-bottle lenses (they were -9.25 and -10.00 with a bit of cylinder, so my guess hadn’t been far out).

Of course we were both taking risks, Howard especially, as I was still under age. The grotesque thing was that according to the law as it stood he was a child abuser. It’s true what they say: the Law is an ass. I was young, yes; but I was a young man, not a child, and I was panting for Howard. He wanted me, but he left me to make the running; and once I saw him in his glasses it was all I could do to wait till the shop closed!

When I was starting college, Howard insisted on setting me free. “Your life is going to be in college,” he said; “and you don’t want either a Saturday job or a Saturday sugar daddy mucking things up. You ought to be going with guys your own age.” I wept; my glasses steamed up (somewhere along the line I’d acquired another dioptre of myopia and gold wire frames) but he insisted. I missed him, but I know now he was right. It was a while before I met Vic and fell in love with him. He’s told that story and Phil has told the later part. I have been lucky in my lovers; and I’m good friends with my ex’s.

THE END

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