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Role Reversal in Rome

STORY: May 1985—Have you ever had a business relationship morph into a romantic one? Or, a friendship turn romantic? What happened when the sexual interaction ended?

I first met Stewart Marshall when, trying to figure out a career for himself at 23, he was “making ends meet” in pricey Manhattan by cleaning gay men’s apartments, including mine. I was 32 at the time. There was an undercurrent of mutual attraction from the outset. But, our business relationship complicated things and neither of us initiated anything.

A year later, in May 1985, we discovered that we were each going to be traveling alone in Italy at the same time. We decided to meet up there and travel together. While it was unplanned, the romantic setting (especially our room on a cliff in Ravello overlooking the Mediterranean) proved to be the ingredient that ignited a torrid holiday affair.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t survive the return to our normal lives, through no fault of either of us. Back in NYC, we agreed that I should find another house cleaner, so that we could remain friends. In fact, I ended up introducing Stewart to his next semi-boyfriend.

In November 2017, a dozen years since we’d last seen each other, I had drinks with Stewart in Palm Springs, where he’d recently accepted a position in graphic arts with an advertising firm. It was great to be able to catch up in person for the first time in almost a decade.

The attached photos, taken in Rome and Pompeii in 1985 and from his Facebook page in 2017, demonstrate that boyish, preppy, Louisiana-born Stewart blossomed into a sexy, muscle bear daddy.

—Mike Balaban


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