A Gay Cowboy’s After-Hours Guide to the Metropolitan Museum

A tale of art, allure, touch, and infatuation

James F Hickey
Human Parts
Published in
11 min readNov 30, 2023

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A sexy cowboy viewed from behind, wearing a black cowboy hat, leather jacket, and jeans, stands in a room looking at a painting of a similar figure on horseback in a desert landscape. The room contains other framed artworks and a wooden table with pencils, suggesting an artistic or creative setting.
Image by James F. Hickey made using NightCafe

Jimmy,” he growled sexily. “Touch it.”

My eyes traced the ethereal shaft of Delft light filtering through the open window, rendering the skin luminous as if glowing from within. Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I wiped my palms on my trousers and extended an arm. A flush of heat surged through me, moisture gathering under my arms and beading on my upper lip.

I hesitantly touched the skin with a single finger and instantly pulled back as if jolted by electricity. My breath snagged in my throat, and a rush of blood to my head left me dizzy and gasping, momentarily frozen in disoriented breathlessness.

By day, I was a web designer at Forbes magazine. By night, I volunteered backstage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to help Hank — the current object of my daddy obsession — sew Native American dance costumes. Each evening, I walked through a door marked “employees only” into the backstage of the Met, passing sculptures and wooden-crated artworks on my way to a workroom set up with a cutting table and sewing machine.

I pressed the pedal to the floor, attentively guiding the final ribbon under the swiftly moving needle. My eyes felt strained, my fingers weary after a cumulative 57 hours of sewing. Days of endlessly attaching ribbons had dulled my senses, leaving me in a state of mental fog and emotional susceptibility — a dangerous recipe for making ill-advised decisions. Yet, the night was still young, brimming with untold possibilities.

The assortment of ribbons was a crucial element of the costume we were crafting. Hank aspired for this creation to be his magnum opus — abundant layers of vibrant, twirling fringe designed to bestow a competitive edge upon its wearer in an upcoming competition.

Hank was more cowboy than “Indian.” With his silver gunslinger mustache, well-worn Levis, and cowboy boots worn down not from rodeos but from the relentless streets of New York City, he was an intriguing yet unexpected artisan of Native American costumes. I never probed into how he found himself in this particular niche; he had a penchant for maintaining an air of mystery about his life, a quality that…

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James F Hickey
Human Parts

Queer writer, creative director, and American expat living in Portugal. Writing wellness, happiness, life lessons, and creative non-fiction. JamesFHickey.com