Twelve. Where do I begin?
Grindr's geo-location tag says that he stays three blocks away. For gay men, that's the same as being next door neighbours. "Three blocks?" one might say, "Think of that as three hundred and sixty two metres to someone who could possibly be the next love of your life." Any closer, and he could practically duck-walk his way home, in 30 minutes or less. There's a pizza commercial in there somewhere.
His name flashes on my phone -- "What are you doing now." Is that a question? Does it have an answer?
Staring into space. Thinking about free pizza. Pretending to work. Reading a book. Watching a movie. Reciting Michael Faudet's poems. Getting myself a beer. Saving the world. I see limitless possibilities for my reply, each an exciting beginning to a story.
[I] run down the stairs, two at a time, just the way bigots think gays take their men.
"Nothing," I reply. Short and subtle. I like my love stories that way.
"Want to meet now? I am passing by," my phone tweets. There's a strong sense of déjà vu -- is this Seven all over again? Or could this go a different way, like it did with Ten? I'll have to take my chances.
But then again, how does he know where I stay? How can he just assume I'd be free? Do I even want to meet a stranger? Am I ready to go make a first impression at such short notice? Where are my pants when I need them? These are questions I don't ask myself.
There's a certain adrenaline rush in meeting someone you've never met before at 11pm on a Tuesday night. I pull on my pants (it's Tuesday night, and they were in the washer, don't judge) and run down the stairs, two at a time, just the way bigots think gays take their men.
He's already waiting, earning himself a swift brownie point. He looks like James Franco (that's another), with eyes that sparkle (one more) and a gorgeous set of dimples (does this ever stop?). I wouldn't mind paying for the hypothetical pizza, if he keeps piling me with these brownies.
"Did I keep you waiting?" I ask.
He is the floor manager at a high-end fashion label. He deals with society WAGs, expats and A-listers over slices of toast (whole wheat) and scrambled eggs, everyone is always 15 minutes away -- so waiting is second nature. But the job has its perks too -- party invitations, supermodel friends and the occasional bottle of single malt whisky. The parties and the models can get exhausting, but the single malt never does, he grins. How does he manage it all?
I realise I might have a possibility of falling for the boy -- he's a kindred spirit, this one. I am thinking about matching towels and a pet...
"I'll tell you a secret?" he leans closer. I can smell a wash of something remarkably expensive. "The whisky helps." We both laugh. It's liberating.
That explains the confidence and the undeniable charm. It's infectious. "But it's pretty chill. I make it sound a lot more hard work than it actually is," he smiles yet again. He smiles a lot.
"Tell me something about yourself," he says. Where do I even begin?
"Do you want to play Never-have-I-Ever?"His dimples fall deeper than a Pablo Neruda poem. Tuesday nights just got more exciting.
"But we don't have alcohol..."
"Who said anything about alcohol. Do you want a smoke?" He offers me one. I accept, and he lights it.
"Have you never smoked a cigarette before?" He laughs as I stumble through mine. How can someone smile so much?
The boy smiles with his eyes. They twinkle in the moonless light, creating constellations in my mind. I realise he's someone who should smile more often, if not always. I let him begin.
Never have I ever stolen money from home? We both take a puff, and giggle. Never have I ever cheated in an exam? Puff and puff. Never have I kissed two boys on the same night? Slept with someone on the first date? Smoked pot at home? Fallen in and out of love with someone in a week? Hated a friend's boyfriend? Loved someone else's? Been in love with two people at once? Told someone that we loved them but never called them back?
We tell each other ribald stories through cigarette fumes, letting a hundred skeletons loose from our ever-expansive closets with every puff of smoke. This puff is an ex -boyfriend I cheated on, that sliver there is his father who abandoned his family, that wisp is the nine shots of tequila I downed at a friend's farewell, the one over there is a close friend he cheated with. Our cigarettes ash away, our stories don't.
[I] tell him that I'd rather have him as a friend - he's "the stuff great friends are made of, not boyfriends." Famous last words.
I realise I might have a possibility of falling for the boy -- he's a kindred spirit, this one. I am thinking about matching towels and a pet, as I ask him about his plans for the weekend. I don't want to sound too eager: "We should chill on Saturday, if you are free." How obvious is too obvious?
I think it's evident, because he off-handedly tells me that he has a boyfriend in San Francisco, whom he has a Skype date scheduled with. He's sorry, but did I not know? Time to throw away the hypothetical towels, give the pet up for adoption. Where's the free pizza when you want it?
I laugh derisively, the way I usually do when I am lying, and tell him that I'd rather have him as a friend - he's "the stuff great friends are made of, not boyfriends." Famous last words.
He smiles at me when I say that. I feel so far from him when he smiles like that. Like someone is taking a picture of him.
I smile back. The night is complete.
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