The rain started to come down hard and heavy outside. Big, fat drops started to form rivulets that cascaded down my windowpane. I flipped the light switch on the lamp on my desk. I need to finish this, I think to myself, things may be so royally screwed up in my life, but at least there’s work. It’ll never be finished, it will never leave you, there’s always work.
I’ve been staring at the same blueprint on the screen of my computer for the past four hours. The coffee that sat on my desk for the same amount of time has all but congealed, leaving a ring halfway up the insides of my mug. I take off my glasses and set them down. I picked up the coffee cup and place it in the sink. I see that the coffee pot is empty.
I open the fridge and take out the coffee can and begin to make a fresh batch.
I need to finish this.
I return to my desk and pick up my phone and check my messages. Apart from the usual follow-ups, and odd spam message, there’s nothing much to see. I open up a dating app on my phone and begin absentmindedly browsing the men that populated the feed. The usual parade of toned, muscular, and half-naked bodies with the same dead eyes flew by under my fingertips.
I see a familiar face. Gunter. His dark eyes, bright with mischief, stares back at me behind glass.
I need to finish this.
I dial his number.
“I was wondering when I was going to hear back from you.” He removes his coat and hangs it on the rack next to my apartment door. “How’s your partner.”
“Well, ex-partner.” I say as I led him to the living room. I clear away the rolls of paper that littered the couch and the coffee table. “We broke up last fall.” I go into the kitchen and come back with a cup of fresh coffee and I set it down in front of him.
He sits and takes the cup in his hand. “I’m sorry to hear that. How are you holding up?”
I gestured around at the mess of papers and blueprints that surrounded us “My new calling in life is to be a heartless workaholic.”
He laughs. His pearlescent teeth remind me of pure Carrara marble. The joke isn’t even that funny, I know. But it was nice to hear someone else’s voice in this void of an apartment.
I sit across him. “How have you been?”
He stretches his arms: his dark, lumpy cardigan sweater clung to him like an oil slick. “I’ve been doing well. Out of town engagements are usually slow during this time of year, so I welcome staying in the city for a bit.” He looks around. “What happened with Mike? I like him.”
“Well, it’s a long story full of sighs.” I took a sip of my coffee.
“I have nowhere to be.”
I look down at my cup. “He is in love with someone else. He just doesn’t have the words to say it. I figured the only way for him to own up to his feelings is for me to remove myself from the equation. Besides, it wasn’t really meant to last.” I set the cup down on the table. “So I broke it off. He didn’t take it well, but I figured that it’s for the best.”
“It’s not that long a story after all.” He sets his cup down in front of him. “And not too many sighs, it would seem.” I shoot him a smirk. “You did what you had to do. Nothing more.”
“That’s the issue. It did mean more to me, at least at first. After a while you start to lose things. Parts of yourself; they’re like joints of wood that come apart. They become unglued and drift away until there’s nothing left. Your entire self chipped away by small, daily indignities.”
He stares at me with those dark eyes.
“It meant more to me.”
He smiled, “I know it did. I didn’t say it didn’t.”
I stood up and took his empty coffee cup. I went over to the kitchen and place it in the sink. I come back and see him standing, looking at the photos on the wall. “You were adorable as a child.”
I blush a little, and I tugged open a drawer next to the couch. I took out the box of weed I keep for particularly stressful days and begin to roll out a joint. “I was a terrible child.” He looked at me and I held up the joint for him to take.
He lit it, and took a deep hit, the smoke curled around his beard like a thick fog.
“Ever the disappointing one.” I took a hit and feel the warmth rise from my chest. “Even after getting into RISD, I was a disappointment since RISD wasn’t Cornell.” My father couldn’t even be bothered to attend my graduation, I thought to myself.
“This your dad?” He points to one of the photos on the wall as he took another hit on the joint. “I see the resemblance. He’s hot.”
“Yeah? Well, he’s not exactly straight. He doesn’t think I know, but I know that his associate partners at his firm weren’t exactly hired for their intellectual qualifications. So if you want him, I say go for it. You’re just his type.” I take out my phone and look at him on top of my glasses. “I can give you his number.”
“Well that’s too bad since he’s not.” He sits, cross-legged, between my legs and hands me the joint. I feel his hands slowly and tantalizingly go up my legs and go past my knees, his fingertips barely grazing my skin as they move and rest on my thighs. “I prefer to have them younger.”
“Of course you do.” I take a hit. “Not too young though, I hope? You won’t last three minutes in jail.”
“Well, let’s see.” I feel his fingers through the soft fabric of my underwear. He traces the outline of my cock with his fingertip. I let in a gasp as he takes a hit: his fingertip feels electric and it springs to life, twitching against the soft pad of his finger. “Response time is satisfactory. I’d say you’re just the right age.” I take a hit, “I like your method, kid.”
He stood up, towering over me. Those eyes narrowed into little slits. He reaches down and plucks the joint from my fingers. He takes a hit. Smoke begins to fill the room and my head begins to shift ever so slightly. “That’s enough from you. My turn…” He purred. My eyelids began to droop. He pulls off his sweater up over his head. I catch a whiff of his scent. It hits me like a ton of bricks. I reach up to touch him. Any part of him.
“Put that goddamn hand back where it was.” He growled. His bulk casts a long shadow over me; I can see the tattoo that adorned his shoulder and rips across his broad chest, obscured by the light, in shades of gray and blue. I see his chest flex as he undid his belt and let his pants fall on the floor with a dull rustle.
I look up at him. I can’t see his face, but he stood there, looking down at me. He stood there his head cocked to one side for a while. I close my eyes. And I take a deep breath. I feel him come back down, and the soft bristle of his beard makes contact with my chest. I feel him breathe, long, deliberate breaths, taking in my scent. He makes quiet, low guttural noises from his throat. I feel his strong hands reach around my back and he lifts me straight out of the armchair. I feel those powerful muscles against my body, as hard as tensile steel, as he carried me to the bedroom.
He lays me down gently on the bed, and propped himself on top of me with those thick arms covered with the swirling patterns of his fine, dark fur. I open my eyes and I see him staring at me straight down. His face, with the rugged, square features, softened in the dim light of my room. He leans in and kisses me softly.
I feel the heat coming off of him. His fingers like lit tapers on my skin. The colors of the walls began to thrum as I felt myself stiffen even more in my boxer briefs because of his expert attention. I lose sight of his hands for a moment and I feel soft tendrils move up my stomach, under my shirt. I open my eyes as I take yet another hit, and another, and another until nothing remained but those dark eyes staring intently at me.
I open my eyes. I must have dozed off.
The first thing I notice is the silence. The rain must have stopped at one point. I see the moon rising high in a perfectly clear night sky outside the window, and the long shadows it cast across the floor, over our clothes and the carnage of our clumsy way to the bed.
His arm was around me. His eyes still closed. His breathing heavy.
I look at him, his face bathed in moonlight. The beautiful way his beard was so thick and soft, and always smelled faintly of the cigarettes he swears he never smokes.
My bedside alarm clock reads 2:24am. He spent the night? That was nice. He never had before. I don’t mind. I welcome not being alone tonight. I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep. I turn around to face away from him.
“No.” I softly whispered. “I am glad you’re here.”
He pulls me close. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
I rolled around to face him again. I buried my face in his furry chest. I can smell the faint traces of his cologne, and the pleasant stickiness of his sweat. It was a heady scent I breathe in deeply.
“Why?” he asked as he gently ran his fingers up and down my back, raising goosebumps as they traced the outline of my spine.
“For being here. For listening, I suppose.”
I feel his fingers under my chin and he lifts my face up to his. He kisses me deeply, urgently, desperately. The kind of kiss that makes your toes curl.
I need to finish this.
The kiss ends, my lips still tingling as he pulled away. I keep my eyes closed.
No. Not yet. Please.
I know he had to go. But I desperately cling to him, my hands refused to let go of him. I feel his cheek rest against my forehead, his beard, soft against my face.
“Don’t be so sad, Gabe. I hate to see you like this all the time.” He smoothed out my hair, his touch soothing. “You did what you had to do. Mike will be fine. You don’t have to carry this around with you.”
I couldn’t help it. In my silence I feel the sky open up and the rain started to pour again. Big, fat drops that fell one after the other, stream down my face. It rained so hard, my face still buried in the soft thicket of his chest.
“You have to forgive yourself sometime.”
He gives me a soft kiss on my cheek as my sobbing ebbed. His lips on my face was warm like the sun. He pulls away and I feel his weight leave the bed as I settled back into my pillow. My eyes still closed, I hear him come back from the bathroom and the soft jingle of his belt as he dressed. I feel his hand settle on mine, and when I opened my eyes, he was gone.
In the relative darkness of my room, I hear the sound of the world outside; the sound of the city that never sleeps. I listened to the distant sound of a dog barking, the even more distant sound of a police siren.
From where I lay, I could see the faint glimmer of the light from the streetlamp as it passed through the edges of my curtains. I look over to my nightstand and I reach over to switch on the lamp. A seeing what was there makes me feel it: A sensation I haven’t felt for weeks. I felt the corners of my lips curl up into a smile. I settle back down into bed and I allow myself a moment to laugh.
I let it escape; gales of relieved laughter that made me feel lighter than air. I take another look at the nightstand.
There it was, the same bunch of dollar bills that I left out for him, untouched. Still neatly folded together, their edges perfectly aligned, with Benjamin Franklin’s tight-lipped face staring right at me.