We stood in the middle of Phil’s studio apartment in Chelsea, half-naked, embracing one another. I gave as much affection as I could considering we’d met no more than two hours ago. Once I'd put my arms around him, he fell right into me and his whole body relaxed in my arms. I was in New York temporarily but could understand his need for such affection from another human, stranger or otherwise. Sometimes it's all you need to give you the strength to keep going.
I wasn’t expecting the evening to go quite like that. Phil and I had chatted on Scruff and decided to meet at this pub down the street from his place. It was Saturday night and I was hoping for a more fun, flirtatious sort of evening but instead, within five minutes of arriving at the bar, he went on about his problems.
He’d been in New York for a year but had only been employed for the last four months. He was happy to have a real job and get New York work experience, as he put it since it was crucial for his success in the city as an architect. He’d only had experience working on rural projects in Louisiana. The problem was that his new boss was verbally abusive and so he was now concerned about losing his new job. He had mentioned some of this online while we were chatting but I was under the impression that things had turned around for him. And this was just the tip of the iceberg. His ex-boyfriend from back home had sadly passed away from a sudden heart attack. They had rekindled their relationship and were going to give things another go, so this death carried extra weight for him.
I wasn't certain how to react to all this. As sympathetic as I was I still found it odd that he was telling me these things so soon. At one point I injected by saying "I'm sorry," as it seemed like the only valid thing to say. He explained that he had no friends, so I assumed that he had nobody to talk to either. Perhaps that's why he was unloading in this fashion. I’d lived abroad for years alone and knew how difficult it could be during adverse times. I’ve unloaded onto other strangers so I listened and allowed him to go on. I was paying it forward so to speak.
“I always wondered whether I could make it in New York,” he continued. “I tried a few years ago but I couldn’t cut it. I’m 45, I needed to try again but it feels like I’m just getting hammered down right now with one thing after another. If I get fired then I’m going to have to leave. But it’s not that I didn’t try—I gave it a proper chance.”
“Well, um...that’s more than most,” I said. “Yeah, so—I mean, people always dream of moving to New York but most don’t. You should be proud of yourself regardless.”
“I love the energy here,” he added. It was the first time he'd smiled that evening. It was his smile that got me. “It’s the best city in the world. Even though things aren’t going great the energy makes me feel alive. It’s so infectious.”
“Well, I mean, if feel you really want to be here then you’ll figure out a way to do it. You’ve been through a lot but don’t give up if that’s what you want.”
The bar was getting more full; there was hardly room to move. When we finished our drinks he turned to me and smiled again. “Do you want to come back to my place and meet my dog?” I wasn’t certain that I wanted to—the conversation had become too heavy too fast but he obviously needed the company. I feel as a gay man we should be there for each other whenever possible.
“Sure,” I said.
His pug greeted us at the door, and he formally introduced me as Mr. Mike. He then led me into his studio and before long we were kissing, which really wasn't my plan. He seemed to be relaxing more though, letting go of himself and his problems. I began undressing him and he removed my clothes too. We moved to the mattress, which was on the floor in front of the television and I dropped on top of him. He began squeezing, grappling, licking and biting, losing himself further and further. You’d never know that this was the person from back at the bar only ten minutes before. I have to admit, the sex was pretty damn good.
After we came, he cuddled into me. There was an episode of Veronica Mars on the TV so we watched it without saying a word to one another. He kissed me on the forehead a few times.
“I should go,” I finally said when the show was over. “I have an early morning but I’m going to be around for the next few weeks. If you want to hang out, even to chat over coffee, let me know.”
As I was getting dressed, he leaned against the wall and watched. That’s when I put my arms around him and he fell into me. We must've held each other for five minutes before he whispered, “I really needed that. It’s nice to have somebody to cuddle sometimes.”
When I walked home I thought to myself, he’s going to be okay.
By Mike Miksche Mike's work has appeared in Instinct, The Gay and Lesbian Review and Daily Xtra. His first novel, Paris Demands, is out now by Lethe Press.
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