I sat alone in a car on the midnight A train. My phone started beeping. I picked it out of my pocket and looked at the screen. There was a text message for me. I had seen the number a few times before. It read ¨I can’t do this anymore.¨
A few hours earlier, I stood in front of a fancy apartment building. It was about 80 degrees out. The windows of the building were all closed. The night was turning black, and after work I wanted to relax. I pressed the button on the wall panel. I heard his voice.
¨Hello? Who’s there at this hour?¨ He had that whine in his voice when he spoke.
Buzz. The door opened. I walked in, and hit the elevator button. The building was well air-conditioned. It was a pleasant transition from the summer night. I adjusted my sweaty shirt and scratched my belly. The doors into the fancy chrome elevator opened, and I punched the button that glowed 11. There was faint music in the elevator. In the reflection, I noticed a little more grey in my beard. I reached toward my pocket and pulled out my phone. No messages. I turned it off.
The doors slid open silently. The hall carpet was clean and white, and I paced slowly down to room 1147. I knocked at his door. Footsteps approached. Then he paused so he could look through the peephole. Even after five times, he still checked every time to make sure it’s me. He opened the door and looked at me. He was trying to put on a brave face, but I could see he was still nervous. Kids.
¨Why are you here?¨
¨The same reason I always come.¨
¨I thought I told you not to come tonight.¨
¨I came anyway.¨
¨Look, I know what you want, but I’m done with this. It’s getting dangerous for me to keep doing this. I’m afraid people are going to find out about this.¨
¨I’m discreet. Besides, nobody else is here, right?¨
¨No. But you can’t be here tonight! I’m busy and I have a meeting tomorrow and-” I kissed his stupid mouth. He half-staggered back, then reached for me. He clutched onto me for a few seconds. He reached his hand between my shirt and my chest. Then I pushed him back into his apartment. The door swung shut behind us.
Two hours later, we both sat up in bed, exhausted and satisfied. I got up and walked over to find my pants. I reached into a pocket and pulled out a cigar and a lighter. He awoke from his half-sleep and started speaking to me.
¨You know you can’t smoke in here.¨
I lit the thing anyways. ¨Never stopped me before.¨
He paused. He looked at me, then away. ¨Why do I keep letting this happen?¨
¨Because you like it. You just don’t want to say it yet.¨
¨You think I like this?¨ He spoke quickly and the whine in his voice grew sharper. ¨You think I like lying to everyone I know, everyone I love? D-Do you think I like that? How can a man live this way?¨
I took a deep breath and blew smoke off into a far corner. Then I climbed back into bed. ¨Kiddo, listen to me.¨ I grabbed his arm, and he looked at me. ¨Do you know who I am? I’m not your boyfriend. I’m not your dad. We fuck. That’s it. I come over, we get naked, we fuck and I leave. If you want to end this arrangement, go ahead. We’re both men. We’ve both got needs. This arrangement fills those needs for both of us. I don’t expect anything more. Neither should you. Don’t come to me looking for sympathy.¨
He looked at me. There were tears in the corners of his eyes. He refused to cry. Instead, he sighed deeply. I took another puff on my cigar. He spoke softly. ¨You’re right. I-I’m just confused and tired. I don’t want to think about this anymore.¨ He stopped. ¨Would you do me a favor, though?¨
I smiled slowly. ¨What’s up, pup?¨
¨Will you keep coming to visit me, at least until all this shit is over?¨
¨Of course kiddo.¨ He buried his face in my shoulder. Finally, he let his tears fall. He choked out two words.¨ Thank you.¨
We were silent for another hour. I put out my cigar. I tried to console him. I ran my hands across his skinny body. He kept still, like he was thinking something over. I tried to make him feel better. He seemed like he didn’t even care. After that hour, I got up. He stayed quiet. I got dressed and walked out the door. I looked for the nearest subway station and got on a train home. I was alone in the car. I started thinking. I love that kid. I love that kid. Damn it all. I love him.
Thomas Husband is a new writer and this is his first publication.