There was this guy at the bar. There was something about him. He had a nice body, nothing outrageous, just toned enough to fill out his bright red t-shirt and faded jeans. But it wasn’t his body that made me sneak glances at him. There was something that just kind of…I dunno, called to me. Maybe it was the way he was sitting, kind of slumped over, but a little stiff too. He’d been drinking alone at the other end of the bar as I nursed a beer and watched snippets of the baseball game. I was rooting for the losing team though, so this lonely looking guy was taking up the majority of my attention. Eventually I broke and went over.
It was a risky thing to do. It wasn’t a gay bar and a lot of guys don’t take kindly to random male attention, but something about him made me ache a little.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but…”
He looked over at me. He seemed exhausted, as if he’d just run a marathon and came to this bar to wind down. I immediately felt guilty and whatever my follow-up statement was going to be fled the instant those tired eyes looked me over.
“Yes?” He said. “Can I help you?”
He had a deep, mellow voice. Like a radio DJ.
“No. I don’t think so, anyway. Sorry to bother you,” I said, then turned away. I only walked a step before I turned around again. “It’s just that you seemed kind of upset. I just wanted to see if anything was wrong. If I could help.”
He stared at me for longer than is polite.
“I seemed sad to you?” he asked.
“Yeah. But it’s probably none of my business. I just…try to have a good night.”
“That’s…very nice of you.” He motioned to the barstool next to him. “You can sit if you like.”
I did want to. Very much. I sat and he ordered two beers. When the bartender brought them, the sad guy slid one to me. “A token of appreciation. For being a nice guy.”
I took the drink and took a sip as he watched me carefully. The beer tasted better than the local draft brew that I had become so familiar with. I chalked it up to good company.
“My name is Erik,” he said, after a few sips of his beer.
“Frank,” I replied.
“Good to meet you, Frank.”
“Likewise. So, if you don’t mind me asking, is everything ok?”
Erik shrugged lazily. “It’s Valentine’s Day. Not my favorite holiday.”
“I can sympathize. I’ve been alone for more of them than I care to rehash. Still, there’s always hope, right? It’s not the end of the world.”
“No,” Erik agreed, “it isn’t. But that doesn’t always make it easier, does it?”
“I think it makes things survivable,” I replied.
Erik looked like he was mulling that over and took a long drink of his beer. When he was finished, he stood and pulled his jacket from the back of the stool.
“I’m heading home, I think.” Then he looked over at me. “Do you want to come?”
“Just like that?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Just like that.”
I had the feeling that if I said no I would never see this taciturn, handsome man again. If I turned him down, that was it. In the end, I couldn’t. I had to go even if it meant going home with someone I’d known for all of five minutes.
We left the bar together and I half expected him to disappear in a puff of smoke and half to beat me up and steal my wallet. He did neither. We just walked together in the silent cold to an apartment building nearby. His third floor studio was small and neat. He had a futon and a writing desk, an andy warhol painting on the wall and a bookshelf full of books in various languages. There was a laptop tucked vertically between two volumes of the encyclopedia on the highest shelf.
He offered tea and made us both a cup before inviting me to sit down with him on his futon. I sat down across from this quiet, young man. It felt as though I was in a temple of sorts. I was almost afraid to speak. Afraid my voice would betray me and break. That he would see how nervous I was.
He sipped his tea and stared at me. Then abruptly he smiled.
“You seem like a good guy, Frank. That’s why I bought you a beer. That’s why I let you come home with me. That’s why I made you tea. But why are you here?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re in love. It’s written all over you. It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re in love, but you were drinking alone in a sports bar. Why?”
“Because sometimes there isn’t any hope,” I said, with an edge to my voice.
Erik just sat there as if he hadn’t heard the hurt and anger in my response. He just sat there and it made me angrier.
“It’s none of your business anyway,” I added.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Didn’t you hear —”
He put a hand on my leg and whatever I was going to say fell away. Such a simple act, yet it cut through my defenses quicker than words could. It took me a moment to gather myself up. To respond.
“He’s dead. Sudden stroke a few years ago. I didn’t even say goodbye. The last thing I asked him for was garbage bags.” I laughed. “Fucking garbage bags. The crazy thing is that he’d find that hilarious. He had that kind of morbid humor. Fucking garbage bags.”
Erik came closer to me on the futon and put a hand on my stomach. Then he kissed me. It wasn’t until our mouths came together that I realized I was crying. I don’t remember starting and later, I couldn’t remember stopping, it was as if the tears had just left my body without any influence from me.
Erik and I collapsed onto the futon and awkwardly undressed. At least I undressed awkwardly, he was as quiet and efficient as anyone could be with a half-crying, lumbering idiot in bed with them. His body was even nicer under his clothes, well-defined.
I’d never been much of a bottom, but he seemed to want to move in that direction and I let him. A bottle of lube materialized from the side of his bed and in a few moments he had a finger inside me, then another. I expected a third and found the head of his cock pressed up against me instead. He was certainly efficient.
“Is this ok?” he asked, stroking my face. The motion was so familiar that it almost brought the tears back.
“Yeah. It’s ok.”
And Erik pushed himself into me. It didn’t hurt, exactly, but it took a while before it felt good. We stumbled with the rhythm, first too slow, then too quick. He had to pull out once or twice and reapply lube before we got it exactly right. Then it felt good.
I wondered what he saw in me, an older man with a dead boyfriend, a guy who spent too much time in bars to be at his physical peak. I wondered about that for a while and in the end I let it go. I let go of my awkwardness and my sadness and I let Erik fuck me in his dim studio apartment with only the streetlamps outside his windows for light.
I jerked off carefully, mindful of Erik’s insistence on ramming my prostate and concerned that I would cum too quickly, but I saw the wolfish smile on his face and realized that he was doing it on purpose. He was trying to push me over the edge. Even if I had done everything in my power to hold back I would have cum fairly quickly and I certainly was not doing everything in my power. I pushed back against him and let him fuck me deeper knowing from the mounting feeling in my balls that I was right on the cusp.
When I came it was like taking a breath on a cold day: sharp, satisfying, immediate. He came shortly after, only his fluttering eyelids and deep breathing giving any indication of the fact.
We lay there afterward for a moment before Erik crossed the room to open a window to let in some of the winter air. He sat on the window ledge, naked and beautiful.
“You never said why you were out tonight. At the bar. Alone on the most romantic day of the year,” I said, suddenly curious.
“It has to do with my job. I see a lot of people who aren’t in love but say they are, who want to be but don’t know how, who just…can’t. It —” Erik laughed: short and abrupt. ” — doesn’t make for an interesting story.”
“Are you a therapist?”
He grinned. “Something like that.”
With that he climbed out of the window ledge and came back to the futon. We fucked again, slower this time and sweeter. Then after it got so cold that we wrapped up in his blankets to stay warm. I drifted to sleep, pressed up against him with the strangest sensation that Erik would be gone when I awoke. It’s strange the kind of thoughts you have right before you fall asleep.