by Wasureta Yume (和巣礼田ゆめ)
He shook his umbrella off in the lobby. I was halfway to soaking, especially the ankles of my jeans. The backpack I’ve had since college missed the umbrella’s protective halo altogether. Likewise, the wheels of his navy blue suitcase left a wet trail in their wake on the hotel’s welcome rugs.
He gave his name at the counter, and we took two card keys and rode up the elevator. Quick amenities check: no hot tub or pool, but a coin laundry and a three-treadmill gym he’d probably go off to in the morning before I’d even wake up. The halls were quiet and smelled of carpet cleaner.
We swiped our way into the room. I strode in and made a left for the bathroom, where I shed my Vans jeans and emptied the contents of my backpack onto the counter. The changes of clothes flopped out, thankfully dry. After them, a bottle of pills rattled down. I grabbed them, shoved them back into the backpack and looked around. He wasn’t there, hadn’t seen.
The bathroom was outfitted with soaps, fluffy towels, a box of tissues and a coffee maker. Coffee maker but no hair dryer? I blew my nose and stepped out to find him kneeling at the foot of the bed, unpacking, making neat piles. But that was what he always did, anyway.
Lamps, air conditioning, tiny table with two chairs. Desk, drawers, a TV and a takeout guide. The rain slammed into the glass. Maybe the storm would last all night, and on through morning, and into tomorrow. I had the feeling that the weather report would disappoint me.
I sat near him at the edge of the bed. I rolled off my wet socks and flung them to the floor. He just looked at me, unballed them, and took them to the heater to dry. Then he came back, sank to his knees, and took my foot into his hands.
“Oh god,” I cried out, when his thumb pressed into the arch.
“Too much?” he asked, pulling back.
“No, no, they’re just very sensitive.” He resumed his attentions, and I let out a string of expletives. He massaged the spot between the balls of my feet, and he spread his fingers between my toes. He kissed the edge of one sole experimentally, and I moaned.
“You’re a wonder of a man,” I told him.
He gave a repeat performance on the other half, until they were both buzzing with warmth and tenderized like a pork chop. He kissed my ankles, then got off and wandered into the bathroom. I shimmied further up onto the bed and pulled off my Bear Hands tee, throwing it in the general direction of the window. When he came back, he stared at me with open awe, like he hadn’t expected me to still be there.
I could only hope that in a few years, when I was his age, I’d be more like him. I couldn’t help the inch he had on me, but maybe the gap between 27 and 30 could work other kinds of miracles. Or maybe he’d always spoken like a sage and held himself like a conquering king. The world is wide enough that I’m willing to believe there are people out there who are just born with their shit together.
Much harder to believe that one would come willingly to shine his light over my shuttered doorstep. “I don’t deserve you,” I reminded him.
He frowned. “Don’t say things like that.”
We’d had that conversation before, but old habits die hard. “I’m sorry,” I squeaked, hoping I’d only maimed, not killed the mood.
He started to unbutton his shirt anyway, which was a good sign. He draped it on a chair back and followed me onto the bed. I grabbed him and wrapped the man in a tight tangle of arms and legs. He was big, and warm, and smelled like rental cars and dry cleaning. He sucked my earlobe, and I sighed in delight. No, I didn’t deserve him, but I didn’t really have him, either, so the natural balance of the world wasn’t terribly off. He would be gone again in the morning, and who knew when I would see him next.
“You went somewhere else,” he said over me. “Where did you go? Come back.”
“Sorry, sorry.” I took the opportunity to run my hands up beneath his undershirt. “I was thinking about this guy I met at a bar once.”
“Oh?” He raised one eyebrow at me.
“Yeah, an airport bar at my layover in Minneapolis. It was storming then, just like tonight, and I was waiting to see whether my flight would be cancelled.”
“Ah, is that so.” He smiled at me, because he knew this story, too. “Tell me more.”
“This took the open seat next to me, ordered a drink, and asked me if I was stuck too,” I explained while he finished undressing. “Turns out we were both on the same flight. We talked for a while. He was smokin’ hot, I mean, totally my type. He got up to check the TVs and I got a good look at his ass. A+, ten out of ten.”
“Stop it,” he growled, “You’re making me jealous.”
I made an embarrassingly high-pitched noise when he flicked a tongue across my nipple. “Ah-anyway, he came and told me our flight had been cancelled. I didn’t know what to do.”
He got up, went to his suitcase, came back with condoms and lube. “Go on,” he said, stroking himself to hardness. “What happened next?”
“He said, and I’m quoting here, ‘Hope I’m not reading you wrong, but is there any chance you’d want to come back with me and hook up?'”
He laughed before rolling the condom on. “And what did he do with you after that?” he asked.
“Then he took me to his room and fucked me,” I said, lifting my hips up. He rolled down my briefs, steadied me and slid a finger inside. “More,” I urged, and he complied, but in his own time. He was gentle with me like that.
He took his hand away, and I whimpered, but then the head of his cock was pressing at my entrance and nothing mattered except having him inside me. “Do want me to fuck you, too?” he asked.
“Yes,” I moaned, and he took me, and it was just as good as the first time, even better because we knew each other now, knew the perfect speeds and angles and things to say. I knew how it wasn’t just sensation in his cock that he needed, but motion, and noise, and whole-body touch. I let myself go pliant underneath him, let each thrust wrack its way through my body. He grabbed my hip and pinned my wrist the way I wanted, and told me I was a good, good boy.
He came, and even though I was aching for release, I pushed him off me and let him take off the wrapper. When he came back to bed he hooked my knees over his shoulders, wrapped his hand around my dick, and said, “Now show me how you came for a stranger you met at a bar.”
In less than a minute I was clawing at the sheets and spilling onto my own chest, howling for him. I collapsed, and he spooned me, and I never wanted to move again. But eventually he nudged me, and we both got up to clean off. I cast a guilty look at my backpack, but with him there, I didn’t dare open it.
We got back in bed, under the covers this time. With my eyes half closed and the rain a blanket of sound outside, I could block out any vision of tomorrow.
They say life’s about the journey, not the destination. Personally, neither has made me very happy. It’s the in between bits, when the one awful thing is over but you don’t have to start dealing with the next awful thing yet, that have been the best. I spend my days in anticipation of the next layover.
I drifted off for a few minutes, and when I came to, he was sitting up. I could tell something was off. Crap. Waiting time over, back in the thick of it. “Is something wrong?” I asked.
“I’m not that wonderful,” he said into the darkness.
“Yes, you are,” I argued, curling up closer.
“No, I’m not.” He sounded irritated this time. “You only ever see me when I’ve left the rest of my life behind. But l can’t constantly be on the run from myself. I’m investing so much time and energy into a relationship that is completely disconnected from everything else, and it’s taking its toll.”
“What?” I was blindsided. I sat up too, put a good foot or two of space between us. “This was your idea! You wanted to keep it casual. You’re so into fucking a stranger. You don’t want me anywhere near your white-collar, uncomplicated life.”
He threw on the light switch. “Is that what you really think? After all this, all the dinner dates and the phone calls, and how I’ve completely rearranged my schedule eight times over just to spend more time with you, that I see you as less? As a stranger? How could you think that?”
I turned away so that I didn’t have to see his face. “I’m sorry,” I say to the wall, “Anthony, I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry.” Anthony tugged on my shoulder, and I turned and peered up at him from where I’d lowered my head. “I can see how. I haven’t exactly been fair to you. I’ve been lying to you, and myself, saying I want a fling when what I really want is a boyfriend.”
“Oh,” I said, sinking lower.
“Rob, I want you as my boyfriend.”
I lifted my head and stared wide-eyed at him. “But, but,” I sputtered, “I’m in therapy.”
“God, I need to go back to therapy. Does your therapist not like me?”
“She’s on the fence. But I mean, I’m starting antidepressants.”
He beamed at me. “Rob! That’s great. The first step is always the hardest. I’m really proud of you.”
I slid back into his arms, and we spent the rest of the evening making plans — for me to visit him this time. Around midnight, he drifted off, and the rain let up. My long layover was over.