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I wasn’t intending to write this story, but so many people messaged and asked for it, I decided I’d just write a chapter or two for fun…70,000 words later, here we are.
Full disclosure, this story isn’t a mirror of Unrequited and will have an alternate ending. It will be a slow burn too, so brace yourselves.
Holy shit, I think, that’s some kind of face.
It’s not often you see a face like this. Especially not like this, just roaming in the wild. I for one, can’t immediately recall ever having seen anything like it. Dark, dark eyes. Even darker hair. I can tell at a glance that he’s cool. Deeply cool. The kind of cool you can’t learn. You’re either born that way, or you aren’t. I haven’t even said a word to him yet, but I can tell, I lucked out by getting him as my roommate. I can tell he’s going to be interesting. He’s going to be someone worth knowing.
“Hi,” I say, “I’m West Baxter. I guess we’re going to be roommates.”
He takes a second to react, when he does, he gets to his feet, smiling slowly as he does. He smiles as though he’s laughing at a joke I don’t get.
“Andy Montgomery.” He says, shaking my hand, “Nice to meet you.” His handshake is firm. Mannered. Well bred.
I admit, he’s a little intimidating. Being intimidated isn’t really my thing. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ll just have to get to know him. I bet, once I know him, I’m going to laugh about ever having felt this way. I bet it will give me a good chuckle in a few months’ time.
The best way to crack a hard nut, is to get them talking, so I ask him about himself.
“I’m an art major.” He says, “I’m mainly interested in faces. I’ll probably specialise in portraiture.
Ironic, that a face like that would have a fascination with faces.
“I took a couple of years off.” He says when I ask him how old he is.
“I took a break between school and college, too. I guess, that’s why they placed us together. We’re a bit older than the kids who just graduated high school.”
“Yeah, maybe. I taught English in Korea for a while,” he tells me, “and then I spent a few months travelling though Eastern Europe. Where did you go?”
“Uh, no,” I say, “I just lived at home and worked and saved, you know, so I can afford to be here.”
He looks a little uncomfortable when I say it. Like he feels bad about the fact that he’s so privileged.
He tells me, he has a sister, Joss, who is a couple of years younger than him. He’s careful to avoid mentioning what his parents do, and other than mentioning that he’s a New Yorker, he doesn’t give a lot away. He seems like the kind of guy who’s more intent on listening than on talking.
He asks me about myself. He seems a little surprised when I tell him about my scholarship. I see him pause for a second. He’s not the first person to react like that. I’m starting to wonder if I should feel a bit insulted by the number of people who think I must be a sports scholar.
How dumb do I look?
“Are you okay with that side of the room?” He asks. “I wasn’t sure if you’d have a preference.”
“It’s no problem,” I say, “it doesn’t make a difference to me.”
“I’m happy to swap, if you want.”
“Nah, it’s no biggie.”
It makes no difference to me, and he’s already settled in. He’s unpacked. His bedding is dark, slate blue. It looks like Belgian linen. His bookshelf is groaning with books. Art books, but also lots of novels. Scanning the titles, it looks like he and I have similar taste in literature. There’s a massive painting above his bed. It’s abstract. I know enough about art to know that I know nothing about art. Abstract art especially, I don’t really get. This painting is intriguing though. It’s dirty blues with touches of earthy reds and a hint of ochre. Something about it makes me feel as if it’s a forecast. Like a weather forecast. When I look at it, it makes me feel as though a severe weather event is headed my way.
* * * * *
I feel a little nervous as we walk into the bar. I’m glad I managed to talk Andy into coming out with me. I remind myself that it’s Freshers. Almost everyone is new. Everyone is probably feeling a little nervous. I work the room, like I always do. I pay attention to names and I pay attention to faces. I give people my time. I ask them about themselves. I remember what they say. Honestly, they seem like a great group of people. Every now and then, I look over at Andy. He seems to stand out from the crowd. I don’t know if it’s just because his is the only slightly familiar face there, or if it’s because of the nature of his face. It kind of looks like he’s sitting under a spotlight. My eyes keep finding him.
I keep thinking about the fact he’s gay. He told me so earlier. It’s neither here nor there to me. It makes no difference at all. I’ve never understood why anyone would mind who someone else chooses to sleep with. Still, I do find myself canlı bahis thinking about it. It’s probably just because I wasn’t expecting it. Not that I know him at all, obviously. It’s just that he doesn’t look gay.
I’m probably being a bit problematic, thinking like that. I’m probably engaging negative stereotypes without even realising I’m doing it. I should read up about that. I should spend some time thinking it through.
My eye finds him again. This time, he catches my eye. He’s talking to his school friends, Tyler and Sarah. He looks animated, but still, a little uncomfortable. I go over to check on him. Tyler is draping himself all over Andy. Tyler’s the kind of guy who definitely doesn’t need to tell anyone he’s gay. I’m not sure if he’s Andy’s boyfriend or not. Andy introduced him as a friend, so it’s a little unclear. Sarah seems nice. She’s good-looking, too. Brunette. Serious. She seems like she’s a bit older than the rest of us, even though she isn’t. She seems more mature, if you know what I mean. She didn’t take a gap year, so academically, she’s a couple years ahead of us.
“Hey,” I say, “Do you want to have one more drink and then go home?”
“Yeah, sure.” He says, looking a little relieved.
I do a last lap, saying goodbye to people I’ve met. When I glance back at Andy, I see him smiling and dancing with Sarah. His teeth are so white, and his hair is so glossy, he seems to be shining. Gleaming. Tyler is watching him the way I used to watch the Victoria’s Secret fashion show when I was a teenager.
* * * * *
“I see you let your hair down a bit at the end.” I say, as we walk back to our dorm. The street is quiet and dimly lit, it’s a relief after the noise in the bar. I’m feeling a little tired. Socially saturated, I guess.
“Yeah,” he says, “I always seem to have the best time, once I know I’m leaving soon.”
“Really? That’s weird. I feel like that too. Knowing I have a way out, makes me feel relaxed.” I look at him in surprise, “You’re the first person I’ve met who feels the same way.”
“What happened with that girl? The blonde? She was all over you.”
“She was cute, but I realised I haven’t spoken to you to see how you feel about me bringing girls home. I just wanted to check with you, first.”
“It’s fine with me. No problem at all. I’m a really deep sleeper.”
* * * * *
Turns out, I was right about Andy. He’s great. He’s super cool. He’s a great roommate. Really, really great. He’s kind and respectful. So considerate and so easy to be around. He’s neat and organised. He drew up a schedule for me, when he did one for himself. He stuck it above my desk with washi tape, he bought when he lived in Korea. Sometimes he calls me, to remind me where I need to be. He takes things a little more seriously than I do. I’d probably attend a lot fewer lectures, if it weren’t for him.
The more I get to know him, the more I see he’s a really nice guy. Kind. He’s steady and considered. At first, he seemed a little aloof. Stand-offish. But the better I get to understand him, the more I see he’s just a bit shy. He’s not as confident as he should be with that face or that body. In fact, he seems completely unaware of how he looks. I’ve never seen him spending more than a couple of minutes getting ready. He just seems to pick out whatever t-shirt is at the top of the pile, and wears that. He towel dries his hair and doesn’t look in the mirror to see how it turns out. Not that he needs to. He always looks good. His hair is wavy and thick. I think he’s growing it. It skims his shoulders, and the front bits have the tendency to fall into his face. Just below his cheekbones. He spends a lot of time pushing his hair out of his face. He uses both hands. He combs his fingers through his hair and pushes it back. When he does it, his eyes look darker than ever. His cheekbones seem to stand out even more than usual. The second he drops his hands down, his hair falls back into his face.
I don’t think he has the first clue about the stir he causes wherever he goes. He’s completely oblivious. I’ve never been out with him once, without hearing him say, “I’m sorry, I’m gay,” to at least two or three girls.
I wish he didn’t feel he needed to be sorry about it. Maybe, one day I’ll tell him he doesn’t need to apologise for it.
He’s so easy to talk to. He’s funny, too. Not in an obvious way. You have to look for the humour, but once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it. He has a very unusual view of the world. In some ways, he seems out of touch, and in others, he seems to understand people better than anyone I’ve ever met. He seems to spend of lot of time just watching. Just thinking and watching intensely. He is intense. He’s a little dark and intense, but I like it.
He definitely seems to understand me. He seems to get me. I don’t know if I definitely understand him. I want to though. I want to understand him. I ask him all about himself. It’s not that bahis siteleri he’s cagey, as such. I don’t even know if he does it on purpose. It just seems as though he’s more comfortable when he’s not giving things about himself away.
I create little games to try to get him to open up. Just dumb games, but they’re fun. He’s lying back on his bed. He’s stretched out, his legs are crossed, and he looks relaxed.
“Okay,” I say, “start a fight in exactly five words.”
He smiles a little, “Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza.”
I roll my eyes inwardly, but I don’t react.
“Assholes recline seats on planes.” He looks at me in disdain. He’s so tall, he has to recline. I know it. He can’t help it.
“If they didn’t want you to recline them, they wouldn’t have a recline feature, okay?”
“One point for me.”
“Breaking Bad is mediocre TV.”
“Shut up.” I say.
“We’re even.” He smiles.
“Okay,” I say, “Okay, you asked for it.” Before I say it, I know I’m playing left field, I know I’m probably going too far, but I can’t resist it.
“All people are secretly bi.”
“Jesus!” He exclaims, laughing but looking appalled. He sits up and swings his legs around onto the floor. “Read the room, West.”
“I’m kidding,” I laugh, throwing my hands into the air in surrender. “I’m obviously kidding.”
I am kidding, obviously. I just want to know if he’s been with a girl before. He tells me he has. He says he tried it, and he didn’t like it. He says he tried it lots of times and he definitely didn’t like it. He says he wouldn’t do it again. I wonder what that must feel like, not to like it. I can’t relate. I like it so much. I liked it the first time I tried it. I like it more and more, every time I do it. College girls are definitely turning out to be one of the best parts of getting a bachelor’s degree.
“You’re lucky.” He says, “If I could choose, I’d choose to be straight.”
I sit there quietly for a while, just looking at him. Looking at him and trying to think of something to say that will make him feel better. I can’t think of a single thing that doesn’t sound like a total cliché.
You’re perfect, just as you are, I think. I don’t say it though. In fact, I’m a little surprised to hear myself think it.
* * * * *
He’s running late this morning and dumps his crumpled tumble-dried clothes in his hamper before dashes out to a lecture. I decide to sort it and fold it for him. I start doing it because it just seems like the obvious thing to do. It’s the kind of thing my mom and I do for each other all the time. It’s how I was raised. Still, as I do it, I start to feel a little strange about it. He has this faded blue t-shirt. I think it’s one of his favourites. Either that, or it’s just a t-shirt that often manages to find its way to the top of his pile of t-shirts. He wears it a lot. When I fold it, something changes. At first, I’m just folding his clothes. Inanimate things. Then, suddenly, I’m not. Out of the blue, his t-shirt starts to feel like him. For some reason, I run my hand up and down it, feeling the soft, well-worn fabric against my palm. Then, I pick it up and hold it against my body, checking to see if it would fit me. For a really weird moment, I consider trying it on.
Thank God I don’t, as he gets home not long after.
“Uh, wow, um, thanks, West.” He says when he sees his folded clothes.
He looks surprised and so pleased. He tilts his head to the side slightly and smiles shyly at me.
I like doing things for him, because of how happy he looks when I do.
* * * * *
We’re at the gym. It’s legs day. Andy works out a bit, though not nearly as much as you’d expect for him to have the body he has. We’re about halfway through our work-out when a new guy gets to the gym. He’s just some random guy. We don’t know him, but he’s obviously new to being at the gym. He doesn’t do anything overtly embarrassing. He honestly doesn’t. It’s just that he is so clearly awkward. I notice it and I’m about to head over to offer to show him around, when Andy notices too. He starts laughing. He tries not to. I can see him panic when he realises he can’t stop it.
“Oh, fuck.” He whispers. His eyes are wide and watery.
“I can’t stop.” He says out of the corner of his mouth. “Oh God, I need help.”
He tries to pretend he’s coughing.
“Stop it!” I say, “You’re going to start choking.”
I start laughing, too. I’m laughing because I know why Andy’s laughing. He’s not laughing because his mean. He isn’t mean. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He’s laughing because of the how hard he relates to this poor, awkward guy. I’m laughing and laughing. I’m laughing at absolutely nothing other than the fact that I know exactly what Andy is thinking and feeling. By the time we get to his car, we are staggering. We’re hanging onto each other. We can hardly walk. We are both the biggest messes you’ve ever seen. We sit in the car laughing hysterically. bahis şirketleri Trying to stop makes it worse. Every time we start to calm down, one of us snorts through our noses and that sets us off again.
I’ve never laughed like this with anyone else.
* * * * *
“How was your test?” He asks, spinning around slowly in his chair. It was our first big test of the semester. Lots of people in class were freaking out about it.
He’s sitting at his desk, in shorts and no shirt. His belly is taut and concave as he leans back in his chair. His nipples are soft pink. The same colour as his lips. It’s not like him, to be sitting like this. For some unknown reason, he’s usually cagey about his body. He usually tries to get changed when I’m not in the room. Otherwise, he tries to hide as much of himself as he can, behind a towel. He keeps the towel wrapped around his waist as he pulls up his briefs and his shorts. It’s hot as hell today and humid, too. He has the window open. The aircon is on the blink again. He must be feeling too warm.
I think about all these things; the heat, the humidity and the aircon, with one part of my brain. The other part feels like it’s moving slowly. It feels like something has caused a short circuit in my head or in my chest. I try not to make any sudden movements. I try to think of some words. Any words. Ideally, words that might be a suitable answer to his question about my test.
“Uh, all good.” I manage, at last.
“Just good?” He raises his eyebrows. “Or did you ace it?”
It’s sweet, how he worries about me.
“I aced it.” I admit, smiling, when I see him start to smile. He doesn’t smile all that often. He’s someone who didn’t get the memo about smiling just to make other people feel comfortable. He doesn’t do that. When he smiles, it’s real.
It’s real and it’s beautiful.
* * * * *
I’m reading one of his books. Or, I should say, I’m re-reading one of his books. Catch-22, I read years ago. This time, I’m reading it because it’s his. I’m reading it because of the little notes he’s made in the margins. Because of the words and phrases, he’s underlined. He’s such a closed book, I guess, I’m reading his books to try to understand him better.
If I had to choose one word to describe him, it would have to be, mysterious. He is a mystery. A puzzle. A problem that needs to be solved. He isn’t a number though. He’s more of a feeling. I’m better with numbers. That’s part of the problem, I think. I can’t work him out. I hate that feeling. I love solving problems. I love working things out. I love it when x = y. I can’t stop thinking about him, because I can’t work him out.
* * * * *
“I thought I saw fireworks once, but it was just a smile.” He says.
He seems in a bit of a weird mood today. He suggested we tell each other a story in twelve words of less. He seems more dreamy and out-there than usual. He’s talking more than usual, too.
I’m not sure what to make of that story, so I say, “That sounds good, but it’s too cryptic. You have to go again.”
“It hurt at first,” he says, looking up at the ceiling, “but then it felt good.”
I’m a little taken aback. He never usually talks like this. Other than telling me he’s gay, he’s never mentioned or even hinted at sex. I sit up a little straighter. He’s still looking at the ceiling. I see his Adams apple moving up and down. He seems uncomfortable.
“Yeah, yeah,” I laugh, “that describes just about everyone’s first time getting their ass ploughed.
I watch him for a while. I watch him closely. His face went a little red when I said that. He’s definitely uncomfortable and maybe, something else, I can’t put my finger on. I can’t help wondering about what he just said.
Who does who? Or is it, who does whom?
He sighs deeply. “Fuck,” he says, “just ask it already.”
I feel a little bad asking, but curiosity has got the better of me, “Fine,” I say, “do you like giving it or taking it.”
He looks over at me intently, as if he’s sizing me up. As if he’s deciding how much to tell me.
“I’m more of a top,” he says at last, “but every once in a while, for the right guy, I like bottoming too.”
I can’t think of anything else to say, so I say, “Cool.”
I don’t know if it’s because I feel a little bad for asking him such a personal question, or if it’s just because he’s such a good listener, but after that, I tell him the worst thing. The thing I’ve never told anyone. Not my mom. None of my friends from school. Not even my ex-girlfriend Janine. I tell him the thing I fear most. The ugliest, foulest thing I’ve ever thought of in my life.
He comes over and sits next to me on my bed. He sits close. I lean against him. Our shoulders are touching. I feel scared and sick, that I’ve said the words. I wasn’t expecting to say them. Sitting there, leaning against him, makes me feel better. I feel safe. Contained. I know what he’s going to say, before he even says it.
“That’s not how you were made, West. It isn’t. I know it.”
I knew exactly what he was going to say it, before he said it. I knew it, because he always seems to know exactly what I need to hear.
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