General Fiction posted December 31, 2017


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A man walks down to the wharves after a big night out

Alone

by oliver818

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

That night I gave up. Paul had long since disappeared into the bathroom, his left hand deep inside the tight trousers of the cute, twenty year old uni student he spotted the moment we walked in. He was good at that, and his joyous smile and stylish looks helped. But no one wanted a scruffy, aging man in a grey shirt and pink tie like me.

Paul and I had known each other for years. We didn't get along most of the time, though, fighting and arguing, allowing this constant state of hostility to make our few moments of reconciliation all the deeper.

I sucked down the last inch of booze, then stumbled out into the street.

My guts twisted, not surprising given they contained half a bottle of champagne, four Long Island ice teas and four glasses of Chardonnay. People were wrong when they say I had a problem with alcohol. Actually, alcohol had a problem with me. Like most things in the world, it eventually rejected me. No one held my hair back as a long stream of vomit poured into the gutter.

"Fucking drunk," shouted a passer-by.

A cool, sea breeze played with my hair as I stumbled towards the harbor. Sometimes I liked to watch the sunrise over the water, and reflect on my life. Reflection is not a good drunken activity, but I did it anyway. Paul fucked, I ruminated.

Paul and I were together for awhile, at a time when our beards didn't grow out even if we left our faces unshaven for a month. Before that, I loved him from a distance, his short hair, blue eyes, and torrential smile, until he noticed me too. His love of life was overpowering, intoxicating, and it easily washed over my own bitterness. His lips tasted like strawberries, even after the wildest nights, and his body was smooth, warm, and comforting.

The cold wood of the harbor-side bench bit into my back. In the distance, streetlights drifted down the side of Mount Victoria, and stars wandered across the dark sky, spreading mystery. Paul still loved me in his own way, I told myself. But I lost my mystery a long time ago. Our six month relationship came to a nasty end with a vicious, three a.m fight. Paul ran and didn't look back. It was ten years before internet dating brought us back together, and we had been trying to be friends ever since.

I don't know how long I sat there. I awoke to see the stars had moved on, morning light creeping though creamy clouds, seabirds calling and diving, and I had a blond head on my knees.
The youthful face, innocent in slumber, almost brought tears to my eyes. A hand landed on my shoulder.

"Thanks for looking after Jack for me. I grabbed you a coffee." My stomach gurgled.

"Um, yeah, no problem, Paul." My hand warmed as it wrapped around the coffee cup.

"Look, we need to talk. Is he still asleep?"

"Yeah."

"I can't do this anymore." Paul's knees were bent now, his face near mine.

"Do what?" I asked, sipping at the coffee.

"Pretend I don't care."

"Care about what?"

"You, you idiot." His finger rubbed away milk foam from my lip.

"I know you care. I care about you too. We're friends."

"Look, Tim, I can get sex whenever I want. The proof is on your knees." His fingers ran through the long, golden locks.

"Good. Lucky you."

"That's not what I mean. Look, I know we have our problems. You drink too much, I can't seem to give up these pretty but excruciatingly naive young bodies. But we could make it work. What do you say? Will you marry me?"

Was it the alcohol, or the fact he had just had sex that made him so romantic, I wondered.

"You really want an ugly, old bugger like me as your husband?" His mouth was close to mine, and I noticed the strawberry smell was long gone.

"What do looks have to do with this? Do you want to live the rest of your life alone and sad?" His voice had a tinge of desperation now.

Power. I had never been on this side of it before. He wanted me. Our noses touched, the deep blue of his eyes thick with moisture.

"No way. You're just drunk. You don't mean this. Paul, we had our time together. I love you, but we are too old to change." The young man's head thudded down on the bench as I squirmed out from under it.

"Don't be so bloody stubborn, Tim. This is a wonderful opportunity for us." His hands stretched out for mine.

"For you, maybe. I like my life. I like staying in bed on Sundays, drinking beer, watching romantic movies and crying into pizza boxes. I like drinking myself into a stupor on Tuesday nights. Why should I let you come in and take that all away? Because you would. You would try to perfect me, hone me into what you want me to be. No, Paul. No. Not this time. This time I'm deciding."

A boat pulled up, ropes banging heavily onto the wharf. His shouts followed me, but I knew I had made the right decision. Why choose love when you can be a rotten, alcoholic loser?

The horror of my decision reached me as I hailed a cab. Would he still be there? My drunken strides knocked over rubbish bins, littering the street with trash. My eyes dropped, my heart breaking as I saw him, his arms wrapped around his head, his large body shaking. I laid my hand on his head, and he looked up with wet eyes. His lips split into a boyish grin.

"Maybe we should learn to be friends again first. Then we can maybe think about marriage," I said, dropping down besides him.

"That'd be nice," he whispered, his head landing on my shoulder.

Soft snores from the sleeping student and the clang and din of a waking city rose around us, but in that moment I suddenly stopped feeling alone.









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Artwork by Dick Lee Shia at FanArtReview.com

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