David didn’t really want to fuck him. Not that he wasn’t hot—one would go so far as to call him objectively and conventionally attractive. He seemed nice enough, polite if not charming. He’d opened the conversation with a friendly though tired one-liner, and had yet to send an unsolicited dick pic. And, if Grindr was to be trusted, he was only a ten minute walk away.

David often found himself making concessions of convenience, like eating dinner over the sink to save on washing dishes, or recycling outfits as long as no one who’d be in class today saw it yesterday and it doesn’t really smell. So it wasn’t the distance that bothered him. Truthfully, there was no finger-on-the-nose reason why he didn’t want to fuck him.

And yet.

They’d been texting for…two weeks now? Three? Longer than most guys held interest. It started shortly after David moved into the new apartment. Not that they talked every day. Every other, maybe, when David could be bothered to respond, like when he was waiting for the water to boil or the laundry to finish. He’d shoot out a series of rapid fire messages to try and make up for hours of radio silence. Their conversations circled the drain of banality, as varied and interesting as clumps of hair left after a shower. How was your day, what are you making for dinner, any plans this weekend? Mundane, bordering on routine, but the questions felt too intimate even as they barely scratched the surface. David wondered when genuine interest became so suspect.

He—the guy, what was his name? Peter? Paul? Definitely Paul—had tried more than once to invite David over. For a cup of coffee. A beer. A blowjob. Each time he’d begged off, claiming an early morning, a headache, or once, blank silence. Late the next day he’d apologized, saying he hadn’t checked his phone all night, as if he weren’t hooked into the IV of his IPhone. Despite the barrage of brush-offs, Paul persisted. Shouldn’t perseverance be rewarded? Maybe that’s why David finally said yes.

Having nothing to do at 2pm on a Saturday helped. He’d spent the morning blanketed by guilt and comforters. He’d meant to wake up early and go to shul, but he’d stayed up late the night before, thinking. Like exercise, David knew it only worked if you actually went out and did it, but he feared what he’d find in the depths of his soul. Introspection felt too invasive, and how could he know someone was actually listening? Instead he lazed. Even jerking off had seemed too much effort, though he’d woken up hard. He’d been grinding softly into the mattress when his phone buzzed, screen lit up with an impromptu proposition. Maybe he was still a little stoned, or maybe it was the feeling that he’d bash in his own skull if he didn’t get out, but either way he said yes.

Not that he put much effort in. He didn’t even bother to shower, just dragged on a reasonably fresh sweater and toed his feet into loose sneakers. He grabbed a jacket off of one of the many still-packed boxes. Checked the pockets, just in case.

He cut through the park. If nothing else he could say he’d spent a little time out in nature. Families walked hand-in-hand, parents dangling children between them. David looked down, watching his own feet till grass turned back to asphalt. He waited for the light to change before dashing across the intersection. Resting against the base of the streetlight, he spied a discarded, wooden box.

It was obviously garbage. The lid, though intricately carved, sported enough scuffs to hide the design underneath. Wind and rain had faded the once lacquered shine to a grimy dullness. One of the sides hung loose. David kicked the lid open. It swung on soundless hinges, shorn smooth. It was empty, chipped and unvarnished.

David considered taking it—his place had little in the way of adornment. A fresh coat of paint, a good scrub, and it’d look halfway decent. You could arrange some candles in it, or use it for storage. But he’d neglected to bring a bag, and he didn’t relish the idea of mud all over his hands. Besides, what if Paul thought it was a gift? Or else, realized he was a dumpster diving packrat? Best to leave it, but his mind lingered over it the rest of the way to Paul’s apartment.

At the complex’s gate, David swiped through his messages, found the code and buzzed himself in. He checked his reflection in the glass door while the intercom rang, patting down his hair and bearing his teeth to check for food. He stood akimbo in the elevator, thinking sexy thoughts. He puffed a breath into cupped hands and sniffed. The doors opened into darkness, save for a knife of light, an eye peering out from the crack between door and frame.

“David?” Paul asked, opening the door wider.

“Yeah.” David stepped inside, took the offered hand and shook. “Paul, right?”

“Tim, actually.” He smiled and waved off David’s excuses. “Don’t sweat it. Want something to drink?”

They sat, not touching, on the couch. Tim asked him if he was new to the neighborhood. He said he was. Tim asked him why he’d moved. He said work. They lapsed into silence. David sipped from a glass of room temperature tap water. He checked his watched and wondered, as he always did, how long he should wait before it was acceptable to make the first move. Maybe he’d die first. Tim set his glass down on the coffee table, stretching out as he sat back. The upholstery crinkled as he fisted a hand in David’s shirt, pulling him close. David shut his eyes and let his body follow.

Lips moved against his own, somehow extremely chapped and still uncomfortably wet. David wondered how much of the spit in his mouth was his own. Tim kissed mechanically, like he’d learned it from reading an article. His hands, limp and sweaty, spread across his lap. The word moist came to mind.

When they moved to the bed, shedding layers in the hallway, David moved down Tim’s body, happy to occupy his mouth with something other than kissing. At least he’d showered; David could smell the faint scent of body wash. He was, if unremarkable, at least not disappointing.

They shifted in the sheets, working through a checklist. Perfunctory. David was happy to let Tim fuck him, content to lie back as he flopped atop him. He pretended to feel it more than he did, adding inches by balling up handfuls of pillows and throwing his head back. Really, he just wanted an excuse to close his eyes.

“I’m—I’m going—oh!” Tim came wide-eyed and open-mouthed. He looked like he’d been shot in the back of the head.

He didn’t try to cuddle, though he did offer David a chance to shower. He declined, saying he had special shampoo at home, only realizing later that it made it sound like he had lice. They wiped themselves up, chatting about their schedules for the week. David asked, not due to a desire to see him again, but more out of a sense of duty. He nodded, not listening, checking through his phone. They said goodbye in the doorway, David outside, Tim in. The kiss was a formality.

It wasn’t regret that curved David’s mouth into a frown as he trudged home. He’d gotten off, after all, and that was worth something. Just because he wouldn’t do it again doesn’t mean he would undo do it, given the chance and a time machine. He envied asexuals and considered asceticism. He longed for a time before apathy.

He saw the box, exactly where he’d left it. He brightened at the thought that the day wasn’t a total wash. He knelt to pick it up, and as he straightened the lid fell open to reveal a sealed envelope. Addressed to him.

David looked about. Gray, faceless windows starred down from the apartments lining the street. A green sedan zipped past. Somewhere in the park, a child screamed with laughter. He slid a nail along the seam, ripping the paper and pulling out the letter. He unfolded it and found a polaroid nestled between the creases. A single line of text was printed in the middle of the page.

There will be more

His hands shook. David turned in mad circles. The street was empty. In the distance he heard the rumble of a truck. He tore the letter into confetti, then ripped the picture into smaller and smaller strips till his fingers could no longer hold them. He hurried to a trashcan, littered the scraps atop discarded soda cans. He dashed back, grabbed the wooden box, tried to stuff it in the bin.

He teetered on the edge of the sidewalk. The stoplight turned from red to green. The truck turned a corner, barreling down the road. David counted his breaths, staring at the orange hand on the other side of the crosswalk. He waited, roar of sixteen wheels like rolling thunder. He threw a last look over his shoulder, at the wooden box, half-in, half-out of the trash.

Then he stepped into the road.

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