Carver is drunk after two hours of blackjack. He took a shot each time he went bust. A few of the players now nest around the high kitchen table, all sipping beers. I should tell them mixing liquors guarantees a blackout, but I’m not in a generous mood. The other men at the party stagger their way to the living room, or the patio. Or the bedroom.
“He doesn’t even know I’m here,” Carver says. He drains his beer. “I had to sneak away after he passed out.”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen you with him in a while,” says one of the men.
“That’s because he drops Xanax all day,” Carver says.
I’m so tired of hearing about these men and their unhappy lives. No one looks at me, wonders if I could make him happy. I know I could. I just need the chance.
“Jesus Christ, he’s gotten fat,” Carver goes on. “We were in bed the other night, and he wondered why I didn’t wanna fuck, and I told him it was because—he’d just gotten so big.”
The other men laugh and shake their hands. Our host is one of those rich middle-aged fags who hands out free booze so the younger, prettier men will hang out at his house. He swings by, collecting the empties.
Dustin sits next to me, across from Carver. He doesn’t cluck in commiseration along with the other men. He stares at Carver as if he were a stain on your best suit. He’s slim and angular, maybe thirty. His hair juts from his head in a series of dark spikes. The other men don’t like him. I’ve heard the rumors.
Carver signals the host to get him another Heineken. “I really like being here with you guys, and—wait, what time is it?” He’s too drunk to notice the hubcap-sized clock hung high on the kitchen wall.
“Eleven-thirty,” someone tells him.
“Oh, shit. Sweetie, I gotta jet. He usually wakes up a bit around this time. I told him I’d bring back a pizza.” Carver plucks his overcoat from the coat rack, begins kissing the cheeks of all the men in the room.
“Why don’t you leave him?” Dustin asks. I’m not sure Carver heard him.
The other men swiftly stare down Dustin. It takes Carver a moment to realize he had spoken.
“What did you say?” he finally stammers.
“I said, Why don’t you leave him? If you’re so goddamn unhappy, find a new apartment and get the fuck away from him. He’s not the only man in town.”
Dumbstruck, Carver gapes at him. Absently, he picks up a beer and takes a swig. He doesn’t answer but instead stumbles from the room. We hear him rush through his goodbyes to the men in the living room. We hear the door slam shut.
The men continue to glare at Dustin, but none of them say anything. They’re cowards, probably itching to begin their whispers when he leaves the room. He obliges them by downing his last swallow of beer, scooting back from the table and trotting out the swinging door. I miss him immediately.
“God, he’s such a bitch,” someone says.
“Who the hell invited him?” asks another.
It goes on like that, all the men getting in on it. When our host returns with the fresh beers, they hassle him for inviting Dustin. He merely shrugs and shakes his head. “I didn’t want to tell him about it,” he says.
I can’t take this scene, so I leave the room, too. The living room holds even more men, all laughing, drinking, gossiping. I wish for a horrible disease to take them all out. I’m not particular about which one.
Through the glass patio door, I see Dustin alone. He grips the railing, smokes a cigarette. One of the men grabs my arm, asks me where I’ve been. I shake him off without answering.
After sliding open the door, I sneak onto the patio. I’m sure Dustin heard the squeak of the door, but he doesn’t turn around. Standing there, wondering how to win his attention, I listen to the party continue. One of the men hoots with laughter.
“You came all this way,” Dustin says, still looking out into the night. “The least you could do is speak.”
Emboldened, I cross to him, stop at the railing. He’s beautiful, Dustin. I hadn’t noticed until just then. The angles of his face, the depth of his dark eyes. I wrap my hand around the back of his head and pull him into a kiss. It’s deep, wet and wonderful. I no longer hear the party noises. The silence of the night envelops us.
Finally, he pulls back from me, gazes at me with the shock of an accident victim. I’m hold onto his arm, feel it tense in my grip, as if he means to leave. I don’t let go.
About the author
Thomas Kearnes is a 35-year-old author from East Texas. He is an atheist and an Eagle Scout. His queer-themed fiction has appeared in PANK, Storyglossia, Night Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, Eclectica, Word Riot, JMWW Journal, wigleaf, The Pedestal, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, A cappella Zoo and elsewhere. He has also appeared in the gay venues Blithe House Quarterly, Velvet Mafia, Educe Journal, the Best Gay Romance Series, Queer Fish and elsewhere. He is a columnist for Flash Fiction Chronicles and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.