© D.Z. Watt
The sylvan shepherd’s hut of Albert’s life is about to topple.
He’s lazing around in an old t-shirt with pizza sauce splatters down the front, and ripped shorts he only wears around the house.
And there’s a knock at the door. It’s probably one of those sell-you-something or thank-you-Jesus people so he doesn’t care how he looks, maybe the sight of him will chase them away.
But it’s the guy he’s been flirting with on a gay website, he knows the face from the profile picture. As a torrent of unacknowledged hints from their chats floods into his head, he can’t remember the guy’s name.
“Hello, I’m Jerry,” the man says, offering his hand. “From the website? You know—?”
“What are you doing here?”
Albert doesn’t intend it to sound so abrupt but his social spam-filter has crashed for the moment. “I mean—”
“Yes, you see— I was in the neighbourhood and figured out where you live from things you said and I decided to stop by and meet you.”
In the neighbourhood? Albert thought he was from Rotterdam.
“In the neighbourhood?” he asks. “I thought you were from Rotterdam.”
Jerry blushes, a dramatic colour on his milky low-country complexion. “Yes— I mean—” He coughs to clear his throat, looks away down the hall, then back. “What I mean is, I came here to meet you and since I was in the neighbourhood at the moment I thought I’d stop.”
“Oh” is all Albert can manage to squeak out.
“Is this a good time?” Jerry asks sheepishly.
“No, not exactly,” Albert says, thinking more about what he’s wearing than the present state, and maybe the smell, of his living room. And bedroom. The pizza and Chinese to-go boxes and empty beer cans and overflowed ashtrays. Not to mention a second day without a shower. Yet these only come to mind once the words are out of his mouth: “But come in a minute. Since you’re here.”
After twenty minutes of small talk, rehashing what they’ve already said on the website, Albert feels the edges of his tolerance fraying, he needs to get him out of here. Now.
Gently if possible but not so gently if it comes to it.
“Well, Jerry, it was nice of you to stop by but I have to get ready to go out now, so—”
“Is it somewhere I can go with you?”
Chrissakes! Albert doesn’t expect that response. “Well, no, not exactly, I’m uh— going out on a date.”
“With someone else?”
Strangely, Jerry sounds hurt and Albert decides tougher action is needed. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave now.”
Jerry’s eyes dart around the room. “Can I stay here and wait for you, I don’t have anywhere else to go. I can clean up—”
This goes beyond the furthest reaches of Albert’s most stretched sense of good will, which doesn’t extend very far in the first place. How much easier it’d be to just go offline.
He stands. He walks to the door leading to the hall and turns. “This way, please.”
Jerry rises from the sofa, confused and visibly anxious. “Are you upset with me?”
“No, I just want you to leave. I need to get ready to go out.”
“Why can’t I stay here?”
“Because I don’t really know you.”
“But we have been friends on the website for many months.”
“That’s a bit different than leaving you – who I don’t really know, or where you’re from, or what your name really is – in my flat alone with all my stuff.”
Jerry starts to look through his jacket pockets. “I can show you my passport, it has—”
“NO! I don’t want to see your goddam passport, I just want you to get out! Do you hear me?”
Oh well, he’s lost it, he’ll certainly block Jerry from his friends list, maybe even create a new identity for himself and warn mutual friends about him, too.
“You’re not a very nice man,” Jerry says as he pushes past Albert and darts toward the door. “I am not writing to you again.”
Something about a pre-emptive estrangement when he’s thinking of the same thing himself takes the wind from Albert’s sails and when the door slams, he flops down on the sofa to recover.
There he feels the warmth from where Jerry was sitting, and in a way that he cannot begin to imagine, or that he can understand, he has a sense of loss. And cries.
D. Z. Watt lives in Scotland, where the people are lovely and the weather isn’t.