His body was very near mine, its warmth permeating the sheet that lay over us both.
"Are you there?" he asked, and I answered, "Yes."
In the semi-gloom of the bedroom, his hand reached out to touch mine, and our fingers clasped. "I thought that you had gone," he said. I said nothing, and held my breath, and wondered who he was.
My eyes turned in the other direction, unwilling to look upon him just yet, not until my thoughts became more lucid, not until I was ready to face a morning-stranger’s face. A clock stood on this side of the bed, safely within my range of vision. It was morning, then, Saturday morning; or rather, just barely morning; for between the small hand, pointing piously at twelve, and the big hand, there was only space enough for one tick of the mechanism. The shaft of black crouched, poised and tense, waiting to spring upon the dot marked twelve, and so end another morning in its tedious life.
Saturday morning came after Friday night, and Friday night was a time for the Why Not, for drinks that lasted long into the night and, hopefully, a rendezvous with passion that lasted well into the morning.
So then, it was not so unusual this noon—now that the hour had struck—to find myself in a strange bed, hearing a strange voice, my hand still clasped in unfamiliar, urgent fingers.
I stirred finally, turning on my back, and saw the mirror crudely attached to the ceiling, my own likeness scowling down at me, a solemn jury of self-examination. Turning further, toward him, trying to focus my sleep-weary eyes: a wave of golden hair rippled over the pillow near me, too near to see really well; a face, watching me with something almost frightening in its expression: a half smile, meant perhaps to be friendly, or seductive, and succeeding in neither goal. It was not a bad face, this collection of eyes, nostrils and swollen lips that lay in front of me. I had seen worse, at closer range. On Saturday mornings, especially, I had seen worse.
He was waiting, no doubt studying me in the same surreptitious way in which I studied him. My lips automatically smiled, a reflex action, my eyes half-closing as I edged closer to the face, sought the swollen lips. His breath was sour and unpleasant, tasting of cigarettes and stale booze, his mouth less yielding than one would have liked; his body, molding itself now to mine, was rather too soft. Obediently, mechanically, my sex hardened, reaching out and up for him, seeking its prey.
Tonight, I told myself, tonight I would go again to the Why Not; seek another face to find on my pillow the following morning. But for now, the long empty afternoon stretched before me, a wasteland of time and tedium, and here, for the moment, was an oasis of relief.
By day, the Why Not was not so much depressing as dull, a building lacking in its exterior any trace of character or expression. Its front, painted red—but a lazy red, not one of those lively, hot shades—crowded rudely against the sidewalk, glaring petulantly at the street before it, pushing itself against the Laundromat on one side and the empty storefront on the other. It might have been a convenient stopping-off spot for the men of the neighborhood except that, during the day it remained stubbornly, snobbishly closed. Like its patrons, the bar was a nighttime creature.
Under the cover of darkness, however, even its faded exterior took on a new charm, the dull red reflecting the glow of the aged neon that proclaimed its name, the door curtained but congenially open to the stream of young men—and so rarely, women—who hurried in, leaving behind the darkened street to be caught up in the swell and flow of the crowds within. At night, on almost any night, the crowds were vast, shuffling feet blotting out the uneven, sawdust-covered floor, littered with cigarette butts, matchbook covers, sometimes dropped and unnoticed money; and, too often, discarded dreams.
The counter of the bar itself was packed, a shabby wedge of flypaper littered with swarming bodies that leaned on it, stood before it, sometimes sat on it. It was not so much a room as a cloud of flesh and faces. The faces caught the glow from the strands of lights, tiny Japanese bulbs confiscated from some forgotten chest of Christmas ornaments to be hung about the ceiling and posts without apparent pattern or purpose.
There were mirrors, too, that caught and multiplied the faces—one stood smiling at a stranger who proved after all to be only oneself smiling back—and a bit of netting which, together with a cluster of dusty artificial leaves, was intended to create a Polynesian effect. An embarrassed and self conscious décor that was, at the same time, inherently right, so unreal in itself that it lent an air of reality to the moods and the people contained within the room.
Farewell from the Bookshelf!
Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.
All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.
Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!