James had finally accepted himself. He knew who he was the moment Harris had told them about his new relationship with a guy back home. The pain that coursed through James at that moment finally made him realise that he had been a fool for not accepting himself and what he could have had with Harris sooner. It wasn’t a regret of love towards Harris, but more a regret that he had denied his attraction and that had then caused him to miss out on such an obvious opportunity. He was also happy for Harris because Harris himself seemed to be grinning every time he talked about Alex, his partner.
It was five in the morning and James was still awake. He’d climbed into his lonely single bed and snuggled into his duvet and closed his eyes, hoping to disappear to the world of his dreams and forget the real world. But reality kept a tight hold and no sense of tiredness had even considered taking his body or mind. He finally gave up and threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. James dressed in jeans, a shirt and wrapped a scarf around his neck and his coat around his body. He left his flat and out of his hall’s gate into Liverpool’s early morning dark. The winter wind flicked at his face as he strolled down the street. Normally when he did this he’d end up either at the Cathedral or the Docks, but this time was different.
He walked down London Road, which in the empty morning after all the partying students had collapsed home looked like a shit heap of pizza boxes and polystyrene cases, with occasional piles of sick at the bottom of wall corners. At the end of the road, opposite St George’s Hall, he turned left and walked up until he reached the steps of Lime Street Station. He climbed them and slumped down against the wall, the cold stone cushioned by his coat tails. The snow and ice glittered under the streetlights. He shivered against the cold, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t sure if he cared about anything at that moment. He didn’t like what he had finally accepted. Why did he have to be like this? He sat there for a while, the same thoughts spinning around in his mind. An hour later, he decided to shut the thoughts away and stood up, carefully making his way down the icy path and across the road, down the walkway next to St Johns Shopping Centre and into the Tesco that had just opened its doors. He strolled in, now shaking terribly with the cold and bathed for a moment in the welcoming heat of the shop. He went up to the magazine stand and stood there for a few moments. He glanced around, checking no one was close by before tentatively reaching up and taking a copy of Attitude Magazine. He held it close to his body so those he passed would only see the glossy advertisement printed on the back. He also grabbed a can of Monster Ripper and headed over to the self-checkout section to pay.
Once he’d paid, he walked back to his flat, locked his door, clicked open the can and opened the magazine. It was mostly about which celebrity was doing what in the gay community or what Tom Daley was doing that month and how it was fine to be gay, Lesbian, bi or transgender, but one article caught his attention. It was about how gay dating phone apps were affecting the community. Grindr was apparently the most popular and it took James less than two minutes to download after reading the article. He pressed on the black mask icon and watched as boxes of faces, bodies and greyness flooded his screen. It asked him to upload a picture so he picked one from his Facebook with Amelia and him smiling (drunk) in Krazyhouse (although he did crop Amelia out of it). It wasn’t long before the phone vibrated with messages from men, some twice his age (which freaked him out) and other less attractive students. James flicked through them, deleting messages from some and completing blocking any who were above thirty years old. He continued to swipe up and down searching for at least someone attractive to pop up. He felt strange because he thought having finally accepted himself that he’d be up for anything, but now looking through what was on offer; he realised he was very shallow in his choices of physical appearance. He shut down the app, finished his monster and moved to his desk, opening his laptop and started to search the Internet for random YouTube videos and news articles.
There has been one night where James had started talking to a guy and they agreed to meet up. It was safe to say that James was nervous and scared. That combination came together when he spotted the guy he was planning on meeting. Instinct kicked and he fled. He took off up a side street and didn’t stop running until he reached his flat.
Despite the events of that night, James continued to search the app for worthy guys. When he was dressing to go out, James switched Grindr back on and found a message waiting for it. The picture that went with it caused him to stare for a moment. The guy in the photo had sharp features outlined by black stubble and hair quaffed up in a quiff with a single strand hanging down over his forehead. His chocolate eyes drew him in, matching the smile that inched out from the right side of his mouth. James had never seen anyone like this before who wasn’t in a Hollywood film. His profile title was simple X and he said, ‘Hi’
‘Hey, you ok?’ James messaged back. He pulled on a deep blue shirt and his grey, spider-threaded jeans.
‘I’m not bad. How are you?’ His phone pinged.
They chatted back and forth with the normal conversation fillers until James said he was going to Krazyhouse with Amelia that night.
‘Awesome. I’m doing the same. Maybe we can meet up.’
‘Yeah that would be good.’ His heart felt like it was trying to burst his chest open and a sudden heat filled his body. Fuck!
They messaged each other a little more before he set out to meet Amelia and Harris. Harris was as always dressed in skinny black jeans and shirt hanging open at the collar with three buttons undone to tease his chest. Fuck! Amelia was dressed in a purple dress that only just reached her thighs and she loved it. This was the first time they had been to the K (Krazyhouse) since they’d all returned, so they called a taxi because they didn’t fancy walking through the still snow covered streets. James sat up front with the driver, while Harris and Amelia snuggled for warmth in the back. He wasn’t really listening to the driver prattle on about god knows what. He could feel Amelia’s eyes looking at him even if he couldn’t see her. Fuck knows what she was thinking.
They climbed out of the taxi and pushed into Cava Tequila bar where they downed three shots each while squashed against the bar, breathing in the sweat-choked air before pushing back out again into the cold. They paid into Krazyhouse and James jogged up the metal stairs up to the second floor, while Harris and Amelia sauntered behind. He bought himself two jagerbombs and one each for his friends. He downed his with a slight flinch at the cheap energy drink before ordering two more from the attractive but miserable looking barmaid. He noticed that there were no men behind the bar at all. Amelia and Harris were dancing and grinding against each other on the dance floor and when he walked over, Harris jumped onto the podium in the middle of the dance floor and started pole dancing against the beam in the centre. For James to say Harris didn’t look hot against that pole would be a lie. He looked like a rock sex god. He downed another drink and sipped the fourth while he danced and spun with Amelia. Slowly over the next hour, the club filled and the dance floor became a squashed mess of people. James left Amelia and Harris to it to get his sixth drink. He bought it and slipped through the crowd to lean against one of the tables behind the DJ booth. The Matrix is being projected onto the wall with subtitles. He pulled out his phone and checked Grindr for messages. There are a few from more middle-aged men looking for a quick night from a “Cutie”. He put it away and went to find Amelia. He found her spinning around the dance floor alone. Harris had gone to the toilet. He grabbed hold of her and they spun and danced together again, laughing ad smiling and joking while they noticed people giving them strange looks. He didn’t understand why people go to nightclubs to get drunk but then gave a damn what people thought about their dancing. Just fuck it and Dance!
‘Do you mind if I cut in?’ A deep, youthful voice said close to his ear. He felt a body very close to his back.
James let go of Amelia and turned to see a lock of hair hanging down and deep, dark eyes staring at him. A thin black beard edged along a sharp jaw and around slightly parted lips. Fuck. It’s him!
‘X, I presume?’ He smiled.
Xander slid his hands over James’s waist and spun him around, holding him close. ‘Hey.’ He took the drink James was holding and sipped it while slowly grinding against him.
James didn’t know what had come over him and was slowly pushing back against Xander, feeling his small, but firm body pressed against his back. He could see Amelia beaming across from him. He took back his drink as Xander rested his chin on his shoulder and downed the remaining liquid before lightly tossing the plastic cup at her, motioning her to go away. She giggled and moved off towards the stairs. James spun around and gripped Xander’s arse, pulling him close. Fuck! Just do it! He brushed his left hand up Xander’s side and cupped his neck, slowly moving his head forward until their noses grazed each other. He had stopped. Frozen. Why?
Xander took over and crossed that final line. Their lips met and James felt himself give way. He opened his mouth slightly and Xander’s tongue slipped inside. He felt Xander’s hand pushed up his shirt and over his abdomen. James tried to pull him even closer. He felt Xander’s smile against his lips. They parted slightly, still holding each other, smiles on both their faces. They danced and occasionally kissed for a little longer, before deciding to vacate. They held hands and rushed down the stairs and out into the cold. James texted Harris and Amelia telling them he’d left and would see them tomorrow. He knew Amelia would be filling Harris in on what had happened and that tomorrow he’d be interrogated by her own version of the Inquisition.