Joined Recently by Mark Ward

Joined Recently The problem with late-night hook-ups was that despite pictures and conversation, you rarely knew exactly what you were getting.

When Jake arrived at the guy’s house, he knew he had a roommate – whom he was assured he wouldn’t see. The guy led him into his bedroom. There was crap all over the floor: clothes, cds, plastic packaging. The guy was much thinner than advertised. He took out his barely aroused cock without clearing any space for Jake to navigate toward him. Jake moved a rake of stuff aside with his foot. The guy’s cock tasted like petrol. Like it was doused in petrol. It was acrid and what he imagined purple to taste like; the kind of purple that’s half-mould and half-rust.

The guy whispered – not so much as an apology but more of a confession, and with the attendant rush of it - that he was ‘on stuff’. He listed off four types of drugs so quietly that Jake could only make out one of them: cocaine. The guy was completely tweaked and talking about how his roommates – one of whom Jake ran into when he arrived and excused himself to use the loo, both of them staring at each other as they passed on the stairs – were very anti-drugs and that they couldn’t find out. And so if the guy just strangled every word before it could form an audible sound, they never would.

The weird taste didn’t dissipate like, say, the latex taste of a dick that had just worn a condom – that artificial taste on flesh. If anything it got worse. He wondered if the guy had lathered his cock in something but he doubted it. The guy sucked him some and then said he was too fucked up and had to stop. Jake said Sure and left frustrated and a little high. They had been using poppers but this was different. The guy must’ve had cocaine on his lips. Jake walked a little, leant on a bridge, stared into the river below and checked out Grindr to see if he could find a real man. ***** Jake had decided that walking was the only exercise for him, gyms being too artificial with their enforced circuits and overexertion. He decided on a direction at random, which gave him the daily illusion of freedom, but then settled into a familiar loop that always brought him back home within a certain time limit. So it was a few days before he passed the guy’s house and a few weeks before they intersected again, this time in daylight.

The guy stopped him and said Hey. He was smiling as if they’d had a good night together. He had messaged Jake later, saying that he was tired – when really, it was the drugs, they both knew that – and Jake had blocked him. He didn’t owe him anything.

“Uh, hi…”

“From the other night?”

“Sorry?” Inside Jake was giggling like Shirley Temple.

“We hooked up.”

And channelling every straight boy he fooled around with when reciprocity was expected, Jake barked “What the fuck?”

The guy stammered. “We– we–”

“What the fuck are you talking about? I’ve never met you before.”

The guy stared at him, squinting, as if with focus he could expose the lie but he couldn’t. The guy continued to stammer and then remembered: he took out his phone. Jake had to stifle a smile.

“Look-” and the guy opened Grindr.

“Don’t be showing me that shite.” Jake puffed out his chest and extended his arms. He wanted his size to be all the guy could see.

And of course, the guy couldn’t find the message. There was a beautiful moment where Jake could see the guy really wonder if it anything had actually happened.

The guy was stuttering, his mouth trying to catch up with his confused brain. Jake knew exactly how to end it. “You think you can fucking hit on anybody. I’m sick of you goddamn- ”. He stopped abruptly as if he was going to say the word faggot and stopped himself because he was the better man.

The guy looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”

Jake walked off and by the time he got the end of the road, he’d made a new account and messaged the guy, Hey, asking if he was up for fun. He would text him periodically over the next six months, talking at length, sharing other people’s pics, arranging meets that he knew would never happen. The guy would block him, like he had done before, but that didn’t matter. It was always easy to create a new account.

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