I held the book in front of my nose in a practiced attempt to conceal the directions my eyes went as I glanced around at the lunchtime crowd. My gaze glided over to the busy Coffee Club waiter. So hot. Blonde hair, blue eyes and those nerdy, square glasses that improve a guy's look, rather than hinder it. Looks to be in his late teens. We have attraction! The waiter was soon blocked by another man. This one looked to be in his mid-twenties. Portly, oily hair and one thick, messy eyebrow. Ah, tweezers - a wonderful invention that this man clearly hadn't heard of. Oh, hell no. No attraction. Obviously, I didn't keep my eyes on him for long. My attention was pulled towards the road following a car honk, resulting in a cyclist blocking my vision as he waited for a red light. He looked around thirty, nice tan, deep concentration and one hell of a body. I had no idea that people could have muscles in such places. I stared at him longer than usual. Obsessive attraction. I knew better than to make such obscene thoughts and glances known though.
I value my balls.
My pervasive musings of random men were interrupted by another random man – one that chose to sit, or rather – plonk, at my very table. A quick glance around the outdoor café told me that there were very few seats available and so it would be polite to allow him to sit here. I briefly eyed the smiling stranger across from me. Young-ish, clearly styled as was evident in his clothes, with blue eyes, black hair and an absolutely incredible smile. The kind that's too perfect to be real, and too real to be perfect. My eyes quickly dropped back to my book in an attempt to hide the instant attraction that I so obviously felt.
"Mind if I sit here?" His smile was wide as he settled in the chair, emptying the contents of his pockets onto the table to avoid squashing them. Silver mobile phone, orange wallet attached to chain that was attached to pants, a weird pen-type thing, a Mintie and eighty cents. Odd.
"I guess it's a little too late to say yes, right?" My words came out murmured through my small smirk, though the grinning stranger seemed to have no trouble in hearing them.
His face pulled into a mock scowl as he looked around the busy café. "Oh, well, I can go if you really want. There's just nowhere else to sit. Plus I'm still waiting for my order, and you're rather doable, so…"
I chuckled at the brazen way he spoke his words… until they sank in. Am I that transparent? Does he know I find him attractive already? Nose still tucked into my book to hide any wayward blush that would surely appear, I tried my best to appear nonchalant and merely nodded.
He stuck his hand out so quick that it smacked into the back of my book, causing me to jump.
"Uh, Richard." I shook his hand and took a brief moment to notice that it was fairly cool. I, on the other hand, was not.
Tristan leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. "Nice to meet you. So, what do you do, Richard? Student? Worker? Bludger? All three?"
I couldn't help but raise my eyebrows at his forwardness. Did this happen to people everyday? Where strangers just waltzed up and started demanding your life story? Sure, he was good-looking, probably even hot, but that didn't mean he didn't have some sinister plan. Maybe he was a rent boy? And picked me to use as his trick? Actually, that doesn't sound so bad. Shame I don't have enough money though…
I pointedly ignored his verbal probing and looked around at the people that crowded the tables. I found each one of them as disinteresting as I found Hamlet. The person my eyes really wanted to travel to was sitting directly opposite me.
"Not answering, huh? Pity." Tristan sighed and it appeared that he was about to get up. I didn't want him to leave just yet.
"Why is it a pity?"
I swallowed. "Why is it a pity that I didn't answer your question?"
"Because it makes me think that you're not friendly. I, on the other hand, am very friendly. I like friends. I like to make new friends. It seems to me that you… don't."
Although he was smiling, we both knew he was speaking the truth. My defence was weak, but was a defence nonetheless.
"I have friends." It felt to me that a little extra needed to be added to that statement to be more… convincing. "I have enough friends." As an afterthought I threw in, "And I am friendly, thank you."
"Are you sure you don't want another friend? Not even one? Because I'm usually fairly busy, see, and I'd hate to have to miss out on this opportunity." I watched as he leant back in his seat and toyed with the built-in frayed hem of his shirt. From the bottom of my eye, I noticed the shirt rise the slightest of millimeters.
I'm not sure why, but I decided to step out of character and actually have a conversation with a stranger that wasn't working behind a checkout. I thought I'd take my chances on the male-hooker thing. Plus, in reality, my friend-list was actually rather small.
"Fine. In answer to your other question, I work part-time and study part-time." The look he was giving me indicated he wanted more information. Figures. "I work at a CD shop and study modern music and English literature. I have a lot of time on my hands."
Tristan beamed at my willingness to converse.
"Clearly. Well, Richard, I have three jobs. On Tuesdays and Sunday afternoons I hack away at people's hair. Mondays, Thursdays and part of Fridays I sell ad spots to businesses for the newspaper. Wednesdays are spent typing up reports and various documents for people; my little home business. And on Saturdays, I can sometimes be found chatting with attractive strangers in busy, inner-city cafés." His smile was blinding.
I was somewhat speechless.
"Uh… wow. You're… busy. And stuff." I think I gagged on my own eloquence. Tristan didn't seem to mind.
"I suppose. I'm just happy it keeps me entertained." Tristan's coffee arrived and he proceeded to pour a miniscule amount of sugar into it. "I get bored easily. So, do you live around here?"
"Well, not in the city. I live on the North side of Brisbane." Way to encourage stalker activity, Richard. Even though the North side is home to hundreds of thousands of people…
"Really?" He sounded surprised. "So do I. Where 'bouts are you?"
Tristan must have noticed my trepidation, because he rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner.
"Relax, man. I'm not gonna stalk you or anything." His eyebrows wiggled furiously and I was reminded of perfectly defined caterpillars. "Unless you want me to."
"Oh… okay. I'm at Aspley. And thanks all the same but getting a restraining order is so much paperwork."
"Oh? You speak from experience?"
I mentally beat myself for warming to him so quickly. Whatever happened to 'stranger danger'? "Nah, my sister took one out on this guy a few years back."
"Oh." He looked… disappointed. "So anyway, you're what; twenty-four? Twenty-five?"
I may or may not have squinted my eyes in a glaring fashion. I hoped to hell that I didn't look as old as he suggested (and made a mental note to check next time there's a mirror handy) and retorted.
"Twenty-one. You're thirteen, right?" The corner of my mouth quirked up in the slightest of smirks.
"Oh, you're a funny one. I'm nineteen thank you." His right caterpillar-eyebrow lifted. "Perfectly legal, in every sense."
My smirk was gone and a heavy blush soon replaced it at the implication of Tristan's words. Who says stuff like that to strangers? The little shit.
The conversation carried on as such for a few more minutes; obvious flirting coated with the need for more information from the person sitting opposite each of us.
In the twenty minutes since he'd sat down I'd learnt that he's 19, holds down a ridiculous number of jobs, lives 10 minutes South of me, likes adventure, has mild diabetes, hates chocolate, is an only child, loves cold weather, enjoys taking photos, fidgets a lot and is partial to the colour orange purely because "nothing rhymes with it". The only thing I didn't know for certain was his sexuality. Was I about to ask? Fuck no. I'd rather nail my nuts to my knees (as the radio advert goes).
I took a moment to admit to myself that I found Tristan to be an intriguing stranger. A very attractive and intriguing stranger. Unfortunately for me, I was too self-conscious to find out where his interests lay. Was he attracted to me, too? Was he gay? Bi? Or was he merely passing time on a boring Saturday afternoon?
I didn't have anything better to do, so I stayed. That's what I kept telling myself anyway; the pile of English Lit. homework pushed to the back of my mind. I was already on my third Iced with-a-hint-of-Irish-Cream Chocolate and trying not to dribble it over my shirt while listening to Tristan. Multitasking was never my thing. My attention was briefly diverted to a young car hoon, driving some ridiculously kitted-up green sports car, as he almost plowed down a homeless man crossing the street. My nose turned up in disgust at the driver before my eyes returned to Tristan's amused ones.
"Sorry Ritchie, – can I call you Ritchie? – but am I boring you?"
"Not at all," my reply came surprisingly easily. "Quite the opposite in fact." I smiled to myself for sounding so… sophisticated. I thought about my words for a moment before adding, "And indeed, you may call me Ritchie." I was proud.
Tristan wasn't so proud.
"Oh, listen to you. Quite the opposite in fact. So regal. And indeed!" He laughed, seemingly endlessly. "You amuse me a lot, Ritchie. You're quite entertaining."
It took a few moments for me to realise that he was taking the piss out of me. "Glad to hear that I'm a form of amusement for you."
Looking a mixture between annoyed and pleased at my muttered words, Tristan leant across the table towards me, gesturing for me to meet him halfway. I did so, shifting a little as his breath flowed into my ear.
"Humour is a big turn-on for me."
Before my brain had even processed the words, Tristan was back in his seat and motioning for a waiter to bring him a glass of water. I was still half-leaning on the table, and thusly remained for another minute or two, until Tristan poked my arm and snapped me out of my stupor.
I forced my face to turn from ravenous and needy to irritated and in control, and leveled my eyes with his. "Now who's the funny one?"
I was more than a little conscious of the way my entire damn body had flushed at his words. Since when was I so easily affected like this? I surreptitiously patted my chest in an effort to slow my heartbeat. Oh, God I needed a cigarette. I reached into my pants pocket and yanked out a pack of smokes, raising my eyebrows to Tristan in a silent request for permission. A 'go ahead' wave was aimed towards me and I lit up, grateful for the calming effect the nicotine had on me. Tristan's steady gaze however, reversed those calming effects.
For some reason, we just sat there in a complete silence for countless minutes. Not one of those 'comfortable' silences that people go on about. No, this was the opposite kind. The kind of silence that blatantly encourages the involved parties to watch the wall, the screaming baby or the melting chewing gum discarded on the footpath. Anything to avoid the impending confrontation. And of course, overly conspicuous and sporadic glances would follow, coinciding perfectly (if not a little embarrassingly) with each other. I hate those silences. I can never find the right thing to say to break such silences, but clearly Tristan can.
"Ritchie, how would you like to go to Sizzler's with me tonight? My shout."
The cigarette poison I was inhaling quickly turned into the poison I was exhaling, which then became the poison I was inhaling and exhaling, at the same time. I was, in a word, choking. Tristan, the kind soul he was, wasted no time in jumping out of his chair, thumping me on the back and shoving his newly acquired water in front of my face. I recovered faster than expected, but continued the choking charade to give me a little more time to think.
Tristan was asking me out to dinner? So he was gay? Is this considered a date? Do Australians even date? Do gay Australians date? Why am I internally reflecting on my lack of 'proper' relationships and how Australians term them?
I stopped my thoughts long enough to realise that Tristan was no longer thumping my back and was sitting opposite me once again. My weak sounding 'coughs' grew softer until I stopped them altogether. I took a deep breath, a tiny drag on my cigarette and a decent mouthful of my drink before gathering up the courage to speak to him again.
"Are you asking me out, Tristan?" I had hoped that I would sound confident and somewhat coy; instead it was muffled and horrifyingly unsteady. I'm such a sook.
"Yes. I am. Are you accepting?"
"So you're… gay?"
"No, I'm not. Do you accept, Ritchie?"
"Wait. You're not gay? Are you bi?" I was beyond confused, and starting to think that Tristan was merely playing games. Asshole.
He sighed. When he spoke again, it sounded practiced and bored, as though he'd had to repeat it numerous times in the past. "By the general definition, I'm neither. I like what I like. Girl, guy, both, neither. Bisexual, transsexual, asexual, homosexual. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that, from what I've seen, I like you. Enough to ask you to dinner. Now, Richard, do you accept? Yes or no."
"Uh… yes. Okay. Yes. Dinner. Okay. Yes."
He rolled his eyes in a ridiculously comical fashion.
"I told you already. I like what I know of you. And I'm betting that by five o'clock today, you'll like me too." I watched Tristan beam a smile at me before he took a glance at his watch and hurriedly pocketed his belongings once again, as I mentally tried to un-mush my brain. "Now, it's 12.58. If we hurry, we'll make it to the Queen Street Mall in time. Let's go." I barely managed to get my smokes tuck my book under my arm before Tristan had grabbed my free hand and started leading me towards the mall.
"Wait, what? Tristan? In time for what? And what's this about a bet? "
Everything was moving quickly and I hated it and loved it at the same time. I decided it was about time I threw caution to the wind and ran off with some hot stranger I met in the middle of the city… on a weekend…
"Actually, you know what?" I was fast running out of breath from running… well, fast. "I think I may have changed my mind about wanting a new friend and-"
Tristan shut me up with a short yank on my arm and a blinding smile in my direction. Just as we reached the edge of the outdoor mall, I heard the Town Hall clock chime.