The minute hand moves agonizingly slow, and I stare at it, thinking about the movie date with Jayden.
I watch the people in my office pile into the elevator as I turn down the next corridor to take the stairs, and I'm thinking about how it wasn't technically a 'date' at all.
There are exactly eight flights of stairs for me to climb down as I think about how Jayden is probably just lonely and thinks I'm a charity case.
The stairwell is empty and grey and cold, and as I lean against the wall, slightly out of breath and just tired out of my mind, I think how the stairwell seems like a metaphor for my life - dull, meaningless and tediously mundane.
I listen to the empty official-sounding jargon being thrown around behind the walls and think about how Jayden's life must be so much more vibrant and exciting than mine is, and then wonder if I only think that because I don't know him all that well.
Realizing that I'm probably wasting precious time I could be using to clean up my apartment, I take a deep breath and try to find my way out of my hideous imposing office building and desperately locate my grey rust-bucket of a car.
As I start the ignition and feel the whole (lousy excuse for a) car shake, I can't help thinking about Jayden and wondering what he's doing, wondering if he'd have fun tonight, wondering if he likes me at all, wondering why he even bothers with me.
I run up the stairs, hoping that maybe Jayden will be late, maybe that would buy me some time to shower and clean my apartment before he decides to grace me with his presence. I curse the traffic, curse my rust-bucket Honda, curse life, curse my old not-fast-enough good-for-nothing legs. I automatically slow at the second floor to take a breath, notice the (disappointing) lack of a certain smoker, nevertheless noting the presence of a crushed cigarette butt, like a token signifying his existence and establishing Jayden as something other than a figment of my sexually deprived imagination.
I should have known the familiar smell of smoke mixed with a slightly less familiar but still extremely sexy hint of cologne and possibly aftershave meant something. And I definitely shouldn't have jumped and screamed like a little girl when I saw Jayden leaning against my apartment door in a way so perfect and inhuman that it should be illegal.
Jayden smirked, and chuckled at my little hapless demonstration of shock a la five-year-old girl.
"Hi," I mumbled, sure that I looked like a cross between a tomato and a beetroot. I didn't dare look at the figure blocking the door to my apartment, instead choosing to stare at my shoelaces. Shoelaces are very interesting, you know. They are so.. shoelace-like. Very deserving of my attention, yes. Jayden can't blame me for that, surely he understands.
"Hey," I wonder how he manages to sound so good, how the smoke doesn't somehow wrap itself around his vocal chords and choke him. "Hey, Cesar, sorry I'm early, man. I can go back and stop by later if it makes you more comfortable?" I register a warm hand on my upper arm and can't help look up at Jayden.
"Oh no, it's nothing. Sorry, it's my fault; I was late. Traffic congestion." Traffic jam. Why can't I use more modern and socially acceptable terminology? Traffic congestion - who even says that? God, he must think I'm ancient.
I struggle trying to fit my key into the lock and my mind (being the traitorous thing that it is) start's thinking about Jayden's um, key. The hot breath down my neck and the musky smell of cigarette smoke seems to dull all my senses and I feel my own breath catch, feeling so vulnerable and yet so full of need…
After what seems like an eternity, I manage to swing the door open.
Jayden rushes inside my apartment (still in his dirty sneakers, mind you, and I grit my teeth despite myself).
"Cesar, oh my god, your apartment is structured just like mine!" You don't say, I resist rolling my eyes at this man's obvious lack of common sense and deduction. Then I see the unadulterated childish excitement in Jayden's eyes and I can't help but smile. Jayden runs around my flat, running his fingers over the pillows on my sofa and inspecting the faded family photographs on display. Somehow, he seems more at home than I am - at my own apartment, no less! - and I can't help fall for him even harder.
"Oh, and before I forget, beer and popcorn! You can thank me later." Jayden dangles a plastic bag I had not noticed before in front of my face.
"Right. Um, thank you so much. Do you mind putting the beer in the fridge and putting the popcorn in the microwave? If it's not too much to ask, I mean. I'm so sorry. I just really need to take a quick shower and change, alright?"
"No, man. It's really no problem. I can do this."
"Alright, ugh. Make yourself at home. If there's anything edible in the fridge you can have that."
"Cesar, it's really no problem. I promise I'll behave. Take your time."
"Oh god, is that Marilyn Monroe?"
I have never seen the chain smoker look more boyish, more alive. He was practically jumping up and down on my couch, grabbing my hand at tense parts and almost jumping into my lap during the sweet romantic bits.
It was beyond adorable. I just wanted to smother Jayden in kisses then fuck the oblivious man senseless. He's too young for you, my subconscious chose to interject at this point. He's only trying to be friendly. I mean, he doesn't even like you. And anyway, you don't deserve him.
"Aw, look at these cute cross-dressing man. His ass in that skirt, now would you look at that."
I choose to ignore that remark, instead grabbing more popcorn. I guess Jayden got the same idea and he blindly reached into the bowl, eyes still focused on the screen. I feel his fingers brush mine and somehow, instead of ignoring this simple and accidental move, out of their own accord, my fingers immediately interlace with his.
Jayden turned his head so fast I thought he might get whiplash. He looked at the popcorn bowl, at our hands… What the fuck did I do that for? What the fuck? Fuck. I felt the blood rush towards my ears and neck. I quickly let go of Jayden's hand (with those long, smooth fingers, a little calloused but still so elegant, so gentle) and pull away, moving further along my side of the couch.
"I-I'm sorry," I stutter, still trying to comprehend my own actions. "I just… I didn't mean to… accidentally… I mean, I just…I don't know why I did that, really." I was still dazed, to be honest. With just one simple move, something that felt so automatic, so natural… Somehow, I had caused a huge shift in tension in the room. It hung like a thick fog and for some reason I wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry.
Maybe I just did not know how to react or why my body was suddenly acting without first consulting the rational part of my brain. Maybe I was shocked. Maybe I was in love and.. No, that makes no sense either.
This chain-smoker's presence alone could make me do inexplicable, regrettable things. First the involuntary hand-grabbing.. Next thing you know, I'd become a fucking rapist against my own will. The things this man does to me. It's dangerous. How can one man alone have so much control over me?
Jayden's facial expression revealed no emotions. His gaze steady and unmoving, he just stared at me. I swallowed, feeling something invisible strangling me on the inside, choking me. I wanted to run. I wanted to just stay and watch the movie with Jayden. I wanted to…
His pupils seemed to dart all over my face, from my eyes, to my (probably red) cheeks to my mouth. Then, he sighed, looked away and took a half-smoked cigarette from behind his ear. With his long fingers, he fished out a lighter from the front pocket of his jeans. It took him a few tries to light the stub with his trembling hands. I silently watched, willing my mind to work and elevate this sudden tension I seem to have caused, to revert things to how they were: with Jayden making stupid comments about my favorite movie and me just basking in his presence.
"Jerry, Jerry, will you take my advice? Forget about the whole thing, will ya? Just keep telling yourself: you're a boy, you're a boy."
In, out, in, out. The young man sat on my sofa silently, his stoic face turned towards me. In, out. He drew the smoke into his mouth, then exhaled slowly, almost deliberately. The smoke brushed my face with its warmth and burned my eyes ever so slightly. I can't say it was unpleasant. My thoughts seemed to melt away with the smoke, turning into this cloud of undecipherable words and emotions. I forgot to be angry with the gorgeous not-really-stranger-but-barely-an-acquaintance for smoking in my apartment. I forgot to worry, to fret, to regret. I just sat and with Jayden smoked beside me.
"Hey, these are real diamonds! "
For once, I felt alive. I felt like nothing mattered. I felt young again.
"Of course they're real! What do you think? My fiance is a bum?"
"Hey, Jayden… Can I bum a cigarette?"
AN: Sorry for the lack of updates! I don't know who even reads this anymore, honestly. My writing is not up to standard and I am not sure where exactly I am going with this, but we'll see. I just wrote most of this chapter after a sudden burst of inspiration, but I only finished it today. I am not exactly happy with this, so I might revise the chapter sometime in the future. Thank you everyone for your support!
EDIT: I keep fucking up my own characters' names. It's Cesar, not Caesar. Sorry guys!