There's a cat by my feet. As it rubs against my heel its whiskers tickle the soles of my foot. I flinch at the sudden urge to scratch, kicking the cat in the face. I feel its teeth against my toes. The cat hisses angrily and darts away beneath the sofa. I prop my feet up on the coffee table and cross my legs. I glance around for the remote, but it is probably lost between the cushions and I don't feel like searching for it. I wait for him to come back, and after a few minutes, he does.
"Sorry," he apologizes lightly, handing me a glass of tea. "The ice maker hasn't been cooperating today."
I shrug and he sits down beside me. He puts his own glass of tea on the coffee table then stands back up, peering down at where he had just sat. The remote sticks out shyly from underneath a pillow, and he finds it and pulls it out.
"Do you think we're winning?" He asks, just for the sake of saying something. He turns on the TV and flips through the stations to find the sports.
"Could be," I say dully. I take a drink from my tea. It was sweetened with Splenda. I swallow it, not allowing myself to grimace. He looks at me curiously. I glance at him over the rim of my cup and slowly lower it from my lips. "What?" I ask.
"We're losing," he says, looking at the TV. He holds the remote out at he TV, his thumb touching the volume button but not pressing it enough to do anything. His body is rigid and his eyes are wide as he takes in the sports game. He reminds me of a scarecrow.
My eyes shift to the TV as I put down my drink. Baseball. The pitch, the crack of the ball against the bat, the rising of dust as the batter sprints to first base. We're losing, but not by much. I sit back and rest my back comfortably into the couch. I wiggle my left big toe into the ankle of my right foot, relieving an itch. I wonder where that cat went.
"Go, go, go," he snarls under his breath, balling his hands into fists and shaking them emphatically. "No, no." His tone drops into near-panic. "Stay, stay at third!" He bounces up onto his feet and claps once, loudly. "Yes!" He sits back down as quickly as he had stood.
I stare at him. There's no way I can focus on the game. I look back at the TV anyway, but all I see are men dressed funny, running in circles away from some ball. The crowd cheers and so does he. A flash of the crowd is shown, and together they're as colorful as a rainbow.
"Charlie," I say suddenly.
He tilts his ear towards me but doesn't look away from the TV.
"Give me the remote."
He hands it to me without question. As if a weight has left him, he slides forward to the edge of the couch, grasping onto his glass of tea. Yet he doesn't move, frozen in his position as his eyes widen even more as the referee blows his whistle.
I turn the volume up a couple notches, wait a few seconds, then turn off the TV.
He looks down at his hands as if it were somehow his fault. He realizes I have the remote and looks at me sharply. "What happened?" He asks, tense and confused.
"Why don't we do something else?" I say easily, tossing the remote on the other side of me, out of his reach.
"You said you'd come over and watch the game with me," he says broodingly. "You don't want to watch it anymore?"
"You know I don't like sports."
"No, I didn't know." He purses his lips together irritably. He leans back to see if he could possibly get the remote, but I am most definately blocking his way. He sighs. "I suppose I can always watch it online later," he mutters unhappily. He looks at me wearily. "What do you want to do, then? You better have some sort of plan."
The cat jumps up from out of nowhere and settles beside him, and he begins stroking its head without even looking at it. I look down at the cat and feel oddly jealous. Such an easy, pointless life you have. The better to irk you with, my dear.
"You got any beer?" I look at him.
He sighs again. "You want to get drunk, is that it? No, I don't. Jesus." He stands up and the cat hops to the floor. I watch him and feel compelled to stand, but my legs are too lazy so I just sit there.
"I just don't want to sit here for five hours watching a stupid baseball game," I add.
He picks up his glass from the coffee table and takes a drink, narrowing his eyes at me. "You'd rather watch porn," he accuses. "Whatever," he grunts as I shake my head.
"Not with you, anyway," I try to joke.
"Oh shut up." He walks into the kitchen and leaves me on the couch.
I plant my feet on the ground and clasp my hands together. I twiddle my thumbs, thinking, does anyone ever really twiddle their thumbs? The cat licks its tail dantily. The constant sucking sound of its licking irritates me, and I consider taking my glass of tea and flinging its contents onto the cat, but I resist. I get bored feeling my my rough thumb-skin rub together. I stand up and walk to the kitchen to see what he's doing.
He's cleaning up some spilled liquid, probably tea from when he poured our glasses. He glances at me but keeps doing what he's doing.
"I had a dream last night that you were a little bitch that whined when you didn't get your way," I say casually, leaning against the fridge as he suddenly decides he needs to open it.
"Haha," he scoffs. He tugs on the handle of the fridge, wordlessly asking me to move.
"And look, it came true," I smile at him falsely, pressing my back harder into the fridge door.
"I'm the one that invited you over, and I can send you away too, but I'm not a jerk like that. Now get your ass off my fridge." He shoves into my shoulder and I lose my balance and step away. He opens the fridge and begins digging.
"What are you doing?" I walk around until I'm hovering over his shoulder like a fly.
"I'm looking for something to eat, what does it look like?" He demands.
"Well..." I hesitate. "Where's your bathroom?"
"You know where it is," he reminds me. He takes a loaf of bread out of the freezer.
"Yeah... Make me a sandwich," I order. "I gotta dump. I'll be right back." I walk out of the kitchen.
"Sick, man," he says loudly.
I walk down the hall to the bathroom.
"Flush twice! Turn on the fan!" He calls after me.
"Yes ma'am!" I call back. I slam the bathroom door behind me.
The bathroom is clean and smells fresh. Beneath my bare toes, I can feel the bath mats have been recently washed. I look at myself in the vanity mirror. There's an obvious booger hanging from my nosehairs. I frown. I know Charlie had to have seen that. I jerk some toilet paper off the roll and blow my nose until it's gone.
I lock the door and flick on the ventilation fan. I pause, thinking. He always had dirty magazines stashed somewhere as a kid. Of course he'd have them as an adult. Old habits die hard. I open the cabinet under the sink and look around. There's towels, extra toilet paper, and a trash can.
I grab the trash can and look inside. There's a plastic sack lining the can. It's full of wadded tissues and gobs of hair and q-tips. I take out the sack and see a maganize waiting for me at the bottom of the can. As I raise it to the light, I'm shocked. There's not naked women lounging on the cover, but glossy men wearing nothing but police caps and gun-straps.
"You're gay?" I whisper outloud. So the cat is a joke? You told me you wanted more pussy when I called it gay. You were lying for my benefit? Why?
"Shit," I mutter, sitting down on the mat. I flip through the magazine. It's an old issue, nearly three years old. Men hold their over-sized dicks with grotesque faces as other men lick their bodies. Advertizements for male enhancement. A man touching tips with another man while they kiss. One page opens up into a poster of a man ejaculating into the air.
I close the magazine, my stomach whirling. He's gay, I think uncomfortably. So is he... Gay for me? How does that work? No, he can't be. I would have known. He would have told me. Just because he... Just because he's hot for dudes doesn't mean he loves me. "Yeah," I feel a little better. Shelly's a girl and I don't love her. I don't have to love every girl, just like he doesn't have to love every guy... Right? Right.
I stand up slowly and realize I'm hard. I blush and quietly conceal the maganize at the bottom of the trash can and put it back in the cabinet. My neck itches with sweat as I go to the toilet and unzip my pants. My penis flops out and I'm happy to see it's not as hard as I initially thought. I mean, it's not soft-serve ice-cream or anything, but it's not a piece of wood, either.
I piss in the toilet then stand there waiting for my erection to fade. Once it does, I put myself away and flush the toilet. I watch as the water refills the bowl, then I flush it again. Taking a deep breath, I tell myself to keep calm. Nothing has changed. He's still my friend. That's all that matters. Nothing has changed. I turn off the fan and unlock the door, stepping out into the hall.
I hear him in the kitchen and my feet slap lightly on the floor as I walk towards the sounds. "Charlie," I say tenatively. I blink quickly, my heart hammering. Calm down, damn it.
"Yeah?" He says loudly.
I walk into the kitchen and he looks at me.
"You okay?" He asks suddenly. "Your face is all red..." He wrinkles his nose and looks away. "Forget it," he says quickly. "I don't wanna know. I just hope you washed your hands."
I feel sick. You think I took a shit. Now that you think my ass is empty, do you want to shove your dick in it? You'd like that, wouldn't you? God, what am I thinking? I shake my head shamefully.
"Well, at least use some hand sanitizer." He tosses a mini bottle of Purell to me and I catch it before it hits me in the nose.
I squirt some into my palm and rub my hands together dejectedly.
"I made you turkey and ham," he tells me, picking up a plate from the counter and putting it on the kitchen table. My sandwich sits on the plate in a brown square lump. An orange drink umbrella is stuck in the middle like a toothpick.
That's so gay, I think. And I realize I would have said that if I had not known he was gay.
I force my feet to take me to the table where I sit down in a chair. "Thanks," I say thickly.
"No prob," he says cheerfully. He puts the lid on a jar of mayonaise and puts it in the fridge. "Oh, lemme get your drink." He hurries out of the kitchen and comes back moments later with my tea, in which all the ice has melted away.
I take the tea wordlessly, staring at the slight separation in the liquids. There's a cat hair stuck to the side of my glass. "There's a cat hair on my glass," I say.
"Sorry, I'll get you another." He tries to take my cup, but I move it away from him.
"No, it's fine," I snap.
He hesitates, and his shoulders slump. He finishes fixing his own sandwich and sits across from me at the table.
You don't even sound like a faggot, I think in amazement. What makes you gay? Why do I even think you're gay? 'Cause you probably jack off to pictures of other dudes jacking off? I can't say I've never done it, and I'm not gay, so why am I so convinced that you're gay? I can't look at him. I take a big gulp from my nasty tea and hold it in my mouth until its warm, then I swallow it. I feel it hit the bottom of my queazy stomach.
"Are you okay?" He asks again.
I look up. There's a green unbrella in his sandwich. I blink and it's on the plate beside his sandwich. Was it ever in the sandwich? I try to see if there's a hole in the top of his bread, but I can't tell.
He snaps his fingers.
I raise my eyes to his. He truely looks concerned. My God, I think. It's true. You're gay for me.
"I have diarrhea," I burst out.
"Oh." He makes a face. "That sucks."
"Yeah..." I stand up, shoving the chair back so that it scrapes against the tile floor. "I should probably go."
"Okay." He rises and takes a step towards me, and stops.
Aren't you going to crack a joke about the mess I left in your toilet? Aren't you going to tell me that I smell like shit, or at least that I look like shit? I stare at him, waiting.
"Hope you feel better," he says coolly.
I turn and head straight to the door. My sandels are by the couch and I snatch them up as I go. The cat is laying in front of the door, probably enjoying the small draft coming in from the seal. I stop a few feet away from the cat and slip on my shoes. He comes over and unlocks the door, tapping the cat with his foot until it gets up and walks out of the way. He opens the door for me as I straighten up.
I have to say something, I think bitterly. "Sorry I made you miss your game," I offer pathetically.
"It's no big deal. I'm sorry I freaked on you." He smiles apologetically, as if we understand each other.
I turn away awkwardly, feeling gross. I take a step out the door.
"Come by on Thursday and I'll have some beer for you," he rushes out.
"Thursday's not good, maybe next week," I answer equally as fast.
Our eyes meet and his are sad while mine are anxious. There is a breathlessness that lingers in this pause. I hope he cannot read my eyes as easily as I can read his.
"Okay." His eyes soften into a butter-like vulnerability, and all I can do is stand there and stare into his eyes as he deliberately shuts the door in my face.