Stephen climbed the third of six flights of stairs on his way to his rendezvous. The stucco walls were dirty, and so was the worn red rug below his feet. The lightbulb on this landing was burnt out as well. He felt a creep of annoyance, but he shook it off. He didn’t like to host, so this was the result– going to them meant you never knew what to expect. He usually stuck to his regular friends-with-benefits for that reason. But today, he felt like someone new. His other fuckbuddies were in varying degrees of relationships right now or were holding some drama or other against him and he didn’t feel like dealing with it. Besides, he had something else on his mind.
He knocked lightly on a scuffed wooden door when he arrived. It swung open to reveal a slim Asian man in his late twenties with a cheery smile. “You must be Steve,” he stepped back to make room for Stephen to enter.
Stephen followed the man into the room. He didn’t ask his name, but he did manage to make his sweeping examination of the apartment subtle. It was clean, with lots of vining houseplants, and a plump orange cat was cleaning itself on an overstuffed armchair in the far corner. Late afternoon sun flooded the room making it a cozy space, if a little too warm.
“Would you like a drink? Or a smoke?” The other man, Ken was the name he used on the app, sat down on his Ikea couch, and pulled his grinder towards him. With deft hands, he rolled up a joint.
“I’m good, but you go ahead.”
Stephen took off his jacket and hung it over the back of a dining chair. Ken pushed open a bay window and leaned against the frame, blowing smoke out into the street below. Stephen wrinkled his nose at the earthy green smell – just like skunk.
He undid his cufflinks first and placed them neatly on the table. Then, from the button at his throat, he worked his way down.
Ken looked over, and grinned, his eyes resting on Stephen’s exposed chest, “Starting without me?” He took a final puff from his joint and stubbed it out into the geraniums hanging outside the window.
Stephen smirked back, “I’m a busy man. Do you have a bedroom or should I fuck you over the couch?”
He spoke casually, and Ken’s grin stretched even wider.
Afterward, Stephen strode down the stairs with remarkably more vigor than he’d ascended them. That was what he had needed, and he felt quite relaxed in the afterglow. Ironically, there had been no bedroom, but the couch had, in fact, folded out to become a bed. Ken called the place a studio. Stephen shook his head, marveling at the way people lived.
Why live in the city if you’re just going to be in a shoebox?
He’d enjoyed Ken though, enough to meet him again, even. He'd looked great with his legs in the air, red-faced and moaning. He reminded Stephen a lot of Jamie’s hot boyfriend, that homophobic shithead, and that was why Stephen had messaged him. Inho would also look great like that. Or with his wrists tied to the headboard, on his knees, begging.
Sometimes aggression is just a cover. He’d make a great sub. Stephen mused. He began to hum as he reached for the door handle of his sleek black Tesla.
“Sir, you can’t park here– it’s a loading zone.” A harassed-looking bylaw officer was standing on the sidewalk pulling out her notepad. “I’ve called a tow truck, and I need to write you a ticket.”
“Whoops! Sorry about that!” Stephen laughed and dismissed her with a friendly smile, before getting in his car and driving away.
When he got back to his downtown apartment, it was empty and silent except for the low buzz and bubble of the fish tank filter. He was still humming as he tossed his mail on the granite countertop before shaking out some pellets for his saltwater fish. Turning back to sort the stack of letters and flyers, he fell silent when he found a hand-addressed envelope. His grandmother again. He never knew if it was going to be the Jesus pamphlets or the weepy letters begging him to come home. He shoved it back in the pile unread and put the whole bundle directly in the recycling.
He sighed heavily and undressed to shower for a second time that day.