The bar was pretty empty, so it was easy to spot him walking past the window with an empty glass in his hand. I had completely forgotten I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk in the pouring rain.
Why was he in a gay bar?
I stepped right next to the window, trying to see him better. He walked up to the counter and leaned against it to talk to the bartender. I suddenly felt the need for a beer or two, but… I stepped back to look at the flag again. It was a gay bar…
I felt the familiar feelings rising inside me. Confusion, anger, anxiety… I stared at the guy, and I really wanted to go inside… Maybe even say hello to him…
But something was stopping me. What was stopping me? Who the hell was going to stop me if I wanted to go have a beer in a gay bar? My dad? Fuck that guy! I hadn’t even heard of him in years.
“Oink, oink, little piggy…”
I immediately took another step back, feeling something ugly gripping onto my soul like an icy fist. Why did those words still have such a strong hold on me? Why did I immediately feel like I was less than human? Why was I still afraid of my old man and why couldn’t I just be the person I really was…?
I wanted to leave that place. It would’ve been easier to turn my back on it once again, but at that moment I… I didn’t want to. The loneliness in my little corner was already so unbearable that if I now gave up once again, I might as well have ended my life once and for all.
So, I did the thing I never thought I would do.
I stepped into the gay bar I once thought I hated.
The second the door closed behind me, I felt like I was in the wrong place. At least it wasn’t crowded, but the few sets of eyes that were in there immediately landed on me. I tried to act as casual as I could as I made my way to the bartender, pretending I didn’t even notice the guy I was there for.
“Uh… beer?” I said quietly when the man behind the counter was too busy measuring me from head to toe to greet me.
He nodded and turned his back on me, making me feel a little bit more comfortable, although it wasn’t much of an improvement. While I waited for my drink, I peered around in the small place. It was almost like any other bar except for the flashy rainbow colors here and there. I had been expecting something… a bit different. Flamboyant.
Then, I hesitantly glanced at the guy next to me, only to find out he was already looking at me.
“I do know you,” he smirked. “I’ve seen you at the gym almost every day.”
“Oh, yes, hi,” I said as casually as I could while the bartender gave me the beer.
“Never seen you here though,” he said, narrowing his eyes a little but still keeping them fixed with mine.
“Oh – I just wanted to grab a beer before heading home,” I explained. Technically the truth.
“You live around here too?”
“A few blocks away,” I mumbled, taking a long sip of the beer. I suddenly remembered I wasn’t that great to have a conversation with. At least I got to say hi…
“You… in a hurry?” he asked, his eyes now following the glass I was halfway emptying in my nervousness.
“You want to drink alone, or…?”
I froze for a second. I really wasn’t in my element in this kind of place. I hardly had any people skills, thanks to being isolated from the world for so long, so I just shrugged.
“Great!” he smiled and grabbed his drink, gesturing for me to follow him to an empty table.
Why was I following him again…? I was only supposed to… to do what exactly? Why was I even there? In a gay bar with a guy I had been stalking at the gym. I nearly made a run for it, but then he turned to look at me over his shoulder.
“I’m Cole, by the way. Cole Smith.”
“Randall,” I replied, painfully aware of how short my replies were, and wondering why he still wanted to accompany me.
“You look spooked,” he said with a smirk as we sat down. “Don’t mind me – I’ve been here for over an hour already and I get a bit chatty after a few beers.”
“You’re… alone?” I asked, looking around the bar where no one seemed to pay any interest in us.
“I already talked everyone’s ears off, so they bailed.”
“And I’m the next victim,” I guessed.
“You seem like a quiet one, so I get to do all the talking.” He chuckled like he was looking forward to it.
I could only stare at him for a moment. “I… see…” I then mumbled, making him laugh.
“So you’ve never been here before?” he asked, leaning a bit closer over the table.
“…no.” I shook my head.
“What do you think?”
“The bar,” he said with a smirk.
I looked around out of politeness, and then shrugged. “It’s cool.”
“Cool,” he said, giving me an intensive stare. “I own it.”
“The… bar?” I asked, feeling a bit more nervous again.
“Yes,” he said, looking around as well. “I always wanted to open a bar and here it is. It might not be much, but the area is perfect for a gay bar.”
“So you’re… gay?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t sounding like an idiot.
“Yes. And you…?” he asked, turning his eyes back to me.
I looked away from him and took a sip. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even open my mouth. All I could think of was my father and his words… The silence was getting awkward, and the longer it continued, the harder I wished I’d walked past this whole place.
“How long have you been working out?” he asked, surprising me. When I looked at him, there was something in his eyes… An apology, maybe?
“Um… Ever since I was sixteen,” I muttered.
“Oh! Maybe you can teach me then. I only started when I moved here.”
“I guess,” I said carefully, still trying to figure him out. “But I don’t really think you need my help – you’re already doing great.”
“So you’ve been watching me?” he asked, his smile turning playful.
I froze once more, and when his stare became too much to bear, I turned away. He let out a short sigh.
“I’m sorry – didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Again. For the third time, actually…” he mumbled.
“It’s fine,” I said without looking at him. “I’m… not very good at this, so…”
“Fair enough. You can just tell me to piss off if you want.”
I peered at him and saw that his smile was gone. What did I want? Run? Hide? Let my father keep destroying my life over and over again, even though he wasn’t part of my life anymore?
I leaned against the table. “Well – there are a few techniques I could show you – you’ll destroy your back if you continue doing them wrong.”
“Really?” He chuckled, and for some reason, his smile made me feel a bit more confident. Not much, but enough.
“It’s nothing bad, but I’ve seen you lifting some weights a bit recklessly, and in the long run it will cause problems.”
“Ah – good. The couple I’m always with are trying to show me how to do things, but we’re all a bunch of novices, to be honest.”
“The couple?” I asked.
“Yeah – Jasper and Kenneth. You’ve seen them,” he said.
His friends… I had no idea they were gay as well. They didn’t look gay. They were… just a bunch of guys…
“Yeah, right… right,” I mumbled, starting to feel a bit odd. Good kind of odd.
We ended up talking for quite a bit about working out, different kinds of techniques, and diets. It was surprisingly easy to talk with him. He even bought me a few beers, even though I told him I could afford my own drinks. That made him ask what I did for a living, so we talked about cars for an hour – he seemed a lot more enthusiastic about cars than I was. For me, it was just a job, but he was clearly interested in different kinds of cars, especially old ones.
“I loved Vanishing Point – you know that movie, right? The one with the Dodge Challenger and the guy with a pregnant wife?”
“You have to watch it! It’s the best movie ever made! It’s the reason why I fell in love with old cars in the first place!”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I promised, but that wasn’t enough.
“I have it on DVD – you can borrow it,” he said.
“Sure, sure,” I said, guessing I had no other option now.
“Good, and you better watch it,” he smirked. “I’ll bring it to the gym tomorrow. You’ll be there, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” I nodded.
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