Four months in, and I already hated living here, hated my roommates and the things they did. Well, thing, I guess: one long party, from dawn to dusk, alcohol and weed and other things as well, nothing off limits. Strangers coming and going at all hours, parties so out of control that - on three occasions, at least - police had been called in, some arrests made, stern warnings issued.
I tried to stay away as much as I could, throwing myself into school or work, sleeping in any number of strange places - anywhere but here - which, of course, made little sense given how much money I was forking over to these assholes for the privilege of their company.
Now, towards the middle of December, I thought I might be able to spend at least a few nights in my own room. Two of my three roommates had already gone to their respective homes for the winter break; the third - Lyndon - was still here … but - absent his roommates - things had quieted down enough that I thought I was safe.
I chained my bike to the railing on the back porch, slipped in through the back door and into the kitchen. I could hear the sounds of a video game being played in the living room, dull roars and thuds punctuated by screams, all of it violent. I'd never gotten much into video games.
The kitchen was its usual toxic dump; I considered cleaning up, but decided that what I really wanted to do was to just go up to my room and unwind. I'd had enough of living here with these guys, considered once again just moving out … but that brought on its own challenges of looking for a place I could afford. I had a scholarship, but it went only so far.
I had to go through to the living room to go upstairs to my attic apartment; before I did, though, I opened the door of the refrigerator, took out one of Lyndon's beers - he'd never miss it - slipped it into the pocket of my jacket. Lyndon, for all of his many faults, had decent taste in beer and the money - a monthly stipend from his parents, he said - to afford it. Thus provisioned, I made my way as quietly as possible down the hall, through the dining room and into the front of the house … and there was Lyndon, still in his underwear and t-shirt, even though it was nearly eight o'clock in the evening, his eyes glued to the images on the flatscreen, his hands flickering across a game controller as his virtual avatar mowed down dozens of adversaries. He looked up as I entered, paused the game.
"Hey, Omer ." Not Homer , this time, the name they had stuck to me when they'd misunderstood it - deliberately or not - when I'd first given it to them. How many times in the past four months had I heard that whispered in my presence, followed by idiotic, drunken giggles?
"Hey, Lyndon." That was the extent of what I wanted to say to him this evening, but - for whatever reason - he felt the need for some kind of interaction.
He glanced down at my backpack, which I held in my left hand. "Busy day?"
"Uh, yeah. End of semester always gets busy." Not that you would know , I thought, but did not say. I was pretty sure that Lyndon still had a class schedule, whether or not he chose to attend. "You?"
"Yeah, uh … yeah. Just wanted to unwind a bit."
I looked at the coffee table in front of him, strewn with the detritus of any number of vices: beer cans, rolling papers, an Altoid tin that I knew contained Lyndon's weed and papers, another tin that contained a small pharmacopoeia of controlled substances, bottles of liquor. It looked like Lyndon had been "unwinding" for most of the day. Hell, he'd been "unwinding" since September.
"Yeah. Looks like fun."
He gestured with the controller. "You into this?"
"Nah," I answered. "Never had enough time for it, I guess."
"Oh. Too bad. It's a good game."
"Yeah, okay." I made a move to slip past him, but he still wasn't done with me.
"Hey, Ho-, er, Omer ? You wanna maybe get something to eat? Pizza, or …?"
"No. Thanks. I already ate."
"Oh, okay … well …"
"You probably should get something to eat, though, Lyndon." Give your liver a break.
"Yeah, yeah … I know …"
I looked down at him. Once again, I was forced to admit that one reason I'd agreed to move in with these guys was Lyndon. There was something about him that I responded to, maybe because he was the complete opposite of me. He was tall, thin, lithe, blonde … although his beauty had faded somewhat under the influences of his various vices. I sighed; if I looked like Lyndon looked, I'd be damned sure that I held onto it for as long as possible. He seemed to consider his beauty as something granted, something that would never go away.
"I'm serious, Lyndon. You need to get some food into you." And I'm not your mother, asshole.
"Yeah, yeah … oh, hey - you wanna go out, or something?"
"I told you -"
"Yeah, yeah, but … you know it's my birthday, right?"
I did not know, did not care, if that was true. "Oh. Okay. Happy birthday, Lyndon."
"Maybe we could go over to Two Keys, or …" A bar near campus, a dive, really, known for cheap beer specials and quite possibly the worst food in town.
Which was still tempting. I was old enough, knew that Lyndon had a fake ID of his own … but maybe, today, he was legal, too. But one drink would lead to another and another, and - by the end of the evening - I'd be trying to get a drunk Lyndon home in one piece, and I'd be the one paying for the Uber. And the bar bill.
"Nah, man … but thanks. I just want to go up and relax."
"Well, fuck, man … I'm just tryin' to …"
The rest of whatever he had to say faded as I made my way up the two flights of stairs to my room. Presently, I could hear the sounds of the video game start up again.
In my room, I set my backpack down on the ancient chair that had come with the room, along with a dresser, a desk, a bed, a nightstand. My room was the attic of this place, with sloping plastered ceilings and a rough wooden floor. I'd added a few things to it just to make it tolerable, like a rug on the rough, unpainted pine floor and plastic mini-blinds over the windows.
I pulled the beer out of my jacket, opened a window, set the bottle on the sill to keep it cold, then slipped out of my jacket and hung it up next to the rest of my clothes on a clothes rack made of old bits of galvanized plumbing pipe, a contraption that served as a closet for the room.
Someday, I knew, I would graduate to better living arrangements, knew that I would survive this … but, now, today, this would have to do. And, really, it wasn't bad; I liked the space, even if it was a little too hot in warm weather and a little too cold now. But, it had two large windows at either end of the space that I could open; they looked out into tall oaks and maples, and it had been like living in a tree house. I looked forward to springtime.
I didn't want to leave the beer out on the sill too long or it would freeze, but there was time enough for me to grab a shower. I undressed, putting my clothing in a laundry basket that fit conveniently under my bed, went into the bathroom, started the shower, let it warm up. While I waited, I looked at myself in the spotted mirror hanging over the toilet, thought again about Lyndon and his unconscious beauty.
Even though I liked guys, I hadn't had much experience with them; one blind date had - after a long moment - described me as being very "masculine," although I think he was being kind. In the end, though, he still let me fuck him. I knew I wasn't anywhere on the same level as guys like Lyndon; if you were casting a movie set in the Middle Ages and needed peasant types with pitchforks and torches to round out the cast, then I was your go-to guy. Guys like Lyndon got to play the young prince or the noble knight.
That said, I didn't really much mind how I looked. In return for short-changing me in the looks department, the guy upstairs had at least given me a decent body and a good brain. He'd also graced me with a little extra something down there … not that I was getting much use out of it. I decided that I needed to quit feeling sorry for myself; whatever was going to happen would happen, and I was patient.
I tested the shower; it was as hot as it ever got, and I slipped inside. The water felt good on my skin and I luxuriated in it for longer than needed to get clean.
Once I was done, I stepped out, toweled myself dry, went to the bedroom, slipped on a pair of loose shorts, stretched out on my bed. I pulled my tablet out of my backpack, turned it on, spent an hour or so on the web, sending e-mails to my family, catching up on last-minute school stuff, random surfing. I nursed the beer while I surfed, enjoying the bitter, grapefruity taste of it. I seldom drank, not only because I wrestled and needed to watch my weight, but because I'd been raised in a Muslim household (not that I was all that faithful) and my parents just never kept it around.
That one beer was enough to give me a bit of a buzz; when I was done, I turned off the pad, slipped out of my shorts - I liked sleeping naked, even in cold weather - and slipped under the sheets.
Five minutes later, I was out.
… only to be awakened some time later by the sound of my door opening. I locked my door only when I left the house … not that I didn't trust my roommates. It's just that I … well, didn't trust my roommates. When I was here, I left it unlocked.
The overhead light from the hallway silhouetted a tall, thin figure: Lyndon.
And he appeared to be naked.
I sat up in bed, moved to turn on the lamp on my nightstand.
"Don't," he said.
"Lyndon!" I hissed. "What the fuck …? "
He came into my room, left the door opened. " Omer , I jus' … I wanted … I … it's my, it's my birthday …" His words were slurred with alcohol or worse; I knew he hadn't had anything to eat.
"Lyndon, what do you want?" I tried to keep my voice calm and steady.
He came closer to the bed; even in the pale yellow light from the hallway and the light from the street lamps outside, I could clearly see the shape of his body and of … that , there, between his legs, full and pendant, moving back and forth, inviting.
"You lookin' at my dick?" he chuckled. "Show you mine if you show me yours."
With that, I understood what he wanted. It was tempting, but … not like this. "Lyndon, you need to go back to bed."
"Don't wanna go back to bed." He stopped at the foot of my bed. I watched as a hand went out, grasped himself, started kneading his cock, coaxing it to hardness … and I watched. Of course I watched. And he knew that I was watching, knew that I was responding.
He was beautiful. He knew he was beautiful, and he knew that I wanted him. How he knew that, I had no idea; I couldn't remember ever doing or saying anything that would tip my roommates off to my true nature … but it takes one to know one, so to speak. Lyndon, deep down inside, was apparently driven by the same desires as I was, and could see them at work in me, as well.
I licked my lips. I wanted to do this, hated myself that I did, that it had to be this way. Moreover, I could do this, I know; he wanted me to … but he was drunk, or stoned, or worse, and it just didn't seem right.
I flipped the covers off, swung my legs over onto the floor, hoisted myself out of bed, stood naked before him. His gaze flickered down … stayed.
"Jesus, Omer …" he breathed. "Fuck …"
I was hard, of course, curving up, bigger than he was, thicker. Suddenly, he made a move, as if about to drop to his knees; I caught him on the way down, turned him around. "Not here," I murmured, into his ear, started moving him towards the door, towards the stairs. "Somewhere else …"
"Yeah," he whispered.
With my hand on the small of his back, I eased him out of my room, across the threshold and onto the small landing at the top of the stairs.
"Wait here," I said. "I have to …" I slipped back into the room, as if I had forgotten something. As soon as I was back inside, I closed the door, locked it.
"Hey …" I heard, from the other side. "Hey! Omer !" With that, he started pounding. " Omer !"
"Go to bed, Lyndon. Just … go to bed!" I shouted, as much from frustration as from anger. I would happily have enjoyed Lyndon if he had been sober and completely aware of what he was doing … but this was not that.
He pounded on the door a few more times, then stopped. "Fuck," I heard. "Fuck …"
Presently, I could hear footsteps as he started down the stairs, then the sound of his bedroom door closing.
I sighed, got back into bed, fell asleep.
In the morning, he and I circled warily around each other … but that was an everyday thing. When he wasn't looking, I watched him.
"Do you mind if I …?" He gestured at the coffeepot.
"No. Help yourself."
He sat across from me, dragged the sports section over, started reading it. I pretended to read the front page while I drank my coffee. Finally, I looked up, cleared my throat. "So, Lyndon …"
He looked up. "Yeah?"
"You … you okay?"
He pulled a face. "Sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Just asking. You were pretty out of it last night, when I came home."
"Yeah, I guess. Sorry."
"You, uh … you sleep okay?"
He pulled another face … but there was something behind it, some flicker, as if he partially remembered. "Yeah. Why do you ask?"
I sighed. He seemed to have no idea why I was asking … or wanted to have no idea. "No reason," I responded. "No reason at all."
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