Allan had been totally bemused by the conversation he and Carl had been having. One minute he feared that Carl was ill, the next he feared that he was boring his English friend. He couldn't understand why he seemed to need Tom's permission to talk to him, but as he stared at the words held in his message archive he realized that he had been stunned by Carl's new revelation.
Carl: I'm gay, Allan. I always have been, I was just too scared to say anything.
Carl: I just want to get to know you better. The real you!
Carl: I love you, too, Allan.
It had taken a few minutes for that to register, but by that time it had been too late. Almost as soon as that last line appeared on his screen, Allan saw that Carl had logged off.
That had been just over a month ago. Well, 33 days, 6 hours, 47 minutes and 53 seconds, to be precise.
Allan had left his computer turned on every minute he was at home just hoping and praying that he would receive some word from Carl. He had sent offline messages and e-mails, but had no reply. Why? What was wrong? What was he afraid of? He had wanted to talk, so why didn't he talk? He could talk. They could get to know one another better, talk about the things Carl wanted to talk about - "real things" - things that Carl seemed to think mattered. He could do that if he was given the chance.
He stared at his computer screen reading that last line for a thousandth time: "I love you, too, Allan" and then returned to his IM send message option and, for the thirty-third time in as many days he wrote the words: "Talk to me, please. It's 5 pm my time (10 pm yours), but the computer is on, so anytime! It'll be on until I go to work tomorrow morning. Failing that it will be on again from the same time tomorrow" and sent the message to Carl.
Work was the one place that he was unable to leave a computer on to access his IM service and Allan found that he was losing concentration throughout the day, just wishing the hours would pass quicker so he could go home and turn on his computer on the off chance that Carl had responded or, better still, was online.
He had done nothing else. His daily routine was to wake up, check the computer, make coffee, get showered, shaved and ready for work and turn off the computer before he left. After work it was straight home and turn on the computer, send Carl a message and then wait, eat if he felt hungry and then sit close to the computer until it was time for bed.
It had become a routine and, as far as Allan was concerned, it would remain so until he heard from Carl.
Tonight was one such night. Allan had arrived home, sent his message and then prepared himself some dinner. He wasn't particularly hungry, but it made a change from calling for a pizza. He had even toyed with the idea of going to the movie theater, but that idea had passed from is head almost as quickly as it had entered.
Dinner over, he had sat in a chair close to the computer and picked up a book. He'd had the book for quite some time, but had never gotten around to reading it before and had dug it out just to give himself something to do while waiting for Carl to respond to his messages.
Not that that seemed to be happening anytime soon and as he read his book he found his mind drifting away from the words on the page to somewhere else and after reading the same paragraph for the fourth time, Allan put down the book and sighed.
Damn you, Carl, why the hell don't you just talk to me?"
He made a coffee and let it go cold, favoring a glass of whisky instead. He wasn't a spirits drinker as a rule, but over the past month he had taken to having the odd glass now and then just to calm his nerves. He usually followed it with a beer from his refrigerator, which was always well stocked.
He sat back in his chair and picked the book up again, attempting to continue from where he had left off, but a page in, he was losing concentration again and closed his eyes, thoughts of Carl filling his mind and he drifted into sleep picturing the two of them on a bright, cloudless, sunny day running across green hills and, for some unknown reason, chasing a kite. Why, Allan would probably never know, but that was what came into his mind as he thought of himself and Carl, all laughter and smiles and kissing. Yes, kissing. The two of them - Allan and Carl together lying on a hillside in the summer sunshine, wrapped in each other's arms and kissing. Expressing in deed their undying love for one another and their desire to be together forever.
It was so vivid. Almost real and Allan would swear he could both smell and taste the sweetness of his English friend as they lay on that green hillside, the softness of his skin, the moistness of his lips as he held him, running his fingers through his hair, kissing him passionately, exploring his mouth and feeling the warmth of his body.
Why was Carl so afraid? Why had he logged off so abruptly? There was more to it - there had to be, but until communication was re-established he wouldn't know.
When Allan woke, the book he had been reading had fallen from his hand and onto the floor and the computer was still devoid of any communication from Carl. He looked at the photograph he had framed of the boy and felt the tears begin to form in his eyes.
"I love you, Carl. Please, don't do this to me."
It was a little after one o'clock in the morning in the US and Allan stood up and headed to bed.
It the UK it was a little after six o'clock and Carl sat staring at his computer screen, tears rolling down his cheeks, the screen becoming blurred and he wiped them from his eyes. The message had been received. The same message he had been receiving for over a month - "Talk to me, please. It's 5 pm my time (10 pm yours), but the computer is on, so anytime! It'll be on until I go to work tomorrow morning. Failing that it will be on again from the same time tomorrow".
Carl stared at the message as the tears fell again and he remained online in "invisible mode" as he had done every day for the past 33 days watching the screen until Allan's message came through.
"I'm sorry, Allan," he whispered to the screen and logged off.
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