"Are you totally insane?"
"What? Why? What do you mean?"
"Is this a gay thing, or am I just being dense?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You and this... whathisname in America, that's what I'm talking about."
"You mean Allan."
"Allan, yeah, whatever," Tom shook his head as he picked up his glass and took a mouthful of the amber liquid.
"I listened to your advice before, remember?"
"You told him you were gay."
"You told him you loved him."
"So, what's the problem?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know," shrugged Tom. "Jesus, Carl, it isn't exactly rocket science."
"It isn't that simple."
"Then explain it to me."
"It isn't that simple."
"Well, forgive me, but I don't see that it's that difficult. Either."
"You wouldn't understand."
"I wouldn't know; I've not been given a chance."
"It isn't that simple."
"So you've said - three times."
"Well, it isn't."
"Okay, fair enough, let's drop it, then. Want another?" Tom nodded towards Carl's almost empty glass and Carl chose to ignore the offer of a refill.
"It's the Internet," he said.
"The Internet. I think it has something to do with that."
"Me talking to Allan."
"Oh, for Christ's sake, I thought we were dropping that."
"I thought you were interested."
"I am, but we're not getting anywhere."
"You can say that again.
Tom stood up and headed to the bar where he ordered two fresh pints. Getting Carl to make sense these days was like pulling teeth. First there was the indecision; then there were the tears, followed by the positive action that never actually went anywhere, so it always ended back to the indecision. Tom knew that he was in for a complicated evening. He'd heard the excuses a dozen times, but this one was new, perhaps this one would actually make some sense. He returned to the table with the drinks and sat down again. Carl had finished his previous pint and picked up his fresh glass and took a long drink and replaced it on the table without so much as a thank you to Tom, who merely muttered, inaudibly, under his breath, "your welcome."
"It has to be."
"If you say so," responded Tom.
"Don't you see?"
"No, not really."
"Well, look at it logically. What do they always say about the Internet?"
"I don't know. Enlighten me - you will anyway."
"Don't be like that."
"I'm sorry, but after a while it wears a bit thin."
"Well, forgive me for breathing."
"Be reasonable, Carl. If it were the other way around even your saintly patience would be tested."
"So, forgive me if I seem a little less than enthusiastic about this new excuse."
"It's not an excuse."
"So, what is it, then?"
"A reason? Okay, so now using the Internet is a reason for not talking to someone you like, even though you met him on the Internet and you don't talk to one another any other way."
"That's it exactly. That's my point."
"You mean, I actually said the right thing?"
"Then refresh my memory. I wasn't exactly listening to what I was saying."
"The internet. I met him on the Internet."
"Well, don't you see?"
"Jesus, Tom, think about it. I met him on the Internet. People always meet on the Internet and there are some really weird people who use that."
"I know; I'm looking at one."
"I think it's the fact that I met him on the Internet that scares me."
"But you know him."
"That's the point, I don't. Not really."
"You told him you wanted to get to know him, talk about stuff that mattered to you, didn't you?"
"And he said what?"
"He said okay, you know he did, I told you that."
"Yes, you did. He said okay to the one thing that you wanted, but you logged off and haven't talked to him since."
"So, explain to me again who has the problem."
"I guess I do."
"Exactly. This whathisname..."
"Whatever. This Allan, he seems to want to talk to you. He seems willing to give it a go, no hang-ups about meeting people on the Internet, so where's the problem?"
"I don't know."
"I do. It's in your head. I mean, come on, let's face it, it's not like he even lives around here, is it? What's he gonna do? Fly to the UK and seek you out? He doesn't even know where you live. I'm right on that last part, yeah?"
"Well, there you are, then. Seems to me there's no problem in just talking to him."
"Don't just guess, for Christ's sake, think about it. Be logical. It's a chat. Something you've already been doing."
"With one difference."
"I told him I'm gay and that I love him."
"Well, that's a kind of commitment."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if you tell someone you love them, you're kind of committed, aren't you?"
"I have no idea. I never told anyone that I loved them; well, apart from my grandma on her birthday and I don't want to sleep with her."
"I don't want to sleep with Allan, either."
"No. Yes. No. Hell, I don't know, we're not at that stage, yet."
"Carl, for crying out loud, you're not at any stage; and you won't be if you don't talk to him."
"There you go guessing again. Why don't you just talk to him and tell him what it is you're afraid of. Between the two of you I'm sure you can try and work something out."
"Maybe, you're right."
"I am. Trust me, I'm a lifeguard."
Carl smiled and finished his drink.
"Another?" asked Tom.
"No, I think I'll head home and see if Allan's online."
"Thank fuck for that. Say hi from me."
Carl smiled. "Sure. Listen, I'm sorry I've been an arsehole."
"Fuck this up, mate and you will be."
"Okay, see you later."
Carl left Tom sitting alone at the table and made his way home.
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