Saturday, April 19th, 2014
Theo woke up with the buzzing of his phone. He turned to his left where he usually left his phone and noticed that he was next to Liam rather than in his own bed. After their deep and personal conversation the previous night, Liam and Theo got to know each other a bit more, asking each other about movie, TV show and music preferences, telling stories of funny work situations and occasionally flirting with each other, before ending up in bed again, limbs tangled as they gave in to their carnal desire.
Theo smiled at his last memories before falling asleep, really enjoying seeing Liam lose himself in the throes of pleasure above him, as he rode Theo until sunrise.
He looked to his right and saw that his phone was on the other bedside table. He grabbed his phone and checked the messages he had received. They were all from Alice.
SAT AT 12:24 PM
We’re going out for lunch, want to join us?
Theo groggily typed out his answer.
SAT AT 12:31
Still in bed at Liam’s
He saw that Alice was already typing out her reply, so Theo decided to wait for a bit.
SAT AT 12:32
You two are getting pretty cozy
You sure it’s just casual?
Anyway, we’re going to Sky 21 for drinks tonight
Theo rolled his eyes at his friend’s first messages, but then instantly brightened at the idea of going to Sky 21. It was a really beautiful and modern bar located on the 21st floor of the AIA building, on the same building as his favorite sinful haven.
SAT AT 12:33
Where are you going after?
I guess I can go
Also, no. I’ll ttyl about it
Alice’s reply arrived shortly after.
SAT AT 12:34
Not sure yet
Maybe D2 or Cubic
We’ll see where we feel like going
And you better tell me
Have fun with Liam ;)
Theo snorted at Alice’s message just as Liam began to stir in bed. Theo set his phone back on the bedside table and faced Liam once again, whose eyes were still drowning in slumber.
“What time is it?” Liam sleepily mumbled, looking only half-awake.
“It’s 12:30 pm,” Theo smiled as Liam groaned at Theo’s answer.
“Already?” Theo hummed affirmatively in response, “I haven’t slept in like that in so long,” Liam slowly opened one of his eyes, adjusting to the light peeking from behind the curtains.
“Well, we did wear each other out last night,” Theo said as he gave Liam a wink.
“Yeah... I’m not used to bottoming,” Liam admitted.
“Really? Do you prefer topping?” Theo was curious by the revelation.
“Actually, I don’t know which I prefer. I always enjoyed bottoming the few times I tried, but Ray preferred bottoming. He didn’t really enjoy topping as much, so I usually topped,” Liam said as he sat up and looked at Theo with a sheepish look.
“I don’t really bottom much anymore. I tried it a couple of times in the beginning after the breakup, but I’d always bottomed with Jason, so it would end up in me asking the guy to stop. It always brought back too many memories...” Liam leaned his head onto Theo’s shoulder.
“Would you like to bottom again one day?” Liam quietly asked.
Theo knew deep down he would only want to bottom again once he felt he could fully give himself to someone. His mind, body, heart and soul.
“Maybe one day...” Theo bit his lips trying to decide whether or not he would share something he had never mentioned to anyone. Oh, fuck it, “I guess I don’t mind topping because I feel like I can still keep a part of myself. When I bottom, it feels more intimate, more vulnerable.”
“I guess I never thought of it that way... I did miss bottoming though and you are a great fuck, so no complaints on my part,” Theo chuckled at Liam’s comment.
The two men just lay in bed, basking in each other’s company before Liam’s stomach grumbled. Theo looked at Liam with a raised eyebrow and said in a teasing manner, “Someone’s hungry. Wanna go out for lunch?”
“Sure, let me just shower and get dressed. I have a spare towel if you also want to shower...” Liam said as he sat up and unplugged his phone from the charger to check if he had received any messages or calls.
“Yeah, that’d be great, where’s the towel?” Theo got up from the bed and looked around.
Liam looked up from his phone, “Oh, right, let me get it for you. You can shower first while I call my mom. She called me an hour ago while we were asleep.” He got up and walked to one of his cabinets and grabbed a clean grey towel before handing it to Theo, “Here you go. You know where the bathroom is. Feel free to use anything in the shower.”
“Thank you,” Theo left the bedroom and walked into the bathroom.
After both men had showered and gotten dressed, they left Liam’s flat and went out to get some food. On the way to a small local restaurant in the neighborhood that Liam suggested, both men kept exchanging stories about their younger days as school students and what they would get up to in their free time. Once inside, they sat down at a table and Liam ordered stir-fried noodles and Theo ordered a baked pork chop rice. They were both famished by the time the waiter brought their meals to the table.
“By the way, I will probably head to my parents’ place after lunch. I promised I would drop by later on when I spoke to my mom a while ago,” Liam explained as he picked up his chopsticks and dug into the food.
“That’s fine. I’m probably heading home as well. I’ll be going out tonight with some friends, so I might just relax a bit until then,” Theo had already started eating. He hadn’t had baked pork chop rice in a while. It always reminded him of when he and his high school friends would eat at Café E.S.Kimo.
“Oh? Where are you going?”
“We’re going to meet up at Sky 21 for drinks and then see how the night progresses. And by we, I mean my housemate, her kind of almost girlfriend and some of our friends.”
“Kind of almost girlfriend?” Liam raised his eyebrow at that confusing description.
“Yeah, they aren’t really official yet, but they act as if they were if that makes sense? They say they are just taking things slow but my housemate, Alice, spends most days with her ‘friend’,” Theo did air quotation marks when he said the last word.
“Oh, I see. Sky 21 is a nice bar. I’ve been there a couple of times with some friends.”
“Yeah, we sometimes head there before going to D2 or getting a taxi to go to Cubic.”
“I’ve never really been into parties. I tried partying a bit in the UK during Fresher’s year, but it just wasn’t for me. I do enjoy the occasional drink or so.”
“I used to party a lot more. After the breakup, for one year I partied almost every weekend. Any chance I would get. I just wanted to escape how I was feeling... Then I took a break to focus on improving my mental health. Now, I only go out once in a while,” Liam admitted shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s good. Maybe one day we can go to a bar for some drinks,” Liam suggested.
“Sure, but I will probably be hungover tomorrow and spend my day at home. I will let you know when I’d be down for some drinks at a bar though,” Theo smiled at Liam before taking a sip from his glass of chrysanthemum tea.
“Yeah, I will probably be busy this week. I will be handling a difficult project and I promised some friends I’d have dinner with them on Friday, but if I have any free time, I will let you know. And you can always text me,” Liam smiled back at Theo.
“Same to you, Mr. Project Manager,” Theo teased Liam, who rolled his eyes back at Theo, “Do a lot of your friends still live in Macau?”
“Not really... Well, two of my friends still live here, but they are also married and one of them has a kid, so we don’t really meet up that often,” Liam shrugged his shoulders slightly.
“Well, it’s cool you will see them on Friday then. Should be fun.”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen them since before the breakup. I was kind of burying myself in work as a distraction from the breakup... That was before I gave in and went on Grindr for the first time in my life,” Theo chuckled at Liam’s remark, “And I’m glad because I got to meet you,” Liam admitted.
“Well, I am glad you messaged me,” Theo’s smile conveyed every other word he couldn’t utter. He knew his feelings for Liam went beyond friendship, but at the same time, he could not envision a future with him. He knew it was just meant to be an ephemeral affair.
After both men had eaten their meals and paid the waitress, they stepped out of the restaurant and Theo lit a cigarette up. “So... I’ll see you sometime this week?” Theo asked, looking at Liam with a smile.
“I will let you know when I’m free but thank you for coming over last night. I really needed that talk,” Liam’s expression conveyed gratefulness.
“No worries, you can call or text me whenever you need someone to talk to as well... Anyway, I’ll head home. Enjoy your dinner at your parents’,” Theo said as he waved at Liam as he started walking away.
“Have fun tonight as well! Try not to get too drunk,” Liam teased.
“I’ll drunk text you if I do,” Theo winked at Liam, before turning his back on Liam and crossing to the other side of the street to walk home.
Once Theo arrived at his apartment, he noticed Alice had already arrived. He and Liam had eaten lunch pretty late, so it was no wonder that Alice had already arrived home. She was in the kitchen heating some water to have a cup of tea. “Hey Allie,” he greeted her as he stepped into the living room.
“Hey, lover boy,” Theo rolled his eyes at his friend’s teasing smirk, “So, how was your date?”
“Well, it was good,” Theo noticed Alice’s meaningful look, telling him that she wanted more details, “And no, we aren’t going to date. He’ll probably not even stay in Macau much longer.”
“Oh... So he’s leaving soon?” Alice seemed a bit disappointed.
“Yeah, he’s always wanted to travel around the world. It was only his ex keeping him here. I told him to go for it,” Theo walked into the kitchen to grab a glass of water.
“Aren’t you disappointed? He doesn’t seem like just a friend to you. You also didn’t talk about Flávio like you do about him and you have only met him twice.”
Theo couldn’t quite understand it either, but he tried to explain it to his friend, “He is like a missed connection. We could have been a match had the timing been right, but it wasn’t and I think both of us know that. He helped me understand that I should keep an open mind. I realized I still had some pent up emotions about the breakup and it was nice to vent with someone who could relate...But I will start having an open mind towards the idea of dating someone,” Theo paused as he looked towards the window of the living room, remembering his emotional conversation with Liam, “He still needs time to heal. His wounds are still too deep to even picture the two of us together at this point.”
Alice nodded in understanding, “Well, at least you helped each other in some way. He is right though and I am glad you are following his advice, even though I’ve been telling the exact same thing to you for years.”
“You’re not an attractive gay man. They make some very convincing arguments. No offense,” Theo teased his friend as he stepped out of the kitchen and headed towards his bedroom.
“Very funny. Sex doesn’t count as an argument!” Alice pouted at her friend who just laughed in response, “Anyway, I have to prepare some lesson plans before we go out tonight, so I’ll head back to my room.” Alice also walked to her room as Theo opened his door.
“I’ll be in my room watching videos if you need me,” Theo said as he stepped into his room.
Theo noticed he had some laundry to do, so he decided to sort that out first before tidying his room a bit. Once he was satisfied with how his room looked, he sat down at his desk and pressed a button on his computer to turn it on. He checked his phone to see if he had gotten any messages before logging onto his computer. He had a couple of social media notifications, but nothing too pressing, so he keyed in his password to access his desktop. Once his wallpaper photo of an aurora borealis in Norway had appeared on the screen, he clicked on his browser icon to watch a couple of videos, before getting ready to go out for dinner.
After a couple of videos, he decided to take a break to smoke a cigarette on the balcony. Theo didn’t really understand why he’d gotten into smoking in the first place. He’d tried it at university when he and Jason would go out partying with classmates in their first year and then he started smoking to cope with the stress of exams and his relationship. Jason also was a smoker, so Theo didn’t see any need to stop smoking either and after the breakup, Theo smoked even more to cope with the pain. After a while, it had morphed into pure habit and no longer a coping mechanism. He wasn’t even sure he even enjoyed it anymore. Theo looked at his cigarette with his eyebrows slightly furrowed. One day, I will let you go, he thought, gazing pensively at the poison stick in between his fingers, smoke dancing all around him.
He heard some noise behind him before Alice stepped out onto the balcony to join him, a cigarette in her hand. “Got a lighter?” Theo handed his lighter to her. She lit it before handing it back to her friend, “Thanks. I’m meeting Jamie in Tap Seac later on for dinner. Wanna join us?”
“Are any of the guys tagging along as well or will I be third-wheeling?” Theo said, taking another puff from his half-smoked cigarette.
“Ivy might join us, but Yoyo and Eric will only meet us at Sky 21,” Alice said as she plopped onto the seat next to Theo.
“Sure, I’ll join you guys. What time are you heading out?”
“Around 6:30-ish, I guess. I told Jamie I’d be at the Tap Seac square around 7:30,” Alice exhaled a large cloud of smoke, releasing it into the atmosphere.
Theo looked at his phone to check the time. They still had about an hour before they had to leave which gave him enough time to get ready before heading out. He extinguished his cigarette on the ashtray after taking one final puff. “I’ll go get ready then. Are you taking a shower?”
“Took one after I arrived home because I was sweating, so it’s all yours,” Theo walked back into the living room before heading into his room to grab a towel.
After a quick shower, he dried up and wrapped the towel around his waist before heading back to his room. What should I wear, he thought as he looked at the clothes in his closet. Theo wasn’t usually very choosy when it came to what he wore, but his gut was telling him to look his best. Who knew if he would bump into his potential future partner at Sky 21? He ended up settling on some faded blue jeans but was still torn between wearing a dark patterned Cuban shirt or a deep purple V-neck shirt. He decided to try both of them out to see which suited him best.
In the end, he didn’t need to try the V-neck shirt, because he liked the way he looked with the Cuban shirt. As he admired his reflection on the bathroom mirror, he noticed Alice appear behind him. “Looking good,” Alice commented, “are you looking to impress someone?”
“Nah, just wanted to look good,” Alice raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms, leaning onto the door frame as she watched Theo styling his hair, “Do I have to want to impress someone to put effort into looking good?”
“No, but unless you want to get some action, you rarely care about how you look, so who is it?” Alice looked at Theo, patiently waiting for him to spill the tea.
“Actually, no one. If I meet someone, then who knows, but I actually don’t have any plans. Didn’t you say I should keep an open mind?” Theo raised a teasing brow at Alice as he smirked.
“Touché,” Alice chuckled.
“But I kind of have this feeling that I may meet someone tonight. Maybe at Sky 21... Don’t ask me why, but after I left the shower I had this urge to look my best tonight,” Theo said, satisfied with the way his hair was looking.
“You just got some action from the Godfrey Gao lookalike and you’re already thirsty again?” Alice teased Theo with a smirk on her face.
“I’m not really looking,” Theo shook his head with a chuckle, “Just a gut feeling. Going to keep an open mind.”
“Alright, I’ll just finish getting ready and we can head out,” Alice stepped away from the door frame and went back into her bedroom, as Theo walked back to his bedroom. They still had twenty minutes until they had to leave the house, so Theo decided to charge his phone a bit as he scrolled through his social media feeds.
Social media apps were a curious thing to Theo. He knew a lot of what he saw from his friends on social media was a mere facade and that they were only presenting a sugar-coated version of their life worthy of praise and validation from other people also doing the same thing. Theo was wondering if he did the same with his occasional post when Alice suddenly knocked on his door.
“Ready?” She asked as she jingled her keys in her right hand. She had made up her face in the meantime and was wearing a purple off shoulder crop top with loose high waist black pants. Theo was sure Jamie would adore her look.
Theo stood up and unplugged his phone from the charger, “Yeah, let me just grab my stuff.”
The two friends left the apartment and kept poking fun at each other all the way to the bus stop, where they got on bus number 33 going to Praça Ferreira do Amaral. Once they’d crossed the bridge to the other side, they got off the bus and walked all the way to Tap Seac. It wasn’t a very long walk and the streets weren’t too crowded, so they arrived at the square right on time. Jamie was already there, as she lived nearby.
“Hey there, Theo, ” she greeted Theo and then turned to Alice and said, “Hi, Allie,“, before kissing her briefly on the lips.
“Hey, Jamie, how are you today?” Theo asked, fishing a cigarette out of his pack, knowing they would still have to wait for Ivy.
“I’m good. Allie told me you also had a good morning,” Jamie sent Theo a teasing smile as Theo glared at Alice.
“I really shouldn’t tell you my secrets,” Theo playfully said to Alice.
“Jamie doesn’t count,” Alice countered, “Anyway, Ivy said she’d be here in 5 minutes.”
“Perfect, just enough time for a cigarette,” Theo said, lighting his cigarette up. Alice avoided smoking tobacco around Jamie, as Jamie wasn’t a smoker, so Theo didn’t offer any of them a cigarette.
As they waited for Ivy, Jamie and Alice talked about a TV show they had been watching, telling Theo to watch it as well and trying to avoid giving any spoilers. Just as Theo was stubbing his cigarette out, Ivy joined them, followed by Eric.
“Hey, guys, sorry I’m late,” she waved her hand at everyone, “Eric decided to tag along after all.”
“Hey girls. And Theo. You’re looking very gwapo tonight,” Eric said, playfully flirting with Theo, “which means you’re probably thirsty.”
The girls all laughed and Theo just blushed, “Really guys? A guy can’t dress up nicely without being thirsty? And I got laid last night, I’m definitely not thirsty.”
“Ooo so defensive,” Ivy teased Theo as well, teaming up with Eric.
“Anyway,” Alice turned to Jamie, “Where are we eating?”
“How about Vencedora?” Jamie suggested. Everyone agreed with the idea and they headed to the restaurant, which was located on Rua do Campo.
It took a little under ten minutes for them to arrive at the dining establishment and once they entered, they sat down at a table and ordered some food. They engaged in friendly banter and talked about their week at work. Jamie worked in IT and often complained about her manager who was constantly making mistakes, but never assuming responsibility. In an attempt to change the topic to something more lighthearted, Ivy, who worked as a secretary at a hotel, commented on the alluring looks of her new work colleague, not surprising any of her friends who were used to her gushing about her latest infatuation. Alice shared some funny things her students had said to her in class and then talked about a photo shoot idea Jamie had thought of. Jamie also did some photography projects in her spare time, which was how she met Alice. She’d reached out to Alice to take some photos and they ended up getting along.
Eric and Theo were fairly quiet, as Eric, who was sitting next to Theo, was texting on his phone and Theo had a lot on his mind. His mind kept going back to the dancer at the shady nightclub. His eyes wandered to his left, where Eric was sitting, and he noticed Eric was on Grindr.
“Meeting someone tonight?” Theo asked Eric.
“Yes,” Eric happily replied, “Hot top with a six-pack. Check this out,” Eric pressed on the guy’s photo and turned his phone, so Theo could get a better look of the half-naked man with an attractive body. Theo could faintly see the guy’s face behind the reflection of the flash in the mirror selfie.
“Looks attractive, but I can’t really see the face properly,” Theo commented.
“With a body like that, I’m not complaining,” Theo rolled his eyes at Eric’s retort.
After having dinner at A Vencedora, they headed to the Sky 21 bar atop the AIA building where they met up with Yoyo who was already sitting at a table on the balcony area, overlooking the stunning view of Macau from the 21st floor. Sky 21 was a modern-looking bar, with futuristic interior design and blue and purple lights. The balcony area had a more laid-back vibe and they could also order some hookahs to smoke. The music in the bar was a slow and jazzy electronic melody, giving the venue an elegant yet urban atmosphere. It had been Alice showing him that bar. He’d heard about it before but had never checked it out himself until after his break up. In a way, he was glad that it was a place that wasn’t tainted by his negative memories.
The group of friends ordered some cocktails and a mint hookah to share. They kept ordering drinks, taking hits from the hookah, chatting, and having fun until around 1:45 am when they started making plans for the rest of the night.
“I think we should go to Cubic. There’s a cool DJ playing there tonight!” Ivy said, her voice hinting that she wasn’t quite sober.
“You guys can go, but I have some plans,” Eric said, winking at Ivy, as he replied to a text from his Grindr date.
“Well, I’m down for Cubic. Let’s go!” Yoyo yelled, high fiving Ivy.
Alice was swept up by the excitement of her friends and agreed to the idea, and Jamie ended up agreeing to spend more time with Alice. However, Theo wasn’t quite into the idea of going to Cubic. He didn’t really enjoy that nightclub as much.
“I think I’ll pass for tonight, might just head home,” he said to the group, who booed at his decision.
“You’re such a party pooper, Theo,” Ivy pouted.
“I’m feeling a bit tired,” Theo lied. In reality, he was hoping to go to D2 with his friends and hoping to encounter the dancer again. Deep down he still had some hope and he knew it was crazy to feel that way, but he was considering going to the nightclub on his own to try his luck. He’d never gone to D2 on his own without a date or friends. Although he’d met several guys at D2 before when he was partying with friends, he’d never ventured into the club solo in hopes of finding a lover for the night.
“Fine, but next time you better join us,” Ivy said in a jokingly stern tone.
“Okay, boss,” Theo playfully muttered back at his friend.
Around 2:30 am they were leaving the bar so that his friends could get cabs to go to the City of Dreams, where the Cubic nightclub was located. They needed two cabs, as they were five people. As they were waiting in front of the AIA building, Theo turned to Alice and said, “You guys can get going. I will walk around for a bit before I get a cab home.”
Alice raised a suspicious brow at Theo and was about to ask a question, when Yoyo suddenly yelled, “Guys! There are two taxis coming!” She stretched her arm out to hail one and Eric stretched his arm to hail the other one.
“We’re going now, but you’re going to text me what your plans are,” Alice said pointing a finger at Theo, before turning around and running to the cab before the taxi driver could turn them down.
“Aren’t you coming, Theo?” Yoyo asked.
“Nah, I’ll stick around for a while. Have fun!” He watched as his friends got into the cabs and waved at him as they drove off before making his way to the nearest Sunsco supermarket to buy some drinks and another pack of cigarettes.
It was a perfect evening, a fresh breeze was blowing against Theo’s hair, such a refreshing sensation after having had a couple of drinks. He still needed more liquid courage to head to the nightclub on his own, so he bought two bottles of beer and a pack of cigarettes before heading back to the Nam Van lakeside area. He wandered around the building area and found himself a staircase facing the Macau tower, its lights no longer illuminating the night sky. It was already pretty late and Theo decided he would go in around 3 am. He sat down and lit a cigarette up, before using his keychain to open his bottle of beer.
A medley of thoughts played out in his mind.
What was he doing there? Why couldn’t he simply go into the club like he normally did? Noah may not even be at the club, so it would just be a waste of time and money. He might have only flirted with Theo because that was just who he was and Theo was unnecessarily fixating too much on it. But he could’ve also been interested in Theo.
And that was the thought that kept urging him to get up and walk to the club. Take a leap of faith.
Maybe after one beer. Yeah, one beer should be enough.
When he was almost done drinking his first beer, he looked at his phone to check the time. It was already 3:16 am. He lit up another cigarette, wondering if he should drink the second beer. Alcohol never really made things clearer, it had always been an escape for Theo. Escape from the fear of rejection, escape from the feelings of worthlessness, escape from the inevitable decision he would have to make: dance or go home.
He had finished his first beer.
What was it going to be: dance or go home?
Once he stubbed his cigarette out with his foot, he looked at his phone and noticed it was already 3:32 am. It’s now or never, he thought. He was about to stand up and throw the second bottle of beer away to head to the club when he heard some footsteps behind him.
Theo turned around and the moment his eyes met the chocolate brown eyes of the stranger who was approaching him, he looked like a deer in headlights.
It was Noah.