Friday, April 11th, 2014
It was a particularly humid day and Theo was longing for a shower. He sighed a breath of relief the moment he stepped into his house and felt the cool air of the air conditioner. Alice had already arrived and was sitting in front of the TV watching a show on Netflix.
“Hey Allie,” Theo greeted his friend, whose attention was fully captured by the scene on the screen.
“Hey Theo,” Alice said, only somewhat acknowledging Theo’s presence. The scene she was watching appeared to be filled with suspense.
“What are you watching?” Theo asked as he unbuttoned the collar of his shirt.
“Black Mirror, care to join?” Her eyes were still glued onto the screen.
“Maybe later. I gotta shower first. Have I ever mentioned to you how much I hate humidity?” He poured himself a glass of water to quench his thirst before heading to the bathroom.
“Basically almost every day. Now, shut up! I’m trying to watch the show!” Theo rolled his eyes and stepped into the bathroom. Whoever ended updating Alice would have to compete against her beloved TV shows for her attention. Whenever Alice wasn’t teaching, lesson prepping, or partying at one of the bars or nightclubs of Macau, she was glued to the TV screen, watching a vast range of TV series. Things had changed a bit recently, as Alice was spending more time with Jamie, a lady Theo had first been introduced to by his friend on one of their nocturnal soirees at the D2 nightclub the previous month.
Theo stepped into the bathtub and let the water cascade down from the showerhead, washing the sweat and the stress of the week away. Every so often his thoughts would linger on that night at the D2 Club, on the visual reminders of the bewitching performer - those taut and smooth abs moving to the beat of the song, those plump inviting lips igniting a fiery lecherous craving deep within the grey-eyed boy, those warm challenging orbs gazing back at him as he swayed on the stage, daring him to act on those lustful urges.
As those thoughts permeated his mind once again, his hand roamed downwards, grasping onto his partially engorged member. Life had gotten in the way and he hadn’t set foot in that sinful haven since his last nocturnal escapade. He also hadn’t managed to get laid and in these moments of bathroom introspection, he found some solace in his right hand. The water splattering on the bathtub surface concealed the faint grunts and moans flowing out of Theo’s lightly parted lips.
Maybe he would check Grindr out after the shower.
Upon washing away the remnants of his release, he stepped out of the bathtub and dried himself off. He looked at the mirror and scrutinized his appearance. Although he didn’t have washboard abs or the biggest biceps, Theo was aware that he wasn’t exactly unattractive either. A lot of his previous partners had complimented his gray eyes, saying they were his most alluring feature. Others told him they made him appear cold. His curtained hair was a light shade of brown, easily standing out in a place where the predominant hair color was much darker. He flexed his muscles, trying to achieve a look that would best resemble the archetype of masculinity. Looking at himself failing to look like the Greek god he was trying to impersonate, he wondered if he should take some sexier photos for his Grindr profile. Would that improve his chances of getting laid?
With that thought in mind, he tried taking a couple of photos, showing off his body, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. His posture resembled that of a knoff-version of a fuck boy minus the cocky demeanor. As an experiment, he decided to choose the one that made him cringe the least and uploaded it as a profile photo before he finished drying up. He wrapped a towel around his waist before exiting the bathroom and stepping into his bedroom to put some clothes on. After getting dressed, he sat on his bed and checked his phone. He had received a message from a guy on Grindr.
Jack [7:01 pm]: ”Hey sexy.”
Theo checked the guy’s profile and photo. The guy’s profile indicated that he was 5′10", 28 years old, Asian, and a bottom. His photo was a mirror photo revealing firm and muscular abs and a partially concealed face due to the reflection of the flash. Why even take mirror photos with flash? Theo couldn’t understand, but, then again, his photos weren’t exactly examples of first-rate photography. It was strange to think that in the era of online dating, people were reduced to a handful of sought after qualities and physical appearance.
Theo [7:06 pm]: ”Hey, how are you?"
Theo went back to his older conversations. He was torn between finding a new partner to engage in some fun horizontal activities in bed or hitting up his regular booty call. The former seemed like a better idea than the later, though the second option would still be there if he were really desperate for some action. The guy didn’t appear to be online at that moment, so he got up from the bed and walked out of the room to join Alice in the living room.
Alice was no longer looking at the TV screen and was instead scrolling through Instagram on her phone. “Want to go out for dinner? Jamie is busy tonight,” Alice asked Theo as he stepped into the living room. The two friends lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in Taipa and preferred to eat out rather than cook. Alice was a terrible cook and although Theo was a slightly better cook than Alice, which was not particularly hard - Alice was a woman of many talents, but cooking wasn’t one of them -, he was often too tired to put together a meal after arriving home from work.
“Sure, what are you in the mood for?” Theo sat on the couch next to Alice and scrolled through his own social media, catching up on the notifications he had ignored that afternoon.
“I’ve been craving some noodles all day. Want to go to that small place near the ParknShop?”
“Sounds good. We can head out in a bit,” Theo noticed he had gotten a reply on Grindr, so he switched to that app. Alice looked at Theo’s screen when she noticed he was on the gay dating app.
“Ooo someone is thirsty,” Alice teased Theo.
“Unlike you, I haven’t been laid in a while. How is Jamie, by the way?”
“She’s great. I am meeting up with her tomorrow.”
“It seems to be getting serious,” Theo teased Alice back.
“I don’t know... I mean, we are having a lot of fun, but we haven’t really talked about becoming exclusive or anything like that,” Alice was a serial dater. Ever since Theo had met her, she had dated at least six or seven different girls and guys, never finding the right person, but remaining hopeful.
Alice had met Jamie two months before their nocturnal visit to the D2 Club back in March. They had gone out to a party so that Alice could introduce Jamie to her friends. Theo didn’t remember talking much to Jamie that night, but over the following three weeks, he had gotten to know her and could see that she made Alice happy. Alice wouldn’t admit it, but she was getting attached to the pixie-haired brunette, spending time with her quite often.
Alice glanced at Theo’s screen, “oh, he’s got nice abs.”
“Yeah, but I can’t quite see his face,” Theo looked closer at the photo to try to figure out if he truly found the guy attractive or not. He opened the chat again and looked at the guy’s reply.
Jack [7:11 pm]: ”I’m good. What u up to tonight, handsome?"
Theo typed his reply.
Theo [7:13 pm]: ”Nothing much. Going out for dinner soon. Wbu?"
“You’re such a player,” Alice said as she watched Theo exchange messages with the guy on the app, “When will you finally settle down and commit to someone? It’s been four years since you and Jason split up. Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”
Theo cringed a little bit at the mention of his ex-boyfriend. They had been together since high school and split up shortly after Theo graduated from university. It was around the same time he first met Alice. He hadn’t been in a serious relationship with any other guy ever since the break-up, indulging only in transient affairs and one night stands.
“I’ve moved on. I’m just not really looking for anything serious at the moment. If I meet someone and it feels right, I might reconsider it, but for the time being, I am happy being single.”
He received a reply from the guy and checked it. It was a photograph he definitely did not request, along with a message.
Jack [7:16 pm]: ”U like what u see?"
“That is a nice dick. Turns out he’s not just Mr. Nice Abs,” Alice admired the photo on Theo’s screen. Theo laughed at his friend’s comment and at the nickname she had given the Grindr guy. He also didn’t exactly disagree with her.
“Anyway, I think you should stop looking for meaningless sex and find someone whose company you actually enjoy and not just the dick. Though having a nice dick does help,” she winks at Theo. The two friends didn’t have a filter when they talked. No topics were off-limits. They would constantly engage in fun banter and that is what initially drew the two of them together.
When they first met at the Lion’s Bar bar five years ago, Alice had drunkenly flirted with Theo, before she realized that he didn’t bat for the other team. After the initial awkward first encounter, they still decided to exchange phone numbers and kept in touch, eventually becoming even closer friends when Theo was going through a messy break-up. Alice had been there for him the night he made the hard decision to walk away from Jason. After a less than stellar six-year-long relationship with Jason, Theo was broken and Alice was there to help him pick up the pieces and put himself back together.
“Let’s stop talking about cocks and go get some noodles. Mr. Nice Abs can wait for a reply,” Theo emphasized the nickname chosen by his friend, earning a muffled laugh from her, as he got up and gathered both his keys as well as cigarette pack, before pocketing them alongside his phone. He remembered the lighter and picked it up as well, before placing them in the other pocket.
“Let me just get my wallet. My treat today,” Alice rushed to her room to get her wallet.
Theo stepped out and called the elevator, waiting for Alice to join him. It didn’t take long until Alice stepped out of their flat and locked the door, just as the elevator doors opened. They rode down together in silence, as Alice answered a message, probably from Jamie. Theo’s thoughts wandered once again to the young dancer he encountered at the nightclub. Noah – that had been the name the DJ had announced. He liked the sound of it if that were really the young man’s name and not just a stage name.
“We could grab some beers on the way back and have a chill night in. What do you think?” Alice looked up from her phone as they stepped outside of the building, bringing Theo back to reality.
“Sure, sounds like a good idea. Have you still got stuff to smoke at home?” Even though it was technically not considered a legal substance in Macau, Alice and Theo would occasionally indulge in the act of smoking a certain green herb. They tried to keep it on the down-low so that they could continue their recreational activity without arousing suspicions from the authorities. Theo had no idea how Alice managed to obtain it, as she never talked about that to protect her sources.
“Yeah, should last us a couple of weeks.”
Theo lit up a cigarette and offered one to Alice, who accepted it before they made their way to Xin Wu Er, their favorite noodle joint in the neighborhood. It had gotten fresher after the sun had set and there were a bunch of people on the streets, some heading home while others, just like Theo and Alice, were going out for dinner. Theo looked up at the tall high rise buildings and wondered how many lost souls residing within them were also seeking companionship, alienated by the ephemeral and shallow nature of romantic relationships after the turn of the century, with the arrival of social media and online dating apps.
Once they arrived at the small restaurant, they sat down and ordered their noodle bowls – tiny oyster thin noodles for Alice and assorted minced meat thin noodles for Theo. As they waited for their orders to arrive, Theo turned to Alice and said, “We should go to D2 again. We haven’t partied in a while.”
“Sure, I can talk to Eric and the girls. Are you free tomorrow night or are you going to hit one of your booty calls up?”
“I’m free tomorrow night. I’m not that thirsty,” Theo mumbled the last bit mostly to himself and Alice gave him a meaningful look.
“I’m going to bet that if you don’t find someone tomorrow night at D2, you are going to text Flávio and head to his and then complain to me on Sunday morning about your terrible drunk mistakes,” Alice said with a hint of playfulness to her voice. Theo rolled his eyes at her.
“He isn’t that bad of a lay and he usually answers my calls,” Theo tried to explain himself. Flávio was a Brazilian expat who he had met on Grindr about a year before. He would contact Flávio every so often, whenever he wanted to get laid. At first, their intentions appeared to be mutual, but throughout the year, Flávio appeared to be growing keen on the idea of pursuing something more, but Theo didn’t feel the same way.
As enjoyable as their encounters were, the concept of going steady with his sexually desirable lover was a fatalistic prologue of a sad novel. Ill-fated before even being given a chance to blossom. They were just two parallel lines, permanently travelling at an arm’s length, their hands never connecting.
Theo had only felt a deeper connection once... Maybe Alice was right, maybe he still hadn’t fully moved on. Either way, Theo tried as best as he could to avoid contacting Flávio. He didn’t want to lead him on even further. Sadly, his good judgment always seemed to be impaired in his drunk and thirsty moments.
“When will you stop leading him on? You know the reason he answers your calls at ungodly hours is because he is hoping for something more...” Alice sternly mentioned as the waitress placed their orders on the table.
“I know... But finding someone else is a lot of work. Some guys bail on me last minute and I don’t really know how to reply to dick pics,” Theo dug into his bowl of delicious noodles.
“Send him one of your own,” Alice teased.
“Haha, very funny,” Theo deadpanned sarcastically at his friend, who just laughed some more at her friend’s reaction.
They ate their noodles occasionally exchanging a couple of words, but mostly too engrossed in the flavor of the noodles to speak. Once they were done eating, they paid and left the dining establishment. They stopped by a convenience store to buy a couple of beers to drink at home and then made their way back to their apartment.
Once they arrived at their apartment, Theo placed the beers in the fridge and the two friends changed into their pajamas, as they were no longer going out. Theo checked his phone before putting some shorts on and noticed he had gotten a message from the guy Alice had nicknamed Mr. Nice Abs.
Jack [9:32 pm]: ”U still there?"
Theo wasn’t really in the mood to reply to the guy. As much as he enjoyed casual sex, he didn’t really enjoy getting photos of guys’ dicks before even being able to see their faces properly. It felt bizarre to him because he didn’t want to feel like he was only after someone’s body. Deep down, he still had some hope that he could find a meaningful relationship, but he doubted he would find one on Grindr.
After putting a tank top on, Theo grabbed two beer bottles as well as a bottle opener and joined Alice on the balcony. She was sitting on one of the two folding chairs they had gotten and was already rolling a joint. Theo opened one bottle of beer and placed it on the small coffee table between the chairs for Alice to drink before opening his own bottle. He also placed his carton of cigarettes and a lighter next to the ashtray, which they had purchased for evenings such as that peaceful Friday night.
Once Alice was done rolling the joint, she lit it up, took a few puffs and handed it over to Theo, who had just finished taking a sip from his beer, as she selected a song from her phone to play.
“What song should I play?” She asked Theo as she browsed her playlist.
“How about ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’?” Theo suggested as he took some puffs from the joint.
Alice nodded as she searched for the song. Once she had found it, she placed her phone onto the table and grabbed her beer before taking a sip from it. Theo passed her the joint and grabbed his phone to check the offer on Grindr. Alice was humming along to the song, as Theo exited the conversation with Mr. Nice Abs and looked at the other guys in the area. It was mostly the same as most days, but as he scrolled down, he stumbled upon a new profile with a familiar name – Noah. He clicked on the profile and looked at the only photo on the profile. Even though it wasn’t the clearest photo, he could recognize the dancer. He was also online at that moment.
“Oh, isn’t that the dancer we saw at D2 the last time we went there together?” Alice stopped humming along to the song to ask that question, as she took a glance at Theo’s phone screen.
“Yeah,” Theo answered, his eyes not leaving the screen.
“He’s a fine piece of man. I’d tap that,” she said as she took a puff, before passing the joint back to Theo.
“I bumped into him in the bathroom after the performance and he hit on me,” Theo admitted.
“What are you waiting for? Send him a message!” Alice urged.
Theo didn’t know what to write. Being high also impaired his ability to type out a coherent message and ensure the proper spelling of the words. Typing and backspacing, Theo mulled over the words, his usual confidence absent in this moment of genuine interest. What was wrong with him? Theo felt an intense magnetic pull towards the dancer for some inexplicable reason. One he hadn’t even felt with Jason. And maybe that is what made that first message so frightening. The grey-eyed man was aiming a shot at a target with a blindfold on, not knowing what to expect, but desperately wanting to hit the bullseye.
He ended up settling on a simple, ”Hey there.”
Much to his dismay, as soon as he sent the message, he noticed that Noah was no longer online.
“He is no longer online,” he muttered to himself. Feelings of disappointment welled up in his chest.
“You took your sweet time writing that message. He’ll reply when he is back online,” Alice was also scrolling on her phone, “Oh, by the way, Ivy texted me asking if you’d like to join us for yum cha tomorrow.”
“Sure. I haven’t had yum cha in a while. What time are we meeting them?” Theo kept checking if Noah would return online and read his message. His heart beat a little faster everytime he glanced at the dancer’s profile photo.
“Let me ask her, but shouldn’t be before noon. You know how Yoyo likes to sleep in,” Alice was sending a message to Ivy when she suddenly got a message from Jamie. She laughed and handed her phone to Theo, “Check out this meme Jamie just sent me.”
The two friends spent the rest of the evening out on the balcony sharing memes, music, laughs, and a joint as they drank their beers. Around 1 am, he bid his friend good night and went to his room. By the time Theo crashed out on his bed, he was high off his mind and feeling a tingling warmth within him because of the beer. Even though he enjoyed going out to clubs every so often, he enjoyed chill nights like those on the balcony the most. He checked Grindr one last time before falling asleep and noticed that Noah still hadn’t seen nor replied to his message.
A/N: We learn a bit more about Theo and Alice in this chapter. What do you think of them so far?