Sipping drinks while right in front of Haruto was awkward. The fact that we were sitting across the table from each other in a gay bar was awkward. The fact that neither of us had said a word for the past half-hour was awkward. Everything was awkward. Thoughts were jumbled up and swimming in my head, and the hiss and cries echoing from the bit and pieces of Haruto’s memories that dropped onto the table didn’t help.
A strip sizzling with the sound of a child crying fell close to my finger. My stomach stirred. I thought about reaching out and grabbing it. It wasn’t like Haruto could see it—
I flinched at the sound of my name, almost dropping the glass of alcohol that I had in my hand. Haruto’s eyes went wide as he watched me apologize and straighten out on my seat.
“Sorry,” I repeated, feeling the burning sensation of the wine in my throat. Food. Any type of human food hurt to eat. It didn’t matter if it was a drink or a solid. It burned, but after the scene, I caused I had to make sure I didn’t do anything weird that made Haruto suspicious of me.
“I heard that you were resigning,” Haruto said in a small voice, glancing over at me as his fingers caressed the glass of his wine. The sight of the black string of memories moving from his fingers to engulf the glass made me look away.
“Yes, I am,” I said, wondering why this was the first thing he brought up. We were both in a gay bar for God’s sake or did Haruto not know that. “I found a job in the pound that I like,” I added, wanting to do something to kill the buzz of his creaming memories. They clashed with the song coming from the jute box, and the laughter of man dancing and holding onto each other too close.
“Oh,” Haruto said, looking down at the napkin on the table. “I hope you like it there,” he added. He sounded sad. I scowled at that. Why did he sound sad?
“I’m sure I will,” I said, fighting his urge to ask Haruto what the problem was. The table was quiet again, and the waiter came to hand me my check. When I paid and they left, I turned my attention back to Haruto who was just staring at me. In a surprise, I looked away, unable to handle his gaze that was coaxed with ropes of black.
“Wern,” Haruto called me making me look up at him again, but this time only using the side of my eyes. “I’m going to miss you.” The man’s voice was shaky and soft. It took me by surprise, I almost thought he wanted to cry.
“I thought I wouldn’t see you again, so I came here to grab a drink, and well...” He trailed. “And well...” His last words spoke for themselves.
And then I caused a scene.
And now we were sitting on a table sipping drinks we didn’t want.
“I’m happy I got to meet you again,” Haruto continued to talk. “I feel that maybe now I can say the stuff I didn’t dare to say back in the food bank,” Haruto added making me sit up on my chair. I was getting curious. What did he want to say to me that he couldn’t back in the food bank?
“We’re both at this bar,” Haruto said, looking at me straight in the eyes. It was an odd statement, but I humored it with a reply.
Haruto nodded, touching the edge of his glass with his fingers. “So, am I correct to ask if we’re both gay?”
My heart stopped as I tried to process what he had just asked me. My lips parted, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud. Yes. I wanted to say yes.
“I’m not going to tell anybody,” Haruto assured me, whispering now. He reached out his hand, stopping just millimeters away from mine. “I’m sure this is out of the blue, but I like you,” he said, and I watched as his face gained color under the bar lighting. He looked unsure of himself, but his words were bold—direct.
“You’re not going to be at the food bank again, so it’s going to be okay for you to see me, right?” he asked, and I just sat there, frozen in my seat. Here was the man that I craved in a confusing way—wanted to cherish and eat—asking me to consider seeing him.
“You don’t have to overthink it. I can give you my number, and you can call me if you want,” he mumbled, reaching into his pocket for something. He pulled it out, and I got to see the worn-out mass-produced business card with a number scribbled at the back.
I squinted at it, noticing it was for plumbing services. I did remember faintly that employment help had helped Haruto get a job.
“Please think about it,” he said cutting me off. “I’ll get going now,” he added before getting up from his seat. I wanted to get up and chase after him, but I forced myself to sit down and look out for him from my position. He seemed to get out of the club okay. My shoulders relaxed. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be some’s meal before I got to see him next.
See him next.
That’s right, Haruto wanted me to keep seeing him. I picked the card he had left on the table, and stared at the number for a bit, feeling bile rise in my throat. I wanted to see him. I really did, but I wasn’t sure I could trust myself around him. What if something happened. What if I lost it and ate him?
“That was fun to watch from afar.”
I looked up to find my friend, Vincent, hovering over at me. Had I just been sitting and staring for that long?
“I’m done eating. Who was that, your dinner?” Vincent asked, and I shuddered, not wanting to think of Haruto that way.
“That’s Haruto,” I said, watching as Vincent’s mouth formed a small ‘o.’ I had poured out my frustrations with the situation to Vincent multiple times, so he had a small idea of the gravity of what had just happened.
“I think you should just head home, and maybe we can talk about this tomorrow,” Vincent said, tugging my hand. His voice was serious now, and I could tell he was worried about me. I got up and followed him out of the bar. Vincent got a cab to drop me off at my place Even though the driver tried to make small talk with me, I remained quiet, still numb from talking to Haruto earlier in the night.