Towards the Decent Inn

II

By Michael Arram

'Matt, if I was ever going to go gay with anyone, it'd be with you.' The words cut through the fog of the beer, as also did the sharp look that went with them.

Steve stared into Matt's eyes and then looked away. Both boys knew that he had meant more than the words said, and Matt was more than slightly panicked by them. This was finally it. Matt had been propositioned by someone he could possibly tolerate the idea of sex with, as opposed to the insinuating men on buses and in parks who had occasionally attempted to move on him since he was fourteen. Steve was a sort of mate of Leo's, they had been in the same accommodation block as freshers. But he was one of the sporty crowd, big and fit, over a head taller than Matt.

'Jesus,' thought Matt muzzily, 'It's a pass. He's making a pass at me. I am not ready for this. Does he mean what I think he means?'

Matt was naturally intimidated more than a little by Steve. When Steve asked him to join him for a couple of pints, he of course agreed. Steve was big and confident among the lads. He was everything that Matt was not, and everything that Matt half hated himself for looking up to.

But he had increasingly sensed Steve's interest in him. On more than one occasion previously he had found himself in created conversations with Steve and trying to work out just how he'd got in them, struggling hard to find things to say. Just before the gay remark, Steve had been complimenting him on his choice of jacket, and the lustre and brownness of his eyes; softening him up by pretty crude flattery. Was it calculation? Was he less drunk than he seemed? Fear paralysed his tongue.

Matt was suddenly annoyed. He didn't need this. He was being propositioned by a boy of his own age. Fine, but Matt hadn't thought seriously of himself sexually involved with Steve. He did not appreciate the ambush. But he froze.

In fact they both froze. Matt managed an, 'Uhhhh', which made the mutual embarrassment all the more acute; his inconvenient gift for fantasy suddenly presented him with a vision of himself engaged in sex with a man. Only it didn't need to be fantasy; it might be real in as little as ten minutes. His cock betrayed him. It swelled and stiffened against his leg, painfully caught in his underpants, hidden under his jacket. Steve for his part suddenly appeared to panic and lurched into reverse. He temporised, 'Get you a drink, Matt?'

'Uh, sure.'

Steve leaned around to the bar and got two more pints. Matt thought of running for it, and joining some other mates he could just see in the lounge. But Steve was back. Matt felt himself getting red, and couldn't think of any way to carry on the conversation. Steve too was quiet.

'Nice pint.'

'Yeah, really OK'

There was a long pause and the beer had its effect; Matt's bladder - already anxious - began to cry out to be emptied. 'Need to go to the bog, man.' He hurried off out of the bar and into the scruffy corridor outside. He pushed into the small men's toilet, the concrete floor wet with urine and overflowing water, the smell pungent with disinfectant. He unzipped and hauled out his penis, enlarged for more than one reason. Thank God the loo was empty. He leaned his forehead against the wall and pissed copiously against the stained porcelain. He felt his penis subside a little.

But the door banged and Steve was suddenly alongside him, hauling out his own sizeable member. Matt couldn't resist looking, and saw unmistakeable signs of Steve's arousal, and saw that Steve saw his stare. He looked away. Steve finished his pee, and he began manipulating and flapping his cock, the way that some men do afterwards. Matt knew it was not to empty the last drop, because Steve was taking his time. Matt was still finishing.

For a moment both men stood still. Then Steve reached out and folded his hand around Matt's as it rested on his cock. It was the point of no return. Steve's fingers pushed Matt's aside, gripped his penis and began slowly stroking its length. There was an explosion in the region of Matt's groin, his penis bucked in Steve's hand. He was torn between panic and lust, his heart hammering hard inside his chest. But there were voices in the corridor. Steve recoiled quickly as the door was pushed open and two other students squeezed in talking loudly. Matt zipped up with some difficulty and shuffled out quickly.

'We'll go to my place ... if you want' Steve whispered in the corridor outside.

'Look Steve. No. I don't want this.' Matt stuttered in reply.

Steve looked narrowly at him. 'Don't tell me you're not interested, your little friend says different.' Matt changed gear rapidly.

'Why did you think I might be ... y'know?'

'Just a feeling. The other guys all reckon you're gay.'

'Why?'

'Dunno, they just do.' I'll bet, thought Matt. The dumb sods reckon anyone who doesn't get hammered and play soccer and talk loudly about women must be gay. He was really annoyed that the thick idiots just happened to be right in his case. Steve loomed closer, a little threateningly, though it was probably not his intention.

'Come on Matt, you can do it, I know you'll like it,' he grinned suggestively, if a bit prematurely, 'I'll be gentle with you.'

Matt's stubbornness took over. 'So do they know you're gay too?'

'I'm not.'

Matt was stunned. 'Scuse me, but you just made a homosexual assault on me. What the hell else does that make you?'

'I'm bisexual. Swing either way. Doesn't make me gay.'

Matt's grasp on Steve's logic was beginning to crumble. 'What do your mates think about it.'

'They don't know.' Steve looked coolly at him. 'And they're not going to find out, are they?'

Matt let the threat pass, not that he had much of a choice. Steve could very easily pick him up with one arm, he guessed. Then another reason to panic surfaced. Steve had slept with other men, he'd said as much, and Matt knew all too well about infections that passed round. Do I want to risk that, he asked himself. It now also occurred to him that Steve was deliberately targetted fringe characters to his circle, so that his hearty friends never got to hear of his adventuring. He resented it.

A group of students shouldered past them with curious stares. Steve got impatient.

'Well?' he demanded.

Matt squared his shoulders. 'No chance. I don't want you up my arse, I don't know where your dick's been,' said Matt with a certain amount of bravery – as well as coarseness - although he was defying what half of his mind was telling him. Suddenly, and to his surprise, Steve looked shocked and dejected rather than angry. Had he expected to score more easily? Did Steve actually seriously fancy him, was it more than just a casual proposition? He almost softened. He was experiencing the power of saying no for the first time in his life. Also, he was learning that it didn't come without regrets.

Steve continued to plead, although with an edge of desperation in his voice. 'It won't be like that, Matt, honest. It'll be fun, maybe a revelation. Please...'

'Please comes rather late in your chatup line, dunnit Steve?'

Steve took a shuddering breath and glowered at him, 'Fine. Your choice. Your loss. Don't be sure I'll ask again.'

Matt was now amused. Steve had suddenly transformed into a little kid whose friends wouldn't play. He stopped seeming threatening. They went back to the bar and finished their drinks quickly. Steve gave him a curt goodbye and stumbled off, although not without one backward glance as he reached the pub door. Matt shrugged. He wouldn't be seeing Steve again in a hurry. Steve took Politics and Strategic Studies, and their paths didn't normally cross on campus.

Matt wandered home. Before he got to the end of the road he was whistling to himself. He suddenly realised that his big secret was out; not far out, but out. He had talked with someone who knew about his sexuality, his desires, and acknowledged them openly. He felt freer than he had for years. It was weird. He'd always thought that exposure would bring humiliation. In fact he felt liberated. It was as if he had finally made a move towards becoming himself. 'Don't know where your dick's been.' Had he really said that? It was a bit gross, but cool too. Matthew the cocky gay warrior; he played with the image before dumping it in the bin with the rest of his fantasies. That wasn't him either.

Home was a terraced house not far from campus that his father had bought at the start of the second year. It would be an investment and would save Matt paying rent, Dad had decided. He had got it at a cheap price because the previous owner had let it get run down, and because it was between two other student houses. Matt had been supposed to get other students to share. But by the time his father had got round to things, everyone was sorted. He had put up a notice in the Union but there were no takers.

Dad was a builder, unfortunately. So the house was full of half-finished projects. The kitchen had loose grey cables worming out of the walls for fixtures that had not been bought, let alone installed. The kitchen floor was still awaiting tiles. The bathroom shower was plumbed in, but it leaked. The rest of the furniture was taken over from the previous resident, who was now in an old people's home. The curling lino, walnut veneer, faded plush chairs and formica tops were unique period pieces from the sixties. The smell of damp, dust and drying plaster was his constant companion, and it had got into his clothes.

He checked his mobile. There were no texts or voicemail. He went into the lounge and turned on his telly, the same that he had for his fourteenth birthday when an integral video player was new technology. He felt suddenly very sorry for himself. It was a measure of his loneliness that he consoled himself that his old telly was still his friend. He almost patted it. He watched cartoons and soaps and was in bed by nine thirty. But his libido did not let him lie quietly. Although he had turned down the chance for a sexual adventure, his mind stubbornly retained the memory of a strong male hand caressing his most intimate parts, and taunted him with it. Although he had sent Steve on his way, he had a disturbing memory of his frustrated and longing face as he left the pub. This mingled with a memory from last year of Steve's well-developed naked torso, which he had seen quite often enough exposed in Leo's flat.

Matt suddenly sat up in bed. Well-developed naked torso. What if the parading round half-naked was the way Steve had scouted for likely targets? The bastard. And he certainly had not been able to stop himself checking out Steve on every possible occasion. So that was how he had been noticed. He suddenly lost all vestigial guilt about disappointing Steve. He hated it when people exploited and manipulated him. In the end, Matt took his usual route to relief. He wiped up, pulled his underpants back up from his knees and eventually fell asleep. He dreamt of a blond young man who was shouting soundlessly in his ear.

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