I'm slouching with my back to the wall, few metres from the door to the pub inside which I was supposed to be fifteen minutes ago; the energy spelled out by the fast footsteps of my rushing here suddenly gone, the focus dissolved into a suffocating cloud of anxiety.
I take a deep breath, counting to ten seconds on the exhale and to eight on the inhale. Two more, my heartbeat still fast. I can't do it, can I? I'm not actually going to do it, am I?
And even if I am, even if I do take those last few steps and walk into the warm interior filled with tangled voices and a smell of coffee and booze, what is the chance that I won't be walking away after half an hour's empty wait?
More deep breaths, glancing from the corner of my eye at the pub door just in case you are there, waiting, after all. Searching for the lost thrill in the fear that's now got merely clammy.
The lighter's flame appears suddenly. In all my funk I didn't notice anybody's approach but I am grateful for the kind gesture. I lean down to the light, instinctively protecting it from a gust with a cupped hand. Only when I suck in then quickly exhale the first drag, I notice that the hand holding the lighter is shaking. Only when I raise my eyes to say "thank you" I see, and realise, just before I hear.
The shock of it is not any lesser for the fact that this is what I came here for. All the words I had in such oversupply are stuck tight in my throat; all I can do is smile stupid and giddy; until I catch your eyes and my smile disappears slowly; I drop my cigarette and reach out with my hand.
I have to describe it here, don't I? The private gesture, so overused that it's turned cliche now; my palm on your cheek, my thumb tracing your mouth ajar, sliding in, probing, penetrating, a not-so-subtle hint of what might come later, your tongue soft and slippery and searching, your lips closing gently just as mine open over teeth nearly-clenched in a hint of a snarly smile.
I'm panting, all the anxious expectation and suspense and anticipation of before spilling out, coating my skin with a glow that I can hardly believe isn't visible, coating my mind with a flickering forest of bluewhite flames; I'm letting it take me higher; now, suddenly, I don't even know how or when, I'm not leaning with my back against the damp wall of a late November street but pinning you against it; my left hand in your hair, clutching, pulling your head slightly back and to the side, probably uncomfortably; I don't give a slightest fuck, in fact it's better this way; my right hand around your left wrist, pushed onto the bricks fast and harsh until you ''ouch'' in pain; then pushed along the brick, grazed some more; my mouth on your neck vaguely in the region of your ear, ''Hello, boy,'' I whispershiss; get my face even closer; smelling you; fucking hell; how much I wanted this, all those years, all those years until I was sure; sure that neither of us needed or wanted it; until it was safe to arrange a meeting, as per widely publicised recommendations, public place, not too long, we'll have a coffee or a drink, chat and laugh; sentimental melancholy of things impossible and others that could have been; shared nostalgia for a long-gone virtual adventure never made flesh; and yet I am here; my breath damp on your skin; my tongue tracing your carotid, sliding all the way down to the clavicle; tasting you dizzy; my left knee pushed between your legs; my eyes closed; forgetting to breathe then remembering again in a frantic gulp; then stepping back, looking at you from a foot away.
''Coffee? Whisky? Herbal infusion?'', I say, giggling, my right hand now on your chest, as if I had to keep touching you, as if it was physically impossible not to.
You nod a yes, I lick my upper lip, the air is damp and cold but feels like cinders sliding down my throat, ''Actually, I booked a room,'' I smile, a normal, playful smile now, a little challenging, eyes darting to yours, almost-but-not-quite-locking, shifting away, defusing;
''Actually, I booked a room too,'' you offer, also not quite looking at me at first, then we both do, laughter bubbling up, I'm shaking my head,
''Once a slut always a slut,'' you shrug a yes, as if it was an obviously shared understanding, comfortable now, we go to get that drink.
--- continued here.