I know ‘short story’ implies that the story should be short, but I do hope that those who do read my tale will not only be patient, but enjoy.
I was particularly inspired by the words from, Darren Hayes’ song Darkness (Click here! for the video link.)
As he entered the over-modern hotel room, the iciness of the air-conditioning startled him. The same room he once adored was now much less attractive. For him it was another cold reminder of the empty room that was smugly waiting for his return. The darkness of the room reminded him that loneliness was now his only companion. But being isolated, lonely and depressed, was his biggest comfort. He feared his own thoughts; thoughts that were about to haunt and torture him throughout the night. Tired and still annoyed at all the superficial conversations he had to endure earlier that evening at a friend’s dinner party, Shane Larkin secretly thanked the red wine for his current state. There was just enough alcohol coursing through his veins to numb the fear of another night. Shane has always had split opinions about his visits to these overpriced hotels. They were great for getting around because everything was in walking distance, especially the one he was staying in now, which was in Victoria. Staying in Central London was particularly great for Shane because he hated using public transport. But he missed the tranquillity of the countryside, and the overcrowded tube with its crisscrossing colour coated lines only confused and aggravated him. He remembered, even as a young boy when his grandfather would take him to the Museum of Natural History (which is some of his fondest memories), the tube made him anxious and nauseous. Overpriced taxis were not an option and busses, where you have to fight some arrogant teenager for a place to sit only gave him headaches. In addition to the centrality, the Hotel now provided a dark safe haven from his problems and heartache. Almost like a metaphorical cocoon with a mini bar, where he could recuperate, grow and drink enough to be able to once again fly back into the pitiless world he had come to know. The emptiness of the hotel was now the perfect place to say goodbye. Other perks include the crisp linen, room service, the giant lavish bathtubs and the endless selection of pornographic channels. They would awaken a childlike thrill from within, which helped him deal with whatever he had to. However, the other side of the coin was not so comforting: Shane had an intense loathing for the monotonous styles and atmosphere of each room. The thought of each sheep-like guest, enjoying the same five star luxuries that he found so pleasing disturbed him. Eerie (and strangely arousing) thoughts of those who shared the room and bed before him would brood in his mind. Also the masses wandering the city with lost identities all looking for something to fill the void (just as he was) somehow shattered Shane’s sense of individuality. To feel wanted again was what Shane was yearning for most at this moment.
Desperately seeking to feel part of the outside world, Shane opened the curtains. It was already dark outside, raining. It seemed cold. Raindrops were trickling into the river Thames, becoming part of a whole. He craved to feel apart of a whole again. The lights of the London Eye were doing its umpteenth rotation filled with excited tourists trapped inside, admiring the city. Silence filled the hotel room. While admiring this scene through the window he caught sight of his own reflection. He felt dark inside, just like the window that made it possible for his reflection to stare back at him. It has been five years since his so-called ‘freedom,’ but he had never felt more trapped. It was as if he had been hibernating ever since his departure from his hometown and was only waking up now, to find the life he had created, and was now used to, was tawdry and absent of substance.
Ever since his emancipation, Shane would never allow life and time to take its natural course. He was constantly planning, scheming, and undertaking so much in his years. The self-styled happiness he had continuously created and forced upon himself would always come to an abrupt end, leaving him with an even bigger obsession to be in control. Immense impatience unnoticeably became his way of living.
Whilst lying on the hotel bed staring at the ceiling, Shane recalled the days when he first moved to London. It had been an exciting time for him. Moving away from his home represented freedom, which also meant he would be able to live an openly gay life. This was a thought he had only dreamt about as a teenager. Thus, living in the city where there were many other gay men meant he finally felt part of a whole. However, the immense freedom he had discovered was not only enticing but also intimidating. Within this enormous city and all those who had become used to its splendour, Shane felt young and naive. This was exactly what he was, an eighteen-year-old boy who had been sheltered most of his life. He had no understanding of being independent and all the responsibilities that came along with it. Although being terrified Shane never admitted it to anyone, especially himself and was ashamed and annoyed by his own inexperience. Shane then consciously reconstructed his identity and pretended to be blasé about things that terrified him. He figured this way he would learn more and would not come across as naive. Shane also felt he had no time to waist as he had already lost so much time and experience in High School. Things most adolescent kids had experienced and some even mastered, Shane still had to encounter. A fear of peculiarity and ending up alone due to his immaturity fuelled Shane to learn as much as possible. Friendship, success, financial independence and alcohol abuse; but out of all experiences Shane longed for, the most vital was finding love and a relationship.
Back in the chilly room Shane had now climbed into bed, the soft sheets covering and warming his body, and for the first time since his return from the party, Shane found himself smiling. He thought about the first time he met him. Jesse Smith. Shane had just come back from a brief visit to his parents. They had been very concerned about his sudden weight loss since his move to the city. After many teary kisses and a final speech about his diet, his parents greeted him as he climbed into the train that would lead him back to his freedom. When the overland train stopped at St Pancras railway station, Shane stepped off onto the platform, carefully minding the gap, and immediately ran to the loo. He refused to use the mucky toilets trains provided and was puzzled at how any person could ever urinate whilst the train was in motion and not end up making a mess. When he walked from the restroom, he noticed a young attractive man wearing a dirty cap, confidently leaning against a pillar, about to light a cigarette. As he passed, he gave Shane a lingering stare and an almost smug smile. It was a well known fact that the English had never been particularly enthusiastic when it came to greeting strangers and Shane was no exception. Therefore, he just blankly stared at the oversized pigeons wandering around the same pillar and walked by trying to ignore the man’s overconfidence. Shane was feeling peckish after his trip from Otford and decided to have lunch at the local pub. After placing his order and waiting, it seemed the smug man had followed him and sat next to him. A couple of minutes of awkward silence passed when the guy assertively introduced himself, “Jesse Smith, nice to meet you.” Awkwardly, Shane reached out his, “Shane, nice to meet you too” he replied, still feeling apprehensive about the man’s spontaneity. Jesse then asked if he had a lighter to which he over eagerly replied, “No sorry, I don’t smoke.” Jesse then made a patronizing joke about how he would rather smoke and have more or less an idea of his cause of death. Shane just smirked and once again felt like a total prude. Jesse then asked if Shane would join him for a pint of beer and Shane thought what a great way to redeem his overly prudish image. After his second pint, Shane had relaxed more and started to enjoy the stranger’s company. At first, he suspected a flirtatious vibe coming from Jesse, then discarded it and blamed the alcohol. But when Jesse asked him what his plans were for the rest of the evening, he knew Jesse had ulterior motives. At first, he found this arrogance, confidence and forwardness intimidating and semi-annoying. Now, it thrilled him. Although scruffy looking and untrimmed, Shane admired Jesse’s beauty. He had a perfectly tanned skin accompanied with dark features and a very appealing, yet comical, Scottish accent. They agreed to find a more suitable venue to continue their flirtatious acquaintances. With bags from their trips, they walked for miles talking, laughing and sharing funny stories about their lives not knowing or caring about their destination. Hours passed before either of them realized that they were tired and sat on a step in front of a building they both had never seen before, in an area neither of them had ever been to. They continued talking without any hesitation. It was only then, that Shane first noticed Jesse’s beautiful lips. The mere thought of Jesse kissing him made his stomach stir, but with his confidence now once again low after the tipsiness from the beer earlier had subsided, he doubted this would happen.
Hundreds of people strolled by on adventures of their own, while they were still on the step. Both agreed they were starving and decided to continue talking over dinner. Finally figuring out where they are, which was Victoria, they had trouble finding an affordable restaurant open at this late hour. After another few miles and many closed restaurants, they discovered a random Persian restaurant willing to serve them despite having a private wedding function. Both Shane and Jesse found the two Persian cat sculptures at the entrance and the very outlandish decorations hilarious. A waiter showed them to a table, separated from the newly wed couple’s ceremony and both were relieved, finally, to be sitting comfortably. In the background, the ceremony sounded festive and seemed to have a karaoke theme. They chuckled as some old woman (it had to be the grandmother of either of the wedding couple) being heckled while she was trying her best to sing ‘I will survive.’ With much effort, they ordered from their non-English speaking waiter, forgot the ceremony and once again enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner, Jesse insisted on a few drinks and ordered shots. It only took three tequilas for Shane to feel confident. Six tequilas and two pints later both had befriended the family of the wedded couple and were invited to join the ceremony. They found themselves mingling, despite the lack of fluent English speaking relatives. Another few shots later (sponsored by the brothers of the groom) Shane and Jesse had joined in the party. They dared one and other to get on stage at the Persian wedding and join in on the karaoke. Both their solos were enjoyed by everyone, especially the wedded couple. Finally, they said their goodbyes and left the restaurant, which had closed hours ago to the public. It was now after midnight and both were desperately trying to sober up wile drowning themselves with bottles of Evian water. They then decided to share a room and started looking for a hotel. Both being tired and annoyed by the lack of reasonably priced hotels, they agreed to book into a five-star hotel.
The same hotel and room Shane was in now, still smiling under the covers, reminiscing about that eventful evening. He then remembered finally kissing Jesse’s gorgeous lips; lips that had been haunting him the whole evening: even while they were falsely singing Queen’s, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ They were sitting on the balcony, laughing about the randomness of the evening when Jesse suddenly stopped talking. An awkward silence, filled wile the sound of traffic in the background descended. He had a serious look on his face and for a second Shane was concerned. When Jesse pulled in and gave Shane the softest kiss, all his concerns melted, his hopes finally paid off and the moment devoured both of them.
After that night, they frequently met at the same hotel. Each time was better than the one before. Jesse was more than Shane’s first kiss. Shane had become infatuated. After the third visit, they agreed to be a couple. The first three months were filled with young love: they were obsessed with each other. Shane had finally found what he had been longing for most of his life. Jesse had been more than he ever had anticipated. The more they met, the more they planned to meet. Four months, and plenty of expensive hotel bills later, Shane knew it was love. He loved all the amazing qualities about Jesse. He was confident, spontaneous, fun and had so much ambition and plans for his future. In addition, Shane had learned the less flattering qualities about Jesse too, and his drug abuse was one that concerned him the most. He never supported it, but also never judged it. He believed Jesse when he claimed it was only for fun and he had it under control. Being in love was much more important to him. Their visits to the hotel had become less, due to Jesse having to work more often but they still saw each other every other weekend. Jesse had had many financial troubles to which Shane never hesitated to offer to help. Shane borrowed money from his parents to help Jesse, and Jesse assured him it was not for drugs and continuously promised that he would pay him back as soon as he had found a decent job. Shane never doubted that he would. He loved him too much.
Due to their lack of finances, by their seventh month anniversary their romantic hotel excursions had come to a complete halt. The last time Shane saw Jesse, they planned to meet at the hotel for their eight-month anniversary. It was only three weeks until then and they said goodbye at London Bridge Station as Jesse bordered his train. Shane felt that Jesse had been very quiet that weekend and he felt odd while walking down to the tube station on his way to Tesco’s to do some grocery shopping for the week ahead. The whole time while walking through the isles, Shane had a knot in his stomach about their parting and Jesse’s attitude towards him but chose to ignore it and give him some space. Days passed without them texting. Shane found it odd and tried calling but Jesse never answered. A few days later, Jesse’s phone number was disconnected. Shane tried every possible way to get hold of Jesse but had no luck. Shane was worried and wondered if Jesse was all right. Thoughts of an accident or death haunted Shane every second of the day with still no word from Jesse. It was only a week later that Shane received an email from Jesse saying:
Sorry, things would have never worked out between us. I have too many things to sort out. I love you but I am moving back to Scotland soon. I promise to pay you back when I can.
Shane had already had a whole month to process what had happened when he booked into the hotel this time, but the heartache and pain was still very much real. Alcohol and sleeping pills had been his only solace. But, Shane still went, hoping that Jesse would come. But he never did. He was now crying under the sheets. The room was dark and silent and the sound of his own sobs annoyed him. He hated feeling so vulnerable. But the closed doors, curtains and windows somehow made him feel less vulnerable. He was completely covered in darkness, hoping for change to come. He hated Jesse, but still missed everything about him, and this made him feel even more like of fool. His ears would constantly anticipate a knock at the door but silence was all they could hear. Hours passed and he fell asleep dreaming of Jesse.
Months passed with Jesse occupying his dreams. Shane would fondly look back at their wonderful times together and the hotel room in Victoria. He never went back there after that weekend. Shane’s resentment and longing faded. However, Shane could not forgive Jesse for breaking his trust. He felt betrayed and humiliated. Shane would always love Jesse but he was relieved to be able to move on without someone that could potentially have destroyed his future. He hoped only the best for Jesse wherever he was. Now conscious about how much he had learned from this experience, Shane felt more mature. He knew now to be more patient. Take time to trust. Take time to love. Practice self-control and just to let things be.