Chapter 1: I Should Have Known Better
JOE MADSEN

Cal was too awake to sleep but too hungover to move. He kept his eyes shut, hoping to doze off again. But then he heard his phone buzz, which must’ve woken him in the first place. Louder and louder it grew, until he could ignore it no longer.

“Jesus H. Christ…” he groaned, snatching it from the night stand to silence it. Unknown number. Slumber ruined by some scammer.

“Fuck me…” he whispered. “I need water.”

“Huh?” said someone behind him, making him flinch. Cal felt sure he was alone. But as he turned to look, he spied a tuft of shaggy blond hair poking out from the covers. When he pulled the blanket back, an angelic face was revealed, atop a hairless torso.

The kid from the bar, he remembered. Though he couldn’t recall getting him home. As he pieced the night together, the kid’s eyes fluttered open.

“Hi…” he whispered. Grinning. Wearing nothing but a thick gold chain. The more Cal looked, the more he remembered… except the name, of course. Then the kid lurched forward and rested his head on Cal’s chest.

“Good morning…” he said, gazing up. A second later, he leaned in for a kiss. Playful at first. And then a little deeper. He reached a hand into Cal’s trunks, and Cal leaned back to let him work away.

“Keep going…” he said, not minding the kid’s stale boozy breath. It was kind of a turn on. He felt a tongue on his neck, collarbone, and chest, and a second later, the kid disappeared under the covers.

Hand on Sheets

Cal heard the phone buzz again. He snatched it up and  hit decline. Same unknown number.

“Keep going, baby…” he whispered, fingers woven in the kid’s hair. Eager thing.

His phone buzzed again. But only once. He flipped it over and saw a voicemail, and without really thinking, he hit play and listened..

“Hello, this is a message from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. I am calling with an urgent message for Cal Dunleary…

“Oh Christ…” he mumbled. The kid’s head bobbed faster.

“You came into one of our clinics on Monday, March 2nd, for a full STI screening.

“Mmmhmmm.”

“Your bloodwork came back negative for HIV, but your test results for the chlamydia screening came back positive.

“Jesus…,” Cal muttered. The kid’s work became manic.

“As you know, we took cotton swabs from your throat, rectum, and penis.

“Oh, fucking get to it…” he groaned. It’d be any second now.

“And you’ve tested positive for chlamydia in each of those three samples, so we’ll need to see you right away to administer treatment. And please be advised that you should not engage in any sexual activity until at least seven days after we see you. Please give us a call back as soon as you can. Thank you and be safe.”

He tossed the phone to the floor. With another primal groan and jolt of the hips, he let himself go completely. And felt glorious for a moment. Until his nerves began burning and the kid wouldn’t remove his mouth.

Legs

“Hey, enough!” Cal chuckled, squirming.

The kid emerged with a grin. “That’s for being on your phone.”

Cal smiled and suddenly remembered something. “Feral thing.”

The kid giggled. “You kept calling me that all night.”

He leaned in for another kiss and rested his head on Cal’s chest.

“What time is it?” he yawned.

Cal checked his watch on the stand. “It’s 10am.”

Bedroom Sun

“Shit.” The kid tossed away the covers and jumped to life. Pretty little scamp. Throwing on his briefs, pants, and thermal. Cal wondered where he had to be at this hour on a Saturday morning. And who could be counting on a 21-year-old to be there. Wearing all but his shoes, the kid looked up, smiled, and shrugged.

“Well…” said Cal.

“Well what?”

“Well did you put those clothes on so I could watch you undress again?”

The kid laughed. Cal pulled the blanket down and beckoned him back to bed. He took a seat while Cal caressed his leg.

“So…” he said, massaging his inner thigh. “Do you have work today or something?”

The kid shook his head.

“You in school?”

The kid nodded.

“Oh dear,” said Cal. “Undergrads are usually a dealbreaker.” He started kissing the kid’s neck.

“I can’t,” he laughed nervously. “I have to go.”

Cal grabbed his shoulders and pulled him down to the bed in a heap. “You sure about that?” They laughed and rolled over each other until the kid disentangled himself, panting and grinning.

“I don’t get it,” said Cal. “You don’t have work. You don’t have school. What’s the rush? You have a boyfriend or something?”

“Well…” he said slowly.

“Oh god…you don’t have a girlfriend, do you?”

“No,” the kid chuckled. “No, you had it right the first time — I have a boyfriend. Remember me telling you last night?”

That dampened Cal’s mood a bit.

“I vaguely recall,” he said. “But I remember more of what we did than what we said.”

The kid smiled, averting his eyes. Cal remembered he had a problem with eye contact. Lots of looking around the face.

“So it’s off to see the boyfriend then?”

The kid nodded.

“If he’s as cute as you, tell him to come here instead,” Cal yawned. “The three of us could have fun.”

“Oh god,” he blushed. “I don’t think he’s ready for that.”

“You gonna tell him about your night?”

The kid bit his lip. “Still figuring that out.”

“Ah,” said Cal. “Well while you do that, how bout you give me your number.”

Without another word, Cal picked up his phone and put it in the kid’s hands. He decided maybe now would be best to share the news from the health department. Rip the bandaid.

“Hey listen, I want to—”

“Here,” the kid said, returning the phone. The new contact read Skyler from Indigo.

Indigo Club

Cal rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe I went to Indigo last night. So was your boyfriend not around or something?”

“He can’t get into bars,” Skyler answered. “Too young.”

Cal shook his head. “How the hell are you two surviving monogamy if you’re out at the bars picking up strangers while he’s home jerking off and crying himself to sleep?”

Skyler grinned. “Well that was my first time out in a bar…”

“Oh wow,” said Cal. “No wonder you were at Indigo. I bet you showed up with your girlfriends too, right?”

The kid looked confused.

“Hon, you came late to the party,” Cal continued. “Indigo is no longer a gay bar, ok? It’s been taken over by straight women who are more comfortable than ever in gay bars, followed by straight men chasing ass.”

The kid smiled. “But weren’t you there with a girlfriend last night?”

“Not a straight girl.” Cal turned back to his phone, sending Skyler a text with his full name. But when he looked up, he could see the kid staring at his desk. Likely one of the framed photos.

“Just sent you a text,” Cal said. But the kid didn’t react — just kept staring.

“See something you like over there, Skyler?”

With quizzical eyes, the kid turned to ask a question. But at that moment, his phone buzzed in his pocket. Cal’s text. When the kid read the message, his eyes opened wider.

“Something wrong?” asked Cal.

Skyler said nothing for a second. Then he said quietly, “I couldn’t remember your name all night and I definitely didn’t know you were Cal Dunleary.”

“You say that like you know who I am.”

Skyler nodded. He looked uncomfortable. “That picture on your desk…”

“Which one?” Cal asked.

“The one with your nephew,” he said nervously. “That is your nephew, right?”

Cal eyed him carefully. “You know Mickey?”

“Mickey…” Skyler continued. “…is my boyfriend.”

The room went still. Neither had a clue what to say.

Messy Bed

“Well fuck.” Cal’s face was hot. He could feel his pits dripping. And the kid had a look of panic that wasn’t helping.

“How old are you?” Cal asked. “Are you even 21?”

Skyler guped. “I’m 18.”

“Prove it.”

“I swear I am — I’m Mickey’s age.”

“I know how old my nephew is,” Cal said. “Doesn’t mean I know how old you are. Show me your ID.”

He yanked his wallet from his pocket and fished through it frantically. When he pulled out his license, another card dropped to the floor which Cal stood to pick up. A high school ID he knew immediately. And there was Skyler, done up in jacket and tie above words that read ‘Class of 2020.’

“Oh fuck me…” said Cal. “You’re a Prep boy.”

Skyler looked up and nodded. Cal handed him the ID. He stared at the kid — anxious thing — and couldn’t help but think that telling his nephew seemed out of the question. Mickey had never even told Cal he was gay.

And letting the kids keep dating seemed impossible, too. It didn’t feel right, allowing them to go on with Mickey blind to the fact that his uncle fucked his boyfriend.

Skyler looked like he might cry. “What should we do?”

We,” said Cal,“are not going to do anything. Because there is no we here. We didn’t happen, and we aren’t gonna tell Mickey anything. Ok?”

Skyler bit his lip. Hard. His eyes were watery. Cal didn’t like watching it, but he’d been through harsher scenes, and this didn’t quite compare to those.

“I can’t lie to him…” the kid said quietly.

“You won’t have to,” said Cal. “You won’t ever have to talk about it because you’re gonna break up with him as soon as you see him in school.”

Skyler gulped, scrunching his face and pulling at his hair. He couldn’t speak the words to disagree. And his eyes were roving everywhere.

“You love him,” Cal said.

The kid’s eyes found him again and he nodded.

“But you had sex with someone else.”

The kid stood still now. No shrugging. No hair pulling now.

“And it was the worst someone else it could’ve been.”

And then at last, tears rolled down the kid’s cheeks. “I don’t want to break up with him.”

Cal sighed. “I know. And I know this sounds awful, but this is one of those times when telling the truth would be so much worse.”

Skyler shook his head and crossed his arms. Tears gently flowing.

“Kid,” Cal continued. “You have so much of your life ahead of you. So many other guys you’re gonna fall for. Who are gonna fall for you. And in a few years, Mickey will just be a fond memory.”

Skyler put a hand on his mouth.

“Trust me,” Cal added. “This truth you want to share will do no one any good. Least of all Mickey. And neither of us wants to hurt him.”

Male Shoulder

Cal resisted the urge to put a hand on his shoulder, the one who was all kisses and cuddles moments ago. And then Cal remembered he had a card left to play.

“There’s one more thing you need to know,” he said. “When you break up with Mickey on Monday, you have to promise you won’t hook up again after it’s done, ok?”

Skyler looked at him with puffy eyes. “I never actually said I’d break up—”

“Well you will, hon,” Cal interrupted. “Because I have chlamydia, and right about now, I bet you do, too. Understand?”

Skyler looked shocked. More tears burst from his face.

“So you see my problem.” said Cal. “I can’t have you giving my nephew my chlamydia?”

He threw on a t-shirt and jeans and snatched a long coat from the closet, ushering the kid out of his room. Through the apartment. Into the hallway. Trundling down the stairs to the street. When they got outside, they walked silently through the cold rainy morning.

Skyler stopped crying at last. “Where are we going?”

“The free clinic. You’re not getting tested today — it won’t show up — but you need to know where it is when you do. Give it a week.”

The kid stopped and stared. “You think it’s a good idea to go to a public health center right now?”

Cal shrugged. “Better now than later. And the panic is overblown anyway. It’s not doing anyone any good.”

They resumed walking in silence. A block later, Skyler had another question.

“When did you find out you had chlamydia?”

“This morning — while you were blowing me.”

“Oh.”


BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Issue.25: In Motion: The Performance of Movement

Insatiable

FROM THIS ISSUE
Issue.44: The Present Moment

Modern Time(s)

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