"I'll die like this. I'll cease to be! I proclaim loudly into the autumn eve air like some declaration of my muddled and ever-rotating manifesto. I squawk like a spastic to anyone and everyone who will listen, but no one seems to hear my shouts. What was once a life of bold and brash excitement now becomes tortured, left to long inside the brazen bull as I slowly melt away. I thought that death would free me from this hideous cadaver, but instead has merely left me this clumsy rabbit of a man."
Miles eyes never move from the somewhat stranger who sits at the front of the room while he speaks. He lets each spoken syllable hit him, landing in the most pleasant of assaults on his ears. The man he watches sits perched atop a wooden bar stool with a microphone in front of him. He holds a piece of paper in his hands that he'll once in a while glance down at although his monolog seems memorized. He always spoke clearly, never mincing words. His voice was light but tonight, and all the nights recently, it lacked a certain sureness that it once had.
His form was almost as beautiful as the literature he read. He was a small man, short with a slight frame and a boyish face. His hair was near enough to chin length, it flipped out slightly near his ears and his bags hung in his face. Occasionally he would push them away but more often than not he used to them to hide the honey brown eyes that Miles had become used to seeing. If the eyes truly act as mirrors for what the heart feels then it seems lately the man whos eyes had sparkled with joy and excitement all summer long had fallen victim to winter's chill. It's made apparent by the darkness of each word he now utters as he reaches his conclusion.
"We hear time and time again that love is patient and kind. That true love will help our ships sail safely back to shore in the roughest of seas, but on nights like tonight when the sky is dark and unyielding without a single star to aid in navigating my ways home I realize... Love is fleeting, and that's all it will ever be." He bites his lip as he finishes and slides down off of the stool, moving the microphone out of the way just enough to get by.
An older man, face half hidden by large wire frames glasses now approaches the small stage space that everyone has their attention pointed towards. " How about a round of applause for Alex? Wonderful as always!" He says, taking the microphone from the stand. "I'd like to wrap up the night with a few quick announcements. As you know it will soon be our year anniversary hosting these nights here at Java Monkey. We're very thankful to the owners for allowing us to continue doing so! To celebrate we will be having a special celebration next Saturday and encourage you all to come if you can make it out. We'll be starting at 6 pm. Also, management has asked us to mention that they are currently looking for a couple of part time baristas that could work evenings for our events on Wednesday nights as well as the acoustic open mics on Friday evenings. We hope to see you all back here again next Wednesday and make sure to mark your calendars for the anniversary date. Once again that is Next Saturday. Not this coming Saturday, but the one following. Thank you, everyone drive safely and have a good night."
Miles stood up from the high top table where he sat alone in the corner, doodling on a notepad full of half-coherent thoughts that he'd written. He always came to the coffee shop with the intention of writing something himself but never was able to get much done as he was easily sidetracked. He closed the notebook and picked it up from the table along with his brown leather messenger bag, swinging it over his shoulder as he looked around. Everyone else in the narrow coffee shop seemed to be getting to their feet as well. Some of the regulars were chatting with their different groups of friends, talking about different pieces that had been performed that night, football, the weather, and just about anything else. Miles didn't often talk to people when he came in, preferring to sit towards the back of the room and observe. He was nothing more than a fly on the wall, and that was how he liked it.
The shop was cozy, towards the front by the windows that looked out onto the street sat two large plush red chairs and a couch. Usually, they were occupied by a group of college students, all English majors who never failed to show up. There was one, in particular, a leggy girl with short blond hair who's writing Miles was particularly fond of. The long coffee bar took up most of one side of the room. Tonight the counter was manned by Zach, a tan man with dark hair and facial scruff that made the ladies swoon. He was often the only person in the shop that Miles would actually talk to on any trip in. Past the coffee bar, there was a small stage in the corner. The wall behind it was red in contrast to the tan of the remaining walls making it the focal point of the room. There were tables and chairs littered throughout the area and at one of them, just to the left of the stage was Alex.
A cigarette hung from the corner of his lips, still unlit. Yellow American Spirits, the same thing that he always smoked. Miles could see the pack protruding from the breast pocket of the denim shirt that he wore. He was pulling his arms through his leather jacket at the moment. Briefly, he stops to fold the sheet of paper he'd been reciting from and stuffs it into the pocket of his skin hugging jeans. He glides like a specter gracefully through the crowd and to the door and all the while Miles eyes never leave him.
"You want one for the road Mi?" Zach's voice cuts through the trance, breaking Miles from his thoughts.
"Huh? Oh, no thanks, mate. I ought to actually get some sleep tonight and another coffee won't do me any favors." Miles jokes, smiling at the other man. Zach laughs and sighs, shaking his head as he continues to wipe down the countertops, hoping to be able to close up for the night as soon as he can get everyone out the door.
" Yeah, I feel you. Did you get any writing done tonight?" He inquires.
"Not really, but I have drawn several trains," Miles said, opening his journal to show Zach the page. " They're trains of thought." He joked.
"Those are actually pretty good Miles, you should consider drawing something for the next art show, you could easily get on the wall," Zach said, looking at the canvases that covered the four walls of the shop.
"Nah, 's not really my thing." Miles shrugged
"And writing is?" Zach joked. "You've come in here every week for the past year and never once have you actually gotten up and read any of your work. When are you going to share something of your own?"
"Not much for sharing," Miles admitted. " I just like to come and listen to people. There's a lot of talent and I enjoy the atmosphere here."
"Whatever you say, Miles," Zach said, turning around to start rinsing out the cups that were in the sink.
"I'll be seeing you next week," Miles said, shoving his notebook into his bag and heading towards the door. He exits, pulling his coat tighter around him as his skin is exposed to the cold wind. The streets are empty, completely devoid of cars at the moment. All the other shops and restaurants along the row have already shut their doors for the night. The only light comes from the warm glow of the coffee shop and the street lamps, a few of which have gone out, leaving darkened patches along the street. Miles looks both ways out of habit before stepping out into the crosswalk. Down a ways he sees Alex walking the opposite direction of the way he's headed. His shoulders are hunched and his arms are pulled in tight to his body in a way that shows he's obviously chilled. Miles has his wool overcoat on and he's still not near warm enough, he can't imagine how exposed Alex must feel in just his leather.
Miles traces the roads he'd traveled down many times before to his apartment. It's only a few minutes walk, just over the bridge and down by the docks. From the street, he can see that there are still lights on in the living room. He could see flashes of color no doubt coming from the TV meaning that his roommate must be home. He climbed the stairs in the darkened hallway up to the landing and unlocked the door.
" Hey, I'm home." He proclaimed as he entered. He hung his coat up on the rack next to the door and slipped off his loafers leaving just his socks.
"Hi," a woman's voice greets him. "How was the poetry slam?" She asked. Miles makes his way into the small kitchen, grabbing two beers from the refrigerator and walking back to the couch where she sat. He handed her a beer as he sat down next to her, popping the top on his own.
"Not to bad. Zach was asking me when I was finally going to get up and do something. I told him that I probably won't. He was also trying to talk me into submitting something for the next art show." Miles shrugged.
"Honestly Mi, you're such a tourist. It's like you go and visit activities but never contribute. What's the point in life if you don't participate in it?"
"I like to observe!I don't go to these poetry nights to share my incomplete writing. I got to listen to others and get inspired." Miles insisted.
" You just go to look at Alex, have you grown a pair and spoken to him yet?"
"Eva! I can't just talk to him! He's incredible! He's so talented and absolutely smokin' hot." Miles complained.
"And so are you! Just suck it up and make a move already. I'm tired you coming home on Wednesday nights and pining endlessly over this guy. I've seen him, he's not THAT cute. You've just put him on this pedestal of perfection when, earth to Miles, he's human just like the rest of us." Eva rolled her eyes.
"You don't understand." Miles complained, "He's just...everything that he says, it's like listening to the voice of an angel. He's got a way with words that makes my heart absolutely melt." Miles whined. "Besides, I think he's straight. I know he had a girlfriend for a while. He used to write about her a lot. I assumed that it was a girl anyway. I think they've broken up though. All of his material has been dark lately. It's sad, it's like the boy I fell for over the summer has become someone else now."
" All the more reason to talk to him. Maybe he could use a friend to cheer him up!" Eva suggested.
" I don't know. What if he just wants to be left alone? Besides, I don't think I could be just friends with him so it's probably better that we just remain strangers. I want him too bad. I would just make it awkward. Again, what if he's straight. I mean there are some things he's said before in his writing that leads me to believe that he might swing both ways, but there's no way to be sure without-"
"Yeah! And you can't just flat out ask? How do you even approach that? 'Hello, my names Miles, and I was just wondering if you like men because I really want to do horrible naughty things to you. Oh? You don't? Excuse me while I go drown in my embarrassment." Miles threw his arms in the air.
"No, you could be normal about it. Just tell him you like his work and were wondering if maybe he would like to grab a drink sometime." Eva said, flipping through channels with the remote.
"And what if he says no. You know how much I hate getting rejected." Miles complained. Being a gay man it happened more often then he would like to admit when he misinterpreted someone's signals as flirtation rather than friendliness. Just because he'd become accustomed to it didn't mean it stings any less.
"If he says no then you suck it up and leave him alone like a respectful human being. These are very simple concepts, Miles." Eva rolled her eyes.
"The problem is... I've built it all up so much in my head this last year that if he said no... I mean I'd have to stop going on Wednesday nights. It's not like I contribute anything. It's possible that I wouldn't be able to go back to Java Monkey at all for fear of bumping into him and I DO have other friends there."Miles complained.
"It's not like he owns the place, you don't have to stop going there altogether. Just maybe don't go to poetry night and watch him like a creep." Eva said, finally landing the television on some late night talk show. Miles couldn't remember the name of the host, shows of this sort weren't something he watched often.
"I'm not a creep," Miles grunted. He would like to think that he doesn't do anything that is remotely shady.
"Oh please, you go ever week and stare at the back of his head for nearly three hours while you doodle his name in hearts in your notebook," Eva said. It's not entirely a lie. When Miles did get any writing done while at the coffee shop he was usually writing about Alex. He had sketched him a fair few times as well. One night he'd agonized about getting Alex's eyes just right, trying unsuccessfully to recreate them from memory after he'd gotten home. Still, he couldn't manage to replicate them in a way that he was satisfied with.
"I know... When you say it like that it does make me sound a bit strange doesn't it?" Miles sighed. " I can't help it. There's just something about him. It feels like there must be a reason for me to feel this insane attraction to him."
"You're never going to find out what it is if you don't get up the nerve to talk to him." Eva insisted.
"I know... but that doesn't mean that I'll ever actually end up doing it." Miles sighed. "I'm going to go to bed."
"Alright, see you in the morning," Eva said turning her attention back to the television.
By the time the following Wednesday rolls around Miles is still conflicted about what to do. During his usual weekly activities, he doesn't beat himself up over his little issue. It's when Tuesday night comes, and he's laying in bed that he starts to consider the idea that maybe Eva is right and he should do something about actually instigating a conversation with Alex rather than simply lurking around watching him
Through his day at work on Wednesday he tries to come up with possible ways to instigate a dialogue. Simple things from going out to smoke at the same time and mentioning the wretched state of the weather all the way to thing like leaving notes on his table when he'd get up to use the bathroom. He'd actually done that once before over the summer, leaving a sheet of paper with several small drawings on it underneath his coffee cup. It had made the other boy smiles, or at least he thought it did. Perhaps he had imagined it.
Usually by the time he got home from work and showered he had a plan fully formed in his head that was ready to be put into action, but after agonizing over the right thing to wear and finally getting himself dressed he would start to doubt his plan of action which would then go out the window by the time he finally arrived at the coffee shop.
Right now he was in the phase between shower and self-loathing where he'd tried on several garments, none of which seemed to fit his mood for the evening. He was examining himself in the mirror in a pair of crisp white denim jeans and a black and gray leopard print shirt. He thought it looked nice, and he liked the way that particular pair of pants hugged his leg, but was it too much for an evening like tonight? It could come across as being a bit too ostentatious. Although he liked to dress well, he didn't particularly care to attract attention to himself in the small coffee shop. Usually, he would ask Eva for an opinion but tonight she was nowhere to be found. He'd texted her twice now asking if she would be home soon, but she hadn't replied to him. Maybe she was out with some new man? Or, the more logical answer, was that she was ignoring him.
Miles sighed, deciding to swap the animal print for a black and white striped sweater instead. It was less flashy and it would keep him warmer anyway. With that, he grabbed his coat to head to the coffee shop.
As soon as he walked into Java Monkey he was appalled at the scene laid out in front of him. Everything was exactly as it should be. The stool and microphone were on the stage. The sign-up sheet was laid on the table near the door, already full of names. The regulars had already migrated to their usual tables. The only thing out of place was Eva standing behind the coffee bar with Zach.
" No... No, no, no NO!" Miles said stomping over to the bar. " What are YOU doing here?" He demanded to know.
"I bumped into Zach on the street earlier! We got to chatting and he mentioned that they were looking for a part time barista for these silly little poet's nights that you like so much so I thought that I would come and check it out!" Eva said as though it was the most casual thing in the world. Miles isn't sure who he should be more upset with Zach for suggesting that Eva come work with him or Eva for accepting.
"You've already checked it out. It's not like you've never been here with me before!" Miles countered.
" It's been a while! What if things had changed. How would I know? Besides, I could always use a little bit of extra money on the side." Eva shrugged.
"Bullshit, you're here to meddle and I know it?" Miles glared at her.
"Me? Meddle? Never! Why would you think that I would do something like that?" Eva asked in what is possibly the most sarcastic tone that Miles has ever heard in his life.
"Meddle in what?" Zach is already confused by what is going on between the two roommates as Miles doesn't talk openly to anyone else about his secret obsession.
"Oh, he's got a crush on a certain boy who is here on poetry nights." Eva giggled.
"Eva shut your mouth! He doesn't know and I'd like to keep it that way!" Miles insisted.
"It's not me is it?" Zach asked.
"No, of course it's not you." Miles rolled his eyes.
"What do you mean 'of course' it's not me? Is there something wrong with me Kane. I'm attractive! All the girls think I'm attractive!" Zach argued. "Really though, who is it? You can tell me, I won't say a word."
"I'm not telling you," Miles grumbled.
"Alright, then you're not getting coffee until you do." Zach threatened.
"You can't do that. That's blackmail!" Miles whined, he would really like a latte right about now.
"No, actually it's not and I do have the right to refuse service to customers if need be. In this case, that customer is you." Zach laughed.
"Oh Miles, just tell him already it's not that bad," Eva said. " I'm genuinely surprised that you didn't already know. He talks my ear off about him constantly!"
"Is it Matt?" Zach asked.
"No!" Miles sighed.
"Oh, I know. It's Alex, isn't it? It's got to be Alex." Zach says. Miles silence is all he needs to know in order to assume that he's correct.
"It is!" Eva confirmed.
"He seems like he's been upset an awful lot lately. You really should just go and talk to him. He's a nice guy Miles." Zach said.
"I can't. I'll get nervous and make an absolute fool out of myself." Miles sighed as Zach finally started to make his drink.
"He's hopeless. I've been telling him for the last year to just talk to the boy rather than pining over him like some strange love sick puppy." Eva said with her hands on her hips. Just then the bell above the door rings signaling the entrance of another customer. Miles looks over his shoulder to see that it is, in fact, Alex who's now walking up behind him.
Miles tries not to make it to obvious as he gives Alex a once over. He's wearing jeans as he usually is, with a gray sweatshirt and his worn-in black leather jacket. Miles steps out of the way to wait for his coffee while Alex orders his own. He can hear that Alex's voice is softer when he's speaking normally then when he's reading one of his pieces. He speaks with much less inflection and instead his tone has more of a rolling lilt to it that sounds a bit sleepy.
" Hey, Zach, why don't you let me make the drinks! I need to learn anyways. It shouldn't be too hard, right?" Eva suggests. Miles glares at her across the counter. He can tell that she's up to something. The way that she winks at him while putting the cups under the espresso machine makes him uncomfortable.
When She hands him his cup a few minutes later Miles bolts for the table in the corner that he usual sits at while Alex is still waiting silently for his drink. Miles is almost sure that he's gotten away without Eva doing anything awful until he hears Alex's voice again.
"Um, Miss? I don't think this is my drink. It tastes like vanilla I asked for cinnamon." He says.
"Oh, sorry. I'm new so I'm a little nervous. I must have swapped the orders. I guess I gave yours to the guy sitting over there." Miles looks over as Eva points in his direction. Alex is now looking right at him. Miles looks down at the cup on the table and noticed that it had Alex's name written on it instead of his own. It's official, Eva is the worst best friend ever.
"Hi," Alex says, walking over to Miles with the cup in his hand. " I um... I think the girl at the register got our coffee's mixed up on accident." He said, rubbing the back of his neck as if he were uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact. "Are you Miles?"
Miles' heart flutters at the way that his name sounds coming from Alex's lips. "Yeah, and you're Alex aren't you." Alex nods as they swap cups. Alex stands there awkwardly sipping his for a moment before Miles comes to his senses. "Would you like to sit down?"
"S-sure." Alex pulls the chair across from Miles back, taking a seat opposite him. "You um... You come in here a lot don't you?"
"Every week," Miles said.
"I um... I've noticed you sitting in the back a couple time. Not like... I mean I wasn't um- I wasn't looking or anything but I tend to stare towards the back a bit when I'm up there. It helps me to get over my stage fright." Alex admitted as he fidgeted with his cup.
"You don't seem like you have stage fright at all," Miles said, never would have guessed with the sort of confidence Alex exuded.
"It's all an act." Alex shrugged. " 'm actually quite shy." He added, letting his hair hang down in his face. "How come you never share anything with the group?"
"Eh, my writing is rubbish. I usually just come to listen." Miles shrugs. "Maybe I've got a bit of stage fright myself." Miles knows that's a lie. He doesn't have stage fright at all, quite the opposite he loves to be on stage. In fact, he and Eva have a band that has been playing shows here and there at local venues lately. If he's going to actual talk to Alex then he might as well be honest. "That's untrue actually. I'm in a band. I love to be onstage."
"Oh, a band? I've always wanted to be in a band, but this is really the closest I've gotten. I'm a poet, not a lyricist." Alex shrugged.
"A damn good poet too! I don't see why you can't do both." Miles said. "I'm actually a big fan of your work. You're my favorite of the regulars." Alex smiled laughing a bit.
" I didn't know that I had any fans," Alex said looking up to meet Miles eyes for the first time. Miles could feel his butterflies in his stomach when he finally felt those beautiful eyes connect with his own.
"I have been for a while now," Miles said. "Can I ask you something? About your work?" Miles asked.
"Sure," Alex replied
"I started to notice that...Well, when I first started coming to these events all of your material was a lot happier. The subject content was lighter, but more recently it's been getting darker. You're till talking about love, but now in terms of the negative instead of-"
"I went through a break up recently. I don't want to say much more about it than that." Alex muttered.
"I'm sorry. We've just met and that was probably far too personal for me to be asking you. I just sort of...." Miles stops himself from letting out what it is that he wants to say to Alex 'I feel as though I know you from your writing.'
"It's alright, I'm a writer that chooses to share what it is that I create. It's only natural that some people are going to be curious about what the inspiration behind it is. Most of the time I don't mind sharing. Actually, I get the feeling on occasion that more people want to ask, but they don't approach me. Matt says people are intimidated by me not because I'm you know physically imposing. Guess they just mark me down as strange... listen to me rambling I'm sorry." Alex said cracking a smile. "So you said you write as well. Do you sing in your band?"
"What? No, actually Eva, um... the girl behind the counter she's the singer in my band." Miles admitted.
"Oh, you two know each other? Funny that she would mix up our orders if she's familiar with you. Obviously she would know that your name isn't Alex!" Alex said.
"She must not have been paying attention it's only her first day," Miles said. " That or... well knowing her she's done it on purpose," Miles admitted.
"On purpose? Why would she do a thing like that?" Alex asked.
"Because she's the devil." Miles rolled his eyes. " Not really of course. Love her with all my heart but she likes to scheme and meddle in my life like we're in some high school TV series."
"That's not what I asked though," Alex said. " Why would she want to cause trouble in the first place?"
"That's a bit more embarrassing really. Remember how I said that I like your work?" Miles asked blushing a bit. "I might have told her a couple of times that I enjoyed your writing and that I wanted to talk to but I was a bit nervous to do it." Miles does his best to downplay just how much he'd actually spoken to Eva about Alex.
"That uh... sorry I shouldn't have asked. I didn't mean to make you blush, but it's worked, hasn't it? You and I are talking now! Although you really didn't need to be nervous." Alex said. " so you and-"Alex trails off looking over in the other direction at the counter.
"Eva, her name is Eva." Miles sighed.
"Are you two an item then?" Alex asked. "She your girl?"
"What? No!"Miles said quickly. The last thing he wants is for Alex to think that he's already involved with someone. He's not, especially not with Eva of all people. "We're roommates actually. We've got a flat over top of a convenient store down by the docks."
"It wouldn't happen to be Longashe's would it?" Alex asked.
"Actually it is! No way, how did you know?" Miles asked.
"I go in there every morning on my way to work to get cigarettes," Alex said. " They're the only ones close by that stock the kind I like."
"American Spirits right?" Miles asked.
"Now it's my turn to ask how you knew," Alex said cocking an eyebrow.
"They're sticking out of your jacket pocket." Miles laughed pointing towards Alex's cigarettes. "They're a bit hard to find in this area."
"Yeah, I can't give them up though. I know it sounds pretentious to like them because they're organic, but if I'm going to kill myself with something it might at well be quality." Alex shrugged. Miles wants to sigh with content but resists the urge. Now that he's actually talking to him he finds absolutely everything about Alex to be poetic. "So that Eva then, is she single?" Miles heart nearly stopped again, but this time for all the wrong reasons.
"Y-yeah she is, but didn't you say you'd just been through a breakup?" Alex asked. "I'm sorry mate just because I think you're a boss writer doesn't mean I'll let you use my best friend as your reb-"
"No, Gosh no! I wasn't asking because of that!" Alex said quickly, his face turning red. "I'm not looking for a girl. I was just curious if you two weren't together because she was with someone else. All that lusting after your best friend nonsense makes for great writing, I was thinking maybe I could pick your brain if that were the case." He admitted.
"It's not like that at all. I love Eva but not like that we're more like siblings and-" Miles pauses for a moment to decided whether or not he wants to admit what he was about to let slip from his lips like it had a million times before to an array of different people ( some more easily than other) "Actually I don't swing that way. I hope that's not a problem..."
"No, not at all. I don't judge." Alex said, shrugging and taking another sip of his coffee and looking around. As he does in walks a girl with red tinged brunette hair pulled back into a bun. She had full lips and wore a flannel shirt with what looked like a man's leather jacket that Alex's eyes when slightly wide when he saw. "Any chance you want to go and get a drink? I'm not really feeling the vibe here tonight." Miles is shocked, having not seen the girl come in or noticed Alex's change in demeanor.
"Sure that sounds good," Miles said smiling and getting up from his chair and reaching for his bag. He's so excited that he doesn't see the woman who's eyes track them all the way to the door.
"I don't think I've ever skipped a poetry night since they first started." Alex sighs, using his jacket to block the wind while he tries to light a cigarette.
"Can I have one of those, mate?" Miles asks, reaching for the pack as Alex holds it out to him. "I don't think I've missed one since I started coming here either. What makes tonight different?"
"That girl that came in. Her name is Arielle. She's the one that broke my heart. Wound it still too fresh to be alright with seeing her. She hardly ever comes around the shop which means if she's shown up tonight then it's obviously because she's looking for me." Alex sighed.
"Oh, so you wanted to leave to avoid her. Did things end badly between the two of you?" Miles asked.
"Other than entirely shattering my view of love, then things were clean," Alex said as he opens the bare wood door that leads into the dive bar around the corner. The windows are tinted in a dark shade to keep passersby from looking into the windows. The neon sign above the door glows blue reading 'Neptunes' The inside is smokey, with a vague scent of old beer. The bar sat to the right side of the room and a pool table to the left. At the front of the narrow room was a stage that was raised rather high off the floor, the wall behind it covered in stickers of the different young bands that had played there in the past. "About as clean as it can be when you've been living together anyways. Now she's started trying to come around. Says she doesn't want to be together, but she misses having me in her life. I told her she can't have both. " He sighed sitting down on one of the bar stools.
Miles took the seat next to him. They were the only patrons at the moment so they sat directly in the middle of the bar across from the register. Down the end an older man with gelled up black hair stood wiping down the bar's surface, attempting to scratch some sort of debris from it's top. "What will it be tonight boys?"
"I'll have a whiskey ginger please," Alex said. Just house liquor, nothing fancy. The cheap sort tended to come up on your quicker and he was desperate to forget.
"Alex, you can't keep doing this to yourself, it's-"
"I'm not drinking alone tonight, now am I Eddie so would you just mind your own business?" Alex snapped. Miles raised an eyebrow, maybe Alex does have a temper! How cute. "Sorry," He says turning to Miles. " Maybe I've been overdoing it a little since the breakup."
"It's alright mate, we all have our moments. I used to come in here a lot when I first moved from Liverpool. I didn't really know anyone in the area so Eva and I used to come here for shows. It was rather nice actually." Miles said.
"Played a few of them too," Eddie said, putting drinks in front of both of the boys.
" My band actually has a sticker on that wall," Miles said. "I'll buy the next round if you can guess which one it is."
"I think there are too many to even try!" Alex exclaimed getting up from his seat anyways and walking up onto the stage, looking at the assorted names that had been plastered above the stage. "I need a clue! What do you sound like?"
"We're... Eddie, how would you describe us?" Miles asked.
"Loud," The bartender replied as he started to dry the glasses he'd just taken out of the washer.
"It's indie rock with a sort of 60's mod flare," Miles said.
This game goes on for a while. Alex pointing at different stickers on the wall and Miles laughing at what Alex thought his band could be called until his hand finally lands on the right one. "Is it The Little Flames?" Alex asked. At this point, they'd made it to half way down the wall and they were both sitting on the empty stage floor.
"Yup, you nailed it. Good job." Miles laughed.
"No, really?" Alex seemed excited to finally have guessed right.
"Yup, about time too. I was about to cut you off. Wouldn't have been much of a challenge if I let you guess every single name on the wall." Mile nodded.
"I think I might have actually seen you play. A long while back! Maybe last summer. Who's the kid with the dopey bowl cut? He's great on guitar!" Alex said as he got to his feet, heading back to the bar with his cup in hand.
"Shut up! My hair wasn't that bad!" Miles insisted.
"What! No way that was you!" Alex laughed. It was the first time all night that Miles had heard a genuine laugh from Alex. The sort he had overheard from afar all summer long. Now it was directed towards him in a way that made him almost light headed with its intoxicating effect.
"Mmm yeah, it was. I'm much prettier now." Miles joked sitting next to Alex at the bar and turning to face him on the stool so their legs were touching. Alex didn't seem to mind which made Miles happy. It was actual physical contact.
"Yeah, you are. I bet you have all the boys flocking to you now that you've cut it don't you?" Alex asked.
"Not one. I am in a horrendous dry spell!" Miles admitted. "My last boyfriends... well it's been over a year I know that much." part of that so-called dry smell might have been self-inflicted because after the moment he'd first seen Alex, Miles didn't want anyone else.
"So what was he like then?" Alex asked. "I told you about Arielle, so it's only fair that you tell me about..."
"Jay, his name ways Jay. I was madly in love with him, but he was never really comfortable with his sexuality which made our relationship difficult. Eventually he opted to go back into the closet." Miles shrugged as Eddie poured them another round.
They stay there until the bar is closing. Both have had a few too many, especially for a Wednesday night, but they had come to the conclusion that neither of them had work in the morning. They had spent the evening talking about anything and everything from family, to football, to old flames that had long since burned out. As they argued over songs on the jukebox Miles start to see flashes of a boy he recognized from the summer time start to reemerge. Now as they walked along the docks on their way home he was starting to see a more open and real side of Alex that he was thoroughly enjoying. "I like Bukowski and all, but he's so cynical." Miles rolled his eyes.
"Oh yeah, well who's your favorite poet then?" Alex asked as he teetered on the edge of the sea wall.
"John Lennon of course," Miles replied.
"That doesn't count! He's a songwriter!" Alex insisted.
"It most certainly does count!" Miles replied, grabbing Alex's arm and pulling him down off the ledge. "You're going to fall in that water if you don't knock it off and it's COLD! Like hell am I going in there after you."
"You'd let me drown?" Alex asked, faking hurt.
"Yes." Miles tries to keep a straight face but can only hold it for a matter of seconds before they both start to giggle.
"... John Cooper Clarke, he's my favorite." Alex said.
" How very punk rock of you. I'm a little surprised given your style is nothing like his." Miles said.
"That's ok, we don't have to replicate something to love it." Alex pointed out. " There's this one poem of his that I absolutely love where he reduces himself to nothing more than household objects for the convenience of his lover. It's called-"
"I wanna be yours." They said at the same time.
"You know it?" Alex asked.
"Of course I do." Miles nodded. What he means to say is it's always made him think of Alex. He actually has the page torn from one of his books and pinned to the wall above his bed for that exact reason. Little does he know that Alex has the same as a form of inspiration.
"It's surprising how alike we are," Alex muttered as they reach his door. At this point, he's not ready to say goodbye yet and it seems like neither is Miles. "Do you want to come up. I could erm... show you some of my material," he suggests.
" Yeah, sure why not," Miles said. This is all going better than he could have imagined. He'd have to remember to thank Eva later. Today he'd gone from trying to figure out how to talk to Alex to standing in the doorway of his apartment, taking off his winter boots.
"Nice place you've got here," Miles said looking around. The apartment was spacious and open but all one room. The living room bedroom and kitchen areas all shared a single space.
" It's really all I need. I like the studio feel." Alex said as he took off his jacket and sat down on the couch.
" So, I'm curious. What were you going to read tonight?" Miles asked. "Since I didn't get to hear it and all."
"It was short, it's was more just a fragment than anything which may or may not have been part of the choice to leave." Alex shrugged pulling the paper from his pocket and tossing it onto the table as Miles sat down next to him.
"Short or not I'm sure it was incredible," Miles assures him. Alex pauses for a moment before he starts to speak.
"You look like you've been for breakfast at the heartbreak hotel, and sat in the back booth by the pamphlets and the literature on how to lose. Your waitress was miserable, and so was your food. If you're gonna try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes." Alex recites without looking.
"That's it?" Miles asked.
"For now. I'd like to add more to it eventually." Alex shrugged.
"It creates such a little snapshot on its own. Like you've frozen a frame in someone's life and pulled out that particular moment." Miles praised him.
"It happens all the time though. Always in the same place too, same person..." Alex trails off.
"So who's it about?" Miles asked.
"Well...."Alex looks beyond embarrassed at the moment but slides a bit closer to Miles as if to whisper it to him. "My writing comes from observing my surroundings usually. Taking little snippets for my collection, like photographs for use at a later time so it's only natural to let the things that are recurring in my life show up in my poems." He bites his lip in a way that's practically giving Miles a heart attack. " It's might just be a trick of the light, but when I see you sitting alone in the back... you just look lonely to me and bit sad."
"So it's about-"
"You, yes. I-I'm sorry." Alex said.
"There's no need to be sorry darlin'," Miles said leaning a bit closer as if pulled in by Alex's eyes. Should he make a move? Was this an appropriate time to do such things?
"This might sound strange... but it almost feels like I've known you forever," Alex says in just above a whisper. Miles is panicking. Is this just because Alex is drunk because the hand that has been rested on his knee tells him that the boy is being more than just friendly with him, but assuming too much could possibly lead to all of this blowing up in his face.
"Alex..." He mutters. He's about to pull Alex's hand away and get up from the couch but Alex is still coming closer and it's a dead giveaway that he wants to be kissed. His deep brown orbs, filled with hope and loneliness say it all loud and clear. When his eyes dart down to Miles' lips and back the choice is made. It's not the bruising passionate kiss that Miles had hoped his first with Alex might be like. It was gentle, and a bit unsure on both of their parts. Alex seems reluctant, possibly a bit shaky, but Miles pulls him closer, wrapping his arms around him to try and relax him a bit. It all starts slow, just a few quick pecks to the lips before becoming something more languid.
"I um..." Alex pulls away but not enough to be out of Miles grip. "I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me," he muttered looking ashamed. "It just seemed like the right moment to and uh... I mean um..." For being such a well-composed poet Alex seemed to at a loss for what to say.
"It's alright Alex, you don't need to apologize." In truth Miles really wishes that he wouldn't. An apology after a kiss gives off the impression that it was a mistake and that's the last thing Miles wants for it to have been. His heart couldn't take it, his mind was now flooding with possibilities. What if it was a mistake? What if Alex didn't actually like men in that way? What if it was just because he was lonely? What if after this Miles wouldn't see him anymore? They were just starting to get to know each other, it had been going so well. They'd been getting on like a house on fire, but this one stupid littler gesture might have just ruined it all and collapsed any standing chance that Miles might have had at getting what he wanted. All the uncertainty clears as soon as Alex lets out a sigh and rests his head on Miles' shoulder.
"Arielle broke up with me because she thinks I might not even be into girls. That's not true. I loved her with all my heart. Doesn't matter who I notice on the street... or what kind of porn I like... or that I like to kiss men." Alex insisted.
"Would you mind elaborating on the porn thing?" Miles joked, trying to lighten the serious turn the mood had now taken.
"Hah very funny. She caught me watching gay porn a couple of times. I don't see what the big deal is. Even straight men get curious." Alex rolled his eyes.
"So, do you consider yourself a straight man?" Miles asked.
"No, but I'm not gay either. It's like... you can like cake and still like ice cream! They're different, you don't necessarily have to pick one, or like one more than the other! But, for some reason, our culture is obsessed with the idea that as soon as you even try ice cream or admit that you like some ice cream from time to time that noooo you're only allowed to like cake now! No more cake for you, because you're gay!" Miles tried not to laugh at Alex's rant. He had to admit the way he huffed and threw his arms in the air was adorable. "I refuse to be the gay best friend to the woman I was very much in love with."
"Was, so then you're not anymore?" Miles asked maybe a little to hopefully.
"It comes and goes, I'm trying to work it out through my writing but god knows it's easier to say that you're over something then it is to actually be over it." Alex sighed. Nuzzling his head into Miles shirt. "I just really want something to help me forget," He adds as he starts to kiss Miles neck. Now Miles knows exactly where this is headed and he's not comfortable with that. He has to much respect for himself to be Alex's rebound and it breaks his heart that it's what he was about to become. He wanted Alex, he had for so long, but he couldn't degrade himself like that. He'd rather be rejected than used.
"Alex, please stop," Miles said, pulling away from him to the other end of the couch.
"But... but you kissed me. I thought that you were-"
"I'm sorry, I won't be someone you fuck to forget that girl. I can't do that to myself." Miles muttered.
"It's just for tonight." Alex almost whimpered half. " Please, I'm desperate. I'll let you do anything you want to me, just don't leave. I'm lonely, I'm depressed, I just need someone! Anyone!"
"And that's why it can't be me..." Miles sighed
"What do you mean?" Alex is a bit confused by Miles comment.
"I need to be honest with you about something...For the last year, I've gone to the same place every Wednesday, sat at the same table, drank the same drink and wrote about the same subject over and over and over again. It's because from the first time I heard you speak I became absolutely enthralled. I had to know what you were going to come up with the next week. At first, it was purely about your writing but then it all started to do things to my heart. Before I knew it I was falling in love with someone I didn't even know. I kept trying to think of things that I could say to you. I wanted to work up the courage to even manage a hello. It was a new feeling for me, I'm not the slightest bit shy but something about you scared the hell out of me. Then that sly little fox that I live with decided to take the part time position and no doubt screwed up the orders so I would have to talk to you...." Mile trailed off.
"And look how that worked out," Alex said. He didn't seem upset at all by Miles confession. "Now you're in my flat and I'm trying to get your pants off."
"You're drunk and looking for a fuck and I'm not your boy," Miles said looking down at his feet. "I don't want to be some one-night affair to make you forget that woman. I want to be someone that you could love. I guess maybe it's because I've spent to much time trying to imagine what it would be like if we were together that.... This is why I never talked to you. I knew something like this would happen and I'd rather have the idea of being able to have a relationship with you then to know I couldn't have it." Miles sighed.
"W-what if I told you I was open to it?" Alex asked, causing Miles to perk up a bit.
"Are you serious?" He asked.
"Well..." Alex rubbed his arms nervously as if he were hugging himself. "Yeah. I mean it should be fairly obvious that I noticed you. I've written about you. More than once as a matter of fact. We obviously have some sort of weird-"
"Connection?" Miles finished for him.
"Yeah. I could see you being someone I could fall in love with. Maybe I already am a little. It's far to early to think that I am, and I'm still healing. Give me the time though, I could." Alex admitted. Deep down he really does desperately want someone to love him. Despite his talents, he's a very insecure man. He hates to be alone because of his constant need for affection and reassurance. "I will warn you, I can be a bit clingy. I also, tend to fall to hard a little to fast."
"That's ok. If you want to try this then we can... we can go as fast or as slow as you want us to." Miles said.
"Slow might be better... sorry for trying to jump your bones earlier," Alex said. " I've had to much to drink, sometimes I get carried away."
"It's alright Alex," Miles said, running his hands through Alex's hair. "We've both had a few too many and I think it's probably best if I leave for the night. How does dinner tomorrow night sound?" Miles asked. Alex nods.
"Sounds wonderful. Just you and me?" He asked.
"Of course." Miles nodded. It would give them more time to get to know each other.
"Ok! How about I'll meet you outside your place at seven?" Alex asked.
"It's a date." Miles smiled. He leaned in to give Alex one more soft kiss before heading on his way.
In the morning when Miles gets up looking much more chipper than usual Eva pats herself on the back for her handiwork. She's twice as happy with the response when Miles tells her that he's got an actual date with Alex that night.
As it turns out that little spark of a connection between them is quick to grow. Their date goes almost perfectly, at least in Miles mind. On Friday they spend the evening at Miles and Eva's going through old records and drinking red wine. Eva is already sickened by how adorable they are in such a short period of time. This leads to Miles officially asking Alex if he'd like to be his boyfriend to which he, of course, says yes.
"So did you shag him yet?" Eva asks as Miles is picking through his closet on Saturday afternoon.
"No! You don't rush something like that Eva! We're getting to know each other. We haven't gone further than kissing and maybe a little over the clothes stuff!" Miles insisted.
" 'Over the clothes stuff' what are you sixteen? Jesus Miles." Eva rolled her eyes.
"We'll get around to it in time." Miles shrugs. " I'm in no hurry, seeing as I could probably spend the rest of my life with him and all."
"You really think so?" Eva asked.
"It's insane! I know it sounds cliché but I don't think I knew how wonderful love could before him." Miles admitted. " When he left this morning I-"
"Woah, wooooah, wait a second cowboy. You're telling me he stayed over last night and you didn't make a move?" Eva asked.
"Nope, we were just laying in my bed talking, kissing, just enjoying each others company and I guess we dozed off. No big deal really." Miles shrugged. Pulling his sweater on. "Are you coming to the coffee shop tonight. It's the year anniversary for the poetry nights." Miles said.
"I am actually, I have to work." Eva groaned. "I thought about quitting now that I've completed my mission but.... I enjoyed hanging out with Zach." She admitted.
"Aaaaw do you have a crush pumpkin?" Miles cooed.
"I swear to god Kane I will punch you," Eva growled.
When they walk into the coffee shop Miles goes and scribbles his name on the sign-up sheet before making his way over to where Alex is sitting. " Hey Al," he says as he puts a hand on Alex's shoulder. Alex looks up at him, eyes sparkling with excitement, a smile inching its way across his face as he hears the voice of the man who greets him with a peck on the lips before sitting down next to him.
"You're late."Alex jokes sliding a cup of coffee over to Miles. It says his name in Zach's messy handwriting but then someone (obviously Alex) had doodled little hearts and other designs all over it.
"Sorry, Eva was taking forever to get out the door," Miles told him.
As the announcer takes the stage to start the night Miles and Alex hardly pay attention. They're already to busy flipping through each other's notebooks and giggling over silly little in-jokes that had already developed between the two of them. Some of the regulars start to go up and read their pieces. Alex, of course will close, he's held the closing spot for quite a while now. About halfway through something happens that he wasn't expecting.
"Looks like we have a new entry tonight. Miles Kane why don't you come on up." Miles jumps up walking to the stage and taking his place.
" Hi everyone, so I always come to these things but I never had anything I wanted to share until now. This is about someone special. Someone I've wanted to share my writing with for a long time because it's always about him." Miles says taking a deep breath and looking down at his journal to the words he'd written just that morning.
"He means me." Miles sees Alex tell Matt and Jamie with a tint of pink in his cheeks and a toothy grin.
"I want to cling on your shadow. I want to use pseudonyms. You say the way and I'll follow. I won't try to escape. And I don't know why on earth I'm calling, calling at this time of night. You've got me hoping for some happenstance baby, you've got me uptight. I don't know who you are. All I know is you fold me in half. I want the slope of your sorrow. I love the curve of your neck. I want the fuse to your morals. I want the keys to your chest. I don't know who you are. All I know is I'm caught up on you." Miles finishes.
It's easy to say that Alex cheers the loudest. Miles feels a sense of pride knowing that people actually liked his work, not that the opinions of the others mattered much. It was Alex. Alex Matter, Alex had always mattered, and he would matter more with each day that passed. This was the start of something big Miles could feel it in his bones, and as the other man laced their fingers together under the table Alex could feel it too.