To his mind, Charley Inglewood had only been in love three times in his life. The first had been a man twenty two years older than him. The second, a brief but passionate affair, with a man twelve years older than him. His ex was only nine years older than him. Pretty young for him.
Charley wasn’t sure what drew him to older men. He knew that he wasn’t looking for a Daddy figure; he wasn’t into anything like that and he didn’t need a Sugar Daddy either; that was a train wreck waiting to happen.
In the end, Charley thought he went for men that attracted him. Or at least he used to. He had been off of the dating market for well over a year. He didn’t think he had very high standards. The guy had to be able to talk, had to be somewhat intelligent. Oh, and they had to have the basics of hygiene down pat; that was a biggie.
You would think he was searching for a needle in a haystack. After a month, Charley celebrated his independence. After three months, and a few bad dates, Charley tried to enjoy living alone. At nine months, he wondered if he should strike hygiene off of the list but decided against it. At twelve months, he had a revelation.
We are defined by time from the moment we enter the world. If you think about it, we are born to die; from the moment we take our first breath, we are heading towards a great journey. Some like to get it over with as quickly as possible, some take their time and see what’s out there.
We define ourselves with people too. We are defined by the relationships we carry with us, by the people we associate with. But, more than anything, we define ourselves based upon our romantic entanglements.
Charley’s friend Scott argued that humans weren’t meant to be with one person for their whole lives. “I mean, we’re descended from apes, right? So you look at apes. Yeah, they carry on serious relationships, but they are never with one mate for very long.” He had tapped his head and given Charley an intense stare. “It’s all in our heads man. It’s instinctive.”
Where love was concerned, Charley tended to agree with him. There were some things in love that were inherently instinctive; they were intuitive, intense. If the feelings were strong enough, if the spark is there, the resulting emotions are often intense and incredible.
There had been fillers, stand ins. For a time, Charley had indulged in the seedier sides of sex: bath houses, fetish clubs, sauna’s. He had been there, done that, gotten the t shirt and the membership card.
In the end, he didn’t mind living alone. But why was it so hard to find a guy who wasn’t screwed up in the head and wasn’t a total wackjob of some sort? He wondered if this is what women went through on a daily basis. There was just too much testosterone in a gay relationship.
His blackberry buzzed on his hip. He took it out of the holster. It was an in coming call. It was him. “Hello?”
“Hey,” Zackarius said. “How’s your day going?”
Charley stared at the bay of monitors in front of him. That Nanna McKanda’s daughter was a real bitch. He was almost hoping she would show up. He’d love to see the look on her spoiled little face when he told her she couldn’t go up.
“Not bad.” Charley said. He tried to keep the nervousness out of his voice. He had met Zackarius online and they’d bee on one date and were planning another. He wondered if it was going well. Charley had been surprised by how off his game he was.
He had been out of the dating game too long, he realized. He had forgotten what it was like to bring someone else into his life. He wasn’t talking about furniture and clothes or even a toothbrush. Instead, he was more focused on the other things. What to say and what not to say? Family stories to avoid, the unfortunate camping trip you took as a child.
Charley Inglewood had forgotten how to speak to those he was attracted to. A stranger sitting on the bus reading a book? No problem. An old woman in a grocery store? You bet. Someone in line in front or in behind him? Okey dokey. But put someone he was attracted to in front of him?
Big problem. The words in his mouth felt thick and heavy when he was attracted to someone and he often found himself thinking really hard before speaking; he wondered if it gave his eyes a glassy look. Charley hoped not.
And then he wondered whether the guy liked him. I mean, sure, Charley knew that he was a catch. But he was do damn nervous about this kind of thing. Why did it feel like high school all over again? He was in his late thirties and it was as if he had never escaped those unhallowed halls.
In a way, it was as if the fat, bespectacled, zit faced young kid he had been was still following him. In his more free thinking moments, he wondered if the child he had been was still hiding somewhere inside of his shadow?
“I need a drink.” Charley said.
“What?” Zackarius’ voice on the other end of the phone was full of amusement.
Crap, had he said that out loud? “Sorry,” Charley said. “Long day.”
Zackarius Lemieux laughed. “Tell me about it. But did you want that drink?”
Charley blushed. “Yeah,” he said.
“Did you want to go for one? I can pick you up after work.”
The blush on Charley’s cheeks deepened. God he liked this guy. “Sure, yeah, sorry,” Charley said. “I’d appreciate it very much.”
“Nothing to appreciate, I have a selfish motive. I want to see you again. When do you get off work?”
Charley looked at his watch. “In about an hour.”
“Cool. I’ll call you when I’m outside. See you soon.”
“Sure.” Charley said. He hung up and stared at his blackberry. He was intelligent, smart and hot. And he liked him.
“Shit.” Charley said.