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His Change in Heart

A Short Story


John River

Published by John River at Smashwords

Copyright 2018, John River

The crying came spilling out unbidden in violent waves. A hatch had been opened.

Sitting sideways on the couch in the dreary, musty, mid-city apartment that Theo could not afford to share but did, it poured out – in these wonderful-horrible waves and all over the phone sat in his hand. The person on the other end, his boyfriend, was asking for assurance that he was okay. Theo are you okay? I’m sorry. Please.

Theo was unwilling as well as unable to convey to this man that he was okay. He was bawling in some ancient primal way and the absurdity of wanting him to show some sign of being ‘okay’ was not lost on either of them.

I don’t expect you to be okay; you can punch me if that would make you feel better.

In fact, in the tremendous grief that flooded him, grief that had miraculously and dramatically broken though a wall put up by forty milligrams of citalopram a day, a wall that had never yet been scaled by tears such as these; Theo did not know what this psychopath wanted.

The man on the phone was reassuring him that he loved him and wanted to be with him and was there for him and they should be together and that he was sorry (a sentiment this man was miserly with but there it was!).

But the grief Theo felt was not just about ‘cheated on’. Not only that. A culmination of sorts, it included maybe the grief of the entire apartment complex, the people in it, but also that pallid beige of its nicotine-and-miscellaneous stained walls and its under-designed gloom. Or maybe it had in it a grief for how things had not been fair or easy for Theo for the longest time. It certainly included a delayed grief over the fact Mark had kicked him out their place six months ago – while maintaining that he loved him and that they were partners – but also, a grief that Theo always had no money, less than none; in debt. Maybe there was grief in him that had been deep in there since he was born, and he was only just realising; that he had never wanted to live perhaps, but was forced to or that he had left his mother’s womb too soon or some other thing he could never fully know?

It was safe to say that there was grief from all over the place and it was now pouring out through his face and all over the phone and all over the room.

You kicked me out, said Theo, between gulps, a point, admittedly, that had nothing to do with this Bangkok infidelity – except it did.

Even contrite, Mark held his ground on the asking-Theo-to-move-out topic by saying nothing. Mark was then asking to meet him. Come in to town? Theo stared at the phone.

Are you there? Are you there?

I … don’t … I don’t… think … (between sobs).

Just let me come over, I am going to catch a taxi to your place.

No… No, I …

Yeah I am.

No, I’m fii-iine! Said Theo in a way that was comically unfine. A sort of sobbing caricature of what it is like to not be fine. And then,

did you … use … (all this between sobs)

Mark understood and said, yes, and of course, and, I would never (and this went on for a while) and then he explained more about how accidental it all was but that there was a condom. More sobbing ensued, now on both sides and when all that could be said had been said at least once;

I am going to go.

Theo wait –

The hang up was powerful and satisfying but the loneliness that followed – unprecedented. The flatmate was out which had seemed great and then terrible in the same moment. The apartment was a planet all to Theo. There was no one else in this beige walled world of summer evening gloom. There was a tv. There were magazines. There were the sounds of the mid-city street coming through the sliding balcony door, sounds that drifted up in the heat like the smell of the ubiquitous liquid that leaks from rubbish bags and cook slowly on summer footpaths.

And amazingly the crying – the bawling – continued even when Theo was by himself. It both weakened and dignified him. It followed him around the kitchen and then into his clothing-laden, unfurnished bedroom and then back to the couch; there was nowhere it was not. Out on the balcony it was there – the incredible gasps and sobs – with the half-forgotten pot plants and a clotheshorse half-heartedly strung with his flatmate’s clothes, some of them littering the ground like windblown fruits – and the only person he could think to call about the tsunami-sized sobs was Mark.

He spat his name suddenly. The desire to punish Mark reared itself for the first time. On the phone Theo had been compassion but now a darkness came up, and from the sofa to the balcony and back again were all thoughts of how Mark would suffer, how Theo would move on and rise up and Mark would never, and Mark would die in remorse or live a life like death. Theo decided he would not look at his phone, he would just let it lye. He would not look at it – he would not think about where it was – he didn’t have a phone. What is a fucking phone?

And then he just felt so tired – so he grabbed his sleeping pills – because it occurred to him that he really deserved to sleep – so fumbling with them like he was a drug addict from a movie he took four of the bitter things with a gulp from a red wine bottle by his bed. And then another six. Enough to knock even his sleeping-pill-hardened brain into a guaranteed sleep, because, it seemed to him in that moment: the worst would be to not take enough and then be drunk-not-thinking-straight but awake.

A cigarette and the balcony were the place for him now he thought, having swallowed just one more little blue pill for luck; because he deserved a cigarette and could suck it right to the filter and not feel guilty, or have two; and by the time the cigarette/cigarettes were done he would be able to fall into his bed and continue falling. His bed would be a black pit. He would spin down head over heels! And he lit the cigarette and maybe already could feel the fumbling effects of the horrible blue pills which were really just a whack to the side of the head.

Slumped on the balcony he dragged enormously on the cigarette and another wail of sobs came up, but it was nice, in a way; he felt alive. He sure had some adrenaline in his system! And there was beauty in the shadowed balcony, and the derelict street below and all of them on the poor side of the building that seemed to never get any sun not once. He could spy people like him when he leaned over the railing, the lost and the lonely – the people who brought cigarettes with their last twenty dollars for the week when it was only Thursday; they shuffled outside the city mission in varying states of hopelessness or wild-hopelessness. But they weren’t friends with each other, what could they give each other? They were all on the brink. That repelled. This made Theo sadder; so he smoke-cried. Slumped back down against the wall.

The nicotine was intoxicating and the wine was delicious and his life was a beautiful mess and after a couple more cigarettes, the butts thrown over the balcony in an act of petty rebellion, he had one thing left to do and that was make it to his bed; a tricky stumble as oblivion was already on him.

He fell, clothed, half on top of a dishevelled duvet and like a sinking ship he spun down, on his stomach with his face turned toward the large mirror that was also a wardrobe and took up a whole wall. Theo looked at his face in the mirror feeling strangely very awake right now and at some point, while he looked at his own face, a face that looked every bit as destroyed as he felt, he realized he would not cry anymore and missed crying. The drama had left and there was just the reality of him staring at his own face that lay like a wreckage on a lumpy pillow. He felt love for that face and fell asleep.


His phone was on his bed. It was dark now and hours had passed - but no more than a few. He knew these things somehow. He was not overly disorientated as he might have hoped. Perhaps he knew what the time was because the TV was playing in the living room which meant his flat mate was home and watching it, which meant she wasn’t yet in bed.

His phone was buzzing again and luminous on the bed now. The room only lit by orange streetlights pouring through an undrawn curtain. Twenty-three missed calls from Marks number, which came up as +64275348886 (he had deleted it so many times he just knew the number). He looked at the text messages which were too many to really bother with but the jist was:

Mark was worried he was dead, he was outside the apartment building now and would he please let him in, he was really worried, and then he was angry, (ironic).

Theo text back, Im fine woop woop, which once sent he realized said, Im fine woops, due to auto-correct or brain-muddle. Theo felt the need to correct instantly: I meant woop woop. And then, Im fine woop woop was what I was meant to say. Which all in all was a laborious thing to type out and way too many words to be spending on Mark right now. And then finally he realised he should send: Goodnight talk tomorrow, to really close things off.

And then, inevitably, at some point in this half sleep, Mark called and Theo just answered.

Mark spoke and Theo listened. There was not much he wanted to say or had the energy to. Mark would have been alone in his house and Theo's very real numbness would have come down the phone like a chilling frost supernaturally turning that fucker's snug house the grey colour of a horror-film-twilight. And Mark was so sensitive to darkness of any kind (accept his own but that's another story) that he would have felt spiders crawling out of the walls and heard tapping on the windows and no-one would ever comfort him like Theo had, brave reckless Theo, now forever a million miles away in the same city.

But - after hearing the full extent of Marks story, the cabs, the calling of friends in panic, the attempts to break into the apartment building, the yes/no of calling the police/ambulance/whoever:

Wow, sorry. I am really sorry. I am not going to kill myself. It never crossed my mind.

And all of this was underscored, Theo realised rather late in the game by: Marks best friend who had killed himself ten years earlier.

Mark had just somehow reversed the victim of this whole fucken situation.

But still, it was Theo who called the conversation to a close and clearly maintained their relationship on the broken-up side of ambiguous:

Let's talk later, I need a couple of weeks space I think.

A couple of weeks? Don't do that. Don't do things just because you think you should...

I am going now... and Theo hung up.

Shadows created by the streetlights seemed to carve out the bedroom. It was a crime scene. It was a human torso, maybe Theo's, clawed out and empty. Two more sleeping pills were in order – Theo had work tomorrow.

On a mute journey to the bathroom, past the TV-loving but watchful flatmate, and back, knowing he looked theatrically worse-for-wear Theo allowed himself to have a sort of 'bounce' in his stumble.


Two days later, finding the brothel involved two buses and walking back and forth in the summer sun. By the time he located the place for-real beads of sweat ran down from his armpits in surprising trickles and right down to the sides of his stomach. Theo's countenance was fluster with a note of edginess. He found a spot nearby to gulp down some Ativan and smoke a confidence-inducing cigarette and skipped with head down up the narrow flight of steps to the granny-flat door that was apparently a fucking brothel. It read MATADOR in stickers in the widow.

The meeting went by in a haze of marijuana smoke and chatting and photos. Fabio who owned the establishment was a Brazilian man with greasy ash-blond hair who could be an old thirty-five or a young sixty and spoke slightly incoherently but was also somehow gentle and looked at Theo with veiled dollar-signs in his eyes. Theo's crisp white shirt (Mark’s), demure well-spoken manor, and abstinence from both the pot and the alcohol offered seemed to set him apart from the other two boys, who lay, handing around a joint in the couched waiting area. They were all friendly and if they wanted to have sex with Theo at all it was only a little-bit, as though they had all had enough sex in their lives but they would not beat him off with a stick – a sexual tension at just the right amount for doing business. The boys told him what to expect in wry tones and then Fabio took Theo with him to get some burgers and chips; a divinely timed offer (Theo was skint and starving) and repeated the not very complex system of how things worked: a couple of times a week or so he would get a message and arrange a time, then Theo'd come in and serve a man sexually for an hour.

Theo ate the burger, and the chips. It felt like Fabio and him were friends just met on the playground playing a naughty game.

The fist hundred-and-seventy dollars Theo walked away with (he had received a twenty-dollar tip), was a bundle of three different coloured notes sitting next to his pills in the back pocket of his backpack. He could top up his phone, get a one-month bus pass, some cigarettes (maybe he had quit though?), some groceries, and eat pizza. The promise of more was a hopefulness that rung from his pelvis to his heart and back down again and sat with him like a long-awaited-meal freshly devoured.


Two weeks later, Theo was in his room, this time the curtains drawn, and Mark pushing his thick cock into Theo's arse. Mark was a man cruelly sliding a sword into someone he very much liked the look of. It was a proud cock, strong at the base and tapered slightly as though designed for an easy push into stubborn arseholes. His face was set in concentration as if he was soaking up every bit of how much he thought he deserved this deep first slide, no condom and just his spit slathered in hast. Where their bodies met was slick like they had been in a sauna, Theo's arse crack was moist with sweat and there was an abundance of pre-cum too, so a hyper-erotic natural lubricant was enabling an easy push which felt as though it went right to Theo's stomach.

Theo lay slavish face down on the bed, his head turned to one side in surrender and he could see the fucking taking place in that previously mentioned Giant Mirror: Marks pelvis moving against his arse, and what seemed like the most erotic thing on the planet - Marks (and we are labouring the point now) perfectly-designed-cock: going in-and-out and then in-and-out.

It was some sort of frenzy. The atmosphere in the room comparable to say, a thick liquid honey laced with forbidden pungent delirium-inducing plants; datura, salvia, things like that. It had the intensity of 'the bawling' that had taken place two weeks previous but also of long waits for planes to come back from Europe and the Middle East – of waiting in airports and being in strange foreign apartments for this man – but all was alchemised: in this moment it became that dope-laced-honey. Not least of all – laced in – was the previous two weeks of not-knowing and confusion and silence.

They had sat at the Sky City Grande having martinis (Mark having two for every one of Theo's), something building but neither really knowing what until they had got back into Theo's room. Once the bedroom door had closed a kind of echo chamber of carnality ramped up the intimacy with comical speed, Theo stripping naked straight away and Mark driving himself into all parts of Theo's body, the man behaving uncharacteristically wanton.

Mark had got the dinner and drinks; being all remorse (a thing he had stopped doing in the year previous) and sat across from Theo all night in his designer clothes, talking with surety and machismo to waiters and bar tenders, a slightly annoying, slightly sexy affect he reserved just for serving staff. And to be won back was something! Theo had sat, empty cocktail glass in hand almost breathless with a sort of twist in his internal organs.

So now he lay arse up watching himself be fucked, revelling in the fact that for this moment - maybe just this moment - he was serving this man once more and he was his disposable slut. The bedding and clothes were spread in haste over the floor of the previously (tellingly) tidy bedroom. And there they were - in the mirror: two male bodies, entirely naked, alabaster and tan, lean working muscle brought out by the light of a bedside lamp - slapping and pushing in the summer heat – Theo's arse now bent up more to take more the execution of Marks committed fucking and Mark - Mark somehow batted Theo’s hands out from under him, preventing Theo taking a grip on his own cock.

No, he said intently, Not yet.

But their scents and the image and the scenario and the incidental friction on Theo caused by the rigorous fucking that kept pushing him down down against what seemed a delightfully rough sheet, pushed him close to the edge anyway but only just that far, in exquisite agony.

They both looked at the focal point of arse and cock that danced in the mirror. They both shared a wickedness for this narcissism and for secrets and for all the things that were acting, in spite of themselves, as psychological aphrodisiacs.

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