If This Is It
He stood there. He just stood there, immobile, motionless. The world around him was nothing but a blur, people rushing back and forth, a mass of colour and sounds. He didn't take notice of any of it. Just stared into the distance. Right to where the rail tracks disappeared, where Max had left on the ten-fifty-five train. He was unable to move despite everything inside him screaming out, pushing him to run after him to tell him that everything would work out, somehow. But he didn't, he couldn't.
Minutes before, he'd been there on the platform with him. He’d felt the rain damp on his collar, concentrating on a single drop of water that ran slowly down his spine. That was all he could think of – that one drop of rain. The sensation of water it on his cold skin. There was nothing else. Max had been trying to explain, desperately begging him to understand, kissing him goodbye for the last time. He hadn’t moved, hadn't reacted.
When he first saw Max it was just like in those old movies from the fifties. Love at first sight in the kitschiest way one could possibly imagine – and yet, so real. He'd been sitting with his friends for an after-work drink in his local pub, chatting about all and nothing. And suddenly, there he was! The man that makes you forget all the men you ever dated, all the sadness you ever felt. He stood by the bar with a half-emptied pint of beer in his hand. Long dark hair pulled back in a man bun, a bit of a mess but sexy. A lilac shirt with reddish trousers, it suited him. He didn’t mean to stare but what else could he do? It was one of those moments when you are instantly sure about everything that is going to happen. That moment, when eyes meet across the room, smiling eyes, inviting eyes. They were inviting him. Him! He couldn’t wait any longer or play cool. He had to talk to him. When he told his friends that he was going to the bar, they didn’t take any notice. He didn’t care, only had eyes for him. No time to waste. He wasn't nervous like he usually was when chatting up a guy. This felt like it was meant to be. "Hi," he said, pointing at the glass in his hands, "can I buy you another?"
Hours later, they were still sitting side by side on a table in the corner of the pub. Max had this way of looking him deep in the eyes that made him shiver. Made him crave for more than a mere touch of hands. That excitement, that warm feeling, could it be? Could Max be the one he'd been waiting for? At thirty-five, the long years of search and rejection had made him a realist. He had stopped believing that there was someone out there for him. Convinced that he was not meant to be loved. A leftover. But if this was it, perhaps now all the years of loneliness would finally make sense.
He hadn’t always been like that. He had once known what it meant to be loved. When he'd come out to his parents at eighteen, he had fallen for a boy from his local football club. His first love, his first sex. He’d known that he was gay for some time but never had the courage to tell anyone, let alone his mum and dad. But that day, overwhelmed by his emotions, he finally did. He’d never forget that day. His parents were sitting in their old-fashioned Victorian living room with the flower curtains and thick red carpet, obviously worried about what he was going to tell them. His mother’s hands were clasped together so tightly that her knuckles stood out white. He swallowed hard and after three attempts the words finally came out: "I know this boy and I love him!" There was a long silence until the news sunk in. He could see a whole set of emotions run over his parents' faces – confusion, shock, understanding but no sign of anger or rejection. They looked at each other in that silent agreement that only parents can master. Taking a deep breath, his father eventually spoke. "Go for it," he said in his clear voice, “do what makes you happy." They had always been there for him. While lovers came and never stayed.
They left the pub before midnight, walking down the high street hand in hand. Max's eyes mesmerised him, drew him closer and closer. The first kiss sent fireworks through his body. He couldn’t hold back any longer and put his hand on both sides of Max's face, pulling him near, pushing him for more. He could feel his lover’s hands all over his body. It had never felt like this with anyone else before. He had stopped believing in love – but here it was.
He took Max home with him. To his small flat with the white furniture and the clean lines. They went straight for the bedroom. Couldn't wait to feel, touch, to taste each other, sleep together. When Max had eventually fallen asleep, and their clothes lay scattered around the room, he sat in a chair next to the bed, watching the beautiful man with his long hair, even messier than before. The whole room smelt of them. He could easily imagine their life together. They'd cook a stir fry on Sundays. Lie on the sofa for hours, chatting, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. On Monday mornings, they'd have a quick cup of tea, leaving the house with a soft kiss goodbye. See you tonight, love.
Something on the floor caught his eye. Max's wallet with a coloured piece of paper sticking out. What was it, a note, a shopping list? He got curious and picked up the black leather pouch. It wasn’t paper. It was a photograph. He pulled it out to look at it. And in an instant all colour drained from his face. His heart turned to stone. Realisation, betrayal, pain hit him like a tidal wave. Brutal, relentless, unstoppable. The photo was only two months old, as the gilded letters read. It showed Max. Max on his wedding day. With a toddler in his arm and a beautiful woman next to him. They looked as happy as can be. Someone had written ‘love you forever, x’ on the back of the picture.
He stood there, he just stood there. In the rain. He didn't want to hear what Max had to say, that he loved his wife but was sure that he could – one day – love him, too. That this was the first time that he'd ever been attracted to a man. That he didn’t mean to hurt him. His whole world was in a blur, he didn't even know why he had walked to the station with him. He just stood there, not feeling Max's kiss goodbye but concentrating on that one drop of rain, which ran down his spine. He stared into the distance. After what felt like hours, he turned around and walked back to his small flat. White, empty, hollow. He went to his bedroom. Sat on his chair. The tears ran down his face, as he decided not to hurt anymore and to be the realist he'd always been. He was not meant to be loved. This was it.
Silja Maria Wiedeking is a bilingual author, writing in English and German. She holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. Having lived in Germany, Austria and the UK, her writing is influenced by her personal experiences, her interest in people and what drives them, and her fascination for history. Her work focuses on themes, such as the meaning of belonging, definitions of home, conflicting identities, and feelings of dislocation in an international life.