Shot In The Dark

Barry was thankful he ordered the extra shot in his coffee. He was going to need it to make it through the rest of Topher’s story.

“Okay so where was I?” asked Topher as he slid Barry his cup.

“I believe you were parked outside his house–“

“–behind the bushes, right right. So yeah, there we were, making out.”

Topher was always a bit fidgety. Working in a coffee shop didn’t help. Add a boy to the mix, and he could be up for days. He sat across from Barry at a small table in the corner. Topher’s break was only fifteen minutes, but for him, that was plenty of time.

“His tongue was crazy long. I almost gagged” he rambled. “The next thing I know he’s on top of me, tugging at my belt. I managed to finally get a word in. I asked if he likes Beyonce. He said ‘I guess,’ so I reached around him and put in the mix you gave me.”

“Track seven?” said Barry.

“You know it.” Topher let out a coyish grin. “So we go back to kissing and he’s travelling up and down my neck. I say to him, ‘Isn’t this song romantic?’ He mumbles, ‘It’s alright.’ I pulled my head away and looked him square in the eyes. ‘Alright?’ I said. ‘It’s more than alright.’ He started sighing, but I told him how this song saved Tricia Cooper’s marriage after she sang it to her husband at their niece’s thirteenth birthday slash karaoke party. ‘It’s nothing short of magical,’ I informed him.

“What’d he say?” asked Barry.

“He apologized,” said Topher. “and admitted he wasn’t the biggest fan of Queen B. I told him we all have our flaws.”

“How tolerant of you.”

“Yeah well, he was hot.”

“I’m sure there was more to him than just that.”

Topher shook his head, “No, not really.”

Barry bit his tongue.

“Anyway, he started to nibble on my ear”–Topher continued with the details of his late-night escapade. Barry zoned out. Picturing Topher in any of the positions he described was a bit much. He clutched his cup and glanced at their reflections in the window.

They were such an odd pair; mismatched in every way. On his best day, Barry was average. A little soft around the midsection, he had thick mousy hair, not only on his head, but peeking out from the top of his graphic tee, and running down the length of his arms. His face and neck had little red marks from where he attempted to shave. When he sat, his shoulders slumped, pinching the rolls of his midsection and pushing them further out, forcing him to always buy his clothes one size bigger. Topher, on the other hand, could pour his little body into anything he wore. Even his black polo and khaki work pants seemed custom fitted. He sported crystal blue eyes and wavy blond hair that never touched the air thanks to the globs of gel holding it in place. His skin was soft; sun-kissed. It spread smoothly across the sharp planes of his face. He was everyone’s type. His pockets were filled with just as my phone numbers as they were tips.

“–so then he zipped up and slid out of the car without so much as a peck on the cheek. He said he’d call me. It’s been three days. I don’t know what I should do.”

That was Barry’s cue, the part of the script where he would say things like, hang in there, give it time, and I’m sure he’s just busy. Topher looked at him, eyes locked in anticipation.

“Sounds like he’s just not right for you,” said Barry.

Topher dithered ever so slightly. “But… he’s so hot,” he whined.

“Maybe that’s not enough?” Barry shrugged. “Maybe you need someone with a little more to offer.”

Topher blinked a few times, as if trying to flush a lash from his eyes. “Why bother?” he eventually said, “It always starts and ends with my pants around my ankles.” He let out a strained chuckle. “Besides, that’s what I have you for.”

Barry felt the blood rush to his face as Topher smiled. It was the one response he couldn’t conceal. Words started to pile up in his throat. He tried so desperately to swallow them back.

“I think you could do better,” he blurted out. He didn’t dare look up at Topher. “Someone who knows you love two shots in your lattes but can only drink one or else the caffeine makes your chest hurt. Someone who answers the phone after midnight and stays on with you until you’re home safe and crawling into bed. You deserve someone who is going to put you, and everything you love, before themselves. And who will let you know every day that you are worth holding to, and never letting go.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe, you should be with someone like—”

“Oh my god he texted me back!” Topher nearly leaped out of his seat, jostling the table and splashing Barry’s drink. “He said he forgot his phone in his buddy’s car, and that he misses me.” Topher beamed.

“Where are you going?” asked Barry.

“He’s at the Froyo Hut a few doors down. I’ve got”– he glanced at his watch– “seven minutes left on my break. Gotta make them count.” He slipped off his apron and handed it to Barry. “If I’m not back in time just make something up. You know me well enough.”

“That I do…” said Barry, staring into his coffee, as Topher darted off.