Max was nearly an hour late now. Simon had already sent him six texts, none of which he’d received any reply to, but this didn’t stop that spark of hope inside of Simon. Max was just late, that was all.
He idly tapped his foot on the pavement as he sat on the bench waiting. His eyes scanned the traffic passing up and down the road in front of him, scanning it for Max’s silver Volkswagen Golf Mark 4, with the dented passenger door. Usually when he would have to wait for someone, he’d get his phone out and start reading something he'd downloaded onto it. But not when he was waiting for Max. He wanted his full attention on the road in front of him, he didn’t want to miss the sight of Max’s car.
This was how they would always meet. Simon would sit there on that bench, on the main road two streets away from his home, and Max would collect him in his car. Max would never pick Simon up directly from his own home. He simply said that he didn’t want to “take the risk”. So they had agreed on Max collecting Simon from that bench. Max had suggested it and Simon had simply agreed. He always agreed with Max, but Max liked it that way.
Simon saw a silver car, turning onto the main road, far off down the road. He felt his body tense with excitement. It was Max, it was Max, it had to be Max. Then moments later the excitement was replaced with disappointment. It was a silver boxy car, but it was the wrong model, it wasn’t even a Volkswagen, and it was far too shiny and new. He still kept his eyes on the silver car as it sped past him, because the car could have been Max’s. Its interior was filled with four animated lads.
Max’s second-hand silver Volkswagen Golf Mark 4 was his pride and joy and they would always start off their dates in that car, with Max always collecting him from that same place. So many of their dates had passed inside that car. Simon had lost his virginity on the back seat of that car. His whole sex life, all three weeks of it, had taken place inside that car. Like him, Max still lived with his parents, so his car was the only place where they could find any privacy. Max had told him that he was out to his mother and step dad but neither of them were happy with the idea of him having sex. “I don’t want to rub it in their faces and make trouble like that,” Max had said. Simon had easily agreed, and had been intentionally vague about his own complicated home situation.
The bench he was sitting on was made from concrete and, even in this mild spring weather, the concrete was cold against his thighs and buttocks, and he could feel the cold through his jeans. He pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket and checked it, again, but there was still no text back from Max. No message to explain why he was late. Not even a hurried message to say his car had broken down or anything. For a moment he considered texting Max again, but as quickly as the thought came into his mind he rejected it. Wouldn’t that be far too desperate? He’d already texted Max six times. Slowly he pushed his phone back into his jacket pocket.
He’d met Max through the HIM app on his phone. He’d had to be careful with that app. He couldn’t let its icon appear on his phone’s home screen because his dad regularly demanded to check his phone, as he paid the bill for it. Simon had only signed up to the HIM app to be near other gay men, and even then he had to lie about his age. He couldn’t go into one of the gay bars in the city centre because he was underage. He was sixteen, but with his curly brown hair and pale features he knew he looked even younger, and people still often commented on it. Through many internet searches he’d found only one gay youth group, but that was on the other side of the city and advertised itself for those eighteen and over.
He’d read online about how young gay men were using dating apps to meet friends and find their own community. That wasn't what he had found, though, when he had signed up with HIM. It seemed as though most of the men on it were just wanting sex. Often men would send him pictures of their dicks, often poorly focused and at odd angles, and many of those dicks weren’t even attractive. There were short and stubby ones, ones so shaved that they looked like the owner had never passed puberty, and some so out of focus that he could barely make out if they were circumcised or not. The flood of dick pictures he found coldly unerotic. He’d seen far more attractive dicks in the porn pictures he’d found online, the ones he’d saved and hidden away on his laptop. He’d just wanted to find someone to talk to, ask how he should be gay, what he should do, and to talk about the hundreds of questions that flowed around his head.
When Max had messaged him with a simple “Hi, how are you?” Simon had felt a gasp of relief, there was no dick picture here, no sudden demand for sex. They had talked for days, just talking and sort of hanging out together via the HIM app. After nearly two weeks of messaging each other Simon had agreed to meet Max in person.
They had arranged to meet one Friday evening, outside the old Town Hall, near to Simon’s college. Simon had arrived early and Max had been late, but only by five minutes. A tall and broad shouldered man, with a head of thick, curly brown hair and a chin covered in dark brown stubble had walked towards him. The man had been wearing a black, tailored leather jacket and dark blue jeans, and he had walked quickly and confidently. As he strode towards him, Simon quickly guessed it was Max, though he looked taller and more confident than in his pictures on the HIM app.
“You’re Simon?” Max had said, his voice deep with their local accent.
“Yes,” Simon said. “And you’re Max?”
As they’d walked back towards Max’s car, Simon had told him that he was sixteen and not eighteen, as it said on his profile on HIM (you had to be eighteen or over to register with HIM). Max had just replied:
“I’m only nineteen.”
That night Simon had lost his virginity on the back seat of Max’s car, parked in a far and deserted corner of their local B&Q car park.
That had been just over three weeks ago. Most of the times they had met they had ended up having sex in Max’s car, always parked somewhere deserted and quiet. A few times they went to the cinema together. Once they even went to a coffee shop near to the old Town Hall. But always they would end the evening having sex in Max’s car parked somewhere dark and quiet, before Max would drive him back to the bench, two streets away from his home.
Again, his eyes scanned the main road, checking all the cars passing in front of him. Occasionally a silver car would pass but it was never Max’s car. It was either too old, not the right make of car, not the right model of Volkswagen, not a Golf Mark 4 but only a Golf Mark 2. But every time he saw a silver car he felt that stab of hope and excitement, only to have it snatched away from him when he realised it wasn’t Max’s car.
He wasn’t in love with Max. He didn’t have all those rushing and desperate feelings he read about in all those gay romance eBooks he’d read on his phone. But he did want to see Max as often as possible. He would find himself counting down the days and hours until he would be seeing him next, and when he did see him there was always that rush of excitement. He was with Max again. With Max he didn’t have to hide his sexuality, didn't have to be constantly on his guard. He could let his guard down and relax, and he so enjoyed that.
Of course, he also enjoyed the sex they had. He knew his sex drive was strong. He could feel horny over the slightest and stupidest things, such as just seeing a shirtless, attractive man on the soap opera EastEnders. With Max there was finally an outlet for all that horniness, a more satisfying outlet than messy and embarrassing masturbation.
Their conversations were never deep, and they never discussed the things Simon longed to discuss. He longed to talk about being gay and all the gay news he was reading on his phone. Instead Max just wanted to talk about his job, to complain about his life as a junior sales consultant at an electrical warehouse shop. Max’s job always sounded so boring to Simon, but he didn’t really care. Max’s job might be boring but Max was his boyfriend and that was all he wanted.
His phone buzzed in his jacket pocket. With a rush of excitement, he snatched it out of his pocket, but barely a second later the excitement quickly given way to disappointment. It was just a text from his mum. She and Niki had gone out on a “mid-week treat” as Niki called them. The two had gone to the cinema together, and his mum was texting him to tell him when she would be home. He texted back a simple “Thanx”.
As he held his phone a thought jumped into his mind. He was always careful with the data limit on his phone. He didn’t sit on Facebook or Instagram all day or watch streaming videos as he wandered around, like so many of those he went to college with did. He would download what he wanted to read or listen to at home, using his home’s Wi-Fi, and then read it or listen to it later on his phone. He was always careful with his mobile data and he still had enough of it left.
Quickly he opened the Facebook app on his phone and started to go to Max’s Facebook page, though the phone’s signal was low and the app opened slowly. If something had happened to Max he’d put it on Facebook. He seemed to put everything else he did on there, except their relationship, but Simon knew why he hadn’t done that. Simon preferred Instagram, it was so much more immediate than Facebook, and Facebook was what old people like his parents used. But Max used it a lot, so now Simon did too.
He tapped his finger against the side of phone, as if that action could actually speed up the app. And then a window opened up, with a short message: “You have been blocked from viewing this page.”
For a moment Simon just stared at the message. There must have been a mistake. There must be something wrong with the app. He’d only left a message on Max’s Facebook wall the day before, and then…
The thought hit him hard. This was Max’s way of dumping him, cutting off all contact with him. Max hadn’t turned up for their date. Max hadn't answered his texts. And now Max had blocked him from even seeing his Facebook page.
He turned off his phone and pushed it back into his jacket pocket. He felt so stupid. He’d put so much effort and hope into Max. And for what…?
Slowly he stood up from the bench and equally slowly began the short walk back home. At least he would have the house to himself. He wouldn’t have to find some excuse as to why he was back so early.