Simon stared out of the window but his eyes were not taking in the view that passed by. He was on his morning bus ride to college, when normally he’d be listening to something he'd downloaded to his phone, through its rubber ear-buds, or be reading something off his phone. That morning he didn’t want to do either, his mood was too low.
His mood had been low and flat for days now, ever since Max had dumped him. He didn’t feel sad and teary, like the characters in those gay romance eBooks on his phone, he just felt flat all the time. His mood was flat and he had no interest in anything. His attention span felt minute, he could barely concentrate on anything at college, and falling asleep at night seemed a near impossibility, sleep only coming in the early hours of the morning. His low, flat mood had left him feeling so tired all the time.
The bus came to a sudden stop, a sharp braking and the hiss of escaping air. He heard the doors on the lower deck open and people hurrying onto the bus. This was Kennedy Street where a lot of his follow college students got on, it being one of the main bus stops for the Brook Estate. Simon sank down into his seat as a crowd of teenagers rushed up the stairs to seek empty seats there. He tried to ignore the other teenagers rushing past him. They were so straight and so conforming to their own groups and cliques, almost behaving like primitive tribes, dressing and acting and talking the same as the other members of their groups, and pouring out their prejudice on anyone different.
When he’d started at college Simon had held a hope that it would be better and more adult than the law-of-jungle that had ruled his school and had singled him out for bullying and persecution for daring to be “different”. On his first day at college he’d been painfully disappointed. College was no better than school. It still seemed be ruled by groups who valued conformity. At the top seemed to be the boys studying sports and leisure skills and the girls studying beauty and fashion. He did not fit into this culture, in exactly the same way he hadn’t fitted into the old culture at school.
With another hiss of escaping air and a jolt the bus started moving again. The seat next to him was thankfully empty. The volume of noise on the top deck had greatly increased, and everyone around him carried on their conversations at full volume. Simon stared out of the window, and let his mind wonder again.
Over the last two days he’d thought about nothing but his relationship with Max. Again and again his mind had turned over the events of his short-lived time with him. Max had been the one in charge in their relationship. He had made all the decisions, and decided on what they would do together, which was mostly sex. Simon had gone along with all Max’s requirements because he was certain that was what he wanted and he was so grateful just to have him in his life.
The realisation had come to him the day before, when he was sat on the bus on the way home from college. And it had left a sour taste in his mouth. Every time he’d met Max they’d had sex, and always in Max’s car. Even the first time they had met they’d had sex, it had also been Simon’s first time. They had rarely done anything else but have sex on their dates. They had been to the cinema twice together but afterwards they’d had sex in Max’s car. Their whole relationship had revolved around sex and Simon hadn't really seen that at the time. He'd been too intoxicated with the idea that he had a boyfriend.
And in the final week Max had been pressurising him to go to the next level, to have anal sex, and to let Max fuck him up the arse. Sucking Max’s cock had been enjoyable and exciting, even in the cramped confines of Max’s car, but he didn’t feel ready to go further. He’d read enough about guys being fucked. It happened a lot in the gay stories he read on his phone. But he didn’t feel ready for it yet. He had always imagined that the first time he went all the way with another guy it would be in a bed and with a guy he trusted. As much as he was infatuated with Max, he didn’t know Max well enough to trust him that much. Letting him enter him was a big deal, and Simon needed time before he rushed into that. And, anyway, he didn’t even know how they would even manage anal sex on the backseat of Max’s car.
He’d tried to explain this to Max when Max brought the subject up, but he had never seemed to understand. He just seemed to shrug off Simon’s reservations and tell him he’d enjoy it. But the three times Max had tried to fuck him, hunched over on the backseat of Max’s car, Simon had refused. He just couldn’t do it. He just didn’t feel comfortable.
Now he saw it. Max had dumped him because he wouldn’t let Max fuck him. All he was to Max was sex, and hurried and cramped sex at that. He’d put so much emotion and investment into his relationship with Max, and that had all been be a waste of time, because it was directed at someone who didn’t care about him. That realisation had made him feel so stupid. He'd been so completely taken in, and he couldn’t get any of that back.
Although he now knew why Max had dumped him, it didn’t improve things. He was single again. But now he knew what he was missing, he didn’t have to imagine it anymore. And that was the worst part. Even though his relationship with Max had been poor, it had given him a taste of what he wanted. He wanted a boyfriend, but didn’t know what he could do about it. The HIM app had been a failure, so what was he supposed to do now. Wait around until Mr Right fell into his lap?
The bus stopped suddenly, again with the hiss of escaping air signalling the doors opening. Simon looked out of the window and saw that they were now at the Page Street stop. Just three stops and he would be at college. Another day at college.
From the back of the bus a girl’s voice shouted out:
“I’m no slapper!”
“Yes you are!” Two other girls shouted back in unison.
Simon didn’t look back at who was shouting, He just continued staring out of the window as the bus started moving.
His dad had been so angry at him when his GCSE results had arrived. They were all mediocre or less. Simon hadn’t been surprised, because at the beginning of Year Eleven he had wondered what the point of so much endless studying was. His dad had repeatedly told him that good GCSE results lead onto studying A Levels, and good A Level results were the entrance into a good university, and that studying and achieving a good degree was a ticket to the good life. At the beginning of Year Eleven he had deeply questioned his dad’s logic, though not to his face. His dad had done all that studying and got his degree from university, but what good had it done him in the long run? He was working in a dead-end job that he couldn’t admit he hated, and was back living with his own mother. Simon had slowed down and eventually stopped doing the extra studying, simply just doing what was required of him, relying on his own natural ability to get him through his GCSE exams. When his exam results arrived he hadn’t been very surprised at how poor they were. But his dad was. He became extremely angry, which was happening more and more, and blamed his mum. Simon’s mum blamed his dad, and they fell into another one of their bitter arguments when they met to discuss Simon’s GCSE results.
All this fighting didn’t change the fact that he still had two years of education left. If his GCSEs weren’t good enough to get him into sixth form college then he would have to attend the local further education college. It was Niki who suggested he do a health and social care course, saying it could lead to a whole field of different jobs. Simon had not known what he could or should study, having no idea of what career he wanted to pursue in life, even with all his dad’s pressure. And so he’d jumped at Niki’s suggestion, as it saved him having to make any decision.
The course, so far, seemed to be a real mismatch, some parts practical and other parts theoretical, teaching them about the workings of the human body. It seemed to be trying to prepare them for all different types of care work. But it was the college itself that Simon had found a let-down. He’d thought that, with it being a further education college, it would be far superior to the law-of-the-jungle life he’d experienced at school. The only difference turned out to be that they didn’t have to wear a uniform. Other than that the place still seemed to be ruled by the different cliques of popular kids, who thought being straight and either pretty (girls) or good at sports (boys) was all that was needed for superiority. And the tutors were just as patronising and annoying as the teachers at school had been. He didn’t fit in here either.
With a sharp and sudden braking the bus stopped outside his college, and the whole top deck exploded with movement and noise as people hurried to get off. Simon waited until the majority had rushed past him and down the stairs. It was only a few seconds, but it saved him from being noticed before he, too, started down the stairs.
Another day at college to be endured, until he could escape back home in the afternoon. And tomorrow held the prospect of having to spend another Saturday with his dad. Another Saturday of trying not to anger him. Simon sighed to himself as he hurried down the stairs, and exited the bus to join the throng of teenagers filling the pavement outside college.