Funny LGBTQ+ Romance

What Malcolm and Eli didn’t anticipate while having their first sexual experience together during Jewish Summer Camp next to the horse graveyard is that they would be reintroduced fifteen years later -- as an IT expert and a middle-of-the-road insurance broker. It’s not as if they regret the beautiful nights they spent together rolling over the bones of old-timey-Appaloosas, it’s just a bizarre and inappropriate thing to bring up to a work acquaintance after 15+ years of radio silence. 

Malcolm was given the assignment to fix an ongoing problem with Eli’s company’s CRM system, and Eli was the employee who arrived at work the earliest. Like stars pulled together by gravity to form outdated, awkward constellations, Malcolm wondered if Eli remembered him as they entered the flat industrial building together every morning. Usually Eli would say something innocuous about the news or about the weather, and Malcolm would laugh a little too hard at what are charitably considered as attempts at humor. 

It’s fun for Malcolm to daydream at work, and he started to fondly reminisce about Eli: the athletic guy from camp. They went to different schools in completely different states, but grew to like each other while away for the summer in upstate New York. Malcolm doesn’t have a lot of good memories from high school, per se, so Eli was a real highlight. He wondered if Eli thought about him the same way.

Once the IT problem was fixed, Malcolm resolved to ask Eli out on a date. He’d been working on clear communication with his therapist, who told him that he should put himself out there more. So, on the final day that Malcolm and Eli stood at the doors together, Malcolm said, “Hey, please excuse me if this is kinda weird, but would you want to grab a drink sometime?”

A+ idea, F in execution, Malcolm thought as his sweat literally calcified through his blue button up shirt.

Still, Eli smiled and said, “That sounds fun! Can you put your number into my phone? I have a hard time comprehending digits thrown at me too fast.”

Malcolm laughed -- again, where was the joke? -- and focused on not sweating enough to get all 7 digits into Eli’s phone. Handing it back, he asked, “Friday, 6pm, Applebee’s $1 dollar drinks?”

“I’ll put a reminder in my calendar right now.”

Friday at 5:45pm, Malcolm arrived at the Applebee’s bar wearing a fruity button-down shirt so as to seem more relaxed and cool. He looked down at his phone approximately once every two minutes like clockwork, and felt a huge pinch in his throat when 5:59pm approached. Then his phone lit up with a text saying, 

“What are you wearing?” 

It took every ounce of his being to not say “oh my god” out loud. Where is Eli referring to? Would he like to know about outer or inner layers? Is the jacket included in this? Malcolm shoved all those thoughts down and took a bizarre photo of himself in the cool button-down shirt. He meant to take the photo as a rough draft, but unfortunately hit send. 

“Hey!” Eli surprised Malcolm from behind, and Malcolm let out a small yelp. “Thanks for the pic, I have a hard time picking people out in lower lighting.” 

Malcolm and Eli ordered several $1 Vodka Rum Frostbites before remembering that Applebee’s also has food. They grabbed a table -- a booth! -- towards the back of the restaurant and drunkenly chatted about candle scents, Eli’s work, Malcolm’s apartment, Josh Groban, the new iPhone model. That is, until, Malcolm made the unfortunate mistake of mentioning the phone he had in high school. 

“I wish I could remember that far back,” Eli said, and chuckled knowingly.

Malcolm thought, “??????”

Eli sat there like nothing was weird. 

Malcolm said with his face, “?”

Eli noticed Malcolm’s face.

Malcolm said, “What do you mean you don’t remember that far back?”

Eli proceeded to tell Malcolm that, in college, he was on the receiving end of a large man’s lacrosse stick during intramural state championships, and was brutally concussed. This was atop a series of other lacrosse-related-head-injuries compounded over time, which conclusively rendered most of his childhood memories completely blank. 

As a man working on clear communication, Malcolm wanted desperately to ask if Eli remembered the horse graveyard, and the exhilarating sexual debut at Jewish Summer Camp. But as a man who was 4 Vodka Rum Frostbites deep, Malcolm regrettably said nothing. 

Instead of going through the humiliating ordeal of closing down an Applebee’s during the dead of winter, the two took the 74 bus (and a snowy 10-minute walk) back to Eli’s condo for a nightcap. Treading through the snow, they talked about sports (not high school), mockumentary TV shows (not high school), and how silly the concept of vegan leather is (not high school, and not recyclable). 

The art in Eli’s place was mostly mis-matching prints, only some of which were framed. It’s a charming mix of corporate art, clearly-his-friend-made-it art, and good-taste art. Eli is additionally the owner of a teeny tiny black cat he’s named Ophelia. Malcolm took in his surroundings and waxed between horribly panicked and horribly turned on. 

It’s hard to characterize any interaction after the memory reveal to be an earnest, unbothered one. As hard as he tries not to, Malcolm’s mind is plagued by the thought that he is Bad. Malcolm is a profoundly sweaty man even when he’s not nervous, so he’s turned up to 11 while sitting on Eli’s nice sectional couch observing the pristine condition of the succulents on the coffee table next to a “reminder: don’t overwater the succulents” post-it note. 

Eli scooches closer to Malcolm on the couch and makes a comment about how nicely he’s dressed. Malcolm effortlessly flirts right back, and then feels morally complicated about doing so. Still, they talk, they get closer, and Eli’s hand connects to Malcolm’s thigh, which tenses up inside his black pants. Eli notices and retracts. 

“Oh, are you alright?”

“We knew each other in high school and fucked in a horse graveyard.”

A+ idea, F in execution. 

“One more time?”

“You and I went to Oorah. It’s a nonprofit summer camp that’s bizarrely funded by Kars4Kids, okay, as I’m saying it I realize this is making less sense.” 

“Do you want some water?” Eli got up and tried to meander over to his sink, but Malcolm grabbed his wrist before he could pass.

“We knew each other as teenagers. We went to the same Jewish summer camp. You likely do not remember because you were clobbered on the head, but we had weird teenager sex in the nearby horse graveyard at camp, and I’m sorry for not saying anything. The implications of this are ethically dubious. I remember you, and you don’t remember me.”

“Oh.” Eli sat down on Malcolm’s other side. He looked into the pattern of his carpet and thought of the question, “Were we together?” 

“Not exactly. It was pretty mutually understood to be a summer hookup.”

“Did we talk outside of camp?”

“Not even inside of camp. We mostly had to perform parodies of Shania Twain songs and do high ropes courses.”

Eli laughed, and Malcolm relaxed his shoulders. He’s got such a sweet, nostril-first laugh. Malcolm thought, since he was clearly in the wrong here, he should wait for Eli to say whatever he wants next. Instead, they looked awkwardly at each other through prolonged silence. 

Eli bravely broke the silence with, “...’ethically dubious’??”

Malcolm laughed hard -- at a real joke this time! -- and said, “It just feels weird, you know? Like, I’ve seen you naked before, but you, in a way, haven’t seen me," Malcolm squinted at the wall, "How do doctors deal with that?”

Eli chuckled, shook his head, and said, “I guess I’ll just have to see you naked, then.”  

It was that night that, after 15 odd years of living completely separate lives, Malcolm and Eli had sex once again, as if Eli’s couch, kitchen and bed were made of long-dead equine souls. 

February 17, 2021 01:07

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