Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

My friend David and I agreed on a writing challenge last week. We have a prompt and we have to come up with something. For this challenge, the prompt is “His feet were already numb. He should have listened.”


Quite specifically, there are days in our lives when our choices are better defined by “should” rather than by “would,” “could,” or “might.” For the possibilities of “could,” the probabilities of “might,” or even the powerful declarations of “would” fall short of the inherent imperatives of “should.”

I lean my head against his shoulder as his arm drapes around me. The city starts falling asleep, the golden-brown lights from each streetlamp dimming each passing minute before they flicker with one last spark and rest until the morning. Lonely automobiles hurry by without looking, eager for home, supper, and sex. Even the sea behind us, raging by day, says good-night to the moon and lays her head against jagged rocks.

He folds his legs and sits on them. I lift my head from his shoulder, casually shrugging off his hand from mine. I avert my eyes as he spits on the ground. He clears his throat apologetically before scratching his nape and letting out a solitary chuckle.

It is that moment both equally strange yet familiar to every man who has been on a date more than a couple of times that feels as if your shoes have developed super-adhesion, too leaden to be lifted. But at this point there’s nothing else you’d rather do but walk away.

Walk away slowly. At first. Let him think you just need to pee or to stretch your arms after hours of sitting down. After a few minutes, start off with a jog. He will start to wonder what’s going on. Once a good few feet have been established between the two of you, run. Run, sprint, and race away. Run away from him, run across the city, past dark buildings, past a flying owl, past the homeless man sleeping by the manhole, past four-way intersections to make it all the way home.

Of course, I could not do that. I should have, but I couldn’t.

He softly lays his palm on top of my hand, his fingers grazing my knuckles. I flip my hand over and fit our palms together, my fingertips brushing against the stubbles on his hand. A squirrel darting by with an acorn firmly held against its body gives us a curious look before scampering away to feed his family.

He pushes my hand deeper against the park bench. I hold on for dear life, him looking at my ear, me staring out into the blackened street. He puts his other hand on my chin, playing with my goatee. My eyes float downwards.

He bumped into me at Winona’s twenty-third. No. No romantic coincidences, no serendipity. He bumped into me at the washroom. Winona was a free spirit, opposed to locks, seat belts, and laws. I don’t know why we’re friends.

I hadn’t zipped up my fly when he burst in. Red-faced, he stared at me, put his hand on his mouth, and tried not to laugh. Tried. It started out as a tiny chuckle that grew to a laugh into a healthy guffaw.

“Sorry, dude,” he managed to get out in between laughter, “but how happy are you to see me?” I looked down, blushed, and hurriedly zipped up my fly, before dashing out the washroom. He closed the door behind me, and I leaned against it. I heard the unmistakably distinct sounds of hurling, a brief respite chorused with profanity, and the flushing of a toilet.

I made the sign of the cross.

He breathes 0.26 inches away from my ear. His hand now caresses the slight bulge of my adam’s apple. I could hear his eyelids closing, his sense of smell taking over. He leans his nose against my ear, brushing upwards towards my shagged up hair.

I turn my head the other way, but his nose persisted. Against the back of my neck, he teased his lips, never fully touching, yet making sure the heat from his mouth electrifies every strand of hair on my body. I hear him bite.

He turns my head towards him and leans his forehead on mine. Both his hands are massaging my shoulders, concentric circles starting small and light, ending up like giant hula hoops. He opens his legs as his hands slide themselves down my arms like firemen playing with the poles.

He holds me by the elbows as he teases my lips with his. I shiver.

From the cold and not from him.

Winona and I ran in different circles. And I’ve never really been a party person. Gaga annoys me more than she entertains me. And I’m allergic to beer. Give me Streisand any day of the week, with a nice glassed of aged port, a thrilling mystery novel with strong sexual innuendoes, and a full pack of cigarettes, and you have yourself a happy boy.

It was probably because of that that for the most part, I found myself lounging across the sofa for most of Winona’s party, deliberating how long I should stay for me to be deemed a polite friend. I had originally decided two hours was more than enough time, but I was seriously considering pushing it down to an hour and a half. Or an hour and fifteen. Damn it, I want to go home.

My pocket vibrated. Grindr. Of course. It was him, washroom-guy. 23 feet away from me. I would recognize that cocky smile anytime I’d see it now. His picture of him dancing at a club, a glow stick wrapped around his wrist, and his shirt tied across his waist. 

It felt so cheap, so tacky, so unsophisticated. So bad it was actually quite good.

“Still happy to see me?” the message read.

My fingers hovered above the screen of my phone. My left hand was more than ready to exit out of the app and bid Winona good-bye. But my right hand must have been possessed as it typed in “Happy? You haven’t seen me excited yet.”

Damn soap operas.

I could make out his hair from across the room, bouncing to the beat of Minaj, growing bigger and bigger as it made its way closer to me.

He snaps off the topmost button of my shirt.

As he puts one finger to my chest, I begin to wonder about the nature of cab driving. I recall this one driver who said that most men like to sit in front, while most women prefer the backseat. There has to be some gender meaning attributed to that decision, as to why men have no problem riding shotgun with an unknown man, while women need that protection of distance.

He has one more button undone and two more fingers inside my shirt now. He fiddles with the hair on my chest, patting it then messing it up again. My muscles contract as his fingers make their way to my right nipple.

He never touches it, preferring to play with the area immediately surrounding it.

I never got the allure of edging. A lot of people are into it, denying gratification, prolonging the pleasure. But I am like a bullet train, I travel nonstop on one track with my destination in mind. Hearing the cracking of dried leaves as he steps on them is not part of the package.

I take his hand out and hold it, massaging the knobs on it. I put it down to my thighs. He immediately starts caressing them.

Now that’s better.

“They don’t have port, but here, try this, it’s good beer, dark, and it does taste a lot like red wine,” he said as he passed me a bottle of beer, its label currently escaping me, but I remember quite clearly, it was in a dark brown bottle with a picture of an ancient building on a green label.

“Drink up,” he said when he saw me reading the calories count at the back of the bottle. “Drink up, for chrissakes, live a little.” He clinked my bottle with his. “To happiness.”

“Happiness,” I murmured back. I put the bottle to my mouth, intending to pretend to drink just to shut him up. But when I felt its coldness exciting my lips, the bottle moved itself and started pouring its contents inside me. I tried to stop after two tries, but its draw was too strong, and though it tasted nothing like port, I found myself wanting it more and more.

“Good?” he asked.

A little overdeveloped, too strong, needs to chilled a while longer. All valid thoughts in my mind. My mouth however was acting like an organ of its own.

“Delicious,” with a sly grin. 

He laughed. “I bet you are.”

After unbuckling my belt, he pops the button right off my pants, sliding the zipper off teasingly, making sure to apply just enough pressure on my crotch. He opens it up, moving his fingers like paintbrushes drawing a Japanese watercolored painting on my thighs. Jesus Christ, how long will this take.

The loud cooing of the mockingbird vibrates from across the park. At least, I think it’s a mockingbird. Come to think of it, I have never heard of the cry of the mockingbird. All I know is they mock other birds. They’re like the mean girls of the feathered world.

His hand is now near my crotch. I heave a deep sigh, push my briefs down, and lay his hand on my dick. Finally (!!) getting the cue, he starts rubbing it, in a rhythmic pattern, starting with the low notes, building up to a nice good crescendo.

I take his hand off and start to push his head towards my lap. While there was some hesitation, he eventually gave in. His head lay on my lap, my hand on his hair, his mouth wrapped around my penis.

Across the road, I could make out the silhouette of a woman walking around and a car that stops right in front of her. It’s not a cab. She leans forward towards the driver and after a couple of minutes she enters. She sits at the back. Someone’s easy.

My feet are starting to fall asleep. I push his head deeper.

He helped me put my coat on. He brushed the creases off my sleeves. He stood right in front of me. I was about to lean in to kiss him when he turned around to put his own jacket on.

“We can grab some coffee,” he said, while getting his things ready. “There’s this cute place downtown with the best music. Then we can just hang-out at the park after. No one goes there this time. It’s a nice quiet spot. I know you like your spots nice and quiet. You bookworm you. Coffee and cigarettes, best combo ever. You’ll love it.”

It sounded so wonderful, so beautiful. I leaned my body against the coat rack, looking at his face. I should have said yes. Yes to everything he proposed. Yes, I should have. But I turned my back against him and sighed.

“No,” I said. “Let’s skip the coffee and go to the park.”

“Are you a hundred percent sure? You look like you need coffee.”

“Let’s go to the park and fuck.”

If he were surprised, he showed little sign of it. “Fuck?” he asked. “Now?”

“Would you rather date? Spend so much money on food and drinks, waste valuable time, all for the same goal. Let’s fuck and get it over with.” I half-pulled him out of the door and down the road towards the park.

He wipes his mouth with a leaf. He sits back down. I try to put my hand on his, he moves it away. I glance at him, his eyes are focused dead-set towards the gutter across the street. I let a deep breath out and button my shirt and jeans.

He stands up. He walks around and paces. I check my cellphone, no new alerts, no one in a two mile radius. He looks at me, sadly, but not at my eyes. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He closes his eyes and kicks a rock in frustration.

I put my finger to my lips, silencing him. I nod. I shake my head. I look directly into him. Behind me, the sea is waking up with small waves rolling. More than three cars have passed by, and buildings across the road are starting to light up, window by window. I try to smile. Try.

He understands.

He walks away, slowly at first, moving towards a jog, until he eventually sprints away. I light a cigarette, realizing I never even asked for his name, and he never asked for mine. I sort of miss him already. I hate myself now, hating that I went with the “would,” the “could,” and the “might” rather than the “should.” I could have had him. I might have had him. I would have had him. I should have had him.

I stretch my legs, and they send a jolt of pain across my body. I never moved them since we’ve arrived at the park. My feet were already numb. I should have listened.