Only If

Hello Mr. Magazine - - ONLY IF - An ex­cerpt of a novel by Rocco Paone Jr.

The city hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced a night this cold in months. There was no snow, just the wind that ev­ery­one com­plained about.

It's New Year's Day. I slept poorly, wak­ing up con­stantly. It could have been the guy I was see­ing and his snor­ing prob­lems. It could have been the fact that he’d had three days off in a row, and yet this was the first time we’d spent a full day to­gether, most of it spent talk­ing about how tired he was of his cur­rent job. It was the long­est time we’d spent to­gether in months. You could say this was a re­la­tion­ship in its in­fancy, but our at­trac­tion to one an­other was quickly los­ing mo­men­tum. I knew it was com­ing to an end, but thought Maybe a cou­ple more months. I sat up and looked at the alarm clock, putting my glasses on. It was 8:01. What a waste of sleep­ing in. Reach­ing out at the bed­side ta­ble, I knocked my iPhone off the side and won­dered if I’d wo­ken the boyfriend. “You awake?” I said. Chris was still snor­ing. Wak­ing him proved to be a fruit­less ef­fort. I de­cided to let him keep sleep­ing.

I met Chris nearly a year be­fore on some cheap dat­ing site. I never was the type of guy to go out, much less meet a guy in a bar. “Never ever!” A per­sonal mantra if you will. Chris was a cou­ple of years older and lived down the street from my of­fice. He was taller, some­thing I grav­i­tated to­wards in other guys. He worked in tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, and the only time we would get to see one an­other would be af­ter 9 p.m. or on Sun­day. I had a weak­ness for brunettes, es­pe­cially ones with hints of gray com­ing in at the tem­ples. Some­times when I couldn’t sleep, I would run my fin­gers through his hair won­der­ing when I would fi­nally go gray my­self. Sim­ple acts like this kept me busy and the wan­ing at­trac­tion to him go­ing, some­how. I was at­tracted to his clas­sic good looks even though we had no real in­ter­ests in com­mon: movies, mu­sic, pol­i­tics, none of it. I hadn’t re­al­ized how quiet and in­tro­verted Chris was at first, un­til later on, af­ter our sex life had taken a turn. In the be­gin­ning, there’d been plenty of chem­istry. Our first date con­sisted of lunch by the wa­ter­front and him com­ing back to my place, throw­ing me on my living room floor, and suck­ing me off. Now our evenings con­sisted of him watch­ing me play video games, talk­ing about work and order­ing pizza from down the street. We would kiss, hug, and feel each other up. What about fuck­ing? No god­damn way. That raw sex­u­al­ity I felt with him in the be­gin­ning, that first spark, was gone.

That win­ter, the com­bi­na­tion of old ra­di­a­tors and the in­cred­i­ble amount of heat Chris gave off caused me to wake up in a sweat, scram­bling to tear off my tee or my un­der­wear. I had quick reme­dies like kick­ing the sheets away and throw­ing them off to the side of the bed or flip­ping the pil­low over to the colder side. I couldn’t stand the idea of touch­ing while sleep­ing, and hav­ing Chris that close was a chal­lenge. The ex­tent of our touch­ing would be rop­ing each oth­ers’ legs to­gether, but there was no hand hold­ing or cud­dling. Get­ting close to each other felt forced.

I thought about get­ting out of bed and go­ing

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