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This Charming Man

Story by Thomas Hobohm (Read author interview) March 20, 2023

Art by Rajiv Bajaj

and I see myself sitting at my desk typing in a document starting with and I see myself… and I think that I just got back from the gym so I’m sweaty and I still need to shower, I ought to shower soon, I think, and I see myself with the sun running down my face and I think I’m glad I put sunscreen on earlier, I’m glad I still wear sunscreen even after things ended with John, and I’m sitting at my desk, I’m lying down on my bed, I’m reading a book on the couch and I see John ask me have you put on sunscreen yet, he says and I say no and I think I’m annoyed, I’m wishing he’d just leave me alone and let me read in peace, for once, and I think I see his own face and it’s a bit screwed up but I don’t care, I see myself not caring, I did that a lot by the end, I didn’t care when I should have, and maybe he cared too much, maybe he cared about whether or not I got skin cancer, since he knew that my dad had had melanoma, and maybe I had nowhere to put all that caring he did, I didn’t know what to do with it, to be honest I think I see myself alone in our room, my room now, but it used to be our room, and we’re still together but he’s out getting fucked by some other guy and I think I’m not jealous, I think, I was never jealous, I’ve never been possessive, mostly I just want to hold someone, or be held by them, and make them breakfast and wake them up by pressing my chest to their back and giving them a kiss on the neck and calling them sleepyhead and telling them don’t let the bedbugs bite before they fall asleep and they’re asking me what I’m reading right now and I’m asking them to go to the movies with me and I’m not alone on Valentine’s day watching In the Mood for Love in a crowded theater, a gay couple to my left, a gay couple to my right, everyone in this theater right now is gay because we’re the only ones who have any taste I think, but I think that’s stupid, I’ve met a lot of gay men and most of them are actually pretty dumb, you’d be surprised, most of them are artless, but I think I just tell myself that gay men are dumb because most of them have rejected me and I want to feel better about myself, and I see myself in the theater the first time I watched In the Mood for Love and honestly I was bored, so honestly by my own standard I was artless I think and I think the last time I watched it I cried and I realized it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, I was a bit older and I realized that life was lack was desire was inside someone else for a moment and then outside them forever, I realized and I realized it was all beautifully hopeless, and I didn’t regret it anymore, how I’d sat alone in my room and googled the address John had sent me, googled it and discovered it was a housing complex for people living with HIV, and I see myself sitting alone in my room and I see my phone with Messenger open and I see my fingers typing out an angry message and I see John getting fucked by this guy without a condom and suddenly I see inside him and I see inside his body and I see this guy there and I’m scared for him and I’m angry and I tell him so, and he gets angry with me and I’m reinforcing the stigma, he says, U=U, he says, and I say I know and I would’ve been fine with it if he’d given me a heads up first or talked with me about it, it’s not that I would’ve said no it’s just that I wanted to be informed and I wanted to feel like he wanted me to feel like he cared about me, but still I would’ve been fine with it I said, and when he got home he didn’t say anything, he just showered and got in bed and I tried to press my chest to his back but he pushed me away with a jerk, and I see the next morning with the sun running down my face and he’s packing a bag and he’s still not talking to me and I see him leaving and I’m considering whether I should follow him or run after him like in a movie but I decide not to make a scene so he leaves and that’s that I think, and I think I wear sunscreen every day now, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wear sunscreen, and I’m sitting at my desk, I’m lying down on my bed, I’m reading a book on the couch and I see John ask me have you put sunscreen on yet, he says and I say yes and I love you, yes and I love you I say

About the Author

Thomas Hobohm lives in San Francisco but grew up in Texas. They are 22 years old and single. Right now, they’re reading Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, and it’s great.

About the Artist

Rajiv Bajaj is a photographer from New Delhi, India.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Nine
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