Secured in the darkness of the room, unclothed under covers, Lou sidled closer to Matt. Yet no matter how he tried to negotiate his body against his, he received no response. Eventually, with a deep breath he rolled over, swinging his feet to the ground with a thud.
“What is going on?” he said, angry and confused, as he stalked off to the bathroom.
“Lou -” said Matt, to the slam of the bathroom door. Lying there, he didn’t know what to do, but he felt a strong impulse to commit himself to some course of action. A single word raced across his mind in yellow neon.
He reached out to the bedside cabinet and grabbed his phone.
“You know Comrades?” he typed out, to his most recently made acquaintance.
Alone in the bathroom, Lou sank down against the wall to the cold tile floor. He sat staring at the Korean text on the wastepaper bin label, his eyes following the angular lines and squiggles. He felt the scattered jigsaw pieces of his new reality come together in his head: the three years him and Matt had shared together were coming to an end.
After a long five minutes, he returned to the room and got into his side of the bed.
“Lou,” started Matt. “I’m sorry.”
Lou paused, before uttering calmly,
“Do you want to end it?”
“Lou, I just feel so confused at the moment with my job, and with me living down in London -”
Matt let the sentence hang there, the words suspended in the darkness. Lou sensed for the first time that Matt didn’t know himself what he wanted to do. But he couldn’t deal with any of this now: he felt exhausted, and found sleep to be gently pressing his eyelids shut.
“Let’s talk about this tomorrow,” he said, turning his body to face the wall, where the amber of an outside streetlight reflected dimly.
When Matt was sure that Lou was no longer awake, he got out of bed, put his clothes back on and left the room, completing all these actions as if he was on autopilot.
He felt a surge of excitement as he exited the lobby and headed out into the night. Soon, the brightly lit shop fronts of America Drive were flooding his senses. As he reached the seedy end of the Drive, a girl tumbled out of a doorway.
“Hey, you want massage?” She screeched, giggling.
Matt didn’t turn to look at her. Walking with purpose, he reached the alleyway and saw there a lone silhouette, exhaling cigarette smoke that rose slowly up past yellow neon.
“Hi,” said SyunJoo, in a voice loud and confident.
“Hi,” replied Matt. He noticed that SyunJoo wasn’t as tall as he had expected.
“He your boyfriend, in Soho bar?” asked SyunJoo, chucking his cigarette to the ground where it smoldered.
“Yeah, yeah he is,” replied Matt.
“Really?” replied SyunJoo, laughing.
The laughter made Matt feel uneasy. But the mention of Lou reminded him of why he had come here. He took a step closer to SyunJoo, so there was barely any space between them. He smelt the tobacco on his breath; he looked into the eyes that stared curiously back behind glasses, then down at the lips, slightly cracked, and began to move his own mouth forward to meet them.
But as if a force outside his control was pulling him back, he suddenly took a step away from him. When he looked in those eyes again, SyunJoo was startled to see how fearful he looked.
“You okay?” asked SyunJoo.
“I’m fine, I just – I can’t do this.”
Almost tripping over, Matt stumbled back down the alley and out into America Drive.