They met at a colleague’s wedding.
Evans was forced to attend since the entire office would be going. He avoided any interaction with his colleagues outside work and this had become obvious. He did not want to attain a reputation for being snobbish or antisocial, because he mostly did his work and went home. Already an anomaly at the office, he did not want to draw any more attention to himself, so he went to the wedding. The ceremony was short but the wedding reception however was elaborate, held at the groom’s house.
Evans first saw him seated among a group of men close to the corner reserved for the newly minted couple. Tall and dark in his charcoal grey suit and brown brogues, he looked like a man who took care of himself. His hair was cut low with sharp corners around his temples. Evans stood among some of his colleagues, a group of women that were chattering to themselves and eying the gift table with almost primal delight. He heard snatches of their conversation, bits about the décor and food and so on. But his eyes were on the stranger.
Just when he became aware that he was staring, the stranger looked up and directly at him. He quickly turned his head away and continued nursing his drink. He was seldom caught looking, because he made it a point not to stare at people, even men he found extremely attractive.
Manuel first felt the burning heat of someone’s stare on him, and with his seventh sense of self awareness, without looking, he knew the direction from where the visual assault was coming. He looked up in time to startle the man watching him from across the room. Their gazes caught for just a millisecond, and the man was looking hurriedly away. Manuel watched him turn to his drink, and he continued watching him. The man looked bored, as if he would rather be anywhere but here at the party. Even his attire made a statement of his reluctance – brown trousers with flat brown loafers and a brown long sleeve Ankara print shirt tucked in. The clothes fit him snugly, stylish and polished. Yet there was an air of the ordinary about him. He seemed to blend into the background, almost inconspicuous. His long fingers wrapped around his drinking glass, hands that Manuel was suddenly surprised to know he wanted to feel, to pry open and trace the story of their lines. There was something about him that made Manuel want to haul him off from this boring reception and plant him firmly in his own space.
The man must have felt Manuel’s stare, because he turned his head slightly around, looking up surreptitiously at him again. He gave a mild start when he saw Manuel looking at him and looked away again.
Smiling to himself, Manuel got up from where he was sitting and walked toward him.
They had been together now for almost a year since that day. Manuel had come to love Evans in a way that had surprised even himself. Perhaps it was Evan’s understated nature or how he never demanded of Manuel but was faithfully present. He knew he had found a rare gem, an equal with whom he could stand, someone like him that he could be with without camouflage. There had been times during the past year when he thought himself crazy. Did he really think they could have this life here amidst the hate and alienation?
But they managed it. They tarried. They loved.
Eight months after they started dating, they moved in together. And safe within their concrete utopia, Evans reveled in the completeness of his lover. He considered it blessed serendipity that they found each other. He no longer felt that familiar sting of loneliness that had accompanied him for most his life. He only hoped that he made Manuel happy too, that he was as secure in their union as he felt. He did not know how long they would last; sometimes, it seemed like they were in a dream too real and he was still waiting for the inevitable to happen. There were after all, too many friends of his breaking up their relationships for him to think his would be different. But for the past year, Manuel had remained unchanging, infallible and steady, slowly becoming a rock that he was now coming to rely on.
And so it was that both lovers believed that as long as the other would have him, they would stay, for in each other, they had found someone special, the one completely belonging to the other, his better half.
Written by Jodek