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Fifty Shades of Red

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Joseph was thinking about Leon. Joseph was always thinking about Leon. Even when he wasn’t thinking about Leon, he was. It was like the eighth process of life; without conscious thought, Joseph thought about Leon.

He thought about the way he had looked when he had left. Like a Belieber who’d just seen the video of her idol urinating into a bucket, he had looked desolate and alone, as though everything he’d ever known was being questioned. Joseph knew the feeling, for he too felt it. He too felt as though he had been hollowed out, as though he’d been captured by natives whilst trying to righteously colonise a small island and they’d taken offence at his purely philanthropic imperialist intentions. Not that he had any imperialist intentions, of course. Joseph believed in three things: equality, brotherhood and Slenderman. Especially Slenderman.

His mouth quirked into a devastatingly handsome approximation of a smile as he remembered the first time he had confided in Leon about his fear of the dark. They had been curled up like commas or preterm foetuses in Leon’s bed, thoroughly spent after a night of vigorous lovemaking and cabinet building, and Leon had asked him what he was so afraid of.

“Joseph,” he had asked, voice quiet like a child, although not like a child at all because he was a grown man and Joseph wasn’t criminally inclined. “What are you so afraid of?”

Joseph had swallowed (he always swallowed; sperm or no sperm, he wasn’t about to spit saliva all over the place like a rabid dog or Miley Cyrus) and looked at the ceiling. What was he afraid of? Commitment? Love? The future?

“Slenderman,” he’d confided, and Leon had slapped him on the arm and called him an unfeeling prick. Joseph had felt his prick in response, and Leon had called him an insensitive jerk. Joseph hadn’t been able to turn that insult into a sexual activity, and so they’d fallen asleep angry.

The morning hate-sex was almost worth the deeply rooted sense of self-doubt that the argument had caused.

In the present, Joseph slammed his hand down on the table that was conveniently placed in front of him at just the right height for slamming his hand down upon in anger, and stood up.

“I can’t do this!” he cried. He didn’t mean slapping the table; he can and had done that. No, what he was referring to was Leon. He couldn’t let him walk away. He couldn’t let him leave. “I have to go after him. God, I’ve been such a fool. Such a fool for love.”

The old woman at the other end of the massage parlour looked at him.

“Go and get your man, son,” she said, and Joseph didn’t say anything because he hadn’t even noticed she was there.

In the streets of Taiwan, in the hours before he was due to leave and go back to London for his wedding to Gaddafi, Leon wandered around like a lost boy, or like a bride who has just witnessed her husband’s fatal accident on the morning of their wedding and is in a bit of a state about it all. Half of him wished he could witness Gaddafi’s fatal accident on the morning of their wedding. He’d wish upon a star tonight, he thought. That always worked, except for all the times it didn’t, which was almost every time.

He passed an alleyway, and heard an old man beckon to him.

“Boy,” beckoned the old man, one finger crooked. Leon thought of the time Joseph had had his finger crooked inside Leon’s anal cavity, and shuddered despite himself. The old man threw back his head, brown and leathery like a brown leather handbag, or something else made out of brown leather, and laughed. Leon frowned.

“What do you want?” he asked. The old man shrugged and looked at Leon with shining eyes.

“If I’m honest, I was hoping for a chance to tell your future and earn a quick buck,” he replied. “But I can see that you’re a man who already knows his future.”

Leon looked at the man.

“What a pointless interlude,” he said.

Panting like a madman or an exerted canine, Joseph reached the ticket desk. The woman behind the desk met his eye with a look of suspicion, as though his flies were down, and Joseph felt himself blush. He knew his flies weren’t down.

“One ticket to London, please,” he asked, still breathless. The woman frowned.

“Look, young man,” she said, although she looked to be about 12 and Joseph had always been told that he looked very mature and rugged for his age. “I don’t know who you think you are, coming up to my desk panting like a dog with your flies undone, but we don’t stand for that sort of behaviour. Not here in Taiwan.”

Joseph swore under his breath. He needed that ticket. He had to prove that he wasn’t a sex pest.

“I’m not a sex pest,” he said. The woman’s eyes lit up. Not literally, because she wasn’t a plastic vessel being controlled from the inside by a tiny alien from another planet who just wanted to fit in, but metaphorically.

“Oh! Well, that’s all right, then!” she beamed, and handed Joseph a ticket to London. “It’s on the house. Because you’re not a sex pest. We do see so many sex pests through here, you know.”

“I can believe it,” Joseph muttered. “I think my boyfriend’s about to marry one.”

The woman frowned again.

“But you said you weren’t a sex pest,” she said, and Joseph shook his head, one tear escaping from his beautiful eyes and sliding manfully down his cheek, as though he were on the cover of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

“He isn’t marrying me,” he said.

The woman’s face fell, but again, metaphorically.

“You’re going to stop the wedding, aren’t you?” she asked.

Joseph thought about it, but mostly for show because he knew how attractive he looked when he was being pensive. It made his cheekbones jut out slightly more and it gave his jawline a lovely brooding quality. Besides, he’d already made up his mind.

“Yes,” he declared, voice loud and proud and queer. “Yes, I am.”