The Stranger

Thomas James Vowles

The Stranger by TJ Vowles
00:00 / 04:21

               As Frank lies on the beach and watches the waves roll in it occurs to him how progressive he is for letting his boyfriend go off with another man. "How bohemian I am!" he thinks as he applies sunscreen to his free-spirited arms and legs. "Liam is God-knows-where - behind the change rooms? In the dunes? A hotel room? In fits of passion, probably, and here I am: calm and collected, completely at ease. A Very Cool Person, cooler than I ever thought I'd be, the kind of cool I would see in a passing stranger on the street and think 'I'll never be that bad-ass.' But I'm now that stranger!" 

               What’s next? Now that he has unlocked this new way of being it feels like there are other exciting things to explore and discover. Tattoos? BDSM? Should they leave the city and try commune living? He remembers meeting a ditzy hippie-type at a party who spoke of her terribly unhygienic experience living in a commune in Bolivia. No, as open-minded and alternative Frank obviously is, he still has his limitations. 

               He turns quickly towards a figure he’s spotted out of the corner of his eye. Not Liam, neither is it the shaggy and muscular stranger who couldn’t take his eyes off his boyfriend in the change rooms. Sure, it had come as a surprise when Frank clocked Liam slyly returning the stranger’s gaze. All previous talk of sleeping with other people had taken place during moments of steamy passion. To see the fantasy manifest in the real world – had it been a shock? Well, yes, for a moment, but then Frank had been the one to suggest Liam pursue the connection. “Seriously?” Liam had whispered. “Why not?” was Frank’s chill response, because he was vibing. Liam’s eyes when Frank had said that! Surprise and delight and a glimmer of fear.

               The same eyes that were at this very moment staring adoringly into another man’s as he entered him.


               Frank stands and strides towards the shoreline. It’s time to swim. He pauses, the water lapping at his ankles. The water is cold, too cold for the old Frank but the new Frank seeks opportunities to step outside his comfort zone and be elevated onto a higher level of consciousness. He wades in, dives, then quickly resurfaces, gasping from the temperature.

               This is what it means to be gay! The rules don’t apply. Can straight people in committed relationships have spontaneous sexual rendezvous with strangers? Don’t think so, suckers! What’s the point in Frank existing outside of the stifling structures of society if this freedom isn’t enjoyed? In the meantime, he needs to get out of this frigid, frigid water. 

               As Frank returns to his towel he glances up and down the beach, not spotting Liam or his lover. They must be having lots and lots of fun, memorable times. 

               He wonders what it’ll be like when he’s finally reunited with his boyfriend. Liam will be giddy, flushed with adrenaline, holding Frank’s hand tight as he relays his racy adventure. Frank will smile, grateful he has his boyfriend back, pleased he had fun. But in imagining their reunion he suddenly feels ill. Will something have changed between them? It has to have, surely. Frank envisions himself listening to Liam’s story but now everything has a  double meaning. He’s analysing, not just the story but also Liam’s movements and facial expressions, searching for clues as to what this all means, what has changed and why. 

               He takes a deep breath and arranges himself on his towel, settling into a tableau of care-free summer ease. “Be cool,” he tells himself.

Name:  Thomas James Vowles

Pronouns:  He/Him

I write because:  If I don't I'll suffocate...

I <3 reading about:  Characters who are complex and flawed

You can find me at:  @talesfromoutersuburbia 

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