Cut from an early draft of This Charming Man. Steven runs into Ryan on his walk home from Marcus’s party–which was originally written as a Halloween party–well before John’s holiday party.
Without Adrian Halloween was anticlimactic. Steven hadn’t bothered with a costume and skipped the bars in favor of Marcus’ house party. Everyone there was nice but it was so awkward to be shoehorned in to every conversation, listening to backstory that no one else needed to hear about inside jokes. Marcus did his best to make Steven feel included but it just highlighted his loneliness. He felt a little guilty about slipping out without saying good bye, but he knew Marcus would understand.
On the way home Steven cut back down 15th Ave so he could stop at the store to get coffee and avoid the revelers. Finding Ryan standing in front of Kidd Valley Hamburgers, eyes red and puffy, was unexpected.
He turned and smiled a little when he recognized Steven. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Hey man, are you okay?” Steven raised an arm then dropped it, unsure if a hug was welcome, though Ryan looked like he needed it.
Ryan’s smile was cardboard. “Yeah, fuck, sorry. I just, man, it’s not my night. I had a fight with Teto and I was trying to decide if I should go home or go to the party anyway.”
“Oh, uh, do I know Teto?”
“No, he’s never met any of my friends.” Ryan didn’t meet Steven’s eyes.
Did Ryan have his own Adrian? Or something similar? Steven wanted to asked, but Ryan didn’t look like he was ready to talk. “Well that’s a good reason to fight.”
Ryan laughed bitterly. “That isn’t the half of it. Fuck, I’m sorry, I don’t actually know if I can talk about this right now.”
“It’s cool. So you’re a surgeon for Halloween?” Steven put his hands in his pockets, avoiding another hug offering. In the years they’d been roommates he’d never seen Ryan look so lost.
“It was part of the fight with Teto. It was a couple’s costume. He was supposed to wear the same thing and together we’d be a pair of Docs. A paradox. It was stupid.”
Steven laughed. “No, it’s clever really.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to humor me because I look like shit. It was dumb. I just wanted to do something together and Teto didn’t want anyone to think we were together. So I got mad and left.”
“I’m sorry, that sounds like such a shitty night.” Steven’s heart ached for Ryan, different from his own loneliness after the party.
“Yeah, well don’t ever date someone still in the closet. It fucking sucks.”
“Can I do anything? We could go get a beer?”
Ryan shook his head. “I’m fine really, besides it’s Halloween, where would we go? Every place is going to be packed.”
“Are you hungry? Cheese burgers?” Steven nodded to Kidd Valley behind them.
“Ah the scene of the fight, but yeah I didn’t get to eat.”
“Oh yeah, let’s not revisit that. I think the Teapot Café is still open? Shitty Chinese food?”
“Um, yeah, actually, that seems better than my other current options.” Ryan looped his arm through Steven’s elbow and they walked back down the block to the glowing neon teapot next to the 7-11. They made small talk and Steven’s loneliness lightened, he hoped his presence did the same for Ryan.