That can’t be him. Can it? All these years later? Nah. But damn, it looks like him. Mario couldn’t help himself. He stared across the sparsely crowded mall food court, drinking in the man currently consuming his every thought. There’s no way that’s Darius.
Mario sat up in the uncomfortable metal chair, trying to afford himself a better view. He studied intently, committing the sight to memory. Darius stood in front of a shop approximately 50 feet away with his back to Mario. Mario’s eyes roamed absently. He still fillin’ out pants more than most females, he thought as his levels of lust began to rise. Darius turned on the spot, slowly, as if he were looking for something in particular. Mario was able to take in Darius’ face again, as well as the rest of his body. He picked up a lil’ weight. But it looks good on him. Lil’ thick ass. Damn I love me a thick dude.
Darius’ dark skin stood out amongst the pale fluorescent lights. The horn-rimmed glasses accented his features well. His face was smooth, with a pronounced nose and full lips. He wore a pale, pink polo shirt with khaki shorts and pink-and-white checkered canvas shoes.
Licking his lips absently, it took a few seconds for Mario to realize he had stood up and was walking toward the man. Usually confident in his appearance, Mario could feel his heart beating rapidly. His anxiousness made him even more nervous. Standing at 6’3” and weighing a solid, muscular 230lbs, Mario couldn’t help feeling like he was 2 feet tall.
I can’t believe he still makes me feel this way. I haven’t seen him in like 10 years! And I’m sittin’ here with butterflies. Mario smiled to himself as he admitted that he liked the feeling. He’d never met anyone that has made such an impression on him.
Mario smiled an even broader smile as he reminisced. 10 years prior, back at Mead University, Darius wouldn’t give him the time of day. No matter what he did or said, Darius never showed even the slightest inclination toward him. I tolerate your presence when necessary, he once said. Mario could never fully understand why Darius was so deadest against him, though he knew his reputation on campus did him no favors in the matter. While he was interested in Darius, he was also a popular athlete that didn’t have to work very hard for much off the football field. With that confidence (or perhaps arrogance), he approached Darius, with disastrous results.
Mario flashbacked to his first encounter with Darius.
“Wassup,” Mario said confidently after approaching Darius. They were at a house party and had both happened to step outside at the same time. Or rather, Darius stepped outside and Mario followed, after having seen him earlier and deciding he wanted him.
Darius looked at Mario with a skeptical frown on his face. “Hi,” he replied dryly.
Mario faltered a bit. He was used to people fawning over him from just a smirk. And here was someone that seemingly already didn’t like him after one word. “Uh, I’m Mario,” he said. Darius merely stared at him. “Uh, what’s ya name?”
Darius’ face moved slightly, as if he was having a conversation with himself about how, or if, he would answer. “Darius,” he finally offered while looking Mario up and down a few times.
Virtually clueless on how to continue the conversation, but desperate to do so, Mario defaulted to standard questions. “What’s yo major?”
Darius was visibly annoyed by the query. “Look, we both know you don’t give a damn about my major. So, what do you want?”
Mario was rocked, but tried his best to hide it. “Damn man. I was just trying to make conversation. Shit.”
“Why?” Darius demanded instantly.
“Because what?” Darius insisted.
Mario looked around, ensuring no one was within earshot, before answering. “Just tryna get to know you.”
Mario thought Darius was offended by his very existence. “Because I… saw you inside and thought you might be cool.” Mario knew it was foolish, but he was grasping for answers under Darius’ intense stare by this point.
“Bullshit,” Darius declared. “If you don’t even know why you’re speaking to me, then you don’t need to be.” With that, he turned to go back towards the front door.
“Okay, wait. Wait.” Mario was put in a precarious position. He decided to lay his cards on the table, so to speak. “Look, I saw you inside and I… I liked what I saw. So, I wanted to holla at you.”
Darius rolled his eyes. “Was that so hard?”
Mario shrugged. “I guess not.” He felt even more foolish.
“Well, Mario, I know who you are. And I know how you do people. So, I’m not interested. Night.” Darius scrambled back through the door before Mario could process what he’d said.
After that, most of their interactions went similarly. Mario found that, by some stroke of what he thought was dumb luck, he and Darius ran in similar circles and saw one another fairly often. But Darius didn’t budge in his position in the slightest. Mario was frustrated. The more Darius rejected him, the more he desirous he became. However, the most Mario ever got was a hug on graduation day before Darius walked out of his life for what he thought would be forever.
Mario jumped back to the present. He saw his quarry walking away from the food court. He made a beeline for the man, determined not to spoil this second chance.
“Hey, Darius!” He called out. Ahead of him, Darius stopped and turned around slowly. He stood nearly still, squinting slightly. Mario jogged lightly to him. “Darius, man, I thought that was you.”
Darius looked at him with a look of pure incredulity. “Um,“ he began.
But Mario cut him off. “Mario. From Mead,” he offered.
Familiarity registered on Darius’ face after a few seconds. “Mario?” Disbelief saturated his voice.
Mario grinned. “Yea man.”
“I-“ Darius’ face scrunched up as he searched for his words. “I didn’t recognize you. You look… bigger.”
Mario gladly took the lead. “Ha! Yea I put on a few pounds I guess. Lil’ bit of fat, lil’ bit of muscle.”
“I- no, yea. It- you look good,” Darius stumbled.
“So do you,” Mario said quickly, trying to hide his lust. “Man, it’s been a long time. It’s crazy running into you. I had no idea you lived here.”
Shakily, Darius replied. “Yea. I just moved here about a month ago for work. And to be closer to some of my friends.”
“Gotcha. Listen,” Mario started boldly, “I know you’re probably busy and everything. But, I was wondering if we could link up. You know, talk, catch up. See what’s been going on for the last ten years.”
Darius stared at him. “Catch up?” He asked.
“Yea, you know. You can tell me what you’ve doing since graduation.” Mario shook his head. Same ol’ Darius.
Darius continued to stare, with a scowl of suspicion clouding his features. “Catch up?” He repeated.
Mario knew what this meant. Having his learned his lesson from previous encounters, he quickly made his intentions clearer. “Yes. Catch up. I just want to talk to you. See how you been. And, hopefully that goes well, and we can see where that leads us.”
Darius’ eyes got big. “Oh. Oh.”
Mario nodded. “I’m not gonna act like I’m not still attracted to you. Shit, maybe even more now. Honestly, I never thought I would see you again. And now, here you are. I feel like I’m getting a second chance. I’m not tryna waste it. Ya know?”
Darius seemed taken aback. “I don’t really know what to say,” he admitted.
Mario laughed. “Few years back I would’ve said something like ‘start with your phone number,’ but I’ve changed. How about you tell me when you’re free.”
Darius bit his bottom lip in obvious contemplation. “I’m free now,” he finally said. “I’m really just browsing around for some clothes and things for my apartment.”
Mario beamed knowingly. “How about I join you then?”
Darius returned the smile. “Okay. But keep your hands to yourself. For now, anyway.”
© 2017 T.J. Clayton