He was trembling as he put down the phone. So many thoughts flashed through his mind. But over that, it was the horrible shouting from Will, from the other end of the phone.
“You fucking whore! You just couldn’t control yourself! How could you do this to me? After all that I’ve fucking given you!” shouted Will.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Joby countered, trying to sound indignant. But in the back of his mind, he was searching through the many communications and correspondences with Benedict, checking if he might have missed something. He knew that this was it.
“Fuck you! You and the slut! Who is he? Who the hell is he?”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“Don’t play innocent with me. I saw your chats. Shit you! I read each and every fucking conversation!” the shouting came with tears now.
“What conversation? With whom?” His mind raced to the skype activities with Benedict. How could Will have accessed that? He deleted each one!
“Still playing the game?! Your fucking doctor!”
That confirmed everything. Will somehow managed to see all the chat threads. Cold sweat came over him. And he sat down.
“Babe, I’m sorry.” This was, suddenly all he could say.
“Fuck you, Job! Fuck you!” There was intense crying on the other side. And his heart sank deeper.
“It’s nothing serious, Babe.”
“DON’T GIVE ME THAT! Don’t tell me it’s not serious! You have been planning to leave me! Fuck you!”
He couldn’t reply. He remembered the conversation with Benedict. They have been talking about escaping, of going back to Manila. But it was just chat. At least for him. The thought had crossed his mind. But he would never leave William.
“I.. I was just playing with him.”
“So you were screwing him as you were screwing me?! What kind of monster are you?”
“Babe, I can’t talk now. I have a meeting. Let’s talk later, Babe. Please.”
“Get out of my life.” And Will put down the phone.
Joby was still trembling as he chat on his chair. All he had in front of him was the stupid corkboard and the post-its. He thought about Benedict. He remembered the wonderful time. The image of his face, his body. Then, image of Will would intrude. Their apartment. Their life together. All competing for his attention. Benedict and Will. He was hoping the day would never come when his two lives would intersect. He thought he could have both indefinitely.
He had to focus on office matters now. The meeting would start in 15 minutes. He needed to put these problems in the back of his mind. Please give me the focus.
Thank God the meeting was routine. It didn’t need to compete for his attention. He turned his attention to his cellphone. There were messages from Benedict. He didn’t know whether he should tell him what happened.
He didn’t reply.
He came home to the apartment. Will wasn’t there yet. He didn’t even have the appetite for a workout. He went to his laptop and tried to check how to access conversations. He tried to google that. But he didn’t have the patience.
He picked up a beer in the fridge. It seemed like the perfect thing to do. Then his phone started ringing. He checked and saw that Benedict was calling him. And there were twenty plus messages from him.
He just let the phone ring. And didn’t even bother to read the messages. He looked around the place. He knew he couldn’t leave. He started to cry. He couldn’t imagine living in another unit, in another life away from Will. Yes, he was so settled in this. But it is also what he ultimately wanted. This security. And it wasn’t just the apartment. It was really Will.
Tears kept on falling as he realized the pain he had caused. How he could have hurt him so bad.
“Babe, come home.” he texted Will.
There was no response. “Please Babe. I’m so sorry.”
He didn’t have to wait long. In a few minutes, he heard the door open and Will walked in. All he could read was this stern look on his face. No smile.
“What the fuck are you still doing here?” Will asked coldly.
“Babe, I’m so sorry.” he got up and approached Will.
“Don’t come near me. I swear I’ll hit you.”
But Joby ignored the warning and still approached him.
Will slapped him, a stinging slap that sent him reeling. He fought the instinct to fight back and just stood there.
“I trusted you. All these years, Jonathan. And you just threw all the trust in the trash. Just like that.”
He didn’t reply and just looked down.
Will slapped him again. This time was even harder. But he didn't retaliate. He knew he deserved it. Maybe even worse than that. Will just slumped on the floor and started sobbing. The pain of betrayal weighed him down.
Joby looked at his lover. And he wanted to hit himself for having caused such pain. How could he had done this. He didn't even realize that tears were already flowing down his cheeks as he slowly tried to approach him.
"Babe, I am so sorry." Joby sobbed as he reached out to try to hug him.
Will suddenly uncoiled and pushed Joby to the floor. He was on top of him, with one hand clutching his shirt and the other fist ready to hit him. Joby raised his arms to fend him off as he shouted "DON'T!" Will was so poised to strike him, but he backed down. He released Joby and sat on the floor.
"Get out of here. Now! Just get out."
Joby got up and backed away from Will, scared speechless. He knew he couldn't say anything, less he provoked him again. He went to the bedroom and hurriedly grabbed his gym bag, some clothes. He didn't even care what he grabbed anymore. He knew he just had to get out of the unit, if only to let Will cool down.
He went out onto the living room and saw Will still sitting on the floor. He had his face buried in his arms, sobbing. He didn't bother him and just walked out the door.
The impulse was to check himself him in a cheap hotel nearby. He noticed the stares from the commuters. Only then did he realize that his shirt was partly torn, he was in tatters. He became self conscious but that quickly dissipated. He had to choose a hotel that wouldn't be depressing. Yet he really didn't know how long he was going to stay there. That might be strain his resources if this stretches. How long would it take before he could go back to the unit? Suddenly he thought about his office clothes, his laptop. When could he sneak back in to get them?
He settled for the business hotel the office frequents for meetings. He was going to use his corporate rate anyway. Entering the lobby made him feel better. They were always quite welcoming there. He realized how late it was when he was escorted to the room and he had the view of the Marina.
He sat on the lounging chair beside the bed and remained immobile. His mind just became blank. And even the tears that seemed to be flowing just stopped. He was not even hungry, considering that he hadn't had dinner. Slowly he drifted to slumber.
His ringing cellphone woke him up. He got up and searched for the phone. It was stuffed inside his bag. He didn't get to it on time. On top of many missed calls were a dozen messages, all from Benedict. He hesitated but finally returned the call.
"Hello? Joby? What happened? I've been trying to reach you."
"Ah yeah. Uhmm. Many things happened. I'm sorry."
"I was just really worried. Where are you?"
"Somewhere. We had a fight. Big one." He felt thirsty as he said this. Thirsty for a shot of scotch. Yeah, something really strong.
"What? Oh God. I'm sorry. Where are you?"
"I checked in at the hotel. He kicked me out of the place."
"Oh wow! Are you ok?'
"Honestly, Ben, I'm a wreck. But there really is nothing I can do. He caught us."
"How? We were being so careful."
"I still don't know. I thought I was careful. I thought I covered all my tracks."
"Oh my God. So he knows me?"
"I don't know how much he knows about you. It just happened so fast. I.. " His voice trailed off. He found his tears again.
"I wish I could fly there to comfort you."
"Yeah... But maybe it is better this way, Ben. I need to sort this out by myself."
"What are you saying?"
"Look, Ben, let's just cool off for a while. I can't think straight if you're still part of the equation."
"Oh." A long pause followed. A hurtful pause.
"Ben, please, try to understand, I need.."
Benedict cut him off. "I know. I know you need space. And time. I get it."
"Do you really? Ben, please, just bear with me."
"Haven't I always, Job? Haven't I been just waiting for the crumbs?" He stifled a sob welling up inside.
"I know, Ben. And I appreciate it. So much. I'll be getting in touch with you soon. I promise."
"Wow. So this is goodbye, too?"
"Yes.. I mean, not really. I'll be the one to call you."
"Fine." Benedict put down the phone. That selfish bastard took it out on him, as if he was the villain. The culprit. The snake. He wanted to call back just to shout at him and curse him. But that just wasn't his style. He had to just let Ben sort it out himself.
He knew he hurt Ben. He had hurt another person he loved. In a span of 24 hours, he went from being in a triangle to being just a solo act. Nobody won. Not even him. A zero sum game. He grabbed a clean shirt and washed his face. He had to get a drink. He wouldn't be able to sleep without that drink.
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