Tyler went to the movie theater by himself. It was just his thing.
It wasn't like he had no one else to go with. He had plenty of friends (okay, one or two friends) and lots of family members that he was close with. He definitely wasn't trying to avoid them or anything like that. Actually, he loved spending time with them.
He just liked being by himself when he did certain things, and going to the movies on Saturday afternoons just happened to be one of those things. A lot of people thought he was weird for it, but he shrugged them off. He liked what he liked, and if anyone gave him trouble for it, he would just ignore them and google the movie times.
He never had a specific one in mind when he went -- really, he couldn't care less what movie he ended up watching. He just liked the way it felt to be in the theater. He always had. There was something surreal about sitting in the dark, in a sea of neatly-lined chairs, listening to speakers that were way too loud and looking at a screen that was way too big.
Plus, there was the bonus of actually getting some alone time. I mean, he loved his family, but there were definite consequences to dropping out of college and moving back home, and a lack of privacy was at the top of that list.
In big, bold letters.
It didn't take long for the staff at the theater to begin to recognize him. One time, he had simply asked for whatever movie had sold the least amount of tickets, and after that, the nice blonde girl who usually worked at the counter would let him know every week which movies were going to be the least crowded. She, of all people, seemed to understand.
It was just nice to be alone sometimes.
So, as usual, on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon, Tyler found himself at the ticket counter, buying a solitary ticket for some cheesy sci-fi movie that had already been out for a few weeks. Tyler remembered seeing an ad for it one time -- it looked horribly unoriginal and it probably had way too much CGI, but whatever. Sometimes he had even more fun mentally complaining about bad movies than actually enjoying good ones. So it was kind of a win-win.
"You're in luck today," said the blonde girl with the bright blue eyes as she slid a small slip of paper across the counter (Tyler thought her name tag said "Jenna," but he wasn't sure and he didn't want to stare). "Looks like you're the only person to get a ticket for this one so far," she said with a smile. "You'll probably end up having the whole room to yourself."
Tyler smiled shyly in return and muttered a small "thanks," but inside, he was celebrating like it was midnight on New Year's Eve. Not New Year's Eve like he celebrated it, obviously -- he usually just stayed home alone and fell asleep on the couch watching old reruns of Friends (and yes, he understood the irony of that statement perfectly well, thank you).
No, the party going on in Tyler's head when he heard that he would get to watch the whole movie completely alone was more like the obnoxious parties that he saw in teen movies, ones with drinking (which he didn't do) and dancing all night (which he didn't do) and hooking up with attractive strangers (which he definitely didn't do).
Basically, being in the theater alone was rare, and Tyler was beyond ready to enjoy every second of it.
A few minutes later, he was sitting near the back of the theater, right in the middle of the row (his favorite spot), with a huge bucket of popcorn and a grin that was probably a little too wide for someone sitting in a movie theater completely alone.
Tyler had just settled in for the room to darken and the ads to start playing when there was a harsh light towards the back of the room, and the door closed with a loud clang.
Ugh. He had company.
Oh well, he thought. He could deal with one person. It was still better than a crowd. One person? No problem.
And then that one person walked in the room, turned down the aisle, and sat down right next to Tyler.
Right next to him.
Tyler stared for a moment in disbelief. He looked around the room, making sure that the rest of the room was, in fact, completely and utterly empty, before staring at the stranger with his mouth hanging slightly open, wondering what on earth had just happened.
After a few moments, the stranger finally seemed to notice Tyler staring at him. "What?" he asked innocently.
"Really?" Tyler asked, raising an eyebrow suspiciously. "The whole room's open, and you decided to sit right there?"
"Well, yeah," the other man replied. It was dark, but Tyler could see the outline of messy hair (wait -- was it actually yellow?) and bright white teeth when he smiled.
Wow. That was a smile. Even in the dark.
Tyler ignored the sudden (and definitely, completely random) twist in his stomach.
"Thought you might be lonely," the man continued, flashing another dizzying smile, one so big it made his eyes squint.
Tyler decided that playing it cool was his best option. (Not that there was any reason that he wanted this guy to think he was cool, because there totally wasn't.) "Why," he smirked, "because I'm spending my Saturday afternoon alone at the movies?"
"Pretty much," the stranger laughed.
Tyler's stomach did a backflip at the sound.
"Well, how do you know I didn't want to be alone?" he countered coolly. "You did come up to me, after all."
"Okay, maybe I'm lonely, then." The stranger grinned. Man, did this guy ever stop smiling? (Tyler hoped not.) He tilted his head a little, looking at Tyler with puppy dog eyes that probably could've convinced him to commit a murder. (And Tyler didn't even like dogs. He hated them, actually.)
Then, the man almost purred, "You gonna send me away?"
Fireworks ran through Tyler's body, from head to toe and back again.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Tyler choked. "Popcorn?"
The man smiled sweetly, his eyes doing the squinty thing again. (Yep. This was it. Tyler was gonna die.) "Sure," he said, grabbing a piece and tossing it in his mouth.
The stranger's attention was snatched away as the movie started. He looked at the screen eagerly, still munching on the popcorn.
Tyler, on the other hand, was a little distracted.
For the first ten minutes of the movie, all Tyler could think about was the man sitting next to him. The speakers were obnoxiously loud, but all he could hear were soft breaths next to him that made his heart race. The movie was one of the busiest he had ever watched, but all he could see was the knee slightly exposed by black ripped skinny jeans that was sitting mere inches from his own.
Why was this guy so captivating? Tyler had come here to see a movie, dang it, so why was it so hard to even turn his face towards the screen? It's not like Tyler was interested in him or anything like that. In fact, he was most, most definitely straight, he was sure of it, he had never even slightly felt attracted to another ma--
"Hey," the stranger whispered, nudging Tyler's arm.
"What?" Tyler responded, determinedly keeping his eyes glued to the screen. He wasn't sure why they were whispering -- they were the only ones in the room, after all -- but he found himself mimicking the other man's quiet tone.
"Do you wanna make out?"
Tyler nearly choked on his popcorn. "W-what?!" he sputtered, any inclination to stay quiet completely and utterly destroyed. He turned in an attempt to gauge the stranger's expression, sure that it must be some kind of weird joke, but the face staring back at him with slightly raised eyebrows and an inquiring look seemed anything but deceptive.
Tyler sat there with his mouth hanging slightly open, waiting for some kind of explanation until he realized that the other guy was waiting for a fricking answer. "Are y -- are you serious?!" Tyler managed to stutter.
"Sometimes," the man smirked, flashing a crooked smile that sent a definite jolt of something through Tyler's body.
"Um, I'm not -- I mean, I'm, uh, flattered, I guess? But I mean, I'm -- I'm, uh, kind of -- straight." Gosh, Tyler thought. Why was that so hard to say?
"Me too," the other guy shrugged. "At least, as far as I know."
Tyler stared at him. "Then, why --?"
"C'mon," he grinned. "People make out in movie theaters all the time. At least, they seem to do it all the time in movies." He chuckled. "Kind of ironic, I guess. But don't you want to know what it's like?"
"What?" Tyler began cautiously. "Making out with someone in a movie theater, or -- or making out with -- with a guy?"
"Mmmm. . ." The other man scrunched up his face in concentration. Gosh, that was cute. (Wait -- did Tyler just think that?) "Both," he answered finally. "I mean, I haven't done either, so yeah. Both. So, do you want to?"
"You don't just -- ask random people if they want to make out," Tyler argued in shock. "I'm pretty sure that's not -- that's not how it works."
"Well, like I said, I'm new at this. I don't know the protocol. You still haven't answered my question, though. Do you wanna make out?"
No. Tyler was definitely going to say no. Any sane person would say no.
"I. . . don't know."
Tyler wasn't sure what he expected from that kind of answer, but the other man just nodded, understanding. "Well," he suggested, "what's the worst that could happen? We try it, it's weird, and we never do it again, or. . ." he trailed off suggestively.
"Or what?" Tyler asked quietly, his heart pounding.
"Or we like it, and we don't have to pay attention to this awful movie." There was that smile again. The one with the squinty eyes.
It was around this time that Tyler realized how utterly impossible it would be to say no to this man.
Tyler paused. "It is a pretty horrible movie, isn't it?"
The stranger laughed. "Yeah, it is. So," he began, tentatively looking Tyler in the eye, "should I take that as a yes?"
Tyler couldn't took believe he was even considering this. He took a deep breath, raking his fingers quickly through his hair. "Y'know," he sighed, "if you tell anyone about this, I'll probably have to kill you."
"Dude, I don't even know you," the guy snickered. "Who am I gonna tell?"
There was a moment where they both sat there, staring at each other and wondering what exactly was going to happen next. And then that moment was over, and Tyler's fingers were twisted in curly hair and strong arms were wrapped around his shoulders and he was kissing this guy with everything he had. And the other man was kissing back, and his lips were so much softer than Tyler thought they would be, and as their faces were pressed together with as much urgency as they both could muster, he felt a small touch of metal and thought numbly, "He has a nose ring," and Tyler wondered why that thought echoed through his mind and sent chills through his body and made him completely ignore the fact that he was kissing a guy -- a guy that he didn't even know -- and that he was loving every second of it.
And he continued to love every second of it for approximately one hour and fifty-three minutes, which was apparently when the movie ended.
Tyler had never been more disappointed in his life.
Because when the movie ended, the lights in the theater came on, and they finally had to pull away, breathless and frazzled.
And then Tyler saw his companion's face with the lights on.
Tyler almost cursed. (Which he never did.)
He was looking at the most attractive man he had ever seen.
And he didn't even find men attractive.
Not until now, apparently.
Because Tyler was looking at highlighter-yellow hair and dark brown eyes and a beautiful everything and he wondered how anyone could ever look at this guy without completely losing it ("it" being roughly equivalent to "heterosexuality").
And Tyler had just made out with this guy.
"Wow," Tyler breathed, unable to even think anything else, much less put together an intelligent sentence.
"Wow," the other man agreed, and they both smiled somewhat shyly despite the fact that their tongues had been down each other's throats only moments before.
And before they could say anything else, the door made a loud clang, followed by the entrance of a skinny white dude with a broom. Both boys scrambled out of their seats as quickly as possible, looking like something in between high schoolers getting caught by their parents and a couple of deer staring down the headlights of a car.
They stood there nervously for a few seconds before the employee (who looked remarkably like the cello kid from High School Musical) took one look at their disheveled appearances and said, "Whatever, man. I'm just here to sweep," in an utterly impassive tone.
"Oh. R-right. We, uh, we should -- should go," Tyler stuttered as the other man nodded in assent. They both made to leave, but collided into each other as they attempted to go down the row in opposite ways. Both men chuckled nervously as they came face-to-face, and Tyler grew warm as the stranger's arms held him in place, stopping him from falling over (but for some reason, Tyler's insides felt like he was falling anyway).
"Sorry, I was just -- I didn't mean to --"
"No, it's -- me neither, I was --"
"Cause it was time -- to leave, y'know, and I --"
"Yeah, I guess we just -- went the wrong way, and --"
"Thanks for -- um --" Tyler gestured vaguely to the other man's arms.
"Oh, I should -- I should probably let go, huh?" He grinned, letting Tyler go and bringing his hands awkwardly back down to his sides.
Tyler missed the feeling.
As they nervously stepped apart and walked towards the exit, he wondered if it would be weird to ask the other man to put his arms back around him. Probably, he decided. But then, they had just been making out at the other man's request, so maybe not.
Too bad Tyler was a coward.
In fact, the more Tyler thought about it, he had never done a brave thing in his life. He wrote music, but he never showed anyone. He liked people, but he never approached them. He wanted to do things -- to go places, to climb things, to inspire people -- but he never did.
And then this guy showed up. And he had wanted to kiss Tyler. And Tyler had wanted to kiss him.
And he fricking did it.
Just like that.
Tyler smiled to himself proudly, running his hand through his hair as he tried to convince himself that oh my gosh that just happened.
Of course, he hadn't really considered what would happen next, and now they were outside, awkwardly frozen in time as next stared them in the face, and it seemed that neither one of them really knew what to do with it. It was a few minutes before the other man spoke. (Tyler was a coward.)
"So, that, uh -- that was. . ." The man trailed off, either unsure of what he wanted to say or unsure of what Tyler wanted him to say.
"Unexpected?" Tyler offered, and they both let out a nervous giggle.
"I was, uh -- well, I was gonna say 'fun,' but that works, too." The man smiled, and now that Tyler could see him clearly, he wondered how he was still standing. Watching that man smile felt like realizing that the earth is moving at 67,000 mph and thinking about what would happen if gravity wasn't there to hold you down.
But it was also starting to feel like maybe he was the gravity. And Tyler didn't know what to think about that.
Then, the man's phone buzzed suddenly, and he looked at it with wide eyes and a muttered curse. "Oh, man, I -- I have to go. I'm so sorry, I totally forgot, I have to pick my sister up at the airport, and she's gonna kill me if I'm late." He looked at Tyler with apologetic eyes, and Tyler wondered vaguely how he had managed to get so far gone in the course of one day. "I'm so sorry, though, I really wish I didn't have to --"
"Oh, no, it's fine," Tyler assured him, and he meant it. He didn't know how to handle the situation from here, anyway, and even though his chest ached at the thought of the other man leaving, Tyler knew he probably needed some time alone to figure out his new feelings before he did something he'd really regret. I mean, really, if this guy managed to get him to first base in less than fifteen minutes, who knows how much farther Tyler would've gone if they spent any more time together? (Hint: Tyler knows. And it's more than enough to make him blush.)
Tyler cleared his throat awkwardly and continued, smiling shyly and talking way too fast. "Really, though, I don't wanna get in the way of your plans. And," he added with a quiet chuckle, "I'd kind of prefer it if you didn't die."
"Why?" the man replied, biting his lip and offering a crooked smile. "You got plans?" His voice was a low growl now, and Tyler was melting in every way possible. The man smirked at Tyler's open mouth, proudly grinning as he realized that 1. Tyler had temporarily lost the ability to speak and 2. it was all thanks to him.
"I'm Josh, by the way," he said, graciously giving Tyler a chance to recover. "I would've told you that earlier, but, uh, I guess we were a little busy." He was being cocky now, and Tyler should've hated it. (Spoiler alert: Tyler loved it.)
"Josh," Tyler whispered, blushing again when he realized he had just said his name out loud, or maybe when he realized how lovingly he had sighed it. Josh. He wanted to repeat it again, to keep saying it over and over, to roll it around in his mouth until he had memorized the taste.
It took a few moments for Tyler to realize that Josh was looking at him expectantly, probably waiting for him to introduce himself in return.
"Oh, right! My, uh -- I mean, I'm -- I'm Tyler." Ugh. Why was he acting like such an idiot? The one time he meets someone that he actually wants to impress, and suddenly he loses the ability to form an intelligent sentence.
Josh didn't seem to mind, though. If anything, he seemed delighted by Tyler's obvious infatuation with him, and the more Tyler stumbled, the more Josh smiled. Which, of course, only made Tyler lose it even more.
Maybe they were perfect for each other, Tyler thought.
And maybe that thought made him shiver.
But maybe it also made him feel a little braver.
"Well, Tyler, I should get going, but maybe I'll see you around sometime." Josh smiled and backed up a few steps, lingering a little too long before turning to walk towards his car.
And then Tyler was crashing down from his Josh-induced high, all the butterflies in his stomach falling cold to the ground in one horrible, chilling moment.
And then he thought about never seeing Josh again; about never feeling all of the terrifying, inexplicable, wonderful feelings that had become Tyler's new normal in the last two hours; about letting Josh walk away and regretting it for the rest of his life.
And then he realized why Josh had lingered before walking away.
Your move, he could almost hear him say.
"W-wait!" He ran across the parking lot, catching up to Josh just as he was about to open his car door. Right before he looked up, Tyler saw a trace of -- what? sadness? disappointment? – on Josh’s face before it was replaced by another glowing smile. Tyler wasn't sure why it had been there (because it couldn’t have possibly had anything to do with the fact that Tyler had almost let him walk away forever), but it was not smiling and he never wanted to see it again. It wasn't right for Josh to be anything but perfectly, incandescently happy (and yes, maybe Tyler was thinking about Pride and Prejudice a little bit when he thought that, because maybe it was his sister's favorite movie, and maybe he had actually watched it a few times, and maybe he had cried just a little bit at the end).
And then he heard a soft hum and realized that Josh was looking at him with those beautiful, expectant eyes again, and Tyler was standing there like an idiot again.
Tyler didn't even know what he was saying until the words came pouring out of his mouth. "I was -- um -- I was thinking about -- about maybe going to see that new superhero movie tomorrow night." He took a deep breath, finally daring to look Josh in the eye. "Maybe -- maybe I'll see you there."
Josh grinned. "Maybe you will."
Tyler tried and utterly failed to hide his excitement. He smiled when he walked to his car, he smiled while he drove home, he smiled when he sang along to the radio (a little louder than usual), and he smiled when he walked through the door to his parents' house.
And when his brother suspiciously asked him what he was so happy about, Tyler just smiled and said it had been a really good movie.