This is the sixth story in this summer’s online Flash Fiction series. You can read the entire series, and our Flash Fiction stories from 2017 and 2018, here.

The first one takes you back to his place, on Mandell. He asks you to top him and you do and that’s it.

The second one chats you up. You don’t even make it out of Ripcord. There’s that room by the emergency exit, and you grope each other against the wall until it’s obvious that nothing’s happening. But of course you keep trying anyway, and then one of you stumbles, and then you laugh, and he laughs, and someone bangs on the door.

The third one takes you back to his place, and you’re nearly undressed when he changes his mind. He looks at your dick, and then he looks at your belly, and then he shakes his head, and that stuns you into silence. You don’t even slam the door. There’s an 85°C Bakery by his apartment, and you buy something so sweet that you can’t help but blush.

The fourth one’s exactly your type, but he’s married. Oops. He pays for a drink, and then another, and that’s when he tells you. He offers you a third. You politely decline, but you think about it for days afterward, grimacing, shaking your head.

The fifth one takes you home from Blur. You decide to let him fuck you. It works without a hitch, and afterward, in bed, with your head against his chest, he smiles and says he has a boyfriend. After you’ve left, you pull your car into a Whataburger, where you scream, and you scream, and you scream.

The sixth one is actually a fluke, because you meant to talk to his friend, who was taking too fucking long in the bathroom. But the sixth one is funny. He wiggles his nose. His hoodie’s too tight. You talk in the bar, and then against the trunk of his car, smoking up all of his menthols. He says that you don’t need to fuck each other senseless just yet, but you take him to your place anyway, and you have clumsy sex. You finish. He doesn’t. You don’t mean to let him spend the night but that happens. He leaves in the morning and he doesn’t text or anything.

The seventh one is really the seventh and the eighth because they are a package deal. You suspect that this will be unnecessarily complicated—but it isn’t. They’ve got it down to a science. When you leave their townhouse, in East End, you feel like a ball of light.

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One day, the sixth one spots you out in the world, at your gig bagging groceries. You debate acknowledging him, and then he asks where you keep the bottled water.

The sixth one takes you to a bar in a part of the Heights you hadn’t known about. You don’t touch each other, and later you’ll think about that not touching, and how it was more arresting than any way you could have possibly touched.

The sixth one texts you a few days later. You grab dinner at this place by his apartment in Alief. He orders for you—some impossibly spicy noodle dish. You stand in front of the restaurant afterward, two chubby people plugging the doorway, and you’re the one who says, O.K., can we? Is this all right? Do you want to?

And the sixth one says, O.K. Yes. We can.

So you do.

The sixth one’s gone when you wake up in his bed—but, this time, there is a text. You debate waiting an hour or five, stalling him. Instead, you immediately message him back.

The sixth one makes a point of being surprised when you ambush him at work, which is a thing that you’d warned him you’d do. He is a nurse, and he is in scrubs, and he asks if you want to eat in the cafeteria, but the hospital reminds you of your mom. You can’t finish your food. The sixth one takes you out for ice cream instead, and it drips all over your shoes.

The sixth one doesn’t fuck you exactly the way that you want, but he’s willing to learn. You, too, are willing to learn. You find that there are many things to explore, new and exciting frontiers of skin and tissue. You exhaust the joke about going back to school, and how whatever it is that you’re doing feels like the opposite of dropping out.

The sixth one tells you all of the nicknames he’s had, and then you throw in yours, until they become something like a poem: bear, black bear, brown bear, panda bear, red panda, doughboy, butterball, cookie, doughnut, sweetcake, bumper, baby-talk variations of your first names, baby-talk variations of your last names. You promise to call each other by your given names only, a promise you are doomed to break—instantly, simultaneously.

One day, the sixth one wakes up beside you, tracing your groin with his tongue. He says, Six months! Can you imagine?

You can’t.

The sixth one doesn’t have anything discernibly wrong with him, and you feel generally O.K. when you’re around him. But this is a foreign feeling. Reality television and telenovelas and K-dramas have made you wary. What’s a relationship without conflict?

The sixth one starts leaving his shit at your place. Your start leaving your shit at his. In this way, you cancel each other out. Neither of you remembers if there’s a scientific term for this.

The sixth one goes to work and comes back to your place. You go to work and come back to his place. You look up, one day, and a year has passed. A year! Nothing has gone wrong. There is no conflict.

The sixth one is always leaving his phone around, all of the time. You think of that thing your mom used to say, about how there will always be trouble if you look for it.

One day, the sixth one says he wants you to penetrate each other simultaneously. You didn’t know that this is a thing two men could do, until you do it, straining your wrists, and you know that you’ll never do it with anyone else.

The sixth one asks you to move in with him, on the day you’ve decided to ask him to move in with you. Finally, a dilemma!

The sixth one organizes his things around your apartment, room by room, before he leaves town for a nursing conference. You gawk at him from your complex’s parking lot, frowning exaggeratedly, waving both hands.

The sixth one is still out of town when you’re sipping a Diet Coke at JR’s. You don’t know that the ninth one is the ninth one until you say, O.K., and then you fuck him in your car. It isn’t even that great. The ninth one tells you he likes you, and you say that he should probably go. You settle your head on the steering wheel, and the horn sounds until someone knocks on your window.

You remember: Newton’s Third Law! A problem inside of a problem!

The sixth one is back in Houston, and you wait until he’s settled and he’s come a few times to tell him. You say it offhandedly, as if it were burnt toast or a lost pair of shades.

The sixth one packs his things so quickly! He finds socks that he’d lost for weeks! Lost books! Lost boxers! His wallet and his keys and his shoes.

The sixth one blocks you. Doesn’t call. Doesn’t text. No D.M.s.

The tenth one is the eleventh one is the twelfth is the thirteenth is the fourteenth is the fifteenth is the sixteenth is the seventeenth is the eighteenth is the nineteenth is the twentieth is the twenty-first. The twenty-first!

The twenty-second one leaves your apartment, and after you lock the door you lie on the floor. You don’t cry. You just lie there, breathing, and then the sun rises, and you go to work.

One day, the sixth one comes into the grocery store, even though there are many in his neighborhood. But he doesn’t come for you. In fact, he walks a perfect circle around you.

But everyone else is so busy, that, eventually, he asks for your help finding the things on his list.

You both walk from item to item, checking them off. Then you ask to ring him up, too, and there is a look on the sixth one’s face, as if this were the biggest decision of his life.

The sixth one says, No, that’s O.K. Someone else can do that.

But he hasn’t walked away, either. He stands there.

So you ask another question.

You ask the sixth one if it’d be O.K. to grab lunch one day? To sit down? Just as friends?

You watch the sixth one weigh the decision. You taste it before it leaves his throat. It’s a familiar palate. Delicious, frankly. You swallow it whole.