Updated: Jun 14, 2020
Cal. Tim. Phone calls that last until the flight attendant has to ask Tim to put your phone away sir, this is the second time I’ve spoken to you.
Of all the couples I’ve written, these two are among my favorites mostly for their sheer opposition to each other: the way they live their lives, their histories, and their ongoing and incessant flirting bickering. Cal comes to the story with a huge familiarity with quick and anonymous hookups and zero experience being in a relationship. On the other hand, Tim can navigate the relationship piece but his sole random hookup was a) years ago, b) while drunk, and c) Tim likes to snuggle which was entirely lacking. Tim's good with people, Cal's good at keeping people away, Tim's good at talking, Cal's good at ducking out of conversations, and Tim's good at emotions, feelings, and vulnerability, and Cal is good at building the tallest and most impenetrable of walls.
And yet: there they both are on their phones looking for a one off evening with no strings attached and no interest in anything more. Ah, the sweet summer innocence of two love interests in their opening scene, blissfully unaware of what awaits them.
And what does await them? A pretty banging evening (in so many ways), an unexpected - and unwanted - connection, and a nervous flutter they both promised themselves they had no interest in feeling. We already know Cal's side of the events, so let's talk Tim:
On the morning our tale begins, our handsome, technologically challenged doctor found the first cafe where he could puzzle out the WiFi instructions and hammer cups of coffee to his heart's content. It meant having to ignore the hot barista, but he'd spent years repressing any and all interest in such things and what was one morning more? Besides: he was going to get his itches scratched. As soon as he got the damn app to load.
I like to think that in the midst of a challenging job and his marriage falling apart, this trip out to San Francisco is exactly what Tim said: a chance to do something nice for himself. See his buddy Billy, throw back some beers, and take advantage of being a stranger in a large city to knock boots with a guy in a way that would be simple and easy before he goes back to his real life. And it’s going great – he has decent coffee to drink, dozens of profiles to flick through, and a view of a smoking hot barista as he does so.
Does he freeze when he realizes he needs to actually message someone? Yes. Does he realize his whole plan was 1) swipe right, 2) ?????, 3) bone with no thought to the middle there? Absolutely. Does he breathe out a sigh of relief when a message pops up and all he has to do is respond? Definitely. The guy’s profile is suitably plain, the picture is fittingly hot – at least as much of it as Tim can see – and the process is entirely less terrifying than it might have otherwise been. This is good. It’s working. Simple, easy, just like how he planned.
And – oh hell yes – it’s even better that it turns out to be that barista guy who shows up at the bar. Tim didn’t get into this whole thing to get to know anyone, but it’s easier that they happen to have met before. Much more up Tim’s alley that way and besides, Tim spent all morning looking at the guy and now he gets to touch.
Plus, it turns out the guy’s not bad, personality wise. Quiet, a bit sarcastic, but whatever. His little 'did they add goat cheese?' quip, how he doesn’t seem to care about how long it’s been for Tim or his inexperience with men, and the fact that he shows up with a straightforwardness to what they’re doing makes all of this hook-up-with-a-stranger thing palatable to Tim, when it's really not the way he generally goes about sex. And Cal's good looking. Really good looking. As in, if Tim had to describe exactly what he had been looking for, it would have been 'hipster barista in tight jeans and a fitted shirt, stylish undercut, and a carabiner of keys hanging from his messenger bag who doesn't take any shit from anyone.' A day into his trip, Tim considers his itches full and well scratched. He was ready for an awkward tumble that he immediately regretted and instead he got to see this guy twice and is gearing up for round three.
And then Billy texts him. Billy, who was the reason Tim flew across the country. His best friend, a rock through the entire mess of the ending of his marriage. His buddy who is dropping everything to cheer Tim up.
If he just didn’t have to show up and be so supportive and wonderful and great so early.
It’s fine. It’s whatever, not entirely fine but maybe Tim can see Cal later that night or the next day, since at some point Billy needs to work. Cal’s off at 9, Tim can text him back later and they can figure something out.
Anyway, Billy will understand if Tim ducks out since it’s not like Billy doesn’t know that half of the reason Tim flew out here. And wants to hear the details. More details than that, Moth. More detailed details. Like exactly how big, show me with your hands, no don’t dodge the question this is important.
As important as meeting Billy’s buds and seeing his café. Which is… this? This is your coffee shop?? You couldn’t have mentioned the goddamn name? The address?? And I’m sorry, but – who? Cal? That’s the guy who you – holy fucking shit, Billy, you talk about this guy once or a hundred times and his name just never comes up, that’s – no, I’m not saying what this look on my face is for, mind your own damn business.
Tim knows a thing or two about Cal, by way of Billy. Not his name – thank you very fucking much, Billy – but the entire Billy-hires-a-guy-who-is-in-a-super-bad-place-something-awful-happen-to-his-mom-a-car-accident-maybe-but-he’s-awesome-and-doing-ok-now and Tim has heard on repeat by this point how much he’s going to love him, how great he is, how much Billy jives with him, how he’s this secretly funny, genius, amazing friend and Billy hit the jackpot with him. And Tim knows a couple other things too, about this Cal he met through his phone – he’s painfully private, really genuinely kind, and Tim is surprisingly and maybe a little uncomfortably more into him than he expected to be.
And Tim knows – knows – that he’s not supposed to know both of those sides of Cal. Billy’s Cal is one guy. Phone Cal is another guy. And Tim might have only just met him but it’s so painfully clear that those two worlds are not supposed to collide. Which they’re going to. Because sooner or later, Billy will know that Tim knows Cal and then Cal will know that Billy knows – and if Cal knew that Billy knew, and if Cal knew that Tim knew that Billy knew –
We need to talk, he texts Cal, probably 12 hours too late but holy hell, Tim was really, really not supposed to fuck Billy’s best friend.
Let’s pause to think about Tim after Cal left his hotel room. He got laid for the first time in months? A year? Longer? And it was so good. He’s probably whistling as he’s showering and getting dressed, finds himself grinning through his burger and his beer, and he flops into bed that night feeling like finally something is going right in his life. The anticipation the next morning is even better because Tim gets to enjoy the sex without the nerves. This entire thing is amazing. Perfect. Tim is a genius for flying to San Francisco and banging the hot coffee guy.
Record scratch/freeze frame and now we have Tim walking towards the café, knowing that he’s going to meet this Cal of Billy's who is the same Cal whose dick he sucked (and whoops can’t think about that without needing to adjust his pants) and Cal has no idea what’s coming.
Tim’s a nice guy. A genuinely nice and kind guy, no matter that he can be a bit brusque and snippy. He knows Cal isn’t going to like what's about to happen. And he knows that he can’t do anything about it other than watch this slow motion train wreck since he couldn’t get a hold of Cal to warn him ahead of time. So it’s awful in a maybe-this-will-be-funny-years-from-now-but-oh-god-let-the-floor-swallow-me-up-right-now kind of way. Cal’s pissed. Billy’s thankfully oblivious. Tim wants to make everything right and the only way he knows how to do that is to talk about it and talking is Cal’s least favorite thing.
Tim really, really didn’t mean to show up here and toss Cal’s life into chaos. Cal was supposed to just be some guy. Some good looking, sweet, somewhat prickly, clearly smart, super good in bed random guy. And instead, he’s Tim’s best friend’s best friend who’s had a rather shitty run of things and Tim’s only increasingly convinced that everything he touches goes to hell.
Except Cal claims he’s not mad. He just doesn’t like bars, drinking, going out – people at all, Tim’s guessing. And fuck if he doesn't actually have a sense of humor as dry as a desert but there all the same. And if he doesn’t look good enough to eat, sitting there across from Tim. And if on the walk back from the bar, he doesn’t seem a little looser and maybe tonight isn’t going to go completely off the rails.
And then Billy happens. They were so close – so very, very close – to getting through this. Finish their drinks, say goodnight, and get out of this more or less intact. But no. Billy just had to put two and two together. Billy – for fuck’s sake Billy, shut up.
Some day, all of this will be a wild story. That day is not today and Tim hoofs it across an unfamiliar city to an address scribbled on a napkin in Nell’s writing and waits outside until a too-trustworthy neighbor happens to leave the door open long enough Tim can slip inside.
He’s going to make this right. Fix the tornado of mess he brought upon Cal. He’s going to get in, apologize, and leave Cal alone.
He’s… oh. Yeah, he’ll stay here tonight. And have a drink. And think once or twice or two dozen times about reaching over and taking Cal’s hand. And hear all sorts of useless, unwanted, overly sappy words crowd into his head because he’s the unrepentant romantic that he’s always been. Who’s now coming dangerously close to feeling something for this guy he just met. Feeling something real and big and terrifying. Which is not what he came to SF for. And yet here he is, trading glances and thinking thoughts about Cal’s eyelashes and the pinch of pain in his forehead and how desperately he wants to wrap up that tremor of vulnerability into his arms and hold on tight.
It’s Billy’s fault. Probably. Somehow.
Leaving the city is only marginally less awful than getting out of bed that last morning. He was always flying back home, he just didn’t think he’d be doing it with his head full of this guy he just met. This intentionally random and anonymous stranger, who ended up being anything but. Who’s snarky and sarcastic and smart and does this thing where he ducks his chin down and his hair falls over his forehead and Tim wants to push it back.
It’s been 48 hours. Tim needs to get a grip. Not text him again. And then again. And then text Billy with is Cal single, try to delete it, and press send by mistake. Shove his phone in his pocket when approximately forty emojis come back from Billy. Pull his phone out when it vibrates again cause it might be Cal. He’s not doing this. Getting mixed up in something again. Especially something that could be serious. Especially with a friend of a friend. He’s not.
Though he could.
And there’s Cal’s number, sitting there on his phone.
Oh, this is the worst, best idea Tim’s ever had and he doesn’t let himself hesitate before he calls.
Next up: a post about what comes next for these two. I love happy ever afters, but real life doesn't end with a neat and pat wrap up. Love stories continue onwards through the bumps, dips, exhilaration, and hilarity of life. Come follow along as Tim and Cal enjoy their future together.