"Ever been to Crazy Coqs?" asked Charlie, as they walked along the canal to Broadway Market.
"What?" replied Hamish, dodging a cyclist who sped past them.
"Crazy Coqs..." repeated Charlie. "You know, at the Zédel."
"Oh, right..." nodded Hamish. "The cabaret club. Is that what it’s called? Crazy Coqs? Odd name?"
"I guess it’s meant to be a bit risqué?" shrugged Charlie. "Anyway, that’s where I was last night."
"What did you see?" asked Hamish. "Who did you go with?"
"I went by myself..." said Charlie. "Press tickets. Usual deal."
"Wasn’t that a bit weird?" asked Hamish. "Going by yourself?"
"It was okay, actually..." shrugged Charlie. "It’s sort of designed that you share small cabaret tables with other people anyway, so I kind of just blended in."
"What did you see?" asked Hamish.
"It was a Kylie Minogue show..." replied Charlie.
"A drag queen?"
"No, a cabaret reinterpretation of her music..." explained Charlie. "A guy on the piano. Really good actually. I mean, I loved her music before, obviously, but this gave me a whole new appreciation of the songs."
"Would you go again?" asked Hamish.
"To the Kylie show?" replied Charlie.
"Well, to Crazy Coqs?" clarified Hamish.
"I guess so..." shrugged Charlie. "It’s more of a date thing, to be honest. I’d like to take a date there."
"How’s things going on that front?" asked Hamish.
"The dating front?" replied Charlie. "Not great. I’ve got an unopened bottle of PrEP, and I think my lube is past its expiry."
"I'll buy you a cinnamon scroll at Climpson's..." offered Hamish. "They're almost as good as an orgasm."

"Liar..." grinned Charlie. "But I'll take it."

Photo by cihan soysakal / Unsplash

"Read this..." said Charlie, handing his phone over to Hamish as they outside Climpson's, drinking their coffees in the sun.

"What am I reading?" asked Hamish, taking the phone and focusing on the screen.

"Nothing really..." shrugged Charlie. "I wrote it yesterday. Just interested in what you think."

Hamish read silently to himself:

His hands smelled like cigarettes. His fingers. Stale cigarettes. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, tried not to think, tried not to smell as he buzzed the clippers around my beard. Turkish. He was Turkish, obviously. They all spoke Turkish to each other. Some English, but not a lot. My guess was that he had been born in Turkey and only recently moved to London. He smiled a lot. He had a nice smile. His eyes sparkled. There was a softness to him, he somehow seemed warmer than the other guys working there. I always enjoyed the ritual of getting my haircut at the Turkish barbers downstairs. Always the same. There was an order to things. A ritual. The clippers. The hot towel. The shave. The wash. The aftershave. The moisturiser. The massage. He always gave a good shoulder massage, this guy. His hands, kneading the tension out of my shoulders, pushing me forward, moving me into the position that he wanted me. I kept my eyes closed. Always closed. My tightly closed eyes seemed to amuse him, almost as if he thought I was sleeping. I wasn't sleeping, I just wanted to enjoy it. I didn't want to break the intimacy that we wordlessly shared. A tap on the shoulder signalled that it was over, my time was up. "Thanks..." I said, smiling at him. Trying to say things with my smile that I knew I'd never be able to say to him. He turned his attention to the next customer, he placed his hands on the next guy in the queue.

"You're obsessed with that guy..." grinned Hamish, handing the phone back to Charlie. "You could just try talking to him? Next time, when you go for your haircut, why not ask him his name?"

"Don't be ridiculous..." dismissed Charlie. "I'm not going to humiliate myself."

Photo by cihan soysakal / Unsplash

"What's news?" asked Niall.

"I'm just really focused on mindfulness..." shrugged Kellen. "You know, being mindful. Thinking about things. Breathing."

"You're an idiot..." smiled Niall.

"Juicing..." continued Kellen. "I'm contemplating going vegan, or maybe just lactose-free. Off-setting my carbon footprint. That kind of thing."

"Stop!" exclaimed Niall. "I will not Greta Thunberg this nonsense!"

Photo by cihan soysakal / Unsplash

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Alongside U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), the availability of PrEP means that we now have the tools to prevent the transmission of HIV.

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