Our friendship was beautiful… like you.
We’d return home from a hellish day at school and retreat to our secret place. It was nice to be alone together. It was in that space that we were free from judgement, free from the accusing fingers that loved to point out all of our idiosyncrasies.
You and I would talk for hours on end about anything at all. Our favorite topics to ponder included the meaning of life and mankind’s responsibility to the world and it’s other inhabitants. It still amazes me that the most insightful and progressive conversation I’ve ever had were between me and a teenage boy.
You were hardly your average adolescent male though. Far, far beyond your years, you exuded a calm and steadfast intelligence that was breathtaking. If there is one thing that I remember most about you, it’s your mind; it was priceless.
Though you were uncommonly deliberate and polite about everything you did or said, there was a confident intensity to you that I held dear. You weren’t keen to share yourself with many people, and you were even more reserved about revealing your feelings. However, we told each other everything. There was never a secret too dark, too taboo between us. You were my greatest confidant.
I wish I could recall how many nights I fell asleep with the phone burning hot against my cheek. As our passionate debates ran cold, my eyes would grow heavy. You would get out your guitar and we’d trade our high-spirited exclamations for drowsy whispers. I would close my eyes and you’d play for me until my breathing softened. We ended our nights like this for years.
It never came as a shock to me when you finally said that you loved me. I loved you too— Fiercely.
All the same, I never felt rushed to do anything about that love. Loving you was more than enough for me. No puerile worldly relationship would have been worthy of representing what we had. Labels seemed largely unnecessary, as did the pressures associated with being called your “girlfriend”. We both knew what happened to boyfriends and girlfriends our age. We also knew that we wanted no part of that. There was far too much at risk to ruin it with titles and their accompanying curse.
I now wonder if my passivity regarding this matter bothered you. If it did, I wish you had told me. I’d have been honored to date you.
Then again… I didn’t have much time to come to that conclusion, did I?
Things suddenly changed between us. You seemed so uncomfortable, so withdrawn. It was terrifyingly uncharacteristic of you to hide from me, but you did it anyway. I silently wondered for weeks what I had done wrong, what I had said to make you behave the way you were. When I asked you what was vexing you so, you blamed everything on your father and I believed you.
It isn’t your fault that I believed you.
You had been fighting with your father so frequently. I heard him yelling at you so many times. My heart would always jump when his voice boomed through the phone. He was so horrible to you; I couldn’t stand it. Though I never said anything, I often dreaded picking up your phone calls. It broke my heart to hear him treat you the way he did. If ever your inner light dimmed, it was when he spoke to you. I would have never guessed you were his own flesh and blood. Of course, now that I’m older, I understand a bit more. He was sick and bitter. Still, he treated you—his only child—like a stranger off the street.
But I suppose in many ways he was a stranger, wasn’t he? He didn’t know the real you at all. You hid that from him until the very end.
Do you remember when things got really bad between you two? You ended up having to run away to your friend’s house for awhile. What was supposed to only be a few weeks’ stay turned into several months and then a year. You eventually got your band together and things started looking up for you musically, but I knew you were still hurting inside. It was worse than ever before.
I would try to soften the blow and you–with your heart of gold–always made sure I remained under the impression that I was actually helping you to feel better. I now realize that you lied and put on a brave face strictly for my own benefit. All the same, our love deepened. You wrote me songs. My admiration for you continually blossomed.
As the seasons blended into one another and faded away, something sinister and parasitic systematically ate away at you. I could feel it. It felt like fear. Fear and self-loathing .
Still, another year passed.
Finally, the day came. You called me with a nervous trembling in your voice that I will never forget. I instantly knew something was wrong.
“You know I love you, right?”
It came hurtling from your mouth like projectile vomit.
“Of course, Joshie. I love you too…”
What else could I say? You were there, calling me at an extremely peculiar hour, sounding as near to bawling as I’d ever heard.
“Something is wrong with me.”
“Wrong? What’s wrong? Has something happened? Is it your dad again?”
“No, no. I mean something is really wrong with me.”
“What do you mean? Are you sick?”
“No, I mean, maybe. I don’t know. I need your help. I’m confused.”
I remember a sick feeling developing in the pit of my stomach. It grew and grew, stretching and swelling with every word you spoke. This wasn’t like you at all. If I hadn’t known you better I would have wondered if you were drunk, but I intuitively knew intoxication wasn’t the cause of your sudden incoherence.
You stumbled and bumbled around trying to find the right words to make me understand. Eventually, you found them.
“I think… I think I’m gay.”
(To Be Continued…)
© C. M. 2018 All Rights Reserved
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