Most of this is actually fiction, but some parts are, well, sort of autobiographical. The names of the characters, though, have been changed so as to protect their privacy. As with most stories, however, the author retains all rights to this story. Without the permission of the author, no reproductions or links to other sites are allowed.
This story deals with male homosexual love (not sex though. This is a no sex story). If you are not of legal age (18 or 21, it depends actually where you are), or if you live/are in a place where material such as this is illegal, or if you are simply offended by homosexuality and/or homosexual themes, please leave.
This story has no sex scenes in it.
I'm actually done with this whole story (just posting it), and trying to continue my other story, "Similar Differences" under the College section of nifty. If you'd be interested, please read that one too. (Hehehehe, funny plug.)
I've been over quite a number of times already - sometimes to help with Spanish, sometimes just to bum around whenever our schedules would allow us to do so. It only took a fifteen-minute drive to get to his place, which made it convenient for me to pop in and pop out when Ryan would ask me to.
Mrs. Corwen was really nice about it, too. She'd fawn all over me whenever I'd be over, asking whether there was anything I needed or offering little snacks once in a while. To say the least, I liked her a lot.
"Oh hello Chris," came her ringing voice, the moment I got out of my car. "Here to help Ryan again?"
"Yes, Ma. Spanish exam tomorrow." He had that habit of answering for me when his mother was around.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Corwen."
"Of course, you'll be staying for dinner, right? I made pot roast tonight!"
"Ma..." See? But his answer was cut short by mother-dear.
"Don't 'ma,' me, Ryan. I have to be at work extra early today and I'm sure you'd like to have some company for dinner."
"Yes, dear, Una still has the flu so I'll have to add two hours to my shift." I actually thought it sweet of her to call her son, who already towered over her, 'dear.'
Mrs. Corwen was a nurse at the local hospital. She stood slightly taller than me, but didn't look much like Ryan at all. They did share the same deep brown eyes though, which seemed to intensify their emotions. They made Mrs. Corwen look cheerful, and lovingly motherly, but they made Ry look shattered when he was worried or bothered; lost and distant when he got pensive and quiet.
Sometimes I wish that Ry'd put on his mother's face more often.
"Please stay for dinner, Chris. I'm sure you'll like the roast. Besides, a growing boy like you needs all the nutrition he could get."
She worked the night shift and usually left at 7 pm. By then, she'd have had dinner with Ryan already and made sure everything was okay before whisking off to work. Ry told me she'd normally get home by 4 am.
"I'd be happy to, Ma'am. Though I sincerely doubt that I'll still grow..." I grinned at her.
In spite of all the formality, "Mrs. Corwen," "Ma'am," she appreciated it when I'd joke around with her.
"Oh, you're not 21 yet. Nevermind, though. You're cute as you are." Of course, she'd also tease me a bit. It worked both ways.
Without warning though, as she ended with "you are," she reached out and pinched my cheek.
I could practically feel my face get warm. After all, the last person who'd do that to me was Vince, and she did call me cute. (I suspect her inch-thick glasses needed upgrading.)
"Bye! And make sure you study well!" With a wave of a hand and a click-click of her car door, she was off.
Moments involving the three of us (Mrs. Corwen, Ryan and myself) usually didn't just leave me red-faced. Ryan would usually develop a blush himself.
We were entering his townhome when he said it, quietly.
"You don't have to, if you don't want to, you know."
It was sad and small - almost like his small smile, but more... cutting. I felt as if he were trapped and pleading, "Eat with me! Please!" Really, I couldn't stand the thought of him seated alone at a dining table made for four, the overhead lamp light bouncing off the glass surface. It was almost a sin to picture it after he said that.
It tugged at my heart.
"Ry, it's okay. I think it'll be great."
"But won't it be a problem for you at home?"
Home? I could hardly call it that. My apartment was a total mess to say the least. Much worse than his room. And I'd probably end up sticking a frozen meat pie into the microwave oven and munching on it on the floor of my bedroom.
"Nah. Don't worry about it. Besides, no one's home, so what's the point?"
Feigning hurt, I just said, "Unless you don't want me to."
"Oh no. I mean, yes. Well," He pouted, looked at me, shook his head and smiled. "Okay. Dinner it is."
"A bit later."
I knew that the midterm exam he'd be taking the day after was pivotal. It did carry the weight of half the term - I guess he knew that, too. There was a staggering intensity in his eyes that night, as we poured over his book and his notes.
I guess the midterm really meant a lot to him: so much that he was frighteningly serious with his cramming. He didn't bother throwing glances my way - and he was cool and relaxed, not fidgety.
We were done in two hours, a bit late for his usual dinner.
"It's seven already? Sorry 'bout that," Oh, and I didn't really understand why Ryan couldn't stop apologizing for little things or even nothing at all. Next to "thanks," "sorry" comes out most frequently. "What time do you usually eat?"
Honestly, I didn't really have a biological clock set for 'diet.' It's strange, but I haven't really gotten used to eating at fixed times, except when I'm at school and Tara and Ry'd be there to say, "Okay, do we eat?"
"I eat anytime."
"Yeah, I do."
By that time, Ry had started the oven and the roast was somewhat simmering.
"I hope you eat anything, too." He grinned and looked at me, then at the pot.
There's just something about having a homecooked meal with someone, even with just one someone, at a dining table at home.
Or maybe it was just me. I haven't had a real, good old-fashioned home cooking for quite sometime now.
The homely air, setting the placemats and the spoons and forks above the plates, the smell of the roast... they brought a surge of nostalgia through me.
I found it almost holy, as if everything should just stop and be that way forever. But since I knew it was only fleeting, this mindless, formless beauty of having a homecooked dinner at someone else's dining table, I wanted to savor each experience - each smell and each flavor - to the fullest.
I guess Ryan didn't share in the sentimentality I pegged the whole dinner with. I just gaped (in horror?) as he flashed me a smile, said, "Dig in!" and started ravishing the pot roast.
After about a minute, with me just staring to the point of being impolite, he must have realized that something was... well, wrong.
After swallowing a mouthful, he suddenly stopped and looked up from his plate at me. "Hey. You okay?"
There was just no way for me to explain how hallowed I thought the whole dinner experience for me was, and since I did resign myself to the passage of time and the certain, eventual loss of the whole experience, I just got some of the roast for myself and smiled back at him as if to say, "Be grateful you still have all this, you clod," but at the same time begging, "Thank you! Thank you! Let me have dinner here again!"
"Don't worry. Mom doesn't usually put in the nasty stuff when she isn't expecting Uncle Ralph." Uncle Ralph was his mother's cousin, I think, who'd always announce that he'd be visiting only five hours before his actual arrival. I met him once, while helping Ryan, and I must admit, he was a rude one. I could hear his guffaws in the garage from Ry's room on the second floor.
I guess it was near desperation at wanting to preserve the dinner-experience, but I suddenly blurted, "Could I have some to take home with me after?" When it came out, I was pretty sure I turned beet red.
But, in spite of that, I couldn't, wouldn't retract my plea.
Now it was Ry's turn to gape. "Uhm, sure. I guess."
I felt was if time stood still. Isn't it always like that when something embarrassing happens?
"Chris, you okay?" I was glad that he broke the silence. Really relieved. It took a lot for me to fight back the tears and even to just swallow.
"Yeah..." And because it's been so long since I've done this before, the usual, casual dinner talk seemed difficult for me to ride with. Maybe I was just overwhelmed by it all.
There's just something about having a homecooked meal with someone, even with just one someone, at a dining table at home.
Somehow, it feels more like family.
After cleaning up, Ry neatly packed a little of the roast in aluminum foil, folding the sides carefully up so that the sauce wouldn't spill out. It made me feel warm inside to watch him carefully, almost skillfully, prepare the little package.
It reminded me of the way Mom used to pack my lunches back when I was growing up.
"Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." For now. At least I got my bearings together a bit. We practically had dinner in silence.
I still thirsted for the feeling of being at the dining table again, though. "Is it okay if I hang around a little longer?"
"Sure. What do you want to do?"
Just then, the phone rang. I moved over to the living room, trying to be unobtrusive, while Ry spoke with his mom in the kitchen.
We're fine, ma.
Chris enjoyed dinner. A lot.
Again, I saw him sport a faint blush as he ambled back to the living room. "Sorry 'bout that," hm... Another apology for nothing. "It was just mom."
"It's okay. What did she say?"
"Asking if we're okay and how's everything. The usual. I swear, she still treats me like a kid sometimes."
Dinner was still fresh on my mind - and I did still feel vulnerable.
"She cares about you a lot. You're very lucky."
"Yeah, I guess." He didn't sound very convinced, though.
On one of the tables beside the couch was their family picture. The four of them had bright sun-shiny smiles on their faces, and I think they were at a park of sorts. Mrs. Corwen sat beside Mr. Corwen, and Ry and his younger brother were bending down so that their faces were almost level with their parents'. It looked like a photo for a toothpaste ad, the way they were smiling and all bunched up together like that.
Ry's dad and brother died in a car crash sometime before we entered college, around two years ago.
"Do you miss them?" I asked.
Ry just smiled back. "Yeah, sometimes. You remind me a lot of Robby." He paused a bit, presumably to gather his thoughts. "Well, actually, you remind mom of Robby. When she told me that, I realized, yeah, a little, I guess."
"Yeah. When it happened," Mrs. Corwen and Ry refer to the accident as 'it,' "he was about as tall as you."
I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or keep quiet. "Ry, he was fifteen then. I'm nineteen now."
I suppose he meant it as a joke, because he did smile back. "It's not only that, though. You're both easy-going and carefree," he said, "And real nice to people."
I just nodded. What was the proper reaction to that? I didn't know. I didn't know whether it was good for me to remind him of his brother, really. I guess it was in a way. He did miss him sometimes. And I guess, during those moments when he'd remember his dad and his brother, he'd feel the same things I felt during dinner.
Maybe that's why he'd been so quiet around me sometimes?
"You? Miss anyone?" He said slowly, almost caustiously.
"I miss my mom." I finally said. I didn't really talk about my family much - to anyone at all. But at that moment, I felt closer to Ry than anyone else on the planet.
I felt I could tell him anything then.
"She died three years ago. Cancer."
I had to smile at that. "There you go again. Maybe if I charged you for every 'sorry,' instead of 'thanks' I'll be even richer."
"Mom died three years ago. And I've been living alone ever since."
"Doesn't your dad visit you once in a while?" The slow, cautious tone was still there.
"Nope. Never. When they decided to split up, they decided to split up for good. It was nasty. But since dad's rich, he's required to support me until I'm 21." Every month, my dad would just deposit into my savings account.
It wasn't as bad as I thought it was - talking about my family, that is. Though it clearly wasn't everyday talk, I didn't find myself shaking or teary-eyed at all. I was actually quite relaxed.
And I felt as if, the more I talked, the more I wanted to let it out.
"Dad was never a good role model so I've always been closer to my mom. I never went fishing or camping with my dad. He was always... too busy."
Ry had a sympathetic look on his face, and somehow I knew it would be coming out. "So-"
"-rry? Again?," I had to cut him before he said it again. I grinned at him, "Stop saying that."
That made me giggle. And he started to, too. It was all silly, this business with apologizing for nothing at all. And then apologizing for apologizing for nothing at all.
When we finally settled down, he looked at me, with the same sympathetic look.
"You're not saying it again, now are you?"
"No. No," and then, he added, "but that's... really rough."
I needed to change the subject. To lighten the air.
"That's why I don't plan to marry." I said with a smile.
When he heard this, he put on a funny, puzzled expression - one that I normally see when he'd not understand a quote. One that simply said, 'please explain.' "Really? No one in mind?"
Images of Vince started pouring into my head, like a film show. All it needed was my voice saying, "that's Vince on the basketball court; that's Vince putting his arm around me; that's Vince pinching my cheek."
I started to grin at that thought. "Well... that's not exactly true." And there I was, grinning like it was going out of fashion.
Still, 'marrying' isn't correct either.
"Then why not? I'm sure it would work out," Ry said.
"Better, you mean?," I was pretty sure he was going to say sorry again. Maybe that's why he kept on saying 'sorry.' Was it? Was it me making him feel bad? Before he could say anything I just shrugged it off, "Oh well. Besides, it's more complicated than that."
"Why?" He struck the right note when he asked, not seeming maliciously nosey or patronizingly condescending. When he looked at me in all innocence, I felt pure.
And the feeling that I could tell him anything was still there.
And so I did.
"Because he's a guy."
"Oh." He just said.
I couldn't really pinpoint what he was thinking. He just sat there with an odd mystified, almost spell-bound look.
"Why are you surprised? I thought everyone thought I was gay anyway."
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the feeling that we were family just overtook me. Maybe I went too far? Though he wasn't really disgusted or anything, he was one of my closest friends.
"I'm sorry," now I was the one apologizing. The longer he just sat there, the deeper my heart sank. "Look, if you want me to leave, I will."
I was just hoping that all this: with everything I've said about my family and me being gay, maybe the whole bundle was just too much to process in one go. And maybe he wasn't mad or upset at all.
I really didn't know how he looked like when he was angry, which made me worry more.
I was about to get up from the couch when he finally returned from outer space, "No, no. It's not that. Sorry."
In my relief, I just had to say, "There's the sorry again."
"Um. So this guy. Do I know him?"
"I don't think so. He's from my old high school."
He paused a bit, and looking thoughtful, he asked, "Does he feel the same way?"
It was then that I remembered the last time I saw Vince.
We were at a class reunion, to celebrate our first year of freedom from high school. (Although we eventually ended up as prisoners of college...) It was a resto-bar and around thirty five out of my forty classmates came. The function room was almost full and some of my friends had girlfriends with them.
I was expecting him to bring his, actually. But she was nowhere to be found when Vince plopped into the seat beside me.
"Chris!" He beamed, "how've you been? Long time no see or even talk."
It's true. We haven't seen or spoken with each other since, I don't know, graduation? I was too embarrassed to ask for his number, although, back in high school I did formulate so many excuses to call him up. "What's our homework? When is the project due? Um..."
"I'm fine. You?"
"Never better." He still had the widest smile on his face then. It made me feel shy, like a schoolgirl when we used to be seatmates. And it didn't fail that night: it made me want to crawl into a cave and spy on him from afar.
Slowly, though, I asked, "Where's... Ala?"
Without a change of expression, still with that huge grin, he said, "Oh her? We broke up."
Feeling ashamed of myself, I muttered a small apology. But somehow, and this was not just wishful thinking, I knew that it was bound to happen. I mean, whenever he'd mention her back in high school, he'd say ugly stuff. And from what I gathered before, he wasn't running after her - She was the one who always wanted him.
Just seeing him and talking to him made my night already.
When everyone was on their way home, though, he took me aside. And, still with the smile and in a singsong voice he said, "Chris, I'll miss you. I love you."
I was really taken aback by that. I just replied, "I love you too."
And then he walked away.
I didn't really know what he meant by that. Yes, he broke up with his girl, but it seemed as if it wasn't a serious, "I love you."
"I love you." I agonized over that for weeks.
"He said I love you?" Ry asked, with a curious expression. It was almost like his puzzled expression, but it looked more serious.
"Yeah. I didn't get it though," Up to then, I really didn't understand what he meant by that. And I really didn't want to bother myself because I'll never find the answer without walking up to him and asking, 'What on earth did you mean by that?' When I'd feel wistful and hopeful, I'd think he'd suddenly show up and whisk me away. At other times, I just pictured him walking away that night, his back receding into the distance, his image melting into the crowd.
"How about you, Ry? Any lucky girl?"
Ryan was quiet for a while before he answered, "No. Not really... I had a girlfriend before."
Pretending to be offended, Ry said, "Hey! Yeah, I did. What's so surprising about that?"
"Well, so-rry," he grinned when I said it, "it's just that you don't talk about her at all. What was her name?"
"Danielle? Well, she really didn't do anything but annoy me so, it didn't work out well."
We suddenly fell silent, as if we had run out of things to tell each other.
"Have you had a boyfriend before?"
"No. Not yet."
I wasn't really prepared for what he said next. "... 'cause I was wondering what it'd be like... well, you know... with a guy."
Was he serious? I guess I had the funny, puzzled look now. Was he making fun of me? "That's not funny, Ry"
"It wasn't meant to be."
And we just looked at each other, on the couch. Before I knew it, his face was just inches from mine.
And our lips touched.
It was soft and warm. The way I imagined it to be. It was then that I realized that I had just kissed Ryan - not Vince.
I don't clearly remember what happened. I just got off the couch and stormed out. I think. I remember Ry repeating "sorry" over and over again, but I wouldn't listen to him. I blocked him out.
I ran for my car and sped off.
I didn't even realize that I had left the pot roast on the dining table.
Maybe we just got too close to each other for one night. Maybe we connected too much.
I didn't really know.
Ryan didn't appear for our usual lunchbreaks after that. It would be Tara, Spanky and I. Sometimes, some of our other friends would come with us.
"Chris, something's been bothering me," Tara finally asked me one Tuesday, around three weeks later. We were having lunch and studying for a Calculus test scheduled for that Friday. "Did you have a fight with Ryan?"
Strictly speaking, I didn't. "No," I didn't feel guilty about the lie, because it wasn't a lie. Was it? "Why'd you ask?"
"Well, whenever I'd ask him to come with us after Spanish, he'd give me some lame excuses."
"Hm... maybe he's busy with the team."
"Maybe. But he'd usually ask for help with Spanish, right?"
I didn't know why but I was starting to get a little annoyed with her. "Maybe he found his inner genius and doesn't need help anymore. You seem to be doing well without a tutor." I think she noticed it.
Although Tara was quite outspoken, she knew when to give me space. I liked that about her. She didn't mention anything more about it after that and we continued to study for Calc thereafter.
It was dark that Friday. Our long test had been scheduled from 6 to 9 in the evening.
Everyone filed out of the room, feeling gloomy and depressed. The test was impossibly difficult - and I felt as if all the time I spent studying went down the drain.
It was horrible.
We didn't even bother saying goodbye to each other. Tara marched out looking frazzled. I think she was about to slap Spanky, who had been waiting for her, when he started laughing at the way she looked.
When I finally got out, I felt as if we were the only class in existence. The campus was completely deserted, except for the occasional security guard wandering around. Only the main hallways had lights on.
And everything seemed still - like a horror painting.
As luck would have it, I parked my car on the other end of campus, which meant that I had to trek through dark halls and streets.
But seeing as there simply wasn't any other way around it, off I went, checking if I had enough books to throw at would-be muggers. (I was secretly tempted to go to the chapel to get the miniature crucifix which they used for display in case a little demon or a wispy ghost sudden appeared. But that would've added another five minutes of walking in the dark so I decided against it.)
I was walking on one of the unlit streets made of gravel. Under the moonlight, everything seemed to be in monochrome, as if everything were colored a different shade of blue.
The leaves rustled. All I could hear were crickets and my padded footsteps, thanks to the rubber shoes I was wearing. All at once, I stopped worrying about ghosts or demons or muggers.
The test just came flooding back to me. Out of the ten problems, I was only able to answer a measly one for sure. The other nine were downright insane.
I couldn't do it. Again, like before. I wasn't cut out to pass math - I wasn't cut out for another university.
I suddenly started shaking.
It was then that I heard someone call out to me - a pretty familiar call. "Chris."
True enough, Ry came up to me.
"Chris, can we talk? Please?"
"Ry, I don't know. I just had my math test..." I trailed off.
"Yeah... I know. Um, why don't I take you out to dinner? Have you eaten?"
"Not in the mood." I realized I was making it hard for him. "Just how did you find me?"
He looked sheepish and guilty - the way he'd look before he'd say sorry. "I've been following you since you got out from your test." I guess I was too depressed to be amused then.
"What do you have to say?"
He stopped for a while and looked up. Slowly, he closed his eyes and tried to explain himself.
"What I did then? Well, it was wrong. I know it. And I'm sorry," it was one of those rare moments when I didn't stop him from saying that. "Chris, I know you're upset at me. And you have every right to be."
And he stopped, then looked at his shoes. "But, Chris, I'm scared." He was the scared one? "I feel - I don't know. I feel like I don't know who I am. I don't know if I like guys or girls, or whatever." Pause. "And I guess, I guess, I just wanted to see for sure."
Then he looked up at me, "With you."
After a deep breath, he said, "Besides, Chris, I don't want you to be sad." Don't be sad. "I guess I thought," he continued, "I guess I thought I'd be helping both of us." Pause. "But I only messed it up."
"Chris. Please say something."
I didn't know what to say then. So I was just quiet.
"It has nothing to do with love anyway," He said softly, it was almost a whisper. "I just thought I'd know more about myself and, well... Chris?"
I don't know why, but I think I felt tears start running down my cheeks.
"Chris. Chris, please don't cry. Please don't be sad."
Don't be sad.
I remember it well. I was in high school then. It was the first anniversary of my mom's death. I wasn't thinking well, so I failed the three quizzes I had that day. I really wasn't feeling all too well. I wasn't talking with anyone.
Vince noticed it too. He didn't put his arm around me then.
During one class, he just whispered it to me. I don't know if he meant for me to hear it but I did.
"Don't be sad."
It was soft, but I heard each word clearly. He sounded like a child calling out, trying to rescue someone from certain darkness. How could I not smile at that?
I couldn't stop crying. I didn't stop myself from clinging to Ry.
Ry's warmth felt good. Comforting. The way he held me there in the deserted street, not caring if a security guard saw us. The way he smoothed my hair...
Still I kept on crying. I don't know why though. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I just had too many things to think about.
Maybe what I've been trying to hide for so long just hit me, right then and there. I was powerless against it. Like a tidal wave I couldn't stop.
I was alone. I was utterly alone.