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David and Jon
At the time, I figured... you know, I can handle this in one of two ways. I could let it pass over, and forever spend my days passing David in awkward silence around campus. After an awkward year, we would graduate and I would never see him again. We might exchange smiles at graduation. This was the easy way out. But instead I opted for the alternative plan. I waited until 9:30 on Saturday morning, plastered on my best smile and most annoying sunny morning attitude, and pounded on his door until his roommate opened it. I was going to keep my promise of tomorrow.
"What the fuck!?" He was taller than I expected, and fuzzy. He hadn't even bothered to quell the morning wood in his boxers before pulling the door open. I gave him an arched eyebrow.
"Is David here?"
"I think he's asleep. You know... like I was until thirty seconds ago." Like I cared.
"Which room is his?" I was looking at a large, very messy living space with a half-broken futon and an old T.V. There were two doors off of this room, and one of them had to be David's bedroom.
"Over there." He cocked his thumb to the right over his shoulder. Without another word he left me at the door and stumbled back to his own door. Serious bedhead on that one.
I pretty much stormtroopered David's room.
"Get up!" I yelled as soon as I opened his door. He didn't respond. "Get the Hell up. Now!"
"What the hell?" he murmured, pulling his pale blue covers over the top of his head.
"Don't pull this shit with me. We're going to talk. You're going to answer for your little stunt last night." He reeked of alcohol.
"Stunt?" he asked.
"Yeah, stunt. You remember, right? Ruining my date with a guy I actually liked; who I will be seeing again, FYI. And furthermore, you're going to pull your big oaf ass out of bed and buy me breakfast." He groaned. "Yeah, that's right. We're going to look all domestic over bacon and eggs at IHOP at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning."
"Get. The. Fuck. Up."
"Alright! Alright! At least let me shower." This time I would drive. Just in case he got any bright ideas and tried to leave me at the restaurant.
We barely spoke again until we were in my car, heading down the highway towards the nearest IHOP. Surprisingly enough, he broke the silence.
"Man... I'm really sorry. I guess I just wasn't thinking yesterday. I didn't think... I mean... I thought you'd be happy."
I turned towards him. I mustered up all the sincerity I could. "Yeah, David. In the storybooks, that's how it goes. But in case you haven't noticed, you're not in a story. That's why you don't play around with people's emotions. In real life, someone always gets hurt."
"You mean you?"
"And Chris. And every other guy out there that gets dumped for the confused straight guy who walks in on a cloud with his silver spoon and professes love."
"What? First of all, I didn't walk in on a cloud. Second, I don't have a silver spoon. And third..." He emphasized that "third." "There was no professing! There is no love."
I rolled my eyes, and sighed in exacerbation. "You know what I mean," I told him.
I slowed down as we pulled into the parking lot. We didn't start back up our little tit-for-tat until we were out of my car.
"You're right. But you know... you could at least recognize the fact that this isn't at all easy for me."
I laughed. "The great thing is, David, that I don't have to." I couldn't help it. I was raising my voice, and my contempt for every confused, dramatic fag queen on the planet was suddenly unleashed. "Guess what!? It's my world, buddy. You're so confused. You don't know where this is coming from. What is your mother going to think if in ten years you really are gay and will never give her grandchildren? Poor, pitiful David and the thousands of men who walked the same path before him.
"Jesus! You're such a drama queen for a straight guy, you know that? Let me tell you something: you liked the attention. You knew I was attracted to you. Big fucking deal. This will blow over, you'll realize you still like the smell of skank pussy, and by next week you'll be back to play Russian roulette with the bleached blondes at Wild Wings." Mind you, this was in front of an IHOP... on Saturday... with grandma walkin' in and out.
"Hey, man. Fuck you. I didn't ask for this. And for the last time, I didn't sleep with that girl."
"Yeah right." Yes, folks... that was sarcasm.
"Screw you, man. I don't just sleep with anybody, and I'm not about to blow that on some sleazy one night stand. That's not me. Yeah, I made out with her. Yeah, I like to feel girls up. But believe it or not, I have limits!" To prove his point, he pouted and crossed his arms over his chest. He was the most annoyingly handsome two year old the world has ever known. And that sealed it... I couldn't help it. I burst into laughter, much to his dismay.
He scoffed. "Whatever. Let's eat."
After we were seated, I didn't know what to say. I guess we were both pretty much done with the dramatics. But I did have one more question for him: "So, why me?"
"Why me? If you haven't noticed... I'm a bit of an average Joe here."
"What?" He sounded incredulous. "Don't sell yourself short. That's not attractive. And why would you think that? You're a good looking guy, and nice. And smart. And pretty upfront, which is hard to find in people."
"I don't... look like you." All of my self-consciousness forced my last words into a whisper.
"Well, thank God. Otherwise it would be pretty boring. And you may not be a Ken doll, but you're solid. I'd bet money you had at least the makings of a six pack. I don't know... maybe you're like, the Irish Ken. I told you that you were stalkable, didn't I?"
I blushed. I had been completely called out on my own insecurities. In an IHOP. Thankfully, a true bleach blonde straight from the 80s burst onto the scene to take our orders. I don't remember what David ordered, but I got French toast, pancakes, an omelet, two fried eggs over toast, hash browns, and biscuits with extra gravy. I mean, he was paying, after all. Finally, after much small talk, he broached more serious topics again.
"So, you think I'm not gay?" he asked, timidly.
"No. I don't. You might, and I'm stretching here, might be bisexual." I was just wanting him to shut up so I could go back to mounting a full out assault on my eggs.
"God, did he starve you?" he asked, jokingly.
"No. I just didn't eat much last night. Thinking about other things." My mental referee began pointing vigorously and turning red in the face. 'Unsportsman-like conduct! Pull that stunt again, Jon, and you are out.'
"Fair enough," he reasoned. And the crowd goes wild! Jon dodges Dave and heads straight for the egg-endzone.
Then he dropped the bomb. "Hey. Want to room together next year?" I choked. Literally.
The eggs were to win this one. I lost all appetite. "WHAT? You're mental." I threw my toast down on my plate. "Completely bonkers."
"Seriously. My roommate is graduating, and you're the only honest, real human being I know on the entire campus."
"And you pick me?"
"Yeah. I mean, now that I realize that I'm not actually attracted to you..." Oh, thanks. "It's perfect. Maybe we can get an apartment. You know... senior year. Just think about it!"
I don't know if it was his charm, or just his genuine enthusiasm, or my own insanity. But I left that IHOP with a new roommate.
"I don't trust him." Chris, after a shag and a date, was already playing the protective boyfriend. Over the phone, no less.
"So?" I asked, in all honesty.
"So!? Doesn't my opinion matter?" My first warning sign of possessiveness, I suppose.
"Not really. In case you haven't noticed, I've known you about five seconds less than I've known David. You don't have a bargaining chip."
"And he does?"
"Have you seen his ass?" I asked rhetorically, to lighten the tension.
"That's not funny. What about the mind games? What about all of your bullshit on our date about wanting to meet honest people?"
"He was honest, and he was just enjoying my attention. Look, we talked. I know it sounds crazy, but he needs a roommate. And he is my friend." I'm not sure if I even believed myself when I said it.
"Well, he's not my friend. He definitely wasn't doing me any favors last night."
"That's not fair, Chris."
"I know... I know... I just like you and I don't want things to get ruined by some breeder."
"Jesus Christ? A breeder? I didn't realize we were hating heterosexuals now. You know, my parents happened to be breeders."
"Such a smart ass." Finally, I could feel a smile in his tone.
"Look, I gotta run. We still going for a movie tomorrow?"
"Yep. I'm willing if you are."
"So that's why you got me insanely drunk the night I met you?"
"No. You got drunk to forget about lover boy." The anger was already coming back into his voice, and I didn't have the nerve to go through it again.
"Well, I'll call you tomorrow. Bye Chris." Abrupt, but it worked.
"Alright... bye Jon."
Ah. Sweet freedom from the cellular phone.
"So, is he cool with it?" David asked. I felt a little guilty, not telling Chris that David was in the room with me throughout our conversation.
"No. Of course not. But he'll come around."
"This is going to be great, man. Really great. I want to start looking for apartments right away. You know? Sign a lease before school's out. I have an internship here anyway, so I can live there and pay rent during the summer months..." David was barely taking a breath, and his excitement was alarming even me.
"Slow down! Slow down! We'll have plenty of time to think through all of this." If only that were true. Time flew after that. David truly became my best friend, and I his. It never bothered him that his other friends didn't like me or that he and Chris didn't get along. I think he just appreciated having someone in his life that really believed honesty was more important than anything. Chris and I got closer, David started dating some girl whose name I could never quite be bothered to remember, and before long I was slap in the middle of exam week.
David threw down a stack of papers on my desk. Despite being a meager stack, it landed with a pretty heavy thud. I'm still not sure if that was my imagination or it really sounded like that. For some reason, I had always avoided actually choosing our apartment.
"These are the places I like," he told me. "Pick one."
"Now?" I asked.
Only one actually held my attention. A little two bedroom, one bath affair. Loft style, with modern kitchen. All major appliances furnished. New hardwood floors, heated. Overlooking a square with a fountain downtown.
I sighed. "$800 a month is a lot for an apartment. Especially here." I just wasn't sure.
"I knew you'd pick that one! Isn't it awesome? I've already went down to see it. It's even better than the ad implies. I've already put down a deposit. We just need two months rent and the place is ours." Once again, I was finding his enthusiasm alarming.
"You what? I haven't even said yes." But I was going to cave, and he knew it.
"Look... if I hadn't done something the better places would have been gone. And I've done the math. We're both going to be here this summer working... we'll make enough to put back towards rent for the whole year. And my brother just got married, and said I could have all the furniture in his old apartment. We're set."
Oh God. A gay man living amidst cast offs from a bachelor pad. Thankfully, when I got to see the furniture it wasn't that bad. And between David, Chris, David's brother Ben, and myself the moving wasn't that bad. We moved two days after my last exam. The day before we moved in, I cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom. Anal, I know, but what can I say? I'm a bit of a clean freak.
"Where do you want the couch and chair?" Ben asked David.
"I don't know," he responded. "Ask the gay guys."
"Hey!" I interjected. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means," he said with all frankness. "By definition, you are the anal one." He couldn't help himself, and started cracking up.
"Fuck you. Not funny." I waited for the two of them to stop laughing before giving instruction. "Place the sofa down the length of the Berber rug in front of the entertainment center. I want to enjoy the view of downtown from the couch. Put the chair on the edge so it faces the kitchen.
"Chris! Don't pull like that or you'll snag the sheers." I knew how gay I sounded. I promise, but I couldn't help myself. A lot of the furniture I had elected to bring myself or take from my mother (I know, loving son). I had spent all of yesterday evening buying accessories such as expensive, but perfect cream colored, floor-length sheers.
"They're just curtains," he told me.
I grimaced. "Just be careful. They were $25 a piece."
"You paid $75 for those?" Ben asked.
"You know... I really didn't think you were gay until now. You don't look gay, you don't act gay, but you definitely decorate like a homo." Ben began to laugh before he even finished. Everybody is a damn comedian.
"That's it!" I shouted. "I'm leaving."
"Finally," David added.
"Seriously. I'm going to go unpack my room now. The rest of you, pretend like you're me and decorate. And I swear, when I come out, if there's one box left unpacked... I'm going to stuff you in it, seal you up with 3M's finest, and shove you out the nearest window." Ben saluted me and got back to work. The rest just ignored me.
During my own unpacking, Ben and Chris both left. Ben dropped into my room first. It was almost poignant.
"Look," he said. "I just wanted to say thanks for being such a positive influence on my brother. I don't know what it is, but he's actually happy now. He told me today he actually made straight A's last semester..." I hadn't known that. "I think it's because you're the first mature guy he's ever known. Rubbing off and all."
"Thanks," I smiled, unconvinced in my own greatness.
"Plus, you're pretty cool. And the place looks great."
"Don't tell me that. David picked it out."
After a little small talk, he left. A half hour or so after that Chris came to tell me goodbye. He seemed a little resentful, and didn't even wait for me to get up to tell him goodbye before leaving my doorway. It was strange... he was usually overly affectionate towards me. When I finally finished unpacking my room, I went out to the large loft area to see the damage.
I was impressed. It was actually the way I would have done it. And there was David perched precariously over the island in the kitchen, hanging copper pots from a pot rack.
"Where did those come from?" I asked.
"They were my grandmother's." His smile could have lit the whole room. "When she died I wanted them. I'm not sure why... but I had my brother bring them here and I bought the pot rack. We hung it while you were in your room. Thought it would be a neat surprise." He was just setting the last pot in place. He was shirtless and perspiring a little. I couldn't help it. Lust-filled thoughts swam through my head, watching him bend and flex to climb down back to the floor. God, his muscles were perfect--to me at least.
"They're just decorative, but I figured they would really finish off the kitchen." I looked at him with an arched eyebrow. He really was turning into a homo. I guess he caught my meaning, because he started to laugh.
"I know, I know." He said. "You're rubbing off."
"Looks like it."
"But isn't the place great?" He sounded like a kid in a candy shop. "It's perfect, and look: no boxes!"
"Yeah, it does look great." He walked straight over and gave me a hug. I hadn't expected it, but I hugged him back. I stood there for a moment just taking in his smell. Really rugged, masculine. God, here was that trouble again. I was so absorbed that Chris slipped straight from my mind. Luckily, a strong sense of guilt waltzed through my head and brought him back to the fore.
"Aren't we overdoing things here, David? I mean... we may only be here a year." It was a thought that had nagged me all day, but his excitement had just totally swept me up into the new apartment.
"Well... you said before you wanted to go to graduate school. And I've been thinking about it recently, too. We could just stick around for two or three more years..." I suddenly realized that he had already thought about this.
"What about Chris and me?" I asked.
"What about Chris?" he responded bitterly.
"That's cold." I snapped.
"So is he."
"Look, I know you don't like him. But I do."
"Jon... it's not that. It's just... he's not good for you. You don't see it because you only see the best in everybody. He's possessive and controlling. And you're so used to facilitating everybody else that you don't even realize it." Don't you hate it when people are so terribly right, but you still have to refuse to believe them? David completely called me out.
"That's not fair."
"No, but it's true. And you're my best friend. I swear, if he so much as looks at you the wrong way I'll kill him." To be honest, I was far more elated to be called his best friend. I just chose to ignore the rest.
"I appreciate the concern. You're a great friend, but I'm not going to play the battered wife."
"I'm just saying," he added.
"Don't worry about it. Let's just get something to eat," I told him.
"No way! I bought groceries and Ben brought us wine as a house warming. We should cook. I can cook some mean pasta."
Cook? David was definitely a man of surprises.
"What about carbs?" I asked with all the sarcasm I could muster.
"What about 'em? I'm just going to make you start running with me. Can't stand to live with a fat ass." He was already back in the kitchen, pulling out bowls and pots. "Look, get in here and help me." So I did. And that became our routine. Utterly, dreadfully domestic.
We moved in late May. I think it was mid-July when Chris and I hit our breaking point. We had just left for a little Thai restaurant on my lunch break. I was so excited, but the entire meal he seemed far away. Then I mentioned that David and I were going to the movies that night.
"Why don't you just marry him?" he spat out at me.
"Jeez... what's with the hostility?" I asked.
"All you talk about is David. You cook together, you run together now, you go to the movies together."
I interrupted his diatribe. "In case you haven't noticed, we live together, too." I was done with this conversation. I got up and threw a twenty on the table. "I'm leaving."
I marched out of the restaurant, and Chris chased after me.
"Get your ass back here, Jon!"
"Fuck you." I didn't even turn around. Then it happened... and all I could think about were David's words from the night we moved in. Words he had never again said since then. He just wasn't good for me.
Chris grabbed me by my right bicep.
"Stop!" he commanded.
"Chris, you're hurting me." I was actually scared. When I finally wrestled away from him, I could still feel the pain in my arm. It was going to be a nasty bruise. When I looked in his face all I could see was anger, and then I realized that I was angry, too.
"You fucking bastard!" I shouted it. I couldn't help it. "What are you going to do? Hit me?" Suddenly all of his anger vanished and guilt slid in like a bolt. "Just get away from me. I never want to see you again."
I literally ran to my car, listening to him shout after me. I did everything I could to stay in control of my emotions. For the rest of the day, I ignored my cell phone vibrating across my desk at work. I knew it was Chris. I didn't want to go home to the apartment. I couldn't stand to see David standing there with what's-her-name telling me, "I told you so."
About the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org is a 21 year old from South Carolina. GWM, and all that. Average guy who Jon in this story is based upon.