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David and Jon
I wish I could say I was devastated. Everyone loves the melodrama of a broken heart. The thing is, I liked Chris, but I knew from the start he wasn't Mr. Right. He wasn't the man that I was going to foster distraught gay adolescents with. Cute, adorable Southern twang, jealous... I mean, we've all fallen for these guys. Mostly I was upset and angry with myself. For taking the ride, seeing all the road signs, and not realizing the path I was heading down.
Would Chris have abused me? Nah... I don't think so. He made a mistake, learned a lesson... left one Hell of a bruise. But he's not a villain. But I'm not a fool, either. Once bitten, twice shy and all that. I didn't hate him.
That night... I have to say, I was pretty messed up. Everyone does it. You feel like a fuck up, and you just don't want to admit to anyone that you were wrong. Especially when you're trying so hard to maintain that exoskeleton of collected confidence and nonchalance that I had whittled down to a fine art. Fortunately, David let me off the hook. Of the thirty or so odd messages on my cellphone, one was him--he would be in late, got my text message about being unable to make the movie, going out with his fraternity buddies.
The other twenty-nine were Chris proclaiming his inability to live without me. I deleted them. And I have a sinking suspicion that his heart kept beating. Bastard.
My heart may not have been broken, but its shiny veneer was tarnished. What better excuse to sit around, watch re-runs of Roseanne, and eat chocolates all weekend? But a good night sleep heals all wounds. By noon the next day, I was able to behave and forego the guilty pleasures: No TV. No Chocolates. I did obsessively clean though... I've always done that when I'm upset. Kind of strange. I bet my future therapist will love it.
I still don't actually know where David was that morning. David, of course, decided to come home at the worst moment. I mean, what better time than when I'm on my hands and knees scrubbing bathroom tile for the third time? I heard him throw his keys on the counter before yelling my name.
"I'm in the bathroom!" I yelled back.
"Huh?" he shouted.
"In. The. Bathroom." An-nun-ci-ate.
He walked up and leaned in the doorway. "What are you doing?"
"Cleaning," I told him.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.
"About what?" Because playing dumb suits the sardonic these days.
"Chris." He spoke as if he already knew. I didn't say anything; resumed scrubbing. "Did he hit you?" he finally blurted out.
"What? No. Why would you think that?" Now I really felt stupid.
"Well, let's see... after I erased the thousand or so messages he left on the machine last night and your alarm didn't go off this morning, I thought I should check on you. Your covers were pulled down. I saw your arm. That bruise looked like a football player attacked you."
"It's cool. Don't worry." I started to rinse the floor at about the same point in time that I was losing patience with David.
"You aren't thinking about taking him back, are you?"
"Of course not!" I half-yelled at him.
He backed up a step, throwing his hands up in surrender. "Just checkin'..."
"Please, just don't say 'I told you so.'" I didn't think it a completely unreasonable request.
"Alright... I won't." When he took a deep breath, I knew I was in for it. "But! First of all, you have until midnight to get it off your chest. After that I don't want to hear it. I won't tolerate whining, especially from you. Second, get up and change. I want to go run. Third, you owe me now. I want a movie and dinner for leaving me hangin' last night."
"No way. Just a movie."
"Please. I believe roommate court will rule in my favor." He pounded his hand flat against his chest for effect. Scarlet O'Hara, decrying the Yankee. "Irrevocable emotional damage after being stood up."
"Whatever. And the roommate court only rules in your favor because you made your frat brothers the jury." I got up off my knees, electing to forego the obvious "Gone With The Wind" jokes. Besides, the last time I pulled a cultural reference on him I spent forty-five minutes explaining the significance of Hitchcock before finally making out a rental list for movie night.
"Never hurts to have connections. Let's go, lazy." He laughed, and rolled out of the doorway to change.
That afternoon, I did a lot of thinking. I realized just how strongly I still felt for David. I really depended on him. He was now my best friend, but only because I marginalized all of my other friends to make time for him. I needed to move on from him and Chris. Bring people back into my life. I still had a crush on David, but he hadn't shown the slightest sign of interest in guys since my first date with Chris, much less in me.
What was I doing? Who knows? But that night I swore off of men. Well, at least for twenty four hours or so. What kind of man do you take me for, after all?
I waited until about eleven that night before I took him up on his offer. He was sitting on the couch when I walked into the living room in a pair of old pajama pants. His hair was tousled from air drying after his shower. I thought he would be watching T.V., but instead he was reading a case study for work, sipping a beer and lounging in a pair of dark blue boxers and a grey "STANFORD" t-shirt that was probably a size too small.
I'm still not sure if he actually knows anyone from Stanford, but between that shirt and his reading glasses, he was just about sexier than he'd ever been. Hot with brains. I hated him in that moment--for being smart I mean. It took away the one edge I was used to having over other people.
He just looked up at me when I entered the room. I guess he expected me... he just waited until I started talking.
"Alright... thing is..." I started slowly. "I'm pissed off at myself. I set myself up for it. And I don't know why. So, here I am, alone. And running through every personal fault I have to see which one attracts these guys who are just bad for me. Because my track record sucks. I mean, I'm this sardonic jackass ninety percent of the time. I'm confident, I'm collected, I'm smart. I know where I'm going, I know what I want. Is this off putting? I mean, what is going on?" Then, like any gay man on his soapbox, I really started in.
"Is it the way I look? I mean, I'm not a dog, am I? Sure, my genetics suck because I descend more or less directly from a bunch of half-starved Irish peasants. I'm never going to have two hundred pounds of muscle. I couldn't even maintain enough conviction about God to give up men, so I'm sure as hell not about to give up starches to maintain six percent body fat to have abs like yours. The only tan I will ever have that isn't some shade of pink will have to come out of a bottle.
"Is that so bad? You know, I'm sorry that I refuse to spend the rest of my life either drugged, diseased, or both while chasing after perfect preteens when I'm well past my sexual prime. I'm an educated professional. I have my whole life ahead of me. So what the fuck is wrong with me?" Pathetically, this is about the most introspective I've ever allowed my shallow, vain self to go. But it was a much truncated version of what was going through my mind. I did tactfully leave out the part about the fact that having an average penis seems anything but when the smallest dick that's ever graced porn was the size of my forearm.
David waited, making sure I was finished. Finally, he took off his glasses, folded them carefully up, placed them on the coffee table, and sighed. "You really want to know what your problem is?"
"Yes." I said.
"The next time you come in here to make a list of your faults, don't list all the things everybody else loves about you, alright? Stop trying desperately to change who you are; until you do that... you'll just be trying to pin down a moving target. It doesn't work, man." I didn't know what to say, so I turned to leave. But before I had taken two steps David stopped me.
"Oh. And what's the deal with hating the way you look? Look in the mirror. There are people who kill themselves every day to look like that."
I turned and looked him straight in his flawless face.
"David, I live with a guy who has a perfect body. Maybe the perfect body. You are the fucking cover of Men's Health and GQ wrapped into one person. Try to understand for just a microsecond how self-conscious that can make a person feel."
"Don't make this about us."
"That's the thing, David. This is about us. Our friendship is fundamentally fucked. My best friend is a guy that half the time I want to be and half the time I want to bed. It's messing with me, alright?" Then, he did the right thing. He smiled. "What?" I snapped at him.
"Just as long as I'm still your best friend, the rest will work itself out. And I've spent most of my life wishing I was someone else, too. But it doesn't work that way. And you gotta pull me off the pedestal, man. Trying to be perfect for you is really getting hard."
I couldn't help it, my voice cracked a little as I told him, "You never had to try." And I finally walked away. Emotionally exhausted, I slept like a rock.
I know what you're thinking. Rose petals on my bed the next day, a bottle of wine, and we're cracking this sucker out before lunch time with visuals of sex not seen since Venus first met Mars. But sadly things never work like that for me. You know, I think God really is more worried about world hunger than making sure I get the man I deserve in the end. That really bites, you know? Being last in the queue just is not supposed to be how the world works for me.
But I guess I didn't help the story along either. The next day I settled back into my old routines. We did go to dinner on me, and we did catch a movie. But it was old hat. Things more or less returned to normal, and the weeks just crept on by until I found myself once again sitting in lecture. Only the beginning of my senior year and already everything felt so final. Applying to graduate schools, going on interviews. I spent more time out of class on excused absences than I did actually listening to what any of my professor's had to say.
What made me realize how depressed I was? I guess walking into my apartment in mid-November to find Ben on my couch waiting to talk to me. I thought he was waiting on David until he got up as I was taking off my coat. I smiled at him.
"What's up?" I asked.
"I was just waiting on you," he said.
"On me?" Suddenly I felt a strike of panic. I thought something had happened in David's family. Or worse... to David. "Is David alright?" I tried to maintain as much control as possible.
"Yeah. David's fine. He let me in. He thinks we're going to meet for dinner. I mean, we are, but I just needed to talk to you." He seemed at a loss for where to start. At any rate, he was definitely making me nervous.
"Look..." he began, "I don't know how to quite ask this... but... what exactly are you and my brother up to?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know... I mean... are you?" I just stared at him. "Are you having sex?"
Being the horrible human being that I am, I started to giggle. Not like a school girl or anything. But kind of like when you're at a funeral and suddenly something strikes you as funny. I'm always the worst at suppressing inopportune laughter.
"Why would we be having sex? He has a girlfriend."
"He broke up with Shannon at the end of the summer." I knew she had a name. But man I don't keep track of my roommate.
"David didn't tell me," I told him. It was then that I realized I was still holding my coat in a death grip.
"It's just that he talks about you a lot. I mean, I like you. I've just been wondering. He comes home less and less, and when he does all he can talk about is the things you do together...
"I'm just looking out for him," he concluded. This, of course, was my cue to get defensive.
"Your brother is a grown man. He doesn't need you to look out for him. He doesn't need protecting from the gay roommate!"
"That's not what I meant," Ben told me. At first his tone was harsh, but then he began to sound... urgent, I guess. And a great deal louder. "He's my brother. I'd die for him, and I'll stand by him no matter what. I just want to know what's going on!"
"Nothing is going on!" I yelled back.
"Then why is he in love with you!?" he spat back.
How long I stood there looking like an idiot, I don't know. We just stood there, staring. I dropped my coat. He moved to pick it up, put it on the coat rack. That's when David came in, like an Indian Summer. A little pocket of warmth in the middle of Fall. And I just stood there as he told us he wanted to change before dinner. He'd be right out.
"What do you want me to do?" I asked Ben when David left.
"I don't know. I just... thought somebody better say something before this train wreck leaves the tracks." Ben looked nervous again, unsure of his words.
"The last thing I ever want to do is hurt David, Ben, but it may be too late for that."
"What do you mean?" he asked, but I was already walking towards my room. I shut the door, and listened at the door for the sounds of their departure.
"What am I going to do?"
"I don't know." Chris's voice snaked out of the other end of the phone, strained and static-filled. "Be honest. It's what you're good at. If what Ben said is true... he'll be happy for you."
"I know... I'm just confused."
"Look, I'm glad you called, but I've got to go Jon. We've been on the phone for an hour and I've got a date in fifteen minutes." I was fine with that. I had spent most of the last hour trying to figure out why I had called Chris in the first place.
"No, I understand. I'll talk to you later."
"Bye Jon," he said
"Chris..." I interrupted him.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"I hope this guy works out for you." The amazing thing? I was actually being honest with Chris. I did want him to be happy some day.
"Yeah, me too. I like him a lot. I just had to learn a few lessons about relationships before I finally got myself right." I could hear the smile in his voice.
"I'm happy for you."
I waited for a while after that, reading the letter. Taking it out of the envelope. Unfolding it, refolding it. Putting it back in the envelope. I kept thinking, is this where my life starts or where a part of it will always end? Am I starting a new chapter or closing a whole book? I ran my index finger around the letterhead, tracing the crown.
When David got home, I didn't turn around. I sat there on the couch, not moving. He sounded so happy. He walked right over, put his hands on my shoulders and leaned across the sofa to look at what I was doing.
"What's that?" he asked me.
"An acceptance letter," I told him.
"To graduate school?" he asked.
"Yeah... unofficial, but I got accepted early into the doctorate program."
"That's great! And I haven't even applied yet. Don't move. I'll be right back." He took off towards his room, stripping off clothing as he went. A few minutes later he re-appeared shirtless, toothbrush in hand.
"Read it to me," he requested before resuming his brushing.
I did. I read him the whole letter. After he finished brushing his teeth he came out of the bathroom and pulled me up into a hug. He smelled of his cologne, cigarettes from the restaurant, and his own faint scent. Finally he realized I wasn't as excited as he was.
"What's wrong?" He looked at me with worry in his face.
I rubbed the back of my neck, preparing for the worst. I've never disappointed anyone I cared about before--not in my entire life...
"The letter is from Columbia, David. In New York. And I'm going to go." I wasn't even leaving for nine more months, but you would have thought I had punched David in the face, packed my bags, and stormed out right then.
Probably not what you guys expected. A bit of a slow chapter to move things along to the end. I know a lot of you have gotten attached to this story, and I'm so happy you've fallen in love with Jon and David. But this is, in essence, a short story of no literary merit (I emphasis both parts of that last sentence). So, our conclusion is forthcoming.
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.