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David and Jon
It's tough hurting people you care about when your decisions are driven by your own self-interest. I had no choice, though. Of all the things I wanted to give David, I could not guarantee him my future. All of this, and when I went to bed that night we still hadn't talked about what Ben said. And that's when I realized... all those months I spent living out my saga, my drama, and David had a whole story to himself.
And I wanted to hear it.
I didn't see him again until the next day. I just wanted to make everything up to him. To talk to him. To continue being friends, if nothing else. I could not live with a person who hated me. When I walked in the door, I saw his keys on the counter. I hated those fucking keys at that moment. Keys that invade my counter space. And what do keys do anyone? Lock everyone away from one another.
Before I'd even had the chance to pace the floor for a good half hour, David emerged from his room. He looked a little worn. I'm pretty sure I look worse for wear, too. He started first.
"It's just that you didn't tell me, Jon. It was a shock, man. I didn't even know you applied!" Why did I have to have saint living through the wall next to where I slept every night? Always letting me off easy.
"Don't apologize. I don't know why I didn't tell you. I just thought... I don't know. Maybe I thought I wouldn't make it in. Maybe I wanted out of this zany life I'm living. I don't know. I know I should have told you, though. But that's not what matters now."
"What matters then?"
And there it was. That question: what matters?
"David, I have to know. Do you really love me?" I couldn't believe I worked up the nerve to ask him. Just flat out.
"Of course I do. You're my best friend."
"That's not what I'm talking about. Ben... Ben talked to me and said some things... I mean. I need to know. Do you love me? Or at least feel for me the way you did when you burst into my dorm room all those months ago and asked me to stay the night with you?" I asked him with all honesty, heart born. I just did it--left myself exposed.
He looked flabbergasted. I think a Chinese sitting ghost tiptoed in to suck the air out of the room. Or maybe we sucked the air out of the room. And then he started to cry. Not sobs, not rivers. Just single tears streaming down his face, marching off his cheeks one at a time.
"I don't know," he said, barely above a breath. "I think about you all the time, Jon. All the time. You're under my skin like that, and I don't know what it means."
I took him by the hand then, squeezed it while we were standing there. I'm not sure if I was trying to reassure him or myself.
"You'll always have our friendship. You know that, right? And we've got nine months before I leave. And I won't be gone forever." I'm not sure where the strength was coming from, but I felt lifted by his show of emotion. For once, it wasn't me who looked lost and broken.
"Jon?" His voice trembled.
"Yeah?" I asked, hesitant.
"What if I do love you?"
"Then I'd have to say I'm a pretty lucky guy." I left him there that afternoon. To think, to reflect. I wasn't even sure how I felt. I just needed to know for my own mental health. God, the patients really are running the mental wards these days. But it turned out that that was the night I fell in love with him. Really knew I loved him.
I still remember it vividly. I had just gotten out of the shower for the night, and the hardwood floors were dead cold. You know? When that first night of winter blows in, and you have hardwood floors, the cold just shoots up through your feet and fills your entire body. I always loved that first night on hardwood floors. And I'll always remember my tingling feet that night.
Believe it or not, during all of this I did remember that I was a student nearing my exams, too. I curled up on the couch with my notes and a warm cup of tea. Tea and honey make the best study aides. Sort of takes you back to childhood when Winnie the Pooh and your mom's band-aides still made everything alright. I was almost finished pulling out all of the hair on my head and calling it quits for the evening when I heard David's soft voice from the doorway.
"Hey... go easy. I like those red hairs." I smiled even though he couldn't see my face. It sounded like the David I knew... for the first time in what seemed like an age of man.
"Want some tea?" I asked, turning to look at him. I skipped a beat, seeing him in that old "STANFORD" shirt I thought embodied all cuteness in a pair of black boxerbriefs. I always did like a man with great legs in a pair of clean boxerbriefs. Definitely a simple pleasure in life to be enjoyed as often as possible.
"No, I just need to tell you something," he said. He walked over and sat next to me.
"Well, shoot." I felt like I was made of palmetto wood at that moment. I was just going to absorb whatever he had to say without splintering. He took a deep breath before he began.
"I'm not sure what love is. I mean, I'm twenty two. I wouldn't even know if my head was on backwards at this point. But you're the closest I've come, Jon. Maybe the closest I'll get. And I think I've felt like this since that day in the IHOP when you called me out in front of every grey haired old lady in the entire state." We both started to laugh, just thinking about it.
Then he continued. "And a part of me has been dying ever since then. I did everything I could to rationalize it. I admired you. I wanted to be just like you. Be clever and confident and great at everything. Just needed to be your friend. But none of that is true, because you were already clever and confident and great.
"I didn't need to be that to be a better man. I just needed you near me. And I don't know what label that makes me. Bi? Gay? Whatever. I don't even know if I'm ready for it..." Now I finally knew what it felt like...
You could have knocked me over with a feather. Or at least a feather duster. Some feathered object of some sort, I'm sure, would have done the job.
I couldn't take it anymore. "So what are you saying," I asked?
"I'm saying," he told me, "stay with me, Jon. Not forever... I want you to go to Columbia. But give us a chance, man... a night. Something. I can't go through my entire life wondering if you were the right person and I just fucked it all up being scared." He took me by the hand then, and looked me in the face.
"What do you say?" he asked, with a perfect pout of a face that could have conned him right through Peter's pearly gates.
I elected for the Jonathan approach. Simple, no mess. I just didn't say anything. I did what any self-respecting gay man in the same situation would do, because I have already told you once... I am not a fool. I kissed the son-of-a-bitch right there. I didn't go in for a passionate head-consuming kiss, just a gentle one. But it did the job.
He radiated happiness at that moment, and so did I. Knowing that I could do that to him was worth everything. Knowing you can make someone really happy is worth everything. Anything.
We stayed like that for a while. Not kissing, I mean. Just looking at each other. Everything changed. The earth moved underneath us. For a moment, I couldn't have imagined ever leaving his side.
"You're really cute, you know that?" And it wasn't even me who said it. David did. Giggling like a school girl, no less.
"Well, I must say you aren't exactly hard on the eyes yourself." Why gay men fall into the use of every cliché ever known to man I do not know, but I am completely, utterly guilty. As charged, and all that.
"No, I need you to know that. You don't even try. You're the only guy I know who exercises for the sole reason that they don't want to die of a heart attack in their thirties."
"Well, that's not entirely true," I interrupted. Come on... I can cruise through a gym with the best of them.
"Stop making jokes. You know what I mean. Everyone else just wants to look good at the beach, but that's not why you do it. I'm just trying to say... I know you're self-conscious sometimes, but I don't want you to be like that around me. I like you the way you are."
Then he kissed me on the shoulder, and took a deep breath again. He stayed like that for a while, cuddled next to me. It was a side of David I had never seen.
Finally, he spoke. A sheepish, half voice of someone asking something they're embarrassed to ask. "Dance with me?"
"Now?" I was a little confused, I admit.
"Yeah... we never got to slow dance."
"Okay," was all I could say...
Did we sleep together that night? Absolutely. You think I'm crazy or something? I jumped on that train the second I heard it was leaving town. No, seriously. We made love. I guess that's really the only way to describe it. It wasn't earth shattering, but he was determined and a very, very quick learner. It was the start of something great... of something real between us.
The weird thing was... it was different. I guess I had always imagined that the first chance I got I would put his spectacular body to good use. And I did, trust me, but it wasn't body worship. I gave ample attention to each of his parts... those pecs, the abs that I was quite sure could double as a laundry service, and that perfect little cleft of his lower back right above his ass. I still have to bite my fist thinking about that cleft. His olive skin smelled of soap that night. But it was knowing that I loved that man that made me weak-kneed that night.
In the end, I did go off to Columbia. And as sickening as it sounds, he waited for me. He stayed in that same apartment the entire time he worked towards his medical degree. Ugh... biologists. I still don't get it. We would fly back and forth on weekends as much as student living allowed, which wasn't very often. And I stole that Stanford t-shirt of his to wear to bed the entire time I was there. I still have that stupid shirt...
"But that first dance that first night... that was special. We were both barefoot, and that floor was like ice, making our feet tingle. The radio was on this dreadful Oldies station that he would listen to sometimes because they played 80's hair bands that drove me into a state of catatonia. Or nausea. Or both on a good day. But on that night... Mrs. Etta James sang out like a bell. And I fell in love, with the both of them. Holding him close to me while she sang in my ear, 'At last...'"
About the Series: I know... I know. I'm breaking hearts ending it here and now. But this was always the way the story was in my head. I know some of you are frustrated with the lack of details (bodily or otherwise), but that stems from my own interests in post-modernism. I want you to fill in the blanks of the apartment, what the guys look like, if they ever actually make it in the end. Even the city in which they live. This way it is a story that lives beyond just me in your imaginations. And the lack of graphic sex is VERY much intentional. Sorry guys. But I guess... it's my story, and I'm tellin' it.
I'm ending it like this because I knew from the start I did not want to draw out the story into tedium and excruciating detail. I knew that I had a very short block of time to write about four chapters and I wanted to give you something complete. There's enough stories on here that drop off near completion and are never seen again.
I just wanted to give you all something a little different, a little fun. I hope I did that.
You guys are great. I appreciate the support.
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. The story itself is only very loosely autobiographical. I've only written one other Nifty story before... in the High School section. If you can find it, brownie points. I'm not telling which it is, because it's quite dreadful to read. Very, very bad.