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There was no point in trying to dumb down the fear that I had riding my back over the next few days. Lying to myself wasn't going to help. Pretending that the chills I felt didn't exist wasn't going to do me much good either. No, it was better that I use this fear in my heart to force me into action. I needed a plan. A strategy. Summer and Jason might have totally blindsided with Niles the last time...but now I know better. This time, I'll be ready.
My hair will be perfect. My clothes will be namebrand. My whole aura will be glowing with pride and sex appeal and awesomeness that Niles won't be able to deny. Yeah! That's how I'm going to do it! And this time, I'm not taking any prisoners. No way. That poor cutie won't know what hit him. I'll wear the aqua blue shirt with the two black stripes on it. And I'll shine up my sneakers really good. Lotion to make sure that my skin is nice and soft to the touch. Maybe a spray or two of cologne. Just enough for him to catch a whiff of it, but subtle enough where it doesn't seem like I'm trying to impress him on purpose. It'll be great. I'll be prepared. He'll be interested. We'll all be on the same page.
And if that is so...
Why do I still feel like I'm going to wet myself the second he smiles at me?
While looking at myself in the mirror...I saw my shoulders slump over, and my lips dissolve into a mediocre frown...and I walked away thinking about how hard it was going to be to create a believable show of confidence in the eyes of someone who made me so very weak inside.
He likes me. That's what I had to keep telling myself. We only met once, and...yeah, he's gorgeous and all...but I shouldn't be tripping all over myself like this. I don't know much more about him than he's hot. I know more about Justin Bieber than I do about Niles.
Wow...how sad is that?
But he DOES like me! That much I know. At least interested enough to be curious about me. Or to talk about me to Jason and try to get his phone number out to me. So...so yeah. That's a plus. And I'm going to assume that we might even be compatible once we get a chance to really talk and trade ideas and...you know...'date stuff'. 've just got to stop stressing out. That's all. Got to breathe normal, and relax, and stop stressing out.
SO much easier said than done.
By the time Jason and Summer showed up at my house, I was about as big a MESS as an oil spill in the Atlantic! I was shaking and shivering, short of breath, palms sweaty...I was a total wreck! Everything that I had been thinking about in my mind, all sorts of witty intros to new topics of conversation, little jokes that I might be able to tell to get him to smile...they were GONE! Sucked right out of my head by some sinister alien force before I woke up this morning! How can I be quick and spontaneous when I've lost all of that rehearsal and PRACTICE??? I'm going to fall flat on my face today! I just know it!
They came over to my house about an hour before we had to leave to get to the café on time, and were obviously getting dizzy from watching me pace back and forth at such a hysterical speed. Summer was like, "Jesus, Gabe...CHILL! Look at what you're doing to yourself, this is crazy!"
"You're right, Summer. This IS crazy! This whole damn afternoon is crazy!"
Jason said, "I thought you'd be psyched to do things all over again. Get a second chance? Do it all on your own? Remember?"
"The ONE time I wish you weren't fucking listening to me, Jason, you suddenly have the brain power to quote me word for word!" I screeched.
"No, no, no...I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just...I'm losing it here. Did he really say that he was gonna be there today?"
Summer said, "We might have tried to give you some coaching or something if you hadn't been such a punk to us about trying to set you up in the first place."
I covered my face with both hands and said, "Ohhhh, I know. I know. I'm so sorry, you guys. I just..."
She waited for a moment, and then asked, "You just what? What happened with you?"
"I was embarrassed, you know? I felt like you guys double crossed me. And Niles was looking at me the whole time...and YOU guys were looking at me the whole time...I was the only person at that table who didn't have any clue as to what was going on. I felt like the biggest sap in the world. Too stupid to catch on. Like you guys were laughing at me..." They told me that they'd never do anything to deliberately humiliate me, and I already knew that. But it didn't change the fact that all eyes were on me, and I was the one playing the role of 'court jester' while the rest of them got a few snickers out of the prank. I said, "I know you guys meant well, and maybe that kind of thing works for some people. But I'm not one of them, ok? It makes me uncomfortable, being tricked or lied to. I fall all to pieces when I think I don't have a stable footing in what's going on in my life, ok? I just...I like to make my own first impressions. Can you guys understand that?"
Feeling a little guilty for it, Jason gave me a half-hearted hug. "No hard feelings, Gabe. We were just trying to look out for you, bro."
I didn't want to be a jackass about it. I don't know, maybe it's too late.
Summer asked me, "Did you hear that Niles totally called Jason to find out a little more about you?"
"YES!" I said, happy to get back on task. "And I'm thinking that might be a good sign. I mean, right?" Both Summer and Jason rolled their eyes at one another. "Ok. whatever. JASON! Dude, this is your moment, man! Help me out here!"
"My 'moment'? What are you...?"
"I need some inside info. You've gotta give me something. Anything!Come on!" He looked at me, bewildered about what to say. "He's your friend, Jason! You've got to know something about him."
Jason shrugged. He's like, "Niles is...he's cool." Yeah, that didn't help. I asked him for more. "He said he likes anime..."
"You told me that one already. Give me something else."
"He...um...he works at the newsstand across the street from the café?" I lowered my head in defeat.
"What? I'm sorry. We met a bunch of times. We hang out. We talk. I don't know if it's different for you gay guys, but straight guys just kinda keep things 'surface', you know? I didn't ask him about his personal life. We were just kickin' it."
"Worst...help...EVER!" I grunted, plopping back down to sit on my bed again.
Jason said, "What makes you think you need any help anyway? He's already into you. Doesn't that make things easier?"
"Nooooooo, Jason! Don't you get it? This makes things harder!" I said. "You see, he's been thinking about me now! He's expecting me to be cool!"
"You are cool..."
"Oh, I am NOT! Knock it off!" I said. "Don't you see? I can only 'disappoint' him from here on out. I'm not going to be able to live up to his expectations now. It's already been a whole week."
Summer took a hold of my hand as I got up to pace again. "Gabe, with all due respect, babe...you set the bar pretty low last week." I gasped at first, but the second I opened my mouth to speak, she put her hand over my mouth to shut me up again. "JUST be yourself. It'll be good enough. Trust me."
"I've never been on a date before, ok?"
"It'll be fine. It's not even really a date yet..."
"Oh God...you mean it gets WORSE?!?!" I whimpered, sitting down again. Then standing up again. Dammit, this room isn't big enough!
Jason said, "Dude, you really need to stop flipping out. Just go, and smile, and talk. That's it. Summer and I will be right there to take the pressure off of you. If things get awkward or you two go silent, we've got your back. Easy."
"I wouldn't have to worry about me and Niles going silent if straight people talked about their feelings more!" I said. "How the heck am I going to know what to talk to him about if I don't have some sort of strategy as to what he likes and stuff?"
Jason shrugged and said, "Well...you could ask him all that bullshit you were just asking me a second ago. If your enquiring mind wants to know...just ask him. That'll probably end up being an hour long conversation right there. Hell, you and I have been talking for ten minutes already, and I have no clue what the heck your deal is! I imagine he'd be happy to give you the 'gay guy news' or whatever."
Summer interjected with, "People LIKE when you ask them questions, Gabe. Take an interest. Listen to him. Learn about pieces of his life and then share pieces of your life with him. Trade a few jokes. Absorb and relate to him any way that you can. You guys might turn out to have a LOT in common! You don't have to be stupid and pledge your ever loving heart and soul to the guy on the first DAY! Just take some time to get to know each other. I mean, I'm sure Jason chose Niles to come meet us based on qualities other than just the fact that he was hot, right?"
Jason said, "Nope. Actually, I just looked at him and thought, 'wow, that guy is really hot!' So I figured Gabe would take one look at him and want to..."
Summer kicked Jason in the leg to shut him up. Then she was like, "Ignore him. Listen...stop making this whole thing up in your head before it even happens. Good scenarios, bad scenarios...as much as it might make you feel more comfortable to lay out this elaborate plan of yours and predict every last minute of how this is going to go...it's just not gonna happen that way. You've got to leave some things up to chance once in a while. Go with it. Have a little faith, you just might surprise yourself."
I wiggled and I whined and I whimpered...but Summer was right. I can't just turn this into some easily maneuverable obstacle course. I can't pretend that my emotions or his are going to work like some sort of stiff and cold mathematical equation...where you get a right or wrong answer based on your ability to work the problem in the right frame of mind. No...I should just go. And whatever happens...happens.
Even if what happens turns out to be the most horribly humiliating moment of my life and it traumatizes me to the point where I'm NEVER able to speak to another cute boy ever again!!!
Arrrgh!!! Omigod! Somebody get me OUT OF HERE!!!
Jason and Summer had to practically hold my hand the whole way to the bus stop to keep me from faking them out and running, top speed, for the nearest thicket of suburban bushes for me to hide in! They were feeding me encouragement every step of the way, but despite all of my common sense working out every logical calculation that it could find to restore some level of self-assurance...my heart continued to beat out of control. I swear, it had swelled to the point where it was pushing the air out of my crowded lungs with every manic pulse. I'm going to look so LAME if I don't calm down!
It's not a date. That's what I've got to keep in mind if I want to make any kind of decent impression at all. This is NOT a date!
The bus let us all off at our stop, and even from a block away, I could see Niles standing outside of the café. He was waiting for us. Were we late? No way...we were still a few minutes early. Was he anxious? Maybe he wanted to get there super early. What should I say? May I can say, um...I can say...'I guess you caught the worm today'. Hehehe, right? Like...like...since he's the early bird? He'll get the reference, right? Or...maybe he won't, and he'll think I'm being dumb. Or...maybe he WILL...and he'll think I'm being dumb anyway! I've got to think of another joke. Something casual, but something cool. Something chuckle worthy, but I'm not trying to be a comedian or anything. Maybe I can...
This is EXACTLY what Summer was talking about, isn't it. I'm thinking too much. Trying to plot the whole greeting out ahead of time and 'control' everything instead of just relaxing and letting things happen naturally. I need to relax. I can't be a control freak about this. I want to be a part of the experience. I want to let go and just enjoy myself for once.
Let it go, Gabe. Just...let this day happen. It'll be ok. I'll be safe. Even when I'm not in control...
It's not like I had any control over this situation in the first place.
We got to the front of the café and Niles was happy to welcome us with open arms. He hugged Summer first, and gave Jason a perfectly acceptable jock boy handshake-hug thingy shortly after. Then...those neon blue green eyes of his met mine, and we both grinned to ourselves for a moment as we tried to figure out what our approach should be.
"Hey, Gabe. I see you turned out today after all." He said. Ahhhhh! That accent! I'm going to tackle that boy right here in the street if he keeps being so goddamn cute about this!
"Yeah. I guess I did." I said. No, wait...I can do better. "After talking to you on the phone...how could I say no?"
Yeah. That sounded better. Wow, where did that come from? Who knows? Who cares? If I can relax and just keep that kind of social momentum going, then this date might go alright after all. NOT that this is a date! You know...because it's NOT!
We all walked inside, and Niles made sure to hold the door open for me, giving me the most enchanting smile as I passed him. Wow...his smile could cause sailors to run their ships up against the jagged rocks of the shore when he flashed it in their direction. "Thank you..." I giggled shyly, and walked on in.
We got a table and all, not far from where we were last weekend, and I braced myself for things to kick into a higher gear from there. I didn't know what to expect. and I usually HATE not knowing what to expect. But today? I don't know...today it seemed kind of cool.
Niles looked into my eyes, smiling cheerfully at the fact that he got to be close to me again. I know that I had the almost irresistible urge to bury my infatuated gaze into the wood of the table below me...but I fought it. It wasn't easy, but...I managed to keep my head up a bit more this time around. I even managed to send Niles a sweet smile of my own every now and then. I wish I had those little dimples like he did. His smile was SO much cuter than mine! Hehehe!
Then...Summer saw us smiling at one another, and she suddenly stood up from the table. "Why wait for a waitress, right???" She blurted out. We were all a bit baffled by that unsolicited comment. Then she said, "Jason...we're going to go order some more ciders!Just like last week? That's good, right? Gabe? Niles? Ciders? We'll get ciders! I'll be right back. We'll BOTH be right back! Won't we, Jason?"
Not daring to face Summer's wrath later on, Jason put his hands on the table and got up on his feet. "I guess. Let's go." He groaned slightly.
And with only a glance or two in my direction, they both went up to the counter and left me and Niles there to talk.
Niles shook his head and said, "Subtle buggers, aren't they?"
Thank God, he didn't find it as utterly ridiculous and awkward as that could have been. I laughed a bit and said, "Yeah...those two are...'special'." I had to struggle for a moment, then said, "Listen...about last week...I'm really sorry about what went down with this whole...set up thing."
Niles said, "Oh? How come?"
"Well...I had a good time and all, but I never would have just...that is...I didn't know what they were up to. I hope that wasn't weird for you."
He smiled and told me, "Actually, it wasn't all that weird at all." He grinned to himself, and added, "For the record, I was actually trying to tell Jason that it would be better if you knew what was going on ahead of time. I didn't want to come out here and ambush you the way I did. But he was convinced that you wouldn't come out and join us if you knew the game plan."
"Probably would have made for a better afternoon if I hadn't, I'm willing to bet." I said.
But Niles said, "Oh, I don't know about that. If I can be frank for a moment...after everything Jason told me about you, I half expected most of that stuff to be an outright lie." Then his voice softened, and he tugged gently at the sleeve of his shirt as he said, "Turns out...he wasn't exaggerating. You're everything that he said you would be. Maybe even a bit more."
Wait...so, I get it...I'm still asleep, right? I thought that I was awake, but I'm still asleep, and this is the part of the wet dream where I cum all over myself and wake up having to put my sheets in the laundry again! Right? I mean...I mean, right?
Waiting a second for some kind of 'punchline' to follow his flattering comment, I said, "Maybe Jason just took some extra care to leave out all the bad parts. Hehehe..."
And Niles said, "Always a possibility. But...I'm thinking that any of your dingy parts will pale in comparison to what I've seen so far." It was hard for me to just accept that this was happening. but as long as I was skipping through 'La La Land', I figured that I might as well play my part.
"Good. Then...I'm glad I made the kind of impression on you that would come close to the impression you made on me. Because...I'm actually really nervous right now."
"Really? I thought it was just me." He said. Then he peeked over my shoulder towards the counter, and he blushed even harder. "Don't look now, but your friends are taking a cell phone picture of us sitting together right now."
"UGH! It's Summer, isn't it???" I snarled! "I am SO sorry, Niles! Seriously!"
But he just grinned at me. "It's alright. Totally." I felt his foot lightly brush up against mine under the table. I couldn't tell if it was an accident or not, but it made us both giggle regardless. He said, "You know...at this point...if you and I don't at least try to go out on a date or something in the near future, this whole set up is going to seem like a total waste of their time."
"Hehehe, well...we can't have that, can we?"
"Seems like they put an awful lot of effort into this. it'd be a right shame to disappoint them."
Feeling this growing excitement in my chest, I said, "Maybe. Then again, it would serve them right for being a dastardly duo of schemers. Hehehe!"
"And that's a bad thing?"
"Sometimes it is. I just...I feel weird. Right now they have their eyes on us. Watching to see what happens next. I just don't always do well with spectators involved. That's all."
"Doesn't bother me so much. Let them watch." He said.
"It doesn't make you feel...'exposed'?"
"Not at all. If anything...it makes me want to give them something to see." He gave me a flirtatious smirk, and just before Summer and Jason got our drinks and started heading back towards our table, Niles said, "Listen, we've only been here a couple of minutes, and I'm already feeling really good about being able to talk to you again. I don't want to sound too forward, but...do you think that maybe we can do this again sometime? Just you and me. No pretense. No 'set up'. Hehehe, I'm thinking that it might be a lot more fun for the both of us."
"Yeah. Ahem...I mean, like...sure. Yeah. I think I'd like that, Niles. I think I'd like that a lot."