Had I missed it before? Or maybe I noticed it and just put it out of my mind because my mind was so incredibly wrapped up in Kevin all the time? Or maybe it was the fact that Doug had stopped kidding around long enough for me to take a good look at him and 'see' him. Not 'look' at him...but to really 'see' him. Who knows? But sitting there in that coffee shop, dimly lit even at this time of day to create a comfortable atmosphere, Doug all dressed up looking cute...what can I say? He was a complete sweetheart. Hehehe, I'm GAY! You can't blame me for looking.
Jessica had left us alone at the table, and Doug was so busy trying to focus on his coffee that he was hardly talking at all. He was taking a sip every few seconds, as though it would be able to keep him from talking to me. Either he was gonna burn his lips and tongue beyond repair, or he was going to ingest so much caffeine that his heart was going to blow up right in front of me. "Is it good?" I asked, hoping to get him to slow down a bit.
"Heh...sorry." He said, and he put the cup down. "I get a little antisocial sometimes. I don't mean to."
"You? Doug, the doll faced goofball?" I grinned.
"Occassionally, yes." He said with mock offense. "But it passes. I'll be juggling wadded up table napkins in no time. You just be patient."
"Now there's the Doug I know and love." I said, and I reached out a finger to poke him gently in the side. Just to break up his defenses a little bit.
He smacked my hand lightly with a smile. "Quit it, I'm ticklish. So don't start."
Taking a good glance at him, I could feel a little tug inside. It was like seeing him as a slightly different person, and it slowly blossomed like a flower in Spring. It's hard to explain, but it was the first time that he was more than that cool funny guy from the computer lab. Somehow, being in a different setting with him, made him more of a 'person' in my eyes. And I liked that. He had this cool draping of dark sandy blond hair that would hang down to his dark eyebrows. And light brown eyes, almost hazel, but not quite. Somewhere in between. His looks were so...I dunno...'subtle'. They crept up on you when you didn't expect them to, and when he was being this quiet, he had no way to hide them from you. Instead, his looks spoke for themselves, and he was a real cutie once you took notice of him. I just hope I wasn't staring.
Jessica came back to join us at the table, looking at how quiet we both were. "Well, it looks like I missed an entire Bible's worth of conversation at THIS table, didn't I?" She joked.
"We talked." Doug said with a boyish smile. "You just missed it because you wanted to 'vacate the premises' all of the sudden."
"I had to go to the bathroom...gimmee a break!" She answered.
"Suuuuure ya did." Whatever was going on between the two of them, it only made me look at Doug even more closely.
I've never been a big believer of the whole 'gaydar' thing, where you could just look at someone and tell that they're homosexual. But somehow, for some reason, I could feel a little alarm go off in the back of my mind. It was distant, kind of a dull reading, but it was there. A little blip on my radar. And I began to wonder if maybe..just maybe...this wasn't just a few friends out for coffee. Thinking back to it, Jessica HAD been inviting me out an awful lot lately. And Doug was always hanging around in the background while she was doing it. Looking nervous and weird. I mean, I didn't know him THAT well...but I new him well enough to know when he was acting a bit out of the ordinary. I sat back quietly, watching, thinking, wondering. Was Jessica playing match up or what?
"You know, Doug was thinking about applying for a job at that little magic shop on Navy Pier. He's pretty good. But he's procrastinating until somebody 'else' gets it so he'll have an excuse to not go through with it." Jessica said, trying to inspire some more conversation.
"The magic shop?" I asked. "The one there, like when you walk in those front doors there, by the MAX theater?"
"Um...yeah, that's the one." He said.
"I ddn't know you were into that stuff."
Jessica raised her brow a little. "Really? Why, yes he is. Doug knows TONS of tricks. Litterally."
"Well...I don't know about that. But I know a few." Doug put his cup down, taking a quick glance at me as though he were trying to see if he should back out of this conversation or not.
"Seriously? Show me one?" I asked.
"No. I can't. It's stupid."
"C'mon, you've GOT to do it now. I'm curious." I grinned.
"I don't have anything with me..."
"Yes you do, Doug. You always carry those cards with you in your jacket pocket. Remember?" He grimaced in her direction, but Jessica just smiled in response.
With a sigh, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. He shuffled them around a bit in his hands while mumbling to himself, "Ok...but you're just gonna think it's stupid." He shuffled them again and told me to look at the deck. I did, it seemed normal enough. Then he flipped through all of the cards so I could see the faces as they rapidly flew past. Again, normal enough. Then he shuffled them again, asked me to tap the top of the deck, and blew on it.
He held the deck up and flipped through them again...they were all BLANK! Like, the whole deck was blank! Just white pieces of cardboard! I think he liked the surprised look on my face, as he giggled a little to himself. Then, with a tap of his hand, he flipped through and all of the card faces came back. Needless to say, I was impressed. "I told you it was stupid." He blushed.
"No WAY! That wasn't stupid! That was amazing!" I said. "How did you do that?"
"He won't tell you." Jessica said. "He never does. But it's cool anyway."
I looked over at him, and he neatly tucked the cards back into his jacket. "Yeah, Doug...that was cool."
"Thanks..." He bit down on his bottom lip, and I saw Jessica giggle happily in his direction. Yes...there was definitely something going on here with the two of them.
We sat in that coffee shop for almost two hours, talking and laughing about everything from cartoons to school stuff to favorite movies. It's funny, but after talking to them for so long in the computer lab, I didn't really know much of anything about them until that very moment. They were friendly, and cheerful, and believe it or not...they seemed to be the cure to my aching heart. For the time being, anyway. And Doug...the boy I never thought about in 'that way' before...was turning out to be more than just a face in the daily crowd of classmates. Especially now tht he was setting off these bells and whistles inside of my head that he might actually like me. It might just be wishful thinking on my part, but from the way things were going, I think it was pretty obvious that Jessica had a plan in bringing us together here.
It's funny, but when you first look at someone in an interested way, you realize things you never saw before. Cute little 'accessories' to their personality and their look that were all but invisible before. Like...Doug's shoulders would jiggle in the cutest way when he laughed. And if he laughed even harder, his eyes would water. Not a lot, but enough where he'd have to wipe it away with his hand. And whenever he said something nice or complimentary, he'd sorta subconciously tug at his bottom lip with his fingers. His voice would lower to almost a mumble, and his hand would almost cover his mouth completely. It was like this adorable nervous tick of his, and being aware of it for the first time was kinda cool. Also, his nose would wrinkle up a bit when he smiled. And he had these really expressive eyes. You could seriously turn the volume down on our whole conversation, and his eyes would still tell the whole story effortlessly. It was a side of him that I've never seen. It was a special part of who he was. I felt honored to have been witness to it.
It was then that Jessica was talking about her cousin going to some club around town, and made the comment, "It was just like one of those clubs on 'Queer As Folk', you know? Right, Doug?" It wasn't the smoothest play in the book, but that was the verbal tripwire that put everything into place. Once I saw Doug turn white and bury his gaze into the wooden table top in front of us, I knew I had found the missing key. He LIKED me! He actually LIKED me! Oh...My...GOD!!! I never had anybody like me before! Not as cute and as fun as Doug, that's for sure. What...what do I do here? Am I missing my cue here? I hope I'm not messing this up by not responding right away.
"I wouldn't KNOW about that...now would I?" Doug grunted.
I don't know what happened, but my body had this strange...orgasmic rush of energy go surging through it. It was a confusing emotion to define. But it was a bit scary, and the sudden anxiety of it all caused a weird need for distance. "You know...I've gotta go to the bathroom for a second. Ok? I'll be right back." I stood up from the table and walked away on shakey legs. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have to even GO to the bathroom. I just...needed to get away from that table for a second.
As I was leaving, I heard a noise from behind me. "OWWWW! Shit!!!" Jessica howled. When I looked back, she was holding her arm. "What are you doing? I'm a GIRL, you JERK!"
"I thought you said you weren't going to fuck this up!" Doug said in a loud whisper. "Just let ME handle this, ok?
"Well you don't have to go all IKE TURNER on me!" She snapped back, punching him back in his shoulder.
Seeing that, I had to retreat into the bathroom for a minute and just...I don't know...pretend to wash my hands or something for a second until I had a chance to think this out. He likes me. Doug likes me. I know it. Ok...what comes next? How do I...um...'accept' something like this. I'm definitely happy about this turn of events, and you would think that this would make the whole 'gay love, boy-meets-boy' thing a lot easier. But...um....it didn't. At ALL. In fact, I think a part of it made me feel even MORE terrified, because NOW I had to be careful not to send out the wrong signals and scare him off. I had to...be...charming, and cool, and hopefully everything he's expecting me to be. I wasn't ready for this, it was all kinda sprung on me all of the sudden. I'm lost. Shit!
What if I'm wrong? What if I'm RIGHT? I tapped my fingers frantically on the edge of the sink, taking a few deep breaths before going back out there. Think good impression here, Chris. Think good impression. I smoothed my hair and my eyebrows a bit....and went back out to the table.
"Hey..." I said, sitting down awkwardly. I didn't know if I should look into Doug's eyes, or if I should look away. Somewhere between obvious flirtation and total implied rejection, is a safehaven of eye contact that would allow me to keep things friendly between us. At least....that's my theory.
I saw Doug begin to bury his focus in that cup of coffee again, doing what he could to avoid looking at me. Jessica, however, seemed more intent on trying to keep a natural conversation going between the three of us. She was playing the role of the helpful chaperone tonight, and I was probably just as happy to have her there as he was.
Talking? It was a lot more difficult than it had been when it was just a couple of friends hanging out afterschool. It took a lot more effort than you would believe, just to keep him talking to me, just to keep myself talking to him. My mind was analyzing so much input at once. His voice, his gestures, his body language, his choice of words, his volume and tone when he spoke. All of these things were used to try to intepret what he was feeling towards me and how I could possibly turn it around to return the sentiment right back to him. If Doug really DID like me, then I wanted to see what this opportunity was all about before letting it slip through my fingers. Damn...and he really WAS fucking CUTE, wasn't he? Shit! Just looking at him with this new awareness was like...wow.
"You know, I really hate to do this. But I should be getting home soon." Doug said, now finished with his coffee. I hoped that I hadn't said or done anything wrong to discourage him from persuing me any further. Don't give up Doug! I'm interested! I really am! "It's just that my parents are big on the family getting together for dinner time, you know?" He added, and it helped to ease the jitters inside a bit. Especially when I saw the slight hint of disappointment on his face when he mentioned leaving.
"That's ok. I actually have to be going myself." I said, and we all stood up around the same time.
Doug fidgeted a little bit with his hands, and Jessica was a bit lost as to how to keep this well crafted plan from falling apart at the last moment. "Soooo...I know I'll see you in the lab sometime." Doug added, jacket on, now ready to leave.
"Yeah...maybe..." I added, but did't want it to stop there. I was nervous, GOD was I nervous! But something inside of me made me want to give this a try. Just a safe little nudge to his confidence on the slight chance that I'm reading him right. "Um....you know what? Why don't I....give you my phone number or something? Maybe...you know...you can call me sometime?" I said, making sure to look him directly in the eye for little longer than usual. Hoping that some kind of silent signal would be passed from me to him in the intensity of my gaze. Please say yes. Please?
"Actually...I already have your number. Remember?" He smiled.
"Oh...right. The animal noises. Hehehe!" Doug looked down at his feet while he giggled to himself. He had this adorable habit of tugging at the bottom of his shirt nervously, wrapping it around his fingertips. And when he looked up, I gave him the best warm smile that I could, and said, "Well....make sure you call me then. K?" It was a serious offer, and I wasn't sure if he was going to get the hint or not. Or if he was even interested in anything like that at all. But with the exception of Kevin, I've never even really seen a possibility of being with someone else. I mean, sure, I dreamed about the whole thing, but I never entertained the actual 'reality' of finding a partner. I don't think my mind even considered such a notion to be worth the effort. I'd do better trying to pull my own shadow from the wall. So believe me when I say that this was a new feeling for me.
"Ok..." Doug said with a smirk, and motioned for Jessica to follow him as he headed for the door.
"G'night Chris." Jessica grinned, and Doug practically pulled her arm off to get her to move. It left me feeling kinda wild inside. Wondering if this was a good thing, or a bad thing, or even real. But it felt good. I could hardly keep myself from smiling. All the way home, I thought about it. Me and Doug? That might actually be crazy enough to work.
When I got home, I didn't see any messages from Kevin. Then again, I didn't expect any. He had a date to 'pretty up' for, and then he'd be his usual gorgeous self, his date would fall in lust with him by the third sentence, and they'd have an automatic relationship. No time, no thought, no real friendly connection required. Just take a cute boy, a nice ass, add water, and 'poof'! Instant boyfriend. Blechhh! The only thing more frustrating about the whole idea is the fact that I wish I could indulge in the same lifelong fantasy that Kevin does. But...that aside, I was happy tonight. Actually smiling. I didn't need thoughts of that boy ruining my moment in the sun. Even though I doubted that I'd be able to make it five minutes without thinking about the two of them together at least once. In fact, during a few of those quiet moments at home, I would find myself tapping my fingers dilligently on my desk. Looking over at the clock and knowing that Kevin's date had started over two hours ago. They were probably past the initial introductions. They were past the whole 'pretending' that what they had in common would somehow be enough to jump in the sack together. They will have already eaten, and might have already retreated back to this other boy's house by now. 'Mike'...that was his name. The Hayden Christensen look-alike. I already knew that Kevin wanted him physically. And how could this Mike character NOT want Kevin back? He's gorgeous, he's sweet, he's fun to be around. You know...when you're not the one tortured by feelings of unrequited love for him, that is. And all it would take is a moment of eye contact and a single kiss to start the fireworks for the both of them. Ugh...I wish my mind wasn't so 'poisoned' with the image of it.
Was it depressing me to think about it? I don't know. I can't really say. The strange thing was, I was hard as a rock. Imagining them rolling around naked and releasing that built up sexual tension that they had built up while trying to keep their hands off of each other in the first few seconds that they met. A part of me wanted to turn it off like a switch. To just run away from the idea and go to someplace far far away where I wouldn't have to care. But another part of me wanted to watch. To just...feel like I was at least SOME part of the experience by being there in my dreams. Sighhh...who know's what's wrong with me? I guess I'm just silly that way. I know one thing for sure...Kevin is going to come home one happy teenage boy. And me, I'm gonna bite my tongue and grin right along with him until the misery goes away and apathy takes its place.
Geez, all this love in my heart towards this boy...and indifference is the best state of mind that I can hope to achieve. How sad is that?
I had a good night's sleep that night. And when I woke up in the morning, before I even opened my eyes, Doug was the first thing on my mind. Was I dreaming about him? I couldn't really remember. But it was as though his imaginary kiss was still lingering on my lips as I drifted back to full consciousness. It was a warm feeling, as comfortable as the jumble of bedsheets wrapped around me. I just lay there for a few thoughtful moments. Thinking. Wondering. Attempting to balance out the euation in my head as I tried to differentiate between the Doug I knew before the coffee shop, and the Doug that I knew now. It's so strange how your whole perception of who someone is can change with a single event. He almost seemed like an entirely different person, and it made me think back to every interaction that I've ever had with him. Did he like me before? Is this a recent development, or has this been going on since we first met? Does he think about me? Is he thinkig about me right now? It was incredible to dwell on infatuated feelings without the bitter sting of dismissal tainting it's embrace on your heart. I was happy to experience something a little more 'forgiving'.
I rolled over onto my side, and let my mind wander safely to thoughts of what it would be like to kiss him. Or what it would be like to have him here in bed spooned up next to me. I wasn't going to jump forward and claim that I was in love all of the sudden. It wasn't what I was 'truly' feeling inside just yet, and I didn't want to fake it for the sake of possible opportunity. If I did, I'd be just as bad as the guys I sneered at for dating Kevin and leaving him a week later. I guess you could say that I was excited over the likelyhood that somebody out there...SOMEBODY...would actually find something about me to like. I have to admit, after realizing the hopelessness of my affection for Kevin, I was convinced that no one would ever have a reason to like me again. If the person you love more than anything in the world turns you away...how could anyone else even want to bother with you? How do you expect to go on when the boy you'd do anything for refuses to give a shit anymore? You DON'T go on, that's how. You wave your white flag, give up on that merciless emotion for good, and you hope that somebody, somewhere, at SOME point in time, will spark an ounce of faith in love and fairness again further down the road. I never would have expected that somebody to be Doug. Never in a million years.
I enjoyed the last few moments that I could inside my sheets, and finally got up out of my bed. A little breakfast, a little music, a little mulling around the house in my boxer briefs while my mom was out grocery shopping. It was particularly sunny that Saturday morning, and I was ready to just get outside and soak up some of that sunshine while I could. But before I could even pick out clothes to wear, I heard Kevin's pattened 'three push' doorbell ring at my back door. I threw on some sweatpants and a t-shirt to go open it up. Sure enough, there he was outside the door with a pair of rollerblades on. Sometimes the light would hit him just right, and you'd believe for a brief moment that the sun was shining just for him. For the sole purpose of giving this beauty the spotlight for the whole world to witness. It was breathtaking, it really was.
"You feel like going out for a spin?" He asked, smiling from ear to ear. He was gleaming, his blond hair sparkling like freshly polished gold. His green eyes were even brighter than normal that morning, and through the wicked tilt of his grin, I could already see that he had a story to tell. A story about him and a cute boy that, no doubt, got it on as many times as humanly possible in the time allotted.
"You seem happy." I said, already setting myself up for that inevitable jab in my side with that iron spike he calls a love life.
"I've got every 'reason' to be." He beamed. "C'mon, grab your blades. I'll tell you all about it outside."
I could have refused. I could have said no, and saved myself the punishment. But I didn't. If I said no, he'd ask why. Then I'd tell him that it wasn't important, and he'd persist until he wormed it out of me. Then I'd confess my feelings for him and how much I wished it could be ME that was given the chance to make him happy. But...that of course wouldn't change anything, and would only succeed in making him feel guilty about it. That, in turn, would make things even MORE awkward between the two of us, and I'd be left without a love interest OR a best friend. So who am I kidding here...really? "I'll be out in a minute man."
Minutes later, we were gliding around the block, and I figured that I'd just get it overwith. "So, I take it things went well last night with Mike?"
He burst open and let it all out through a joyous smile. "Things went AWESOME last night!"
"Naturally." I mumbled, trying hard not to roll my eyes where he could see me do it.
"Chris...he was sooooooo cute! BETTER looking than Hayden Christensen, even! I was amazed, dude!" He said as we turned the corner, heading out towards the park by the lake. "He gave me this big hug when we first met, and he kissed me on the cheek. Then we went out to this Thai food place and ate from the buffet. He was really cool, Chris. I think you'd like him."
"He sounds...nice." Hold it in, Chris. He doesn't realize he's killing you with all this. It's just an innocent guy expressing his feelings to his best friend. That's what I had to tell myself to keep from feeling bruised inside.
"And his body....WOOF! He's a dancer, Chris! I didn't even know that when we were talking. His body is perfection. And he had abs that I could just lick all over. Sighhhh...he's so dreamy."
We rolled right through the park, and sat down on some large rocks on the edge of the lake. It was a peaceful place where you could see the waves roll in, and still get some shade from the trees above. I was being kinda quiet through Kevin's tale of fun and fancy...but he was too happy to really notice at the moment. So I worked up a few smiles here and there as I pretended to listen. But, when he had finished talking about the 'date' part of it, I took the short break in conversation to ask the ten million dollar question. "So.......did you?"
"Did I what?"
"You know." I said, and he smiled at me with a happy raise of his eyebrows.
"Yeah. A couple of times. He's really GOOD at it too! Hehehe! Probably one of the best that I've had."
It would be stupid of me to expect anything less. I guess I just asked in the event that I'd get a different answer this time around. So much for 'that'. At that point, even my faked smile faded as that dull ache inside returned to the pit of my stomach. I turned my gaze down to my rollerblades first, and then squnted a bit as I looked out over the lake. It was like being shot in the heart. First the impact, then the burning sensation, then the pain builds until it turns into a freezing cold agony inside. I just took it all in and did my best to contain it with a mask of numbness to it all. Things fell silent between us for a minute or two....and I picked up a small rock from down by my feet, and tossed it out into the waves of the lake. There were a couple of heavy 'pulls' down on the base of my heart...almost hard enough to warrant a tear or two...but I sucked it up and just tried not to look at him. As long as I focused on those waves out there, as long as I didn't have to stare into those emerald eyes and see the untouchable beauty inside them...I'd be ok.
"I think...I think I really like this one, Chris. I think he has a chance of being the 'one', you know?" Stop talking. Just...stop TALKING! Please? I just needed him to give me a second to deal with the pain I had in my chest right now before he piled more on. "He wants to see me again tomorrow night. I think he likes me too." Just concentrate on the waves, Chris. Don't you DARE let him see any discomfort on your face! You be a friend, straighten up, and wish him the very best you can.
"I'm..." Suck it up Chris. Suck it up. "I'm...glad, Kev. I hope it works out for the both of you."
"Thanks dude. Me too." There was another pause, but I didn't look at him. I just tossed another rock out to the lake and kept my mouth shut. Like I always do. "Chris, are you ok?"
I turned to him and smirked a little bit for his benefit. Despite it all, his happiness meant everything to me. "Yeah. I'm fine. Why?"
"You look like you're miffed about something."
I made a quick look into his eyes, and then focused my gaze back out to the waves. I wouldn't be able to lie to him if I saw him eye to eye. Not now. "Just stuff on my mind. Thinking about stuff, you know?"
"Chris...if something is wrong..."
EVERYTHING is wrong, your heartless son of a BITCH!!! "No. It's alright. Really. Forget it." I threw one more rock into the lake before standing up. Changing the subject was the only way out of the situation now. "You thirsty? I'm gonna go grab a Gatorade from the beach office."
"I can come with you..."
"Don't sweat it. I'll bring you one back." I said, and was rapidly rollerblading away from him before he could say another word. I was able to escape him for a few minutes. But unfortunately, I took my emotions 'with' me.
I waited until I was out of site, and rolled to a stop behind one of the restroom buildings in the park. I put my back against the wall, and did what I could to catch my breath...my lungs feeling like they were going to collapse. Not from the rollerblading, but from the heartbreak that was squeezing the life out of me from the inside. My breathing began to tighten up even more, coming out in short huffs and gasps, and this inner rage took over my body. Forcing me to pound the wall behind me with my fist a few times. That's about when the first tear rolled down my cheek. The contractions of my lungs caused the tears to drip with more frequency, and I got even angrie at myself for letting this happen again. And again. And AGAIN!!! Why??? Why do I keep letting him DO this to me? It doesn't even matter anymore, does it? I could walk on water and shit ice cream...and it will NEVER make ANY...FUCKING...DIFFERENCE!!! I promised myself I wouldn't do this. I am trying sooo hard to let it go. I just...can't. My heart won't allow me to let go. Why? What the hell is it gonna TAKE for me to learn that he doesn't want me???
A boy on a bike rode passed me, followed by his little sister, and I turned towards the wall to hide my pained face from them. Thankfully they didn't see me. I was in a public place here, and it was hardly the place to deal with this. So I tried to get control of my breathing, dry my face, and fix my mood again so I could get back to Kevin before he started looking for me. I sniffled my way back to normality, and then went to get some drinks for us. By the time I had come back, Kevin was ready to go back, and we bladed our way back to his house for a while.
We went into his room, and he pushed aside a mountain of his clothes to give me a place to sit on his bed. I don't know if he was aware that the talk of him and Mike was bothering me so much, but he 'curbed' it a bit since I had left him in the park earlier. Who knows? Maybe he could tell. Maybe he knew, deep down inside, that he was killing me with every word. Maybe...it would never be enough to change his mind about me. "So what'd ya do yesterday?" He asked.
"Nothing." I pouted, still covering up what I could.
"No, seriously. I didn't catch a glimpse of you all day. Where'd you go?"
"Nothing." I repeated. "Oh...well I went out to this coffee shop with Doug and Jessica from the computer lab, but that was it."
"Have I met them before?"
"I don't think so. Maybe. I don't know." I shrugged, and there was a silence. When I looked up, Kevin was looking right back at me. Concerned. "What?"
He stood up and walked over to sit next to me on the bed, so close that our legs were touching. "Ok...come on, talk to me. What did I miss?" He asked.
"Sighhhh...don't do this right now, ok? I'm fine. Just...go back to being happy." I felt that heavy tug again, and knew I wouldn't have any 'escape route' this time. So I held it back with double the effort that I used last time.
"I'm sorry, Chris. You know what? That was selfish of me. I'm sitting here talking about me, me, me, and you've got stuff going on. I didn't mean to ignore you."
"It's not that, Kev."
"Well what is it then?" He asked. I tried to turn my head the other way, but he leaned forward to try to see my eyes anyway. Which were both already filling up with water. "What?"
"Kevin...please. Ok? Just...leave it alone." I said, and thankfully...he did. But he reached an arm over my shoulder, and let his hand rest there. He leaned forward to put his head on my shoulder, and pulled me close to hug me gently from the side. The sentiment made things both better and worse simultaneously. Kevin was right here beside me. Both the pain and the cure, the best friend I've ever known, and the only love I'll never have. I felt streams of tears run from my eyes, and I had to hold my breath to keep from breaking down. And yet, through all of this...Kevin never once asked again what was bothering me. He knew how stubborn I was, and that I'd never tell him at this point. He knew how much I HATED losing my emotional control in front of other people. He knew more about me and how I 'operate' than anyone. But I guess, to him, it didn't really matter what the problem was. He was there.
I relaxed the muscles in my shoulders slightly, relaxed the muscles in my neck, and I slowly allowed myself to lean my head on top of his and let the tears come as they may. In silence, mind you. I wasn't about to bawl in front of him. But the emotion needed to be released...even if I only let it leak out a little at the time.
I don't know how long he held me there. I lost track of time. All I knew was that it was hard to keep my attractions out of the way long enough for him to be a friend. I keep messing it all up, and I don't know how to stop it. I just don't know how. And even now...with Kevin doing his best to make me feel better while walking blind through a field of my secrets and hidden problems...all I could think of was how badly I wanted to kiss him. How much I wished that I could share more than this limited amount of affection with this beautiful boy sitting beside me. And how much I hated the whole fucking world for taking his attention away from me. They might as well steal the breath from my lungs. Because I honestly think that I would die if either one was stolen from me. I'd simply curl up and die.
There was a point where I noticed that it had been an uncomfortably long time, and I needed to get up and go home. Kevin didn't rush me at all. I think he would have held me for another hour in silence if he thought I needed it. But it was time for me to stop leaning on him for support and try to repair my own heart so I can get back to being plain old 'Chris' again. I sniffled and raised my head. "Thanks Kev. I'm sorry. I'm just...not myself today, I suppose."
His arm still held onto my shoulder. "Do you wanna talk about it?"
I gripped his hand firmly with my own for a moment, giving it a gentle squeeze. "No."
"Yeah...I'm sure. I just need to go home and rest for a while." He accepted my attempt to disconnect our embrace, and sat up straight as I stood on my feet.
"You know...I'm here, anytime you want to call. Right?"
"I know. You're always there. And I love you for it." I whispered, giving him a 'friendly' kiss on the forehead. "I'll see ya later." I put my roller blades back on and rolled over to his back door. But before I left, I turned around, and put on the straightest pokerface that I could muster. Just so I could say..."You know...I really am happy for you and Mike. You...you deserve to be with someone who makes you happy." He had NO idea how much it hurt to say that. The sound of the words themselves felt like a river of acid and broken glass as it left the bottom of my gut and traveled upwards to leave my mouth. But it's what he needed to hear. And that's what I was going to give him.
"Thank you, Chris." And I glided away wihout anything more than a nod in his direction. I think a huge part of me really wanted him to catch on. For this whole fucked up situation to end up like it does in the movies. Where the love interest suddenly wises up and says 'Oh Shit! The person I REALLY love has been sitting right here in front of me the whole time!' I wanted him to have this epiphany and just drop everything else as he ran to me and confessed how he felt about me. How he's so sorry that he never noticed it before. That he was never going to break my heart again. But...
...That's only in the movies.
The rest of Saturday night passed me by in the blink of an eye. I didn't involve myself in much of anything. Ddn't do anything but listen t the saddest music I had and stare at the walls while my soul slowly knitted itself back together. The many shreds and tears in its tapestry stitching themselves closed while I winced from the pain of it all. Sunday was even worse. Doug never called, and Kevin, even though I knew he wanted to be there for me in my time of 'need'...was busy dating his new boyfriend. His brand new, fuckable, super cute, boyfriend with the dancer's body and a stranglehold on the affections of the most important person in my life. Knowing that...they were out there somewhere...sharing each other in ways that I'd never EVER know...made even the slightest movements painful and labored for me. So I stayed in bed and just looked at the ceiling. Doing all I could disconnect completely from the whole heartbreaking ordeal. Dettaching from Kevin, from Doug, from everybody. If I had the power to wish myself out of existence at that point...I would have.
When Monday morning came around, my alarm screaming me into an alert state of mind, I had pretty much cried myself out. Sure the 'ache' was still there, but I knew tha I was going to have to get up and go to school that day. Something about being around other people who don't really know that anything is wrong, helps me to feel better. It allows me to don the mask and walk around with my head held high again. So I got dressed, fixed my hair, and got ready for another day long 'performance' for the other kids at school. It only took a single deep breath and a fake smile to pull that off.
Even though it would have been best to avoid Kevin that day, I didn't. Kevin was allowing me to have my secrets and give me space, but he wasn't going to stand for me withdrawing too far from him. The second he thought that something was seriously wrong, he'd bring down an inquisition on me that I wasn't prepared to deal with. So I met up with him a few times throughut the course of the day. The way that I always did. And sure enough...Kevin and Mike had another day of mindblowing sex and long sessions of kissing and cuddling. The more he talked about it, the more padding I added to my heart so it could be protected from the blow. By the end of the lunch period, I was even able to tell a joke or two about it. Whatever it took to see him smile.
I DID, however, make it a point to avoid Julie in the hallways. Kevin was supportive and caring and could really do wonders when it came to facing hard times. But Julie? Julie had a razor sharp eye that could cut through my every word, my every mask, my every practiced performance and emotional defense. One look at me, and she'd know. It was a conversation that I didn't want to have at the time. She had been plagued with all of the 'Paige' whining that she was gonna gt for right now. Still, she might be happy to know that I went out on Friday. As I was 'instructed' to do. I even thought about telling her what I thought about Doug and seeing if she could give me some advice on what to do next. But Julie was one of those people that needed sme kind of concrete action in order to give credit to much of anything. I'd tell her that I 'think' Doug might like me....and the next thing I know, she'd be shoving me and yelling at me and telling me to 'go for it'. Go! Ask him out! Do it NOW! Don't wait! Aren't you unhappy? Alright then, go, go, GO! Geez...slow down COACH! I just wanted to talk to him a little bit and see what I can find out. And you've got me all ready to purchase a townhouse and start picking out pink drapes. This thing needed more of a light touch. NOT a go-get-em pep talk.
I won't lie...my nerves nearly rattled me to pieces when I walked into the computer lab that day. Afterall, I was already feeling like the lowest form of life on Earth. And the fact that Doug didn't make any effort to call me this weekend wasn't neccessarily proving me wrong. But my curiousity won out over my doubt, and I went anyway. The whole gang was there as always, and said hello as I walked into the room. Jessica gave me an especially big grin, and we both looked over at Doug, who swiftly looked back down at his keyboard like he didn't see me. Yeah...like he didn't see me. That's just what I thought.
I pouted my way over to my usual spot in the lab, and slumped down into my seat. That was it. Doug was my last shot. The only thing that was going to make some of this hurt go away and smile. And it's gone. Completely gone.
"Hey..." I looked up and saw Doug standing over me.
"Hi." I mumbled, hoping he was just doing this out of obligation.
"Yeah...well..." He paused for a second or two. "...Just wanted to say hi." And he walked back to his seat quickly. But he didn't sit down. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him standing there, mentally pacing back and forth accross the entire room. Then, he walked back over to me again and stood next to me. "Do you know Tiffany?" He asked out of the blue.
"Um...yeah. Dark hair...pony tail? Volleyball team?"
"Oh..." I said, still a bit confused. "...Not really. I mean...I know her, but I don't know her."
"Ok...that's cool..." He nodded, and then let his mind trail off as he looked up at the clock on the wall. There was another silence, and it lasted long enough for me to drop it and start typing on my keyboard. That's when he started up all over again. "It's just that...you know...her birthday is Friday."
What the hell is he TALKING about? "Her...wha...huh?" I asked, and I think it made him nervous or something, because he started tugging at his shirt tail again.
"Yeah...it's her birthday." He nodded again, keeping his eyes fixated on the clock as though looking away would mean the difference between life and death. "And...she's sorta...having this get together. well, not a 'get together...but...like...a party. Kinda...sorta..." And he trailed off again. I didn't say anything, just looked at him from the side. And he finally yanked his eyes away from the clock long enough to look at me. "So...I thought...I mean...if you wanna.....'go'....or something..."
Was he...was he asking me OUT? "You want me to go with you?" I said, a bit more excited than I should have.
But he snapped back with, "I mean, you don't HAVE to! If you've got plans or something..."
"I don't have any plans."
"Well, if you'd rather be doing something else, that's ok. I mean..."
"Doug..." I said, stopping him from babbling on. "...I don't have plans." I saw him sigh a little breath of relief, and smile slightly as his body got rid of some of that tension inside.
"You don't have plans." He repeated. "Ok...ok well...do you want to go?"
"Sure. Just tell me when and where." It was the biggest rocket boost out of my own gloomy pit that I had ever experienced before. From total zero to 100% of pure bliss in a matter of seconds! I don't believe it! He's asking me out! Omigod...he just might like me afterall!
"Alright." He giggled a little bit under his breath, a rosey tint appearing in his cheeks, and he got up to walk back to his desk to get me a flyer to copy the address from. It was gonna be at a nearby bowling alley in town, and pretty fun from the looks of it. "So...you'll come?" Doug asked hopefully.
"Definitely. I'll be there." I smiled. The first genuine smile of the day.
"Cool. I'll see you there then." Doug said, and walked back to his chair with a huge uncontrollable grin on his face. Jessica was smiling so wide that she was on the verge of splitting wide open, and I saw a heavily blushed Doug crumple up some printer paper and throw it at her to shut her up before she had the chance to say anything. It was so cute!
So there it was. An open invitation. Maybe there's hope yet. Maybe there's more to this than I could have ever hoped for! Ever DREAMED of! Who knows? Maybe it's my turn to be happy afterall.