C h a p t e r Seven
There are many types of embarrassment. There is the humble sort of embarrassment that you experience when people compliment you, tell you they love you or give you a big gift, and there is the self-deprecating sort of embarrassment that stems from people being vindictive, nasty or any number of unpleasant behaviour directed towards you. And then there is true, unadulterated embarrassment.
True embarrassment is not something other people can make you experience, no matter what. It is not a caught-with-hand-in-cookie-jar kind of feeling. It is a horrible, painful, gut-churning, vomit-inducing emotion that you will give anything in the world for just so it will go away. It is the type of feeling that, in my view, all criminals in jail should experience, because once they have experienced it they would never be repeat-offenders, and they would be truly rehabilitated.
Ironically, or perhaps not, since humanity is inevitably its own worst enemy, this feeling, this true embarrassment, can only come from yourself, from within. And it has only one cause: having disappointed somebody you really love in a very bad way. This is what I did that day, and this is what I experienced. Not only did I disappoint my friends, my family, but I disappointed the one person who arguably meant the most to me. Kevin.
Even though I have always thought of Kevin as my Knight in Shining Armour, the person who keeps me grounded and saves me from myself, he was admittedly not the strongest person alive – both physically and mentally. He sometimes experienced epilepsy and panic attacks and I know that he suffered from depression a while back. He didn't want me to know, and it was actually quite funny how he came up with the one excuse after the other to try and dodge me for a while. Of course it was only funny afterwards. During that whole period I was almost ready to kill myself!
Look, please don't get me wrong. I am not insinuating for one second that Kevin was weak. He had a strong personality and he definitely was no weakling when it came to physical work. He was just... I guess the right word would be dependant. On me, that is.
All of this went through my mind as I was sitting in the passenger seat of Chris's Renault, and as soon as I realised just how dependant Kevin was on me, that feeling of true embarrassment hit me. And anger. Lots and lots of anger. Kevin did not deserve me running off and getting drunk on cheap alcohol in a coffee shop. Hell, he didn't deserve what his mom dumped on him, but what I did was just so much worse. I tried to put myself in his position and imagined him doing what I did. That did it.
"Chris, I wanna go home please. I need to see Kevin." I was sure that Chris would agree. I mean, why not?
"Not smelling like you are now, Shane. You reek of alcohol." I was getting angry again.
"So what the fuck do you want me to do?" I sneered at him. "Bath in the park lake?" He chuckled.
"We've been through this, Shane. I'm gonna take you to my place where you can get cleaned up before you go to Kevin. Sally already knows I've got you and she's calmed Kevin down." Now that he mentioned it, we did already have that conversation. I just couldn't recall it straight-away because of all the swearing and chewing out he mixed in together with it. I winced at the memory.
"Oh, yeah." I said, suddenly totally contented to be complacent. It was I who fucked up after all. We didn't spend a lot of time at Chris' house – just enough for me to grab a shower and for him to force a vile cup of strong coffee down my throat. Soon, we were on our way to my house. We were almost there when Chris suddenly took a sharp right onto a dirt road about a kilometre from my house. I recognised the road. Sally, Kevin and I had travelled it often in my younger years.
"Why are we going to the park? I already had a shower, remember?" I asked sarcastically. His face stayed neutral, though.
"Chris?" The situation was getting a bit freaky. He didn't turn his attention from the road once as we continued travelling its length and he didn't speak a single word. After a couple minutes of driving Chris pulled into a section of the park's parking area that overlooked the lake. The irony of this did not escape me. "Chris?" I repeated.
"We need to talk, Shane." That much I already figured.
"You already gave me a royal chew-out. Are you planning on doing so again, because of you are--" My little speech was cut short by him covering my mouth with his. For an eternal second or two I was too shocked to do anything as he explored my lips, but when the implications of what was going on hit me, I panicked. I roughly pushed him away from me.
"What the fuck, dude! What do you think you're doing?" I was suddenly angry, and I am sure it showed on my face. Chris, however, sat there grinning like the Cheshire Cat. This irritated me beyond words.
"What are you smiling at?" I wanted to wipe that stupid grin off his face with my fist, but he spoke up before I could gather my strength to take a swing at him.
"Congratulations," he said. What the hell?
"Congratulations with what? Cheating on Kevin? What the fuck is wrong with you, you shit? Do you really think the situation we are in needs any more complications?"
"No, I meant congratulations for passing the test."
"Passing the test? What test? Dude, you are being seriously fucked up here." Yeah, I was freaking out again. Must be shocking, I'm sure. I gave him a scathing glare and swung around in the direction of the dirt road. Before I could complete my brilliantly planned escape by starting walking, he put both of his hands on my shoulders and turned around.
"Shane, will you just stay the fuck here and actually deal with something in your life?" I didn't make a move to walk away. Anyone would think it was because I wanted to hear what he had to say, but really, it wasn't. I stayed there because what he said struck a chord deep within me.
Will you just stay the fuck here and actually deal with something in your life?
I stayed because I knew he was right. I have always run away at the slightest sight of confrontation. Look at what happened today! Gloria was spilling her guts out to use last night, and I knew she needed people around her today. Kevin needed me to be there for him, to be strong for him. Sally... Sally was the one everyone overlooked in this. She was just as much a part of what happened when Kevin and I were three years old than what Kevin and Gloria were. But I didn't stay and offer support. I went to look for it myself. I went to look for it in the wrong place. I wanted to forget.
I didn't deal.
"There is a reason I did that, Shane." Chris's whispered voice came from behind me. I could feel his warm breath moving the small hairs in my neck. His fingers lightly rubbed my shoulders as he gently continued. "It might not have been my place... Hell, I've only known you for how long? A month? Two? But I needed to make sure what your feelings for Kevin really were. The last thing he needs now is an indecisive boyfriend. You and I both know that, don't we? I had to make sure Shane. I wasn't trying to put the moves on you or coerce you into cheating on Kevin... Or maybe I was, but not for the reasons you think. I care about him too, you know?" He took a deep breath. "You and Kevin had both come to mean a lot to me. I talk about you guys non-stop at home." He chuckled. "Nate is about ready to go crazy he wants to meet you guys so much."
That was another conversation entirely. Chris mentioned Nathan, his boyfriend, so little that I had already almost forgotten he had one.
"Why do you never bring him around? You know we want to meet him too."
Chris didn't talk immediately. He seemed to try and get his thoughts ordered before speaking them out loud. But I waited. You know what they say: curiosity killed the Shane.
"Nathan hasn't come with me to you guys' house yet because he is actually really scared of meeting you." Now that didn't make sense. Why would Nathan be scared of meeting us? Surely Chris would have told him we are not really scary guys? I was just about to ask him when he continued. "Nathan is blind, Shane. And he almost never leaves the house. I lied that day when I told you guys he got a job at the corner cafe."
Well, that was unexpected.
"Why didn't you tell us, Chris?" I was actually feeling a bit miffed that he hadn't confided in us, but I kept my voice gentle. It was obvious the guy was hurting.
"He made me promise not to." Chris said, his head hanging. "I told him you guys were cool and all, but he didn't want to hear about it. He made me promise not to tell you guys about him. He's very shy."
"Well that's go to end now." I said, firmly. "He is your boyfriend, for God's sake. You will not be allowed at my place again unless he comes with you. Sounds like it's about time he is exposed to different people."
Chris's eyes had misted over, but he smiled at me.
"I'll bring him with next time, even if I have to drag him out here." That was all fine and well and I was a better person for doing my good deed of the day, blah, blah, blah, but Kevin was still home waiting for me and I was still, I assumed, in big crap for the childish shit I pulled. I told Chris as much as he agreed that we should get going to my place. He said he had already phoned ahead and that Sally and Kevin were expecting me. He didn't say anything about Gloria and I didn't ask. She still wasn't my favourite person in the world.
The trip from the park to my house probably took all of three minutes, but to me it literally felt like an eternity. I've always wondered why time seems to stand still when you do something you don't like doing. Philosophy might not be my forte, but who knew? I guess it's possible that time can literally run slower for you alone or something like that. Even I watched that Docu-drama thing, What the Bleep Do We Know?
See how my mind wanders to strange things when I'm nervous?
When we finally arrived at my house, Chris pulled into the driveway and turned the car off. I almost expected someone to be waiting for us outside, but I guess they were pretty pissed with me because there was nobody. It seemed that Kevin and Sally were both inside.
I got out of the car and, to my surprise, I could hear piano playing inside. I knew Kevin could play piano, but he doesn't really do it all that often, so I found it a bit strange.
I walked to the front door, Chris right behind me. I opened it, the sense of dread like a stone in my stomach. Cautiously, I walked through the entrance all into the house and went to the studio.
It was indeed Kevin who was playing Piano. The melody was something I recognized: the piano solo in the Sisters of Mercy song called I Want More. As you might imagine, that really improved my state of mind.
The piano was positioned in such a way that Kevin was sitting with his back to the door, so he couldn't see me standing there. I walked up behind him. Like when we found Gloria in the studio, everything seemed really clear and surreal. The last of the sun's rays were coming through the window and I could see little dust particals float around.
I stopped when I was right behind him and said, "Kevin,"
The look of surprise on his face as he swung around was almost comical. Under different circumstance I would have laughed for sure. I started to apologise, but before I could really get a word out of my mouth he flew up from the piano bench and literally jumped into my arms.
"Shane, Shane, Shane, Shane," He kept repeating my name. Each time he said it sounded less like my name and more like a sob. Soon it totally degenerated into heartbreaking crying. He was heavy, but I just held him in my arms, whispering words of apology in his ear.
I felt so bad. Never have I seen Kevin break down like this, and I knew it was at least partly my fault. I didn't think it was just about me pulling my disappearing stunt, but that on top of Gloria's revelations and all the other stress of the past couple of days must have just been too much for him.
With him still in my arms I crossed the room to the sofa in the corner and carefully sat down. Kevin curled into a tight ball on my lap with his head on my shoulder, and it was in that exact position that we woke up the next morning.
Yet another one done! I'm sorry for not posting for a while, guys, but I got a bit stuck with this story. I knew exactly where I wanted it to go, but I had problems with figuring out exactly how to get there. I won't make any promises about when the next chapter is going to be released, but know that my writer's block has finally gone away. Hopefully I'll have the next one out within a week. That is my aim.
I would really appreciate any comments or suggestions you might have. I know this story isn't perfect. One of the major flaws is the timeline. I am going to fix it with a total rewrite in the future, but for now I just want to finish the story first.