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Walking back to our table, our new bracelets being displayed proudly on the wrists of our right hands, Jesse and I couldn't help but to giggle sweetly at one another. I mean...it might as well have been a matching set of wedding rings to us. A symbol of our blossoming shared commitment to one another...and a visible reminder of how amazing young love can be when you allow it into your heart without trying to fight it anymore. There's something that's just so damn COOL about it all! Hehehe! Lori is going to literally cry tears of joy when I tell her about this tomorrow! I just know she is!
"So...I was thinking..." Jesse started, "...If Jimmy Jukebox mentions me on his channel, and we get those last few subscribers to make it to 2000..."
He smiled bashfully, "...I want you to do a celebration video with us." Jesse laughed when my eyes burst wide open and my jaw dropped. "What? You look shocked."
"I am shocked!" I said. "I ummm...I mean, I don't know if..."
"You don't have to. But, I thought it would be kinda cool, you know? Introducing my 'boyfriend' to the world." You have no idea how incredibly hot it is to hear Jesse refer to me as his boyfriend.
"I...I just..." I was really caught off guard by the idea, and it felt as though my brain had suddenly gotten all of its wires crossed up, making human speech much more complicated than it should be.
The strange thing is...while I was supremely flattered by his offer, I could feel my social self suddenly throw a leash around my neck and yank hard enough to nearly choke me to death. My answer should have been a very easy 'yes'...but it wasn't. Except for my boyfriend, my two best friends in the whole world, and...to a lesser extent, Jason Fixx...I'm not really 'out' to anybody. It may sound silly for me to be so shaky about letting people know that I'm gay, but it's not really something that I have any control over. I keep hearing about how much easier my generation has it when it comes to being gay, but...that doesn't seem to keep me from trembling at the very thought of being so exposed to the people around me every day. I can't even IMAGINE what it must have been like fifteen or twenty years ago. Or even before that. People must have been terrified for their lives if they're looking at my situation and seeing it as being...easy.
Jesse and I were pleasantly interrupted as our pizza arrived at the table, and he asked, "Would it be possible to add two of your finest vanilla shakes to our bill?" He winked at me, and I smiled, but I secretly felt bad for not jumping at the chance to be in one of his videos. An actual 'Jesse-101' video! What's wrong with me? I should be jumping for joy right now, but I felt like my feet had been encased in blocks of cement.
The guy took our order and said he'd be back in a few minutes with our drinks. I cleared my throat, and sort of looked down at the table cloth, unable to get my emotions in order enough to speak.
After a few seconds of silence, Jesse said, "You know...it was just an idea that I had. No pressure, ok? I know that you're not really out of the closet just yet, so..."
"It's not that I don't want to." I said. "I mean, I probably should, right? I should do it."
"Tristan, you really don't have to do this just to make me happy. You already make me happy."
Thinking about it some more, I desperately wanted to give him a positive answer. To make him a promise that I could keep. Finally, a step forward to truly being proud of who I am and the love I share with my favorite online celebrity.
And yet, every time I thought about taking that step...the leash got tighter. It yanked me back to put me in my place and told me to stay there...or reap the horrible consequences of my actions.
"I think about it sometimes. You know...just...making the big reveal and getting it over with. Sometimes it seems like life would be so much easier if I wasn't lugging the weight of this stupid secret around with me all the time." I said. "But then...whenever I start thinking that I can actually take that leap of faith and do it for real, it's like...my blood runs cold, and my head starts spinning, and I go into panic mode. And I know how stupid it is for me to feel that way, but I feel it anyway."
Jesse reached around the pizza in the center of our table and took a hold of my hand. "It's ok. Honestly. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel. I was in the same boat once too. And if I had any choice in the matter, I'd probably still be in that boat, paddling right beside you." It felt good to have him understand. It felt even better to have him hold my hand as he looked me in the eye. "I sorta jumped the gun that day back at Summer camp over my first crush, and when things went bad...they REALLY went bad. I can remember feeling like it was the end of the world, and that the rest of my life was gonna collapse like a house of cards. But, you know what? It didn't. Life goes on. Problems get sorted out. And now...I'm here with you. So...it looks like I won in the end. And all of that mess was worth it. I like to look at it as life preparing me for something bigger."
I felt my eyes getting a bit misty. Partially from the shame of not being able to find the courage to dive into this without hesitation, and partially from the joy of knowing that Jesse's affection for me hadn't wavered in the slightest. "You are way too perfect for me, you know that?"
"Of course I do. But I decided to settle for a while until Jimmy Jukebox gives me his phone number. Hehehe!"
I snatched my hand back from him, giggling while shaking my head. "Jerk."
We got our milkshakes delivered to our table and enjoyed looking each other in the eye as we both took a few healthy sips of the thick, ice cold, cream. This time, I winked at Jesse, and he was instantly plagued by a sugar sweet blush. Hehehe, he's so adorable.
Jesse's phone rang, and he checked the screen to see who it was. "Hey, it's Artie. Hold on a sec..." He accepted the call and put him on speakerphone.
"Artie! What's up dude? Tristan and I were just thinking about you not long ago."
Artie's sweet, slightly high pitched, voice rang out with, "You're on a date with one of the cutest boys I've ever seen, and you're thinking about me? Sorry, I'm not buying it."
Jesse giggled, "Ummm...he can hear you. You're on speakerphone."
I smiled. "Hiiiii, Artie!"
"Scratch that last comment from the record, you guys." Artie said. "But it's true though. Hehehe! Hi, Tristan. Are you guys having fun?"
"We're having a blast." I said.
"Yeah, well...Cheesy Pete's was MY idea! Did Jesse tell you? I hope he told you."
"He did. This place is awesome. Thanks, Artie. You're a sweetheart!"
Artie sighed, "You hear that, Jess. I'm a sweetheart. You better hope you never get hit by a bus or anything, because I'll take your man!"
Jesse and I both laughed out loud and Jesse said, "Dude! Morbid, much?" Then he was like, "You'll never guess who we met up here."
"Met up where? At Cheesy Pete's?"
Jesse smiled at me briefly, then looked down at the phone and said, "Jimmy Jukebox."
"What??? Get the heck outta here! Are you tricking me?"
"No! Dude, he's here right now! And not only that, but he totally recognized me from Youtube!"
"SHUT UP!!! Jimmy Jukebox watches our channel???"
"He does! He told me to say hi to you! He says he thinks you're hilarious!"
Artie suddenly burst out in this flurry of girlish giggles that truly sent tingles to the center of my heart. He was SO happy! "Omigod! Did you take a pic with him? You HAVE to take a pic! I'm never gonna believe you! Oh wow! I'm gonna take BOTH of your men! I swear! WHY are you always so lucky? I wanna be lucky! Dangit! None of this is fair!"
Awwww, I kind of wish he was there with us when he said that.
This is when Jesse says, "Well...don't count yourself out of the luck club just yet." He looked at me with an impish grin, and said, "Tristan says he has somebody that you might want to meet."
Artie was like, "Somebody like who?"
"A boy. Hehehe!"
Artie seemed to freeze for a moment, then asked, "What does that even mean? What boy?"
"Well, you'd have to meet him first. Tristan says he's really cute too. And he might just be into boys like you on top of it. Do you wanna meet him?"
Artie whimpered, "Are you just jerking me around? You're not fooling, are you?"
I leaned towards Jesse's phone and said, "No foolery. Hehehe! I can bring him by if you wanna see if you guys get along."
"Noooooooo..." Artie whined.
Jesse wrinkled up his forehead, "What? Why not? Tristan says, he's super cute. Just hang out with us or something. It'll just be fun."
"Unh unh. Are you crazy? I don't know how to...'date'. I'm sorry, Tristan."
When my eyes connected to Jesse's gaze, we both knew that we weren't going to let Artie sneak his way out of this. But we decided to let it go...so we could trick him into it later. Hehehe!
Jesse, said, "Suit yourself. But you'll be missing out. Big time."
Artie replied with, "I know..." He sounded a bit sad, but relieved that he wasn't going to be put on the spot. "Maybe later? Or something. I dunno. I think I need a haircut." A haircut? Hehehe, what the heck is he even talking about? Artie was quick to change the subject by saying, "Anyway, I'm not trying to interrupt your 'lovey dovey' time or anything, but i wanted tto let you know that we got two or three more claims on the channel today. Do you wanna fight 'em or what?"
"Wait, what? Are they strikes?"
"No. Just copyright claims. One of them is for the picture of Jesus that you used in one of the videos from like a month or so ago." Artie said.
"Wait...so somebody is claiming to own Jesus, now???" Jesse asked.
"That particular depiction of him, apparently. I don't know. People are petty as fuck sometimes!" Hehehe, it's so cute to hear Artie curse. It hardly seems like an obscenity at all when his light voice speaks it out loud.
"Extremely petty!" Jesse grunted. "We'll fight it, I guess. I hardly think they can lay claim to Savior Jesus and win. As long as they don't give us a strike, we should be ok. I want the channel to be fully functional when we hit our 2K mark."
"You're the boss." Artie said. "I'll let you two get back to kissing and stuff now. That's all I wanted."
With a grin, I said, "I'll save some kisses for you too, Artie. Promise."
He sighed and wiggled fiercely at the idea of it, and said, "I...ummm...hehehe, I would like that. You can give them to me whenever you want. I swear. Any time. Day or night. Jesse doesn't have to know about it. It'll be just us."
"ARTIE!!!" Jesse snickered.
"Shhhh...me and Tristan are talking!"
"I want him, though!"
"MINE!!! Bye!" And they shared a laugh before hanging up. "Sorry. Hehehe, he really has this weird crush on you. I can't say that I don't understand why, though." Jesse blushed, gently brushing his blond locks back for a moment before letting them cascade right back down into place a few seconds later, his sensual lips wrapping themselves around the straw in his milkshake and pulling more of the tasty treat into his mouth. How is it that everything he does is so damn dreamy? "So...do you really think your neighbor might like Artie if we found a way to get them together somehow?"
I said, "I'm not one hundred percent sure, but Scotty is cute, and Artie is hopelessly adorable...I can't see them not at least noticing that about one another. Wouldn't hurt to try. If he's up for it, I mean."
Jesse giggled. "Artie is definitely up for it. Believe me. He's just really nervous about...being less than perfect when it comes to boys. I've seen him nearly shake himself to pieces when one of our online fans sees him in public."
"I thought Artie was the brave one, off camera." I said.
"He is...most of the time. But I guess that's just one of those things where he's afraid of being a disappointment. God knows why."
"Well, I'll talk to Scotty and see if we can get those two, face to face, some time soon. What's the worst that can happen, right?"
"Cool..." Jesse said, and he gave me a warm smile. Just a little something to express how much he was enjoying this particular moment in time. Both of us...having pizza and milkshakes, wearing our 'Totally Yours' bracelets, and enjoying the atmosphere of a place that made another one of our first dates a memorable experience that we can cherish for years to come.
Boys like Jesse Kyler make falling in love so easy.
"So...you guys are having troube with your Youtube stuff?" I asked.
Jesse was eating a slice of pizza, and a particularly long string of cheese stretched itself out, eventually snapping and hanging from his lips while he giggled and did his best to wipe it off. "Hehehe, sorry."
"No trouble. Honestly, we get copyright claims almost every week. It's just an annoying part of being on Youtube. It's like...they must have people that they pay to scour the entirety of the internet every day and search for reasons to take ad revenue from people who dared to use three or four seconds of public footage that we like. It can be so frustrating sometimes."
"Ahh, well that sucks." I said.
"Part of the game, I guess. I wouldn't play if I didn't think it was worth it."
I stared at him, lost in an infatuated daze, and I said, "It's remarkable that you can manage all of this stuff without losing your mind. I could never do what you do. You must really have a passion for making videos to keep this going for as long as you have."
Jesse put his half eaten slice of pizza down on his plate and wiped his fingers clean. Then he said, "I do. There's a lot that I really love about making videos and having people, like...'hear' me. But it has its downsides too. You open yourself up to a lot of negativity whenever you do anything on the internet. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but...what am I going to do? Stop being happy and successful, and let the trolls chase me away from what I care about? There's a LOT more reward than sacrifice. So, I figure...I'm not perfect, and I don't expect any of this stuff to be perfect either."
"People give you a hard time, huh?" I asked.
"Not always. But every once in a while, someone will say something that stings, and i have to take some time to brush it off of my shoulders and keep going. I think it makes you stronger, to be honest. You begin to look at things differently."
"Yeah. Being 'on display' for the world to see all the time...it forces you to do some soul searching so you can hold on to who you really are as a person. It makes you realize the difference between who you are and who people say you are. You start to understand that they really don't have a clue about who I am, and that what they say about me doesn't really matter at all. I mean...is this MY life, or is it theirs?"
"Good point." I said.
"That's not to say that I don't have my insecure moments too, though. When you step in front of a spotlight...everything you do gets scrutinized, exaggerated, and magnified. As though you can't just be a person with a personal perspective and a good heart. They treat everything you say as if it was the word of God, and if they disagree with you, then you must be pushing some sinister agenda to wipe them out of existence. It's just ridiculous. Like...I didn't climb up on a pedestal. They PUT me there. And now they want me to be more than human for their own entertainment. I don't want to be above and beyond anybody else, I want to...meet good friends, and stare at pretty boys...and come to Cheesy Pete's so I can get a sweet rubber bracelet and have a few slices of pizza and a milkshake with someone special. Who would want to be above that? You know? I just...I want to be me. And whether people love me or hate me for it, at least I can go to bed at night knowing that I didn't sacrifice a single inch of who I am for the sake of being popular. I may not have millions of people on my Twitter or my Instagram or my Youtube...but I'm proud of what I've got. And the people who support me aren't following some fake version of me. It's actually ME, take it or leave it. I kinda like that."
Feeling my heartbeat increasing, I said, "Everything about you is beautiful beyond words, Jesse."
"Hehehe, whoah..." He snickered. "I wasn't expecting that. Sorry. I'm babbling about Youtube again, aren't I? BAD Jesse!" He lightly smacked his own hand, but I assured him that it was ok.
And...absorbing his words in a way that he probably didn't mean or anticipate, I said, "You know...about your big 2000 video? I'll think about it for a little bit more, but...it sounds pretty cool to me." I looked up and saw the biggest smile spread out on Jesse's face. "Can I give you a definite 'maybe' for right now, though?"
"I'll take it!" He grinned.
"I mean, I was planning to tell my mom eventually. And if we're going to be together and stuff...I'd have to come out at some point so people can understand why I'm constantly kissing another boy in public. Hehehe!" I said. "I just...I hadn't planned to do it ovr the internet to 2000 people at once. But...hey, maybe I can lose the 'fake version' of me too someday."
Jesse sighed out loud, and this time I reached over to take his hand instead of him taking mine.
Jesse said, "I'm ready when you are. K?"
"K..." I answered.
Am I really going to be able to do this? Get on camera with a well known Youtuber and tell the whole world that I'm gay? I'm a bit scared of what might happen...but I'm a little excited too. What will my life be without this weight holding me down? What will it be like to finally let the secret go?