Every time I looked at him, it was like he was a puzzle with a crucial piece lost. You could still see what it was supposed to be, and you could see it was a fabulous picture, but the empty spots made it feel like you could be missing out on something important. Some part of the puzzle that would make it even better. It was completely maddening.
It had been that way since the first time I met him.
I’d filled in some of the blank spaces, but there was a huge chunk that was gone. I think in the beginning that was part of what drew me to him, but now I was here because I couldn’t be anywhere else. Being with him was where I was supposed to be.
Sounds totally like a teenage soap opera, I know, but there isn’t any other way to describe it. I needed the confusing little bugger around just to be able to breathe. I wasn’t even sure when he’d become so important…and the biggest problem? He had no idea.
How could he have no idea?
We were constantly together. Breakfast? Coffee and something quick almost every morning during the week because we had an early math class together. Lunch? Together because we’d grab something in the dining hall and then head over to the library to study. Free time in the afternoon? We’d hang out and watch a movie. Dinner? Dining hall again then most of the time more studying or video games.
I’d given up trying to date other people.
When we’d first met, I’d thought he was either in the closet or just not the straightest guy I’d ever met because my gaydar was going off like crazy, but nothing he said confirmed he was gay. So I’d toned down the flirting and tried to be his friend.
Then I found out he was gay and single. I figured since my smiles and looks hadn’t gotten me anywhere, he just wasn’t interested. After a while, I came to realize there was something else going on.
He wasn’t hiding the fact that he was gay, but he was in the closet about something. I’d imagined all kinds of things from liking women’s underwear to aliens, but he was just so reluctant to talk about anything having to do with his sexuality that it was hard to tell.
For the most part, I’d given up trying to figure him out—whatever he felt so protective over wasn’t as important as who he was to me. He was my friend. I wished it were as simple as that; he was so much more to me.
I’d tried dating other people since it was obvious that for whatever reason, Bryan wasn’t going to date me. That hadn’t worked out so hot. One guy told me I acted like I was cheating on Bryan when I was going out with him, and he didn’t appreciate being made to feel like the other guy.
It was hard to deny because he was right. So I’d stopped trying to date. I felt less like an ass who was cheating on his boyfriend—it didn’t matter if it was true or not—and I got to spend more time with Bryan. Win-win as far as I was concerned.
I wasn’t cut out for being in love with someone and dating other people.
When it first started turning into something more for me, I thought there was no way I could fall for a guy I wasn’t having sex with and who wasn’t interested in me. I’d never been the idiot who would go after the unattainable. I’d never chased the straight guys or closeted ones. That just wasn’t me; I was smarter than that.
I still can’t understand how I fell for him.
Even now when we were hiding out in his room, cramming for our last finals, that underlying buzz of emotion and need was there. We sat too close, crowded next to each other on his too-small bed, but I loved it.
He was lucky enough to have gotten a single room, but it came with a tradeoff. The damned thing was so small, you couldn’t move once you had more than one person in it. I didn’t mind, though; it gave me tons of excuses to torture myself. Sitting on the bed with him like this was my favorite kind of agony.
I didn’t even try to hide that I was reacting to him being so close. Bryan either never noticed my reactions to him when we were like this or he just ignored it. I was used to it. When he was around, I was constantly in a state of arousal. Mostly I could push it back, but times like today when we were pressed shoulder to shoulder on the bed, it was impossible to control how much I wanted him.
The feel of his warm body touching mine, even if it was innocent, was too good. His shoulder brushing against me, his leg rubbing against mine when he shifted…it was ridiculously erotic even if it shouldn’t have been. It was so easy to imagine how incredible it would be to slide my fingers down his arm and hold his hand while we read. His hand was resting so close to his cock right now that it wouldn’t take much to spread my fingers out—
“You gonna ask a question? It’s your turn to quiz me.”
Bryan turned to look at me and I tried not to look guilty. “Sorry, just zoned out. Too much studying, I guess.”
He nodded and the concern faded from his eyes. “Absolutely. I can’t wait to get everything done so we can escape for the summer.”
“Are you sure your mom isn’t going to mind us vegging at her house for the whole time without looking for jobs or doing something productive? My parents would go crazy.” My parents were okay, but they were obsessed with me making the most of my time in college and not wasting the chance to get more experience or finding something to put on a resume. It was important to me too, but I needed a break from all that. And I couldn’t imagine spending the next couple of months without Bryan. Being with him for the entire break was more important than finding another internship or part-time job.
When he said his mom was cool with both of us staying at his house, I couldn’t believe it. It probably wasn’t healthy. I knew it wasn’t, but I was going to go anyway. There was a little part of me that had this fantasy; if I spent more time with him, he would finally see me the way I wanted him to.
But there was a bigger part that had to constantly speak up. It was an endless reminder of how much time we spent together already, and it wasn’t going to change things. I’d never minded the responsible little voice in the back of my head before, but now I hated it.
“Nah, she said she understood and she just wanted us to have fun before things start really picking up next year. I think she’s hoping that giving me some room will help me pick a major.” Bryan laughed and I knew he was trying to look relaxed, but I could see the stress written all over his face. “That whole ‘find something you’re passionate about’ routine.” The air quotes were a nice touch but they didn’t hide the pressure he was under.
His eyes were tired and he had dark circles. Some of it was too much studying and not enough sleep for the past couple of days, but a bigger part of it was something else. Those empty spots in his puzzle seemed to be a lot more visible today. I just wished he would talk to me.
“Yeah, but my parents are more the type to talk about planning for a career that will be financially rewarding, not something I’m passionate about. I’m not sure which type of parent is harder to please.” Probably his mother.
At least with my parents, they didn’t care if I loved my job. They just wanted me to have a steady future. Bryan’s mom wanted him to love what he did and find something that was right for him. That sounded like a lot more pressure to me.
He grinned, but it didn’t feel like a happy smile. It just seemed to highlight the worn-out look he’d started to have lately. Even if I couldn’t help, at least I could listen, give him someone to talk to about whatever it was. He didn’t date, didn’t talk about what he liked in a guy. I’d never even caught him getting turned on when we watched a movie. There was something going on that he didn’t think he could tell me about and for whatever reason, he didn’t seem to realize it was obvious he was hiding it.
I may or may not have a thing for Channing Tatum, and I may or may not have made Bryan watch a certain sequel with me. He didn’t react at all. That right there was a dead giveaway that I was missing something big about him. Even if he thought the movie was stupid, he should have reacted just a little. I mean, come on.
I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how to tell him it was okay to talk to me about whatever he thought he had to hide. No matter what it turned out to be, I’d be cool with it. It wasn’t like I was picturing a happily-ever-after scene anyway. By now, I knew that part was hopeless. I just wanted to be there for him and he wasn’t letting me.
Starting the conversation seemed to be the hardest part. I’d never had to have that kind of talk with someone before. I’d had mostly straight male friends in high school. We just didn’t talk about anything hard. I couldn’t figure out the words or if it was even my place to say something. If he wanted me to know, he’d tell me. Right?
Was I supposed to ask?
No, was the first response that came to my mind, so I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t tell if it was because I was scared to find out what it was or if I really didn’t think I was allowed to ask. So I didn’t say anything and we just kept going in this weird limbo.
Could we keep living like this? Not lovers but not just friends. Sharing but not sharing enough. I was going to live with it for as long as I could but in my heart, I knew I couldn’t stay like this forever. Loving him aside, I didn’t know how to be such close friends with someone who didn’t trust me. Eventually, it would all come crashing down, but I hoped it wasn’t anytime soon.
This summer was either going to be the best thing that happened to us or the worst. I just didn’t know which.