For the first time within memory David was having difficulties listening to a lecture. His eyes were focused towards the front of the classroom, but severely to the left of his teacher, and falling on someone he was finding it increasingly difficult to turn away from. Distraction was something he was unfamiliar with, a self-proclaimed bookworm, he actually liked to learn and relished in the hours he spent in history class. Attempting to swerve his attention back to the lecture he forced his gaze to return to his teacher and caught only the word “west” before the sound of a pencil rolling across a desk brought mind and eyes right back to where they had been only a second previously.
The pencil fell to the floor, and the object of his ever-mounting obsession leaned down to pick it back up again. For the briefest of moments their eyes locked, and David knew as he hastily looked away he was blushing. A soft chuckle erupted behind him, no doubt escaping from the boy he would have only that morning described as his best friend, Jack. If Jack was finding humor in the situation, David knew he would have to relinquish the title of friend, let alone, best.
He hadn’t told Jack of this mounting attraction that seemed to only grow increasingly harder to deal with every passing day – he hadn’t told anyone. Hell, he was still firmly in the denial stage of said attraction. Unfortunatly, he may be the bookworm, the one whom Jack had copied notes from since they were seven, but Jack was far from stupid. In fact, he knew Jack was undoubtedly picking up on exactly what was plaguing him; love was more Jack’s department anyway.
Love? When had it become that? Sure his thoughts had just strayed to calling this – whatever it was – to love, but surely that didn’t make it fact. Attraction? Undeniably so. A crush? Perhaps. But love? How could you love someone that you had never even properly spoken to? Well, perhaps Jack could, but David was not Jack, thank God.
The bell dismissing class broke through his thoughts, or more accurately, ramblings. When had it become so difficult to think? Hastily he began shoving books, papers, and writing utensils back into his backpack, something under normal circumstances he would have shown more care. After all, Jack would have teased, he wouldn’t want to chance bending or even worse, ripping, one of his precious books. His history text was not cooperating with his haste, and seemed to somehow no longer fit as he tried to jam the zipper up on both sides of the bag. Exasperated he pulled it out again, just as a pair of black jeans walked past the desk, leg brushing alongside the edge. He froze, somehow forgetting to breathe, but the other person didn’t stop before exiting the classroom and was at that point, inconveniently replaced by Jack.
“I saw that,” he commented, still chuckling.
“Shut it,” David replied, pulling the text back out of the bag. His current novel for English had fallen to the bottom, To Kill a Mockingbird. In horror he realized as he pulled it out the cover had been slightly bent in one corner, causing him to groan before shoving the textbook back in his bag, which now seemed to fit perfectly. The novel joined it and the task of closing the backpack was finally successful. Somehow he felt as if he had just ran a marathon.
Jack was still snickering.
“I thought I told you to shut it,” he muttered, standing up to finally shuffle out of the classroom.
“You did, it’s just – priceless,” his friend managed between his continued laughter.
“I have no idea what you are rambling about, Jack,” he told him, making his way down the hallway to his locker. Thankfully history had been his last class, and home was only a short ride away – in Jack’s truck.
“God, Dave, I’m not blind – nor stupid,” he took another sharp breath, “But I never thought I’d see you smitten with anyone, let alone another –”
“If you want to remain my friend don’t you dare finish that thought here,” he warned.
His threat only caused another outburst, “Alright, I’ll humor you and save it for the privacy of the ride home, but honestly, you know I’m the last one to care. I’m shocked, truly, but I don’t care.”
“Of course you don’t, Jack,” he told him, and then added softly under his breath, in an almost incoherent rush, “You’re practically a man-whore.”
“I heard that.”
Somehow he reached his locker and some part of his conscious remembered his combination. Jack, empty handed, and yet not feeling the need for anything from his own locker watched him gather books and binders for the weekend. He was mostly silent, although a smile was still plastered to his face, and every few seconds of precious silence were only broken by another chuckle.
In response David slammed the metal door shut, and after twisting the lock for good measure began stalking down the hall towards the exit. Jack trailed in his wake, still fully enjoying his friend’s displeasure. The hallway was full of teenagers, and David suddenly wondered how obvious his affections were to them. Did they all know? Were they all looking at him differently now? He had never been popular, but this wasn’t something he was willing to face. Not yet, anyways. After only a moment he dismissed the thought. Jack knew him, which was why this new situation was so blatant to him, the others – hell, most of them couldn’t even remember his name, and those that did likely only knew it because he was the token class nerd.
Finally they reached the parking lot. The truck was unlocked, as always, and after flinging the door open David tossed his backpack inside, and clambered in himself. Jack climbed in next to him on the bench seat and started the ignition. The short walk had been the end of his salvation, they were now in the relative safety of the truck, and he knew he would rather die than have the conversation that was about to pass between them.
“Shawn Collins?” Jack finally asked, obviously loosing the restraint he had held at David’s request, “I knew we were best friends, Dave, but I didn’t know that you were on my team. I sure as hell don’t think Shawn is, either.”
“I’m not ‘on your team’ as you so eloquently put it,” he snapped.
“So you’ve said,” Jack mumbled, “And I always believed, ‘til now.”
David reached out to fumble with the radio, turning up the volume in an attempt to drown out his friend.
Jack responded by switching it off, “Dave?” The humor was gone, his eyes filled with concern and his voice had turned somber.
“Just drive,” he told him, turning away to stare out the window.
For once, Jack didn’t argue. He pulled out from the school parking lot letting the silence return, never breaking it as he made the short drive to their neighborhood. Their houses were located on the same block, but it was David’s house that Jack parked his truck in front of. It was always David’s house. Jack spent more time there then he did at home, mostly because David had the closest thing he had known to a “real” family, and he hated being in the same room as his drunken father. He only went home to sleep, and rarely even then, he had spent more nights then he could count on David’s floor or his couch.
He switched off the ignition and finally broke the silence that he felt he had created, “You wanna talk about it?” He asked, warily.
David shrugged, Jack was the last person he wanted to talk about Shawn with, and yet the only person he could, “Not here.” He managed, opening the door to step out of the truck.
They made their way inside, after David fought with his key on the front door. His father had always sworn he would fix the stiff lock, but somehow never found the time. Jack kicked off his shoes and flopped onto the couch, but David continued into the kitchen, only to return with two cokes and a bag of chips. He tossed one can to Jack, forced the bag open, and grudgingly sat next to him. Almost immediately the reoccurring silence returned, David simply concentrating on chewing, drinking, and staring at the paint chipping on a nearby wall.
“I’m not gay,” he finally said, almost choking out the last word.
Jack recoiled, “You got a problem with gays?”
He rolled his eyes, “If I did do you think I would have stayed in the room with you last week when you were practically inhaling Anthony Waters? God, Jack, if I had an issue with people who were gay, how do you think I would have reacted when you told me you were?”
When Jack had come out to him three years ago, they were both barely fourteen. His response had simply been, “I know.” Which was followed quickly with, “I don’t care.” Jack was in nearly every memory of his childhood, and he had suspected for a long time that he found other boys attractive. It hadn’t bothered him, it was just Jack, the way he was, and trying to change it, or wishing it wasn’t so was just counter productive. He had known that then, which only caused him to wonder why he didn’t know it about himself now.
“It’s just – ” he waved his hand in the air, trying to grasp for words that just would not come to him, “I mean – dammit Jack, I’m not you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He asked, clearly affronted.
“God, I dunno,” David forced himself to look, really look at his friend, “I just, Shawn Collins aside, I’m not attracted to men. At least, I don’t think I am.”
“And girls?” Jack responded pointedly.
“I don’t have time for girls.”
“So you have time for Shawn Collins?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Good, ‘cause honestly, Dave, I doubt he’d have time for you,” he added bluntly.
Once again David found himself rolling his eyes, “You think I don’t know that? This whole situation is a mess, it’s left me questioning everything I’ve ever known about myself and I don’t have time for that.”
“You still didn’t answer me about girls.”
“I – ” he stammered, “Yeah, not anyone in particular, defiantly not anyone in our school, but girls – women – I find them attractive.”
“And Shawn, who is plainly not a girl.”
David blushed, “Yes, and Shawn, which by the way, if you breathe a word of this to anyone I’m going to have to kill you.”
“That, right there, shows how little you really know me,” he flashed him a smile, clearly trying to ease the tension, “Maybe your bi.”
He shook his head, “I don’t think so, I mean, I don’t know if I could – ”
“Or, maybe you just find him attractive because he is hot, even I know that, although may I add that his personality leaves something to be desired. Sexuality just isn’t simple black and white, Dave. It’s all a gray area; few people in this world are one hundred percent gay or straight, maybe no one. I mean, I could rattle off a few actresses or models that I can truly appreciate and maybe even fantasize about – a little. But that confession doesn’t make me straight. And if you tell anyone that I’m the one who’ll have to do the killing.”
“So what the hell am I then?” It suddenly occurred to him that his voice was turning into a distinct whine, “Somewhere between eighty to ninety percent straight, with a tendency to fall for really attractive guys?”
“No, a normal teenager with a crush, that will in all likelihood go away. And if it doesn’t,” Jack shrugged, “Is it really the end of the world if you are gay? You already know your parents won’t care, and that I won’t care, so really, you won’t have that whole phase where you need to worry if your family will kill you when they find out. You can’t change it if you are, but if it’s any comfort to you, I doubt your gay. I think you would have had some inclination if you were long before Shawn Collins.”
David exhaled; somehow all at once it was easier to breathe again. Gay or straight, it didn’t really matter. You are who you are, Jack had taught him that long ago.
As it turned out, Jack was right, which he eerily was more often than not. Eventually David stopped loosing all thought when Shawn Collins stepped into the room, and although he could still point out attractive men with Jack he never had an actual urge to act on it. In fact, two years later he met and fell in love with Emily while in collage, and three years after that they were wed. Jack was his best man. His date, however, was Shawn Collins; they had been together for four years. Turned out he really was on Jack’s team.