I had my first boyfriend when I was sixteen. He'll always be there, like that first boyfriend should be in a framed black and white photo in my mind. He was sweet, sensitive, smart, not to mention heavenly. His lips were pouty and I can still feel them against my skin whenever I imagine it.
Thomas has been my friend for fifteen years; he's been my best friend for ten. He was the typical clean cut boy next door, I was always the wild one, the controversial one. Despite the nasty rumors we never fell for each other, and I preferred it that way. Thomas was my closest friend and I couldn't continue keeping secrets from him. It felt wrong. Today was the day I'd tell him I'm gay.
"Alex, seriously, you think I didn't know?" he responded.
I was puzzled, "Well I thought it could have been a little of a surprise."
"Dude we've known each other how long now?"
"You did not know when we were like twelve."
I could feel his smirk, "Yeah...right," he said and hung up his phone.
After I hung up I started on my afternoon jog. Running along the busy city street I wondered how easy was it to know who I really was. I thought my act was good enough to pass. I had had two girlfriends; one in high school, one in college. Neither were that serious. Sure I had loved them and sure I had sex with them, but I mean that's not such a huge impossibility is it? Marriages have been based on less truth that that. And it wasn't as if they suspected. But still that one thought echoed through my mind: how the fuck did Thomas just know? I couldn't concentrate on anything else.
I returned to work from my lunch break freshly showered. Staring my co-workers down I thought, did they know too? Have they been putting me on all this time? Would they act as nonchalantly about it as Thomas did?
I checked my voicemail when I sat at my desk. The first message was from my mom telling me about so and so's single daughter I should call up and take out sometime. Well, at least mom was still buying the act. I thought about this various daughter, was she keeping a secret? A lesbian? A man mom wouldn't approve of? A desire not to marry? Who can ever know what someone else is actually thinking, actually hiding.
The second message was from Thomas. Him and his gentle reassuring voice told me not to worry. He said we both know he knows me better than I do sometimes, so stop worrying, and staring at your co-workers like that.
My head collapsed under the insurmountable pressure it was under. My open palms caught it effortlessly. He was right of course, he always was. I couldn't expect anything less from him. It was obvious he figured it out, how else would he be so immediately accepting?
A couple of months passed. Nothing changed. Nothing. Thomas and I still hung out in the same bar, drinking the same Coors Light, with both of us ending up alone at the end of the night. The life we'd lived for six years. I guess I thought something would happen after I came out to him...anything. I was angry about it.
"I want to go to a gay bar," I proclaim, hoping to shock some sort of emotion out of him.
He just shrugs and says, "Ok, it's kind of late tonight."
I am furious and I give him my best death eyes.
"What?" he exclaims, "It is."
I couldn't believe how ok with it he was. I expected an argument or at least a few awkward moments. Instead I got fucking gay pride in a man living behind a picket fence wearing a Ralph Lauren polo shirt. After a while it became less about making sure he really accepted me and more about finding a way to make him not.
"I've had sex with men before," I state, staring at him flatly.
"And women. You've had all there is haven't you, you fiend," he responds sipping his beer and smiling that stupid fucking genuine smile.
I try harder, "A lot of men."
"What are you trying to prove? You're gay. I get it. We all get it. Stop acting so childish."
A ha, I finally had him, "I knew you'd react this way."
"What way?" He stood up, grabbing his coat from the empty barstool it sat on, "You've been trying to get a rise out of me all night."
"Because I want to know how you really feel."
"No, it's because you want to feel sorry for yourself. I don't care if you're gay, don't try and act like I hate you for it."
He pulled on his coat and stormed out.
It took me too long to realize he was right. He was always right. And I already knew that because he hadn't changed...and neither had I. That's what he knew that I didn't. That's why I was alone right now, because I didn't figure out I was still me and telling him hadn't changed that. Thomas wasn't embarrassed of his gay best friend Alex, but I think I wanted him to be. So I could have someone to blame for all of the hiding, for all of the deceptions, for all of the walls I had to put up: I had to lie because no one would take me as I was.
The next day when he didn't call I knew that we would eventually reconcile, but that weird rift would always be there. But it wasn't his fault, it was mine. And not for the reason I thought it would be.