When he first set out, this seemed perfectly logical. He was only going to drive an hour and a half to go see his parents. If that wasn't logical, he didn't know what was. Then he was at the doorstep of his childhood home, and remembered that his family was Catholic. Kissing guys- well, homosexuality, anyway- was supposed to be a sin, and Aaron could probably expect, at the very least, a verbal ass kicking from his parents. He might not believe it- why would God hate one of His own creations for something they couldn't control; that didn't even make sense- but his parents were a little more traditional.
He was such an idiot. It was too late to go home though; he'd already rung the bell.
Sonia's face split into a grin as soon as she opened the door. "Aaron! What are you doing here? Don't you have class tomorrow?"
"I do, but I needed to talk to you, and I didn't want to do it over the phone," he explained.
"Well, it's great to see you." She pulled him into a tight hug, and, despite himself, Aaron smiled. "So, what do you need to talk about?" She led him inside, directing him to the living room, where they sat down on the couch.
His anxiety came flooding back to him. Was she going to hate him for this? She was his mother, she wouldn't turn on him over something this stupid, would she?
"Aaron?" she prompted. "You okay?"
He sighed. "I kissed a man," he admitted. "Well, he kissed me, and it didn't occur to me to make him stop until he tried to stick his tongue down my throat."
She frowned, but she seemed more confused than angry. "So?"
"The only reason I stopped him was because I didn't really want to kiss him, personally. I enjoyed the kiss itself. Does that make me gay?"
"This is what you're all worked up about?" Her brow furrowed, unimpressed. "You make the biggest deals out of the weirdest things, Aaron, I swear to God."
He stammered for a second, words lost in his confusion.
"Does it even matter if you're gay or not? Is it that big a deal? I know I don't care. I doubt your father cares." She rolled her eyes. "And anyway, the way you pad after some women makes it hard for me to think you're gay. You don't have anything to worry about."
"This has been bothering me for months!" Aaron finally snapped. "And you're telling me it's not 'that big a deal'? I've been having a personal crisis! It is definitely a big deal!"
She glared at him. "You need to calm down a little."
"Why does everyone keep telling me that?"
"Because it's true! You're going to give yourself an ulcer or something. You're taking things too seriously and refusing to let them go. It's becoming a problem."
"Jenna left me because of this," he confessed. "She was upset that I was 'hiding who I really was', and thought I was trying to lie to her, so she left me. I think this is a fantastic reason to stress out!"
"Oh, why didn't you tell me you two broke up?" Her demeanor changed instantly. Aaron called it 'shifting into mother mode'. She stared at him with sad eyes and a sympathetic frown. "I'm so sorry Aaron. How are you doing with it?"
"I'm fine, Ma, it happened a while ago. I'm getting over it. It's why she left me that bothers me more than anything."
"I... don't know what to tell you about that. This 'crisis' of yours is really bothering you?"
He nodded. "I'm so confused right now. I just don't know what to think, or what to do; it's driving me mad."
"Well, I'm no expert, but, it sounds to me like you're bisexual. You don't seem to have much evidence supporting the homosexual half of it-"
"Trust me, I've got way more evidence than this."
"Ah. Well then I'm not sure why it's confusing you so much. Seems pretty clear to me." She shrugged, tossing her ponytail over one shoulder.
"Is bisexuality even real? I'm not sure how you can like men and women; I've only ever met people who liked one or the other," he reasoned. "Honestly, I thought it was just a myth."
"Really." She smiled a little, the way she always did when she was making fun of him. "That's all I've got for you. The only other explanation is you're going through a phase. I thought you'd like the first one better."
Aaron winced. It had occurred to him that this wasn't permanent, that maybe he was just curious and this didn't matter at all. That didn't feel right, though. This was more than just a phase, he knew it was. This was something he'd been ignoring for a long time, and it had just managed to get his attention now. "It's not a phase," he grumbled mutinously.
Her smile widened. "I didn't really think so. How come you're fighting the obvious answer?"
"I guess I'm just afraid to be different, and I was hoping someone could convince me that I was normal." He crossed his arms, suddenly feeling cold. "Stupid, I know."
"It's not stupid," she assured him, leaning over to run a hand through his hair consolingly. "It sounds perfectly natural to me. You don't want to give people a reason to judge you, not when it's something you can't help. Like your freckles."
Aaron shuddered. He did hate his freckles, mostly just because he used to get teased for them.
"I really don't think you need to worry about this," Sonia said. "Your father and I would support you through anything, you know that. As long as you aren't going around murdering people, we won't judge you. This can be perfectly normal as long as you let it be normal."
This finally drew a laugh from Aaron. "I know. Thank you."
She hugged him again, nudging his head down so she could plant a soft kiss on his forehead. "This isn't anything you have to thank me for, sweetie."
Aaron hadn't thought it possible, but he left feeling infinitely better than he had in a long time.
Of course, there was still the problem of Coby. By the end of the week, Coby had called him almost thirty times, and had left almost twenty voicemails, each increasingly whiny and desperate. Aaron couldn't imagine why Coby, of all people, had gotten so attached to him, but he had to admit: if this hadn't caused him so much trouble, he'd be feeling pretty good about himself right now.
As much as he dreaded it, he knew he'd have to talk to Coby eventually, and exactly a week after The Incident (which had quickly earned proper noun status in Aaron's mind), he invited him back to his apartment, under the condition that Coby would listen to him as best he could, and try not to get too angry. In return, Aaron would explain all his motives, and try not to throw Coby out again.
It was never not going to be awkward, but, somehow, Aaron was still surprised when it was. He and Coby couldn't maintain eye contact for more than a few seconds at a time, and neither of them seemed capable of expressing a full thought.
"I think, what I'm really trying to say is: I'm sorry for freaking out on you," Aaron finally managed. "I should've tried to talk to you, not kick you out."
"It's okay. I guess I probably shouldn't have kissed you in the first place. That's one of the stupidest ways to confess your attraction to someone in the history of romance." Coby laughed nervously, and they risked eye contact, but only for a split second. "I should've just sucked it up and admitted that I have feelings for you. I'm just... I'm no good with words, but you probably already figured that out."
Aaron tried to pretend he hadn't heard the part about feelings.
As attractive as Coby was, and as drawn to him as Aaron seemed to be, there wasn't anything deeper there. Not for Aaron, at least. There were no feelings other than friendship, no compulsion to go on dates, no daydreams of spending their lives together. Aaron knew he could never have a real relationship with Coby. There just wasn't enough compatibility. Unfortunately, Coby didn't seem to agree.
"So, uh, I guess... now would be a pretty good time to tell you I'm falling in love with you."
Aaron's eyes snapped to Coby's. The other man was blushing furiously, eyes focused on his hands, which were clenched on the table.
"Why?" he blurted out. He hadn't meant to be so brash, but he'd been a little shocked, and more than a little confused. "I mean, seriously. What could I possibly have to offer you?"
"Well, you're smart, and funny, and never boring. You're always so much fun to hang out with-"
Aaron raised an eyebrow. "Seriously?"
Coby pouted. "What?"
"You expect me to believe this? So, I'm witty and interesting, great, thanks, but have you looked at me lately? I'm short and skinny and awkward looking. You... you're some sort of fucking adonis. I ask again: what can I possibly have to give you that you couldn't find in someone more attractive?"
Coby balked. "You don't really think I'm that shallow, do you? Yes, I'm sure I could find someone else witty and interesting, but they wouldn't be you. I'm falling for you because you've been such a great friend. I've watched you go through a breakup with more strength than I've ever had in my life. I've seen you sit and stay focused on something incomprehensibly boring for hours on end, without even a bathroom break, just because you want to accomplish something. You are determined, and fascinating, and special, and I just... I didn't mean for this to happen, but I couldn't help it!"
Aaron laughed out loud, shaking his head. "I don't believe this. Do you really think I'm stupid enough to fall for this? It's all very sweet and flattering, don't get me wrong, but it just isn't logical."
"No, it's not, but when is love ever logical?"
"Wow, you really are a walking, talking cliche, aren't you?" He interrupted himself with another bout of laughter, which took him a moment to get under control. "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're after; I'm not sure if you want me to write your reports, or take your notes, or what, but I'm not buying into it. I'm not that desperate. I'm sure you can find another English major to work for you. There's tons of people lonelier than I am."
Coby gawked at him for a second, momentarily speechless, but his face quickly twisted into a scowl. "You think that's what this is about? You think I'm going to use you?"
"Well, yeah. What else could you be after?"
"It didn't occur to you that, maybe, I just like you? That you are exactly my type, and I think we could have a future together?"
Aaron let a cocky grin spread across his face and leaned back in his seat, trying to balance it on two legs. "'Course not. That doesn't even make sense."
"You know what? Fine." He threw his chair back, making it scrape jarringly across the floor, then bolted up from it and shoved it back in. The resulting jolt of the table almost dislodged Aaron, who was using it as balance to keep his chair from tipping back too far. He scrambled to get his chair back on all four legs as Coby stalked away.
"You're right," Coby snarled. "I'm just your average, pretty, shallow, douchebag, and I'm only after you so I can have a free ride through college. If that's what you think, then go ahead. I don't really want to date an asshole, anyway!"
He stormed out, and Aaron was left alone, too sure of himself to even realize what he'd just done wrong.
He expected Coby to start calling him again, begging to hang out, or go get burgers, or study together. He expected more melodramatic messages, more desperate pleas for forgiveness.
But a week passed without so much as a text message from Coby, and Aaron finally realized that he might've made a huge mistake.
I'm one card short of a full deck
I'm not quite the shilling
One wave short of a shipwreck
I'm not my usual top billing
I'm coming down with a fever
I'm really out to sea
This kettle is boiling over
I think I'm a banana tree