There we were, outside Jake's apartment, "Go on then," Matty said, "Ring!"
I can't say why I hesitated to press the buzzer. I'd gone past the gloom of the past few days. I decided I no longer cared if the rumour spread around the school about me and Ryan. I didn't even care what might happen here tonight at Jake's. Though I couldn't help a sort of premonition that everything was going to change. I would deal with things as they happened. Before, I spent too much time thinking about myself, I realised that when Michael said 'you two make a nice couple'. This was the new me, let's see what happens.
I rang, and Jake was there smiling. Happy and looking good. In we went and sat down on the sofa. Jake followed us and stood waiting a moment. Because I just felt like it, I put my arm round Matty, lent over and kissed him. He was surprised, but he smiled, Jake was still standing there. I stood up, went over to him and kissed him on the cheek. Matty watched this of course, and he was still smiling when I came back to sit next to him.
What followed you won't believe. Jake walked over to the sofa, bent down and kissed Matty on the cheek, then he returned my kiss. This scene happened in silence, and that's just how it happened. Matty was smiling, so was I, and Jake started laughing. We joined in. I knew it, I knew something was in the air.
Jake looked across at us, now we had more or less stopped laughing, he spoke, "So, can I get you guys a drink?"
Matty replied, "Yeah, anything is fine. A coke. Or whatever you got."
He fetched three bottles of coke from the kitchen fridge. "What the hell is going on?" He said with a feigned annoyance, a big grin on his face.
"I'm happy. I'm here with Matty... and you. I just realised whatever happens, happens. We will deal with the shit stuff when it arrives. It won't stop us enjoying our lives."
"I agree," Matty smiled and looked at me. "I've been a bit stupid and jealous. I'm sorry about that. I love you Alex... and... well yeah." A huge grin on his face he looked at Jake. "Well yeah... actually, I like you too, Jake."
And Jake who had probably, like I told you before, been in a pretty good mood since at least last Sunday, just seemed to look even happier, if that's possible.
"I like you guys too."
We sat in silence. Enjoying just being there and being happy. You see, it might seem very strange to anyone else, anyone who wasn't there in that room at the time, but it was a sanctuary. It was the one place, never mind all the things that had gone on before between us, or what had happened outside. No, this was the one place we could just relax and feel safe and at ease. I believe everyone needs a space like that. This was ours. Jake's little studio apartment was our safe haven. Maybe I had finally found land after crossing the ocean.
"Tell me," Jake broke the silence. "What's been happening?"
"You remember we told you about Ryan?" I asked him.
"Yeah. The guy in the showers with you. The one who's bi"
"Well, Matty told his friend at school about it. My cousin Mathilde split up with Ryan when the news got back to her. Ryan was really pissed with me. He thought I told her. Now the story could easily go all round the school."
Matty chipped in. "Yeah, I was pretty stupid. Never thought about it."
"So are you worried about people finding out you're gay?" Jake didn't beat around the bush. Straight to the jugular.
"I have always been worried. I'm a coward."
"You're not a coward, Alex," Matty interrupted. "You never told Ryan it was me when he could've hit you."
That's why I loved Matty. He was always so cute. Defending his boyfriend's courage. I love it.
"Don't pay any attention to it," Jake said. "Don't deny it, if someone asks. Just say yes, so what." We were listening, he had our full attention. "People, gay people that is, get hung up on this whole coming out thing. It's past, it's from the last century, not for today. Before, yeah, gays had to fight for their rights. Band together, protest, whatever. Okay, it's not over. But how the hell did coming out become some sort of right of passage for every gay person?"
"So you never did your coming out?" I asked him.
"No. I didn't see why I had to. Actually, that's not exactly true. But I'll come back to that. What I want to say is, and you can choose not to agree, I don't see why a gay person has to go round telling everybody. Family, friends, the whole bunch. Announcing, I'm gay! Why? I think you do what you want. You hold your boyfriend. Kiss your boyfriend. Tell your family, 'hey mum, dad, I've got a boyfriend'. Not 'I got something to tell you, 'I'm gay'. You don't have to do that. Let them ask you. Never, ever deny it. That's where the courage is."
Wow, I was a bit taken aback by that. I don't know if I agreed or not. It seemed like a sort of easy way out.
"Isn't that just an easy way out?"
"Yes, maybe. But so what. I did tell people I was gay. But I never went round doing a big coming out thing. One time with a guy I was working with, we were talking about what we'd done at the weekend. I mentioned I was at a club and gave the name. He replied, that's a gay club. I said yes, it is. I'm gay! What do think his reaction was? Well he told me, no you're not gay. So I had to repeat it, yes I'm gay. We dropped the conversation because we both had to get back to work. That guy just wouldn't believe I was gay. I mean that's fucking incredible. Isn't it? I did the whole coming out thing and he didn't believe me. After that I just thought why bother. So yes, I told my parents. That was because I had to. Something happened. I told a couple of close friends. But after the guy at work, I just never bothered telling anyone else. Unless they asked. Or it come up. I mean if someone said are you married, or you got a girlfriend. Then I'd say no, I'm gay."
"Okay. I get it. I can understand that."
Matty smiled at Jake. "I told Alex."
"Yeah, he did. He had more courage than me." That was true because it must've been a hard thing to do.
"I admire you for that, Matty." Jake looked across at him. "I think that perhaps was something you had to do. Because... because you love Alex." Matty looked at me. You would have to be blind not to see that was true.
"Jake," Matty was studying him. "I know you said we haven't known each other more than five minutes. And that's true. But, I don't feel like that. From the moment I met you, I felt good about you. I felt like, I already knew you. I know. It's really crazy. Especially as you slept with Alex. I should be a hundred times more jealous of you than of Ryan. I think I was. That's why I had to see you. But after. When I met you. All that just faded away."
I don't think I'd ever heard Matty talk like that to someone before. I mean, reveal so much. We talked together. Shared loads of thoughts about ourselves. That's what best friends do, but this was new, doing the same thing with another person.
"If you don't mind, Jake," Matty continued. "I really would like to hear more about you."
I wondered at this point what Jake's reaction would be. Matty wasn't doing his questioning thing, but it's a lot to ask someone.
Jake smiled again. "I think you won't be happy until you know. When I was about your age. No, I was younger. By a year. Thirteen. I met a guy who was twenty-seven. More than twice my age. I fell in love. Yeah, I know the law says I was abused. But no, I don't feel I was. It was my free choice. I had a huge crush on him. I could think of nothing better than for him to pick me up in his arms, carry me away, and make love with him."
We looked at each other, then back at Jake. We didn't say a word, just listened.
"Well it happened. We made love. We had great sex. He taught me a lot. A lot about everything. About myself. My body. What I liked. What could be better? I enjoyed all the time we were together. But one day we got found out. That was terrible for him. It was terrible for me too. It was then I told my parents I was gay. I don't know what happened after. I never found out. I never saw him again. I cried for days. Was depressed. Shut myself in my room. My parents even took me to see a child psychologist. It was probably the worst moment of my life."
I had the overwhelming feeling that Jake had just shared much more than Matty or I could have imagined. I was overcome with emotion. I had tears welling up in my eyes. I stood up went over to Jake. He looked up at me. He stood up. At that moment I had this picture of the loneliest thirteen year old in the world. I couldn't stop myself. I burst out crying. Flung my arms around him. Matty must have joined us, because there we were, all three of us in one big hug standing there in the middle of that little living room. All three crying together.
We both knew a whole lot more about Jake now. More than we ever knew before. I realised what Matty had said before he met Jake, when he said he wanted to meet him because he must be someone I cared about, well he was right. I do care about him and Matty cares as well. You can't ever know a person until you really know them. You shouldn't go round judging everybody else, better look at yourself first.
That evening Jake had surprised us both and it wasn't quite finished. He told us before we left to go back home that he was away next weekend to visit his parents. He gave me a key to his apartment. "You can both come here. Use the place whilst I'm away," He kissed me, then he kissed Matty. "I love you guys. If you're here Sunday. When I get back. I'll see you then. If not, well, next week some time."
"Thank you, Jake," I said, and Matty also thanked him.
As we were leaving Jake's I was already thinking, at last Matty and I get to be together, but I was also thinking about Jake. Matty looked at me before we parted to go our separate ways home.
"You know Alex, you can wish and wish. And if you wish hard enough for something, you can make it happen. But the funny thing is, it never turns out quite as you imagined."
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