May 14 2006
“I’m sorry. I’m not sure I can do this anymore.”
I heard the words; even watched his lips as he spoke them, but I had a hard time believing what Riley was telling me. What did he mean he couldn’t do this anymore? What is the “this” that he was talking about? Our conversation? Our relationship?
I gave him a look that was a mixture of incredulousness and confusion. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” As I said this, I could feel my eyebrows furrow, and my forehead wrinkle. I could see myself in my mind’s eye. The patented look that became synonymous with me being confused. “What can’t you do?” I asked, almost certain that I knew the answer. “I can’t do this- us. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” I looked at him, trying to focus my eyes on his, but as he said this he looked everywhere but at me. His voice was deep, almost baritone, and usually, just hearing him speak was enough to set me off. I could count the number of times that he spoke to me and I didn’t get hard. This was definitely one of them.
“Where is this coming from? Riley, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. What can’t you do? You’re saying “us” but it’s really not making any sense.” I was beginning to sound desperate. I heard myself speak, but the voice didn’t sound like me. I sounded panicked and pleading. I hated it. I didn’t want him to know that he was affecting me this way, but I could feel the tears quickly well in my eyes. I looked at him. Again, he refused to look at me. Apart of me wanted to shout out to him - to make him answer me. I wanted to scream, but a bigger part of me told me that screaming wouldn’t help the situation. Right now, I needed to take stock, and be calm.
Looking at him, I quickly resolved that this conversation could only go two ways: either he was serious and wanted to break up with me, or he was serious and wanted to fix things before they got to that point. Taking a deep breath I exhaled dramatically. Placing my right hand on my right eye and scrunching it closed before sliding it to right side of my face I asked, “What about us can’t you do? Help me understand this please.” I waited for him to talk – to say something, but he didn’t.
I was getting frustrated. I closed my eyes again. This time I would remain quiet, let him talk. It was the best way to handle this situation. I felt powerless, and in truth, I was powerless. He had something to tell me and there was nothing that I could do to rush him. I started running over scenarios in my mind. Was it something I said? Did I do something wrong? I was slowly beginning to panic, and he wasn’t helping the situation by taking so long to talk. I opened my eyes. He was no longer standing in the front of me. I began to panic. Did he leave? I quickly turned left looking towards the door. It was still closed. I looked right, and there he was, sitting down in the love seat. His body doubled over, hands securely holding his head. I heard him roughly exhale.
“Look Chase, I…I…” he mumbled. He looked up at me and his eyes were red. There goes scenario two. It really didn’t seem like he wanted to work anything out. I braced myself. I was not going to beg. I loved him, but I was not going to beg. I mean we both knew this was coming, right? We’d been fighting for months, and hadn’t had sex for much longer. I wanted to sit next to him, to rub his back and tell him that everything would be alright, but I wouldn’t allow myself. I couldn’t make this easier for him. I waited.
“Chase, I’m sorry.” I heard him say. My frustration was getting the best of me. I was getting annoyed. What was he sorry for? “Look Riley, talk to me. What are you sorry for? What can’t you do about us? I’m lost, OK” Again I could hear the desperation in my voice, and I really wanted to kick myself. I needed to be stronger.
“Chase, I can’t be gay. I’m sorry. I can’t do this relationship anymore.” I heard him say as tears streaked his cheeks. “I thought this was what I wanted, honestly I did, but I can’t do this anymore.” I heard him sob. Both of his hands were now covering his face, and I could see the upward heave of his back. He was crying. I couldn’t let this affect me. I steeled myself. I took a deep breath, then another one. I looked at him. My best friend for the last five years, doubled over in my loveseat, in pain- pain that I had caused.
We’d been together officially for the better part of a year now, and I always thought we were madly in love. I’d always known that I was into guys, but not Riley. Before me, he’d experimented with a friend or two, but as he told me, it meant nothing to him. He got his rocks off and that was it. We didn’t just decide to be together. But from the beginning, it was sort of obvious that we would. Everyone knew that we would…everyone except us.
I had met Riley through my friend Rick. Rick was gay, and I assumed that Riley knew this. I remember that day like it was yesterday.
It was a Thursday right before sunset. I was home alone; not unusual for that time of day. Both of my parents had really demanding jobs and wouldn’t be home until after 8. My mother was the executive director of a major non-profit organization and my father was the executive vice president with his bank. I was sitting in the T.V. room watching some silly talk show. To be honest, I was only listening to the noise, as my mind was far gone. I was really lonely at this time of my life. There I was, seventeen, smart, handsome, and single. I’d only had one ‘real’ relationship and that was when I was fifteen. It lasted about a year. I got dumped; not surprisingly. I think it was because I wouldn’t ‘put out’ but his reasons were a lot different. He needed space. Yeah-fucking-right. A week later I heard the bastard was dating someone else. He was nineteen, and I sort of expected him to want to be with someone older, but shit. Oh well, such is life.
But anyway, in the middle of my thoughts and the ramble of the television, I heard the doorbell ring. Jarring me, I jumped off the sofa and walked to the front door. Looking through the peep hole I saw Rick. There was a guy with him- a really cute guy. The guy was about 5’10 tall, and had a really nice build. I really couldn’t tell because of the clothes he was wearing. He looked sort of gangsta and I found this to be a huge turn on.
I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as camp, but I’m definitely not thuggish. I’m tall, standing at just over six feet, and have an athletic build. I’ve been told that my look is more preppy than anything else. I love designer clothes, and seeing that my parents have great jobs and are never home, I get enough in allowance (AKA “keep-Chase-quiet- money) to buy all of the latest styles. I take really good care of myself also. I get a manicure every week, courtesy of a spa certificate my mother got my dad for Christmas. He thought it was too girly for him, so I traded him a D&G shirt I got for it. I also get a monthly facial, and am constantly trimming my body hair. Because I’m black, my hair looks really coarse when long, so I keep it closely trimmed. I have an even, smooth complexion, and dark pink lips. I got my teeth cleaned professionally every two month. Even just lounging around the house, I was always dressed to impress.
That day was no exception. I had on a pair of American Eagle board shorts and a Calvin Klein singlet. I quickly checked myself out in the mirror hanging on the left wall before the door. Smiling broadly, I opened and said, “Hey Rick. What’s up?” I quickly looked at Scott and nodded. He didn’t look up, so I didn’t really wait for acknowledgement from him.
“Heya Chase. Nothing’s going on dude. We’re bored out of our rockers, and Riley here has a car, so I just figured we’d see what you were up to.” Rick always seemed happy, no matter what the situation was. He smiled, and gently pushed by me and stepped into the living room. He stopped, and turned around “Ah, sorry bud. Chase, this here is Riley. Riley…Chase.” Finally, Rick’s friend looked up. When our eyes met, my breath caught and I’m sure my eyes went wide. This boy was fucking amazing. His skin was the color of vanilla wafers (yeah, he was black), and his lips were the deepest shade of pink. His hair was soft and wavey. His eyes were deeply slanted, but wide and inquisitive- dark brown and piercing. His nose was straight, and flared at the end. His shoulders were wide, and led to a tapered waist and small hips. I was right. He wasn’t very tall, but shit. Aesthetically, this boy was perfect. As he extended his arm to reach mine I just looked at him, not sure what to do next. That’s when he did it- he smiled.
Oh my gosh! This boy was amazing. He had perfect white teeth and the way his lips curled made my heart flutter. I heard Rick laugh behind me. I had totally forgotten he was there. I smiled and slowly extended my hand to shake Riley’s. “Hi. Nice to meet ya.” I said, trying my best to sound warm. When our arms touched, I felt lightening. I gasped audibly. I stared at him and surprisingly, he stared back. We must have been locked in that gaze for no more than ten seconds, but it was long enough. Rick started laughing again. “Seems like Cupid has struck again!” he triumphed. “Whatever, bitch!” I exclaimed, a bit embarrassed. I realized that I was still holding Riley’s hand, but he made no attempt to pull away. Blushing, I let him go. “Sorry.” I mumbled. “No problem, playa.”I heard him drone. Shit, I was hooked.
Letting him go, I moved to the side, and did a sweeping motion with my right hand to invite him into the house. “Welcome to Casa Thomas” I said in my best Hispanic impersonation. I didn’t sound cute. “Thanks yo. Uhhh..um, where’s your bathroom?” he seemed uncomfortable. My mind went completely blank. I was flustered. “Uhhh..um..its, its, umm….shit…” I laughed nervously.
From the corner of my eyes I could see Rick smiling broadly. Thankfully, he got what was going on. “Go down the hall and take a left at the third door.” He said coming to my rescue. As I watched him be-bop down the hall, I knew right then, I was in love.
After that day Riley and I were practically inseparable. Every day we were hanging out at my place. I was right; he did know about Rick being gay, but as he later told me, he wasn’t. I had also asked Rick about him the minute he left for the bathroom, and Rick confirmed what Riley later told me. I was sort of disappointed, but somehow I felt that all was not lost.
I remembered the look he gave me when we shook hands, and that led me to remember the length of the handshake. He didn’t let go, and he wasn’t at all moved about me holding on to him either. Maybe there was still a chance. Either way, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I needed nothing more than a new friend. Sure, sex would be great, but I didn’t think I was ready for a relationship just yet. Besides, this thing with Riley was already off to a terrible start. I felt that looking at him was love at first sight, and love was the last thing I needed to deal with.
After that asshole (I still refuse to call his name) and I broke up (I was almost seventeen when it happened) I had hardened my heart to anything even remotely resembling love. I didn’t want to be in love, I didn’t even want to be in “like” to be honest. I saw every possible relationship as a new opportunity to get laid. Don’t get me wrong now; I never really led any of them on. I was honest, just really really cruel.
I’d already learnt that guys are no different from girls. Well, some guys I guess (mostly gay guys). They always believe that they can be the one to change a bad trait about someone. Yeah-Fucking-Right! All of the guys I slept with during the last few years were a part of this naïve bunch. They all believed that they could change me, and honestly, some of them almost did. Almost. Once, I almost fell in like…thankfully, I caught on to what was happening and quickly ended the relationship. Now, I abided by what I liked to call my “three-strike rule”. I got with a guy and gave him three chances to piss me off. I always told them about this, and sadly many of them really tried not to do anything wrong. What they didn’t know, though, was that everything they did would count as a strike.
If he called me too late at night – strike! If he suggested a movie I hated – strike! Refused to have sex- strike! Asked to have sex after the first date – strike. Almost anything. I could find fault in anything a guy did; and usually I did. Riley though was different.
Because I was so intrigued by him, and now that I think about it, because he was straight, he wasn’t on strike watch. Anything he did was alright with me, and things that would usually turn me off with guys I was interested in didn’t seem to matter with him. We became such close friends and eventually I realized that I was head over heels in love with him. It was far too late by this point, so I did the only rational thing I could think of – I told him. It was three months after that Thursday and we were hanging out in my bedroom. My parents had just gotten home from work; well Mom first, and Dad an hour after her. I was lying on my bed on my back, and Riley was sitting at my computer desk chatting on MSN. I was so lost in thought…well, looking at me, I’m sure that’s how I looked, but I was really trying to build up the courage to have the conversation that I knew I needed to have. Breaking into my thoughts, I heard my mother call us down for supper.
As I watched Riley get up from the computer desk, I took a deep breath. It was now or never. I had to take my chance. I figured that if he liked what I would say, then I would have nothing to worry about, and after dinner we could come back and talk about things. If he didn’t, well…waiting until now was sort of my safety net. I know he liked my parents and he wouldn’t just take off. So I figured that at least that way, I could tell him and we could go down to dinner, giving me enough time to gauge his response. If it was negative, he would have enough time to cool off, and maybe relax before turning me down and leaving. I really hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
All of this time, as I was thinking, I kept my eyes tightly shut. Suddenly I felt a weight collapse on the bed. I could smell him. The familiar, soft scent of talc powder, Tommy cologne, and the light decadence of sweat. Perfection! Slowly opening my eyes, I saw him looking at me… then he smiled. I swore my heart melted. I got up off the bed, opened my door, and shouted to my mother letting her know that we’d be down in a minute. Riley seemed shocked at the announcement. I guess he was hungry.
I looked at him and smiled nervously. It was now or never. “Ummm….” My eyes were shifty. I couldn’t look him in the face. “You think we could talk..ummm, for a minute?” I could hear my voice shaking. I sounded so fragile,… almost like I could be broken. “Yeah. Sure Yo. You know you could always talk to me.” As he said this, I saw that he was trying to appear warm. Maybe he figured that it would calm me down, and honestly, it was working. I smiled. “You think you could drop the street talk? Remember, you promised me that you’d talk normally when it was just us?” He looked like he would blush. Was he blushing? With black people and other people of colour, it was so much harder to tell when someone blushed. Judging from the cute look I was getting from him, I’m sure he was blushing.
“Ok, my bad. Sorry Yo…I mean, I’m sorry. Sure we can talk.” He sounded so cute. And to think that he was trying to change the way he spoke because I had asked him, my heart began to flutter. Ok Chase…deep breaths, I remember thinking. I needed to speed this up. We really had to go down to dinner soon.
I continued to smile shyly. “Thanks, Riley. I really appreciate that.” Another deep breath. “Ok, I need to tell you something, and I don’t know how to say this, but I need you to promise me that no matter what, we won’t stop being friends. K?” The last word was definitely said with far too much emotion than I had intended. I sounded weak; like I would die if he left me, almost vulnerable. I didn’t want to sound that way. I tried to steel myself more.
“Chase, what’s wrong playa… I mean..what’s wrong? You know you can talk to me about anything right? You’re my hom- you’re my friend. I’m here for you daw-Chase.”
I couldn’t help but smile. He was so cute. Listening to this gangsta thug, changing the way he spoke just for me. I think I was the one to start blushing then.
“Well…”my two index fingers instinctively came together and landed in my open mouth, gently pushing my two front teeth outward. I took another deep breath. Here goes…
“You know I’m gay, right?” Damn, why I was being so shy? Of course he knew I was gay. I told him myself. Shit, I’d just told him about my latest conquest, and now I was asking him if he knew. Way to go genius! I remember mumbling in my mind.
“Umm…DUH! I thought we established that the first day we met.”
I had totally forgotten about that. That day in my T.V. room. Me and Rick were joking about the gay Karma Sutra while Riley was in the bathroom. When he came out, even though I quickly stopped talking, Rick just went on. When he realized that I had stopped talking, he froze, rolled his eyes, and just laughed.
“Nigga please. This boy is straight I tell you.” Rick said, almost too dramatically. For a second, I thought I saw Riley smile, but almost instantly he was serious again. He looked at me, and for the second time that afternoon, I felt the world stand still.
“So you’re gay huh?” I wasn’t sure whether he was asking me a question or making a statement, but shit he sounded good. I was about to respond when he went on, “You don’t look like a faggot.” For a second I was too shocked at his word choice to respond. I heard a gasp on the side of me.
“Faggot!? Riley sweetie, I told you about those words. There are no faggots in this world…just men who prefer dick to pussy honey.” It never amazed me how camp Rick could get. In front of almost everyone, he appeared to be an alpha male, but to his friends, he was a HUGE queen.
Riley looked at me, before continuing…“I didn’t know they made fagg- um…gay people in your size.” I almost fainted. I needed to say something, but everything at that point seemed inadequate. I steeled myself yet again. I wanted to be certain that my voice sounded confident; sweet. As seductively as I could I countered, “I’m not a mmmmm[wrinkling my eye brows]…what did you call me?...ahhhhh ‘faggot’.” I smile demurely. “I’m what you would call….a ‘Thomas’- Chase Thomas to be precise - spawn of my father’s seed!” He looked at me incredulously; arms folded, head back, a confident smile with his left eye browns raised designing his face. “I don’t believe in letting labels define who I am…but if you must know I haven’t been interested in girls since I was fifteen…so conventionally, I would be gay.” I was enjoying this. He seemed to be interested, and I could almost make out the faint residue of a smile. I continued… “But of course, you’re not conventional are you, now? Of course you’re not…if you were you wouldn’t be hanging with this here ‘faggot’” I said, dramatically sweeping my hand to point at Rick. Riley smiled.
“Nah, you seem cool yo!.” It was my turn to smile then.
But anyway, back to the moment at hand. I looked Riley deep in his eyes…what I really wanted to see was his soul. I needed to know that he’d still accept me as his friend; that he’d still like me. As I stared into him I couldn’t see anything; no hint of emotion. Just his beautiful brown eyes, the colour of honeyed toast with sparkles of butter, so I continued, “Riley, I, I need to tell you something important, OK. It’s about me and how I feel, but I need you to promise me something, please?” I pursed my lips and tightened my already closed eyes while I waited for affirmation of his promise.
“Sure, Chase…I promise anything.” That was all I was waiting for. “Well, when I tell you this, I’m just going to go to dinner, Ok. I want you to think about it. Please don’t respond now… if you’re going to leave, then just know that I’m happy that we were friends for so long k? I really do think you’re special. What I want you to promise me is that no matter what, we can still be friends….please?” Again, I sounded so damn desperate. Get a fuking grip, CHASE! I also sounded nervous, but I knew that I could say what I just said about him being special and be comfortable. Over the last few months we’d developed a sort of physical relationship. We’d fall asleep on my parents’ plush white sofa many evenings watching T.V. When my parents weren’t home, I’d rest my head on his shoulders and he’d briefly hug me to him, gently kissing my closely shaved head. He was always careful to let me know though, that it was only friendship he was offering.
“Ok…You’re scaring me, but I promise. I’ll do whatever it is you need me to do. I promise…we’ll always be friends, no matter what, K?” Damn he sounded so good saying those words. I was ready to drop my bomb.
“Riley, I, I…” ahhhhhh this was so much harder than I thought it would be. Shit..say it dammit. Just say it…. I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU DAMMIT…JUST FREAKING SAY IT! “I, I’m… I think I’m in love with you.” I put my head into my hands and exhaled loudly. It seemed like it took me forever to say those words, but when I looked at the digital clock on the shelf above the computer I was amazed to discover that only six minutes had passed since I told Mom we’d be down.
I was ready to bolt. I dropped my hand. I was resolved to take one last look at him standing in my bedroom. I wanted to frame this memory, because I was certain it would be the last. When I looked up it was anything but what I expected. He was right in front of me. So close I could feel his breath against my chin. I could smell it…bubble gum and liquorish. I started to get even more nervous. I could feel my knees shaking. I looked into his eyes, and I just couldn’t read him…I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I wanted to hug him; to remind him of his promise to wait until after dinner before leaving. I wanted him to say he loved me back…but he didn’t. Instead, I felt his strong hands grab the back of my head, and before I knew it, I felt his lips against mine. I didn’t pull back. He was kissing me…passionately…deeply…hungrily, and for someone too scared to react, I was matching his kisses just as hungrily. I felt his tongue push into my mouth; caress my own, and taste me, just as I would taste him. His tongue felt so soft, and he tasted just as beautifully as he smelt. I couldn’t help but concentrate on the feel of his lips- full and pressed firmly against mine. I lifted my hands to his chest, and just as they made contact, I heard a soft moan. I felt as if I were floating. I was beginning to feel light headed. Too much was happening too fast. This was the last thing I expected to happen. I needed to think about this, but I wasn’t going to be the one to pull back. I needed it to be his choice. He kissed me, so he would have to stop. Finally, after what seemed like the fastest forever on record, but what in reality must have lasted only thirty seconds, he let me go. He didn’t say anything. He just smiled and walked out of the door and towards the kitchen. I was dumbstruck. That night, almost a year ago, our relationship began.