It was almost like Drew didn't want me to realize how quiet he was being as we were walking, side by side, towards the park. In fact, he kept peeking back over his shoulder as if he was waiting for his dad to run up and tackle me from behind for defiling his pure and supposedly 'innocent' son, ruining any chance that he ever had to change course and find the more socially acceptable path towards a young wife who would bear him a litter of giggling grandchildren someday. I didn't want to be that guy! You know? While he was worried about possibly ruining my life...I think I was starting to wonder if I might be ruining his as well.
But the moment that I casually reached out to take a gentle hold of his hand...he was suddenly electrocuted with a moment of total shock, shame, and paranoia...followed by a painfully helpless whimper...and a sigh of relief. A surrender to the moment. Looking into his eyes, I saw the fear...the utter horror, that I once felt over being seen as different. Exposed as being...abnormal. The look that I must have given him a hundred times before I learned what it was like to truly, deeply, love someone the way I love him. And I was filled with such a loathsome level of embarrassment that I could barely keep myself from tearing up over it. I think...for the very first time...I was able to see why it hurt him so much to be so ashamed for what I was feeling deep down in my heart where I didn't want anybody else to see it. Maybe where I didn't want to see it either.
A place in the darkest parts of my psyche where I could cover it up with small talk, mundane daily tasks, and outdated tapes of old school 'hetero porn' that I was hoping would trigger something significant within me. The same kind of spark and explosion of tingles with hardcore sexual gratification that Drew could easily ignite with the simple act of using a single digit to twirl his honey blond curls around his finger nonchalantly...even when he didn't know that I was watching.
All of that free beauty on display for the whole world to take notice of and stand in awe of...
And Drew promised it all to me...if only I could promise to appreciate it with a kiss and smile. He was the love that my heart had always yearned for. The love that I needed in order to mature beyond childish wishes and boyhood whispers...finally proving to me that miracles were real.
Like...they're really REAL!
"I prolly shouldn't stay away fo too long..." Drew said, softly.
"We haven't even gotten to the park yet." I told him.
He blushed. "I know. But...Ethan, I have to get back soon. I don't want my dad to start treating this like it's weird."
"Do you think it's weird?" I asked.
"Of course not." He replied. "It's just...that's, like...not the point. You know?"
Giving his hand a squeeze, I pulled back on him and looked him directly in the eyes. Those big, beautiful, eyes. "But what if it is, Drew?" I asked him. "What if that actually is the point of all of this?"
He blushed slightly, guiding his bashful gaze down to my shoes. "It's not. It never has been."
"What does that even mean?" I said. "Don't you like us being together? You and me?"
"C'mon, Ethan. You know I do. But that's not what's at stake here."
"Then what IS?" I said. "Drew...please tell me what you want me to say. What am I supposed to do in this situation? Do you...do you just want me to walk away from this? From us? Pretend that none of this ever happened?"
With a sniffle, Drew said, "I don't KNOW what I want, Ethan...ok? I just think that you'd be better off not putting your happiness on the line just for me. Ok? I mean...do you want me to see you getting your ass kicked in the high school hallways? Being ridiculed and made fun of? Bullied and beaten?"
"I can take care of myself..."
"That's not enough, Ethan!" He said with a whimper. "Don't you get it? It's not the idea of you having a rough time that bothers me. It's the fact that I'm going to have to live with the knowledge that it's all going to be my FAULT that hurts the most!" I saw tears beginning to crawl out of Drew's eyes, and he pulled his hand away from mine in order to keep walking and maybe keep me from seeing the misery and pain in his expression. "You think that you can live with the kind of punishment that I live with everyday, Ethan...but the truth is...you can't know what it's like until you've actually experienced it for yourself. It's not the same as being 'sympathetic' to the little gay kid at school. This isn't like bringing home some sheltered pet from a charity function, where you can feel good about yourself for rescuing some poor animal that was already at death's door. It's not LIKE that!" He said, but he saw the hurt in my eyes and softened his voice, reaching up both hands to caress the sides of my face. "Ethan..." He sobbed. "I LOVE you! Ok? I swear. I've never been so in love before in my entire life. But I'm just...I'm not dumb enough to think that you and I are going to have some kind of a 'happily ever after' ending when it comes to this kinda thing. Because, like it or not...other people will force their way into the act of destroying anything and everything that ever could allow us to be happy to be together. They're going to HATE us! And they won't be hesitant about letting us know it either. Because the world we live in makes it acceptable to hate us. Don't you understand? Nobody is going to feel comfortable standing up for boys like you and me. Not now, and probably not ever. The second they all find out...they'll go out of their way to crucify us. They'll exhaust themselves to make us feel weird and wrong and they'll demonize our love with every whisper that passes between them, from now until the end of high school. Are you really ready to deal with that? The rumors? The bullying? The judgement? Because I wasn't. Not when I first came out. Trust me...its a level of pain that burrows deeper and deeper with every breath that you take in a place like high school." He told me, tears streaming down his face. "It HURTS, ok??? It hurts! It made me want to crawl into a dark hole, every single day, and just fade away into non-existence. Just so I wouldn't be a burden on society anymore. On my dad. On my mom..."
"Drew...babe...I love you, ok? That's enough to keep me strong. If I have to choose between a comfortable life of smoke and mirrors or a life with you in my arms...I'll handle it..." I said. "It's not a difficult choice at all."
"They wrote the word 'FAG' on your locker, Ethan!" He cried. "Do you really think that it's going to stop there? DO YOU???"
"I don't CARE what they say about me, Drew! Why can't you understand that???" I said, probably more aggressively than I meant to, and he just turned away from me and started heading back to his house again. "So you're just going to leave me here? All alone? That doesn't seem fair to me at all."
"I'm sorry, Ethan. But you're not seeing things the way that I'm seeing them."
"You're right. I'm not. Because you're being really fucking selfish right now, and I didn't sign up for this part of having the most incredible boyfriend in the world. So you just keep walking away. I guess I'll have to figure everything else out on my own, won't I?"
Drew stopped walking, but he didn't turn around. Not yet. I could see him wiping his eyes though, trying his best to keep from sobbing out loud, even if his sniffles could clearly be heard at a distance. "Please, Ethan...don't. Ok?"
I took a few steps closer, but as much as I wanted to hold and comfort my vulnerable little boy in that particular moment, I allowed him to keep me at arm's length for now. "Drew?" I needed him to listen. Just this once. Please, listen to me. "One of the biggest mistakes that I ever made in my life was letting my own fear and doubt cause me to run away from you. I regretted every last minute of it. Don't trade places with me, ok? Don't run away from me now. My love is right here...all that I have to give...if you want it. Just tell me that you think my heart is worth fighting for...and from that second until forever, it'll be you and me against the world. You have my word on that. I just need you to know that I'm here for you. I'm not going anywhere. And I'm not afraid. Not anymore."
When Drew finally turned around to face me, his teary eyes nearly broke my heart in two. "You're more than I deserve, Ethan. You know that?"
"Yeah. I mean, I'm WAY out of your league, dude. I should be chasing a super model boyfriend or something, but you'll do for now, I guess." I smiled, and when Drew giggled out loud, a few more tears poured out of his eyes as he ran his fingers back through his curly brown hair.
"Heh...you're an ass..."
"Indeed, I am." I said, and walked over to give him a hug around his neck. His slim shoulders and waifish frame seemed to relax and melt into my embrace as though he was meant to be a part of me all along. And I rubbed my nose in his honey colored locks while giving him a brief kiss on his forehead. "Are you ready?"
"I'm gonna say it. You'd better be ready." He lightly rolled his eyes, but didn't put up any sort of protest. So I said, "I love you, Drew."
"I love you too, Ethan." He replied with a shaky voice.
"Good. So we can go to the park now?" I was hoping to let the normality of our friendly connection wash over us so he could let go of the pressure and stress of our supposedly 'forbidden' romance and just be my boyfriend again.
"He can wait. Right? We're hanging out. That's all."
"I told you, Ethan...it's not like he's not gonna notice how super cute you are."
"A-HA!!! You said 'super' cute this time!" I laughed.
"Shut up! Whatever." He gave me the cutest smirk, his blush getting darker by the moment. "I'll go...but we're not staying for long."
"We'll see what happens." I said, and turned to walk away towards the park.
"This isn't a 'see what happens' thingy, Ethan. I mean it!"
I just kept walking. "Sure ya do."
"Ethan..." He whined, but as I kept walking further away from him...he struggled for a moment, but eventually forced himself to run after me to catch up. Hehehe, I knew he'd follow me. I just knew he would.
The park was only another block or two away, and even though Drew still felt a bit uneasy at first for being away from his dad and having to explain what we were up to in his absence at first...he eventually settled down a bit and just enjoyed being himself for a little while. I would imagine that he doesn't get to do that too often when staying with his dad. I mean, he doesn't seem like some kind of monster or anything. He just...comes off as a bit intimidating when it comes to his son being...well...gay. It's pretty obvious. And once you've set that precedent...what do you do after that? Pretend? Does he fake being ok with it, while Drew fakes being ok with him faking being ok with it? It just seems like a really weird situation. If I were him, I'd want to spend time with my mom in her coffee shop on the weekends too.
"I'm sorry that I'm not more talkative today..." Drew said quietly as we sat under our usual tree.
"Huh? Oh...no way, dude. It's ok. I was just thinking about stuff, that's all." I said, and I put my arm around his shoulders to pull him closer to me. There were other people in the park too at that moment, but I didn't really care, to be honest. I don't think Drew cared much either, because he just sort of leaned into me from the side and put his hand on my thigh as I gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. "I really like being out here with you like this. It's sooooo soothing."
"Yeah. It is." He sighed. "I wish everything could always be like this. I really do."
"Who says it can't?"
"Let's not. K?" He said, stopping me from talking about dreams and fairy tales before I even got started. "Just enjoy these few minutes while we still can."
I didn't want to create any conflict with him about it. I thought it might scare him off and get him to run back home again. A small thing to sacrifice for a few peaceful moments with the boy of my dreams, right? So I just held him for a few moments, and then got a mischievous smirk on my face. "I told Patrick that I was your boyfriend, you know?"
That definitely triggered a reaction. Hehehe! Drew tensed up and suddenly moved away from my comfortable embrace. "You did WHAT?!?!"
"I told him that I was your boyfriend. Hehehe!"
"Does it matter?" I chuckled.
"YES, it matters! Ethan, what did you do?"
"It was yesterday, between classes. I was scrubbing the front of my locker, and he just sort of popped up. And...I don't know...I just kinda came right out and told him. There wasn't much more to it than that." I said.
Drew's jaw had almost dropped down to his chest at this point, and I began to giggle from the sight of it. "Jesus, Ethan! What happened? I mean...what did he say?"
"Why?" I teased. "Are you mad that you won't be able to date him behind my back now?" Drew playfully swatted me on the arm, but it was so light that it only made me giggle even more. "Patrick was WAY too hot for me to just let him walk around, not knowing that you have a steady boyfriend. I'd have to push him out in front of a friggin' bus or something. I guess you could say that I was partially coming clean and being proud to be dating the cutest boy in school. And partially protecting my investment to avoid any future temptations for either one of you to do something that I'd have to murder you for." I laughed.
"Hehehe, unh unh! I told you...Patrick's just my friend."
"Right. And he's gonna stay that way. I plan to make sure of that."
Drew gave me the sweetest smile, and then he asked, "So what did he say? I mean...was he ok and stuff?"
"He was totally cool with it. Even gave me some advice on how to get the permanent marker off of my locker. It worked like a charm. I'm glad that he was there to help me out."
Drew's smile dimmed considerably when I said that. And, almost on instinct alone, he said, "I'm so so sorry that you had to go through all of that, Ethan. Seriously. I never would have dragged you into any of this if I didn't have to..."
"You didn't do anything, Drew..."
"I know. Not directly, but I..."
"Shhhhh..." I said, hoping to keep him from getting all anxious again. "I thought we were having a good time out here. Don't worry about that other stuff. It barely matters at all."
He restricted himself from having another panic attack, and just took a deep breath to diffuse the situation for a while. "I just think that you deserve to be happy, Ethan. Everything about you is like...angelic. I can't help but feel like my messed up life is going to taint that somehow."
"It won't, ok? Promise. You're the one thing that gave my life some meaning. Some direction. If you had any idea how much you mean to me, or how my heart beats all out of control whenever I see you, or how crazy it makes me to try to go to sleep at night while wondering what you're doing somewhere on the other side of town...you'd know that I don't have a single regret when it comes to being your boyfriend. You'd know that I'm totally dedicated to making you happy to. You'll just have to believe me on this."
Sniffling a bit, Drew lowered his head so that I couldn't see his eyes. Then he tried to brush off the sentiment by saying, "You just want my booty. That's all."
"Hehehe...well, I'm not going to lie and deny that part of it! That's definitely a bonus for me!" I said, and felt his slim frame jiggle as he giggled to himself and leaned back over to rest his head on my chest.
"Hehehe, you're so naughty..." He said.
"No. Naughty would be asking you to put on the suit and make-up from when you dressed up as a clown. Now THAT would be hot!" Drew gasped, and then laughed out loud, giving me another swat on the arm. "Do you still have it in your mom's basement somewhere? I always wanted to bang a clown. Maybe we can get some whipped cream involved...?"
"STOP!!!" He insisted, trying his best not to burst out into a fit of laughter himself. "You were supposed to forget about that picture! We will never talk about that again. Never."
"Awwww, but you were so adorable, though!"
"Hush up! I was not adorable! I was being a geek! Hehehe!"
"C'mon...you've got to give me something to tease you about every now and then." I said.
Blushing ferociously, Drew mumbled, "I'm sure you've got plenty of reasons to laugh at me whenever you want to."
But I lifted his chin, and pushed a few of his silken curls out of his eyes, telling him..."Nope. I'm pretty sure that everything else about you is one hundred percent perfect. I wouldn't change a thing." I could see Drew melt instantly, and his eyes watered up enough for the afternoon sunlight to cause them to sparkle with a stunning beauty that simply left me speechless for a few seconds. "I'm gonna say it. You ready?" With only a brief hesitation, Drew nodded gently. "I love you, Drew. With my whole heart...I love you."
Drew's eyes playfully rolled back in his head, and he pretended to faint and fall back in the grass after hearing the words out loud. "I swear, Ethan...nobody could ever make those three words sound better than you do."
"Not even Patrick?" I teased.
"Well...let's not get ahead of ourselves, here..." He replied, and I immediately lunged forward to tickle Drew's ribs and watched him squirm and laugh for a minute before kissing him on his beautiful face and giving him a chance to breathe again. "I love you too, Ethan. I really do. Cool?"
And I felt safe just leaving it at that. What a wonderful world, am I right?