It's a surreal feeling of comfort. Just...being able to share a few quiet moments with somebody you love. Our eyes connect, and we smile...but there's no immediate obligation to disturb the silence with small talk or spontaneous babbling about nothing. The smile and the eye contact is enough. Sharing moments like this with Ryan...it always makes me feel like all of this is too good to be true. Like...I'm going to suddenly trip myself up and lose it all. But all it takes is one of Ryan's breathtaking grins to set me at ease. Or that 'look'. That same heartbreaking look that he gave me that day before kissing me for the first time. Who could have predicted that we'd come this far? I can't imagine what I could have done to gotten so lucky.
There were some kids playing on the beach, some of them dashing their way towards the water to splash around for a bit. Their joyous laughter was the only thing that jolted me out of my trance. I didn't realize how intensely I was staring at Ryan until he began to blush, lowering his eyes as he grinned sweetly to himself. Watching the kids in the water, I felt this moment wash over me...warming me up, inside and out...and I leaned my head on Ryan's shoulder, feeling his head lean on top of mine too, gripping my hand tighter. Then he sighed, and he said, "This is nice, isn't it?"
"It feels right." I replied.
"Yeah. It does." He turned to kiss the top of my forehead, and then went back to leaning on me. "I know how you feel about being all 'out in the open' like this, but...can we just enjoy this for a little bit longer? I'm super comfortable right now. Hehehe!"
I didn't exactly cringe from the comment, but I did realize that I've been a bit of a problem child when it came to having my gay feelings broadcasted out to the rest of the world around us. I really didn't mean to be difficult, I just don't think that I was ready to face down the attention it got from other people. The stares. The whispers. The rumors. The inappropriate questions. Maybe it's all in my head, but I felt like being openly gay would come with so much unnecessary clutter and noise. The truth is...I didn't want to deal with the rest of the world's opinion on who I am. I just wanted Ryan. All I ever wanted was Ryan.
"I'm sorry..." I mumbled softly. "...I guess I can be a bit of a pest when it comes to this stuff, huh?"
"Shhhh….that's not what meant."
"It's not like I'm ashamed or anything, ok? I'm just..."
Ryan lifted his head and turned me to look him in the eye. "Randy...it's cool. It takes time. I get it."
"I feel like I'm weighing you do by not having the guts to just...relax. You're right. This IS super comfortable. It should be like this all the time. And everywhere we go. You deserve that. You deserve it all." I said, giving him a brief kiss. "Honestly, I should just bite the bullet and tell my mom already. I mean, to be honest, I'm just a few semesters away from having her ask me why I never bring a girl home, and why you and I are so much closer than your average 'best buddy' duo."
Ryan smiled. "Randy, if you decide to come out to your mom, then great. Go for it. But do it for you, ok? Not for me. I'll wait forever if that's what it takes." Then he giggled, "Besides...I brought a girl home to my dad, and I'm no less gay than I was the day I fell for you. Hehehe, so much for the girlfriend theory."
"Yeah, well, your dad probably appreciates the attempt, I'm sure."
"My dad is pretty awesome, as far as dad's go." He said.
"I'm afraid I don't have a good role model to compare him to." I said. Did that sound sad? I didn't mean for that to sound so sad.
Ryan put his hand on my bare shoulder, and said, "Sorry. Sometimes I forget."
I tried to strategically steer my way out of going down that rabbit hole. The LAST place that memories of my asshole father belongs is during a quiet day on the beach with my boyfriend. It takes a lot of time and energy to suppress the pain of knowing that he's still out there somewhere...still not giving a shit about my mom and me. Still avoiding the guilt and the shame of what he put us through. And yet...what hurts most of all...is that he's probably more comfortable with being who he really is inside than I am. What are the odds?
"It's ok. Sometimes I forget too. Deliberately." I said. Switch subjects, Randy. Get away from this topic altogether. "You know...that night that you and I kissed outside of the restaurant? When Hailey may or may not have seen us?" He nodded, and I said, "Do you think she told anybody?"
"I don't think I really care." He smirked.
"She saw us holding hands at the carnival too, you know?"
"Hehehe! I care even less."
"Ryan, c'mon...I'm being serious." I said.
"So am I." He said. "Honestly...what is she gonna do? Alert the media? Who cares?"
"I don't get how this is so easy for you. How can you, like...not think about this stuff?"
"It's not that I don't think about it. I mean, I don't want our private paradise interrupted by nosy neighbors any more than you do. But...eventually, I'm going to have to make a choice. Hide from the whole world and get buried under secrets and lies and hidden rendezvous with the sexiest boy in town…or watch the waves of the lake roll in while holding my boyfriend's hand...the rest of the world be damned." He said. "I choose you."
I kissed his lips before I even remembered that we were on a public beach. It was just...automatic, you know? Wow.
For that one spontaneous moment...I really didn't care. I didn't even notice the rest of the beach while my lips were touching his. An intimate contact that came so natural, and so free...that my my brain didn't have time to process the potential danger of it all.
It was then that we saw the small children who were playing in the water just a few minutes ago looking down at us, giggling to themselves. Quiet snickers at first, then a bit louder once they realize that they had been caught watching us. Ryan began giggling too...and Ryan's giggles are so contagious.
The kids ran off to go back to their picnic table with their parents, and I turned bright red as I said, "I guess we're still a bit of an oddity out here, whether we like it or not. Hehehe!"
He smiled at me, kissing me on the cheek. "As long we're together, I think we can handle a few giggles from kids on the beach, don't ya think?"
"Yeah. I do." I said, peering into those hazel pools of his, a few rays of sunshine turning them a bright green right in front of me. "I choose you too."
He sighed, "I love you."
"I love you more."
We enjoyed a shared smile, and Ryan said, "You know...despite the unfortunate garbage you had to live with, growing up...you still came out on the other side of it, and you still stayed beautiful. Being able to go through all of that and managing to keep your heart afterward? That takes strength." He lifted my had to kiss the back of it. "I think you've got more courage than you give yourself credit for."
"Somehow, I doubt that."
"You're a little biased in you judgement, don't ya think?" I grinned.
"You know, I was talking to Sean about when he first came out to his friends and family..."
My grin faded slightly. "Sean..." I sighed.
"I know, I know, but hear me out here." He told me. "Sean said that it's easy to convince yourself that the whole world is watching you. That they're curious about what you're doing, and who's hand you're holding, and what you had for lunch that day. But, most of the time, they're not as invested as you think. He says that you can't allow them to feel like an extension of who you are as a person. That's not the role that they're supposed to play in your life. You just have to let people be people. Completely separate. They've got their lives, and you've got yours. That's all there is to it."
"I try. I really do. It's just..." I felt embarrassed to say it, but I said it anyway. "...I can't help but think that everybody is just waiting for a reason to disapprove of me in some way. To reject me, or gossip about me, or do something to ruin something that makes me so infinitely empty."
"Then it's them who aren't happy." He replied. "And they never will be. Not as long as they're exhausting themselves trying to fix your life instead of their own."
"I know, it's just..." But Ryan stopped me from struggling to find another excuse.
"Listen, I won't sit here and tell you that there won't be assholes out there who don't get it. And I won't pretend that everybody will be willing to give us the space and privacy that we deserve. But...I'm being totally honest with you when I say that none of that is your problem. None of it. Their misunderstandings and judgements...they're not for you to embrace, deny, or even work to ignore. It just is what it is, and that's all. Nothing more."
"You're right. I know you're right. I feel bad for making this so difficult for us. But I'll gt better. I promise, ok?"
"It takes time. It takes some practice getting use to, also. But I know you're on the right path. And just being out here with you today is proof of that. So don't feel bad. I'm proud of you." He grinned, and I kissed him on the cheek. Maybe this really does get easier with practice. Then again, wanting to kiss that pretty face is too addictive for me to claim much credit for my display of courage. It's actually harder not to kiss a boy that undeniably hot.
"Hehehe! Look at my sweetie...giving me knowledge and wisdom from the Book of Sean." I giggled. Ryan laughed along with me, but after a few seconds, he got this look in his eye, and he ran his fingers through my hair. "Say...I've got an idea. Why don't you come over tonight?"
"Sounds sexy." I grinned. "What's going on? Is your dad working late tonight or something? How'd he get to work when you have the car?"
"My dad isn't working tonight." He said. "I was thinking maybe you and I can have a home cooked meal."
"Hehehe, can you cook?"
"No...but my dad can."
I don't know why my brain wasn't fully processing what was happening at that moment, but I was quiet for a moment, giving him a serious sideways glance. "Wait...I don't get it. Are...are you inviting me to, like...dinner dinner? With you're DAD?"
"Sure! Why not? My dad's not a gourmet chef or anything, but I'm sure he can whip up something edible for the three of us on short notice."
I blushed, "Ryan...dude...I don't know about all that."
"Why not?" He smirked. "Look, you need to be in the presence of a positive father figure type, and I need an honest date for the evening. I think it would be fun."
I squirmed and stuttered at the thought of it, but I was really trying to accept the invitation without my body immediately going into 'panic' mode. "I don't know. I mean, what would I tell my mom?"
"Hehehe, you'd tell her you're coming to my house for dinner. What else would you tell her? It's not like she knows anything, right?"
"Oh. Right." I said. "Sorry. It's a paranoia that's kinda hard to shake sometimes." I wrinkled my brow and asked again, "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"
"Of course I am. Come over. We'll all sit down and have dinner. That's it. It's hardly anything for your mom to be suspicious about." He said. "I mean, it's not like I'm inviting you over for a gay orgy or anything."
"I don't know...your dad is kinda hot, to be honest."
Ryan giggled, "Don't make me smack you!"
Just to triple check, I asked him, "You're absolutely sure that this is a good idea?" He seemed confused by my need for reassurance, and I bashfully told him, "It's just...I always had this feeling that your dad hated me."
"My dad's not allowed to hate you. Anymore than he's allowed to hate me. You're my soul mate, Randy. That pretty much makes us a package deal. Take it or leave it." With that, Ryan stood up and brushed some of the beach sand off of his pants and slung his shirt over his shoulder instead of putting it back on. Then he offered me a hand to help me up as well, giving me a sweet kiss on the lips once I was on my feet again. "It's settled, then. You're coming over and having dinner with me and my dad tonight, and maybe staying for a movie afterwards or something." Still shaking a little while trying to build up the nerve to say yes, I felt Ryan's arm snake its way around my shoulders as we started our way back to the car. "Don't worry so much. My dad already knows that I'm gay. He already knows you'regay. And he already knows that we're a couple. So...no need for secrets or complicated lies where we have to keep our facts straight. No big confessions or announcements. Just dinner."
"An awkward dinner." I smirked.
"The more awkward, the better, in my opinion." He teased. "You said that you were worried about 'out', and I said it takes some getting used to. You might as well start somewhere, right? Come over. Try to experience what it feels like to be yourself without the worry. Better to have dinner with me and my dad instead of kissing in front of a bunch of giggling tween strangers on the beach." Then he added, "Besides...if little Ariel can overcome his terror in the face of grace and glory of THE Tyler Jordan...having dinner with me and my dad should be a breeze for you!"
I laughed to myself. "You really should have seen the way that boy jumped on Tyler when he rushed in there. Ariel must REALLY be getting his mind blown this week."
"I don't know who to be more jealous of. If I didn't have you, Randy, I'd be so miserable over those two being together. Hahaha!"
"Lucky for you...you DO have me. All I can give." I said, and he kissed me again before we got in the car.
The nervous trembles in my stomach didn't necessarily go away on the ride home, but the determination to give this whole dinner thing a try was growing in intensity. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But how bad could it be? I mean, it's not like I was going to make out with him at the dinner table, or rush upstairs to start banging his headboard against the wall while his father curls up in the fetal position and tries to block out the offensive cries of two boys having the sex of their lives just above his head. Like he said...it's just a meal. Just the three of us...at a table...trying to find the guts to make eye contact while we talk about...whatever.
That's simple enough, right?
God...I wish my stomach could settle itself.
Ryan dropped me off at my driveway, and we shared a brief kiss on the lips. Ok, so I'll clear things with my dad, we'll figure something out, and then just come over. K? Dinner is at 6:30 sharp. Don't be late!"
"Is your dad one of those punctuality people?" I asked.
"Not really. But he can be a dinner Nazi when it comes to having guests eat stuff piping hot out of the oven or the stove or whatever. If you do so much as let one of the dinner rolls get cold, I'll never hear the end of it."
"Hehehe...m'kay. I'll be there." I said.
"6:30 sharp. Earlier, even. Promise."
"Love you, babe."
"Love you too, Ryan." You have no idea how good it feels for me to be able to say that out loud in front of my house. Just...out on a neighborhood street. I don't know what's wrong with me. It feels so natural and so true to who I am...but for some reason, it's really hard for me to get rid of this notion that what anybody else feels about something that was just meant to be shard between me and Ryan actually matters. Where is the break in my logic? Why won't my heart push its way past this silly fear and take the leap of faith, when Ryan has done sooooo much to prove that he's not only worth it...but he'd never let me fall. Not ever.
So...dinner. Yeah. I can do dinner. We did it at a restaurant, right? And we did it at the carnival. Hell, Ryan shouted out that we had been fucking each other all night to a couple of strangers when we were coming out of a hotel room! Hahaha!
Yeah...I think I can do dinner. Piece of cake.