We were running on a mutual four hours of sleep, figuratively shot after prom festivities. We drove to Panera and indulged in sub par breakfasting for an extended period. We left. I was driving through a nearby neighborhood on the way to her house when she abruptly asked, “Wanna know something you can’t tell anyone?” And proceeded to reveal to me her year-long crush on her close friend. But the way she described it was so familiar — it reminded me of myself and I discreetly began shaking. I kept my mouth shut to avoid my voice giving me away. “Wanna go do something?” she asked, trying to stray away from the inevitable ride home coupled with procrastination pressures looming through the rest of the day. “Ok,” I tried to stay composed, but my voice felt so vulnerable, and my fingers so out of my control. I have to tell her, I thought. I needed to stop the car. I was about to explode. My heart was pounding on my head. I drove into the school parking lot and slowed down, then realizing I couldn’t make my voice work, driving on. Meanwhile: “Oh, okay, you wanna go to the school?…Wait, are we going in?” Eventually we decided on a nearby park. We walked the path, and I bit the sleeves of my sweatshirt in hungry anticipation, trying to stay on the topic of crushes and dating, trying to make it easier for me whenever I was ready to spill. She detailed her crush, her feelings, emotions. We stayed in the park for a long time. Eventually, “We should go, I need to be home by 2:00,” I said. As we walked back to my car, she confessed her current feelings for our friend.
We spent the car ride discussing sexuality…not of mine or hers, but of people we know. I explained a crush I used to have — on a boy, surprisingly — but that it was weird, that he is often thought to be gay, confusing. Silence…As we made the turn onto the street preceding hers, I asked, tensely, “Wanna know who I had a huge crush on last year?” I figured I’d introduce it the same way as she did. My body was numb and throbbing. Turn right. I pulled against the curb and shifted to Park, well aware that operating a moving vehicle with that emotional stability was unsafe not only to me and her, but to everyone.
“Who who who?”
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I said, “You won’t understand until I tell you.” My hands were experiencing an earthquake of their own. My eyes searched.
She started to sense my desperation. “If you need time –”
“– No, no,” I explained, “Now I have to say it.” It wasn’t that I felt obliged, it was that I needed some sort of reinforcement.
I covered my nose with my hands to try to steady them. They gave me away. I looked at her with wide eyes. I thought of all the words to say, all the ways to explain this one thing. Then all of a sudden, a tear. Fast and hot. Then my hand went to my head, trying for control. Then I was sobbing.
“It’s okay! You don’t have to tell me.” But we both knew she knew. And then I was really crying. I don’t know what I was expecting, for this inevitable and eventual moment. I expected to be more capable of speech. But the knot in my throat was enormous.
She knew exactly what to say. She embraced me at the right moments. I kept glancing, trying to summon up any bits of words, but I was left basically gasping for air. “I think I know,” she said, saving me for impossible words, before pulling away. I just looked her in the eyes and nodded. And then she said exactly what needed to be heard: “This doesn’t change anything.”
I pulled myself together enough to put the car in Drive and continue toward her house. “We can keep driving if you wanna talk.” We traced a few streets in the neighborhood and then followed to the park where we took prom photos about 20 hours prior. We watched little kids flying kites. It induced a kind of reality-check and nostalgia.
We talked about the important things. The things I had only swirled around in my head. The things I knew were real but needed to believe: The girl I used to like, the hints I dropped, the ways I knew, who else I could tell. There really are a lot of great, supportive people I can tell, just as she convinced me.
She talked about how it’s dumb that we’re forced to label our sexualities. Why not just go with the flow and choose anyone we fall in love with? She said society is awful with its laws about gays.
“If you ever wanna talk about girls…I can try to relate?” I laughed, refreshingly. She left me on the best note: “This is just one more thing I know about you. Nothing’s changed.”
She left me on the best note. “This is just one more thing I know about you.”
–April 27, 2014