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    Ethan
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Noah and Jordan - 29. Chapter Twenty-Nine

Please note the time changes in the beginning half of this chapter.

*** NOAH ***

——— End of April ——

I stare at him from the doorway, my eyes fixed on the man I’ve been so desperate to see. He doesn’t realize I’m here; he has his back to me. Even though I can’t see his face, can’t read his expression, I know how he feels.

“Goodbye, Noah,” he says out loud.

I’m not ready to let him go.

“Hi, Jordan.”

My voice startles him. He turns around quickly. “Noah …”

It only takes one look at his face to realize just how much I’ve missed him. The way he looks at me with those soft blue eyes, or the way his lips slightly curl, or the way he tilts his head to the side and brushes his hair off of his forehead. It only takes once glance for my heart to start beating faster, to make my palms sweaty, my lips dry.

“Hey,” I say rather softly.

“Hi.”

“How are you?” I ask cautiously. All I want to do is run to him, wrap my arms around him.

“I’m okay … I’m just a bit surprised to see you here. How are you?”

How am I? I … I don’t know. I thought I knew. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I could walk away from him and eventually be somewhat okay. But it’s barely been a few weeks and already my life is starting to fall apart without him.

“I’ve um … I’ve been better,” I say.

He looks beautiful. The way his hair falls across his forehead. The way his eyes glisten in the light. The way he is dressed. His outfit looks new. It’s a bit different than what he usually wears. The shirt and pants fit him perfectly, snug against his lean body. He looks smart and sexy. He looks simply irresistible.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you came … for leaving … that wasn’t right …” I say.

No, it wasn’t. But you’re here now.”

I’m here now.

——— Early May ——

Dark grey, ominous clouds greet me as I step off of the plane. Fitting, I guess. They’re a symbol of how I feel inside as I return to my parents home. Of course, Mother Nature isn’t done with me just yet. She is an evil one. She waits until I am just outside to unleash her fury. Buckets of rain descend from the sky, soaking me thoroughly. Dripping wet, I enter the house.

“Noah, welcome home!” My mom says. “You’re drenched!”

Even though Im soaking her floor my mom is thrilled to see me. I’m home earlier than expected. My original plan was to stay at school a little while longer and then come in the middle of the month for a short visit. But thats no longer the case. Here I am on May 1st. I came almost as soon as my exams ended. I had to come. I need to be here.

“How was your flight?” my mom asks after I’ve changed into dry clothes. Like usual, she is cooking up a feast. Every time I come home she makes all of my favourites. She spends about two days in the kitchen preparing. Its really sweet of her. But theres a lot of food and there are only three of us!

“It was fine. I thought we would be delayed because of the weather, but we landed on time.”

“It’s been raining like this all week. They said on the news it’s going to continue for a few days. How did your last exam go?”

“It went well. I think I did okay. Our marks come out at the end of the month.”

It didn’t go well, like all of my exams. I just couldn’t focus. I can rule out getting any As this year. I’ll be happy if I manage a couple of Bs. Never in my life have I gotten just Bs.

“I’m sure you did well. And how’s Jenn doing? Where in Europe is she now?”

I speak to my mom semi-regularly so shes up-to-date on whats going on in my life.

“She’s still in London. She sent me a bunch of pictures this morning.”

I take out my phone and show a few to my mom. She starts to scroll rather rapidly. I have to take the phone away quickly. There are photos of Jordan and me on here too. I don’t want her to see those.

“It looks like shes having a wonderful time,” my mom says.

“She is.”

I wish I were in Europe. Unfortunately, my parents don’t travel much. My mom loves to, but my dad doesn’t. He likes to go nowhere. The end of the driveway is an adventure for him.

The doorbell rings as I’m catching up with my mom.

“Can you grab that?” she asks.

“Sure.”

I open the door to find my brother and his family.

“Uncle Noah!” my little nephew says to me as he grabs onto my leg.

“Hey there, little guy!” I say picking him up. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Welcome home!”

“Thank you!”

“Hey, Noah,” my brother says as he carries in a bunch of bags.

“Hey. I thought you guys weren’t coming down this weekend?” I spoke to my brother earlier this week. He lives about two hours away. He said they were busy with some family stuff.

“We thought we’d surprise you,” he says.

“It’s a fantastic surprise. It’s so good to see you all!”

I haven’t seen my brother and his family since Christmas. Usually when the kids see me after a long time they cling to me, and tonight is no different. They want to show me their toys, and tell me what they’ve been up to. I don’t mind one bit. Theyre great kids. And they’ve grown so much in such a short time!

The rest of the night goes by in a blur. We have a great dinner, and I spend the night talking to my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I also spend time with the kids. Mostly we build stuff with all the Lego I bought them, and the ones I still have from when I was a child. The nice thing about being an uncle, you get to spoil the young ones without having to live with the consequences!

It’s good to be home.


*** JORDAN ***

—— Early May ———

A warm breeze ruffles through my hair as my car speeds down the highway. It’s a spectacularly beautiful day. The sun is out, the birds are back, the trees are in full blossom. Spring is finally here. The radio is on full blast, drowning out my horrible singing. I’m not ashamed to say this - I’m singing a Taylor Swift song out loud. I can’t help myself, it’s catchy!

While I’m in a good mood, I’m also sad. I’m on my way to the airport to drop off Aiden. He’s going back to Australia for school. It was great having him here the last four months. I know I was originally petrified that he would be in town, but in the end, I’m glad he was here. I don’t know what I would have done without him. He was there for me when I needed him most.

“You really shouldn’t sing,” Aiden says to me.

“I have a beautiful voice, thank you very much.”

“Listening to you should be classified as a form of torture. And why are we listening to Taylor Swift!” He moves his hand towards the radio to change the station.

“Hey, I like this song, leave it.” I smack his hand away.

“You’ve gone completely mad.”

“I’ve always been crazy; you just didn’t realize it until now,” I say.

“It’s good to see you in such good spirits,” he says.

“Why shouldn’t I be? It’s a beautiful day and I’m finally getting rid of you. Life’s good,” I say with a big grin.

My phone beeps several times.

“Who’s messaging you so much?”

“Oh, probably just Jenn sending me more pictures from Europe.” I’ve already gotten a number of pictures of her in London, at Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster, her doing funny poses with every single (I think) wax statue at Madam Tussauds. It seems like she is having a great time. My response to every single picture is ‘I hate you.’ Part of me actually means it. When my phone stops buzzing Aiden’s starts beeping. “And who is that messaging you now?”

“You’re not the only one getting messages from abroad.”

“Ah, you two have been texting, eh? Is there something you finally want to tell me?”

“It’s actually the airline sending out a flight reminder, smart ass.”

“Oh.”

“Feel dumb now?” he asks with a smile.

“No.” I sort of do.

“I haven’t spoken to Jenn since we left the city. As I’ve told you before, there is nothing going on!

Yeah, because you’re an idiot!

Whatever. So, when are you going to come visit me in Australia?” he asks.

“When the flight isn’t so goddamn long! 30 hours. No way man. I love you and all, but not that much.”

“Aw, do you have a man crush on me?”

“Yes Aiden, I’m deeply in love with you,” I say sarcastically.

“You wouldn’t be the first.”

I laugh. “Arrogant much?”

“Not enough actually.”

“Now who’s crazy?”

“Still you, buddy, still you,” he says as we pull up to the drop-off area.

“Alright, here we are my friend.”

“Here we are. Thanks for the ride.”

“No worries. Sorry, I can’t come in,” I say. I have to get to work!

“It’s totally fine. It was really great hanging out with you again. I’m sorry it all … you know.”

“I know,” I say.

“Stay in touch. I mean it! I’m only a text or a phone call away.”

“I will,” I reply. “And thanks for everything these past few weeks. I’m glad you were here.”

“You’re a good guy, Jordan,” he says all serious. “You’ll be okay.”

“Don’t get all sappy on me now!”

“I won’t. Take care, man.”

You too. Message me when you land. Have a safe flight.”

He gives me a hug and walks away. But as he starts to leave, I yell at him to stop. “Wait! I forgot to tell you something really important,” I say with a serious face.

“What?” he says as he comes back.

Just that … the players gonna play, play, play, play, play --”

“You are totally crazy. Bye, Jordan!”

“And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. I shake it off. I shake it off!

Yeah, he’s long gone.


——— End of April ———

“How are you?” Noah asks as we stand in what is now only his apartment.

How am I? How does he think I am? He ripped out my heart and tore it to pieces. Then he runs away the night I come to get my stuff, even though it was his idea for us to live together. How is all of that supposed to make me feel? Good inside? But the funny thing is, despite all that, I’m not angry. I’m ok. I’ve gotten past all that. I feel like I am at a place where I can finally move on. And it is good to see him again.

“I’m okay … I’m just a bit surprised to see you here. How are you?”

He looks different. He doesn’t have that spark in him. It’s as if someone has literally drained the energy right out of him.

“I’ve … um … I’ve been better,” he says. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you came … for leaving … that wasn’t right …”

Vulnerability, I can see it in his face. But I don’t know what it means. Why is he here? Is it because he knows he’s wrong? Has he finally realized his mistake? I can’t tell. His eyes are clouded. There is so much torment in them that … I actually feel sorry for him. Part of me wants to hug him, hold him close and just comfort him. But that’s not my job anymore.

No, it wasn’t. But you’re here now,” I say.

“I can’t say this has been easy.”

It hasn’t,” I say. It’s been torturous!

I miss lying beside him in bed, talking to him, teasing him. I’ve missed the small things, his little quirks. I just miss being around him and the feeling I still get when he’s with me. That feeling that is burning inside of me right now.

“I’ve made such a mess of everything, he says.

It might not be too late to fix it all,” I say.

 

*** NOAH ***

——— Mid May ———

I feel like my back is going to break. But I don’t stop. I continue to lug bag after bag of heavy soil to the waiting car. For the past few years, I’ve worked at a local garden centre near my parent’s home during the summer. It's not one of those big box stores. It’s a small shop owned by this older lady. She’s really nice. Before I would just pick up a few hours to make some spending money. Now, I’m working all the time. I want to save as much as I can just in case my parents act on their threat and cut me off financially.

I’m actually also looking for a second job, somewhere I can work a couple of nights a week. Besides, it’s not like I have much else to do. When I’m not at work, I’m at home. I often just spend hours on my computer, watching Netflix, reading the news, or just wasting time. I’ve gone out like once or twice. I know a few people in the city, but to be honest, I’ve lost touch with most of the people I went to high school with. I only talk to a few people. Normally, I’d talk to Jenn. But shes still traveling in Europe. And because of the time zones we only exchange a few messages here and there.

“Hey, sorry, do you have any …”

I turn around to find a strikingly beautiful man. He’s probably a couple of years older than I am. Fuck, he’s good looking. Shit, don’t stare you idiot!

“Um, yeah … I’ll show you … um … it’s right over here …” I say.

“Thanks, man,” he says with a smile.

“No worries,” I say lowering my head and scurrying off. I’d rather not stay close to him. He reminds me of … and there it is. Crap. Not that I ever really forget.

When I get home, to take my mind off of my crappy day, I call my brother.

“So, any plans tonight? Or are you going to stay in again on a Friday night?” he asks.

“Nah, nothing really. Probably just watch something on Netflix,” I say.

“Maybe you do need mom to set you up on a date!” he laughs.

“Ha, ha. Funny.”

“Has she tried again?” he asks.

“No. I think she learned her lesson.”

“Has she brought up your dating life?”

“Surprisingly, no. But I’m sure she will.”

“Yep. Don’t worry. You’re young and half-decent looking; you’ll find someone.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“Just don’t wait too long. Mom’s already getting your wedding invitations ready,” he laughs.

“Ugh. Who gets married in their early 20s? Well, besides you.”

“I know it’s not that common anymore. I’m happy. This is the life I wanted. But I know not everyone is the same.”

“Can you please tell Mom that?”

“She isn’t going to listen to me.”

“She might, you’re the perfect son,” I reply.

“I’m the son who moved away with her grandchildren. Trust me, I still get that lecture all the time.”

“I know they care a lot, but sometimes I feel like they apply too much pressure. I wonder if they will ever accept the decisions I make.”

“They’re hard on you because they love you, and they want you to be happy, that’s all. If you find a girl in two or three years from now and get married, they will be fine. They may bug you a bit about it, but that’s just because of who they are.”

I know it doesn’t make sense, but I brought all this up because I’m hoping he can reassure me in some way that our parents have the ability in them to change, that they can one day love me, no matter what path I choose.

“Sometimes I think I should just tell Mom I’m gay, have a boyfriend, and am moving to Europe to study history full time. It may just be easier,” I say as a joke just to see his reaction.

“Um, have you not met our mother? I don’t think that would be easier. Mom would freak out. She would probably have a dramatic meltdown, and then try to do some weird magic on you. I wouldn’t even ever say that to her as a joke,” he says.

“Yeah, I know … did I tell you about what she did when she came to visit me?”

“No. What did she do?” he asks.

I tell him about meeting ‘gay’ Aiden, and the walk through the gay village. “It was really disappointing to see how backwards her views are.”

“You’re surprised? Mom and Dad grew up in a different time, in a different world. They don’t see it the way it is now. Though, maybe things have gone too far now too. But men marry women. Period. That’s it. They won’t ever change. Anyway, that’s irrelevant to you. I don’t think you have to worry about getting banished … at least not yet,” he says with a joke at the end.

What does he mean maybe things have gone too far now? And if he only knew how relevant this is all to me ...

——— Mid April ———

“I’ve made such a mess of everything,” I say to Jordan.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to end it, say goodbye and never see him again. I was supposed to be okay with that. It was supposed to be like ripping of a bandage. Sure, it would hurt at first, but then it would go away. That’s what Sebastian said to me. But it’s not like that at all. It’s more like a stab wound to the heart. The pain is immense at the beginning, and it just keeps bleeding, and bleeding. The pain doesn’t go away. It stays with you. It makes you numb inside, weak, lifeless.

“It might not be too late to fix it all,” he says.

“I know and that’s why I came back.

I’ve been thinking that myself these last few days, these last few hours. I still have time to fix this. He’s not gone yet. I can still have him in my life. I think he would forgive me for causing him so much pain.

“I’m hoping that maybe we can …” I start to say.

“We can what?” I can tell Jordan is starting to get annoyed.

“Go back to the way things were before …”

 

*** JORDAN ***

——— Mid May ———

“You’ve made a lot of progress,” my mom says as we stand in the backyard.

“Yeah, I think it’s really coming along.”

For the past few weeks I’ve been building a deck. I’m not the best handyman, but I know my way around tools. I always said I’d get to it, but I never did. I figure now that I have some time, I might as well get it done. Not that I have that much time. Between this, my two jobs, working out at home (my attempt to save money), my hands are full. Truth be told, it’s good being busy. I find it keeps me focused, and my mind doesn’t start to wander, and to think about other things. Not that I’m ever going to forget any of that. Anyway, I mostly work on the deck in the morning. For some odd reason, ever since I’ve been home, no matter when time I go to bed the night before, I wake up the next day at six in the morning. I just can’t sleep in anymore. It’s weird.

“Come, take a break, you’ve been at it all day. Dinner is almost ready.”

Today is one of those rare days where I didn’t have to go to either of my two jobs, so I spent the day in the backyard. During the weekdays, I work at a medical clinic. It’s basic paperwork and admin stuff. I figure it might help with my med school application. At night, I work at a restaurant. The tips are good and I need the money.

Now, because Im off tonight, I’m going to do something I rarely do – go out. For the past few weeks I’ve preferred the sanctuary of my own home. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything social. For a while I did when Aiden was still here. But ever since he’s been gone, I’ve mostly stayed at home. Tonight though, I’m going over to a friend’s place, someone I knew in high school. He’s throwing an end-of-school-year party.

“You made it,” Max, the host of the party, says when I arrive.

“Thanks for the invite.” I’ve known Max for a long time. He’s a good guy.

“No problem man, help yourself to whatever you want.”

There are about a dozen people here, so not a huge crowd. I know most of them pretty well. I mingle through the crowd, catching up with old friends. A number of them also moved away for school and are now back home for the summer. Some stayed and went to the local university.

“Jordan?”

I hear someone call my name. I turn around to find someone I haven’t spoken to in years. “Sophia!”

We were in a few classes together in high school. We hung out a couple of times, but were never really close friends. It was more like we had mutual friends. I think she had a friend who was Aiden’s friend, or something like that.

“How are you?” she asks.

“I’m well. It’s been a long time, how are you?

We quickly go over all of the basic questions one asks after meeting someone after a long time. How we’ve been, where we’re going to school, what we’re studying. One thing I do remember is that she was always very funny, and that hasn’t changed. She looks different too. More sophisticated and grown up I suppose. I guess moving away can do that to you. We also talk about our days in high school. I remember seeing her a fair bit until our last year.

“What happened to you in our final year? You just sort of disappeared?” I ask.

Things sort of got complicated, so I just started keeping my distance from certain people. And I was busy with school, and some clubs, you know how it is.”

Who was she keeping her distance from? Weird. I don’t ask any follow up questions. Yeah, I understand, there isn’t as much time.”

I end up spending most of the night talking to Sophia. She really is an easygoing person. It’s a fun and relaxed conversation. I don’t even notice the time go by. Around two in the morning we all decide to go home.

“Do you need a ride home?” I ask Sophia as we leave.

“No, I have a ride. It was really nice catching up with you.”

“It was nice seeing you again too.”

“We should hang out again soon,” she says. “Maybe with fewer people around. I’ll text you.”

Her statement makes me pause. She doesn’t mean as in a date, does she? I’m probably overthinking it. “Sure. Take care.”

—— Mid-April ———

“I’m hoping that maybe we can …” he starts to say.

“We can what?” I’m starting to get impatient. Hes toying with my emotions. This isn’t right.

“Go back to the way things were before …”

Does that mean what I think it does? Has he finally seen the light?

“And I know it will be difficult … but I … I don’t want to let you go. I want you to be in my life. I’m hoping that maybe … we can still be friends.”

My mouth drops in disbelief. He can’t be serious.

Sorry, did you just say you want us to be friends?”

“Yeah … I know it sounds weird —”

I start to laugh. I know this isn’t funny but I don’t know what else to do. It’s my weird defence mechanism I suppose. I’m at the point where I’m beyond being angry. I am at the stage where nothing fazes me anymore. It just washes over me. “Oh, Noah,” I say looking straight into his eyes, “we can never be friends.”

His expression changes instantly. “Oh.”

“After everything we’ve been through, how could we possibly just be friends?”

“I know it will be difficult, but we can try.”

“Difficult? It wouldn’t be difficult; it would be torture. I see the way you still look at me. Even now I can see that desire in your eyes. Nothing has changed between us. You still care for me, and I care for you too. We can’t just erase all of that and pretend like it never happened. It would drive us both crazy.”

“But I want you in my life. I can’t imagine a world where you aren’t there. These past few weeks without you have been hell. I still remember a time when we were friends and those were good times. Why can’t we go back to that?”

Look, I’m going to make this simple. There is only one way I will ever be part of your life again, and that is as your partner, nothing else. We can’t be friends. We can never just be friends. You’ll always mean more to me than just another acquaintance.” I pause. “For me, it’s all or nothing.”

I had faith in him. I thought the time apart, the torment he felt, would change his mind. But no.

So, this really is goodbye then I guess,” he says.

“It is. Goodbye, Noah.”

“Goodbye, Jordan,” he says stepping to the side.

I walk out the door and out of his life.

 

*** NOAH ***

——— End of May ———

His body is magnificent. He slowly undresses, revealing his smooth, tight skin. Those abs, they can’t be real. His hands go into his boxers. Oh, pull them off already! Slowly he does, he peels them off and throws them onto the floor, revealing his magnificent, hard, ready-to-fuck cock.

My eyes are glued to his body as he touches his dick. My hand wraps around my own penis as I slowly start to jerk it back and forth. As I watch him pick up speed, I pick up speed too. Oh, this feels so good. It doesn’t take long for me to cum. Fuck.

But the moment my orgasm subsides I feel regret. I can’t keep doing this! This isn’t right. I’ve masturbated a number of times today already. I can’t help it, I constantly feel horny. As much as I try to avoid watching gay porn, I keep gravitating back to it. I always start with straight porn sites, but my eyes just move to the man. I barely glance at the girl. Soon after, I give up and just find gay sites. Men fucking men. It’s what I want to see. But I can’t. I need to stop. This has to stop!

I grab my phone and go to the App store. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. It’s worth a try. I need to change! And so, I download Tinder. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll get rejected by every girl? Well, I have to at least try. I start to go through a bunch of profiles. A few minutes in I realize I’ve passed on every single girl. This won’t work unless I actually find a match! And so, I start to hit like, even if I don’t find the girl interesting or attractive.

Eventually, I start to get some matches. I start chatting with this one girl, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. The messages are infrequent, and then she just disappears. Whatever, she wasn’t that great. Moving on! I have to find someone. Truth be told, I’m desperate for company. For the most part, I strike out. Nothing really comes of all of my work.

That night while lying in bed, I try to picture some of the girls I saw on the app to arouse myself. There was that girl with the nice smile. Or the one with the blond hair. She was cute. Right? But instead, thoughts of Jordan fill my mind. The scent of his skin, the taste of his body. When I eventually cum, it’s to the memory of Jordan fucking me in what used to be our bed.

God, I miss him.

The next day goes much the same. I get up in the morning and my first thought is of Jordan. I go to work, I see a hot guy, and I think of Jordan. I leave work, run an errand for my parents, see the cute cashier, and I think of Jordan. I return home. Have dinner with my parents. Watch gay porn. Masturbate to the thought of Jordan. Watch TV. Read. Jerk off again. Go to bed, and fall asleep thinking of Jordan.

This has to stop. I need a task … a life.

Again, I try my luck on Tinder. But again, the day goes by with many pointless conversations; nothing really pans out. It isn’t until later in the day that I find a girl named Emma. She seems nice. We message each other back and forth most of the day.

The next day Emma messages me again. She seems to like me, and I like her too. Time to be bold. I need to make the first move. I ask her if she wants to meet tonight after work. To my surprise, she agrees! Finally! We decide to meet at a nearby coffee shop. I’m the first to arrive.

“Noah?” a girl says walking over to my table.

“That’s me,” I say with a smile as I get up. “Hey, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Emma says.

She sort of looks like her profile picture. But it seems like it was taken a while ago. She looks a bit older now and just a bit different. I’m not saying shes ugly or anything, she’s not, but the profile picture is definitely better than reality.

We talk for a while. I haven’t done this in a long time so parts of the conversation are awkward and slow. There are a few long pauses as well; good thing there are drinks to sip to fill those periods. Unfortunately, theyre non-alcoholic. Overall, we have a good time. She’s a nice, sweet girl. She doesn’t seem crazy (or at least not yet). She laughs at my pathetic jokes (I can’t tell if she actually finds me funny or is just being nice). If we were meeting as friends, we would totally get along, but as a date, my heart just isn’t into this. I force myself to laugh and smile and pretend like I care, but I don’t.

We part ways about two hours later. Much to my surprise, she texts me to say she had a good time. Perhaps I can make this work. I can. I just need to put in the effort. Emma is a great girl. She could be the one.

But that night lying in bed, again as I masturbate, my thoughts are not of Emma, but again, they are of Jordan.

 

*** JORDAN ***

“So, what do you think?” I ask my mom as we stand on the brand-new deck in our backyard. I put the finishing touches on it today while she was at work. I must say I’m quite proud of myself. It came out much better than expected.

“It looks amazing! You did a wonderful job.”

“Thank you. I was thinking now that this is done I can build a shed,” I say. I need to move onto another project.

“A shed? Why on earth do we need a shed? We have plenty of space in the garage.”

“Yeah, but then we can use it for extra storage and —”

“Jordan,” my mom says cutting me off, “I know what you’re doing.”

“What do you mean?” I ask pretending to be confused.

“You know what I mean. You’re making yourself busy with these side projects to avoid reality. Don’t get me wrong it’s great for you to do all this, it’s much better than you sitting up in your room, but this isn’t the answer. You can’t dwell on the past. You need to move on. You need to go out and meet new people. Ever since Aiden left you’ve barely gone out.”

“Mom, it’s not like that. I’m fine. I like doing this stuff. Are you saying you’re getting tired of me being at home all the time?” I ask.

Truth be told, shes right. I have busied myself with makeshift projects. I thought I was okay to put myself out there again. I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought I was ready to come out, tell the world. Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t know what to do or what I even want.

“Of course not, dear. I love having you here. But are you telling me you really want to spend the night playing scrabble with your mom again?”

“I like scrabble,” I say. I feel safe at home with her.

So do I. But it’s good to go out and hang out with people your own age too once in a while,” she says.

“I will. I promise. I actually have plans tomorrow night.”

Max, that friend who had that party a few weeks ago, invited a couple of us out to go see a movie. He invited me last week as well, but I declined. Sophia was going to be there. I did meet up with her after the party. We went to grab pizza as friends. At first, I thought she was also just being friendly, but now I’m not so sure. Here’s our conversation:

“It’s been a long time, so I guess it doesn’t matter anymore, but … I used to have a crush on you in high school,” she said to me.

“What? You’re pulling my leg,” I replied back.

“Seriously. It wasn’t head-over-heels crazy, scribbling your name in my notebook inside hearts, but I liked you.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It was a stupid high school crush, and you were seeing someone else then. That’s why I stopped hanging out with the group,” she said.

“Wait, am I the reason why you disappeared?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m so sorry,” I replied. “I had no idea.”

“Don’t be. I was a stupid teenager. And don’t worry, that was in the past and I’m over it.”

“Oh, is it because I’m older now? Age is withering away my good looks, eh?” I tried to make the mood lighter.

“Yeah, the last two years have really done a number on you. Are you seeing someone right now?” she asked.

“No … I um … I actually was. It was quite serious. We were even living together. I thought we would be together forever. But um … we broke up a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Jordan.”

“Thanks … yeah … and I’m … I’m still not sure I’m ready to get out there again.” I added that part just so she knew I wasn’t interested.

“I get that. Breakups suck. It takes time getting over someone. If you need any help forgetting her let me know.”

So yeah, what am I supposed to make of that? Innocent conversation or an offer of casual sex?

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice and would have flirted back, there wouldn’t have been an issue. But now, with everything I’ve gone through with Noah … it isn’t the same. For one, I’m not ready for a relationship; that is absolutely out of the question. But then there is the bigger question of what I even want sexually. I liked girls before, and I still find some of them attractive, but is that what I want sexually? If I’m being honest with myself, no. I don’t think so. Noah was the first guy I was with, and the experience released emotions inside of me I didn’t know existed. I mostly notice guys now. I notice their faces, their hair, their bodies. I find them attractive, many of them sexually. But I’m not ready to put myself out there again yet. Navigating all of this is what drives me crazy. That’s why I prefer to stay in the comfort of my own home.

But I can’t stay sheltered forever. The next day I decide to join Max and company at the movies. I make my way over to the counter to buy my ticket. On the other side of the booth is a guy, probably about the same age as me. He has this great smile, and freckles on his face. He is really cute. I don’t even realize I’m staring at him. It’s when he smiles back that I snap back to reality. I buy my ticket and hurry away.

But I don’t go far. I stop and glance back. I’m starting to feel a lot of sexual tension these days. I haven’t masturbated in probably a month. After my breakup I just didn’t feel like it. I had no sexual desire whatsoever. I didn’t get aroused. I stopped watching porn. Nothing excited me. But that is starting to change. Seeing that guy behind the counter did excite me. It’s taken a long time, but I finally feel like I’m starting to move on.

After I get my ticket, I join my friends. Sophia is here too. I’m a bit hesitant to see her. I just don’t know what to say or how to act around her. Much to my despair, even though I’m trying to avoid her, I end up sitting beside Sophia. She is talkative like usual. For the most part I find she is just being friendly. But again, a part of me feels there is more. Midway through the movie I feel her hand brush against my leg. I know it was probably just by accident, but I sort of jump out of my seat and spill a bunch of popcorn on myself. All of my friends stare at me for a second, laugh a bit, and then turn back to the movie. Sophia says sorry in my ear. Deliberate or an accident? I don’t know.

After the movie ends, a few of us make our way to a local bar. After we get settled, I go up to buy a drink. That’s when I notice the bartender. Just one look almost gives me a boner. He’s tall, dressed in a black t-shirt, that perfectly hugs his body. Tattoos and various bands decorate both of his exposed muscled arms. His jet-black hair is combed back and to the side. His face is perfectly covered with just the right amount of facial hair. And to top it off he has a killer smile. Fuck.

I decide to linger at the bar for a while even though I have a drink. I don’t think he minds. Rather, I think hes happy I stayed. We make small talk for a bit. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but is he being a bit flirtatious? I really hope so. Our perfect moment though is ruined when Sophia comes to find me.

“There you are,” she says, “I thought you got lost.”

“No, just getting a drink,” I say.

As we make our way back to the group, I turn back to look at him, and he smiles. Fuck. I want him. I want him so much right now. There’s no going back.

Did you see the bartender? He’s really hot! I was hoping to get his number,” I say to Sophia. Fuck it. I know what I want. And I don’t care to hide who I am anymore. I have no reason to. I’m not with Noah anymore. I can tell the world. Plus, I don’t want to give Sophia the wrong impression.

She just looks at me confused. “What?”

I think he’s just what I need to get over my former boyfriend,” I add casually.

“I didn’t realize …”

“That I’m gay? Yep.”

“Oh,” is her only response.

“I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, of course,” she says. “I didn’t know … in high school you dated …”

“Yeah, I did. But things changed. I don’t really hide it, but I don’t go around telling everyone either so …”

“I won’t say anything,” she says.

“Cool, thanks!”

The rest of the night goes smoothly. Though, Sophia is a bit quieter than usual. When I go back to the bar to get another drink, unfortunately, the hot bartender is gone. That’s too bad. I may not have gotten his number, but he did give me something else. An image. When I return home, I do something I haven’t done in a long time. I take off my pants, picture the bartender, and stroke my dick until I unleash streams of cum onto my stomach.

Fuck. That felt good.

 

*** NOAH ***

I barely say anything to Emma during dinner. I can’t stop thinking of what’s going to happen after we’re done eating. She notices my silence and asks if I’m okay. I tell her the truth, or well, part of the truth. I tell her I was in a long-term relationship that recently ended and I’m still getting over it. She tries to console me, and promises that tonight, I’ll forget all about ‘her’, as in my previous girlfriend (who was actually my boyfriend, but I don’t correct her).

She touches me softly on the leg, on the shoulder, the arm. Soon we stop talking and we kiss. We’ve kissed before, but this time it’s longer. It feels nice to have contact with another body; it’s been a long time. But Id be fooling myself to say I feel the same passion right now that I did when I kissed Jordan. This kiss is nothing compared to his lips. This kiss feels mechanical, like I’m robotically pushing myself through the motions. But I have to make this work. I start to kiss her harder, move my hands over her body, and squeeze her breast in my hand.

“Easy there,” Emma says breaking off the kiss.

“Sorry,” I say. I guess that may be too fast, or too hard.

“That’s okay,” she says with a smile. “How about we move into the bedroom?”

She leads me into this tiny room. Once there she shuts the door. We kiss once more, and while our lips are locked, she starts to try and unbutton my shirt. I guess it’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re not really looking. She eventually gets all of them unbuttoned and takes my collar and pulls my shirt off. She grabs it and flings it into a corner. Her cold hands roam my body. I know shes trying to be sensual, but that feeling isn’t there. It’s just not the same. It’s not him.

When she breaks off the kiss, she looks at me a bit confused. I guess I’m supposed to do something? But what? She smiles and moves my hands to her blouse. I guess I’m supposed to undress her too. Soon she is left just standing in her bra.

We continue to make out while slowly losing more clothes. At one point in time we are on her bed, I’m in my boxers and she’s in her bra and panties. You’d think by now I would be rock hard, but I’m not. I’m limp. She notices but doesn’t really say anything. She rubs my crotch but that doesn’t make it come alive. Shit this is embarrassing. I need to get an erection! She starts to rub my dick through my boxers. Nothing. So, I close my eyes and pretend that hand belongs to Jordan. I pretend I’m in bed with him, not a girl I barely know. That does the trick. Soon my dick comes alive. But when I open my eyes, and I see her smile, I’m hit by a sharp sense of guilty. I can’t do this. This is wrong. I feel like I’m cheating on Jordan.

I quickly get up. “I have to go,” I say to Emma.

“What?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do this.” I start to quickly grab my clothes.

I can’t really make out what she says next. There is a lot of yelling and profanity thrown my way. I guess I won’t be getting any more messages from her. I manage to get out of there with my pants on and my shirt unbuttoned. My socks and shoes are in my hands. This was a disaster.

 

*** JORDAN ***

I stand in front of the mirror for what feels like an hour. Is this okay? Or should I wear the other jeans instead? They do look better and fit better too. How about the other shirt? I can’t make up my mind. It takes me forever to get dressed. I want to look good tonight. I think it will help. I’m feeling really nervous. I don’t know why. I have nothing to be nervous about. This is normal, this is natural. This makes sense.

Here goes nothing.

I arrive at the club around midnight. It’s full of people dancing, drinking, and generally having a good time. There is of course one thing different about this club; there are mainly men here. Over the past week my sexual desire has been growing, returning to its previous level. The more I thought about it the more I realized I want to be with a man. Sophia, or other girls, don’t interest me like that anymore. That part of my life, dating women, is in the past. I yearn for a man’s touch. So, here I am at a gay club. I didn’t come here looking for anything or to find someone. I’m still not at the point where I want a relationship, but I know I need to get out of the house and explore. If one doesn’t search, then one won’t find anything.

I grab a drink and sit down on a stool at the bar. I’m usually okay with meeting new people or talking to strangers; the thought never really bothered me, but tonight I don’t have the same bravado. I’d rather melt into the background, be a fly on the wall, and absorb it all from a distance. A few guys walk by and smile. I smile back. Every so often one old creepy guy walks by very close. I’d rather he not, but I don’t say anything. Eventually I move away from the bar and find this nook and sit down. It gives me a good vantage point of the bar. A short while later these two friends come by and sit down close to me. One of them starts chatting. The two are foreigners, visiting the city from abroad. They’re really excited to be here, neither has ever visited a gay club before. Neither is out back home. Even though I’ve been to a gay club before, I feel like I can relate, a lot of this is still new to me. They ask me to join them as they explore the club. As we walk through, we see guys dancing, making out, or watching porn on television screens. Im not shocked by any of this, but the other two are fascinated.

After our short adventure we make our way back to the main bar area. The chatty one starts talking to this really hot guy. He looks my way and smiles, I smile back, but quickly avert my gaze. Of course, the old creepy guy is back and this time he’s a bit more adventurous too; he grabs my ass, and quickly moves to the next guy and grabs his butt too! We both jump out of our seats. That was gross. The guy doesn’t even seem to notice our reaction, hes gone just as quickly.

Somewhere in between drinking and talking, the two chatty friends disappear leaving me with the hot guy. He invites me to move over to his side. His name is Alejandro. He’s from Spain. That explains his hotness; how can one not be into Spanish guys! His smile is contagious. And clearly, he is flirting!

At some point, as I talk to Alejandro, the two chatty friends appear again, and say they are going to a male strip club. I’m about to say I’ll join them, but Alejandro puts a hand on my leg, and says the two of us will join them later. The touch sends a jolt through my body. It’s been a long time since I’ve been touched by another man. It also catches my attention because of what it means. Perhaps Alejandro has other plans for us tonight. I don’t know how exactly it happens or when, but at some point in time, he leans in and starts to kiss me. His soft lips on my mouth make my heart beat faster. He really is a sensual and passionate kisser. The kiss is amazing. And I know I shouldn’t go there. This isn’t helpful. But I can’t help compare it to the kisses I shared with the only other man I’ve ever been with. And nothing compares to what it felt like to kiss Noah. It’s just not the same.

“How about we take off?” Alejandro says.

“Where do you want to go?” I ask, knowing full well I know where he wants to go.

“My hotel isn’t too far from here,” he says with a grin.

That’s where I thought this was heading. As much as my body, and my dick, are screaming ‘YES, YES, HELL YES’, my mind, my stupid rational mine, is saying, ‘whoa, slow down, this is too fast’. Unfortunately, I have to listen to my brain.

“I’d love to, but I can’t, I have to go.”

“Are you sure?” he says while rubbing my leg with his hand.

“I am. I’m really sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

I say goodbye and make my way out of the club. That was an interesting night.

 

*** NOAH ***

“That sounds amazing,” I say to Jenn. “I really hate you!”

We’re talking on FaceTime. She’s telling me all about her trip to Europe. She just got back home a few days ago. It’s the first time in weeks we’ve had a proper conversation.

Honestly, you have to go to Istanbul. It was amazing,” she says.

“I want to! I thought we were going to go together?” We’re always making travel plans that never really come to fruition.

“You can go when you find someone special,” she says.

“I think that will take a while …”

Why? How are things going with Emma? Are you straight yet?”

“Funny, Jenn.” Naturally, I told her about my dating life. “Things were going well …”

“But?”

“But … we broke up … I just wasn’t …”

Into her? Gee Noah, I wonder why?” she asks sarcastically.

“We just didn’t click.

“I’m sorry, man. I know I shouldn’t give you a hard time. You know I care.”

“I know,” I say.

“Did you end up ever sleeping together?”

“Um … no. She wanted to but … I …” I don’t want to tell her that I couldn’t get an erection without thinking of Jordan. “It just didn’t feel right.”

“Because of Jordan?” she asks.

“No … no … just … too fast, I guess.”

“Look, it’s good to explore and try new things, but if you weren’t excited at the prospect of having sex with her, or any girl, then that’s a problem.”

“It’s just been a while.”

“It’s all the same, nothing’s changed, Jenn points out.

“I know that …”

“We both know what your heart really wants. How long are you going to pretend those feelings don’t exist?”

“I’ll make it work. It’ll be better with the next girl,” I say.

From the way she is looking at me, I can tell she is concerned.

“Are you happy, Noah?”

I force myself to smile. “Absolutely. I’m talking to my best friend. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”

No, I mean like actually happy on the inside.”

I can’t hold the smile. It’s hard to describe what I feel inside. Happiness, though, is not one of those feelings.

“I’ll be okay,” I say. “Anyway, tell me more about Istanbul.”

She doesn’t say anything for a while. “I’m really worried about you. You know you can talk to me about anything.”

She’s sweet. “I know.”

“So, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on, how you actually feel.”

I don’t know what to say. Do I tell her that I’m miserable? That she was right? That I regret letting go of Jordan every single day? What good will it do to tell her all of that? She can’t change the past.

“There are good days … and there are some bad days … and yeah it’s … it’s not easy but … it is what it is … and I … I … just …. I know it might not seem like it but … but I’m okay. It will just take some time to … to move on … I … I still think about him a lot … it’s not easy to forget … and … yeah … but … I have to move on … and I will … and … I know this can work … and … I just need to give it time … and that … I know that you’re there for me …. and that I can turn to you if I need your help … and I will … I will come to you if I need help.”

I can’t even form a single complete thought or sentence; my brain is that scattered.

“But say if you can’t make it work?” she asks.

“I have to. I have no choice,” I say.

“You do have a choice.”

“I … you said you’d always be there for me, right? Always support me?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then that’s what I need from you right now. For you to support me on this. I can’t … I can’t keep having this conversation with you. I just need to know I have your support.”

I can tell this is killing her, that she wants to support me, but that she disagrees with my choices. But if she truly is my friend, she needs to respect my decisions.

“Okay,” she says. “You have my support. I won’t say anything. And if there is anything I can ever do to help, you know I’ll try my best.

“I know.”

I want to ask her about Jordan. What he’s up to. Where he is. How he’s doing. I no longer follow him on social media (not that either of us ever posted much) so I have no idea what’s going on with him. It’s not like I want to know because I’m nosey. It's because I miss him. Because I care for him. Because I want to make sure hes okay. Jenn and Jordan still talk to one another. They are still friends. But they made a pact – she won’t talk to me about him, or talk to him about me. It’s for the best. And as much as I want to know about Jordan, I don’t want to put her in an awkward position and ask her to break her promise. That wouldn’t be fair. So I don’t ask.

“So, you were telling me about Istanbul,” I say changing the topic.

She stares into the camera for a second. I guess she’s thinking if she should stick with the first conversation or move on. She decides to move on. A smile spreads across her face. “Honestly, it was amazing …”

 

*** JORDAN ***

Even though I fell asleep around three in the morning, I’m up right at six. I barely had three hours of sleep yet I’m alert and ready for the day. I really need to stop waking up so early! Though, I’m glad I’m up early today. Our marks are about to come out! I log onto the computer. Come on, hurry up! I’m so impatient. It takes a few minutes to find them. But, when I do, I’m relieved. All As, and I made the honour roll. Yes!

I grab my phone and message Aiden. He’s awake, at home and free so we decide to talk on FaceTime.

“How’s it going?” Aiden says.

“It’s good, how about you. How’s life in Australia?”

“Good, good, can’t complain. It’s super early there, what are you doing up?”

“I can’t sleep past six. I know, it’s strange.”

“Well, that’s because you go to bed at nine like an old person!”

“I’ll have you know I actually went to bed at three in the morning last night.”

“Oh, and what trouble were you getting into that late at night? Downloading the latest Taylor Swift song?”

“Jokes on you, because I already have her entire album. You know what? I am going to set her song as your ringtone.”

“Do it! People will question you when it rings, not me.”

“Good point, I didn’t really think that through. Anyway, going back to your earlier question, I was up late because I went to a gay club last night.”

A huge smile spreads across his face! “Finally! How was it?”

Aiden knows all about how I’m feeling more adventurous, and how I’ve started to tell people here that I’m gay.

“It was good. I met these two friends who were from abroad, it was their first time at a gay club and they were so excited.”

“Did you meet anyone special?”

“Sort of.”

“What do you mean sort of?” he asks.

“There was this guy …”

“Ooh, what was his name?”

“Okay, stop being weird or I won’t tell you anything.”

“What’s the point if I can’t even bug you?” he says with a smile. “Fine, I’ll stop.”

“His name was Alejandro, he’s from Spain.”

“A Spanish guy, eh? Spaniards are hot.”

“They are. So yeah, we chatted for a while … and then we started to make out.”

“Look at you, kissing guys in a club. So, what happened to Alejandro?”

“He invited me back to his place and …”

“And?”

“And you really want to know?” I ask.

“Yes! Just not in detail …”

Well, nothing happened. I went home. I um … I just wasn’t ready. I know I’m a loser.”

Hey, you’re not a loser. Well, you’re a loser compared to me, but you’re not that kind of a loser.”

I just give him cut eye. “Thanks for the great pep talk!”

“Look, everything will come in due time. Baby steps, right? You went to the club in the first place and that was a big first step. You’ll get there eventually. I’m proud of you. Did you at least get his number?”

“No, there was no point, he’s going back to Spain tomorrow.”

“Ah. Well, there will be other guys,” he says.

Yeah, but … when he kissed me last night … I couldn’t help but remember what it was like with Noah … and I started to compare …”

“That’s natural. It's the only other reference that you have.”

“It is … but ... I don’t know … I just felt … it felt wrong ... like I was being unfaithful. I know that makes no sense. We broke up like two months ago … but still …”

“I get it, man, I do,” Aiden says. “But moving on does not make you a bad person.”

“I know.”

“Youll get there eventually. Meet guys, sleep around, have fun. And experiment, that’s the only way you will know what you truly want.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“I’m always right.”

“I see the arrogant side of you found its way back to Australia too.”

“Don’t hate me cause I’m awesome.”

“And you say I’m crazy!”


*** NOAH ***

I’m on the edge,
Staring into the abyss.
All I have to do is let go.
For all the pain,
The heartache,
The misery,
To disappear.
To be free.

To finally be free.

Days, weeks, months, at some point in time it all starts to blur together. One long, painful, pointless moment after the other. I thought I could do this. I thought I could be okay. I convinced myself that I could be okay. That this would work. But it’s not working. I’m just sinking deeper. Deeper into my own despair.

I tried to change myself. I tried to stop thinking of guys and focus on girls. But I failed. In both cases I failed. I still notice guys. Every time I’m out, my eyes drift towards them. And I think, I yearn to know, what it would feel like to be close again. To be loved again. Not by them. But by Jordan.

Lord knows I tried. I tried to change. I tried to date girls. I spent hours on Tinder, talking to as many girls as I could. I went to bars, clubs, on dates, but nothing. I just couldn’t make it work. There was this one girl, Olivia. She was beautiful. She was funny. She made me laugh. I thought we could be happy. That I could learn to love her not only emotionally, but sexually. But I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did with Emma. So, when she invited me over to her place one night, I thought a drink would help. It would loosen me up. Allow me to relax. But one drink didn’t help. I tried two. Then three. By the time I was at her place I was basically drunk. Watching her undress, seeing her naked, I should have been aroused. I should have taken her in my arms, kissed her, loved her. But I couldn’t. The thought of me going down on her … it was enough. Enough to make me puke. Not surprisingly, I never heard from her again.

But from that moment, I was lost. That night, I don’t know how, but somehow, drunk, I stumbled home. By the time I got back it was probably four or five in the morning. My mom was still up. She was waiting for me. I didn’t tell her I was going to be out that late. She tried to call. But I didn’t hear my phone ring. I was lost. Lost in my own despair. She was furious.

And so, after that night, I stopped. I stopped trying to be with women. Trying to me someone else. Because the more I tried, the more I started to lose myself. Lose my sanity. I was a fool to think there was some switch inside of me that I could just turn off. That magically, one day, I would be attracted to girls. That I would forget my past. But the switch doesn’t exist. I can’t just flick it all away. I can’t just wish I were different. I can’t. Because this is who I am. This is who I will always be. This is who I am meant to be.

To fill that void, to numb all the pain, I drink. That is where I find solace. But it’s always only temporary. The pain always returns. And so, I go back. Take another drink. Drown deeper into depression.

The further I fall, the more I work hard to keep up appearances. To the world, I’m happy. I smile at home, I smile at work. I’ve built up this whole façade. And to maintain this farce, I lie. I lie to everyone. I lie about where I’m going. How I feel. My grades. For the first time in my life I got a C. I failed the exam. It was the first one I took after the break up. I’m not surprised. I knew it was a disaster. I just couldn’t remember anything.

The more I lie, the more I fortify this façade, and the more I retreat into myself, the more I realize just how alone I am in this world. I’m isolated. Both physically and emotionally. I feel there is no one here I can reach out too. No one here who will understand. I know there is always Jenn. She knows I’m not okay. She doesn’t believe my lies. She’s been begging me to come visit. But I can’t. I can’t just leave my job. I need the money. I need to have a safety net. I need to be able to be on my own.

Because in the end it will only be me.

I will end up alone.

There once was someone I wanted to be with. Someone who also wanted to be with me. He was the best thing that ever happened in my life. But I chased him away. I threw him out of my life. And now he hates me. And I don’t blame him.

I often wonder what life would have been like if we stayed together. Where we would be or what we would be doing. Now, I’m just left wondering if he still even remembers me. If any of that love he once felt still resides in his heart. It probably doesn’t. He probably moved on. Found someone who truly understands just how special he is. Someone who loves him without conditions. Someone he deserves. He’s probably forgotten all about me.

All that I have left of him is the picture he gave me on Valentine’s Day. That black and white photo of us, standing together. I stare at it, as I stand close to the edge. I look at the man standing next to Jordan. I don’t recognize him. He looks happy. Content. In love.

That used to be me. But not anymore.

That Noah is long gone. All that’s left is a shell of that man.

Sometimes I wonder what keeps that shell going. Where I find the energy to take the next step. It would be so much easier to just let go. To let all the pain slip away. To let darkness consume the rest of my life. All I need to do is take one step.

But I can’t.

I can’t.

Because no matter how bad today looks, no matter how bleak life might seem, there is always tomorrow. And the possibility that tomorrow will be better.

Because there are people who love me.

There are people who care.

Jenn.

My beautiful nephews and nieces.

My family.

Jordan.

No matter how alone I feel, I’m not alone.

I am loved. I just have to remember that.

I owe it to them, to myself, to remember that.

There is always hope.

There is always hope.

I stuff the photo into my pocket and walk home.

“Your home,” my mom says when I enter the door. “Dinner is in the oven. It’ll probably be half an hour. Also, I’m going to do a load of laundry. Do you have anything you need washed?”

“Yeah, these pants. But I’ll do it later. I’m just going to go change and shower. I’ll be back in a bit.”

“I can throw them in,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll be back in a second.”

“Are you okay?” She looks concerned.

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in a bit.”

I go into my room, take off my clothes, put on a bathrobe, grab a towel, and head to the washroom. I step into the shower and under the flow of warm water. I’ve always found taking a shower therapeutic. It soothes me. It’s the little isolated place where I can be alone with my thoughts. But, like all good things, it has to come to an end eventually. I dry off and make my way back into my room to change into my pjs. I notice the clothes I threw on the floor are gone. My mom must have taken them and thrown them into the laundry.

I head downstairs to the kitchen. My parents are sitting at the table. They are eerily quiet.

“What’s up?” I ask them. This is weird.

“Sit down, Noah,” my dad says in a serious tone.

“What’s going on?” I ask again taking a seat.

“Care to explain what this is?” my mom asks.

She slides over a small paper. As it comes into view, I realize what it is. I start breathing faster. My heart starts to thump. My mouth goes dry.

On the table is the black and white picture of Jordan and me.

Looks like it is the moment of truth for Noah. What will he say? How will his parents react?

Originally, I was going to end this chapter at the part where Jordan leaves the apartment (after the friend conversation).
Since it flows nicely. But I decided to add the rest, because I felt if I just ended with no sense of where this is going, people would be rightfully angry!

 

And finally, on a serious note, I struggled with the end, and how to explain where Noah currently is, both emotionally and physically.
Which is why I left it vague, and open to interpretation.

I don't want it to seem in any sense that I am glorifying self-harm. I'm not.
I know these are thoughts and struggles some of us have -- and if you do -- please reach out and talk to someone, get help.
And I do mean it -- not just for Noah -- but for all of us. We are loved. There are people who care for us. And there is also hope that tomorrow will be better.

Copyright © 2018 Ethan; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



59 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Noah chose. He did not choose Jordan.

Now he is being confronted with a photo. He can be superficially honest about it - it was an experiment. A phase. I'm past that now. Or he can be truly honest about it: That's Jordan. He's the man I can't forget. The one I love - and the man I gave up for you.

I hope he chooses the latter honesty, the real kind. Even if he never sees Jordan again, at least Noah will be free. The other kind of honesty will enslave him.

Great chapter.

You'll find out which option he chooses in the next chapter. The question is, regardless of which he goes for, how will his parents react? 😐

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2 hours ago, mayday said:

And just in case you do not know, I hate cliffhangers. Especially good ones.

No one HATES cliffhangers -- they just might not like them 🙃

 

1 hour ago, Starrynight22 said:

Maybe Jordan should find happiness in australia. 

Australia is a remarkably beautiful country, one of my best ever vacations. If you haven't been, go! But, that said, everything is trying to kill you in Australia. Everything! 

Edited by Ethan
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I don't mean to be heartless, but I'm not sad for Noah. And if his Parents find out he is gay via this photo, that doesn't help any. I was hoping and praying he would eventually be strong enough to make the decision to do that himself. To fight for Jordan by coming out to his Mother. To fight for the life he wants. I would love to be his second best friend behind Jenn. Jenn can be the nice supportive one. I could be the straight-up bitchy one. I am glad they both couldn't have sex with other people...

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47 minutes ago, Buz said:

I don't mean to be heartless, but I'm not sad for Noah. And if his Parents find out he is gay via this photo, that doesn't help any. I was hoping and praying he would eventually be strong enough to make the decision to do that himself. To fight for Jordan by coming out to his Mother. To fight for the life he wants. 

Tough crowd! But I understand. As for the main part of your comment -- all I will say is this -- not everything is always as it appears to be on first glance. There could be other factors that motivate how a certain event transpires. Or maybe there are no other factors. Who knows. (Well, I do 😃). 

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52 minutes ago, Buz said:

I don't mean to be heartless, but I'm not sad for Noah. And if his Parents find out he is gay via this photo, that doesn't help any. I was hoping and praying he would eventually be strong enough to make the decision to do that himself. To fight for Jordan by coming out to his Mother. To fight for the life he wants. I would love to be his second best friend behind Jenn. Jenn can be the nice supportive one. I could be the straight-up bitchy one. I am glad they both couldn't have sex with other people...

Whoever would mean to be heartless? I also felt about Noah that he deserved that. That it is his own fault. That he stayed as passive as he could until discovery and catastrophe could only crash down on him. But let us be real here: Has he ever learnt to fight for himself? For what he wants and needs? Life has to smack him in his face, I am afraid. He has practically given up on himself. He is being suicidal. Your next chapter will be revealing. I do not envy you. There is no real or realistic right and wrong  in his situation... He needs his friends now. All of them. He needs whatever there is available to help him, God, angels, friends, siblings, a father and - albeit fantastically - a mother. Who will muster his troops for him?

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It's always easy to judge others from the outside. Everyone thinks they are better, that they would be different. In the actuality, however, every situation is different. We are not all the same, we do not all handle situations perfectly, nor are we all given the benefit of ideal situations in which to learn to make those "correct" decisions.

 

I think it would also be good to consider that Noah has been raised in an emotionally abusive household. Deviating was punished not just through passive aggressive anger, but also withholding of affection until he complied. Noah was conditioned to be dependent, and to crave that approval from his parents. For someone in that situation, breaking away is a very frightening concept, even if they understand that the relationship is toxic.

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Yeah, so do i. I too think that Noah is suicidal at the moment. I do hope the moment has come to put all the cards on the table, since the S#€*  hit the fan.

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I've only gleaned a fewcomments from above, but one thing I'm sure of: Noah won't come out to his parents unless forced into it--and I'll wager he denies it's morethan a casual friendship.  You don't say the photo has them kissing, or if it has anything written on the back, so can he deny it successfully?

I never officially 'came out' to my parents.  I moved away from home in '87 when my dad and I sold our house--he moved in with his girlfriend, and I with a girl I knew until I could find my own house.  Just before that, he found a letter I'd gotten from a personals ad, and didn't say much.  We had been farirly close, but once we moved, I never heard from him again, and I gave up trying after a few times.  That lasted until he died in 2001.  My mother told me around 1990 that she'd be okay with me being gay, but I was single and it didn't matter.  I held back because she didn't like my gay nephew, and I was single so it didn't matter.  Turns out she disliked him for other reasons.  She did meet the guy I would have my longest relationship with, and didn't like him on principle, so again, I kept quiet.  Still, she'd said she'd be okay, so we remained close until she died in 2007.  How she know or suspected, I never asked, but some say mom's always know...my older sisters did, and were okay about it as I found out, but they never let on until my nephew came out to me and said his mom told him I'd understand because we were alike.  :)

So, I get not coming out to parents, but then, mine weren't like Noah's--not religious--but I got support in a way from the one I thought would be hurt by it, and cut off by the one I thought would be okay.

I'm sad for Noah, but with his background, what choice has he but to deny?  He has no resources to be on his own, and no one who could provide more than emotional support right now, and that doesn't put a roof over your head.

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1 hour ago, ColumbusGuy said:

You don't say the photo has them kissing, or if it has anything written on the back, so can he deny it successfully?

This is the black-and-white Valentine's Day photo, the one that says 'Forever Yours' on the back (I should have reminded people of the phrase in this chapter. I think I mention it in the next). 

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Noah is in a bad place. I remembered that the photo was the V-Day photo with the inscription on the back. This could very well push him over the edge, entirely into the abyss -- I hope it doesn't.

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GOOD! I'm GLAD that Noah's parents found the Valentine's day picture!  The truth finally has a chance to come out (even if Noah doesn't want to come out); and I agree with @ColumbusGuy that Noah would never reveal the truth without it being dragged out of him. That said, the parents can't be oblivious to Noah's rapid decompensation, and they are probably worried sick about him:  They may even have had the time to realize that a gay son is better than a dead son, regardless of mom's thoughtless utterance in an earlier chapter. In fact, their discovery of the picture may have literally saved Noah's life:  Regardless of their ultimate decision to accept or reject him, he will now be free of the parents' expectations and can live as he sees fit.

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I'm actually glad that Noah decided not to get back together with Jordan. He should take time for himself to really understand what he wants and understand himself as a person. He should assess what's important to him in life. 

 

Noah should see a therapist. His thoughts aren't healthy and getting help to untangle himself from his toxic family/parents would be good for him too.

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I feel sorry for Noah for multiple reasons but part of me is almost happy that they found that photo. I mean yes his family is likely about to freak out on him but if they realize he’s gay then logically there’s no reason for him not be with Jordan. I was hopeful his brother would still support him if/when the fact he was gay came to light but after their conversation I sadly get the feeling he might not be as accepting as I had hoped. While Noah could “maybe” spin some story to convince them he’s straight if only because they might rather be in denial than acknowledge the fact he’s gay I have a feeling the truth is about to come out. In the end I feel that Noah doesn’t have it in him to lie anymore now that he’s confronted with the truth despite his fears as he just seems to be at his limits emotionally speaking. I could be wrong as he is terrrified of losing his family so he could still try to lie about it but I doubt they’d believe him given the evidence. In the end despite their remaining feelings for each other at this point I honestly don’t know if Jordan would take Noah back at this point and while I can empathize with Noah I wouldn’t blame Jordan if he decided to move on to someone new rather than risk being hurt by Noah again.

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I almost thought Noah would say they should be together again, but the suggestion of trying to just be friends is a typical Noah-move.

 

Reading this chapter hurt. Watching Noah on a course of self-destruction was bad. Seeing their relationship slowly fall apart hurt a lot. Finding someone like Jordan might have been a single event in a whole lifetime. Some people don't even get a chance like that.

 

When Noah finally comes to the point where he realises just how incredibly huge his mistake to break up with Jordan was, what are his options to heal their relationship? He would have to perform like a superhero. Right now I can't thing of a move that would undo all of his wrong decisions in a credible way. Though - as I put it before - I would so love to see him overcome the cage of fear that kept his soul from shining next to Jordan's. (Please tell me if by now I annoy you with that corny phrasing!)

 

Thank the Coach in heaven for your writing skills! Awesome work Ethan!

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This was such an emotional chapter. Great work!

I think you did the right thing by not ending it where you originally planned, this flows beautifully, and feels like a more natural ending to a chapter at this point in the story. 

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8 hours ago, travlbug said:

The truth finally has a chance to come out (even if Noah doesn't want to come out); and I agree with @ColumbusGuy that Noah would never reveal the truth without it being dragged out of him.

Interesting observation -- let me know what you think after reading the next chapter. 

 

8 hours ago, Geoffrey257 said:

I'm actually glad that Noah decided not to get back together with Jordan. He should take time for himself to really understand what he wants and understand himself as a person. He should assess what's important to him in life. 

I agree. I felt Noah really needed to hit rock bottom (this may or may not be rock bottom) he needs to go through all of this -- before he can move on (how he decides to move on will be the big question). Which leads to the comment below ... 

 

4 hours ago, cocoon said:

I almost thought Noah would say they should be together again, but the suggestion of trying to just be friends is a typical Noah-move.

When Noah finally comes to the point where he realises just how incredibly huge his mistake to break up with Jordan was, what are his options to heal their relationship? He would have to perform like a superhero. Right now I can't thing of a move that would undo all of his wrong decisions in a credible way. Though - as I put it before - I would so love to see him overcome the cage of fear that kept his soul from shining next to Jordan's. (Please tell me if by now I annoy you with that corny phrasing!)

Thank the Coach in heaven for your writing skills! Awesome work Ethan!

Can he find a credible way to overcome all of this? Good question! And your phrasing is not corny. And the Coach died? Did I miss something? 

 

7 hours ago, NimirRaj said:

I was hopeful his brother would still support him if/when the fact he was gay came to light but after their conversation I sadly get the feeling he might not be as accepting as I had hoped. 

You may, or may not, find the answer to that question soon. 

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8 hours ago, travlbug said:

@ColumbusGuy They may even have had the time to realize that a gay son is better than a dead son, regardless of mom's thoughtless utterance in an earlier chapter. In fact, their discovery of the picture may have literally saved Noah's life:  Regardless of their ultimate decision to accept or reject him, he will now be free of the parents' expectations and can live as he sees fit.

I am not so sure that her remark was thoughtless. I am afraid This woman does think like that or feel like that. It will take a major attack and heavy equipment to get through to her and tear down the walls around her.

I would wish this discovery would change his life and his situation. But I am not sure that now he will be able to come clean with his parents. He has lied in so many aspects to them. And it will be easy for his mother to blame Jordan for all that has gone wrong. Will Noah be really able to stand up to her and defend his boyfriend? He has not shown much spine so far. And if he admits to having thought of suicide she has the perfect excuse to send him to any place she thinks safe enough for her son in order "to help him".

The only hope I see for him are his brother and his father's family who seem to be less homophobic and less prejudiced. but will they get a chance to even know about this mess early enough to offer and give help?

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My guess is that Noah's brother will take his side when the time comes. After all not all the fruits fall near the tree...

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1 hour ago, mayday said:

Will Noah be really able to stand up to her and defend his boyfriend? He has not shown much spine so far.

A lot of people seem to underestimate Noah (which is fair, given the way I've written his character). But I think there is more to him than people sometimes realize. And he may just surprise you ... 😌

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59 minutes ago, Tonyr said:

Oh Ethan how can you be such a sadistic writer towards your readers?  I hate you!😉

🤓

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4 hours ago, Ethan said:

And the Coach died? Did I miss something?

Not that coach. I was talking about the Coach of everything. The BIG Coach up there, you know. ;)

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