The 1st Kiss - Part 2

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Replies to my forum post told me to just tell Alex I was straight and set boundaries. But I couldn't stop thinking about how Alex would feel. Love wouldn't disappear just because I told him I was straight. How long had he been in love with me? The longer it had been, the tougher it would be to erase those feelings.

I dug through my closet and pulled out our old exchange diaries, looking through them to see if I'd missed any signs. There might be something that'd let me know how long he'd felt that way about me.

But there was nothing except a missing page and on the following page, Alex had written, "I spilled water on the last page, but I ripped it out before it could ruin the others. Since it's gone I should remind you that you had mentioned having your first kiss. I think you should do it with a girl you like too. Like there's no rush. Same here."

And then he changed the subject. This was my only hint. From grade six. Alex had written something and had torn out the page in regret so that I couldn't see it. Back then, I'd been too stupid to realize. He might've said something about being gay. He might've said something about liking me. But he'd said something.

Back on the forum, someone had proposed I try dating him. They'd asked me questions like Did I enjoy the kiss or Would I kiss him again? I hadn't hated it, but I also hadn't liked it. All I remembered feeling was shock and embarrassment. I had no desire to kiss Alex. And I didn't want to date him. I just wanted to be friends. Like we used to be. But now I realized, for the past years, maybe even all six, he'd been forcing himself to be my friend when he probably wanted to be more.

A knock sounded on my closed door and I shoved the diaries back into my closet. "Yeah?"

"Liam, can I come in?" my mom called.

"Yeah." I closed the closet door as she stepped inside the room.

"What's going on between you and Alex?"

My mother never wasted time beating around the bush. And of course, she'd noticed something was up. "Nothing," I lied.

"Liam. Let me help."

"You can't help!" I snapped.

I wanted to blame her. She allowed us to be such good friends. "You don't know that."

"Mom," I said, feeling my eyes wet as I sank into my bed. I was angry. I was angry at Alex. If he'd been honest from the beginning, we could have avoided this. I was angry at myself. If I had noticed earlier or if I was gay, there wouldn't be a problem. I was angry at my mother. If she hadn't treated Alex like a second son or if she'd told me she thought things were strange... I was a dense kid, but she had to have noticed something, right?

I then recalled being asked some peculiar questions by my parents in elementary school after I'd punched Raphael after he teased Alex, insinuating he was gay in a particularly nasty way.

~~

My parents had sat me down and my mom asked, "Have you and Alex ever hugged?" We might've once when playing. "Have you and Alex ever held hands?" We hadn't. "Have you and Alex ever kissed?"

"Ew, no," I'd replied. At that age, I was grossed out by the idea of kissing in general.

"Have you ever wanted to hug, hold hands, or kiss Alex?"

"No?" I replied. "Why are you asking these weird questions―" And then I realized. "Did Raphael lie and say we were gay?! We're not!" I shouted angrily. "And even though I got in trouble, if he bothers Alex, I'll punch him again."

My dad had smiled. "You can protect your friend without resorting to violence, Liam."

I crossed my arms, deciding that I didn't care. Whoever deserved a punch would get a punch.

"If Alex was gay, how would you feel," my mom asked.

"It's okay if he's gay. It's just if he says he isn't, then people shouldn't say he is. And no one should call him bad names," I had explained with a frown.

~~

Back then it had been simple to me. But now, it was complicated.

I looked at my mom who was hovering over me with a concerned, yet stubborn look. "Do you think I'm weird when it comes to Alex?"  

"Weird?" The stubbornness in her expression softened into confusion.

"Yeah. In grade 7, Kareem told me I was weird. Like, I'm too protective of Alex. Or too clingy." In grade 6, there had been a time when Alex said he was going to the bathroom and I'd gotten up to follow. Our new friend Jeremy looked at me funny and asked, 'Are you girls? Why are you going together?' Alex had snapped his eyes towards me and shoved me back into my seat. 'Don't follow me, weirdo,' he'd said. Back then, I didn't really realize what I'd done or how it was weird. Now I knew what Alex may have been thinking. He was desperately trying to avoid seeming gay. Meanwhile, I, settled in my heterosexuality, didn't feel weird about it but pulled back because Alex wanted me to.

"You know..." my mom began, "Alex really likes you."

I whipped my head to my mother. "What?"

"You like Alex too, right? You've been best friends for years. I could tell he always enjoyed himself with you. And you with him. You remember you told me you wanted to spend your tenth birthday with just Alex?" I definitely remembered how Raphael had called it a date and the teasing worsened, thus inciting the punch. "Don't worry about what other people say. You two should express your friendship however you see fit."

From my side, it was friendship. But after my mom left and I checked the forum again, I realized, in a way, I'd led Alex on. It made sense that the bromance of a straight guy would turn into romance for a gay guy. It was all my fault.

Then I noticed one new reply from a guy who said he himself was gay. He said that everyone else wasn't thinking from the right perspective. I shouldn't be selfish and expect to be normal friends with my gay best friend who loved me. If I really cared about him, I'd let him go. If we stayed together, he wouldn't be able to grow, explore his sexuality, and fall in love with someone who would actually like him back. Maybe when we got older we could be friends again. But I shouldn't hold him back selfishly, especially if he's forcing himself to act a certain way around me and our mutual friends.

"Being in love with a straight guy sucks. Having to act like best friends with that guy sucks even harder."

The reply confirmed what I'd been thinking. In the end, it was better to let Alex go. And, so, I removed myself from my best friend's life.

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