The Visit - Part 7

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It wasn't long before my mood improved again. We first went to the CN Tower then walked to Harbourfront and got something to eat. As we strolled along the boardwalk overlooking the water, I looked at the sandy dirt.

"Hey, remember this?" I asked, crouching down and grabbing a long rock. I ran it through the dirt, creating a trench of design.

Alex pursed his lips as he smiled. "You're such a dork," he said, crouching down across from me. He picked up another rock and scratched at the dirt beside mine.

I looked up to see him still smiling, a rosy tinge in his brown cheeks. He glanced up, his eyes meeting mine. They felt familiar. His gaze felt familiar. I didn't want to look away, but I did. Dropping the stone and standing up, I looked around. "Where to next?"

"Museum," he said.

We took the train, smiling about nothing, then spent nearly two hours browsing the museum exhibits. I felt a bit of inspiration and Alex was more fascinated than I thought he'd be.

"I'm hungry again," he said, stretching in the sun. "Oh, there's this place in Koreatown. It's so good. You don't mind Korean food, right?"

I shook my head. "Never had it."

"Oh my god, you'll love it!" Alex linked arm with mine and pulled me along.

I did love it. The food at Korean Village Restaurant was indescribably good and it practically melted in my mouth.

Alex beamed. "Lexi and Bradley brought me here."

"Bradley?"

"Lexi's brother. He was the president of the LGBTQ+ club before Lexi. I didn't tell you about him?"

"Ah."

"Yeah. My first year in Toronto wouldn't have been as awesome without him exposing me to so many things."

"Exposing you?" I asked, raising both eyebrows.

Alex narrowed his eyes at me and nudged my leg with his foot under the table. "You know what I mean. Bradley and I weren't like that."

"It's really different here, though?"

"Yes! So many awesome gay clubs," Alex gushed. "And the drag shows! And just... being gay here. Like, a same-sex couple can walk down the street holding hands and nobody even blinks. I love it."

I nodded. Alex really was happy here and I was happy for him. My decision to come here after graduation was wise too. It didn't seem like Alex would ever leave this city. Here, he could be who he wanted. Maybe I could be who I wanted here too.

"What was it like?" I asked. "...Being closeted?"

Alex looked from his food to me with a smaller smile. "Toxic. I hated myself." He glanced down again. "But... I survived. Because I had you. You were always by my side, no matter what. Not every kid is lucky enough to have that. As long as you were there..." Our eyes met. "I was happy."

"Yeah. Me too." It was a fact. But the difference between us was that once Alex left, so did my happiness. That was when I began to hate myself. But we were together again now and happy. I held out a piece of meat to him on my chopsticks. We stared at each other for a moment before he leaned forward and ate it off.

Alex flashed a smile. "That reminds me. You know, your girlfriend... two years ago? My family and yours were pretty sure she was pregnant." Alex winced.

I covered my face, recalling that awkward moment when my parents confronted me about it. The idea that they were aware I was having sex was incredibly embarrassing. And me explaining, "She gained weight because of her birth control" only intensified that embarrassment. "Ah, yeah," I muttered to Alex. "She wasn't pregnant. They jumped to conclusions, ugh."

Alex giggled. "You know, I wondered if you'd ever find someone. You never seemed interested in romance or sex when we were growing up. It's not like I thought you were gay, but... I was thankful. I didn't feel as alone."

"Yeah," I mumbled with a small smile.

"Have you ever thought you might be demi or grey?"

"What's that?" I had looked things up after Alex and I reconciled. I was interested in what all his club did and thought knowing more would allow me to enter his world. I hadn't heard of that, though.

"Demi is when you're only sexually or romantically attracted after you develop an emotional bond to someone. Girls in your case. And grey is when attraction happens rarely."

"Oh." I thought about it for a second. Alex had a point. But I wondered why he was trying to give me a label. Did he not consider me properly part of his friend group unless I had something other than 'heterosexual?' "Does it matter?" I asked, out of both curiosity and worry.

Alex blinked and was quiet for a moment. "It doesn't have to." He smiled and I nodded, hoping he was being honest. I didn't want to lose him and I didn't want there to be any distance between us. I wanted to be good enough for him.

"Thanks for being my friend for as long as you were, Liam."

I shook my head. "I should have been there longer."

Alex gave me that familiar look again and held out some meat to me. I leaned forward and ate it off. The gaze intensified and I felt a chill. Well, it would have been a chill, except it felt warm.

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