“Mathew.” I turned at the sound of a familiar female voice. I looked away when I saw Olivia standing behind me, and she sighed as I went about rearranging the books. The library was pretty empty at this time since most people were at work or school. I kept arranging the books. I even took out some books to place them right back as I waited for Olivia to leave, but I never heard her walking away. The library was decently sized, not huge, but large enough that I was stuck in the middle with Olivia in the midst of towering wooden shelves while the other employees were a good distance away.
I was a bit upset by that. If someone was close I would at least have been able to pretend I was called.
“Mathew, I’m not leaving. You have to talk to me,” she said, and I just continued rearranging the books. I heard her sigh again, but this time she walked forward, standing right beside me so that I couldn’t ignore her. The small smile she gave me when I looked at her from the corner of my eyes made me almost drop the book in my hand. I reacted quickly and looked away, pretending that she wasn’t there.
“Math,” she said, reaching out to hold the book I was about to place back on the shelve. “Who do you think you’re fooling?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it and shook my head instead. I left the book with Olivia, and it tumbled to the ground since she hadn’t expected me to let go.
“Olivia, we can’t have a conversation if you’re going to keep pushing the same remedies." I emphasised the last part as I took some steps back. My words made her frown a bit. The worst part about this situation is that Olivia hasn’t changed at all. She didn’t hate me. she’s just trying to help me like she would any member of our church, but it’s extremely tiring to try and explain to her why
“I want us to be friends, but I have a feeling you’ll keep trying to sneak in counselling as an option. I don’t want that. I’m not sick. I’m fine,” I said, watching as her lips trembled a bit.
“You’re not.” Her reply was expected. I felt my shoulders sag, and I covered my face with my palm as I decided to play along and not argue that fact with her.
“You can’t cure homosexuality with counselling — with anything,” I said. My wording was making my stomach churn with acid. Trying to argue out my attraction to Nath like it was a disease made me frustrated, but I wasn’t sure how else to talk to Olivia.
“Why not?” she asked. Her red hair was pinned back in a tight neat bun, and her brows were now in a frim frown.
“It’s not going to help—”
“Who told you that? The man you’re living with?” she asked, and I stayed quiet. Nath had told me about a couple of his friends that had tried to get rid of their gayness — of course it never really worked, but the horror stories were hard to listen to. I wasn’t sure what exactly my church did about being gay, but I did know they pushed counselling for a ‘normal life.’
“Yes, he did,” I eventually said. I was keeping my voice as low as possible. The other people that worked in the library were all the way at the other side by the main desk, but if they found out Olivia was here bothering me they would probably toss her out.
“And you’ll just believe him?” Oliva asked, stretching out her hand before groaning. “Look, the thing about sin is that people never want to wallow in it along. ‘Misery likes company.’ do you remember that saying? I’m sure you do,” she rambled on, and I just stared at her.
“I don’t want your help. If you can’t respect that, we can’t be friends,” I said firmly, and Olivia’s eyes went wide like she had just realized what it entailed.
“You don’t want to do this—”
“Why not? What else am I supposed to do when you can’t just respect my choice?” I asked, and she stared at me with an open mouth. After a while, she shook her head.
“Look, Mathew, I’d be a terrible friend if I just let you walk into open fire—”
“This isn’t fire, Olivia. Can you stop with the terrible comparations?” I asked.
“Mathew, is something the matter?” The voice of the other librarian caught us both of guard.
“No, nothing,” I said, watching as Olivia turned towards the direction of the voice before looking back at me.
“If you want to talk with me unblock my number and give me a call today. I’m afraid I’ll make a scene. I think seeing you in person is making it a bit too personal,” she said in a soft voice, giving me one last look before she turned and walked away. I watched her as her footsteps echoed through the library. I left out a breath when she was out of sight before rubbing the middle of my brows. I was exhausted. I turned away, looking back at the bookshelves to continue what I had been doing before she came up to me.
“Call them if you want to,” Nathaniel said, making me look up from my phone screen to stare at him. He was changing out of his work clothes to a comfortable pair of pants and a tank top. “You’ve been looking at your phone for the past hour,” he added, combing his hair with his fingers before walking over to the bed we shared. He sat down at the edge, making the bed sink a little bit with his weight.
I sighed, turning the phone in my hand. I had unblocked Oliva and Samuel a while ago, but I was still hesitant about giving them both a call.
“Do you think it would make a difference?” I wasn’t really talking to Nath, but he hummed, making me look up at him.
“The thing is,” he started, reaching out to run his fingers through my hair. “If you don’t call them and try to sort things out you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what if,” he said, making me bit my bottom lip before looking down at my phone again.
“So, you’re saying even if things don’t get sorted out now, I’ll have peace of mind just knowing I tried?”
“Mhm,” Nath said before taking his hand away from my hair. I turned to look at him again, and this time he leaned forward to peck my life. We smiled at each other, and we both chuckled when Nath rubbed his nose against mine.
“Call them,” he said as he pulled away. I watched as he got up from the bed before walking over to the room’s door. He paused, turning to smile at me. My heart was racing. I hadn’t quite gotten used to his full-face smile. “I’ll be in the living room,” he said before opening the door and walking out. I looked on at the door even after Nathaniel closed it behind him. A sigh left my lips as I looked down at my phone again.
After a while of just sitting down and sighing, I went ahead to make a three-way call with Oliva and Sam. Olivia picked almost immediately, and Sam’s end rang for a while more before he eventually picked up. We all stayed silent until Olivia spoke up.
“Well?” she asked, making me cover my eyes as I tried to arrange what I wanted to say. It took a while, and when I was ready I wasn’t sure if they were on the line with me anymore.
“Sam?” It took a few seconds, but he replied to me. I hummed, playing with my fingers now. I had put the call on speaker now, and my phone was sitting on the bed.
“We’re not going to agree about...” I trailed, not know what to say. Agree about what really? My gayness? That sounded wrong to say in my head like I was agreeing it was a choice I made when it wasn’t. “We’re not going to agree with me distancing myself away from the church,” I said instead, and I could hear Olivia suck in her breath. Sam’s end of the line was dead silent.
“I’m still Christian. I just — I just understand things differently now. I’m still finding my feet, and I want this to be between me and my spirituality, not me and what the church thinks I’m supposed to do,” I went on. When none of them but in I continued. “I still want to be friends with you two, but I would love it if you stopped trying to change my mind about something I’ve made up.”
I stopped talking, and there was no other noise in the room but the sound of the fan turning. I could hear some T.V. sounds. Nath was probably watching something in the living room.
“You drive me away with the aggressive intruding. If you want to help me, try praying for me in private. If you push me away, you won’t have a chance to help me. Let’s not let this ruin our friendship, please?” I begged, waiting for someone to say something. Anything at all. I was starting to panic, but I relaxed when Sam spoke up.
“Fine Mathew,” he said, and I let out a sigh of relief.
“Okay.” Olivia’s voice was small like she felt defeated.
“I’ll keep you in my prayers,” Sam said, and I just chuckled. The more I spent with Nath, the sillier that line sounded. I was less angry at it and more prone to push it aside as Sam not knowing any better.
“There’s a lot of things to be angry at. Ignorance might be one of them but there are just stuff you learn to over look for your own sanity.” Nath had told me one day as he worked on a car he brought home in the backyard. Being upset that Olivia and Sam didn’t understand had been my default settings for the past few weeks, but if I thought about it, I would have been touting the same things Olivia had at me if I had never been put on the spot to rethink my positions.
“I’ll do that too,” Olivia said. We all spoke about mundane things, distancing the religion talk that seemed to always be at the brim of the bucket. Nothing spilt over, though, and we ended the call on a good note. I was smiling when I left the room and headed for the living room. Nath was slouched on the sofa with a bowl of ice-cream. A smile spread across my face. Just knowing I got to be with him made me happy.
“I went well?” Nath asked, watching me walk over to him. I nodded with a hum, sitting beside him before turning my eyes to the T.V. He was watching some weird cooking show.
“That’s great,” he said, and I just smiled, reaching out to squeeze his arm. Everything was falling into place, and I couldn’t be happier.