“So,” Advik started, looking down at his sneakers. I stared at him, trying to figure out what he was here to say to me. We were sitting side by side on mall’s bench. My heart was beating, and I was shaking a bit. We haven’t been this close to each other in a while. He laughed, scratching behind his ear before letting out a sigh. “I’m not sure where to start,” he said, biting his bottom lip before looking up at me.
“Well, you should start. I don’t really have time to hang around,” I said. I swallowed down, wondering where my firm tone was coming from. Advik sighed, turning to look at me before looking away again. He smiled down at his sneakers, tapping his foot on the mall’s tiled floor.
“I think Grace has been trying to get me to hate you,” he said, and my eyes went wide a bit before looking away. I had suspected that, and I think it’s a good thing Advik picked that up. “She kept telling me odd things, like you being a douche bag and abusive. I knew that was off because that’s not you. Quite the opposite really.” He smiled a little, and I looked away, not knowing what to say to that. “But I don’t know why saying she dated you was what got me anxious,” he said, looking down at the floor. I had some thought about you, and the only answer that kept popping into my mind was that I was jealous.”
“So...” he trailed. We were staring at each other now. My heart was racing. It’s been awhile since I’ve stared into his dark eyes. He licked his lips, hiding his hands in his pocket before he opened his mouth and started talking. “I guess what I’m trying to say — or what I’m trying to do?” he paused, shaking his head before cursing under his breath.
“I guess what I’m trying to do is tell you that I like you and warn you about Grace — she’s nuts. I think there’s someone else you might know that’s hanging around on campus. It’s a guy, Roland, was it?” Advik furrowed his brow in thought before nodding. “Yeah, that was it. I’ve seen them around together, so stay safe, okay?” he said, before looking away.
My hands were shaking now. Roland? What was Roland doing here? Roland was one of my trans friends from my Tumblr days in high school. How did he get in contact with Grace, and what are they planning to do? And does Harry know he’s here? I wondered, biting my bottom lip before clenching at my bangs with my hands now. Gosh, I was panicking again.
It’s like everything from my past was trying to force their way back into my life, and it left a bitter taste in my mouth — like I had coughed up bile.
“Ollie?” Advik called, making me look over at him. “Ollie, are you okay?”
I blinked before looking away and staring at the floor. “Yeah,” I lied through my teeth as the sound of shoppers passing by filled my ears. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, looking back at Advik. He frowned a bit, and he didn’t look convinced, but he just sighed before looking away.
“You know, you can talk to me if you want to—”
“I can’t,” I said firmly, and I watched as his shoulders went stiff. ” I can’t I’m sorry,” I said. It’s not just that I wasn’t sure if I could trust him after everything, but I just didn’t think he would understand. I had been ‘disgusting’ to him after all. All this panic was taking over my mind that I couldn’t even process the fact that Advik had told me he liked me — I think?
I’m your friend. George’s words came rushing back to my find, and I felt a bit calm. I could talk to him, right? I needed someone to talk to.
We were both quiet. I could hear Advik breathing even though there was a noisy crowd around. The sound of my own heart was flooding my ears, and I just needed him to say something — anything — so that the awkward silence would end.
“Well, that’s about all I had to say to you,” he said, holding his hands together. “I think... I’m not sure but is it okay if we start talking again. I don’t expect you to say yes, and I know things will be awkward, but can we start talking again?” he asked, and I just stared at him. My throat felt clogged, and I didn’t really have anything to say. I was also a bit confused. Was Advik asking me out? Did he just want to be my friend, or was this the ‘take it slow’ talk? What the fuck was even happening?
“What about your friends?” I asked. “What does liking me even mean to you?” I asked, and Advik seemed a little stunned my question. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but he looked away again.
“Well, I don’t know.” He shrugged with a confused look on his face. “I’m confused, I don’t know what this means. I’m not gay, but. Liking you doesn’t make me gay though, does it...?” I think I knew where he was heading with his thought process, so I just shut it down before he even went there.
“I’m a man,” I said, adjusting on the bench. “If you like me then you’re not straight. You’re not ‘gay’ but you’re not straight,” I said, trying to explain things to him.
“I’m confused,” he said. “I don’t get it.”
“Do you even want to come out, Advik?” I asked, and he just stared. “You, you didn’t think we would date ‘privately’, did you?” I asked, and he didn’t answer my question which made me believe he was dodging it.
“Why don’t you try to sort things out with yourself before you try to get me to date you?” I asked. He looked up at me, then looked away from me again.
“You have a point,” he said, brushing back his hair. “Can I still talk to you, though?” he asked, and I nodded. I watched as a small smile formed on his face, and one came to my lips too. I wasn’t sure why I was smiling. Maybe I was just tired and didn’t have the energy to do anything else.
We both kept quiet again, and instead of waiting for him to talk first this time I got up.
“I have to leave,” I said, and he just looked up at me from the bench. I couldn’t place the look he had on this face. I hadn’t seen it before. He looked away, nodding before saying a small ‘okay.’ I walked away — more like ran away. When I got back to the store George gave me a worried look. I tried to assure him that I was alright by smiling, and when he smiled back I felt my stomach churn a bit. Confused by the feeling I went right back to work, not wanting to add another thing to the list of things I was worried about.
It was late in the evening and I was on my bed now browsing through Harry’s blog. He was still very active, and I noticed the others were as well. Roland, Emma, and Lizzie all still had active Tumblr accounts, and they were closer than ever. I started to wonder if the others knew Roland was attending my college. And I wasn’t sure if it was a valid concern or just paranoia to think that they might be planning some sort of revenge on me.
“You’ve been fidgety for the past few weeks, are you okay?” Austin’s voice made me look up from my phone for the first time in the past hour. He was sitting on his desk, but he’s turned his chair around so that he could look at me. His curly dark hair was a mess, and he had his glasses on, meaning that he was working on sheet music.
“I am,” I said then paused before biting down on my bottom lip. I noticed my hand was tired, and it was then I noticed I had been gripping the bed sheets with the hand I wasn’t using to scroll through my phone. “I-I think I am,” I said, correcting myself as I let go of the bedsheet.
Austin didn’t look convinced, he brought up one of his legs to step on his sit. so that he was resting his hand on his knee. He poked his cheek with the pen he was holding, humming something under his breath. “You know the counselor’s office is open all week. Like, it’s not like anyone would judge you for going to meet her,” he said, and I blinked, looking away. I was still holding my phone in a death grip, so I let go of it before pushing it under my pillow.
“I’ve never been there,” I admitted, watching him in the dim light. “Have you?” I asked, surprised when he nodded his head.
“She’ll help you sort things out, so go meet her if you can, okay?” he said before turning his seat so that he was facing his piano keyboard that was on his desk again.
“Okay,” I said, and just like that our conversation ended. I slipped under my covers, taking out my phone again. I smiled when I saw I had a message from a mutual. Apart from Advik, Grey was the only other person I spent so much time talking to in the past, and he was the only one I actively talked to about personal things now. He wasn’t in any college around, heck, he wasn’t even in this state, but I felt like he’s been joined to my hip since forever. He was an athlete, so most of his reblogs were dieting tips and such. I didn’t fancy any of that, but somehow, we clicked in the comment section about pineapples being gross about two years ago.
Hey, what have you been up to? I haven’t heard from you in a while.
10: 04 PM.
I’m fine. I’m just stressed.
I replied, not sure how to explain all the crazy drama that has been going on for the past few weeks.
Nah, it’s just general stress. Like, school stress.
I explained in my message, chuckling to myself a bit when I remembered telling Grey about what had happened when I had tried to kiss Advik that night. You know when your friends shit on your crush or ex because they did something terrible, but you still like them so it feels like they’re insulting you too? Yeah...
If you say so.
We caught up. I talked about the problems I was having with my dance group, and he talked about how aiming for a team to pick him up after college was going. When he had to log off I logged off too, and it was then a thought came to mind.
“You should talk to him.”
I remembered George’s words about trying to talk to Xander, and after contemplating it for a while I searched for his number and messaged him.
Message to: Xander.
Hey, it’s me, Ollie, in case you don’t have my number anymore. How are you?
SAT, 10:40 PM.
Staring down at my text after I had sent it I started to feel it sounded a little robotic and lame, and I wondered if Xander would even bother to reply even if this was still his number. After a few minutes of messing around with my phone, it buzzed, making me surprised when I saw that it was a reply from Xander.
Message from: Xander.
Is it really you?
I haven’t heard from you in a while. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?
SAT, 10:50 PM.
Message to: Xander.
SAT, 10:51 PM.
Message from: Xander.
I’m glad you texted me, though. I wasn’t sure if we were still on good terms, so I wasn’t sure if I would annoy you if I messaged you.
How have you been? :-)
SAT, 10:52 PM.
Message to: Xander.
I’ve been alright.
SAT, 10: 53 PM.
No, not really. I thought to myself, but Xander didn’t need to know that. Well, not yet. We talked, and it was nice hearing about Maxwell and how they were getting along. Somewhere along the line, Xander invited me to their place, and I agreed. When we both said our goodbyes and I put my phone away there was a smile on my face
Something good happened today, despite all the shit I’ve been through for the past few weeks, something good happened. I think I’ll start focusing on that — the little good things — because if I don’t I’ll die from overthinking everything else that was going wrong.