I Was Being Stupid
“Nick. Nick. Nick! Hey, Nickolas, you in there? Nick!”
Nick started when Andrew suddenly shook him. He looked at his friend like he was nuts. “What the hell are you doing?”
Andrew raised his eyebrows. “Wow, you’re in a mood. Did you seriously not hear me calling your name for the past five minutes?”
“There’s no way it was five minutes,” Nick murmured instead of admitting that no, he really did not hear Andrew speaking to him.
Andrew shifted on the couch, ignoring the baseball game that he’d been watching. Nick would ostensibly say that he’d been watching too, but his thoughts were definitely not on baseball. Not that they had ever been; he’d never been much of a sports guy.
“Seriously, what’s up with you?” Andrew asked, his brown eyebrows pinching together in concern. “You’ve been distracted for like a week now. I’m surprised that you haven’t messed up someone’s finances or burned the apartment down by now.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “I happen to be good at both my job and at not burning things down.” It helped that his work week had been a little lighter too.
Andrew scoffed. “Nick, what’s got you so distracted?”
He really knew how to cut right to the heart of the matter, but Nick didn’t find the question so easy to answer. It wasn’t exactly easy to tell his longest friend, his friend of eleven years, that he had kissed a guy twice and was spending all of his spare time thinking about what it would feel like to kiss him again.
Nick swallowed, hoping that his uncertainty didn’t show on his face. “It’s nothing really. Just some annoying stuff at work.”
“No way,” Andrew argued immediately, “There’s no way you’d be this distracted about math stuff. Unless you’re getting fired?”
Nick genuinely thought about lying and saying that yes, he was worried about losing his job, but Andrew knew him well enough to eventually see through that. “Look, it’s not anything important.”
Andrew kept staring at him, making Nick wish that Maddie had been there to distract him. If only she hadn’t needed to work that day.
It took a solid minute of Andrew considering him intently before he finally said, “If you want, I can go out with you on Friday or something. Maybe I can introduce you to someone.”
That was when Nick realized that Andrew assumed that he was lonely, which wasn’t necessarily wrong, but which also wasn’t his current problem. He went with it though. “I don’t need you to introduce me to anyone. But maybe I’ll go out next weekend anyway. Clear my head.”
“Yeah, with some vodka shots,” Andrew joked, patting his shoulder. “You’ve got to let loose a little, Nick. Have a drink, kiss a few girls, maybe ask one of them out.”
Nick shook his head in exasperation. “Says the guy who literally met his long-term girlfriend because she dropped her sweater and you ran it back to her. That’s something out of a bad romance novel, you know.”
Andrew laughed cheerfully. “Hey, if we were a bad novel, we would have been involved in some big jealousy plot or something. Our story is already a best seller without all that.”
“I’m pretty sure those bad novels would sell better,” Nick argued, earning himself a playful shove. He thought the conversation was over, but Andrew was still giving him a serious look.
“Nick, I hope you know that if there really ever is anything bothering you, that I’m always here to listen right? Maddie too.” He said it so genuinely that Nick almost felt guilty for not telling him about Vincent.
Nick smiled. “I know, Andrew. I’ll be fine.” And he knew that he would be, but he didn’t know what that would end up looking like.
He didn’t pay any more attention to the second half of the baseball game than he had the first half. The same questions kept turning around in his skull, and were still bouncing around a week later when Andrew bugged him so much to really go out that he felt he had no other choice.
Contrary to his lonely foray into a bar over a month ago when he’d met Vincent, Nick didn’t generally drink with the intention of getting completely wasted. He didn’t particularly enjoy sitting in a bar alone either, but he didn’t want to return early to have both Andrew and Maddie worrying about him.
He ended up looking around the bar somewhat bored, taking in the people laughing and talking, and sparing a wince for the guy who had been leaning back in his chair and drunkenly fell out of it.
“I’m not exactly sure why he thought that was a good idea.”
Nick turned to a woman who had taken a seat at the bar next to him, also watching the guy on the floor with a vague sense of bemusement on her face.
“I’m gotten drunk before, but at least I’ve never done that,” he commented. The guy looked a little bit like a turtle trying to get up off its back.
The woman laughed lightly. “Even in high school?”
He scoffed. “As if I was cool enough to do the chair leaning thing in high school,” he joked, very aware of how close she was leaning.
Nick wasn’t interested in the woman, but it was nice to talk to a new person for a little while. Since college, the only new people he generally met were clients, and the conversation revolved around taxes.
And Vincent—he’d met Vincent too. Just the thought of the other man made his heart leap in a way that it definitely didn’t do with this woman next to him.
Without meaning to, Nick kept glancing towards her shiny lips. He wondered if they were soft like Vincent’s, or if she kissed with that confident passion that seemed to suffuse the other man. He wondered if he liked kissing Vincent so much because he had been lonely and sad, or if there was something so explicitly Vincent that made him yearn to stop being such a coward and send the other man a text.
Clearly, staring at the woman’s lips had given her the wrong idea. She shifted forward toward him and leaned in.
Nick could have pushed her back and apologized, but he couldn’t deny that he wanted to know if any kiss would do—if any kiss would be as comfortable, as soft, as absolutely distracting as the ones he had shared with Vincent.
He knew right away that kissing this woman felt nothing like kissing Vincent. She didn’t have beautifully piercing eyes that made it impossible to look away, and she seemed to expect him to… to what? He didn’t think he was a complete idiot, but he couldn’t figure out why she was so hesitant to actually kiss him when she had been the one to lean in. Their noses bumped together uncomfortably, and they were so out of sync that Nick felt his teeth hit against hers painfully.
They both pulled back, Nick frowning. The woman admitted that she’d just wanted to get over her ex and left in a rush, apparently embarrassed.
Nick didn’t have a second to feel guilty until she was already out the door. There was no reason to feel guilty, not when he wasn’t dating Vincent and the other man clearly hadn’t expected anything from him, but his heart lurched in his chest. He downed the rest of his drink just to get the taste of her shiny lip gloss out of his mouth.
He had the urge to text Vincent right then and there, to ask him to please kiss him again because the man made his fingertips tingle, but he stayed in his barstool. His mind was a million miles away again.
An hour later, when it wouldn’t raise any suspicion for him to finally go home, Nick found himself cornered by another woman. No, not because he was just that attractive, but because she was just that drunk.
She was kissing him before he could slip away. There was more passion in this kiss, sure, but Nick wasn’t feeling any of that passion. He only felt how uncoordinated she was, and how she confidently pressed them close without bothering to adjust their noses. That didn’t frighten her away though; she kept kissing him like she was coming up for air.
Nick could only think about how uncomfortable it was, and how much he missed the feeling of Vincent’s glasses lightly bumping into his nose. He was relieved when the woman finally separated from him and returned to a table of similarly drunk girls who made faces at him until he left.
Overall, going to a bar had been embarrassing, awkward, and now his mouth tasted like stale beer. He wiped his lips, feeling disgruntled. What a waste of time, he thought angrily, when he could have just texted Vincent.
At least he knew one thing: he couldn’t have kissed anyone. Vincent was special, regardless of the fact that he happened to be a man.
Nick opened the door to his apartment and sighed, feeling even more frustrated when he spotted his two friends doing things on the couch that they definitely should have been doing in their room. He at least took heart in the fact that neither of them appeared to notice him and he could slip to his room silently.
“I’m going to have to wash my eyes out thanks to those two,” he murmured to himself, not even sure why he was so bothered. He supposed that it just would have been nice to return to a quiet apartment to sort out his thoughts rather than listening to those two and feeling even more like a complete idiot for kissing two women when he should have been texting Vincent.
Nick fell asleep with a pillow over his head, idly scrolling through noise-cancelling headphones online. He was wondering if maybe earplugs would be better for sleeping on his side when he drifted off with his phone still in his hand.
He woke a little before noon feeling tired still, which didn’t put him in a great mood. Only two cups of coffee made him feel human enough to notice that his two friends were alternating between looking at him and making eyes at each other.
“What?” Nick mumbled, looking down at his empty cup sadly. Unfortunately, he was sure that having a third cup would probably make him vibrate.
Andrew was smiling at him. He looked so keyed up that he might have been on the verge of vibrating too. “Tired? Did you spend the night with anyone special?”
Nick gave him the most deadpan look possible. “I spent the night wondering why you two can’t screw each other in your bed and not on the couch that we all sit on.”
They didn’t even look guilty about it, but Maddie did give him a sheepish look. “Sorry, Nick. We didn’t even notice you come in until we saw your door closed this morning.”
“I figured,” Nick said. Some of his frustration leaked out of him; he could never stay mad at these two for all that long. The coffee helped too.
They shared another look with each other, both of them all smiles. Maddie turned to him with an impressive amount of cheerfulness. “For the record, we didn’t plan to be on the couch last night—”
“Okay, I really don’t need any more details—”
“—but I’d say we had a good reason.”
It took Nick a second, but that was when he noticed. His eyebrows rose and he looked between them. He couldn’t help but to smile. “Wow, you said yes to this guy? You could do better, Maddie,” he joked, letting out a chuckle. More seriously, he added, “Congratulations, guys.”
Maddie’s new engagement ring glittered lightly as Nick stood up to give her a big hug, followed by a hug for Andrew.
“You two are perfect for each other. I’m so happy for you two,” Nick exclaimed lightly, feeling any last dredges of annoyance fade away.
Andrew patted him on the back before leaning back to away him at arm’s length. “You’ll be my best man?”
Nick smirked. “I’d be insulted if you hadn’t asked. Yeah, I can do that. You might want to make your brother the co-best man or something though, because any bachelor party that I plan would be terrible.”
“Oh, well sure. Plus, my mom would kill me if I didn’t,” Andrew said, that huge smile still on his face. “By the way, I hope you don’t mind that we don’t plan to move out.”
“Just try and only sleep together in your bedroom when I’m here,” Nick said, earning himself a playful shove.
Maddie was the one who said, “Sorry, Nick, but no promises.”
Andrew pulled her into his side with this look on his face like he couldn’t believe that he had gotten so lucky. “I just love this lady. More than even your cooking, Nick.”
“Ah, so that’s why you don’t want to move out. You’d miss me cooking too much.”
“And we’d miss you too,” Maddie said with the same genuineness that her new fiancé often used. These two really were well-matched, and Nick was so happy for them.
For about ten minutes. It took ten minutes for him to feel a rush of loneliness when he thought about being so painfully alone when his two friends were so happy. He felt terrible for such a selfish thought, and even worse knowing that he might have wasted the opportunity to get to know someone who might make him as happy as Maddie made Andrew because he’d been scared.
Because he hadn’t been sure about dating a man and now it had been two weeks and he was left feeling frustrated with himself, not to mention guilty for selfishly turning his thoughts to himself when his friends had such good news.
Nick shut the door to his room and pulled out his phone before he could really think about it. He probably should have thought about it a little bit more though, because his first few messages weren’t the most coherent.
Oh, this is Nick. From the bookmark you gave me?
I really should have probably given you my last name…
I’m sorry that it’s been two weeks—I was being stupid.
I really wanted to talk to you though if you’re around.
If not, that’s okay too!
Okay, I’m really sorry. I usually don’t send a bunch of messages at once.
Nick winced, wondering if it would have been better to just call. His words still would have come out like a jumbled mess, but at least he wouldn’t be feeling like a stalker or something for sending so many messages in a row.
He groaned at his own idiocy, falling into his bed. Maybe now would be a good time to buy those soundproof headphones despite the fact that his heart was racing wildly in his chest.
He almost threw his phone across the room in surprise when it dinged a few times about ten minutes later.
Yes, I remember you.
Wow, trading surnames? How daring.
I understand that you needed time.
I have time to text or call—your preference.
It’s alright, but yes, please don’t sent me so much at once. My phone vibrating six times in a minute gives me anxiety.
Nick sighed in relief that he hadn’t scared Vincent away after all. He could feel his heart pick up again in his chest, flipping lightly as he sent a response.
Sorry, I was just a little nervous haha. For the record, my surname is Slater.
He only had to wait a minute for Vincent to message back, so he assumed the other man was currently staring at his phone. Mine’s Hernandez. Wow, I feel like I know you on a whole new level now.
Nick could read the sarcasm easily. He chuckled to himself and shook his head in amusement. With his phone in his hand, he was very aware of the fact that the ball was entirely in his court now; it was up to him to be honest with Vincent.
He shifted when he heard hear Maddie and Andrew talking either to each other or to someone on Skype outside the door, both of them still sounding incredibly excited. Unbidden, that rush of loneliness came back to him for a second. It fueled both his guilt and that brave part of him that was normally buried.
Vincent? Would you mind if I call?
A moment later: Not at all.
With hands that shouldn’t be so wobbly considering that Nick had already kissed Vincent twice, he called and held the phone to his ear.
Of all the things he could have said, the thing that Nick blurted out was: “Do you think I’m a bad person, Vincent?”
There was a pause on the other line in which Nick winced at his own stupidity. It felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, before Vincent said, “I didn’t get that vibe from you. Now that I know your last name, should I be looking for you online to make sure you’re not a freak?”
Nick chuckled to himself, shifting on his bed. “I promise that I’m more boring than weird. I’m just feeling a little guilty—my friends got engaged today and I’m really happy for them, honestly, but it only took me ten minutes before I started thinking about me and my lonely life.”
It felt selfish just to say such a thing out loud, but Vincent’s soft voice came through over the phone, “It’s not a bad thing to have a moment of self-reflection when someone else has good news. My oldest sister is on her fourth pregnancy and I’m thrilled for her, but sure, sometimes I’ll think about why I’m thirty and single when she seems to have life all figured out.”
Just like that, Nick felt his own guilt subside. He exhaled, imagining that he was simply breathing that feeling out. “Wow, fourth?”
“Well, I have four siblings. I think my sister likes the idea of a big family.”
“I just have a younger brother. Wait—you said you only had sisters. I remember that!”
Nick could hear the man chuckle on the other line. “Four sisters, yes. Imagine being the only son in a house of women and being gay. That’s my life pretty much.”
“My life is mostly being a third wheel,” Nick commented, hoping that the statement didn’t sound as sad as he thought it did when he heard the words out loud.
There was some kind of pause, but over the phone, Nick couldn’t tell if it was an awkward one or just a thoughtful one. “I guess you’re feeling pretty third-wheel today with your friends then, huh? Care to let me lighten your day?”
Nick must have relaxed at some point, because he felt himself tense up in anticipation. “You’ve already done that,” he said softly, “but um, what did you have in mind?”