I tried to deny it at first. I made Nick’s life a living hell whenever we crossed paths at school. But it was all in vain.
Love was far from honest or clean. That’s why, even after what happened between Nick and me, it took weeks to admit I wanted to see him again. I had to see him again.
He was a world-class loser. Maybe we both were, but somehow, he was the only person I could confide in. Not my teammates, not my dad, just Nick. I was a cliche blond-haired football player. I was a Meat Head. That’s what I thought until Nick and I grew closer. He didn’t persuade me to change. He couldn’t persuade me to do anything, not at the time. He made me feel something I had never known. It was something without a perfect name, like acceptance without expectations. That’s why I liked him. That’s why I drifted away from everyone I knew, to be with him in secret.
I found something so special, something good, something worth struggle, and I didn’t want to fuck it up like I did everything else.
“So you didn’t get in,” I asked.
“I told you already,” Nick answered.
“I know, but I thought,” I started to speak, but he cut me off.
“You don’t have to feel sorry for me,” he said.
It was late one Friday night in the backseat of my dad’s car, the car that would eventually be mine after graduation. That night was months after prom. Usually, we were careful about being seen in public together, but we were parked in the middle of an empty parking lot. With the back of my head against a cold window, Nick’s head was under my chin while we were cuddled up. My Letterman jacket acted as a blanket over the top half of our bodies, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the chill from outside.
“I don’t. I mean, I wish we could go somewhere together. But I didn’t get into college either,” I admitted.
“You’re the school’s star athlete. How could no one want you?” he argued while I wrapped my arms around his body.
It was a more prevailing question than he probably knew.
“My grades are shit; you know that,” I said.
His messy hair felt warm under my chin.
“You’re passing everything, right?” He asked.
“Passing isn’t enough,” I sighed before finally letting go.
As I sat up, he did too.
“You could have made it in somewhere if you played a sport,” I said while we climbed from the backseat into the front.
It was stupid of us to sit in the car without the heat running, but I didn’t want to waste my dad’s gas. He constantly nagged me about it.
“I’m not an athlete,” Nick said while I started the car.
“But you’re smart.”
“I’m smarter than you, but that’s not hard,” he remarked.
I didn’t want to take him home yet, but there weren’t many places we could hang out without notice. Our Oklahoma town was far from accepting. I doubt we had more than ten black guys that went to our school and even fewer gays. To put it bluntly, our town wasn’t safe for people like Nick and me. It was a good thing neither of us was flamboyant; otherwise, someone probably would have curb-stomped us. People I was supposedly friends with might have hurt me had they known who I spent my weekends with.
In any case, to prolong our drive, I made several unnecessary turns and detours. Maybe I didn’t care about my dad’s gas as much as I thought.
“If we’re not going to school after graduation...what are we going to do?” I asked as if we were a definitive pair.
Nick didn’t answer for a while, but he eventually said, “I think this is better.”
“How is this better?”
I agreed with his thought, but I had to ask the question.
“At least we won’t have to break up over something like long-distance,” he joked.
I wished we could have gone to a movie together. Honestly, we could have gone out in public. Friends did that kind of stuff all the time, but dating someone, it gave off a certain energy. We couldn’t be around one another without that constant spark between us. It was relatively new but abundantly present.
“I would never break up with you,” I said.
“Tom, why do you like me so much?” Nick asked bluntly.
He wasn’t looking at me. I wasn’t looking at him, but we were focused on one another.
“I honestly can’t say. Maybe it’s how different we are,” I tried to explain what I had yet to understand.
“Don’t say that. The whole ‘opposites attract’ thing is a myth. We must have something in common,” he argued.
It would have been nice to smoke together or even walk around in the snow.
“We both like dick,” I joked.
I took a breath before I answered honestly, “It’s because you don’t care.”
“What?” Nick looked my way before I added, “You don’t care I’m a football player, that I could date anyone, or that I was a dick to most people before I met you. You don’t care about any of those things, but you still treat me like...”
I stumbled on the end of my thought.
“I care about those things,” Nick tried to argue.
“Not really, and I like that. When I’m with you...I can be anyone at any moment,” I continued with a grin creeping up my face.
I pulled up to Nick’s house, but he didn’t get out of the car. I reached over to hold his hand, and he let me. It was so cold, but I might have endured it for hours if he asked me to.
“I mean, look at us. I let you fuck me. If we were a cheap porno, I’d always be the top. You’re already the awkward new kid, and I’m a dumb jock, but,” I joked until Nick said, “you’re an idiot.”
I loved the look on his face whenever I said something stupid he didn’t want to let himself laugh at. But he always laughed.
“Well, why do you like this idiot?” I asked, leaning over to get one last kiss before the moment had to end.
After my tongue left his mouth, he said,” I love you, idiot.”
It was the first time either of us said it, but I doubt he realized it. I almost hadn’t noticed.
Nick got out of the car, and in my head, I repeated the sound of his voice saying, “I love you.” Again and again, it replayed.
When he shut his car door, I thought to myself, if we weren’t going to college after graduation, what were we going to do?