"Hey… hey!" There was a loud snap, and I came back to the present.
"You were totally spaced out. Where did you go?" I shook my head. I had been pondering the possibility of him being gay. How would I phrase a question like that? And if he was… could I still be his friend?
I mean… he's the first to try to befriend me in over two years. But my parents would kill me if they found out. I wouldn't have to tell them, I suppose, and since when has their opinion mattered anyway?
I decided that I would be his friend.
"I was just, um… nothing."
"No, something. Tell me." Who does this guy think he is? He barely knows me.
"I was just wondering… you seem a little…"
"Gay?" My eyes went wide, and I began to stutter.
"Well, no… I mean, yes, but if… I…" He laughs, silencing me thoroughly.
"I am. I thought maybe you were too. In fact, I was hoping...." My stomach clenched, and I felt a little dizzy.
"I'm not." I shake my head. How is he so at ease? He clicks his tongue and shakes his head.
"Sorry. I can be too presumptuous at times. That really is too bad, though. I could have sworn…" He seemed to have forgotten I was there. Abruptly I felt angry, and as much as I hated to admit it, drowning in fear and humiliation. Funny how just one comment can create so much emotion, change my mind at the turn of a dime.
Real men don't cry. Real men don't like other men. Real men don't…
My father's words ring in my ears, fueling my confusion. I hate my father. Can anything he says be right? I decide that in this case, he's right.
"I'm straight. I've never liked guys, and I never will." Austin's eyes, which had been glazed over, focused on me.
"Woah, there. Sorry, then. Wasn't trying to make you feel uncomfortable." I remained silent, trying to decide what to do. I still feel alarmed, my vision pulsing with my heartbeat. I can't be gay. I'm not gay.
"Don't flirt with me." I said boldly. At least I thought, anyway.
"Who said I was going to?"
"Well, you're gay. I'm not going to be your friend if you flirt with me." He's going to give up on me now. I'm going to lose the first friend I've ever had.
"Okay." He shrugs. There was a long silence as we both thought, analyzed the situation.
"I just want you to know, that just because I'm gay, it doesn't mean that I'm after every guy I see. I'm still human, you know, and I'm still a man." This surprised me. I had expected a lisp, the flaunting of feminine qualities, but instead… he seemed like a pretty cool guy. Strange, but I liked him nonetheless.
"Ok." I couldn't think of a more articulate response. "So… what's it like? I mean, being gay…" He didn't seem bothered by my question, as I was afraid he might. In fact, he seemed intrigued.
"Well… there's a lot to it, I guess. I've lost the respect of my parents, and a lot of my old friends. Sometimes I wish I was straight… not because I don't accept myself, but because other people don't accept me. It's hard to deal with the bigotry and stereotypes, no matter who you are… What?" Apparently I had been staring intently, fascinated. Embarrassed, I cleared my throat and apologized.
"It's just… I expected you to be… different. More like a girl I guess. Flamboyant. Please don't be offended, I've just never really met a gay guy before." He gave me a knowing smile.
"I understand. Contrary to popular belief, I'm very much a man, and I still have masculine values, I just… like other guys, and I'm a bit more open minded and emotional than some. Just because I'm gay doesn't necessarily mean I'm prancing around in a speedo and feathered boots, drooling on every guy I see." This gave me a lot to think about, and threw off everything I had grown up to believe. Austin allowed me to mull this over, staying silent.
"Was it… a choice?"
"No." His response, while quick, was very sure.
"I'm sorry; you must get this all the time. I just had to ask."
"No, it's okay. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have, though I can't speak for other gay men or lesbians. Everyone's different." I nod my agreement. I opened my mouth to ask another question, when the bell rings and causes me to jump. Never had breakfast passed so quickly.
"Well… thank you, I guess." I gave him an uncertain smile.
"Any time." I slowly rose, not breaking eye contact with him. He really is fascinating…
"So… bye?" He smiles and nods.
"See you later." And with that I walked away, looking behind me several times as I did. He stayed where he was, and I noticed with no small amount of satisfaction that he was staring after me until I disappeared through the cafeteria doors.