III. BUTTERFLIES FREED
After a 40 minute bus ride towards our rendezvous, we finally meet at the mall after an unusually distant 3 week break. The plan is to catch up and get a haircut together, though, for the sake of holding hands, we might end up at the movies afterwards - I’d always been able to stretch our time together.
I’m feeling the usual; excited and frantic to see him, my stupid hands are sweating, my lips twitching, and my stomach is revolting with butterflies or whatever it is young love gives you. I wish I could say I still like the feeling but I don’t. I’d rather be able to keep my posture. I’ve been in love with him since we met on our school trip to Jamaica 2 years ago and I still don’t know what the fuck is going on in his head. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have figured out I like men either. I try to play it cool.
"Hey! How was your break? You definitely missed out on some fun get-togethers with our friends" - I say flawlessly, deep down hurt, merely interested in his answer. I’d rather ask why the fuck we didn’t get to hang out at all. I’m thinking I deserve an explanation.
"It was good, sorry I didn’t get to see you. I was out of town with family and had some stuff to do before my senior year begins. I have some news to share with you..." - he teases, gracing me with his beautiful green eyes, long blonde hair and shy smile.
"Really? What is it?" - I respond almost immediately, grabbing onto his words as if it was finally time that he confesses his feelings towards me. I’ve had this premonition at least 10 times, all unsuccessful.
"I finally have a girlfriend" - He confesses after much teasing, making my heartbeat stop and my fist strong enough to rip through any wall. My defense mechanism tells me I should not jump to any conclusions, he dislikes the girls at our school after all, maybe he’s ready to embrace our true nature through a bad joke! I tell myself... After all, we had spent some pretty steamy and poetic moments right until the last time I saw him. I’m doubting we’ll get a haircut at this point.
"Wow! Who is it?" - I ask almost flirtatiously as we circle the mall’s main floor for the 4th time. He carefully gives me clues about this mysterious lover and I’m gradually feeling more confident it’s me, I even wander off momentarily. I’ve become so close to him despite our discretion to meet at the least popular spots amongst our high school peers. I’ve been patient and caring. I for sure deserve this moment; I’m worthy of it. I’d finally be able to ask him about all those sleepovers where we’d cuddle and embrace each other without sharing a single kiss; the late-night conversations and movie dates where we’d hold hands from the trailers until the credits rolled.
It’s starting to get late, I don’t have my answer yet, and I’m frankly tired of his riddles. I ask him to walk with me towards the bus stop as I refuse begging for more clues. He’s probably aware of how annoyed I am by now. My best guess is he’d rather wait another lifetime before confronting his true self. His strict parents and social circle mostly made up of straight guys did pressure him to act more manly, after all.
A few minutes of silence have passed, the bus is finally here. We greet goodbye as usual, except the hug seems much lengthier and passionate this time. As the bus begins to gain traction, he shouts to my moving back: “It’s Annie, the sophomore from our theater class. I think I love her.”
As I get lost in a sea of cars and smog, I find a seat and mentally prepare to process what had just happened - only to notice the butterflies had finally left me alone. I never turned to look back.