I woke up in the arms of my brother, still feeling a little unbelieving. It felt warm and secured in his embrace. Here is the place that I know I would always be coming back to, rain or shine. He had given it to me, and God forbid, it be taken away from me. There was a certain amount of bliss that made me rethink its reality; it was the kind of bliss that I only get from dreaming, but no dream certainly ever amounted to the one I'm having right now. I felt protected from any storm. I felt invincible. All because I know my brother would always be around. I don't even want to bring myself into thinking that he would one day leave me. I'm scared, yes, but I have always tried to be the kind of guy who thinks of the present first before the future.
The change in Brian's breathing told me of his return from dreamland. After taking a couple of deep breaths, he squeezed me into himself and then tried to disentangle himself from me and was about to stand up. I wonder how he could just wake up, take a few deep breaths, and then stand up, while I would be lethargic well after my shower. He didn't get to stand up though, because I held on to him. I didn't want things to end just yet, and I let him know by hugging him tighter.
'Z, bro, I need to go to the bathroom,' he said, but he hugged me back anyway. Yep, no doubt about it. My brother loves me as much as I love him.
'Can't you hold it? Just a little more while?' I pleaded looking up at his face.
He looked at me silently and then closed his eyes again. He wrapped his arms around me as he had while we slept, and wrapped his legs around me too as if I were a pillow. I giggled slightly, expressing the giddiness going all through me.
'Ok,' he whispered, 'Just a little while more.'
I think I would have come back to sleep had not my brother kept on squeezing me once in a while. It had been a long time since we had done this. The last time I slept with him was two years ago, I think. I guess when you grow older and meet new friends you tend to drift away from your older brother's shadow. But I missed it. And the fact we're older now and it doesn't bother him made me glad and kind of hopeful that we could still do this again.
There were lots of questions swimming in my mind. I wanted to confirm his answers. I wanted to hear from his mouth again what he said last night, but I was afraid that if I asked, things would suddenly change. That he would realize being gay wasn't just a part of the nothing that he said would separate us. I was scared. But I have to hear it again. Now. Later. Tomorrow. I have to know if he wasn't sick of me, his gay brother. I have to know if he wasn't just... feeling sorry for me.
'Kuya... do you really mean what you said last night?'
I have always been the kind of guy to be in control over my mouth. I don't just talk. I think first and then I talk. It might sound like I'm kind of slow to respond, but no, I talk back just as fast as a smart ass would. I guess when you're used to it, you can juggle things in your mind in only a matter of nanoseconds. But not this time. I lost control of my tongue to desperation. It was too late to take it back. It was too late to do things over again if my brother decides to change his opinion about me.
'Look at me, Zack,' he said, unwrapping his arms and cupping my face with his hands, not giving me any other choice. There was only love and care that I see. There was only acceptance. 'I'm a bad liar, you know that. How come you're asking me again?'
Why am I asking again? Why do I need to hear again the words that he told me last night? What is the reason why I felt desperate to know what my brother thinks about me? 'I'm scared.'
Two words. But I saw in my brother's eyes that he suddenly understood. He released my face and wrapped me in his embrace again. If I'm ever going to have a boyfriend, I want him to be like Brian, sensitive and caring. 'I promise, Zack. I'll always be here for you no matter what.' I felt satisfied, and he seemed to know that I did. He sat up, got out of the bed, and made his way towards the bathroom.
He was almost at the door when I called him. 'Kuya?' He turned to look at me with a puzzled expression. 'Thanks.' There were no words that I could come up to tell him except that. He smiled at me and went inside the bathroom. I hugged his blanket feeling a warm sensation grow inside me as I realized that no, I wasn't dreaming. Everything was real.
Brian went out of the bathroom with a wet face. He picked up his basketball shorts and tee shirt from the floor and wore them. 'I'm going to go get us some breakfast,' he said as he went out of the room. I got out of his bed and went to the bathroom to empty my bladder, then pick my clothes up from the floor to wear. I followed my brother to the kitchen where I saw him pouring orange juice in two glasses. There were eggs and pan de sals on the table, but we made them disappear in record time. Still feeling hungry, I made my way towards the fridge, where hopefully, there would be something to satisfy my rumbling stomach with. That was when I noticed something.
'Kuya, look!' Brian's car keys were hanging on a magnet that held a note written by my mom. How could he not notice this earlier? Brian, Zack, We're glad you've settled everything between yourselves. Still, both of you are grounded today. No friends coming over, prisoners. Clean the house. We trust you. Meet us for dinner at Pizza Hut Southmall, 6 pm. Mom. I couldn't help it. I suddenly burst out laughing. 'We trust you!' I said in between laughs.
Smacking the back of my head first, my brother reached for his keys and took the note. 'Hey, she said you clean the house!' he said. I rolled my eyes at him but then suddenly remembered something. I snatched the note from his hands and read it again. No friends coming over, prisoners. I sighed loudly and silently thanked my mom. I handed the note back to my brother and smiled at him. One more day. I could avoid the heartache of confrontation with Arvin for one more day. I know he would not be patient. He would be ringing the doorbell any minute now. And I just can't... see him. I don't want to. Brian just looked at me curiously, and I suddenly realized he didn't know anything of what happened yesterday between Arvin and me. I inhaled deeply then exhaled. In my mind, I was imagining the sad feelings being expelled along with the carbon dioxide.
I looked inside the fridge for something to eat and saw the graham cake. Sweet. There were two trays of them. Actually, there were a lot of other stuffs inside the fridge but the me that always craved for sweets immediately saw the cakes. I took one tray out and set it on the kitchen table. If there were something about my mom that I would miss if ever I go somewhere, it would be her taking time to make this cake that I so loved. I just hoped that she would still be making grahams even after I tell them that I'm gay. Sighhh...
My brother and I devoured half of the cake before finally admitting we couldn't take anything in anymore. We put the graham back inside the fridge, cleared the table, and then washed everything in the sink. We plopped down on the sofas in the living room after cleaning up when the doorbell rang. My heart almost immediately leaped to my throat and my head snapped to look at the door though I know that whoever that was that rang the bell was still outside the gate waiting for someone to let him in.
'We trust you,' my brother said repeating my mom's words in her note. He motioned for me to go see who's at the gate but I was suddenly gripped with a feeling that made me stay where I was, frozen. I just looked at my brother with wide eyes, unable to say something. I was scared that it would be Arvin but how would I tell him that? How do I tell him that without saying anything of what happened between us yesterday?
'Kuya, please, I can't. If it's Arvin please tell him what mom said. Please,' I begged my brother, all the while hoping the anxiety doesn't show in my eyes. There was confusion written all over his face but he stood up anyway and went out of the door to see who it was. One, two... thirty seconds passed and he still hasn't returned. Each second was excruciatingly slow when you're anxious and I walked to the door unable to control my curiosity anymore. I have to see him even from afar. I have to know he's all right even though we weren't meant to be... at the moment.
I took a peek at whoever Brian was talking to outside the gate, and disappointment, even frustration covered me like a blanket. I didn't realize I wanted to see Arvin so bad that seeing someone other than him almost... broke my heart again. It had been easier to avoid him because he wasn't really here but I doubt I could if he suddenly shows up. I realized I couldn't deny him anything. I... loved him that much that I would do anything he wants me to do and just shove all the heartbreak down my throat and forget it for a few minutes, hours.
I went back inside, set myself on the floor, and just turned on the TV, not really watching anything. Brian was still outside with Sheila, his girlfriend. They were making out outside the gate when I took a peek. It felt weird seeing my brother in a liplock like that, but happy too, that someone could make him feel that way. She's a nice girl and extremely hot, and unlike my brother's former girlfriends, she's alright with me hanging around them sometimes. I think the fact that we're neighbors alone kept them together. I wouldn't mind having her as my sister-in-law.
Brian suddenly burst through the door with a wide grin. He let himself fall down the cozy sofa and just grabbed the remote from me, channel surfing, but it was clear his attention was at something at the ceiling. He had it hard for her, I see. Looking at his face, I just couldn't resist taking a shot. 'What? Done with your quickie already?' He threw me the remote and sat up looking at me but just unable to wipe that grin on his face that I so envy right now. I went and sat next him leaning my body on him as I did. He wrapped an arm around my shoulder and sighed dreamily. 'Kuya, are you having sex with her yet?' I asked. The arm around my shoulder suddenly locked around my neck. He rubbed his knuckles on my head and it just about made me laugh despite the pain he was causing. 'Ok, ok... I won't ask anymore. Hehe... do you think she would let me join you? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! STOP!!!' He had jumped on me and tickled me wildly, and it felt good. To let go...as if I have any other choice. I just might piss myself if I don't let the laughter out of my mouth. But it felt good, so good, to let go. He stopped eventually, feeling tired and I just laid there catching my breath.
He looked at me and smirked. 'I don't know what you're thinking, Zack. Why? Could you even get it up for her?' He stood up laughing.
I kicked his butt and muttered, 'Cheap shot!'
'I'm going to go take a shower.'
'Riiiight... take a shower,' I teased.
The rest of the day passed by slowly. As my mom commanded, we cleaned the house as much as two teenage boys could. We had leftovers as lunch, then watched more TV. As seconds passed, my heart sank deeper and deeper. It was almost five o'clock but still no visit from Arvin. No call, either. It's just sad, you know. I shouldn't have counted on him to come here or even call me but I did. Somehow, I kept hoping that we could still be together. That I could still have him. But the truth is I have already lost him even before I realized it. I just don't want to admit it to myself... yet. For now, I would try to settle into the idea that Max was just trying to keep him too busy to even pick up the phone and call me.
Sighhh... Max. I can't help but feel intrigued about him, you know. I never took the time to really get to know him especially when I saw he was taking Arvin away from me right under my nose. He wasn't even being subtle! Like asking my best friend in my presence to go with him to the arcades and see a movie without even inviting me... I suppose I viewed him from the start as an enemy. He's handsome, yeah. Your favorite jack off material. But to me, he was nothing more than a threat to my friendship and future relationship, if I dare hope so, with Arvin. He sure did live up to my presumptions. Our paths will cross again one day, mine and Max's. And trust me, it won't be anything other than ugly.
I took another shower and dressed up to meet my parents at Pizza Hut. They're probably too tired to cook, anyway. And being grounded for a day, to me, is a joke. Although today, it had come off as a blessing. On the way out of the house and into the car, I kept sighing. I just couldn't shake off the sad feeling floating around me. I'm depressed more than I have ever been. I kept looking at the gate to see if someone would come ringing the bell and if it's Arvin, I'll apologize for yesterday. I don't know really. I don't know what to say to him but for now, 'I'm sorry' seems to be the best.
And who am I fooling if I think my brother hadn't caught on to my mood? I think he was just waiting to have me in a place where I can't run from him, because the moment our house looked already like a dot and I have given up on seeing Arvin before the day ends, he asked me, 'Aren't you going to tell me what happened between you and Arvin yesterday?' I just shook my head no at him. I want to tell him, I really do. But what if Arvin finds out I ratted on him being gay to my brother? He... He'll probably leave me for good, I thought with a sniffle. That was when I felt Brian's hand on my knee. I wiped the unshed tears from my eyes and turned to look at my brother. 'If you ever changed your mind, I'm always here.'
The rest of the trip to the mall was made in silence. I just stared straight ahead. I was afraid to think about anything because when I do, I know I'll probably start thinking about Arvin. Everything comes back to him, you know. Just thinking of dinner made me think if he's eating already and what he is eating. He's... everywhere. And I just want to close my eyes and pretend that I don't see him at all because it hurts. It hurts so much to think about him, to see him, and hear his voice. But I guess I'd rather hurt... than not be able to do all those things.
Brian parked the car at the east side of the mall near the east entrance, door six to be exact. I found it funny when a few months ago, I entered the mall through this entrance and there was a large number six beside the entrance. There were six entrances in all. The main entrance was, of course, number one. The entrances were numbered counterclockwise. I guess some people do tend to get lost that's why the mall administration thought of putting this large numbers by the entrances, or exits... whatever. But mall rat me? Never.
I bought two sundae cones for my brother and me. I always buy one when I go to this stall near the mall entrance that the girl tending to it already knows my face. We walked towards Pizza Hut which was nearer to the main entrance. I kept looking around me, trying to see if I would recognize somebody. 'What's up?' Brian asked.
'I'm looking for...' I looked at him in surprise. I was looking for... Arvin. I didn't even realize it. I sighed and just shook my head, trying to clear it from the thoughts of... him. We finally arrived at the Hut and saw our parents already sitting. We joined them as a waiter set down the orders made by our parents on our table. They've taken the liberty to order for us, I see. It's what we want anyway. 'Hi,' both Brian and I said. Our parents just grinned at us and then started to eat already.
'So... how did the day go?' my mom asked.
'We cleaned the house, ate leftovers for lunch, and watched TV,' Brian answered.
'And we ate half of the graham for breakfast!' I added and both Brian and I burst out laughing.
My dad joined us saying, 'I knew you would.' Mom was smiling widely watching her three boys laughing and it just hurt me so much to think of how much it would hurt her when she learns I'm gay that I stopped laughing with Dad and Brian.
'What's the matter, Zack?' my mom asked.
'Uh... I'm sorry, Mom.'
'That's alright, now that you two are ok with each other. Just don't leave any evidence again if you two decide to fight.' I just smiled weakly at her and went back to eating. Would she say that to me again after I tell her I'm gay? That's alright... I don't want to hurt her and my dad but what do I do? I felt like I'm lying to them keeping this mask on my face leading them on to believe that I was something that I really wasn't.
Hell, I was wearing this mask for my own sake as much as my parents'. I wanted to be something other than this. I wanted to run away, to escape this reality that flung itself hard at me. How can I be so heartbroken over Arvin having a boyfriend other than me when I couldn't even accept myself for what I am? How could others accept me when I haven't even accepted myself fully? Brian accepted me. Father Jim accepted me. When would I accept me?
I felt a squeeze on my thigh and I looked at Brian who was looking at me with a concerned expression. Was I that transparent? I smiled reassuringly at him before I took a drink and went back to eating. Sometimes, my mind just really couldn't stop working and it has been depressing me a lot these days, thinking of all the bad things. What good things are there anyway? I felt another squeeze on my thigh and I smiled at Brian again, this time, gratefully.
Who says there are no good things in life?