'We're gay,' he said, and then paused looking uncertainly at me. He turned to look at Max and seemed to gather the courage he needs. He continued, 'We love each other... we're boyfriends.'
I stood up abruptly from the bed, shocked. How could he do this to me? Right here, in my own bedroom? How could my best friend tell me he's gay and that he loves someone else when I've been doting over him ever since forever?! This isn't some joke, right? 'You... you're boyfriends?' I managed to ask, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill out of my eyes. I sounded scared and... pathetic. Arvin was staring at me, his eyes wide. He seemed horrified and I was almost puzzled why. He nodded vigorously and I knew I just had to get out of here. It won't be long before... God! I ran out of the room and out of the house. It was all I could think about. Out. Somewhere. A sob I had gallantly fought back before escaped my lips the moment I stepped out of the house.
I heard Arvin shout out my name but I kept running. My face was wet with tears and my sobs made me feel like my lungs were burning but I kept running. I have to get away. This was all too much for me. Way too much. I had never expected this. I had never expected he would be such a dagger to my heart. I had long given up any feelings... any love I have over him a long time ago except the love that bound our hearts in friendship. I had resisted the urge to tell him about myself and my desire for him and now somebody has him... another boy has him. It wouldn't have hurt this much if it were a girl he was with. I wouldn't have been this... jealous, this broken hearted.
I slowed down feeling myself tire out but I kept walking forward. Where to exactly, I don't know. I looked behind me to see if Arvin followed me. He didn't. And I felt worse that he didn't worry that much to go after me. How... just how could he do this to me? I loved him... I still do, despite all the ways I tried to move on with my feelings about him, I still do.
I had fought with him in the past. Especially this last few months... I had fought with him a lot. And looking back, it was all about Max. I asked him why he would rather spend his time with him instead of me but he didn't answer. And we fought. I told Max to piss off and get a friend of his own instead of my best friend. And we fought. I didn't want to go to Max's birthday party. And we fought. We fought over the most trivial things this last few months and it was all about Max.
The sobs had stopped, and so had the tears, I suddenly noticed. There's a new emotion coursing through my veins as strong as the sadness I felt. Dislike. Even hate. And all of it was directed at only one person: Max. I was right about him; he was trying to take my best friend away. He... stole Arvin from me.
Arvin had chosen him over me. There was no way around it. All those times I tried to be good enough for him but Max was way better. What was it that guy has that I don't? What did he do that I didn't do? A tear fell from my eye and I realized I started crying again. Why does it hurt so much? I thought I had given up on him. But seeing him... hearing him say they are boyfriends, I would have felt better if he said he hated me.
I wiped my face with my shirt and found I was outside a church. A Catholic church. I had never been in one before. My parents were not exactly the religious types, and so was I. I went inside and sat on the pew nearest the door seeing nothing was going on, no one inside. There wasn't even any light turned on except the candles at the side. My eyes fixed themselves on the crucified man, all the while spilling out tears that said more about how I feel than anything at the moment. I wonder how He felt before He died. Did He hurt like I do right now? I have seen Passion of the Christ, the one by Mel Gibson, at school but it was all physical. How did he feel emotionally? Was it any close to how I feel right now? Was it any close to the betrayal, to the heartbreak I feel?
'Ahem.' I turned to where the sound came from and I saw a man who, from his clothes, I assumed to be the priest. He looked to be in his late twenties but his glasses made him look younger. He held what I think is a Bible in his hand. There was an air about him that made me want to trust him. Doesn't all priests do? His presence was comforting and much more so because he was nearer to my age than most priests I see were. He cleared his throat again to get my attention so I stood up and attempted to smile at him.
'I'm sorry, uh... Father. I'm leaving now.' I was about to walk back outside but he stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.
'No. I'd like to sit down here with you if you don't mind.'
'It's ok. I don't mind.' We sat down together and my eyes went back to the crucified Christ up ahead. The crown of thorns must hurt a lot. I wonder what his thoughts were before he died?
'So... what are you thinking about?' the priest asked. There was something soothing about his voice. I wonder if all priests study how to speak like that.
'Nothing really.' He raised an eyebrow at me and I suddenly felt bad lying to a priest. 'I just had a bad day.' I look at him and it's obvious he wanted to say something but did not know quite how to say it. I, too, was dying to tell him something. 'Uh... Father, can I tell you something?' He nodded at me to continue. 'I'm not Catholic.'
'That's alright. Why are you here?' he asked, curiosity written all over his face.
'I had a really bad day and I just... walked. And then when I saw I was in front of this church, I just felt the urge to walk inside. I just had to be somewhere and this place is um... peaceful.'
'Everyone's welcome in here, son, whatever your religion is,' he said then laughed lightly. I look at him questioningly and he said, 'I just called you 'son.' I'm not that old yet.' My lips grew into a grin at that. 'There. That's much better. I was concerned seeing you crying a while ago but not much anymore. Besides, you look... familiar.'
'Can I ask you something embarrassing?'
'Sure, why not?'
'Do you think I can call you something other than 'Father?' I feel uncomfortable calling you like that.'
He grinned at me. 'Of course. Call me whatever you are comfortable with.'
'Ok. Sir, it is.'
'Do you want to tell me now what was bothering you, what you were upset with? It's ok if you don't. Don't feel compelled.'
'Oddly, yes, I want to.' And I did, really. I wanted to tell him how hurt I am at the moment. I wanted to share with somebody my misery. I wanted somebody to side with me and tell me 'yes, Max is an asshole and Arvin should be with you.' But I guess that would be stretching things too much. The Catholics don't accept homosexuality after all. I don't know what's gotten into me, but even if I tell him I'm gay, I feel like he wouldn't kick me out of this place. 'I was wondering how Jesus really felt before he died. I mean, he was beaten, whipped, and crowned with thorns, but all those things were done to his body and the pain would have subsided after a while.' I paused to look at the priest and I saw that I had gotten his attention. 'What did he feel inside? Emotionally, I mean.' I knew he was itching to say something but he seemed to know that that was not really what was bothering me so he let me continue. 'Sir, would it bother you if I'm gay?'
That must have thrown him a little confused. What's the connection of Christ's death to me being gay anyway? He blinked several times before responding. 'No, not at all. Is that what was bothering you?' he asked, quite concerned.
'That's part of it, sir,' I answered honestly, with an almost wistful smile. 'You don't know how much burden was lifted off of me just right now to have actually said that. You were the first to know about me, you know. Wow, it feels good.' I don't know where my boldness about my being gay came from but to have someone else know about that particular thing in my life was comforting. 'I'm in love with my best friend, sir, but...' I couldn't help it. A tear slid down my cheek and I started to cry softly. My sniffling seemed to echo so loudly inside the church and I looked at the priest very much embarrassed, but he just put a hand on my back rubbing it up and down soothingly. 'He's in love with someone else. I guess I should be happy for him but he was in love with another boy and not with a girl. I feel so heart broken that it wasn't me. I feel betrayed. I feel miserable. It just hurts too much.' My crying didn't stop and his hand never left my back. I know I would have to face Arvin again sometime, but this church seemed to be my fortress for a little while from the pains of this world. I felt the priest's hand on my head as he tried to put my head on his shoulder. I obliged and he put his arm around my shoulders protectively, it seems to me, which just made me cry harder.
'You know, one of Christ's last words was, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' He was doing the will of his Father but he was still human. He felt all the pain physically but he also felt the pain emotionally. Of course, the Bible didn't tell us much about his thoughts and feelings before he died but you could just imagine how much suffering he was having. I know you are in so much pain right now but I want you to keep enduring. Tough it out. You will have your break someday. Jesus rose from the grave after three days. I have no doubt you would. You can do it, little guy.'
Exactly after he finished talking, I jumped a little from the shock of my vibrating cellphone in my pocket. I dug it out and looked at the caller id first. It was Brian, my older brother. I turned to look outside and found out it was almost dark. I didn't even notice the lights had come on inside the church. 'Excuse me, sir. I have to take this call.' He nodded at me and stood up to greet one of the parishioners coming in, the first one I've seen since coming here. 'Hello?' I finally answered.
'Where are you?' The voice was cold, and the words laced with ice.
'Arvin here tells me you ran off two hours ago.' Two hours? I was gone that long?
'I'm not going back there with him in there,' I said almost in a panic.
'You are coming back here no matter what! I'm picking you up. Where are you?'
'Yes. Kuya, please don't tell Arvin,' I pleaded.
'I told you he's here. He already heard me. Get ready, bye.' And he hung up. Knowing him, he must probably be backing his car out of the garage already. Oh my god! What if he brought Arvin with him? I couldn't see him right now. It just hurts too much for me to see him. I turned to look at the street anxiously and saw the priest approach me.
'Everything all right, I hope.'
'My brother is going to pick me up. He sounds angry.' It suddenly occurred to me that I don't know his name, nor does he know mine. 'My name's Zack, sir, I forgot to tell you.'
'I'm Jim. You can always come by here anytime you want. My office is out there, and my apartment too,' he said, pointing at a building outside the church. Minutes after, Brian came rushing into the church looking left and right, not minding the glares from the parishioners. I panicked slightly when Father Jim made his way towards him but I had no choice but to follow him, hiding behind him.
'Uh... Father.' He sounded as uncomfortable as I was calling somebody else Father. We don't even call our dad 'father.' He looked at me and said, 'You.' Then he turned back to Father Jim. 'I'm sorry for the trouble, Father. I'll take my brother home now. Thank you for looking out for him.'
'No trouble at all.'
'Sir, this is my brother, Brian,' I said, introducing my brother. 'Kuya, this is Father Jim.' They shook hands.
'Father, we'll be going home now,' Brian said.
'Alright, God bless.'
'I'll see you again, sir.' He just smiled at me. I felt some sense of familiarity about him that I couldn't explain, like I've known him forever. But that was just impossible. I shrugged the thought and went with my brother to his car. I got in the passenger seat and turned to look back at the church and saw Father Jim was still looking at us. I waved at him and he waved back. There really is something about him but I just couldn't place it.
'Didn't know you were Catholic.' I look at my brother and he had a big grin on. Leave it to him to know how to make fun of me. Leave it to him to know how to make me have fun. Cool big brother that he is.
'Did you have a rude awakening of some sort?'
'Ha! Don't have fun yet. Just what reason do you have to leave the house all of a sudden?' he asked. I can't figure out if it was anger, concern, or both that I heard in his voice. His face told me nothing. 'I went to the grocery and when I came back you're gone and Arvin's alone in your room, crying.'
'Yeah, Zack. He was crying and I want to know why.' I turned my head to look at him feeling my anger rising. Didn't he see I was crying too? He was supposed to be concerned with me, why is he siding with Arvin now? Not that I'm fighting with my best friend, but I just need someone to be with me and I thought that that would be my brother.
'Well, aren't you just a protective big brother?!' I screamed at him, instantly regretting it, but I was too angry to back down. Brian pulled over then glared at me.
'What's wrong with you?'
'Why don't you ask yourself that question?' That's when I felt it. He hit me. He punched me on the face. And I just looked at him feeling a sudden lump in my throat and my tears welling up. We stared at each other, me crying and him seething, his jaws clenched together. He had never hit me before and as far as I'm concerned it hurt more emotionally, again, than physically. I broke the eye contact and just stared straight ahead, not really looking at anything. Brian started up the car again.
'Look Z, I'm sorry I... I didn't know what came over me.' I felt his hand on my shoulder. But I'm too stubborn to accept his apology and my face hurt more than I cared to admit. We finally made it to our house and I saw our parents' car already in the garage. I looked at my brother in a panic. 'Don't worry, I would...' he started to say but I didn't let him finish. I ran out of the car, into my room, and into my bathroom. I washed my face and came out drying it with a towel to find Brian in my room blocking the door, my only exit point. 'Z, man, listen to me.' He was pleading. 'I didn't mean to hit you, ok? I'm sorry.' I kinda pushed him out of the way and went out to go to the dining room, hearing my mom calling us for dinner. I looked back at my brother and he had on a hurt look on his face. I sighed and went to go meet my parents with him following me. I wonder what else could go wrong. This was already proving to be a day from hell.
'Zack! You got into a fight at school, didn't you?' my mom shrieked, running to me and putting her hand at the side of my face as if that alone could heal the bruise that was starting to show.
Brian started to say something but I cut him off. 'Yes, ma'am.'
'You won, didn't you?' my dad said, looking up at me from his chair with a grin, and I almost laughed. It's just like my dad to say something like that. His grin, however, disappeared when Mom glared at him.
'Zacarias, you are grounded until I say otherwise.'
'Mom it's...' I almost said 'it's the weekend.' 'It's the first time I got into a fight and it's outside school grounds. Mom?' I whined. I turned to look at my dad for some support. 'Dad?' He shrugged his shoulders at me. I'm doomed.
'Actually, I hit him.'
The silence was unbearable. Both my parents were looking at Brian, or rather, glaring. I suddenly felt trapped in a crossfire. There was silence but I knew that the war is about to begin before I could be some place safe. It was my dad who fired first.
'You hit your brother?'
Then it was my mother's turn. 'Car keys?' She was holding out her hand.
'Did I ever hit you?' my dad asked.
'No, Dad but...'
'Then why did you hit your brother?'
'Car keys!' Mom finally shrieked at him.
I stayed silent. There had never been a drama like this in our family and being caught in the middle of it, I didn't know what to do. As a matter of fact, I'm scared. My head swiveled back from my dad to Brian then to my mom and back again. I snapped out of it when Brian was about to hand over his keys. 'Please, Mom, Dad. It was all my fault.' They ignored me and we all just sat and ate. In silence, I might add. After eating, my mom and dad went to the living room leaving the two of us to clean up. Brian took the dishes to the sink and I followed to help. I looked at him and saw two paths of tears streaking down his cheek. My eyes began to water up. What have I done?
My brother went straight to his room after cleaning up and I did the same. I took a shower and brushed my teeth but the lonely feeling I have stayed close to me. It won't leave me and I keep turning and tossing on my bed. I had a sudden urge to go back to St. James and talk to Father Jim again but I knew that would be pushing things too much with my mom. I got up from my bed and walked out next door to my brother's room.
I knocked and I heard him say 'come in.' There was no light in his room but I knew my way around. I sat on his bed and asked, 'Can I sleep with you tonight?'
'You don't have to ask.' I stripped to my underwear and climbed in bed with him. I immediately felt his arms around me like before, when I used to sleep with him. 'We haven't done this in a long time.'
'I'm sorry.' I said, starting to cry again. I've probably cried more today than the past fifteen years of my life.
'It's my fault, Z.'
'You hit me, but it was my fault you hit me. I provoked it.'
'No, Zack. No one ever has the right to hit my little brother.' He squeezed me against himself as my tears wet his chest. 'I'll never hit you again, promise. Tell me what's wrong, Z.'
'Promise you won't freak out on me?' At this point, I just knew I have to tell him I'm gay. I knew he wouldn't freak out on me but I needed to hear it from him. I knew he loves me very much but I'm scared of what I do not know. What if...?
'I won't. I promise.'
I took a deep breath and said almost inaudibly, 'Kuya... I'm gay.'
Note: Kuya is what we Filipinos call our older brothers. I have thought about not including that in my story but it just doesn't feel right to me. Thanks to Gaydemon for hosting this story.