The only person I could think of that would possibly know where Doug was is Kyle. And frankly, the thought of calling him made me sick. I didn't have his number, so I called the pool instead.
"Franklin County Public Pool - this is Carissa"
"Carissa, its Jason"
"Hey honey - how are you feeling? I was just talking with Jess and we were going to come and see you after we got off work tonight. How's your head?"
"It's fine. Hey, do you have Kyle's number?"
My stomach churned when I mentioned his name.
There was a brief pause on the other end. I could hear the activity of the pool in the background.
"Yeah I do, but why do you want it?"
I hesitated to answer. 'Because he is the only one who might know where my boyfriend is.' - Almost escaped my tongue, but I refrained.
"I was going to ask if he could cover for me while I'm out."
"Oh Jason, you don't need to worry about that. Teresa has it covered."
Of course she did. But I was persistent. "Can I have his number please?"
There was another long pause and then she told me to hold on.
As I waited, I felt the anxiety building inside me. Everything I had learned from Doug about Kyle was at the forefront of my mind. I could picture Kyle orchestrating this entire thing between Doug and me, or some poor unsuspecting underclassman. The sound of the phone clunking on the desk brought me back.
Oh shit, he was there - working.
"It's Jason Shaw"
"What do you want?" he said nervously.
His tone was off.
"Hi... Um, have you heard from Doug?"
"Do we both know another one?"
There was a pause before he replied.
"I don't know Shaw. Do we?"
"Jesus Kyle, do you know where he is or not!?!"
"Why should I tell you Jason?"
"Stop fucking around. I need to find him?"
"Jason - I don't have time for this shit. I've got to go." And I heard the phone click.
'That son of a bitch just hung up on me.'
"This is bullshit - I'm going down there!" I said.
Running through the house, I could feel my heart racing in my chest. My head was pounding and I was sweating like mad.
I drove to the pool, and while I was walking through the locker room, I saw Kyle standing at the urinal.
"SO? Where is he?"
"I'm not sure he would want me to tell you."
"What? Why not?"
Kyle hesitated to respond - AGAIN - and his silence was killing me. What the hell was he hiding?
"Kyle - where is Doug."
"Look Jason, why don't you just let it go?"
Let it go?
"I mean, haven't you been through enough already? What more do you want from him?"
"Kyle, why do you even give a shit!?!" I had lost my patience. I shoved him from behind and he fell forward into the urinal. As he spun himself around, I took a step back - ready for him to lunge at me.
But he didn't. He just stood there for moment, and then took a step towards me.
"Why do I even give a shit?!" He shook his head back and forth as he pulled his trunks up.
He lifted his hands to his mouth and covered it, exhaled deeply, and continued to look at the floor. When he put both hands on his waist and looked up at me, I could see he was struggling to maintain his composure. Whether he was angry or sad, I couldn't tell.
When he told me that he loved him too - my mouth fell open.
"I mean - Jason - through all of this, I'm sure he told you about the two of us. Didn't he? He must have!"
Was he serious?
"Well - didn't he?" - He repeated.
I stumbled for a moment, because what I was witnessing seemed unreal. Had Kyle been in love with Doug? Was he still?
Kyle took another step toward me.
I raised my hand towards him, to motion him to stop; and he did.
"Yes he told me. But..."
"But you let him go Kyle." I looked him in the eye and for a brief moment I saw it. He really hadn't. He hadn't let him go. And then he realized I saw it, blinked, and looked away.
"Well, maybe I was wrong."
His left hand wiped the tear off his face before he turned back towards me and stepped forward again.
"Besides, what is so special about you huh?"
He was close enough now that when he spoke, I could smell his breath. He hesitated a moment, which truly felt like an eternity. Then he spoke again.
"What makes you better than me?"
He shoved me, and I took a step backwards. I couldn't look him in the eye. My situation, in the moment, was becoming the epitome of a bad romance novel. '...the jilted lover confronts the new flame...' I tried not to laugh at the thought of it. Kyle was upset - jealous even - of Doug and I.
He pushed me backwards again, and I corrected for it. I didn't want to fight him.
"You're just a horny little fucker like me. We're no different."
He stepped towards me until our chest bumped light together and he leaned into my left ear and whispered, "...we both know a good fuck when we see one...and our little Douglas likes to fuck - doesn't he?"
I couldn't take it anymore, and I shoved him off me.
He laughed and started to walk away. As he did, he said, "I'm not telling you shit Jason. Go home."
In that moment, I remembered something Mrs. Swanson taught us in English class last year. It was a quote by Colin Cowherd that said, 'There are really two games in a given situation; the one you see and the one you don't. The best way to use access to both worlds is to illuminate and reveal, not idolize and adore. It's better to be wrong than to be played for a fool.'
"Does he know?" I asked.
He stopped and looked back at me. "Does he know what?"
I took a step towards him. "That you still love him?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Because it doesn't. I've been here already. I've had this conversation with him. He wasn't ready for me then; any more than he is ready for you now Jason. And neither of us can do anything about it."
"I don't know what that means."
"If you think I don't know every last little detail about the two of you and how you've been carrying on - then you're even dumber than I thought." He was able to regain his composure. Perhaps he realized the futility of his anger towards me. He wasn't mad at me, he was mad at Doug. He was angry with what Doug has put him through and he didn't like what I represented. I was a reminder of what Doug has put him through, because I he could Doug putting me through the exact same thing.
It frustrated and angered him.
"Jesus Jason, I know everything. I wish I didn't, but I do." He walked towards me, placed his warm sweaty hand on my shoulder, and looked me in the eye. "Look man, I'm sorry you have to go through this. But Doug needs to figure himself out first. And when he is ready, then we can be here for him - if he wants us."
"Just let it go Jason. You should walk away while you still can. That is my best advice to you now."
His hand moved from my shoulder to the side of my neck, his thumb touched the side of my cheek and swept up and down.
"I see why he likes you."
Kyle held my cheek a moment and when he leaned in, I took a step backwards.
"I'm sorry", I said.
As I sat down on one of the benches, Kyle came a sat next to me.
"You don't give up easy."
"In this case maybe I should." I leaned forward, elbows to my knees, and hands on either side of my head. I felt Kyle's hand on my back.
"I could tell you where he is, but it would probably make it worse for you."
I looked at him with a glimmer of hope, and he looked back at me - deep into my eyes.
"Oh yeah - you've got it bad."
I grinned, and shook my head 'yes'. Kyle exhaled deeply and then stood up. He took a few steps forward and then lowered his chin to his chest before saying, "He's at Coach Locke's house."
He turned around and said, "Because that's the one person that Doug has learned he can always turn to when he doesn't know what else to do."
I stood up to leave, and as I was about to walk out of the room I heard Kyle say, 'You're not going to like it!'
I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but in the moment I didn't care. I had to get to the bottom of this - no matter what.