by Daniel Ust
"You look scared to me." Dillon's new girlfriend said to Xaver. Six guests sat around Dillon's table, his strawberry dacqueries standing in front of each one. Xaver breathed in so deep everyone noticed. He wished she had ignored him. He was Dillon's and Jeff's friend and hardly knew this latest addition to their circle. Nor did he want to know her.
The silence did not break until Dillon spoke. "Yes, he does look scared."
"I'm just a little drunk..." Xaver hoped that would satisfy everyone. Looking around, he knew it worked -- except for Dillon's girlfriend. He saw Jeff off to the side, laughing but not at him.
"No." She pointed out. "You've looked scared since you stepped through the door."
Xaver parried back. "It's the new people and the cold weather." She seemed to believe him now. The talking resumed now as if it had never ceased. Xaver downed his drink and refilled. He looked at Jeff, who wasn't paying attention to him at all. He wanted to yell to him, "I'm over here! Look at me!" Why did he have to sit on the other side of the able?
A few drinks later, he felt much looser. Jeff made some joke about one of their professors and everyone laughed, even Xaver. The moment came back to him. He eyed it from different angles. He took another overly deep breath and another sip.
"Okay, Lisa." He said to Dillon's girlfriend. "You're very perceptive."
The conversations stopped and she let out a "Yes?" He saw Jeff look at him then at Lisa.
"I'm sick of this charade. I am scared."
Dillon got up. "What's the matter? Don't worry about the drinking. We're all underage here." Except for Xaver and Lisa, everyone laughed.
"No. I'm not afraid of that."
"Well, what is it then?" Dillon asked and everyone waited for an answer.
"I'm scared because" -- the split second between words seems to last for minutes to Xaver -- "I'm gay. Does that scare you?"
"No." Lisa and Dillon both chimed in.
"It scares me." Jeff said and laughed. Dillon glared at Jeff. Xaver wanted to wail at that point. Those green pools Jeff had for eyes, usually so soft, now seemed to taunt him.
"I'm glad you can take it so lightly Jeff because..." Xaver strained to say it, but he couldn't. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Dillon moved over to him and grabbed his shoulder. "Jeff was only kidding. Weren't you, Jeff?"
"Yeah. I didn't mean anything by it. I'm not scared of you. As long as you're not after me, your sexual preferences don't bother me."
Xaver's vision clouded. He wanted to cry, but still had enough control not to. He kept his eyes on Jeff. The latter held out his hand.
"We're still friends, right?" Jeff was serious. His eyes darted left and right. Xaver sensed Jeff's nervousness and his command over it.
Xaver clenched his hand. "Yes, but..."
"This is very hard for me."
"We know." Dillon added taking his place by Lisa again. "It shouldn't be. I wish we all could be more open about this shit."
Xaver got up and went to the door.
"Don't walk away now." Lisa said. The others agreed.
"I have one last revelation." Xaver started. He touched the door knob, gripping it firmly, trying to crush it. He felt the pain of his strength and turned back to face the crowd. Dillon approached him cautiously. "My last revelation is, " He glared at Jeff then softened his look, "that I'm in love with you, Jeff."
Dillon's face going slack was the last thing he saw before hitting the stiff night air. The door slammed and he heard it open again behind him.
"Xaver! Xaver, please come back inside!" Dillon shouted. "We need to talk this over."
Xaver continued on. The snow crunched beneath his feet. Dillon touched his shoulder gently. "Please stop."
Xaver turned to see Dillon standing there, his black hair hanging about his shoulders. He looked like the teenage version of a sage of old. "Why? What else is there to say? I'm a faggot. I wish I wasn't, but I can't help being this way."
"No one said that is a problem."
"Well, it is. And it is my problem -- not yours."
"Just come back inside for a few minutes -- until you sober up. Your 'problem' isn't going to get any worse."
Xaver sighed. "What about Jeff?"
"Don't worry about him. He's a big boy. He can handle it."
They both returned with Dillon guarding Xaver's rear. The room was silent. Jeff sat as far from Xaver as he could without leaving the room.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make a scene." Xaver announced, tears finally overflowing his heavy eyes. "Most of all, I'm sorry about you, Jeff."
"Don't be." Jeff said.
Xaver stared at him. He wondered why he loved this tall, hardly ever serious man. Was it his, up until now, carefree manner? His green eyes? His big hands? He didn't pretend to understand his desire for Jeff. He only knew it was there, tugging at him then, prodding at him now. He often wished Jeff would just find a girlfriend, so that he could be free to give up and find someone else.
"I'm flattered." Jeff said after a long pause -- too long for Xaver to believe him.
"Then why are you over there?" Dillon asked. Xaver wished he had said that!
"Because it is not easy to--"
"Dillon, stay out of this." Xaver cut in. "I'm really sorry, Jeff. I didn't mean to do this to you."
Jeff sat back in his chair, then he thrust forward. "Stop looking at me!" Xaver had never seen him so angry.
"Not you -- them." He waved his hand around the room. "This is just a spectacle for all of you. For Xaver and me, it's life."
Lisa stood up. "I think we all need to cool off."
"Yeah, let's chill out for a minute here." Dillon added. "Xaver, come here." Xaver followed him into the kitchen, wondering what was up. Feeling better?"
"Okay, just hang tight."
Dillon returned a minute later with Jeff. Xaver and Jeff eyed each other. He noticed Jeff was teary-eyed and shaking a little. He felt ashamed. I love this guy and I pulled this coming out act almost for spite. I should have chosen a more private way to uncover my feelings for him, like a letter or a phone call. Too late now!
Dillon left them alone. Jeff watched him go as if as if he was being locked in a cage with a hungry tiger. Xaver stepped back, not wanting to crowd him.
"You certainly made a mess."
"Good to see you can still take it so lightly. I wish I could turn off my feelings for you."
"Well, you are obviously straight."
Jeff faced him and moved closer. "It took a lot of alcohol for you to come out of the closet."
"Yeah, but it took a lot more than that for me to say I'm in love with you. I still am, you know."
Jeff slid backwards. "How about some coffee?"
"Good thing Dillon has this instant cappuccino stuff. I can't handle anything more complex, especially right now." He giggled.
Jeff filled two cups with water and nuked them. They each leaned on orthogonal counters -- far yet close enough to show neither felt threatened -- sipping away.
"You know, you have the cutest hazel eyes I've ever seen."
Xaver spilt his coffee on the floor. "Shit!" He grabbed some papers towels and squatted to clean up the mess, not looking at Jeff. He thought he imagined it.
"Yeah, I thought you said--"
"That you have cute eyes?"
Jeff grinned. "Do I have to explain it to you?" He put down his cup.
"No, but are you serious?"
"Serious enough." He grabbed Xaver.
"I feel as if it's a dream."
"It is. Now let's make it real."