“Great!” Pais threw a glance over his shoulder. “But…I…could we maybe keep it between us. I mean, for now?”
And that’s when I realized Goldie might have been right. “Um…well sure. Okay. “
I guess he could sense my uncertainty because his face twisted in worry. “Are you ok with that? I mean…look, I’m not…you know…out.” The way he whispered the word made me uneasy.
“I know-I mean, I guessed that. I guess I’ve just never done anything like that.”
He looked disappointed. “Look if it’s not for you, I understand. I just ask that you please keep this conversation to yourself.”
“Pais…I’m not saying I can’t handle it, just that I’ve never done it before. I’d like to go out but I think I need a little time to figure things out. But your secret is safe with me, ok?”
A look of relief washed over his face as he grinned. “Thanks, Hibi. Call me later, let me know?”
“Sure.” I stood there watching as he grinned again and took off towards his car. Moments later, I heard a voice next to me.
“Was that what I think it was?”
I didn’t know what to say. I’d never lied to my friends about something like this but Pais clearly wasn’t out. I had no idea how to handle it. I finally decided on the truth…or part of it. “Nah. He wants to know a little more about the city. Places to go, things to do-that sort of thing.”
“Oh…I thought for sure from the look on your face before…”
“Wishful thinking, I guess.”
I felt bad.
I’d lied to my one of my best friends.
And I still didn’t even know how I felt about Pais not being out. It was all I could think about all afternoon. On the one hand, I could understand his wanting to keep things quiet if he wasn’t out yet. On the other hand, I was most decidedly out. I’d never not been out, really. I’d always had the benefit of supportive family and friends.
I didn’t know if I could or even should do this. Could I really be someone’s secret?
Then I wondered if I wasn’t getting way ahead of myself. I mean we were only talking about one dinner and tour of the city. That hardly meant anything beyond that would happen.
Over and over, round and round it went in my mind.
By the time I’d been staring at the computer monitor for an hour with no progress, I knew I needed some advice. And I knew just where to find it.
“Hibiscus! Over here!”
Trevor was another of my best friends. We’d hung out a lot when he was still in high school. He was two years older, though, which meant he was starting his sophomore year at BPU. I really felt like I could go to any of my friends with this and trust them to keep it quiet but I chose Trev because, like me, he’s gay and he’s out. Unlike me, though, he’s had quite a bit of experience with guys. And I really needed to get some perspective on the situation.
“Look at you, you little shit! Where have you been?! You promised you’d come see me when I came back to campus!”
“I saw you all summer!”
“Ass. I don’t care. I’ve been living in the dorms for a month now and you haven’t visited me once. I’m very insulted.”
“Tell you what. Show me now and I’ll order us pizza. Consider it my apology.”
As we strolled to his dorm, I filled Trev in on the situation.
“Someone asked me out, Trev. And I think I really like him. I mean I’m definitely really attracted to him.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“He’s not out. He asked me to ‘keep it quiet.’”
“Oh ouch. I see the problem.”
“I dunno what to do, Trev. I’ve already lied to Salt and Gilt about it and I feel like shit.”
“Well, that might be your answer right there. Are you willing to lie to your friends? Is this guy worth that?”
“I’m not willing to lie to them. I…if I went out with him more than once, I’d have to be able to tell them. I know they’d keep it a secret. But what I don’t know is…do I want to?”
“I’ve gone out with a few closet cases, and it… well sometimes it’s worth it. Sometimes not.”
“So it is manageable? I mean…someone who’s totally out could make it work with someone who’s completely not?”
“I didn’t say it worked. Just that some of them were worth the time.”
“I’ve only known him a week. How am I supposed to know if he’s worth the time or not?”
“The only way to do that is give him some time.”
I considered that for a moment. “You know, I think college is really doing something for you. You’re like a wise old man now, or something.” I flashed him a toothy grin.
We spent the next few hours hanging out in Trev’s dorm room. We played video games and I met his roommate and a couple other kids from the floor.
I was having too much fun to let myself worry about the situation with Pais but on the drive home, it was all I could think about.
I mulled it over the entire drive and by the time the car was parked in the garage, I’d made a decision. I let Mom and Dad know I was home and headed out back for a little privacy.
“Pais? Hi, it’s Hibi…yeah…So I was thinking…about the whole keeping it quiet thing….yeah…I understand and well, I’m willing to try…Okay…sure…I could pick you up…Oh. Okay then. Meet me there, then? Around noon? And we’ll go from there I guess…Alright…Sure…Yeah, me too. Bye, Pais.”
Okay so maybe I couldn’t pick him up at his house. But at least we could meet and then take the same car from there. And we wouldn’t be able to act like we were actually on a date or anything, just in case we ran into someone we knew. But I mean, it’s not like we were really dating anyhow. This was just our first time going out-hanging out-together, alone. Anything could happen. It’s not like this was supposed to be some romantic day anyhow.
Who am I kidding?
It was the most awkward first date in the history of first dates. Well, if you can call it a date. Frankly, I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to see it. I mean, I think it was a first date. Just one where no one could know we were on a date. And, God, it was confusing and hard.
I did show him around Bridgeport-I took him to all my favorite hangouts, showed him where all the best beaches and parks were and even showed him the overlook where I camped sometimes with my friends. We went for pizza and, later, had ice cream. We talked. We laughed. We did everything I already do with Salty and Gilt and all my other friends.
I spent most of the night in a state of confusion and by the time we were driving back to his car I had all but given up on trying to see us as anything other than two friends, hanging out.
But then things changed.
“Isn’t that overlook near here? The one you showed me earlier?”
“Yeah, the turn off’s just up the road.”
“Let’s go up there. I’d like to see the view at night.”
Twenty minutes later the car was parked and we’d walked the short distance to the lookout’s best view.
“This is amazing, Hibiscus. How’d you ever find a place like this?”
“My Dad and Salt’s Dad found it when they were our age. They bring us out here ca…” But that’s all I got out because as I turned my head to look at him his face was so much closer than he’d been. Before I could even take a breath, his lips were on mine and I knew exactly what made Pais different than my other friends.
And suddenly I didn’t care that it had to happen in seclusion. I let go of all my worries, all my concerns as I slid my arms around him and let myself sink into our first kiss.
*Note: Special thanks to Vani for doing Trev’s lines.