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I’ve known Xander all of my life. Ever since we were about 10 years old. I remember being in elementary school when Xander moved to South Carolina . He was the “new kid” in class and he looked scared to death. I remember how much I liked him when I first saw him. I was kind of an outcast, and it was even worse that day because I had a black eye and was bruised up and down my back; my dad’s handiwork from the night before. Xander talked to me anyway; when he inquired about my injuries he accepted my explanation that I had “fallen”. He just seemed to understand. I asked him to sit next to me at lunch and that was it. Our friendship just seemed to blossom and bloom. Truthfully, I had a big crush on him. Later in life, I told myself I grew out of it, but I never really did. I admired Xander; I always wanted to be around him.
Later I learned that we both came from somewhat abusive families; my father was a factory worker and his father was a lawyer. While my father was physically and verbally abusive to me and my mother, Xander’s family just didn’t care less. His dad worked all the time, traveling the country constantly, and his mom was out running around and doing god knows what. So, I spent most of my free time at his house after school; we’d have sleepovers, play video games and tell each other our deepest, darkest secrets. We had a lot in common, and since we didn’t really have parents to raise us, we made a blood pact that we would always be there for each other, no matter what.
I wouldn’t call myself gay, but I’ve always had feelings for Xander. He’s like a brother to me, but he’s more than that. He knows my every secret, my every fear, and all of my flaws. I know his. We fight, then we make up. No matter what, we’re always there for each other. We grew up together, and had managed to shut out pretty much everyone else. I knew I loved him, but I tried not to let the thought linger. I just told myself we were so close and such good friends, that my mind was playing tricks on me.
I think the real reason I tried to suppress my feelings is because of my father. If he ever found out I was gay he would literally kill me. He considered himself a man’s man and was very narcissistic. If I did anything that reflected bad on him, it would fuel another abusive episode that we were so acquainted with. Me being gay? Don’t even think about it.
As we got older, we made other friends and had our circles at school that we ran in. We both got on the wrestling team in high school, and while neither of us were spectacular, we had a lot of fun.
Eventually, we both started dating girls, like we were “supposed” to. We were both decent looking guys; he was about 6’0, I was a couple inches taller. He had soft brown eyes and a rounder face; I had cold blue-gray eyes and a strong chin. We were both pretty athletic and muscular. Xander would go and brag to his friends about all the girls who liked him, and I would do likewise, but we were both just big talking virgins and we both knew it. I just couldn’t find anyone special enough, and neither could he.
We had done some sexual stuff with girls, but the truth was, Xander turned me on more than any girl I met. Again, I just chalked it up to raging hormones. I allowed myself to fantasize about him, though.
We went through so much together. I couldn’t imagine living without Xander. So when he told me he might be moving away, naturally I flipped out.
It was April of senior year, and we’d been discussing our plans for college. It was one day after school, when we were driving home, that he dropped the bombshell on me. I knew he had been acting funny that week, but I didn’t know why.
“James….I got accepted into UCLA.”
I looked at him, to make sure he was serious. Yep…his jaw was set and square, his brown eyes straight ahead.
My heart sank, and my stomach turned. I wanted to burst into tears, but I kept my composure. “Why are you going to California, X?” I asked him. It didn’t seem like a smart decision to me. We were small town kids; Xander wouldn’t be happy in California. He took a deep breath, and let it out in a shuddering sigh. “Have you ever just wanted to, you know, get away?”
“Well, yeah, but you know why I stay here.”
He glanced at me, as I tried to keep my face blank. “Your grandma, I know.”
That was one of the reasons. Much as I hated my dad, I loved my grandma, and she was in her 70s. She lived in the town nearby, and I really didn’t want to leave her, knowing she might not be here when I return.
That wasn’t the only reason, though. Xander was a big part of what kept me here.
He noticed my hesitation. “Well, why else would you stay? God knows I’ve got nothing to keep me here. My family doesn’t care, I don’t have a girl, nobody cares.” He uttered those last words as we pulled up in front of his house.
I was so upset, my head was pounding. I couldn’t let him see me lose it, though. If he wanted to go, who was I to stop him? We both climbed out of the car, and I grabbed gaziantep escort my bag and took off down the road towards my house. Much as I didn’t want to be home, I couldn’t keep my cool and face Xander right now.
“Hey, man, where you going? I thought we were gonna chill?” He looked at me confused.
I looked back at him, standing there. He wasn’t all that much to look at; about 6’0 tall, brown eyes, dirty blonde hair, slightly muscular and solid. Like me, he had dirty blonde, wind blown hair and a perpetual tan from spending all summer on the beach.
Was I really going to lose the one person that I trusted, the one person I really knew? I choked back a sob, but a tear ran down my face. His eyes widened in surprise as I quickly wiped it away.
“I gotta get home and take care of some shit,” I told him gruffly, trying to sound as masculine as possible. “I’ll call you later.”
I turned and walked away briskly, but I knew that he was still standing there watching me as I left.
Home was the last place I wanted to be. Mom was downstairs, frantically trying to get the house clean and dinner on the table so that Dad wouldn’t flip out when he came home. I helped out as much as I could, knowing that no matter what we did, it wouldn’t be good enough. I was right.
Dad came in the door around six, came straight to the kitchen and started barking orders at Mom. He criticized one thing after another, from a piece of lint on the carpet, to the slightly underdone spaghetti noodles, to the fact that my mom’s hair was in a ponytail and not fixed. I kept my head down as I ate and kept quiet. He had Mom in tears by the end of the meal, as usual. He then retired to the couch, where he expected to be waited on hand and foot.
It was an old, familiar tune. I hung out in my room, working on school stuff. I had learned by now how to be invisible. I didn’t speak to him unless I was spoken to, and as long as I stayed out of his way he’d ignore me. I felt bad that Mom was getting the brunt of it tonight, though. Every so often, I heard him scream at Mom for one thing or the other. Each time I heard his shrill, demanding voice my stomach would tighten with anxiety.
I really wished I could be at Xander’s so I wouldn’t have to deal with this. He was probably missing me, too. I knew how lonely he got when he was all by himself. In all the time I’d known him, I’d only met his parents a handful of times. Usually his Mom was passed out on the couch, drunk. Now she worked, but cheated on his dad so much that she was always with a different man. They pretty much just left him to his own devices. I don’t know what’s worse; having parents around who want to torment you and beat you, or having parents that simply don’t care at all.
Around ten or so it finally went silent and I figured Dad had passed out by now. It must be exhausting to live the life of a dictator. Mom came in the room a little later and sat on the bed, smiling at me. Her face was tear stained, and she looked exhausted. I went and sat beside her, hugging her into my arms and kissing her cheek.
“Why don’t you leave him, Mom? I’m eighteen now, I can take care of myself.”
She sighed and smiled sadly.
“Don’t you worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
We sat like that, for a few minutes.
“What’s bothering you?” she asked me softly. I was surprised that she had noticed. But then again, she usually did. Tears came from my eyes as I leaned against her.
“Xander’s moving away.”
We didn’t speak. We held each other silently. Eighteen years old and still crying to Mommy. Geez.
Xander called about twelve, which was not uncommon. I watched my vibrating cell phone turn around in circles on the desk until it finally stopped ringing.
Xander drove his car by my house the next morning and honked once. We usually rode together. I waited until he went on to get in my car and drive myself to school. All day, I kinda walked around in a daze. Nobody seemed to notice. I avoided Xander as much as possible. The last bell rung, and I was at my locker stuffing books into my bag when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I whirled around, expecting to find Xander.
It was Amy from English class. She was tiny, barely 5’0 tall, with reddish blonde hair, freckles and pale skin. We were pretty good friends.
“James, what’s up with you today? You don’t look good.” she smiled up at me, wrapping her arms around my waist. I hugged her quickly and grabbed my bag, heading towards the door.
“Nothing, I just don’t feel great today.” I lied.
“Okay…how about you come out with me tomorrow night? We’ll go see a movie or something.” She beamed at me.
I thought for a minute. Amy wasn’t really my type, but it would give me an excuse to back out of spending Friday night with Xander. That was usually the night I stayed over at his house and we’d play ball or swim in the pool, and just chill. He would be really pissed if I wasn’t there.
“Sounds good,” I told her, trying to sound happy, and smiled.
I didn’t want to face Xander that night, and I couldn’t bear to go home again, so I made the 15- minute drive to see my grandma in the next town. She answered the door, beaming at me.
She looked younger than her 70 years or so. She had bright blue perceptive eyes and a head full of thick black hair, even at her age. Her skin wasn’t excessively wrinkled.
We ate dinner and sat around and talked. I enjoyed talking to her. I could always ask her advice. Every now and then, she would cough painfully. I was always worried about her health, but she refused to go see a doctor. She always said she’d be better off not knowing.
“How is your friend, doing, James?” she asked me, referring to Xander.
I hesitated. “Have a fight?” she asked, peering down at me over her wire-rimmed glasses.
I sighed. “Something like that. He’s planning on leaving town for college. Going to California.”
She laughed. “Why on earth would he go there?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
She smiled at me knowingly. “You’ll miss him. You’ll have a hard time if he leaves.”
“I just don’t see how he can leave so easily.” I told her.
She looked at me quickly, then glanced away. I couldn’t quite read her expression.
“You should tell him how you feel.” she spoke, finally. “Maybe he won’t leave.” she looked at me pointedly.
My heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean?” I asked softly.
She said nothing, just looked at me.
I got up and hugged her tightly.
She smiled at me. “Why don’t you go with him? You don’t have anything keeping you here, James. I know how your father is.”
“I can’t leave you, Grandma. And what about Mom?” I asked her.
“Oh, we can take care of ourselves. You need to do what makes you happy, James.”
I knew she was right.
“Dude, what the fuck?” Xander asked me on the phone Friday night. “We always hang out on Fridays. You don’t even like Amy.” He sounded almost jealous, and he was definitely, as I predicted, pissed.
“Yeah, well, she’s cute.” I lied. “Anyway, you’ll have to get used to Friday nights without me in LA, won’t you?” I tried to sound cocky, or arrogant, but the words came out too softly. I sounded like a whiny girl, I thought, wincing.
“James, is that what this is all about? Look, can we talk about this? Come hang out with me, don’t go out with Amy. We’ll talk things over.” That was Xander, ever the counselor. He wanted to be a therapist; his powerful skills of observation, coupled with the fact that he knew me intimately, meant that he could see right through me right now, and I didn’t like it.
“I don’t want to talk about it right now. Drop me a line from Cali, bro.” I knew that would leave him seething. I hung up, finished getting ready, and jumped in the car to go pick Amy up.
I was too restless to go see a movie, so we ended up going to grab dinner. Amy chattered incessantly, talking about school and college and her plans as an English major and blah blah blah. Not that she was annoying; I just couldn’t think about anything but Xander right now. She reached over to touch my hand a few times, obviously trying to come onto me, but I was too distracted to pick up on her hints.
I was angry at Xander, but I was more angry with myself for getting so worked up. I was acting like an ass. If he wanted to move halfway across the country, he had every right to do so. So, what, he’s moving away? Big deal. He was just a friend. Right? No, my best friend. The only person…..
“James? You look like you’re about to cry.” Amy’s voice came into my thoughts.
I blinked. “Sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”
She looked at me curiously, then smiled, unaffected.
“Hey, maybe we should go to Brad’s party after this.” Brad was the captain of the football team. He was always throwing parties at his family’s three story house, because his parents traveled so much. Me and Xander would go occasionally, for the free booze. Brad was a jerk, but his parents had money, and he could throw a party.
“Sure, sounds good.” I mumbled. Amy kept on chattering, as I tuned out again.
About five beers and six or seven or eight shots of Smirnoff vodka later, I was feeling great. I don’t know how much I had to drink. I don’t drink much, but Amy’s voice and the thought of a future without Xander had me in need of an escape. Plus, I was trying to push those feelings about Xander out of my head. I knew there was something more, but I just didn’t want to face it right now. It was too painful and confusing. Nothing like getting plastered to deaden the pain.
If Xander found me like this, he would be so mad. He hated alcohol. He hated drugs. His mom had been an alcoholic, of course. His uncle, who used to help take care of him when he was a kid, had died in a car wreck while driving drunk. A car wreck that Xander was almost involved in. Xander always reminded me how if I hadn’t been at the house with him, his uncle would have taken him back to his place to take care of him, drunk as a skunk. Not that two 12 year old kids together is responsible, but it had stopped Xander from possibly dying in that car wreck. So, of course, guess who showed up at the party?
I was sitting in a chair on the back porch, staring at the sky. Thinking about my childhood. Thinking about Xander. How much I would miss him. Trying not to think about those things, but my drunken thoughts were on a one-way track. My head was spinning. I was vaguely aware of the fact that Amy was gone. Somebody said my name.
“James!” Xander was yelling at me. I looked up, trying to focus on his features.
“Hey, X, dude, what are….what are you here for?” I slurred.
“Amy called me. Have you been drinking?” His voice had an ugly edge to it.
I was too out of it to respond. I just grinned at him, stupidly. I couldn’t feel anything. I wasn’t sad, wasn’t happy. I felt blissfully numb. I think I passed out.
I don’t really know how he got me to his car, or in the house. I woke up the next day in his bed, about noon. I felt like I was dead or dying. My head was killing me.
Somehow I made it to the bathroom where I puked my guts out. When I finally looked up, Xander was standing there, arms crossed, leaning against the door frame. The expression on his face read disappointment. Unfortunately, I could feel again. I felt ashamed. I felt sad. I couldn’t even make eye contact with him.
“I had Dan drive your car back to the house. It’s in the driveway when you’re ready to leave..” He spoke, breaking the silence. His voice was cold.
I nodded. Dan was one of our other friends, a good guy.
“Feel better?’ he asked.
I chuckled. “No.”
“Do you want to talk now?”
I stared into the toilet bowl. “No.” I whispered. I looked up at him. “Do you want me to leave, now?”
I must have looked pitiful, because he softened a bit.
“No, but we’re going to have to talk about this, you know.”
I looked back down.
We spent the rest of the day just hanging out. Xander fed me and made sure I drank plenty of water, trying to help me recover from my hangover. He had covered my ass by calling my Mom last night and telling her I didn’t feel well, and that I was staying with him. His parents were, of course, god knows where.
So we just hung out. We didn’t talk about the one thing that hung in the air. We didn’t really talk. Just enjoyed each other’s company.
I stayed the night with him. I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up dozing off on the living room floor while we were watching TV. I woke up in his arms early that Sunday morning. We hadn’t done that since we were little. It was kind of nice.
I pressed my face against his bare shoulder, breathing in his scent. I brushed his hair out of his eyes, and watched him breathe. He was so cute. I touched his face, thinking back to the first day I met him.
His eyes fluttered open, and I dropped my hand. I blushed a little and untangled myself from him, standing up. He remained on the floor, his head up propped up on his elbow.
“What? Are we getting too old for that or something?” he teased me.
I swallowed hard and met his gaze. We just looked at each other for a long moment.
“Want to ride to the beach today?” Xander asked, filling the awkward silence.
I smiled. “Whatever you want, buddy.”
There was a small beach about forty minutes away. Usually we had it all ourselves, except for the few people that lived around there. Most of the crowds gather at Myrtle Beach, about ninety minutes away. But this place was where we really liked to be. The two of us could just chill. It was just us and maybe a few other people out there today.
He looked so good, playing in the water in just his white swim trunks. More than once, I found myself admiring the strong muscles in his lean body, his hair blowing in the wind. He looked a like a model doing a photo shoot on the beach. I hid behind my glasses and tried not to let him catch me staring.
We dove into the still freezing ocean, then afterwards, laid on towels in the sand and soaked up the sun. Xander kept pestering me about having a ‘talk’. Finally I sat up and looked at him.
“All I can really say is that, I’m gonna miss you like hell. I don’t really have anyone here. You’re my best friend, you know me better than anyone, and it just won’t be the same.” Thankfully I had on dark shades to hide my eyes.
He seemed to accept this explanation, and laid back down.
We drove home about four, in silence. We pulled up in his driveway and he turned off the car. We just sat, in silence. Finally, he turned and looked at me.
“James…..give me one, good, real, reason to stay.” he spoke softly. His eyes searched mine. What was he looking for? I don’t know. I don’t know what made me move.
I leaned over and touched his face. “I need you, Xander.”
He placed his hand over mine, and leaned in. He pressed his forehead to mine, looking into my eyes, like he used to do when we were kids.
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