You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
William glanced at his studying schedule pinned to his dorm room’s wall. He sighed in relief. One chapter of biophysics to go, then he would be done for tonight. He took off his headphones, stood up and went to his fridge, deliberately ignoring his coffeemaker. It was tempting, but he knew damn well he wouldn’t sleep if he drank coffee after 7 p.m. and he needed to get up early the next morning. No caffeine tonight. He opened the fridge and chose a green smoothie he had made that morning, and took a sip while checking his phone.
“Can I come over?”
A text from Ethan. It instantly made William smile and while he was still wondering whether or not he should agree, he heard someone knocking on the door. No more dilemma then. Ethan – 1, biophysics – 0.
He opened the door to find his boyfriend flashing his bright smile at the door, then at William. Ethan, messy dark hair, red hoodie, worn-out jeans, and two pizza boxes in one hand.
“Hello, handsome!” he greeted him. “Fancy some pizza?”
He entered his boyfriend’s room and William kissed him softly to welcome him.
“I just saw your text,” he confessed.
“Yeah, I thought so. I was hungry. After an hour I decided to take control of the situation, and here I am. Didn’t wait for your authorization, sorry. The pizza would have been cold.”
Again, that bright smile from one ear to the other. Ethan kicked off his shoes and made room on the night stand in order to put the pizza boxes on it. Then, sitting on the bed, he opened his arms and invited Will to join him. The young man obliged, and for a few minutes it was only soft kisses, smiles and cuddles.
“Capricciosa and pugliese. I hope it’s okay,” Ethan said after a while, concerned.
“Yes, thank you. You saved me from a green smoothie.”
“Jeez, how can you drink that thing?”
“I don’t know. Ethan… I’m sorry but I still have to work tonight, okay?”
“Okay, I get it,” Ethan sighed. “We eat and then I go back to my room… With my stinky roommate around… And I’ll sleep alone in my cold bed.”
“You’re such a drama queen,” Will laughed. “You can stay here for the night. It’s just that I need to study before joining you.”
“If you join me early enough we can study some anatomy together.”
“I’d really like to, but tonight it’s biophysics.”
Ethan pouted, disappointed, and opened the first pizza box. They started eating.
“What do biophysics have on me?”
“How is the studying going?”
Ethan chewed on his pizza bite and avoided the question.
“There’s a new show on Netflix we need to watch together.”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry… You have to study.”
“Actually, we have to study.”
“But finals are two months away from now, it’s just so early!” Ethan complained.
“Never too early to start studying. I thought you had started too, by the way. You said you had.”
“Yes but… Listen, Will, I didn’t come here to have that conversation.”
“What conversation?” Will asked.
He was trying to remain calm, but he didn’t like how this evening was turning out. He was starting to panic, almost certain that Ethan was about to say something he didn’t want to hear. His boyfriend put down the piece of pizza he was eating, took a deep breath and stared at William in the eyes.
“I won’t take the exams.”
“But, Ethan…! We’re so close to graduation…”
“Yes, I know, but… What’s the point? I know I won’t do physics all my life. I know that’s not what I want my life to be.”
“But you love it…”
“Yes, I love it. But that doesn’t mean I want to make a living out of it… I want to become a naval aviator, Will. I’m 22 and I won’t get that chance anymore. Physics will still be there when I’m 55, you know, while…”
Ethan opened his mouth but closed it at once. Will wasn’t going to love it.
“I passed the admission exam in a flight school. I’m joining the Navy,” he confessed.
“What, you- you didn’t tell me!”
“I wasn’t really sure to pass. I thought that if I did pass… It would still be time to tell you then.”
“When was it?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“Oh. I see. And when exactly were you supposed to tell me?”
“Will, don’t get mad, please…”
“I’m not mad! Not at all! I’m disappointed, Ethan. Two weeks and not a word?”
“I was scared to tell you… I know how much you love it here, and how simple it is for us… Same dorm, same classes, same schedule, it’s just so easy to spend time together! I know it will be so much more complicated when I leave…”
“You were scared? Okay, I understand. But you lied to me. Two weeks ago, you said you went home to see your grandma because she was sick, and now you tell me you left to take that exam. You said you had started to study while in fact, you never intended to…”
“Will, there’s no point in studying for exams I won’t take!”
“You could still take them!”
“I don’t want to! I want to be…”
“A pilot, yes, I hear that. You sound like a little boy who sees airplanes and wants to fly.”
“It was my childhood dream, yes, but I don’t see the problem with…”
“It’s not your dream, Ethan. It’s your father’s. He always wanted you to be his perfect double, didn’t he?”
“It has nothing to do with that!”
“You are brilliant, Ethan. Please. Don’t waste it…”
“Waste it? I’m about to live my dream!”
“Yeah, and for how long? When you’ll get older, if you make it so far, they’ll say they don’t need you anymore and you… Ah, fuck. You know that too damn well.”
“Yes, I know. That doesn’t mean staying stuck in a life I don’t want to live is a better option.”
Will stayed numb for a few endless seconds and felt his heart aching in his chest.
“Ah, yes. College, physics, me. That’s the life you don’t want to live.”
“It’s not what I meant…”
“It’s still what it means. Go, Ethan. Go to some forsaken Navy air station. Go to war. Who am I to deter you?”
Ethan stood up and walked for a few steps, trying to stay calm and to hide the tears his eyes desperately wanted to cry.
“So that’s it, then. That’s how you want it to be?”
“What?” William exclaimed. “How I want it to be? You got to be kidding me. Who walked into the room ready to make all the worst decisions ever?”
“Ah. Yes, of course. I always make the bad decisions. It’s only a bad decision from your point of view, you know. Telling you about the exam was another one…”
“Not telling me was a bad idea.”
“And maybe going to college was one, too. Good night, Will. And good luck for the finals. You’ll do great, as always.”
He walked to the door, William stood up and followed him.
“Wait, no, Ethan, wait!”
But the young man had stepped outside and slammed the door. By the time Will reached and reopened it, Ethan was already heading to his own room and locked his door. William knocked on his boyfriend’s door and called his name a hundred times. No answer. He called him on his phone, but Ethan refused every single call. It seemed like every student living at their floor had suddenly things to do outside of their room, and every passer-by gave William a curious look. Some girls giggled that Ethan Hunt was about to be back on the market, some boys made inappropriate comments, some friends asked what was going on. And Will answered none of them. He didn’t know anyway. Was it a break up, was it a temporary storm? He didn’t know. Was he mad at Ethan for not telling him and for that foolish decision? Yes. Was he ready to give up on him because of that? Absolutely not.
The pizza had turned cold when he went back to his room. So, he turned off all the lights and laid on his bed all night, unable to sleep. Ethan – 2, biophysics – 0. He could have drunk that coffee, in the end. He should have.
His lover kept showing up to classes for a few weeks, but as finals were getting closer, he stopped. Will was usually sitting at the front row and couldn’t see him, but his presence kept him from focusing on the lectures nevertheless. And when he dared looking over his shoulder to the higher rows, he would catch Ethan taking notes, pretending to look closely at the prof’s presentation to avoid this gaze he could certainly feel on him. Will thought of going to him at the break every single day, every single hour, but didn’t. And he didn’t think for a second that Ethan was dying to do the same, too. But it wasn’t clear. Who had to apologize, who had done more harm? They couldn’t say. They kept blaming themselves, knowing that the other wasn’t completely right either, but they did nothing about it.
Then one day after finals and before summer break, Will met Ethan’s roommate in the corridor. He was leaving for grad school and was packing his stuff. William glanced at the room. Ethan’s side was already empty, blank, as if that other guy had never had any roommate.
“Hey, hum… Excuse me. Ethan, he… When did he leave?”
“Oh. I thought you knew. He left last week.”
That was it, then. He had left. Without saying goodbye. There was no hope to fix things between them anymore. Ethan hadn’t felt the need to, at least. Now who knew where on Earth he was? William thought of calling, just for the hundredth time that day, like any other day. But that was pointless. As if one phone call after two months of silence would bring Ethan back. As if he would drag his ass back to college for one stupid, delayed phone call.
It was over for real now. They had both chosen their path, and they were not likely to meet ever again.