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Once Upon A Time

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„And now we welcome, on TV for the first time in several years: Mister Bob Dylan!”

The applause was insane. It was almost too much but he shook his head briskly. He had come here on his own terms. He had asked his manager himself whether he could arrange an appearance on the show a while ago.

“Bob!” The talkshow host welcomed him with a firm shake of the hand, and before he knew what was happening, Bob was already sitting on the thankfully not too soft couch opposite of him. Had it been too soft, he might just have let it swallow him whole. He still hadn’t managed to calm his nerves.

After exchanging some pleasantries, the talkshow host, a certain Dan Miller, thanked him for appearing on his show, and Bob talked about his latest album for a minute, until the talkshow host harrumphed.

“So, Bob. You wanted to talk about something in particular when coming here, you told me?” Bob, despite being prepared and all too willing to finally confess, felt his heart stop for a moment and took a steadying breath before nodding affirmingly. “Yeah.”

He looked directly into the camera for a moment instead of toward Miller. “I just wanted to say... I am gonna tell you a story about George. ... George Harrison, you know.” He saw Miller nod from the corner of his eye. He had his hands folded in his lap and looked eager to hear what Bob was going to tell him. Him and half the nation watching the show right now. “And I just wanted to say that Olivia and Dhani – his wonderful wife and kid – they gave me their blessings to tell this story. ...Yeah.”

He had turned back toward Miller toward the end of his little heads-up. Now it was time to spill the tea, as George used to say. He smiled a little to himself, not noticeable enough for anyone to notice.

“Now, you see, I first met George when he was only in his early twenties and the Beatles were quite famous already.” Miller nodded, but remained quiet, waiting for him to continue. “I was also quite known back then and I ended up meeting all of the Beatles then. George became a fast friend of mine. He was one of the most decent people I ever met – and the one with the most wicked humour.”

Miller laughed, nodding. He had met George on his show once before, many years ago, and his humor had left a lasting impression. The talkshow host told Bob about the incident and Bob allowed himself a barely but yet, visible smile. “Yeah, that was George.” Miller was smiling at him and the tension caused by the anticipation of what Bob’s story was faded away a bit.

“A’ight,” Bob shook his head, still smiling. (Talking about George tended to have that effect on him.) “I’m gonna tell you the story I came to tell now. It’s not a lot that happened, but I felt like it was time to spill the tea, as George used to say.” Miller nodded at him encouragingly.

“You see, Olivia told me she had found writing of George’s the other month and it seemed like he wanted to publish it when he was working on it. It was all autobiographical and she saw a sequence in there, a story we all three knew about. She called me and we reminisced about it when we met on her invitation.”

Bob took another steadying breath when suddenly, a gentle calm settled over him. He wasn’t nervous about what he was about to confess anymore, hell, he couldn’t care less about what anyone thought about him. And he had known George well enough to know that he had his blessing, too. And he had Olivia and Dhani at his back, no matter that he hadn’t seen them for years until recently.

“In the eighties – before the Traveling Wilburys came to be – we hung out sometimes and one time, late one evening, we were sitting on George’s couch with some wine.” He paused, recalling the evening very clearly still. He knew it would never fade from his memory and he was glad for it. “He told me–” He let out a sound that could only be described as a giggle but thankfully wasn’t as obviously one, his voice deeper and rougher than it had been in younger days. He reached for his water and took a sip before continuing.

“He told me, serious as only George could be without being intimidating, that were I a girl, he would have dated me. Even married me.” The room and the audience within had grown noticeably quieter over the course of his last few words. “Despite all my flaws.” Bob shook his head, laughing lowly.

“I told him I’d still be no good then, as a girl, but also that I wholeheartedly returned the sentiment.” He smiled, the memory coming back to him more clearly than it had been minutes ago. “He was closer suddenly, but he didn’t do a thing. So I ...kissed him.”

There were a few gasps but also an audible, surprised “Woooah” coming from the audience, but Bob didn’t pay much attention to them then. He didn’t pay more attention to Miller either, who was staring at him unbelievingly. But more positively surprised than uncomfortable. Bob had chosen to appear on his show for a good reason after all, that being Miller being openly gay and talking about LGBT matters quite frequently. He knew that most people that watched the show were also pretty open-minded, but that didn’t matter all that much now. Tomorrow, the whole country would know anyway. He felt oddly unworried about it now.

“George was horrified, told me he’d have to fess up to Olivia about what had happened. I told him not to worry, it had been my fault after all. He hadn’t kissed me. He told me he had been thinking about it though.”

“Wow, I. Wow.” Miller was clearly at a loss of words, not having anticipated Bob’s story to lead where it was going right then. So, Bob internally shrugged and went on.

“He asked me if I didn’t like girls after all and I looked at him and told him–“ Bob raised both his eyebrows, mirroring his gaze back then, and dryly repeated his words to George: “There are people who are bisexual, y’know, George?”

The audience laughed heartily for a moment and Miller, too, seemed to recovered his voice, despite only managing a short, laughed “Oh my god” before Bob took over again.

“Y’know, that question coming from a man who then told me he was bisexual himself was kind of hilarious. But... that was George to you. I think he knew but wanted make sure.” He added: “And it was still a topic you didn’t talk about that much with your friends back then. But then, you didn’t kiss your best friend every day either.”

The rest of the talkshow went over quite fast after Bob had finished telling his story. The show still continued for another half hour, actually, but Bob felt like he had lost his sense of time. He felt so much lighter now that he had talked about what had happened. There had been no one else, no other guy after George and their kiss. But that didn’t change how he felt. And he felt better for himself now and he felt that George would hug him, where he still here.

*****

It was late and they had spent all day jamming and writing a couple of new and half-finished songs. It was a musically satisfying day, to say the least, and being in good company was a bonus both of them appreciated.

George had gone and fetched them a bottle of wine from the cellar, pouring them both a glass before letting himself fall lightly onto the couch next to Bob.

They sipped at their glasses in amiable silence for a few minutes, drinking but not enough to get tipsy yet. It wasn’t the wine that made George suddenly set down his glass on the table before turning and, meeting Bob’s eyes seriously, tell him: “If you were a girl, I’d have dated ye any day. Even married ye.”

It was a sudden and unexpected confession and Bob, too, set down his glass before he thought of a good answer. “I don’t think you’d like to date me. I’d still be as unreliable as I am now, I reckon. But... I’d date you, too.”

His gaze was locked on George’s, silent questions being directed at each other in a frenzy, and suddenly, George seemed to sit so much closer than before. Bob couldn’t help himself anymore, he leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to George’s lips, his hand holding George close by the shoulder and his thumb caressing his throat gently.

George, whose eyes had closed the second their lips had met, pulled back all of a sudden, eyes wide and filled with panic. He was married and very happily so. Bob knew. George didn’t even need to say it.

“I’ll have to tell Olivia.”

Bob nodded. He understood.

George looked torn and close to tears, and he placed a hand gently on Bob’s cheek before pulling him closer and resting his forehead against Bob’s. “You know that I love her, more than the world, but... I love you, too.” He waited, looking into Bob’s eyes to see if he understood how important this was to him. “Please don’t ever forget that.” Bob couldn’t look away, the moment too intense and his own feelings finally released from where he had hidden them for years now. “I always loved you, George.” It came out all choked out and the tears in his eyes were undeniable. “And I always will.”

George pulled him into a tight hug and sadly cursed about his too big heart, asking why he had to love two people so, so dearly, at once. But Bob only shook his head against his shoulder and told him firmly to stop. “You are one of the finest persons I know, George. I won’t do anything to hurt you. I promise.”

George, too, shook his head then. “I feel like all this love might kill me someday.”

Bob stilled for a moment before holding George even more tightly. “It won’t. I’ll make sure it won’t.”

And he and Olivia did.