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Skyscrapers and Stargazers In My Head

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Cyrus paced in front of the frosted glass doors of Il Cibo è Vita, zipping up his raincoat and debating what to do in this situation. The rain had definitely messed up his hair, and it had, despite the efforts of his bright yellow jacket, completely soaked through his new shirt. If he’d been analyzing himself, he would’ve sent himself straight to a therapist with all of his glaringly obvious signs of overthinking. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and sighed, pulling out his phone and rereading the messages sent through the DM system on that stupid blind dating app. Love Is Blind . He should’ve known a matchmaker app with a name like that was bound to be trouble. But Andi and Buffy had been so excited about it, and he hadn’t wanted to burst their bubbles. Now, he wished he had. He tried to scroll up past the most recent three messages, but the rain was making it nearly impossible to see his phone screen, so he was stuck rereading the short exchange a million times.

 

explodingwatermelons: the fancy italian place right? il cibo e vita?

C.Greatman: Yep! I’ll wait outside for you.

explodingwatermelons: cool. omw now

 

That last message had been sent by “explodingwatermelons” -- whoever that was -- thirty minutes ago. Cyrus had said he’d wait for him outside, but surely he’d understand if he just got a table. He wiped the rain off of his phone, slowly pushed open the heavy door, and drudged inside, soaking the plush carpeting with water. He cringed as the hostess approached him with an off-put expression on her face. “Sorry,” he said as he looked down at the puddle forming around him.

“That’s okay,” the hostess responded slightly exasperatedly. “Table for one?”

“Two, actually,” Cyrus corrected her. Because of course she’d assume he was here alone. Which he was, but his date was going to show up any time now. She carefully took out two laminated menus and walked Cyrus a short distance to a small table against the window. Without a word, she placed the menus down and adjusted them before swiveling her feet and briskly walking away.

Cyrus hung his dripping raincoat onto a coat peg attached to the booth behind the table and pulled out his phone. He was mad at his friends for getting him into this mess. Not fully mad -- he never could be at Andi and Buffy -- but irked enough to send an annoyed text to their group chat on Insta.

 

The GHC :)

 

cyrus.gayman : I am very annoyed with both of you right now

buffythebasketballslayer: wait why??

cyrus.gayman: I’m in a restaurant that’s way too fancy for me, I’m soaking wet, and my date was supposed to be here 30mins ago

cyrus.gayman: I knew getting this app was a terrible idea 

buffythebasketballslayer: ugh sorry man we thought it’d be a good idea! it’s been so long since you’ve been on a date that andi & i thought well idk but yeah

buffythebasketballslayer: i feel so awful :( :( :( im so sorry :( if we’d known you were this against it we wouldn’t have made you do it

buffythebasketballslayer: u want me to call J and ask him to pick you up?

 

Cyrus pondered this option. Getting to hang out and sing to bad pop music with Jonah in his beat-up Chevy SUV in the middle of a thunderstorm definitely seemed more enjoyable than sitting in this stuffy restaurant watching water drip down the windows. Cyrus hadn’t seen the traveling musician in months, anyhow. He started to text a reply to Buffy but was interrupted by a blonde-haired waitress wearing a pearl necklace who stopped at his table. “Hi, welcome to Il Cibo è Vita,” she said. “My name’s Amber, and I’ll be your waitress. Would you like anything to drink?”

Cyrus put down his phone to look at the waitress -- Amber -- who was awaiting his response, pen in hand. “Um, could I just have some apple juice, please?” he panicked. “And, uh, a water, for,” he gestured to his empty seat. “Please.”

“Alright, succo di mela for you, and acqua for your...date, I assume?”

Cyrus nodded. “Blind date.”

Amber winced. “Ooh, good luck. My little brother has a bad history with blind dates. I’ll put in those drinks for you.”

As she walked away, Cyrus facepalmed at the realization that he had ordered a drink other than water. Which meant he’d have to pay for it. Which meant he was stuck. He groaned and solemnly sent his response to Buffy.

 

The GHC :)

 

buffythebasketballslayer: Cyrus? Hello? Jonah or no Jonah?

cyrus.gayman: I just ordered my drink and I was an idiot and ordered an apple juice so I’m basically stuck  -_- thanks though

andi_mac_and_cheese: Wait what’s going on?

andi_mac_and_cheese: Hold on let me scroll up and read the texts

andi_mac_and_cheese: aw Cyrus I’m so sorry! We thought you were into the whole blind dating thing you could’ve told us you didn’t want to! Sending virtual hugs :) good luck!

cyrus.gayman: thanks

 

I’m going to need it, he thought as he put his phone face down onto the table and stared out the blurred-up window. I’m really going to need it.

 

.o0o.

 

T.J. was tired. Extremely tired. The kind of tired that makes your eyelids droop and your head do that weird thing where it falls forward and snaps you back awake. That had happened at least five times already. He felt like his limbs were made of lead and his head really, really hurt.

So yeah, Taylor Jess Kippen was downright exhausted. This was fine, of course. Or, it would’ve been, if he wasn’t in the middle of a date.

In his defense, it wasn’t like the date was going well. The only reason he’d said yes to the barista who asked him out was because he’d asked T.J. in the middle of the coffee shop and he had been too embarrassed to say no. What was his name again? Alex? Alec? Whatever it was, he and T.J. were clearly not compatible. There were so many awkward silences. They had almost no common interests, which meant they had to resort to small talk, and they didn’t really get each other’s jokes. It felt tense, and awkward, and off-putting, the whole time. Their food orders had been delayed a few times as well, so for a while, they’d had nothing to do besides sit, twiddle their thumbs, and try to make conversation. They’d been at this stupidly expensive restaurant for forty-five minutes (the only reason T.J. could even remotely afford this place was because his sister worked here), and they hadn’t had a single discussion lasting more than one. He’s a great guy for somebody, T.J. said to himself as he played with the chain on his necklace. Just not for you. Clearly. The fact that he couldn’t even remember his date’s name was probably pretty telling.

He resisted the urge to pound his head into his pasta. Why had he said yes? Right, public situation, too mortified to say no, and let’s face it, man, you wanted to be able to rub it in your friend’s faces that you went on a date. Finally get them off your backs about being so obsessed with college that you never had time for anything else.

“Uh...how’s your food?” the guy -- Alan, there it was -- asked.

T.J. shrugged and shifted in his bench in the booth. “It’s good, I guess.”

Silence again. This was the basic structure of every interaction they’d had in the past ten minutes. T.J. twirled his spaghetti around his fork mindlessly and tried to focus on anything other than the guy across the table from him.

Across the restaurant, at one of the little front tables near the windows, he noticed a young man wearing a royal blue button-down sitting alone, his back turned to T.J. He watched as the man picked up his phone, presumably to check for a text, then put it back down slowly. His shoulder sagged and T.J. felt a little sting through his heart. Whoever he was waiting for hadn’t shown up yet. That had happened to T.J. multiple times.

“What are you looking at?” Alan asked.

T.J. shrugged again as he turned his head back to Alan. “Nothing. The rain.”

He continued to slowly eat his pasta, giving a few occasional glances to the boy in the button-down as he did.

 

.o0o.

 

It had been thirty-five minutes since Cyrus had ordered the drinks. His juice was practically gone and there was a puddle forming across the table from the condensation of the untouched water glass.

Amber walked by again with her notepad, putting it back in her apron pocket when she saw Cyrus still sitting alone. “Still nothing?”

Cyrus shook his head. “Nope. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. He might just be stuck in traffic,” she offered helpfully. “Would you like me to refill that juice for you?”

“Sure. Sorry again.”

He sighed and put his chin in his hand. There was a small bright side to this otherwise sucky situation; he’d had many pleasant -- if short -- conversations with his waitress, who not only had graduated from Cyrus’s college the year before but also had been secretary for their GSA. She was really cool, and although she clearly had a bitchy side and was a horrible waitress (her words, not Cyrus’s), she still managed to be a genuine, supportive person.

A few minutes later, Amber returned with a full glass of apple juice and a basket full of something warm and inviting-looking.

“Here’s your juice and your grissinos, just like you ordered,” she announced with a smile as she put down the glass and the basket of breadsticks.

Cyrus raised an eyebrow. “But I didn’t order --” he stopped talking when Amber winked and put a finger to her lips. 

“It’s like super late,” she whispered. “Don’t tell me you’re not hungry.”

“But I was waiting --”

“For your blind date, I know. My brother’s gotten stood up like this too. Your date won’t mind if you eat some bread beforehand. If he does, he’s not good enough for you.”

“It’s not getting stood up, it’s...he’s just running late. It’s only been an hour,” Cyrus protested.

Amber’s eyes widened. “An hour?!”

“Hey, Amber,” the passive-aggressive hostess said as she walked to her. “Your shift’s over in thirty minutes. Try to focus?”

“Yeah, alright, Kira,” she said while rolling her eyes. She discreetly flipped the hostess the bird as she walked away and turned back to Cyrus. “Would you mind if I borrowed your phone for a second?”

Cyrus narrowed his eyes in suspicion as he handed her his phone. “Why?”

“I’m calling him.”

“Who?”

“Your date.”

“What? No! I don’t even know him! I don’t know you !” He tried to take his phone but Amber held it out of his reach and gave Cyrus a look.

“We know each other’s names, we’ve had a few short conversations, and we came out to each other. That’s farther along the friendship route than I get with like 99.9% of my customers,” she argued. “And since I, the lesbian queen, have officially adopted you as my gay child --” Cyrus was confused by that particular phrase, but shrugged it off -- “it is my duty to protect your emotional health. I’ve had to do this with my brother’s dates before. Trust me on this, okay?”

 She opened the dating app and pressed a few buttons to call “explodingwatermelons”. She put the phone on speaker so Cyrus could hear.

“Amber! You have more tables than that one, stop flirting and let’s go!” Kira yelled.

“I’m a fucking lesbian!” she yelled back, earning some confused looks from the people sitting near Cyrus’s table. “I gotta go, sorry. Never understood how this place gets even slightly busy so late at night.”

Cyrus reluctantly nodded and Amber dashed away to wait on the other tables, leaving him alone to deal with whoever was on the other end of the line. He stared at his phone on the table. It rang once, then twice, then three times. 

On the fourth ring, a husky voice picked up. “Hello?”

There was music in the background. Too much bass, too much autotune. And there were many drunken voices in the background. He was at a party. “Uh, hi,” Cyrus said awkwardly. “Um, I uh...think you were supposed to be my blind date? And, um...it’s been an hour and I, uh, just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

The music and the talking stopped. It was silent for a moment. And then the guy on the other end began to laugh. He sounded like Gaston when he laughed. Cold and condescending. 

Uh- uh - it’s been - uh - an hour, are you - uh um uh- okay?” he mocked through his drunken howls. “God, I just -- wow, man, like, you actually cared. Like, you really thought this was going to be a thing.” 

Cyrus froze. “W-what?”

More laughter, both from the guy and in the background. “Oh my god, this is too fuckin’ funny, man,” he heard someone say. Then the guy began to speak again.

“I’ll order something to go,” the guy said haughtily, and he then made a joke about Italian sausages that Cyrus didn’t dare repeat. 

He couldn’t say anything. He was frozen into silence.

“Have fun at your date, f***y,” he said in a sing-song voice. “Hope you put on some wings to match your dress.”

The people behind him burst into laughter and Cyrus wordlessly hung up.

A few moments later, he got a string of messages.

 

explodingwatermelons: hey where’d you go?

explodingwatermelons: [THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN DELETED BY: USER C.Greatman]

explodingwatermelons: you little f*****

explodingwatermelons: i fuckin thought so coward

explodingwatermelons: playin gay’s really disgusting ngl but thanks for the laugh lmao

 

Cyrus didn’t respond. He didn’t even notice his phone slip out of his hands and drop to the floor. Because of course. Of course it was a prank. Because who would ever really want to go out with you, anyway? 

He remembered a time in high school where he’d actually mustered up the courage to ask out a guy he liked and was met with a very violent rejection, along with a string of slurs that, when they replayed through his head, brought Cyrus right back to the current moment, to the messages staring back at him. Mocking him. You’re never going to find someone who actually likes you, they seemed to say. If you needed more proof, now you have it.

He was absolutely mortified. He picked up his newly-cracked phone from the floor and wiped away the water droplets that fell on it as he hung his head over the table, arms crossed and eyes shut in an attempt to stop more tears from falling. 

He couldn’t do this. Break down. Not here. He needed to get to the bathroom so he could cry without feeling self-conscious. He wrote a quick note on a damp napkin to explain things to Amber and scanned the space for a bathroom. When he saw the sign for the men’s room, he bolted towards it, slammed open the door, ran into a tiny stall, and collapsed onto the tile.

He buried his head into his knees. His body shook with every sob.

 

.o0o.

 

T.J. was done. He needed to leave before he exploded, and this wasn’t going to work out. He needed to tell Alan that, no matter how bluntly he put it.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” he blurted.

Okay, so maybe not that blunt.

But to his surprise, Alan looked up from his plate and nodded. “Yeah, I figured. You didn’t look very comfortable. Sorry about this.”

“It’s okay,” T.J. reassured him. “Sorry for -- yeah.” He threw come cash onto the table. “For when the check comes around, so you can leave. I have to go to the bathroom.” 

That last part was a lie. But Alan didn’t have to know that. Just walking away from the table relieved some of the tension from all of that awkwardness. On his way to the men’s room, he ran into his sister, who was balancing a tray of food in her hand and looking even more pissed than usual. “Oh, hey, jerk,” she said flatly as she stuffed a crumpled-up wet napkin into her apron. “How’s your date going?”

“Hey, bitch,” he responded. “It just ended. It wasn’t going well so I said it wasn’t going to work and he should be out of here soon.”

He sighed with relief and Amber nodded. “Good. You looked like you wanted to stab yourself with a fork. I want to stab someone with a knife right now, though, so I’d keep my distance.”

“Wait, why? What happened?”

Amber shook her head. “Long story. I’ll tell you later. Did you pay and everything? ‘Cause I’m going home after I serve this and I can drive you back to your place.”

“With the state you’re in right now, I think I’ll drive,” T.J. decided as he took the sparkly pink keychain out of Amber’s apron pocket and put the keys with his. “I’ll be right back.”

 

.o0o.

 

Cyrus was rereading all the messages and trying to keep himself from crying again. Why hadn’t he noticed that they were fake? Why was he so sure that this person had been genuine? He was a psychology major, for fuck’s sake. He was training to be a therapist. He should have been able to see the signs.

He couldn’t even muster up the energy to text Andi or Buffy. He just sat there, rereading every single message from the beginning, searching for any kind of proof of anything. He didn’t even know what he wanted to see anymore.

God, he was so stupid. He was stupid and dorky and worthless and ugly and he didn’t deserve anyone. He didn’t deserve anything. He felt more wetness on his face and he was crying again, messy, snotty, ugly tears. His face was dried up from tear tracks. He didn’t want to look at himself in the mirror.

Come on, man up! his brain yelled at him. You’re crying over something so easy to get over. You’re so fucking weak. You’re so worthless and weak.

That only made the tears worse.

His head shot up at the creaking of the bathroom door. He heard soft footsteps and looked through the bottom of the door to see the bottom half of straight-leg jeans and scuffed-up blue Converses. He heard the jingling of keys in a pocket as the person walked over to the sink and turned on the tap to wash their hands. He held his breath so the stranger wasn’t alerted to the fact that he was sitting pathetically in the bottom of a bathroom stall.

But he was Cyrus, so just as he heard the guy leaving of course he had to start sniffling. He heard the footsteps stop and the door slowly close, and then the figure’s shoes spun around so they were facing the line of bathroom stalls. “Hello?”

Cyrus froze. Shit. He had not been expecting the person to talk.

“Hello?” the person repeated. “Is someone in there? I thought I heard someone crying before I walked in…”

Oh, wait. He’d heard Cyrus before he’d walked in. He’d known someone was there the whole time. 

Screw it. “Yeah?” he replied softly, his voice breaking. Damn it.

“Are you okay?” the voice asked, clearly surprised that he got a response. “Are you crying?”

“No,” Cyrus said quietly, and then, a moment later, “yes.”

There was a knock on his stall door. Slowly, he opened it outwards, and a tall man about his age knelt down on the floor and looked at Cyrus with a sympathetic expression. A few pieces of his hair were falling down in strings in front of his face, and his jade-green eyes were filled with concern. “Are you okay?” he asked gently. “What’s wrong?”

In a moment of uncontrolled emotions, Cyrus grabbed the stranger into a hug and began weeping into his shoulder. The stranger slowly began to wrap his arms around the shaking boy, causing Cyrus to push himself away, face heating up with the realization of what exactly he’d just done.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry,” he said hurriedly. “I just hugged you and we don’t even know each other and I got tears and snot all over you and I’m a twenty-three-year-old sitting on the floor and crying like a baby and I’m so so sorry you probably think I’m super weird now and I’m sorry…”

He felt himself shaking again, and to his surprise, the stranger brought Cyrus closer to him and wrapped his arms around him, holding him tightly. Cyrus hesitantly leaned his head against the stranger’s shoulder and let the tears fall.

They sat like that on the floor of the dimly-lit bathroom for a few minutes before Cyrus moved away to face the stranger, who was now sitting cross-legged across from him in the stall’s doorway. Cyrus looked away. “I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay, seriously,” the man said with a hint of a smile. “I’m T.J.” His smile turned into a smirk. “So...do you hang out here a lot?”

Cyrus snorted and blushed in spite of himself at that awful pick-up line, causing the stranger to smile. He took some toilet paper from the dispenser to make an attempt to clean his face. “If by ‘here’ you mean on the floor of a bathroom stall of a restaurant that’s way too expensive, then no, not really.”

“Just double-checking,” T.J. shrugged. “Alright, so...what’s your name? Or am I going to have to give you one?”

Cyrus gave him a confused look. “ Give me a name? Like, a nickname? Or a legitimate name that you’ll just call me forever?”

“Forever, huh?” T.J. replied. “Pretty long time.”

Cyrus flushed and looked at his feet. “Oh...uh, sorry.”

“It’s cool. Alright, King of Apologies,” T.J. decided. “Is your name classified information? Are you actually an FBI agent? Or will I have to read your palm to discover your secrets?” He made a fake spooky face and Cyrus snorted again, missing the small tinge of pink that appeared on T.J.’s cheeks. 

“Stop making me laugh, Basketball Boy,” he giggled. 

“Basketball Boy? Where’d that come from?”

Cyrus just pointed to his necklace. T.J. picked up the pendant to look at it, realized it was a basketball, and started to laugh. “I completely forgot I was wearing that.”

Cyrus swore he felt his heart skip a beat when he heard that laugh. It was full-hearted and loud and genuine. Unlike the coldness of the other boy’s laugh. His heart sank, and his face must’ve fallen too, because T.J. put a hand on his shoulder.

“Do you want to talk about it? I know we just met, but…”

Out of the corner of his eye, Cyrus saw a small metal keychain shaped like a rainbow flag hanging out from T.J.’s front pants pocket. He nodded, and vaguely explained what had happened, leaving out the specific details he didn’t want to touch on again. T.J. just sat and listened.

“So yeah, that’s that,” Cyrus finished. “Um, sorry for ranting.”

“You really are the king of apologies,” he said, shaking his head and smiling. “In all seriousness, though, I am so sorry. You did not deserve that, at all. Those guys are awful. And I thought my date went badly,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “At least mine was just a matter of incompatibility. Jesus.”

“It’s okay,” Cyrus said forlornly. “I’m never going to find anyone who likes me anyway.”

T.J. looked at him in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Look at me,” he said desperately. “Listen to me. Be near me for five minutes. I’m ugly and worthless, and I’m a dork who unironically watches nature documentaries for fun and I could talk about different types of films and how they’re created all day if no one stopped me. And I’m a coward who’s scared of his own shadow and cries on the bathroom floor over some stupid messages. And I rant to strangers about all this and waste their time.” Damn it. There were the tears again. Stinging ones, at the corners of his eyes. “Sorry.”

“Who said that?”

Cyrus looked up at him. “What?”

“Who said you were ugly? And worthless? Who said that?” Cyrus could see tears begin to form in T.J.’s eyes as well. He shrugged and pointed to himself, by way of answering.

T.J. took Cyrus’s hands in his and Cyrus looked up, shocked.

“You are not worthless,” he said. “Your existence has impacted the lives of everyone you’ve ever met. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re worthless. Especially yourself. And I’m not sure if you need to hear this, but you’re allowed to get upset. Feeling emotions -- good and bad -- is a part of being human.”

Cyrus smiled timidly and whispered, “I never really thought about it like that.”

“You are really fun to hang out with, too,” T.J. added. “Five minutes in a bathroom stall with you has been more enjoyable and meaningful than an hour with that guy I was with. And you’re not ugly. You're really, really....” his cheeks and the tips of his ears turned red and he ducked his head. “...not ugly,” he finished.

Oh. Cyrus felt himself blushing as well and stammered out, “Uh...you’re...really really not...um…not ugly too.” That was an understatement, of course; T.J. was exceptionally cute, but that was the best Cyrus could manage after a compliment and with this cute boy holding his hands. He stood up slowly and stretched, and T.J. followed suit. “Thank you, T.J.”

“Of course,” he said softly, and then: “Wait a minute, I still didn’t get your name!”

Cyrus rolled his eyes fondly. “Fine,” he said, then after a pause for dramatic effect, “I’m Cyrus.”

“Cyrus,” T.J. repeated to himself, and Cyrus was suddenly regretting not telling T.J. his name earlier, because he liked the way it sounded when T.J. said it. “Hey, Cyrus, I have a problem. I think I lost my phone number.”

“I’m sorry?” Cyrus offered. “I’ll help you find it, I guess, um --”

“Actually, I was wondering if I could have yours,” T.J. said with a wink as he held out his cell phone.

It took a moment for Cyrus to process the second pick-up line of the evening, but when he did, he started giggling and shaking his head slowly. “I’ll hand it to you,” Cyrus said as he took the phone from T.J. and punched in his number. “That was pretty damn smooth.”

“Yeah, it’s kinda weird. I’m usually really nervous around cute guys.”

Cyrus flushed. “Me too.” T.J. typed something into his phone and then pocketed it. Cyrus felt a buzz in his pocket. He pulled out his phone. 

 

UNKNOWN NUMBER [9:39 PM]: hey, it’s TJ ;)

 

Cyrus smiled and waved his phone to show that he’d gotten the text. He also had a question, but he was scared to ask it. He inhaled, then exhaled.

“Could I have another hug?”

T.J.’s eyes widened for a moment, and then he smiled. “Of course.”

He opened his arms just enough to let Cyrus in and wrap his arms around his waist. T.J. put one arm around his shoulders and one around his upper back, and held on tightly. T.J. smelled good. Like pine and sport deodorant and fruit. Cyrus really hoped it wasn’t creepy to notice that.

They jumped apart when they heard the door slam open. “Taylor, it’s been like 75 years, let’s go!” Amber yelled into the room with her eyes squeezed shut. When she opened them, though, she took notice of Cyrus and waved. “Oh, hey, Cyrus. I was looking for you. I got your note, and I’m going to need a name and location. I just want to talk.” 

She said that last part with an evil look in her eyes. She made a punching motion with her hands and Cyrus laughed nervously. “Please don’t actually kill anyone,” he pleaded.

Amber sighed. “Okay, fine.” She pointed to T.J. “I see you’ve met my baby brother, Taylor.”

“T.J. would’ve been fine,” T.J. muttered. “But yeah, we met.” He gave a small smile to Cyrus, like they shared a secret. Cyrus smiled back.

“Okay, we gotta go,” Amber repeated. “Cyrus, are you sure you’re okay? Do you want us to take you home?”

Cyrus shook his head. “I’ll take the bus. I’ll be okay.”

“Okay. Feel better, kid. That guy is a bitch. You deserve better.”

Cyrus laughed. “Thanks.”

“See ya, Apology King,” T.J. said as he and Amber left the bathroom.

“See ya, Basketball Boy,” Cyrus whispered with a shy smile on his face after the door shut.

 

.o0o.

 

Andi and Buffy were both asleep by the time Cyrus got back to their apartment -- it was past midnight, and they both had a lot of work to do tomorrow, so he didn’t blame them. As he quietly went to the kitchen to get himself some snacks -- he hadn’t eaten anything apart from those breadsticks -- he heard a buzz come from his phone. He put a box of Cheez-Its and an orange onto the counter and lifted his phone to check it. 

There were three new messages from T.J., and two from the dating app. He opened the ones from the app first. They were from a username that Cyrus didn’t recognize.

 

yesidoplayclarinet: Holy shit. I’m going to fucking kill him.

yesidoplayclarinet: (Not you. Hold on. Give me a few minutes to type this all out.)

 

He looked at them with confusion. Who was this?

While he gave that person time to type everything out like they asked, he checked the messages from T.J.

 

Basketball Boi (T.J.) [11:48 pm]: Hey, it’s T.J. again ;) I had a lot of fun tonight. It was really nice meeting you and getting to talk to you, even if it was in the bathroom lol. I hope you got home safe and maybe we can see each other again soon?

Basketball Boi (T.J.) [11:51 pm]: like...get coffee or something? Like a date? Maybe?? Idk man i have no clue how this works i dont think ive asked anyone out before and i kinda wanted to back at the restaurant bc youre really sweet and adorable and now im super embarrassed and i probably won’t send thi

Basketball Boi (T.J.) [11:54 pm]: so my sister stole my phone and sent that and now she’s peer pressuring me into giving you her number becuase she hates so here it is: (XXX)-XXX-XXXX 

 

Cyrus felt his heart swell and a blush bloomed across his face. He was so sure he was smiling like an idiot at his phone screen right now, but he didn’t care.

He brought his snacks over to the pullout couch (lovingly set up by Buffy because they were out of clean Twin XL sheet sets), collapsed onto the bed, and held his phone above his head as he texted, sending a message first to Amber:

 

Cyrus Goodman [12:06 am]: Hello Amber! This is Cyrus :)

 

Then to T.J.:

 

Cyrus Goodman [12:08 am]: Does Sunday night work? There's a place I want to show you that's super pretty when the sun sets <3

Basketball Boi (T.J.) [12:09 am]: Probably not as pretty as you ;) It's a date then. See you Sunday <3

 

He giggled like a high schooler and covered his blushing face with his sheets. 

“Hope you put on some wings to match your dress.”

And just like that, the events from earlier in the night came back and slammed his head like a ton of bricks. The conversations. The laughter. The mortification. Cyrus sat up with a start and pressed his hands against his temples, rocking himself to try and get those thoughts out of his mind. But they were stuck, swirling around his head and getting stuck like magnets to the sides of his brain. He quickly found his little blue iPod, plugged his earbuds into his ears, and hit Shuffle in an attempt to loosen the vice grip around his chest. Gentle drum beats and electric guitar chords began to fill the little speakers.

“Starry nights, city lights coming down over me

Skyscrapers and stargazers in my head…”

He inhaled, then exhaled. The grip on his chest was still there, but this song had always helped clear his head, even when he was little.

Just as he put his phone down onto his nightstand, it buzzed again. It was the guy with the weird username from the dating app. He paused the song and slowly read over the paragraph the person had sent.

 

yesidoplayclarinet: Hi. So, my name’s Reed. 26/M/straight. Hey. Nice to meet you. That dickhead who was catfishing you was my friend (I’m using that term very loosely after seeing the shit he pulled) who took my phone to a frat party while I was at work and decided it would be funny to make a fake dating app account on it and play a twisted prank on a college kid. He deleted his account but my good buddy Lester (who’s NOT a d-bag) got some pics and a recording of the call and showed them to me. Literally the only reason I even made this account was to say that I am so fucking sorry. That shit is messed up. It happened to my little sister a while back and I saw how badly it fucked her up. He knew that and he knows that my sister’s gay and still pulled this absolute bullshit using MY phone and I’m really fuckin pissed right now. But I just want you to know that you seem like a really cool guy and if we knew each other irl I’d probably be your friend. Hell, we can be friends through here, if you want. But yeah. You probably already know this, but I just want to say that you are strong, and you are a fighter, and you should never lose your pride in who you are. I don’t know you, but me and my friends (my real ones)? We’re all here for you, man. We all love you. And sorry again for all of that bullshit.

 

Cyrus felt himself tearing up. That apology was definitely not needed, especially not from a complete stranger who had nothing to do with what had happened, but he had still taken ten minutes out of his day to type up that response. Given the near-panic attack Cyrus had gone through moments before, that really, really helped.

Suddenly suspicious, he waited for the “jk bro” text to come right after the message. But it never did.

 

C.Greatman: Hi Reed, you really didn’t have to do this because you weren’t involved at all but thank you so much. The stuff you said really touched me and it meant a lot to me. I really appreciate that you took the time out of your day to write that. That really sucks about your sister...I hope that hasnt happened to her again though. And i’ll totally be your friend, you seem super cool! Thank you so so much. The world needs more good people like you :)

 

Right before he fell asleep, he got one last text from Amber.

 

Amber Kippen [12:26 am]: Hello my child now go to sleeeeep u can flirt with my brother tm i promise

 

Cyrus rolled his eyes and smiled at his phone again as he hit Play and drifted to sleep, music still circling through his head.

“Are we, we are

Are we, we are the waiting…

Are we, we are

Are we, we are the waiting unknown…”

 

Epilogue

 “You are totally smitten.”

“Shut up, Amber.”