“Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t blow you.”
Neil felt his world tilting sideways. Those were words he did not expect to come out of Andrew’s mouth, especially not directed at Neil.
“You like me.” Neil realized aloud.
“I hate you.” Andrew corrected. Neil didn’t pay any mind to it though.
His mind was racing, remembering all the hints that were there but which he never paid enough attention to. Andrew’s hand over his mouth in Exites now made sense. There was something, an answer maybe, that he could feel they were both on the brink of discovering but hadn’t come close enough at the moment. But now he understood.
Now everything made sense. Andrew yielding to him, calling him interesting and dangerous, giving him a key to his house and car, and trusting him with Kevin. He understood the reasoning behind each of these, yet at the same time none of it made sense. He couldn’t wrap his head around it. He couldn’t understand why Andrew would like him. And especially when considering Andrew’s sexuality. That made no sense at all. He was one of the few people who knew Neil was trans, ever since that rooftop conversation they had a few weeks earlier.
“But. . . but you’re gay.” Neil finally responded.
Andrew rolled his eyes in return. “Which means I’m attracted to men.” He said. “You are a man.” His tone implied that he now thought Neil was even stupider than he previously assumed. He was right, of course, but that didn’t stop Neil from feeling a flutter in his chest at that sentence. You are a man.
Still, the weight of the sudden revelation prevented him from reveling in the joy caused by that validating comment. He would be dead in four months. No one was supposed to like him. He wasn’t supposed to be this for anyone, especially not Andrew who always claimed to hate him.
“You never said anything,” Neil said, finally finding his voice again.
“Why should I have?” Andrew lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Nothing will come of it.”
“Nothing,” Neil echoed.
“I am self-destructive, not stupid,” Andrew said. “I know better.”
The only word he could find in response was a paltry “Okay.” But he did not sound okay. He did not feel okay.
Andrew apparently chose not to endure their conversation any longer as he swiftly slammed his shot glass back on the table and stood. Neil watched as he disappeared into the crowd.
Neil jolted at a sudden pressure on his shoulder and found Kevin staring at him, his mouth open on a silent vowel as if about to ask him something. Though Kevin seemed to see something in Neil’s expression that made him think better of it. He closed his mouth and turned back to the tray of drinks.
About an hour later, the rest of their group found their way back to their table and they filed out into the car, Andrew keeping his distance from Neil, which Neil didn’t mind at all. When they got back to the cousins’ house, there weren’t enough beds for all of them, so Kevin took the couch and Neil curled up in a chair with a blanket.
That night he couldn’t sleep. His mind sought to keep him up with what-if thoughts and memories that started to resurface.
He thought about all the times he’d ever had any kind of experience even close to being with someone in an intimate way. The one time that girl in France had kissed him and the few times he actually thought someone walking down the street was pretty. And of course those beatings his mother would give him for even looking at those strangers.
He’d always wondered what it would be like to be intimate with someone, but he never had the time to actually imagine it or even consider it as a possibility for himself. Even less so when he started presenting as male. Any such hopes of ever finding another person he could trust in that way pretty much went out the window. No one would ever be attracted to him, not with his body. At least, that’s what he’d always believed.
Now, he was just confused. Andrew liked him. That didn’t make sense. But despite his confusion, he couldn’t get over the way those words made him feel. You are a man. He was more than thankful for Andrew being someone he could trust with that secret. And even more thankful that Andrew saw him the way he wanted to be seen. Those last few lingering thoughts helped to finally lull him to sleep.