“What do you think that means?” Raj had asked.
“It means that after we play handball I’m showering at home.”
Howard mentally banged his head against a wall for that one. Why on Earth had he said that? It was a reaction, he said things everyone else around him said. He’d observed it from day one. He’d practised not being found out, and now that he wanted to come out, it was hard to break old habits. Scary, too.
That had been his last blunder, two weeks ago, though it played over and over in his head. When he was alone, he smacked himself on the forehead to remind himself how stupid he was. Once, he even banged his head against a wall. It didn’t really hurt, but it took his mind off it.
He had been determined to tell Raj, but the opportunity never arose.
He was desperate for anything and he’d take any chance he had.
“What are you thinking so hard about?” he asked at lunch after Raj had zoned out for nearly two full minutes. Another reprimand of himself nearly caused him to plant his forehead on the table in front of him - he should’ve offered “Penny for your thoughts?” and hoped hard for reciprocation. This was going to end up going nowhere. He was so flustered that he almost missed Raj’s answer.
“Just that I’m definitely not gay,” he said.
Howard almost lost the moment in shock and disbelief. He went back to his lunch automatically before he had even processed what his friend had said. Narrowly, he avoided choking on a piece of lettuce when it did sink in, and it took another split second to decide whether this was a good time to respond. He felt his palms getting clammy and cold. Not the best opening in the world, he thought. Still, it would be now or never.
“Huh,” said Howard, hoping he sounded as nonchalant as he wanted and not as nervous as he feared, “yeah… about that… I think I definitely am.”