Can had always lived his life giving his all to everything. It seemed like he lived a carefree life, but most people didn’t realize that his life was extremely organized chaos. He thought through everything. Planned everything. Knew how to make his way in this world even with his brain running at a million miles a minute. Each thing was there where it was supposed to be. The strings between his thoughts may be tied to 10 others, but deep down there was an order.
So, when there were new emotions bombarding him, ones he didn’t know or recognize. Thoughts that came from nowhere. He was lost. He didn’t know how to handle what was being shown to him. What was being given. What expectations came with any of it. No, all of this was foreign to him and he didn’t know how to handle it.
He’d pushed everything away from him. Everyone. He was too overwhelmed. Too scared to understand what was happening. So he pushed until he was free. The cruel irony being that he wasn’t really free. The thoughts. The emotions. They were still all there. Only stronger now that he didn’t have distractions. More instant. He was alone, but at what cost?
All his friends were dealing with their own problems and relationships. He didn’t know who to talk to. Didn’t know what his heart was trying to tell him. The only thing he knew for certain was that it was harder without Tin. As lost as he felt trying to get a grasp on what Tin was bringing to his life, he at least had that life line. Without him, he was drowning.
Tin had said he was oxygen. He was that fresh air that let him live. The weight of those words had settled heavy on his shoulders. He couldn’t handle the responsibility those words imparted on him. He barely kept his own life moving forward, and then to be told that he was so important in someone else’s. It was too much. Too heavy.
Yet, when that weight was suddenly gone he felt lost. He realized he’d just needed time. Time to adjust. Time to organize the chaos. He probably shouldn’t have pushed so hard. He’d seen the pain that he’d caused, but he couldn’t fix it. Not right then. He had been so lost, and now he was trying to be found.
When his breaking point came he didn’t have the strength to pretend any more. So he ran. He ran away so he could let the pain and frustration free from his heart. He hadn’t expected Tin to show up. To hold him while he cried. To cry with him as they both settled into the realization that they needed each other.
Tin had taken him home with promises that they’d talk soon. They needed to talk. Really talk, but not tonight. Emotions were too high and raw. So they parted ways to take the beat they needed to settle in to what had been exposed, and to organize their thoughts for the talk that was coming.
Can: [Good. Thanks for letting me know.]
He wanted to write more. To tell him thank you for holding him while he cried. For bringing him home. To wish him a good night. Send him sweet dreams. Yet he couldn’t make himself type the words. It was silly really. Not wanting to show how grateful he was, or how much he cared. He’d been a sobbing mess not 2 hours earlier, and now this was too much. He only hoped that he’d get things figured out soon, and that Tin would be patient and understanding.
“Good night Tin, sleep well and have sweet dreams.” He whispered into the darkness. It was the best he could do for now.
“You left. You disappeared and I thought I’d lost you forever.” Can whispered trying to keep the whine out of his voice.
“I was always there. Watching. Hoping you were happy” came the stoic response.
The question sounded hollow in his ears. He couldn’t get his words to hold the emotions that he was feeling. They’d finally met up to talk, and he felt like it was going worse than their initial confrontation. He couldn’t get the words and emotions to line up. He tried again. He was determined to keep trying. He needed Tin to understand.
“Why would you watch me? I hurt you, so why would you care if I was happy?”
The small shrug of Tin’s shoulders showed the weight of his own emotional turmoil. He’d hung his head as he looked for answers.
“Because seeing you did hurt.”
“Are you some kind of masochist? Tin why would you do that to yourself?”
“Hurting was better than not feeling anything. It reminded me I was still alive, no matter how hard I kept wishing not to be. Mostly, despite it all, I still cared so I had to make sure I hadn’t ruined your life with my attention.”
“Tin…” the name left his lips in a whisper. Too quiet to disturb the mood that had settled around them.
“It took me a while to understand why you did it. Why you couldn’t say yes. I’d offer you reasons as to why I pushed like I did, but they’re just mere excuses. The truth was that I was scared. Scared because I liked you so much that I had to have you. Needed you to be a part of my life in a more significant way.
“Not that you’re an object that has an owner, or that you’re someone who can be bought or possessed. I had finally found someone who improved my life, who filled my every day, and I didn’t want to lose that. I’d lived 20 years without it and once I found it I couldn’t dream of letting it go. So, yes it hurt when you turned that down. I felt rejected. I felt like everything my family had ever told me was true. What you had said when we first met was true.”
“Oh Tin, that’s…”
“Please, let me finish” Can saw the pleading in his eyes, so he nodded softly. “Once I got past the initial hurt and rejection I replayed our conversation over and over in my head. First, to validate my feelings of hurt, but the more it played over and over I really saw what you were trying to say. You were scared, you didn’t know what you were feeling, and you only had the relationships around you to base any ideas of what being a boyfriend would be like.
“You saw Ae bending over backwards to do whatever Pete asked for, and you knew that wasn’t you. You saw Tharn and Type and saw the power struggle and constant butting heads and again knew it wasn’t for you. Even Pond and Cha-Am have a dynamic that is befuddling, but it’s not either of us. So, I bet that was scary as hell, not to mention understanding your own emotions.
“Then I looked at what I said to you. I saw the weight of my own words and expectations was too much, and for that I am truly sorry. It was a selfish thing to do. It was unfair to you to put my happiness and self-worth on your shoulders alone and then get mad when you didn’t want that responsibility. I’m sorry I pushed. I’m sorry I didn’t listen. I’m sorry for being selfish. I’m sorry for being unfair. I’m sorry for everything.”
After a few beats while he watched the man sit there with his head hung low, waiting to see if he had more to say, when the silence continued he found himself reaching his hand out to hold Tin’s chin in a gentle but firm touch that allowed him to pull the man’s face up so he could look him in the eyes.
“Thank you for apologizing, for taking the time to reflect, it means a lot to me that you’d value whatever we have enough to look deeply to find answers. You’re forgiven.”
He watched a tenseness leave the seniors shoulders with those simple words. It made him smile. He hoped that it was something that wouldn’t fade away with what he needed to say next.
“You were right. I was scared. Am scared. I’ve never been in a relationship with anyone. I’ve never had feelings beyond friendship and comradery for anyone outside my family. When I talked to my friends and they threw out words like ‘love’ and ‘jealousy’ they were so abrasive because I didn’t know what to do with them.
“I looked at how jealous Ae was all the time, and I didn’t want that to be me. I looked at how much in love Pete was and saw him changing himself to be what he thought was best for Ae, and I didn’t know if I could do that, or if I should.”
He smiled slightly as he felt Tin’s head do a slight shake in his head.
“I looked at how much Pond was willing to compromise and give up just to be with Cha-Am, and that scared me more because I didn’t know if I could do that either. None of their relationships felt comfortable to me. I couldn’t see either of us doing any of those things and still being happy.”
“But Can” Tin started softly.
“I know. You never asked me to do any of those things, but to me the expectation was there. The idea of changing myself to fit that ‘boyfriend’ mold terrified me. Then you disappeared. You suddenly weren’t at the games, or waiting for me after practice. I couldn’t even see you when I ventured to the IC building, yes I looked for you, because as scared as I was not having you around was scarier.
“You said I made it so you could breathe, and yes those words were heavy and terrifying, but I get it now because when you weren’t there it was hard to breathe. It felt like something was missing in my days. I tried to keep going as I had before. I hung out with friends, went to practice, begged P’No for food, yet it all felt different.
“So I did the same thing you did. I went over everything. Every interaction. Every conversation. Everything, and I realized that you’re special to me. You’re important. I meant what I said when I still wanted to spend time with you, to be your friend, because beyond that I didn’t know how to respond. I thought if we could still stay friends that I wouldn’t have to think further than that. I was being a coward, running away and not wanting to face what was in front of me. For that I’m sorry because I didn’t think about how it may sound or come across to you.
“I wanted the feelings to go away. I wanted to stop being confused. I wanted everything to stay the way it was. I thought I was happy, but turns out that I wasn’t because when you were gone I wasn’t happy at all. I was miserable. Trying to be happy, pretending to be happy, it was exhausting.
“When you showed up in the middle of my breakdown I realized fully that as scary as everything is that it would be okay because you’d be there with me. You’d be by my side every step of the way. I don’t know what our future looks like, but I know what the present looks like without you and I can’t live that way knowing that it might be better with you.”
He looked at the man in front of him and saw his eyes brimming with tears. “I’m sorry Tin for being an idiot that didn’t know how to express what I was feeling, for rejecting you harshly, and for running away.”
As he watched the other shake his head and dislodge the tears he knew this was what happiness was. It was seeing, and being seen. Listening and being heard. He was still terrified of what the future would be, of what being beside Tin would be, but seeing him right now – vulnerable and open – he knew that happiness outweighed the fear.
“Can, you have been forgiven since the moment I saw you crying alone. I won’t ask you to be my boyfriend again…”
The short gasp startled them both before they chuckled.
“Until you’re ready, but I will ask that you stay by my side as we figure out our own path. One that is ours alone, and that we’re both comfortable with. Are you okay with that?”
“Yes! Yes, yes, yes!” With those words he found himself flying forward to hold onto the one who needed him, and still wanted him. He felt like he could fly in that moment. He knew the future was unknown, that they might face more hardships, but he didn’t care because right now in this moment he was happy and possibly in love.