It just came out.
I hadn’t planned for it. Hell, every part of me said it was probably a bad idea. But I didn’t care. All my reservations. All my fears. All my insecurities that sometimes I think you don’t even know exist. None of them were enough to stop me.
So I wrapped my arm around you, and with a straight face declared,
“This is my boyfriend.”
When all was said and done, we left together. Typical me, I thought, ‘that went pretty well’. Typical you, well, you were confused. It always feels like when one of us is so certain of something, the other is floundering. I can never understand how we manage to bypass each other so effortlessly.
We get in the car and start for home. I drive of course. You sit in the passenger seat, fiddling with the radio despite the ‘driver picks the music’ rule. You flip through about five different stations before you finally settle on some alternative rock. The volume isn’t too loud. Just loud enough to be background noise. Meaning a conversation is on the horizon.
And sure enough….
“Why didn’t you tell me we were dating?”
Uncomfortable heat rushes up my neck, prickling my ears. I nearly miss the jackass who almost sideswipes us. I pull the car a lane over, knuckles gripping the steering wheel tight.
I want to ask, ‘You mean we’re not?’
Hadn’t we already exchanged the ‘I love yous’? Didn’t that make it already official? Okay, sure. The words ‘boyfriend’ or ‘dating’ never really came up, but… Seriously, had I been the only one thinking it this entire time?
A minute of silence passes while I breathe. Very deliberately, while counting in my head. Because I know if I don’t breathe, and if I say the first things wanting to spill out of my mouth, I would probably start a fight. I don’t want to fight. Though I can’t deny, the words sting me. And you don’t even realize it. Cuz you’re looking at me with that unintentionally clueless expression. Sometimes I’m thankful for your ignorance of the power you hold over me.
“Before I answer that,” I say in the most measured voice I can manage. “How about you tell me what you thought it was, or what I am to you.”
You look nervous now. Even though I’m focused on the road, out of the corner of my eye I can see you struggling with words. Funny, how they come to you so easily with everyone else. But around me, you become more self conscious, more aware of the things you say.
I know you’re just catering to my selfish needs, and for that I am grateful. But please, help me understand how I misunderstood what this thing is between us.
“Well,” you say, your voice faltering. “I mean…we’re. ..you’re. ..we’re just us and you’re just you. I mean I wanted to be- but you never said anything, so…” You scratch the back of your head nervously. “I mean I’ve never actually been like…”
It then clicks, like a puzzle piece fitting into place. It’s true, I never said anything. Typical me, I expected you to understand without me saying anything. Typical you, you didn’t want to assume anything that wasn’t clarified.
We come to a red light, and I pull the car to a stop. “Alright, okay, I think I get what you’re saying. In that case let me do this properly.” I pause a moment as I feel patches of red start to blossom on my neck and face despite my steady tone. “Do you wanna be my boyfriend?”
“Well, yeah.” There’s no hesitation on your part.
Somehow that makes me blush even harder, and I mentally curse you for it. “Great.” I cough before turning to the road and easing us past the green light. “And just so you’re aware, that makes me your boyfriend too.”
If it’s clarification you need, I’ll give that to you. Because you don’t hesitate to cater to my needs.
You don’t say anything, but I can hear your smile. When we get to your place, and I park the car, you all but drag me out of the car, nearly taking the seat belt with me.
“I’m so glad you asked me. I wanted to for forever,” you say once we part. “But I didn’t feel like I could.”
I felt ridiculously pleased and a little chagrined at the same time. “Huh… anything else you’ve been itching to ask or tell me?”
“Yeah, I wanted to stash a couple packs of your stupid cigarettes at my place but I forgot the brand.”
A snort of laughter escapes me. “Blackstone. It’s not a hard brand to find. I think just about any cig shop uptown carries them.”
I bend down to tie my shoe and I notice you’re looking at me. You’re smiling that unrestrained smile you get when you’re just completely happy with the world. Staring at me like I’m some sacred being of light you can’t take your eyes from. I straighten up, feeling suddenly overwhelmed.
“I love you.” The words spill out. I feel my neck burning again, not because I’m embarrassed, but because I would never say it unless I absolutely meant it. And thankfully, by now, you know that.
Your smile somehow manages to get brighter. “I love you too,” you say. Not in that sarcastic way you sometimes do, and I know you mean it too.