I wrote this for a creative writing class last year. In a way, I used it to flush out all of my feelings about the entire ordeal.
He can’t leave yet. Wait a minute, is it this street? I risk it all and turn right anyway, veering sharply onto the side street with beautiful two-story houses. I turn down the radio to sharpen my eyes, darting left and right at each house like I’m watching a tennis game. I can’t remember the exact address from the Facebook Event page, but I know it’s in this end of University Park. I scan each house, looking for a possible symbol or hint that will lead me to the right direction. The desire to pray for the first time in a while bubbles up in my chest. I want another sign. I’m not afraid to ask Jesus for help. Maybe I should pray for Jesus to help me figure out what to say to David.
I can’t afford to lose David because he’s the first friend I made after immigrating to America. The first word I learned in school was “penis,” which David taught me after I sat down next to him in class. In fact, we would often play the “Penis Game,” where we would both say the word “Penis” louder and louder in an awkward place. A beautiful friendship blossomed between Paulo the Filipino and David the frail and sickly Colombian with the bowl haircut that made his head look like a mushroom. If we didn’t go to different middle schools and lose contact, we may have become even better friends.
I never really thought we would ever see each other again until weird coincidences began to happen recently. Finding him on the gay “dating” mobile app Grindr a few days ago takes me by complete surprise. I mean, yeah, David had strong opinions on everything and talked about other people’s genitals with enthusiasm, but I had no idea David was gay. I didn’t believe it until I saw a 22-year old version of him in his profile picture. Then 30 minutes ago a Facebook Event of his final day in Maryland showed up in my News Feed. It’s almost impossible to not think these are signs. The universe, or Jesus, wants me here. Something wants me to see David again before he leaves.
At the stop sign, I squint my eyes and… There it is! I see an unnaturally blue Jeep across the intersection with several people carrying boxes surrounding it. I slam my foot on the gas pedal without looking left or right and park several car lengths away from the Jeep. I made it just in time! I look at my face in the vanity mirror, pat down the stray hair that’s standing up on my head, grab the hat on the dashboard to hide my unruly hair instead, and practically leap out of my car.
“David!” I shout, half-running half-skipping towards the crowd but I stop as they all turn around. Five guys are wearing sunglasses, tank tops, Chubbies shorts, and flip flops; the universal uniform of frat guys. None of their clothes match in color, so it looks like someone chewed up Skittles and threw up on them. Two girls are wearing matching yellow sundresses and their blonde hair makes them shine as if emitting their own sunlight. “David?” I squeak, standing still as I look for anyone else in the area. Am I at the wrong house? Are there two people in University Park that’s moving away today?
“Hey, you made it! Thanks for stopping by!” I hear a voice from the right side of the Jeep. A man carrying a green duffel bag walks over with a familiar smile on his face, but it suddenly turns into a frown of disappointment once he sees me. “Oh. It’s you.” He lowers the duffel bag slowly to the ground. The group of frat guys become tense, but David waves at them. “You guys should go. This won’t take long.”
As they all say their goodbyes and give their last hugs, I examine this new guy with curious eyes. He looks a lot like the guy in the Grindr picture from a few days ago, so I know it’s him. Even after 12 years, a few things are still the same from my memory of David. I immediately recognize his wide, welcoming, toothpaste white smile that he flashes at his friends as they proceed to hug and shake hands. He is still as pale as ever; his skin is as white as Colombian cocaine. After that, he looks completely different. Once his friends drive away, David finally turns to me, crossing his arms and leaning back on his Jeep. Rough stubble covers his square jaw. His strong eyebrows, with his head down and hazel eyes looking up at me, make him look like a serial killer. And he probably can kill me if he wants. His orange tank top reveals his muscular arms and traps that make his torso look like a triangle. His hair no longer looks like a mushroom; it’s now cut high and tight, something that I should expect from someone who joins the Navy. The frail mushroom-headed Colombian image in my head shatters into a million pieces. This is David.
“How did you find where I live?” He asks darkly. His surprisingly deep voice makes my bones vibrate.
“I…” I begin. I’m still in a trance, unable to form complete sentences. After all these years, I’m finally talking to David in person. I shake my head and focus because I tend to speak without thinking first. “Someone sent me the Facebook event… about you leaving for California today. By accident, I think.” But I don’t want to lie. “Okay, it showed up in my News Feed because someone else I knew was going. It’s not like I was stalking you or anything. Believe me, I tried.” Dammit.
David raises an eyebrow. It feels like he is peering into my soul with his piercing gaze. He finally looks away and furiously swipes through his phone. “So what now?” He mutters while locking his eyes on his phone. “What do you want to say to me?”
“That I’m sorry!” I immediately shout. “I couldn’t let you leave for California without saying goodbye. You’ve affected my life so much… You were my first friend here when I barely knew any English. I can’t just let you go… ” My voice trails away as David distracts me with his phone. “Um… what are you doing?”
“I’m blocking you on Facebook.” David says monotonously. I raise a finger and open my mouth to protest but he cuts me off. He looks up from the phone with sharp eyes and a snarl on his face. “You have some nerve showing up here.” David grunts with exasperation. He threateningly points a finger at me and I wince involuntarily. “You never even tried to contact me until you saw me on Grindr! And now that you know I’m gay, you come running back to my life after ignoring me for more than a decade? ”
I don’t know what is happening. I don’t expect everything to be all sunshine and rainbows, but I don’t understand why he’s that angry. “I… I know saying ‘Hi’ to you in Grindr wasn’t ideal. I just wanted to talk, I didn’t want to hook up—”
“Seriously?” David interjects. He lifts up his tank top with his right hand almost too readily, tapping his well-defined six pack with his left. “Don’t lie to me. Everyone wants this!” A smug smirk latches on to his face and I feel my face contort in disgust. “Well it doesn’t matter what you say.” David shrugs. “I really don’t want to see you again.”
“You’re cutting me out of your life? Permanently?” I exclaim. This is the complete opposite of what I want to happen. I want to stay in contact with David, maybe even patch up our friendship. Now I’m driving him away faster than ever before.
“I’ve got my shit together now.” David declares, pounding on his chest twice before picking up his duffel bag. “I’m staying in contact with people who helped me get to where I am today. And no offense… ” David holds up a hand with his palm facing me, as if to shield himself from the shame of offending someone with his words. “… But you’ve never done anything for me. You did nothing.”
That’s probably the dumbest excuse for ending a friendship. This can’t be the reason. I can’t let him go with such a terrible excuse. I won’t let him go.
Then it dawns on me. I can’t let go of David because of a superlative that he will continue to hold forever; my first friend. I keep happy memories of us playing video games, cracking jokes, and throwing bugs at unsuspecting children. I save those memories and ignore the ones with other kids knocking him down to the ground because he’s weak and girls laughing at him for his awkwardness and the cool kids taunting him for trying to be their friends. Now he’s standing here in front of me, a member of the US Navy, jacked-up and buff enough to knock down thousands of 5th graders and able to woo anyone off their feet.
Could this be the reason that he wants to cut ties with me? I’m a remnant of his past life. My existence validates the life he once had. As long as I’m in his life, he can’t move on.
“None taken… “ I hear myself whisper weakly. I feel a part of me die inside.
“Well, it was nice knowing you.” David says sarcastically. He shrugs one last time, turns around and walks towards the driver side of his Jeep.
I can’t let him go. I don’t want to let him go.
David turns around and glares at me. I don’t know what to say. Nothing would force him to bring me back into his life.
“Don’t you think it’s weird?” I hear myself say. “After 12 years of no contact, we see each other again. I just saw that Event page 30 minutes ago, just before you left. I’m not religious in any way, but something brought us here.”
“Paulo—” David begins to speak.
“I know what you went through.” I interrupt him, my voice quaking violently. “When I was young I thought I was sick. I thought something was wrong with me. I wasn’t normal!” I pause to catch my breath. My hands automatically curl up into fists to stop them from shaking. “You went through that too, didn’t you? We were the same and we didn’t know about it.”
For the first time today, David’s face becomes solemn, relaxing its features to its natural state. The duffel bag dangles dangerously on his fingertips as his grip loosens up.
“I’m not just here to apologize for ignoring you.” I say slowly. “I regret being away from you when you needed a friend the most. To show you that you weren’t alone. That you weren’t abnormal or sick.” I inhale deeply and exhale gradually to try and calm down my heartbeat. “I’m sorry for being a terrible friend.”
David stares at me for a moment. Then his expression hardens once more. “I need you to memorize this before I leave. We were never friends.” My heart sinks. “You were a classmate. You will always be a classmate.” It looks like he is about to say something else, but something stops him. Maybe he can see that his words are tearing my heart apart. “Goodbye, Paulo.” David finishes quickly. He turns around, opens the door and tosses his duffel bag into the passenger seat.
David freezes as he climbs into the Jeep.
“Penis.” I say a little louder this time.
David mutters something inaudible under his breath and proceeds to hop into his Jeep.
“Penis!” This time I shout it out loud. The engine roars into life. Kesha’s “Die Young” starts to blare out of his speakers. “PENIS!” I scream over Kesha’s voice. I run to the Jeep, grab on the spare wheel on the back and pull as if I had the power to stop David from leaving. “PENIS! PENIS!” I’ve never hated Kesha more in my life. The engine revs and the Jeep accelerates forward. David sticks his hand out of the window and gives me the finger before he disappears at the intersection.
I don’t need a friend who doesn’t want me in their life. I wasn’t a part of David’s success and struggles, and he wasn’t a part of mine. Letting him go now does not change any of that. I know that. I accept it.
Yet right now its confusing. A few minutes ago I thought I would never see him again. Then I realized that we were never friends at all. I don’t know which one hurts more.