How to Say “I Love You”

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“Just kill me and get it over with,” I thought as the pounding echoed again. I blinked a couple times, rousing myself awake enough to realize that the pounding was not in my head. I looked at the clock, thinking, “Who the fuck pounds on a man’s door at one-thirty in the morning?”

I dragged my ass out of bed and shuffled down the hall toward the front door. Staggering, I hopped to my left as a sharp pain jolted up my leg. “Ow! Shit!” I hobbled to the couch, propping myself against the arm as I grabbed my big toe. “Damn bar chairs!” It was my own damn fault. I should have turned on the light.

The pounding became a bit erratic.

“Yeah, yeah! I’m coming,” I yelled, cross the rest of the living room far more awake than I wanted to be at this hour. I yanked open the door. “What?!?”

Dave’s bloodshot, blurred, swollen eyes looked back at me from under an unruly mat of auburn hair. His breath stank of a mixture of too many alcohols. “She threw me out…”

That was the only really intelligible sentence he managed until morning. The hour between when he arrived and when he passed out on the couch was a mishmash of blubbering, tears, slurred speech, and a couple return trips of the scotch, gin and vodka he’d had earlier. I sat, listening to my best friend snore, and wondered what the hell I was going to do. “She” must have been Rebecca, his wife. The question that kept me up, waiting for Dave to sleep off the binge was, “why?”

I didn’t really get any solid answers when Dave woke up, even after the aspirin had kicked in. Dave was never very good with expressing his emotions. He was also basically clueless about anything that wasn’t “in his face obvious.” All I knew for sure was that Rebecca had informed him that it was over, was spending the weekend with her mother, and told him that his stuff had better be out of the apartment when she got back. Dave handled it like he’d handled any other emotional upheaval in his life since he turned eighteen; he got drunk.

While Dave tried to shower off the remainder of his hangover, I found Rebecca’s mother’s phone number in his cell and called. After a few moments, an unfamiliar female voice came on the line.


“Mrs. Johnson? This is James Andrews. Is Rebecca there?”

There was a pause, and then she seemed to remember me. I didn’t expect her to remember who the best man was at her daughter’s wedding, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to talk to her daughter. “Oh, yes. Just a moment.”

I listened to the sound of the shower water, hoping Rebecca would get on the line before Dave got done. After a moment, she picked up the phone. “Hi, Jim.”

“Uhm… I’ve got a hung over man in my shower who seems to think his marriage is over. Could you clarify this for me?”


Ten minutes later, I knew more intimate details of their married life, or lack there of, than I’d ever wanted to know. I heard the shower turn off, and I interrupted Rebecca in mid-rant about Dave’s lack of feelings and neglect. “Okay, I get the picture. What stuff do you call ‘his’?”

“The clothes, his Xbox, and his school stuff. I’ll worry about who get’s what of the furniture when I get back.”

“Yeah, okay,” I grumbled. God she was a bitch. “Thanks.” I hung up. Rebecca hadn’t always been a bitch, though I’d never liked her. It wasn’t her fault we never clicked. I think, unlike Dave, she knew that I was in the closet, and hopelessly in love with my best friend. There was an unspoken kind of adversarial truce between us from the day Dave proposed to her: he belonged to her, but I could be his friend as long as I kept out of their marriage. I did, and stayed in the closet too. At twenty-eight, I was a gay virgin with no prospects for changing that status.

Dave didn’t say much on the way to the apartment. I was lucky to get some concrete indication as to what stuff was his and what wasn’t as we boxed up or bagged up his clothes, his video system, some of his books, and such. I thought about Rebecca’s rant earlier that day, and about Dave, and decided that it was still none of my business. That didn’t stop me from looking at what I knew, and coming to my own conclusions. He loved her, or at least had when they got married; but Rebecca was a high-maintenance person, and Dave had always been a “hands off” guy. My guess was he expected a marriage to be sort of like rooming with someone where you shared the same bed and had sex. I didn’t know; I was likely never to find out, and I really didn’t care. I never thought they were right for each other anyway.

Suffice it to say, I offered him temporary residence on the sofa bed in the spare room. It made using my computer problematic, but I solved that by bringing home my laptop from work and setting up on the bar. Wireless routers made it easy to stay connected. He spent the week in a funk, but then he did the “Dave thing”; he got practical. I arrived home from work on Friday to see him boxing and labeling his stuff.

“Need help,” I asked as I hung my coat on the hook near the door.

“Nah,” he replied, taping closed şişli escort a box of books. “Can I use your computer to hunt for a new apartment?”

“Sure,” I answered as I patted my briefcase. “I’ve got the laptop for things I need. Just let me transfer a few files and the desktop is yours.”

He smiled at me for a moment, and then turned back to his repacking. “Thanks.”

That was it; discussion over. I could see how that would turn off Rebecca; hell, almost any woman was my guess. Most women wanted to discuss things, share in the decision making process, and pay attention to the details. It was a “together thing” and showed that they cared. Guys like Dave didn’t work that way. Ask the question, get the answer, and move on; that was his modus operandi. Dave wasn’t compatible with “let’s discuss everything.”

Dave started looking for a place to stay that night. His needs were simple: a comfortable place, one bedroom, in town, with resident parking, and not in a questionable neighborhood. He also needed it to be priced such that he didn’t require a roommate.

I just left the computer to him; it wasn’t like I had anything important to do on it anyway. I worked on computers all day, so I really found no enjoyment in them at home; all I ever used mine for was to surf porn and email. I didn’t even enjoy instant messaging.

Dave went to see a few places during the weekend and the following week. I met him at the gym after he’d visited the latest place on Thursday.

“How’s it going,” I asked as I pulled on my sweatpants.

“There are a few I like,” Dave commented as he pulled his workout clothes out of his bag, “But none of the places I can afford have anything available until March.”

“That’s okay. You can stay as long as you need, Dave.” I pulled on my sweatshirt. “Really.” I smiled at him before heading for the cardio area. “I’m enjoying the company.”

“Cool, thanks.” That was it. No “me too” or “you aren’t such bad company yourself.” If I didn’t know him so well, I’d have been annoyed. But I’d caught a glimpse of the small curl of his lips as he pulled off his shirt while I left the locker room. Understanding Dave was all about subtle clues, even though he never seemed to pick up on anything that wasn’t spelled out in neon himself.

I shook my head and thought about Dave as I got onto the stair climber. He had never been a very demonstrative kind of guy. He was solid, reserved, and deeply personal. Any call for public displays of emotion shook him to the core. I’d been amazed he’d been able to make it through the wedding when he married Rebecca. I was sure the fact that he was too hung over from his bachelor’s party to even think about the wedding was the only thing that allowed him to say, “I do.” It was one of the reasons Rebecca kicked him to the curb; he wasn’t good at the whole “express your feelings” thing. It took extreme measures to get him to open up; usually requiring a lot of alcohol.

“The usual,” Dave asked as he stepped onto the machine beside me.

“Yep,” I replied, keeping my eye on the climbing rate indicator.

Neither of us were big conversationalists, and we were an unusual pair at the gym. Although we were workout partners, we seldom did any exercises together. We met in the locker room, warmed up on the stair climbers or tread mills, and that was where our joint workouts ended until the cool down. I went for cardio burn and a low weight, high repetition routine. Dave was always pumping the max he could. It didn’t seem to matter what we did, as we never achieved what we wanted. I wanted to get the roundness out of my shape and be cut like Dave; he wanted my size.

I stayed on the climber for a couple extra minutes to let Dave synch his workout to mine, and then got off the machine as he finished his warm-up. “See you for cool down,” I commented before losing myself in my routine, listening to my Ipod workout playlist.

* * * * *

Dave spent the weekend apartment hunting. It wasn’t until Monday that I realized I was of two minds about the whole thing. He’d been in the apartment only a couple of weeks, and I realized I didn’t want him to leave. Asking him to stay was ridiculous. Dave was as WASP as they came, and I had no idea what he thought of gay people. It had never been a topic of conversation, not once in fifteen years, and I was afraid to ask.

I had to beg off from our normal workout on Tuesday because of work, and I picked up Chinese for us on the way home as an apology for breaking our routine. Dave loved Chinese. I found a card when I got home. It’d been left on the kitchen table with “Jim” scrawled on the envelope. I opened the envelope and pulled out an embossed card; the simple, straightforward style said it all. “To my best friend,” was embossed on the cover. Inside was printed, “Thank you for being who you are,” and was finished off with a nearly illegible, “Dave.”

I just looked at the card, dumbfounded, for the longest time. I had no idea what inspired it. In the fifteen years we’d been friends, Dave had never bought beşiktaş escort me a card. Sure, his mom did for my birthdays and Christmas and had him sign them when we were younger, but we all knew that teen-aged guys didn’t buy cards for their friends. I was certain Rebecca had taken over that duty after they got married; his signature on my birthday and Christmas cards had been a lot cleaner back then.

I must have given him a funny look when he got back from the gym. He had taken off his sweat soaked shirt, and was swabbing down his pits as I tried to figure out what seemed off. Seeing Dave’s body was anything but new; I’d known the guy since we were thirteen. We’d been working out together for longer than he had been married. I finally realized that he’d changed his hair; he’d had the same hairstyle since we went off to college. He’d also gotten new glasses. Dave was so slow to “change” that glaciers moved faster, yet he’d made two fairly radical changes in just a twenty-four hour period of time.

He shot me a frown. “What?”

I grinned. “I’m getting used to the new look.”

His frown deepened; he didn’t buy it. “Uh huh, right.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know; you’ve been working out six days a week since you moved in. It just seems like you’re trying really hard for something you just can’t have.” Of course, I was one to talk; I’d been in love with a straight, white guy since I was sixteen. I pushed aside that thought and gestured at his ripped abs and chorded arms. “You’ve got definition that most guys would kill for and you’re always trying to put on weight and size.” I smiled. “Go with what you’ve got, man.” This was an old argument.

Dave frowned for a minute, and then shrugged. “Yeah well, I don’t have anything anyone wants anyway.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

He sighed. “Rebecca had the divorce papers sent to the office yesterday. It’s official; we’re through.” Rubbing his shirt across his chest, he headed for the shower. “I guess I’m just thinking that if I change the look, maybe I’ll change with it.”

I waited until he came out or the shower, and spent a couple moments watching his muscles move as he toweled his hair. Yeah, my biceps were nearly as big as his thighs, but every one of his skinny, tight muscles were visible when he had his arms up. He caught me looking as he finished his hair, and I swear he blushed.

Then he frowned. “What?”

“Thanks for the card.”

That, at least, rewarded me with the first smile of the day.

“Oh.” Typical Dave, he just smiled and looked for anything to change the subject away from personal stuff. “I smell Chinese.”

I supposed having a big black guy looking at you with puppy-dog eyes and a stupid smile was enough to make any straight, white guy nervous. I let it go, and went to the oven. “Yeah, I thought I could get forgiveness for skipping out on you if I got you some General Tsoo’s Chicken.”

Dave stood there, chewing on his lower lip for a moment, not looking at me. “You’re my best friend, Jim; I might get mad about something, but I’d always forgive you. You know?”

I raised an eyebrow at him. That was about as candid about anything as he’d ever been. “Hey, you alright?”

He sighed. “Yeah. Just adjusting to the idea of not being wanted.” He turned and headed back to his bedroom. “Let me put on some clothes. No one wants to look at my emaciated ass while they eat.”

I wouldn’t have minded, but he was right; his hanging around in nothing but a towel wasn’t the best of ideas. I was beginning to notice a bit too many details to be comfortable.

The card wasn’t the only weird thing that Dave did as the week wound on. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew he was having a hard time dealing with the end of his marriage, but he was beginning to really worry me.

On Thursday he gave me a serious look before heading to bed and asked, “We’re best friends, right?”

I thought that was a stupid question. “Yeah, of course we are.” What concerned me was how doubtful he looked. “What’s bothering you, Dave?”

He shrugged. “Dunno. I guess I’m just feeling a little insecure.” I wanted to give him a hug and tell him he had nothing to be insecure about, but he shrugged again after giving me another odd look and said, “Night.”

That didn’t weird me out nearly as much as when, over the weekend, he asked me, “Got a date for Valentine’s day?” It was only a week away, but the question was totally bizarre.

“Yeah,” I nodded at the door, “they’ve been beating down the door trying to get me. Can’t you tell?”

Dave shrugged. “I guess I was just wondering. You’ve never talked about your dates.” The way he looked at me made my stomach sink. “Ever.”

“Of course I have.” I was certain I’d lied about some girl at some point. I couldn’t honestly remember who, or when, but I was sure I had. “I don’t need to date; I have everything I want.” I had Dave in my home, at least temporarily, and that was what I wanted.

“Oh.” He seemed to chew on that for a while before he got up and went back to his fındıkzade escort room.

He had me spooked. Every day he seemed a little more down; that wasn’t normal for Dave. He’d always been one to have short-lived funks and then he was right back to status quo. This time, it didn’t seem like he was pulling out of it. With my concern about Dave, I completely forgot about the office Valentine’s Day party. Valentine’s Day was on Saturday, but the boss rented out his club’s banquet room for Friday night; it was kind of an anti Friday the thirteenth party. It started at seven; for the second time in two weeks I had to cancel on Dave. I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t as if he needed me there for anything more than a few words of conversation before and after the workout.

God I hated office parties, but being in middle management made it a political imperative that I attend. Fortunately, dates were optional. For shits, I bought a black tie with burgundy hearts on it for the party on my way home. I showered, put on a dark burgundy silk shirt, black pants and had a black sports coat draped over a chair in the living room. If I was going to be stuck watching my coworkers get drunk and suck face, at least I could fake the spirit of the occasion.

Dave looked at me like I was an alien when he came in from the gym, and saw me grabbing my jacket. “Where are you going?”

I realized I hadn’t told him about the party, only that I had to cancel. “Office Party; I’d forgotten about it.” I shrugged. “Don’t have anything better to do tonight.”

The hurt look on Dave’s face confused me, but I didn’t have the time to try to figure out his mood; I was already going to be late. I laughed at the random thought that I might actually meet someone, and I grinned. “Don’t wait up.” I was sure I’d be home by ten.

The party was, as predicted, a complete slosh fest. It was a good thing I wasn’t fond of alcohol. I ended up having to take four of my co-workers home. They lived all over town, so I didn’t make it back to the apartment until after one in the morning. I walked in to find Dave sitting in his briefs, looking bleary-eyed at the TV, with a mostly empty bottle of Jack on the table. The way his head moved, I knew he was smashed.

I sighed as he looked up at me, and I took off my coat. “What’re you doing, Dave?”

He sniffed at me. “Waiting up.”

That was obvious, but what I really wanted to know was why. “Yeah, I can see that.” It didn’t look like he’d been crying, but I suspected once I’d settled down some place, I’d have a wet shoulder again. “Mind if I get out of these things?”

He shook his head, and wobbled a little, so I went back to my room to change. Wet silk sucked; I was going to change into an old T and some sweats. If he threw up, nothing would be ruined. It took me a moment to realize that Dave was standing in the doorway, watching me as I changed.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what? That I had an office party?” I shrugged. “I told you; I forgot.”

“No.” He wobbled a little, and looked more upset. “Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?”

I froze. I didn’t want an irrational drunk on my hands. Fuck, why hadn’t I seen that coming? I hedged. “What are you talking about, Dave? What makes you think I’m gay?”

He turned, took a couple steps to the guestroom door, and pointed. “That does.”

I pulled up my sweats and walked out to take a look. On the screen was the nifty archive; I’d spent a lot of nights using the stories there to sate the loneliness I felt. I cringed. “It’s a porn site, Dave; gay, straight and fetishes. How do you know I’m not into sheep?”

He glared angrily at me; yeah, he’d liquored up enough to unhinge the emotional doors. “I’m not stupid. I know how to look at a history file. Not to mention, the photo sites are all gay.” He walked, unsteadily, to the computer and clicked on the favorites list. “There’s this one,” click, “and this one,” click, “and this one,” click, “and this one…” He sounded angrier with each click of the mouse.

For me it was like a surreal nightmare. I hadn’t even thought about my favorites list or history file. I was so screwed. I was looking at him in horror when he turned around.

Tears were running down his face. “You keep telling me we’re best friends, and I don’t even know who you are.”

God that hurt. When Dave unhinged, his heart was on his sleeve. The pain in his voice wasn’t from my being gay; it was from my hiding it from him. I couldn’t meet the hurt in his eyes, so I looked at the floor. “I’m sorry.”

He practically yelled at me. “I don’t care if you’re sorry! I want to know why!” Dave seldom got loud, even when he was drunk, and his outburst caught me off guard.

“Why what? Why I’m gay?” I was getting pissed. “I don’t know, Dave. I was born this way I guess. I never told you I was -black- either. I never thought I needed to!”

He looked down. “You could have told me.”

He was such a hypocritical prick. I waved at him as my frustration built. I had no idea I’d even been frustrated until it hit me; at that point, I couldn’t stop myself. “You never tell anyone anything, Dave! Unless you’re drunk! When you do finally start talking, I can’t tell what you’re saying half the time because when you’re liquored up enough to say anything you’re slurring!”

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