"Next time we play, we should find some shorter guys," remarked Mush as he attempted to spin the basketball on his finger.
"Next time we play, you should actually learn to play basketball," Blink replied, ducking out of the way as the basketball careened out of control. Undeterred, Mush retrieved the ball and tried again. "Give me that," Blink snapped, grabbing the ball as it fell once more. He was at the end of his patience. Mush was a great athlete, but basketball was not his sport. Blink knew that. Mush, apparently, did not. So, complaining that they'd "barely seen each other all summer," Mush had insisted on accompanying Blink to his weekly pick-up basketball game at the park. An insistent Mush was not to be denied, and Blink had reluctantly relented.
"I know how to play," protested Mush.
"Could've fooled me." The only saving grace, as far as Blink was concerned, was that it hadn't been as bad as the time Jack had brought David along to play.
"Lighten up Blink, it's just a game." Mush made a grab for the ball but Blink moved it out of reach.
"Whatever, let's just go. It looks like rain."
It did look like rain. The sky that had been clear and blue had begun to darken with the threatening clouds characteristic of a summer evening storm. The boys quickly gathered their belongings from where they'd left them at the edge of the court and began their walk home in silence. Mush, however, could not hold his tongue for long.
"Look, if it bothers you that much that I'm not good at basketball, I won't come play again. I just wanted to hang out."
"We hang out all the time."
"No, we don't, Blink. Not anymore. I wasn't being dramatic, I've barely seen you in three weeks."
"I've been busy."
"Doing what?" asked Mush exasperatedly. "I'm not gonna lie, Blink, it feels like you're avoiding me. Ever since..."
Mush didn't finish the sentence, but Blink knew what he'd meant to say. Ever since I came out. He avoided Mush's gaze. Instead he glanced up at the sky, now grey as soot, as the first raindrop pattered onto his face. Several more fat drops pattered onto the ground around him. "I'm not avoiding you." It was a lie. Mush would know that, he always knew when Blink was lying. Blink was avoiding him, but not for the reasons Mush thought.
The problem was not Mush being gay; it was knowing that Mush was gay. Blink had liked Mush for ages but had always considered him unattainable. If Mush was straight, then Blink could rest easy in the knowledge that there was nothing he could have done to make Mush reciprocate his interest. But, now that he knew Mush was gay, it would hurt all the worse that Blink couldn't have him. Even if somehow Mush was interested, Blink knew he couldn't act on it. At least as long as he wanted to remain living under his parents' roof, anyway. Before Mush's confession, Blink had always maintained a resolute acceptance of the situation. He'd gotten used to it. But now it was so much harder. Pandora 's Box was open and all of the desires that he'd had kept carefully tucked away were a raging storm around him. He didn't know how to act around his best friend, so he'd started to avoid him.
"You're avoiding me, and you're lying to me. Alex, if it bothers you that much that I'm gay, be honest with me. It's even worse if you let me think we can still be friends." Blink knew by Mush's use of his real name that he was being very serious, and that he was very upset. Blink hated the thought of upsetting Mush.
"Shit, Mike, you can't really think that. You're my best friend. You coming out doesn't change that."
"Well, what am I supposed to think? I come out to you, expecting support from my best friend, and then all the sudden it's like you're a different person. Like a stranger. I don't know what to think about you anymore."
The rain was falling faster. Blink could see the drops on Mush's grey shirt. A few dark speckles had become a dark blotch where the water was soaking through. The damp fabric was clinging to his muscular frame. "Mush..."
"Please, Blink, just tell me what you're thinking. Tell me so we can try to figure it out."
Blink stared at the ground. He watched as raindrops turned into puddles and then steadily into miniature streams flowing into the gutters. He tried to figure out something to say. Some way to get himself out of this conversation without losing Mush forever. After too long, Mush let out a sigh. "Fine, whatever. I'll see you around, Blink." He turned and started to walk away. Blink reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Wait," Blink pleaded.
"What?" Mush snapped. The sky opened up then. It was pouring. All around them, passerby were dashing for cover.
"Let's get out of the rain," Blink said. He pulled Mush into a small café just up the street. The air conditioning, turned up on full blast for the summer heat, raised goose bumps on Blink's wet skin. The café seemed a popular destination for all those seeking cover, and he was jostled close to Mush. He could feel Mush's skin, hot against his own. Too close. He couldn't think.
"What were you going to say?" Mush asked again, meeting Blink's eyes with a skeptical gaze.
Blink vaguely registered that his hand was still on Mush's arm. The crowed had pushed them within inches of each other. Too close. All of Blink's carefully reasoned excuses for why he shouldn't do this were gone. All he could think of was that he had to act or it'd be too late; Mush would be gone. Too close. Blink stopped thinking. With his other hand he grabbed a fistful of Mush's shirt and pulled him closer. Then Blink kissed him. In the middle of a crowded café. It was short, but it was long enough to convey the point.
Mush looked simultaneously flabbergasted and sheepish. "Blink..."
"I like you, Mush. I don't care if you're gay. I'm gay. I was avoiding you because I couldn't stand the thought of you liking a different guy, or not liking me back, or whatever. I hated the thought of being so close, yet so far away. I'm sorry; I should have just told you the truth. But now you know."
"Blink..." Mush began. Blink steeled himself. This was the moment of rejection. The moment he'd been trying to avoid by avoiding Mush. He looked at the ground and dropped his hands to his sides. He only looked up again when he felt Mush's fingers on his right cheek. "Blink, I like you too. It's always been you. Who else could there be?" Blink shrugged. Mush laughed. "For best friends, we clearly need to communicate better. Think of all this time we've wasted."
Blink smiled for a moment, then frowned. "You know I can't tell my parents. At least not now."
Mush nodded. "I know. That's okay. The only people who need to know are you and me."
The pair stood in silence for a few moments before the café started emptying around them. The rainstorm had ended just as suddenly as it had started. As they joined the stream of people headed back outside, Blink felt Mush's fingers intertwine with his own. He smiled. "I'm really glad you came to play basketball with me today," he said.
"Me too," replied Mush. "Though I don't think I'll come play again. I can think of more fun things for us to do together."
"As long as you're better at it than you are at basketball," joked Blink.
"Oh, don't worry." Blink chuckled as Mush smiled wickedly.
"I'm done worrying," Blink said, smiling at Mush. Mush returned the smile warmly and the two boys headed home, hand in hand.Back.