My eyes shot open. The only light was that of the tv, cutting through the darkness. My eyes slowly adjusted to being open.
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.
I knew it was him at the door. I told him I didn't want to see him but I knew it was him.
Four more knocks.
"Jack, I know you're there. Your car is out front."
As much as I didn't want to see him, I couldn't help but walk to the front door. Putting my hand on the door knob, I froze. You can do this. Be strong.
The start of the fall quarter was pretty standard for me. Parties, football, and light studying occupied most of my time while not in class. Jockguy also took up a lot of my time. I wasn't with him every free minute of the day but it seemed like it. We had dinner together most days, and lunch together when our schedules matched up. We went to parties and football games together. And one of us spent the night at the other's apartment more often than not. In a nutshell, things were going great.
Then came November.
Unlocking the deadbolt, I took one last breath. Keep your cool.
Jockguy stood in front of my door, head lowered, shoulders slumped, hands in his coat pocket.
"You haven't answered my calls," Jockguy said as he leaned against the door frame. "I got worried. Wanna make sure you are ok."
"I'm fine," I snapped. Jockguy winced ever so slightly and I immediately regretted my tone. We both stared at the floor, the sound of a stereotypical Oregon rain shower filling the silence.
"Can I come in?" Jockguy asked, still staring at the floor.
"Uhh... I don't think I'm ready yet."
"Jack," Jockguy said, standing up straight, "we have to talk sometime. It's been 2 weeks. You won't return my calls or texts or emails. Please talk to me. You owe me that much."
"I owe YOU?!?" My head shot straight up. My fiery eyes met Jockguy's. "Please explain to me how the fuck that works. How the fuck does your brain twist this around to me owing you?! You are un-fucking-believable."
Jockguy's jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed. "You done?"
"You tell me?! Any other ways I owe you?"
"I came here to talk. You can stand there and yell obscenities at me in the doorway like some redneck asshole or you can let me come inside and yell at me behind closed doors like any other normal person. Either way, I'm not leaving until we make a decision about us."
Things started to change the first week of November. At first, it was small things. A missed dinner or lunch here and there. Things slowly started snowballing. Canceled dates and missed calls were followed by days of not seeing each other. At one point, we hadn't even kissed in 5 days.
I was angry and confused. Had I done something to piss Jockguy off? Or was he just too busy with school? Something was definitely wrong. But I was too scared to ask. I was afraid I already knew the answer.
So I kept going along.
"You want anything to drink?"
Jockguy took off his jacket and sat on the couch. "Water. Please."
I returned to the couch with 2 bottles of water. Jockguy took his and immediately guzzled half of it. I took 3 small sips and waited. He wanted this meeting, so he can be the one to start.
"I guess I'll start," Jockguy said, reading my mind. Rolling up his sleeves and shifting his body towards mine, Jockguy cleared his throat. "Jack, I hope you know how sorry I am. You have to know how much I love you and how much you mean to me."
"I know that," I said, staring at my bottle. "That's what makes this whole thing so fucked up to me. We were doing so well."
Jockguy opened his mouth, ready to reply, but pulled back.
"We weren't doing as great as you think."
By the time Thanksgiving break came around, I was done holding my tongue. I was miserable and I knew Jockguy was too. So, on my way home for the break, I stopped at Jockguy's and flat out asked "What is going on?"
The answer was more painful than I thought it would be.
"What do you mean we weren't doing great? Things were the same as they always were."
"What the hell does that mean?"
Jockguy stood up and started pacing in front of the couch. "It means that we weren't progressing. Our relationship wasn't going anywhere. It was stagnant."
"That's bullshit. We were progressing just fine."
"Oh really? Then how come I've never met your parents? Or your brothers? That's right, because they still don't know I exist."
"Fuck you! You know how much I want to come out to them. You know how much I want you to meet them."
"I know that you keep saying that. But you've been saying that for a year now. It's just words now."
"So me not being ready to come out is why you started dating someone else? Me being in the closet drove you to lie and sneak around behind my back? Sounds like a cop out to me."
"Me wanting to have an open, normal relationship isn't a cop out. I shouldn't have lied and gone behind your back. That was a dick move and I am truly sorry. But I'm not sorry for why I did it."
Jockguy stopped pacing and sat next to me. I hadn't been this close to him in 2 weeks. His scent was still intoxicating.
"Listen, I understand that you are having a hard time coming out to them. I truly understand that. It's a gut-wrenching time. But I'm getting impatient. I can't keep doing this. I feel like I am putting my whole heart into us and you are only putting in half. That's not fair to me or us."
A silence washed over the room. The two of us sat there, inches away but emotionally miles apart.
"I... I... I just don't think I can do it." I finally muttered
"I think you are wrong. I know you. I see how strong you are. You are one of the strongest people I know. I have know doubt that you can handle ANYTHING that's thrown at you. And the way you talk about your family, I know that things will be fine. They love you."
In my heart, I knew Jockguy was right. I knew that I wasn't being fair to him by not being out. He had opened up his entire life to me. And I had only opened up half. I was 2 different people. Family Jack and College Jack. He deserved to know both.
"I'm still mad at you," I said, breaking the 5minute silence.
"No matter the reason, what you did was wrong."
Another silence fell across the room. I was still mad and hurt but at least understood his side somewhat. It took a small amount of the sting out, though more than enough was left.
This time, Jockguy was the first to break the silence.
"I think I'm gonna go home," he said, standing up and heading for his coat.
I stood and followed him to the door. I didn't want him to leave. I needed to touch and hug him again. I needed to feel him next to me. I needed to be wrapped in his arms as we slept.
"Please don't leave," I said as he reached for the door.
"Jack, I don't think it's a g-"
"Please, just stay," I interrupted. "I need you to. Being away from you this long has killed me. I just need you next to me tonight."
That night, for the first time in almost a month, Jockguy and I fell asleep holding each other.
It's been about 2 weeks since the above conversation happened. Jockguy and I are still together. Things are rocky and aren't even close to being repaired but we are heading in a positive direction. With his help and support, I've made the decision to come out to one of my brothers. It's not the whole family but it is a big step for me.
I want to thank those of you who have stuck around during this dead period for posts.