2001

When we first met, she would regularly write me letters. I would oblige and respond. This went back and forth for a few weeks, before I finally realized that she was into me. I felt like such an idiot for not recognizing it sooner. I mean, I had actually thought that our written conversations were merely us sharing experiences/views about life and not some potential boyfriend vetting process. So, I freaked out and kept my distance without being too obvious about it.

Luckily, an excuse fell into my lap. I had just started working at a local McDonalds and was given more hours. So, I had less time on my hands.

About 2 months later, I was asked to train a new employee. When I first met him, I found him very attractive, but being the closet-case that I was at the time, I really made no indication of that. I had become a pro at hiding my feelings. He was sweet, authentic, had a rugged charm to him, and became a reliable co-worker.

About a month after he was hired, I was working on a research paper in the library. Halle (the aforementioned friend) came in and sat right next to me, and Gary (my new co-worker) right next to her. I didn’t think much of it, until he leaned into her and started talking to her. It took me a few minutes to realize that they were dating. They laughed upon my delayed realization, but they happily confirmed that they were seeing one another and I was convincingly happy for them. Obviously, I was veiling a small amount of jealousy.

A month or so went by and Gary and I started spending more and more time working with one another. Halle would come in on Fridays to visit and things seemed to be going very well for the two. At that point, having been able to get to know Gary a lot better, my crush had completely subsided. His personality quirks really sealed the deal for me on that end. Every time he spoke, he became less attractive to me.

Anyway, a few weeks after that, I went in to work a later shift. As I clocked in I noticed something was stirring. Everyone was glancing my way in a “boy, do I have something to tell you” kind of way. Gary was working the front counter, and I was scheduled to work right alongside him. About 10 minutes after the dinner rush, he told me that he had something he needed to tell me. As he told me this, I saw a few of our fellow co-workers side-eyeing us. I was like, “Ok, sure. What is it?”

He looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “I’m gay”.

At first, I thought I was being pranked. At that point in my life, I hadn’t come out yet. I was terrified of being outed. In fact, it was my worst fear. I remember looking at everyone around me thinking, “They know. This is their way of getting me to admit it.” This hot wave came over me as I probably flushed with red. I rolled my eyes, chuckled, and said, “Shut up. Stop messing around.” This was in line with Gary’s type of humor, after all.

He then stopped me from walking off and said, “No, I’m not kidding. I really am. I’m telling everyone.” I stood there confused, and it was only because of the incredulous faces of my co-workers (half-working while fully-listening to this conversation), that I realized he was being honest. He was being far more honest that I would have ever been capable of being. I then looked him straight into his eyes and said, “Okay”, and I got back to work. I wanted to be as far away from that situation as possible. I knew people questioned my own sexuality–there’s only so much you can hide–and I didn’t want to risk having my “situation” compromised.

We didn’t discuss it any further that night, but my co-workers sure had a lot to share. I tried to have my half-hour break alone away from all the cackling hens, but one found her way to me. She told me that Gary was already seeing a guy, he owns a mustang, and had been coming through the drive-thru for about 2 weeks straight just to speak with him. I instantly knew who she was talking about. Then, it suddenly hit me, what about Halle? Does she know?

At the end of our shift, those working the lobby counter registers have the disgusting responsibility of going through the McDonalds playground cleaning all the slides (yes, bodily fluids are a common finding). I noticed that Gary had already started. Normally, I would pretend to have other matter so attend to while he finished cleaning that multi-colored cesspool, but this time, I grabbed a wet rag and hauled my ass up those slides. It was the perfect place to get him alone. No one could see or hear us while we were up there.

I quickly made my way to him (breathing only with my mouth to avoid the awful smells), and found him looking at me curiously as I fought to catch my breath crawling to him in utter disgust.

“What’s up?”, he asked half-laughing.

“Look, I’m happy you came out. I really am. I wanted you to know that it’s not going to affect the way I see you in any way.”

He smiled.

“But, what about Halle? Have you told her?”

He instantly looked down to his hands as he scrubbed, “No, not yet.”

I sighed, “Why the hell not?”

“It’s not that simple. I really like her.”

“She should have been one of the first to know, Gary!”

“I know.”

“Tell her as soon as you can! Otherwise, she’s going to find out some other way, and it will be so much worse.”

“Ok, I will.”

“Good”, I said. And I slid back down to pretend to work.

Well, the shit hit the fan over the next few days. I heard the whispers, but I never took part in it. I felt a little guilty. I know it had nothing to with me and everything to do with Gary, but I felt somewhat responsible. Here was this closeted guy hiding himself and, as a result, hurting a genuinely good person.

I remember running into Halle as school a few days after Gary came out. She knew I knew, but we never spoke of it. To this day, we have never discussed Gary. As of today, he is not a part of our lives.

We all graduated and went off to college. Halle and I stayed in touch. We remained friends and I really valued her as a confidant. But as distance and time does, we slowly grew apart, and our friendship faded yellow. We each developed strong friendships in college and moved on with our lives.

And finally, I had the guts to come out. I came out at 21 years old.

I instantly started dating and felt more alive by the day.

Somehow, it got back to Halle.

It may be because we aren’t as close as we once were, but she’s never really been able to reach out to me in the same way anymore. My approach with her has not changed one bit, but I sense a change in her. I can’t help but feel she feels betrayed by me. Perhaps she feels guilty of her sense of betrayal. Then again, she might not.

For the longest time I never understood why it was important for Gary to come out the way that he did. But now I feel he did it because it was eating him up inside.

And it was eating me up as well. And when I crawled up that slide that night, I wasn’t necessarily upset with Gary. I was upset with myself. And Gary knew it, too.

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