Oliver met me on the quad as snowfall softly pummeled the sidewalks. I slipped the whole way, feeling the silent thud-thud-thud of the snow wads, expecting a sound to go along with it. But it was completely vacant. They warned of a coming blizzard, but I did not take it seriously. A blizzard in mid-Pennsylvania was about as common as rain in Seattle, and no one could function if they took meaning to the threats. I ventured out, because I wanted to meet Oliver. He knew my secret, after all – and I knew his.
I asked to meet, and he happily agreed. It was odd though, because it was daylight, although darkened by the greyness and the snow. We never met by daylight – preferred our meetings under the guise of pseudo-social situations between midnight and 6 am. It felt like an Elementary School in twilight – familiar yet upside down. My pulse heightened, influenced by a tossing anxiety that flipped to excitement and then back again. It felt like we were moving forward – or perhaps back – and I changed my mind by the minute. I anticipated, and then I apprehended, and that ambivalence stuck until he said hi and dodged a hug. Then, I knew.
I brushed the snow off a bench nearby, swept his side as well. I knew we would need a healthy distance between us.
He wanted to give me back my secret. He wanted to give up.
He blamed it on a number of things. After careful thought, he had determined this to be a “failed experiment.” He liked girls – he said – and admitted to alcohol as a contributing factor (thought it had never been that way for me). He said he wouldn’t ever tell anyone and would appreciate it if I did the same. He had a reputation to maintain, and a rumor like this might affect his chances to date girls. Also, it was embarrassing – “We both should be embarrassed. Aren’t you?” I asked him if he had planned to tell me today, or if it was coincidence, since I’m the one who asked him to hang out-
He interrupted. He said he figured I knew what was going on when I asked him to meet.
He asked if I wanted to grab dinner. You know, to stay friends maybe.
I said I was fine.
He brought his lips together and shrugged.
He said see you around.
I said okay.
I didn’t go home that night. I remember sitting down in the middle of the commons, head tilted down at a half angle, thinking it all through. I had shed all out my outerwear onto the table in front of me into a lump of exoskeleton. He had the same secret as me, and yet we came to wildly different outcomes. I refused to believe the “girl” bullshit. He had this, and he wanted to give up for his own real reasons. And I had had the exact opposite reaction, despite having the exact same experience. How could that happen? How could one face truth and possibility and just give up? I had turned my back on all that I had learned – I had chosen feeling over faith and ignored my upbringing. I had given up on that and ruined it. God no longer wanted me, I knew. All for this, for Oliver.
A friend found me in the middle of the night on a shortcut. The commons ran through campus, so a walk from a party to the dorms often included a respite of warmth inside. He didn’t know my secret but knew something was wrong. He approached me happily, linked in arms with his girlfriend. She noticed first and asked if I wanted to sleep in their dorm that night. I agreed.
He said he didn’t know what was going on, but he loved me.
I said thank you.
He said I looked scary.
I asked how?
He said it looked like I was ready to give up.
I asked how?
He said he didn’t know but it just looked that way.
I said I was sure I would be fine.