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Pool Table Truths
I’m kneeling next to the pool table, my eyes full of green felt.
Occasional nod… sporadic eye contact.
We’re whispering, mostly, although the nearest people are two flights up. For some reason volume startles us. A book slips off the shelf, precarious at best. We jump.
I’m an accepting person, by nature. The problem is, in order to accept something, you have to believe it.
And all I can provide at the moment are skeptical looks.
And all he can do is explain, via a longish story of his life, how he likes boys and girls.
Not a revolutionary thing,
Not an unheard of thing,
just a thing that happens to be unbelievable to me.
How did I not know? I feel stupid, incredibly naïve. Ignorant. And something else. Something that feels weirdly like betrayal. But why?
“And she just. Wouldn’t. Look at me.” He explains. One of the pinnacles of his story, I’m sure. I’m interested but I can’t listen.
My eyes focus intently on a bookcase to the left of his shins. It’s not that I won’t make eye contact. It’s not shame or anything. It just that my mind has tuned…out. I’m trying not to look stunned. So I enter a daze.
And it’s not that I was in love with him.
This doesn’t rule me out, exactly. If he were gay, that would rule me out. But he didn’t say he was gay. He said he was both.
He assigned percentages. 60/40.
Boys always feel the need to assign numbers to abstract things. Measure worth by it. Compare it to the scores of others.
But I could be the sixty percent! I could still be in the game! Anyone could be in that 100%.
ANYONE could be in that 100%.
My best friend
The kid in my art class.
One hundred percent is everybody. Who he’s fallen for could be anyone, I don’t know.
Who he loves could be anyone.
My eyes look at him briefly. He goes on.
“You’re the third person who knows.”
I glance at him again. Well then, why me? I itch for him to explain the deep, secret, meaningful reason as to why he tells me and almost no one else. I hope for a second. Maybe he wanted me to know specifically. Wanted me to know because he wanted to see what my reaction was. Maybe my reaction is important, because maybe I am that sixty percent.
He shrugs in a careless way. “I don’t know.”
So there’s no reason. It’s not that he’s after me, I just happened to be here when he felt like talking. He’s comfortable with me. I think that makes me more of a friend-type figure than before. Who he’s enamored with he doesn’t disclose. Hope falls to the floor like so many pool balls. Thunk.
For a few brief moments I come to terms with it. Okay. His ex-girlfriend knew, she was fine with it. I can be fine with it. I just have to process it… he’s not the last person I would ever suspect but neither is he the first. I look back and I don’t see signs. No indications.
My eyes begin staring again at the pool table.
My eyes are all that is visible to him. The remainder of my face is obscured by the eight ball and the green felt. He absent-mindedly rolls the balls across the table. They make a smooth ch-ch sound as they pass my eyes.
I find words inside myself. His story ends and he looks expectantly at me.
“Are you scared?” I ask, finally looking into his eyes. He laughs nervously, then sighs, then sits down. He fidgets with everything within reach before answering the question. He looks up from his hands.
If I ever have a heartbreaking day, the sun shines hot and hard and beats down on me, like, “For such an awful day, you’d expect rain, or clouds. But the weather doesn’t work that way for you, I’m working for the others who had wonderful days. They get what they wanted.” The sun snickers and I see which people he’s talking about. I shake my head briefly and walk on, squinting my eyes against the sun’s critiquing stare.
But today I’ve had a reasonable day so I ignore it.
As I walk I think about what he said last week. Which is it, then? He likes both. I don’t know how to think about it. Am I locked out because he likes boys, or being snubbed because he likes girls, another girl? Should I be understanding because he won’t, can’t love me, or offended because he can and does like girls, just not this girl? Just not me? Which is it?
Because in either case I’m not the one he wants, and that’s enough.
That’s enough for me to put my head down and gaze around meaninglessly. And tap my fingers out of boredom. Tada-ta-ta-ta. Tada-ta-ta-ta.
I have three friends who are gay and two who are bi. They say, “sexuality is a spectrum, not a choice.” Okay, I’m down with that. I’m pro-gay marriage, pro-whatever. Who am I to tell you who you can love? Nobody should have that kind of power. That’s how you get to real-life 1984 situations. So basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m not homophobic. It’s fine with me that he’s bi. No problem.
The problem comes when I think about how much time I spent thinking about him.
Even if he walked up to me and said, “You’re the one,” and trumpets sounded and fireworks went off and all that sentimental tacky crap, I don’t know how I’d feel knowing what I know. What I’m not sure about is, could he have a steady girlfriend or boyfriend? Physical attraction makes you want things. He just happens to want guys and girls. Guys AND girls. How could one or the other ever be enough?
And, what do I really know about him? Sexuality is a big thing to hide, and I understand that he’s not ready to have everyone know. I’m honored that I’m in the top five. But what else does he not tell anyone?
Listen, I don’t want your every secret. I don’t want to know everything. I’m not obsessive like that. We just know each other, that’s all. Five years is practically nothing.
But if that’s true…
Then how come I felt so left in the dark when he actually told me?
“I’m bisexual.” He says, squinting in anticipation to my reaction.
I don’t say, “WHAT?” but it takes a huge amount of restraint. Instead, I roll my shoulder back and nod grimly, words exploding in my mind. I catch the sight of a guitar in the corner and I stare at it like it is the most remarkable thing I have ever beheld. I try to make my mind focus, accept what’s just been said so simply as the truth.
He begins to tell me the stories of past relationships, but fireworks really are going off in my mind.
“So she didn’t talk for a few…”
“…Asked her what was wrong…”
“…Sitting there crying…”
“…Told them what happened…”
He’s extremely confident and it makes me wonder why only three people know. He occasionally paces or laughs nervously but overall it’s well-rehearsed, and he speaks eloquently. Too bad he’s always so fucking charming. That’s the first thing you notice. Back in a time where kindness and chivalry prevailed, this was everywhere, but it’s incredibly rare in the modern world.
Too good to be true. Maybe that was the sign.
The stories go on for ages, so eventually the fireworks stop and I regain a bit of focus. The evening is surreal. He finally stops telling his life history and talks about the specifics. He says he’s scared to death but had to tell people, and I’m the third, and he’s really 60% girls and 40% guys, and…
He mimics my position at his end of the pool table, kneeling down so that his head rests on the polished wood. It’s strangely comforting. He had been standing, pacing somewhat. On my level now, he seems childlike.
“So,” he starts. I await the awkward pause to follow but he actually has planned a sentence to go along with it.
“So, now you know that. Does it make you think of me differently?”
I regard the question cautiously.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting us to be dating anytime soon anyway… and this doesn’t exactly change those chances.“ I think, almost laughing to myself. He still manages to be charming as he drums on the pool table.
“No.” I say firmly, with a slight smile. He nods.
And it’s the truth.