“This was a bad idea. Whoever thought this was a good idea? Coming to this god forbidden, hell-hole of an island.”
“It was your goddamn idea, El!” Mark yelled from the balcony, where he and his girlfriend were probably taking a selfie for the thousandth time now. Gabriele groaned from where he was perched on the couch, wrapped up in blankets. He did not want this trip to happen, sure, it was his idea to spend this summer together before beginning their lives as university students, but this is not how he imagined it would be.
He was trapped on a couch, coughing and throwing up everywhere, on an island where the best medical aid was provided by the hotel’s receptionist. He was pretty sure his sickness came from that nasty pizza he ate for dinner last night. But all this was the least of his worries. “Gab, drink this soup. It’ll be good for you,” Tay whispered as he brought out a giant bowl of hot, steaming soup. He sat on the floor near the couch, as he blew on the soup and held it out for Gabriele to drink. Gabriele just groaned and turned the other way. “Come on Gab, you’ve got to take care of yourself. When I’m gone, I don’t know how you’re going to live on your own.”
There it was, the infamous “if I’m gone, how will you survive?” dialogue from Tay, that he repeats at least ten times a day. It’s not that it wasn’t true. But Tay kept rubbing it in his face every time he did something. It made him feel like he was completely dependent on Tay and was useless on his own. And all the feelings he tried to suppress were threateningly close to an outburst. He tried to hold it back for his sake, for Tay’s sake, but the longer he held it in, the stronger it burnt him from the inside. He couldn’t help himself.
“Will you stop saying that for once? Every damn time something happens you have to throw that damn line, don’t you? What’s your problem, Tay?”. Gabriele put it all out there, all of his pent-up frustration. “You are the one who’s leaving me behind. You broke all your promises even though you know how I feel about you. So, you don’t get to act like you care about me when you’re the one who keeps rejecting me and pushing me away!” Gabriele ranted as he stormed out of the hotel’s living room and during all of it Tay said nothing, didn’t flinch, didn’t blink. Just looked at Gabriele with a hurricane of emotions in his eyes.
Maybe this summer trip was Gabriele’s idea but the way things turned out were not his fault. Gabriele and Tay were best friends. Joint at the hip, where one went the other followed. They met each other when they were eleven, and were urged by their mothers to be friends. Gabriele liked to read all the time, while Tay was the resident jock and even though they fell under different school dynamics, that never mattered to them. Tay always followed Gabriele everywhere to make sure he was not bullied by anyone. When Tay got popular in middle school for winning a basketball tournament, he didn’t stop being friends with the nerd that Gabriele was, whose popularity so as to say was non-existent.
But what did change their friendship, happened when they were thirteen, when Gabriele came out to Tay and confessed his feelings for him. “I don’t know, Gab. I mean I do love you but not in that way. Please, can we still be friends? I know it’s unfair of me to reject you and say this but please Gab, you’re my friend and I don’t care if you’re gay or not. I want us to be friends.” That was what Tay said back then and Gabriele had never been more hurt and relieved in his life. He was happy that his friend accepted him and was not disgusted or homophobic, but also heartbroken that his first love was left unrequited. He thought he would eventually move on and maybe fall in love with someone else, but it didn’t help that his first love was also his one true love.
Tay kept getting into new relationships while Gabriele watched from beside him. It hurt a lot, but he was glad that he at least stood by his side even though it kept breaking his heart every time like he was rejected all over again. Now that Tay was going to a university in another city that he got into through a sports scholarship, it changed everything. All the promises that they made, about how they would go to the same college after high school, rent an apartment, go to parties and enjoy their freedom together with the way they showed in those TV shows, all turned to dust.
The one thing that comforted Gabriele in a world that kept changing for good or for bad was that Tay always stayed a constant in his life. Now even he was leaving him. Everything was changing, Mark and his girlfriend were moving in together and going to a different college, Gabriele’s brother got engaged, so he would be moving out right after the summer and now Tay was going away too. Gabriele dreaded the end of this summer. That everyone would move on with their lives and only he would be left behind. Growing up was scary but growing up all alone, not knowing what to do, or where to go, felt even more terrifying. It was like speeding down a road even though you didn’t know where it ended. That was how Gabriele felt, uncertain, scared and lost.
There was a light knock on the door, Gabriele just grumbled unintelligently and covered himself with the blanket in response. The door opened and closed soundlessly. He felt the bed dip at the corner and a hand on his head through the blankets. “Gabriele, that was not cool. We were supposed to have fun here. It is our last summer together and I know you are angry with Tay but that was not good on your part.” Gabriele snorted at the “last summer” part because whenever somebody said that he felt like everyone was going to die after the summer ended. He heard Brooklyn sigh and trying to pull the blanket off but he just hugged it even harder. “Gab, you know, you said that Tay was selfish to leave you behind, that he doesn’t care about you, but I feel like you’re the selfish one here, no offence.” Gabriele scoffs at her words and pushed his blanket off. “What? You don’t get to judge me about this because you don’t know anything. You get to live with your boyfriend after all this and I will be left alone.” Gabriele didn’t feel the need to justify himself or his feelings to anyone but this was just too much. How was he the selfish one here?
“Tay gets to go to this university where he gets to play basketball, he gets to do what he loves the most and you’re blaming him because he broke a promise? Gabriele, you want him to comprise his dreams for you and you call him selfish? Don’t you think you are being selfish too?”.
Well, that kind of felt like a slap to his face. He knew he was being unfair but so was Tay. “You don’t get to compare yourself and Tay with me and Mark because that’s where you are wrong. Mark is my boyfriend but Tay is your best friend, not your boyfriend.” Gabriele felt his eyes watering. He knew the difference; he knew he couldn’t have what they have but his fears turning into reality was his worst nightmare.
After Brooklyn left, Gabriele stared at the ceiling, his thoughts all jumbled and running a mile a minute. He slowly got off his bed and headed towards Tay’s room. He took a peek inside and saw that Tay was already all packed up and was resting on the bed with his headphones on.
Gabriele walked in, sat on the armchair near the bed and pulled Tay’s headphones off. “Jesus, Gab! You scared me.” “Hey, I see you’re done with your packing. I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow.” Tay quietly stared at Gabriele with what could only be both hurt and adoration in his eyes making Gabriele feel guiltier, even after all he said there was no hint of anger in Tay’s eyes. “I’m sorry Gab. I didn’t think you would feel like that. I know you were mad but I didn’t know you felt like I didn’t care about you.” Gabrielle simply sighed at the apology.
“It doesn’t help to know that the one person you want the closest will be the farthest away.” They sat in silence for a long moment. “I know you are scared, Gab but I’m scared too. Going to a different city where I won’t have my family, my friends and you, is terrifying for me. I’m dreading the end of this summer just as much as you are.” Gabriele moved to the end of the bed and leaned his head on Tay’s shoulder. Tay put his arm around him and brought him in closer.
“Gab, can I confess something?” Gabrielle just hummed his agreement as with closed eyes. “Remember when we were thirteen and you confessed to me. I said that I didn’t like you like that. Well, I was wrong. I do like you. I’ve never been attracted to a guy before and I was scared, still am. But please don’t think that I don’t care you about because I do care and I am terrified of leaving you too.” Gabrielle couldn’t comprehend what Tay was trying to say so he gave into his instincts and punched Tay hard in the guts.
“Gab! What the hell? That hurts!” “What the hell is wrong with you? You are saying that you’ve liked me for all these years and you’re only telling me now, a mere week before you leave! That’s not fair at all!” They stared at each other for what felt like forever and Tay slowly brought his other arm around him to give him a hug.
“I know Gab, that all of this must be so confusing, and I’m not making it any easier for you but trust me when I say I’m not lying. I do like you and I am scared. But you don’t have to worry about us being apart.”
“Does that mean we can finally be together?”, Gabriele asked hugging him back. He felt Tay nod against his shoulder. “But Tay, this won’t work out. Starting a relationship when you are still uncertain and far away, it won’t last long. I can’t have you as a boyfriend only to lose you as my best friend too.”
It’s like the past was repeating itself, Gabrielle did not know what to feel. He was happy that his best friend finally returned his feelings for him but also devastated that he was going to lose him as soon as he got him. It was so confusing for him. Everything was changing and nothing was under his control. “I am scared, Tay. You, Mark and Brooklyn, won’t be there with me. I don’t even know if I want to be a doctor. What if I don’t make any friends? What if I end up all alone? What if this is the last summer we spend together and I spoiled it? I just don’t want this summer to end like this.”
Tay laughs as he pulls away from the embrace. “Gab, it’s okay to be scared. Everyone is scared of starting anew. But that’s a part of life. And you don’t have to be scared of losing me. Even if this doesn’t work out, I’ll always remain your best friend, and I’ll always love you. People don’t break-up because of the distance between them; they break up because of their lack of effort. We will try our best to stay together, okay?” Gabrielle nods as he wipes his tears away. He understands.
Even if they ended up together all those years ago there was no guarantee that they would have lasted at all. And him being selfish, was not what he or Tay needed right now. They were both scared but they were both willing to try and that’s more than what he can ask for. Growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart; it just means putting more effort into staying together. And that, Gabrielle, can do.
“Now, this trip was a disaster.”, Tay chuckled, “I mean, we barely talked and when we did, we fought. You got sick too. But we still have a week left before the summer ends. We can go somewhere together, just you and me. Anywhere you want to go, we’ll go. That sounds good to you, Gab?” “Yeah, that sounds good.”