“You know,” Gavin said, breaking the quiet between them. “Just because I won’t tell you what happened in there doesn’t mean we have to sit here in silence.”
“I’m not pouting,” Mason told him, putting a magazine down on the small table to the left of the sofa he sat on.
“Oh yes you are. You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?”
“I wish Delia would stop bringing up that Olympic bullshit,” he said, trying to change the subject.
“Why? It’s cool.”
“It’s not that cool. If I’d have medalled, now that would be something cool enough to bring up. Instead, it just makes me look like an also-ran. Or worse, a loser.”
“I’ve never been to the Olympics,” Gavin told him.
“And it was almost five years ago. It’s ancient history.”
“Well don’t tell her, you’ll hurt her feelings. You know how she is.”
It was true. Delia’s skin was incredibly thin. Even compliments came to her ears like veiled criticisms. It made her incredibly high maintenance but it didn’t stop them from hanging out with her.
Naturally, Gavin had met her first. He brought her along one day when he was meeting Mason for a drink at happy hour. She was tall (dammit) but beautiful, with long limbs and long brown hair and rich, almost forest green eyes and, to both their delight, wore a blouse that showed ample cleavage. If neither of them could date her, they were more than happy with the second place trophy of having arm candy that would make other guys at other bars look to Mason and Gavin like they were men to be envied. Because it had become painfully apparent by round three that they were all going to be just friends, which was expected somehow. The only surprise was how close their friendship would become.
But there was a cost that accompanied a friendship with Delia. Literally. Delia never had any money. There was always a student loan or a haircut or left-field utility bill that took her by surprise and her bank account by half.
“You guys are going to get tired of floating me,” she would say on more than one occasion but they never did. She was gorgeous, charming, and she turned out to be hilarious.
“You’re like a guy with really great tits,” Gavin told her once when they were drunk.
“You’ve never seen me naked,” she told him, her index finger circling the air as if she was making a genius point. “I could be a guy with really great tits,” she slurred.
Those tits were becoming a nuisance for her earlier today when they were bar hopping, hurricanes in hand, moving from one boozy establishment to the next. The Quarter wasn’t crowded, especially for a weekend, but each establishment had their air conditioners cranked up anyway, presumably for the hoped-for, oncoming crowd, which made each bar have the temperature of a meat locker. Delia’s nipples would immediately poke against fabric of her thin white top and she had to cross her arms or she would get hit with angry glares from any woman in the bar with a husband, not that she didn’t get her share of those anyway.
Even though he was insecure—or because of it—Mason always felt more handsome hanging around Gavin and Delia, which is why he did so as often as he could. When he was alone, his mind would start to punish him. You’re too short. You have no lips. Your ears are too small. You’re practically an imp. Even when he was away from him, Gavin managed to be the litmus against which Mason measured himself. And with a judge that critical, the punishment was always harsher than the crime.
“You’re in love with him,” Delia said one day. “You stare at him enough. Quit it. It’s apples and oranges. You’re both cute.”
“I probably would be in love with him if I didn’t hate him so much,” Mason replied. Then he laughed because there was probably more truth to the statement than he’d like to admit. Sometimes he wondered when exactly jealousy turns into something else. Maybe it’d already happened. He could never really be sure.
He was already jealous of the man who would come after him, whoever Marayne would see next. He would have her dark skin against him, feel her hot cheek against his naked chest as they drifted off to sleep, sense her hand on his cock in the morning, her cue that she wanted to have sex, her invitation to make her just a few minutes late to work. He was going to miss morning sex. He was going to miss sex, period. Mason wasn’t a fan of masturbation. It always made him feel lonelier than he was when he began it. He was always sadder afterward, which he felt defeated the purpose.
“I didn’t even think you liked her that much,” said Gavin, garish in the light.
“Maybe I didn’t know I did either,” Mason said, wondering if it was true. Did he?
“Maybe you just like her more now that she’s gone.”
“I’m not afraid of being alone.”
“Everybody, deep down, is afraid of being alone,” Gavin told him.
“I’m not alone,” Mason said. “I have you two.”
“You won’t always. Delia and I felt that when you found Marayne. You didn’t hang out with us as much. And, THUSLY,” Gavin said, emphasizing the word and giving it a British spin, “we didn’t hang out as much either. I blame you for that,” Gavin said. “You dick.”
“I wasn’t dating her that long.”
“And that’s a good point,” Gavin said, hot on the new perspective. “You didn’t date her that long, so you can’t be that upset about it.”
“How does that work?”
“I never liked her anyway.”
“No, you’re just saying that.”
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I am.” Gavin leaned forward, putting his arms on his knees. “But I don’t know if she was right for you.”
“She was so…”
“No, not because she was black. Although she was black.”
“Thank you. I hadn’t noticed,” Mason told him, rolling his eyes. “And will you keep it down?”
“Don’t be a pussy. It’s a factor. And no one’s gonna hear us.” Gavin cocked his head toward the hall.
“No, it isn’t a factor.”
“Dude, it’s still a factor. Charlottesville,” Gavin said flatly. “That shit still matters.”
From the hallway, a rustling sound came. Like little plastic bells.
“It didn’t matter to me,” Mason told him.
“Yes it did. You loved it. You loved it that you had a black girlfriend.”
“I loved it that I had a girlfriend.”
After he said it, Mason felt it in his chest, felt the sentence land with some finality. And he didn’t like it. The feeling was almost palpable. Even Gavin noticed.
“Hold up,” Mason said, distracted by the sound. Moreso he was glad for the interruption. The conversation was veering sharply towards feelings and Mason wasn’t comfortable with feelings. They were too slippery, untrustworthy.
“Is that it?”
“Will you be quiet?” Mason whispered.