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The New Guy

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He knew he should’ve stayed home. Sure, the idea of meeting Olivia again, in a situation where hitting on her might work, convinced him to follow Cesario and Feste to that club with a damn rainbow on its door. This better be worth it, he told himself.

The club was empty, and Olivia wasn’t there. He should’ve known. At least Cesario was there to cheer him up. One thing he hated about clubs was drinking alone while all his friends disappeared with the complete strangers they picked up. This wasn’t gonna happen tonight. Cesario obviously didn’t care for girls, he was dating Feste (for some reason), he wasn’t gonna hook up with anyone. Unfortunately, that didn’t save him from all kinds of trouble: his friend wanted to dance.

“How do you even dance to that?” he objected. There was a simple reason why he didn’t want to dance with another guy, specially in a gay club, but Cesario wouldn’t understand not wanting people to think you’re gay. And Orsino didn’t want to wake up whatever evil spirit inhabited his friend, like he had the week before, to the point Cesario twisted his words to say Orsino was gay.

So he decided to dance as badly as possible to prove his point. Maybe that would convince his friend without offending him. He was relieved to find out Cesario didn’t want to dance in the ridiculous fashion some of the other people were doing, with all the grinding and the shimmying. He didn’t want to think too much about those boys wearing glitter and dancing with one another. He focused on Cesario, whose silly moves were manly next to that.

A few minutes later, Orsino decided it was enough, only to feel awkward when his friend asked: “A little more, I didn’t even feel it.” He tried dismissing whatever it was by laughing and dancing a little more, as asked. Why not? If that was what Cesario wanted. After all, he actually was his best friend, despite the short acquaintance.

The problem with focusing on Cesario was noticing the little things he’d never paid much attention to: how delicate his features were, how smooth face was, how soft his lips looked. He caught himself thinking that, and couldn’t understand why. Until he noticed the reason Cesario looked so girly: “Are you wearing makeup?”

He was. And he wasn’t happy Orsino brought it up. So he didn’t say anything else about it, and danced with Cesario some more to make things ok again. They were doing that when, as promised, Olivia showed up. He had already made his peace with the idea she wouldn’t, but this was better. He had time to check her out in detail while she talked to Cesario. It was no surprise she looked hot, but it was a little surprising that even his friend seemed to think so.

“I didn’t think you were coming,” she said, leaning into Cesario, clearly flirting with him, but his friend acted like he didn’t notice it. He just talked to her casually, ignoring the hand she had on his arm. Olivia realized she would go nowhere with Cesario, and finally looked his way. “Who’s your friend?” Cesario introduced them. Olivia didn’t remember meeting him before, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least he got another chance to make a good first impression.

“So you’re Cesario’s student,” he said to make conversation.

“The youngest teacher I’ve ever had,” she said.

“Is he younger than you?”

“I’m twenty.” She asked him how old he was, and whether he’d been to the Elephant before. Finally she said: “I’m getting another drink. What about you guys?” She included both him and Cesario in her question.

They both accompanied her to the bar, and while waiting for service, she decided she wanted to try the drinks topped by blue flames they saw some people order. It didn’t look like something people should be drinking, but she was really excited about it, so why not? He encouraged Cesario to get one too, but he should’ve known Cesario, who was always photographing his food, would obviously want to make a video of his fiery drink. Even if Olivia liked the idea, and didn’t mind featuring his video, Orsino didn’t want reminders that he, a grown man, was seen with that stupid drink in hand.

It was no surprise it tasted terribly. Blue flames didn’t exactly say “drink me” in his opinion, but he was a simple man, what did he know about fashionable drinks served in fancy clubs? He drank it anyway since he had already paid for it, but never again. Olivia gave up on her drink, and once again made a move on Cesario, inviting him to dance.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” he said, throwing Orsino a look that said it was up to him now. Well, if everything else went wrong, at least he knew for sure Cesario was a true friend.

“Who’s this Feste Cesario was talking about?” Olivia asked, before he had the chance to say anything.

“Feste’s the dj,” he explained. And since she was so curious, he added: “Cesario’s boyfriend.” She looked disappointed. Maybe this was his chance. “Wanna dance?” He had the terrible feeling she was evaluating him right there, but she said yes, so it was all worth it.

Dancing with a girl was a different story. He was more than happy to put his hands on her waist, and have hers around his neck; more than happy to have her grinding against him, even if it meant he would have to put some distance between them until his blood went back to his head.

“You’re Cesario’s roommate, right?” Orsino confirmed. “Are you the one who was making baozi the other day?”

He laughed first and feigned innocence later. “How do you know?”

They kept talking but about nothing important. All that mattered was being with her, looking back at her beautiful, sparkly eyes, dancing so close to her he could drown in the scent of her hair. A perfect moment ruined by her friends’ interrupting. One of the girls couldn’t stop laughing and repeating: “I thought it was a tic tac.” Olivia and the other one tried talking to her, but it was impossible.

Olivia had a conflicted look on her face when she said: “I have to make sure she’s ok.” She didn’t move, she kept looking at him letting on she didn’t want to leave. Orsino was trying to work some words together, but his thoughts weren’t exactly coherent at the moment. And then she kissed him. It was only one kiss, but a real one, inviting him to wonder about the possibilities beyond it. But it was only one. “You can get my number from Cesario,” she said, leaving with her friends.

He stood there for a while, frozen, trying to convince himself it was all real. Olivia had kissed him. She had told him to get her number from Cesario. It happened. Where was Cesario, by the way? He got himself a beer and looked around. All the time, he kept replaying the memory of Olivia’s kiss in his head.

Orsino looked at the dancing people, and looked at the ones standing by the wall. He looked at the people sitting on the couch, but didn’t find him. He didn’t think he would find Cesario in the bathroom, but kept looking when he came back. Maybe he’d used up all his luck tonight and lost his friend. Or maybe it was that figure sitting in a dark corner, only visible because of the light from his phone.

Orsino appreciated that for once it wasn’t him sitting alone while his friends got lucky. He knew well how it felt. So he helped his friend to get up, and offered to buy him a drink. And to be honest he would probably have agreed to buy him anything after Cesario had helped him with Olivia, which Orsino told him all about, since he was curious.

They sat by the bar, having drinks, and his friend, the genius that he was, reminded him he would need a new number to text Olivia from now on. Good thing he had Cesario, because he hadn’t considered that on his own. Orsino was so happy, sitting in a club, he hardly recognized himself. It was all thanks to Cesario.

It was because of Cesario he had a chance with the girl of his dreams. And because of him, for the first time, he wasn’t alone and miserable in a club. On the contrary: he was having beers with his best friend, and probably was the happiest person in there. All thanks to Cesario. Things with Olivia never looked better, but were still uncertain. With Cesario, he knew for sure: his friend wanted him to be happy. And he was.

It was getting late, people were leaving, so they had the couch for themselves. Before Orsino noticed what he was doing, he laid his head on Cesario’s lap, which didn’t seem to bother his friend at all. And once again, Orsino noticed his pretty face, so delicate, so cute. Why that black line around his eye made him look so good? Maybe it was the Elephant’s atmosphere.

Whatever it was, he sat up and whispered his confession to Cesario: “Do you think I’d look hot with eyeliner on?”

Cesario laughed, but admitted: “I think so.” Those words stirred something within Orsino, and he was suddenly aware he could smell his friend, and liked it. He didn’t think about it, he took Cesario’s face between his hands, and said he was looking at the makeup. He knew he had to kiss him, even if he suspected no good could come from this.

At first, Cesario didn’t react, he just sat there, like a statue being kissed. But when he did react, it was amazing. He put his arms around Orsino’s neck, pulling him closer as his body slid down the couch. Their lips fit together perfectly, their tongues longed for one another, trying hard and in earnest to make the bridge that would turn them into one.

Cesario was even softer than he expected. When he caressed his face, when he ran his hands down his torso, when he kissed his neck, there was no reminder he wasn’t kissing a girl. But when Orsino felt his hands on him, the spell was broken. Suddenly, he was reminded of what he was doing.

He backed away, knowing there would be consequences to his stupid actions. The first being that Cesario would think he was gay. His friend just stared in confusion. Who could blame him? He couldn’t stand to look at him any longer. “I’m sorry,” Orsino said, trying to find some excuse, but only coming up with: “I’m drunk.” It was a lame excuse, and he could see it didn’t convince Cesario, but it was all he had. So he left.

He wanted to walk it off, but he didn’t want to get mugged or killed walking the city at four in the morning, so he settled for the next best thing: sitting in a bar and getting drunk. He listened to another drunk man’s story just so he didn’t have to think about his own. When the stranger left, however, Orsino found himself alone with his thoughts.

He took his phone to look for some distraction, yet ended up making a search to find out if you could be straight and have a crush on a man at the same time, which brought him to discussion forums, but he didn’t feel like reading long, personal testimonies, and that brought him to memes. The more he looked at memes about “the closet,” the more worried he became.

Orsino looked outside, and saw it was day, or very close to it. Walking didn’t help. It left him to deal with his thoughts. He needed help. He needed someone he could talk to. Cesario would’ve been his first choice, but he couldn’t talk to him about that. So who he was left with?

There was someone. One who could’ve told anyone his secrets but didn’t. So he called her. Twice. When she made an unintelligible sound on the other side, he started speaking: “Titania, do you think I’m gay?”

“I’m sleeping, Sino,” she complained.

“I’m sorry, it’s really important. You know me, you think I’m gay?”

“How would I know?” she moaned unhappily.

“Because we went out.” He could hear her exasperated sigh. “So?”

“If you wanna come over and talk, that’s ok, but I’m not having this conversation over the phone. Are you coming or not?” She sounded angry, but she was making the offer.

“I’m coming, I’m on my way.”

“Can you bring me some coffee?”

“Of course.” He bought her a whole breakfast just to make sure she would forgive him for waking her up.

Titania had been his girlfriend for three months when they were fifteen, long before she was queen of twerk and webcams. They hadn’t interacted much since, but then Toby’s party happened, giving her another secret of his she didn’t tell anyone. And now this. He’d better get her the best breakfast there was.

They sat in her kitchen. She yawned, looking nothing like a queen. “So what’s that you were telling me on the phone? You’re gay?” The word was like a stab.

“I don’t know. I kissed a dude,” he admitted, secretly hoping he would drop dead and not have to have this conversation.

Titania looked a little stunned. “You did? Why?”

“Because… uh-- Shit! I can’t say this,” he panicked.

“You didn’t get me out of bed at six in the morning to change your mind,” she said, more pissed than ever, and he didn’t want to make Titania angry. “Now spit it out. Why did you kiss this guy?”

“Because I like him so much!” he yelled, angry at himself, digging his fingers on his arms anxiously. And since he was being ridiculous already, he could confess in full: “And because he smells good.” Titania laughed for a long time. He wanted to tell her to go fuck herself, and leave, but there was no one else he could stand to have this conversation with. So he waited for her to finish. “What do you think?”

“Is this why you couldn’t get it up last week? Thank goodness, I thought it was me.” Orsino didn’t find those words to be of any help, so he kept waiting for her to say something useful. “You’re not sure?” He shook his head to say no. “If you like him, if you think he smells good, why you’re not sure?”

“Because I like girls,” he said, expecting it to be obvious.

“That would make you bissexual,” she said with a shrug, sounding very sure of what she was saying.

Orsino expected more, he stared at her, waiting for some kind of explanation, while she stared back, clearly saying it was his turn. “Bissexual?” She nodded. “That can’t be right. Men aren’t bissexual, that’s a girl’s thing.” But he didn’t have a better explanation. “You really think I’m bissexual?”

“How should I know? You looked like you were having fun when we did it, I thought you were straight. But then again, if you’re bi and not gay, what happened the other night?”

Orsino wanted a lightning bolt to smite him right then and there, but he had no such luck. He sighed, mortified he was about to admit this: “I was thinking about Cesario.” Titania didn’t laugh, so he continued. “He said I think about guys when I’m with girls, and I couldn’t get that out of my head.” Now she laughed. It still hurt, but it could be worse.

“Isn’t Cesario Feste’s boyfriend?” He confirmed. “Tough luck!” she sympathized.

“It gets worse. I live with him, he’s my friend.”

“What a mess, Sino!” she laughed at his troubles. “You have to apologize.”

“I said I was sorry,” he told her, pretty sure that was not what she meant.

“No, you have to do some damage control. You know what will help getting your friend to be cool with it? Come out to him.”

“Are you insane?”

“What? You’re just gonna hook up with him without ever coming out?”

“But he’s with Feste.”

“Yes, he’s with Feste,” she agreed, placing a lot of emphasis on the name. “You come out to Cesario, say you’re sorry, stay friends, and just wait for Feste to fuck up. It never takes long.”

“But they’re doing really fine.”

“Then I suggest you go practice with a different twink in the meantime. What do you use your phone for, anyway?”

“I can’t do that, Titania. I can’t.” To his own horror, he started crying. She dragged her chair over, gave him a hug, and said: “Of course you can. But maybe you should sleep it off first?”

“You’re right.” He felt like shit, sleep would fix that, he hoped. “I’m sorry for getting you out of bed so early. I’ll leave you alone now.”

“Let me know how it goes.” He nodded. “You know, I’ve always wanted a gay best friend.”

“I’m bissexual,” he corrected. Saying it felt weird. Talking had made him feel less desperate, but he still wasn’t sure.