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The New Guy

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“I’m sorry it’s so late,” Orsino apologized as soon as she opened the door. “I really need to tell someone.”

“Sure, sure,” Titania said, shrugging and leading him inside the white and blue tiled kitchen, which felt too small when two were standing at the same time. “Still better than sunday. At least I wasn’t sleeping.” She pointed him to the same chair he’d sat sunday morning, while telling her his problems.

“Does your grandma know I’m here?” he asked, worried about his presence being a problem. Not that he was afraid of Big Titania, as people called the old lady, but it couldn’t hurt to stay away from the only one who got her heart broken when he and Titania didn’t last. He suspected that was the reason she would hire anyone but him when something needed fixing in her salon. So maybe he should help her, and not show up in her home in the middle of the night, but it was too late for that.

“You’re still afraid of her?” Titania laughed. “She can’t hear a thing, and she thinks I don’t know. Some of the girls think she’s pissed at them, because she won’t look at them when they call, but I think she reads lips or something, when she looks at you, she knows what you’re saying. So, she won’t wake up just because we’re talking. You’re safe. So, what’s that you wanna tell me? Did you tell your roommate you like him?” she asked, turning the coffee maker on.

“No,” Orsino shook his head, ashamed, and looked down. “To be honest, I haven’t even seen him all week.”

“How do you avoid seeing someone you live with?” Titania asked, sitting on the chair opposite to his.

“I got home late, or not at all,” he shrugged. “Can I tell you what I was doing?” Titania looked interested. “I got that app you talked about, and found myself a hookup.”

“Tell me all about it,” Titania encouraged. “No, wait, show me a pic.” She looked at the young man on the screen of Orsino’s phone, and made a confused face.

“What?” Orsino worried, afraid she would comment something mean.

“He kinda looks like you. I thought you liked them baby faced and girly.” She gave the phone back, and went to get them coffee.

“I don’t know if I have a type,” he said to her back. “I don’t want to hook up with someone who looks like him.”

“Why not?” She handed him a coffee mug, no sugar. “Hey, let’s move to the couch.”

“How will I stop thinking about him, if I choose a guy who looks like him?” he said, sitting down. Titania put her feet on his lap, looking at him to make sure it was alright. He just smiled, and nodded. She always did that, and he didn’t mind, never had. Orsino rested his free hand on her ankles, holding his coffee mug with the other hand.

“So, was it good?” Titania wanted to know.

Orsino couldn’t keep a smile from coming to his face even before saying: “Really good!” He chuckled, then sighed. “But he wasn’t who I wanted.”

“That can be a problem,” Titania nodded. “But I’ll say again what I said before: Feste and your sweetheart won’t be a thing for long. He was flirting with me, for god’s sake.”

"Cesario was hitting on you?" Orsino asked, shocked.

"No, Feste," Titania corrected

“He flirts with everybody,” Orsino dismissed it.

“But he was trying very hard to convince me he likes women too.”

Orsino was surprised. “Really? Feste likes girls?” Then he remembered all he read during his research on the internet. “That’s what they’re gonna say about me, isn’t it? When I come out? They’re gonna say I’m gay, aren’t they? I’ll have to convince women I’m not, same as Feste."

“I don't think you'll have too much trouble convincing them. And also, people always have something to say no matter what you do,” Titania reminded him in a comforting tone.

“True,” he agreed after finishing his coffee. He placed the mug on the coffee table, and sat back, trying to remember what else he wanted to tell her. “I’ve been going crazy since I started looking into this,” he said, while playing with her toes. “I haven’t done much work this week. I mean, I did fine on monday, but on tuesday I only got through the morning, and I was already going insane with thinking, when this guy who’s close by dms me, same thing the next day, and didn’t work at all today.”

“Why? Were you with a guy all this time?” Titania sounded both surprised and interested.

“No. They’re just hookups, I don’t even remember their names,” he confessed.

“Just look at you being all casual,” she mocked, “I’m so proud!” Orsino laughed. “So you’re all about strangers and one night stands now?”

“I don’t know, they just happened.”

“They didn’t just happen, but ok,” Titania laughed quietly. Then her tone became suddenly serious: “Are you happier now?”

He let go of her feet, realizing he hadn’t reflected on it so far. “I don’t know. I haven’t really stopped to think about what I’m doing. I’m just, you know, keeping myself busy.” He shrugged, trying to convince himself it was no big deal, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling there was more to it. “I don’t wanna think about it. Can’t I just keep moving on to the next thing and never make a big deal of things?”

“It’s called living in the present, silly. But some things are a big deal, you can’t just ignore them. Still better than making a big deal of everything, though,” she said in an accusatory tone, staring firmly at him. Orsino laughed, guilty. “I should’ve known all the drama meant something.” He felt even more guilty at that one.

“Was it the drama alone?” That was surprising information. “I always thought there was another guy.”

It was Titania who laughed this time. “Of course it wasn’t just the drama,” she said, the “you idiot” he heard was just implied. “But it didn’t help. I have my own drama, you know.”

“We could take turns,” he suggested for the sake of argument.

“Is that what you tell them?” she mocked.

“That’s personal!” he feigned offense.

“So yes?”

“Just go ahead and tell me about your dramas,” Orsino said instead.

“But I thought there was more. Is your story over?” She sounded a little disappointed.

“No. Just the part about the guys.”

“Is there a part about girls?” Titania asked, sounding like she doubted it.

“Only one girl,” he corrected.

Titania laughed again, and shook her head. “You’re doing all you can to make up for the lost time, aren’t you?”

“Well, what would you do?”

“I’m not criticizing, it’s just an observation. I wouldn’t waste time to begin with. But we’re talking about you. So, you still like girls?”

Orsino chuckled before saying: “If it’s possible, I like them more now.”

“You’ll have to explain that one to me.”

“I don’t know how. I think it’s because now I’m…” he trailed off. It wasn’t a bad thing, but he didn’t know how to put it to words.

“You’re what?” Titania insisted.

“I’m free,” he told her, suspecting it wouldn’t clear things up, but unsure how else to explain it.

“Free? What do you mean?”

“Remember what I asked you last time I was here? If you thought I’m gay?” She nodded. “Not just that. If liking Cesario made gay.”

“I remember,” Titania confirmed. “What does that have to do with being free?”

“I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that-- Why it’s so hard to find the words?” he complained, once more struggling to make his point.

“Keep trying, I believe in you,” Titania encouraged, in a tone he didn’t know whether it was serious or mocking.

“When I like someone, it’s because of that person, it’s not because I must like all men or women in the world.”

“Or non-binary people,” Titania added.

“What’s that?”

“You better google it, I don’t know how to explain. It’s like there’s men and women, and there’s everything else.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Then you should learn about it, it might be useful now you’re free.”

“Ok, I’ll look it up. Hey, you know what? Guess where I went on a date?” Titania shrugged, meaning she didn’t plan on guessing. “The botanical garden? Remember?” She started laughing immediately. “You remember.”

“I thought plant museum was our special place,” she pretended to be jealous.

“Sure,” Orsino shook his head. “You, me, and all Junior class, very special,” Orsino chuckled, thinking about the intense make out session he and Titania had had in that place seven years earlier. “It’s not that crowded without a field trip going on. I mean, we were practically alone, we made out by the pond, the one with all the water lilies, remember?”

“Of course I remember. That was always the best field trip. Making out by the pond, huh? That sounds suspiciously romantic. Who took you there?”

“Her name’s Olivia.”

“Ooh, this one has a name!” Titania teased him, making a fake excited voice and poking at him with her toes. Orsino pretended to be very annoyed by it, just to humor her. “What makes her so special?”

“I’ve been trying to get her to notice me for a while. What I forgot to tell you last time is that I went to that club because she was there. We danced, we kissed, it was great.”

“You dance?” Titania stared at him, trying to catch him lying. “In public?”

“I had a few beers first.”

“You’ll have to dance with me sometime, I’m having trouble believing this.”

“We used to dance right here in this living room,” he protested.

“But never in public,” she reminded him.

“I didn’t drink when I was fifteen.”

“Liar,” was all she said to that.

Orsino laughed in embarrassment. “It wasn’t very convincing, was it?”

“I was there,” she reminded him. “Tell your girlfriend that, and tell me if she buys it.”

“I don’t know if she’s my girlfriend. We only went on one date, but it was kind of a long one. It started yesterday.”

“That sounds good. What did you do?”

“You know,” Orsino smiled proudly.

“The whole time?” she challenged.

“Ok, not the whole time. We went to the movies. We went on one of those city tours, and pretended we were tourists. And there was this bonfire on the beach just now with her college friends.”

“That sounds like fun,” Titania approved. She stood up. “Let’s get something to eat.” They went back to the kitchen. “I have roast beef, and I have ice-cream, which do you want?”

“Ice-cream,” he said, surprised Titania even had to ask. Well, it had been a long time, maybe she thought he’d changed. Whatever it was, she was being way cooler than he deserved, he should do something good for her. Then he had an idea: “I have to cook for you one of these days. I can cook now, you know,” Orsino informed proudly.

“I didn’t know that. Is it good?”

“I think so. Cesario likes it.”

“Oh, my god, you cook for your crush, that’s so sweet!” she mocked. “You’re so adorable, Sino!” He just stared grumpily at her, giving Titania reason to laugh. “I’m just messing with you. Stop being a baby, and eat your ice-cream.”

“Are you telling me your drama now?” he asked, to change the subject.

“Sure, you’ll like this one. So, there was that twerk battle the night before Toby’s party, and I won.” Orsino nodded. “And since then those jealous bitches are just plain avoiding me, so I’ve been hanging out more with the Salon girls, especially Maya, she’s so sweet. The other night I went home with her. We get her little boy to sleep, have some wine, bad mouth our exes, and end up doing everything. Ok, everything is a little much, but we did some good stuff. And then the next morning it was a kiss on the cheek and ‘I have so much fun with you… bye.’ Is she telling herself that’s what girls do when they’re drunk? Does she want a friends with benefits kind of thing? I need answers.”

“It’s good to know I’m not the only who has no idea what he’s doing.” Orsino realized it was true as he said it.

“Oh, I know what I’m doing, I just can’t answer for the others.”