The Consequences of Dissonance - Chapter Seventeen
Kris fell asleep about halfway between Boulder and Fort Collins, so I took her straight to her dorm, helped her unpack, and saw her to bed. She said that she hadn’t been sleeping well at her parents since all they had left of her room was a mattress on the floor and all of the rest of her stuff in boxes in closets. I kissed her a few times and made sure she went to lay down before slipping out of her dorm and back to my car.
Unloading my own stuff took only two trips, with the cooler of food and beer stacked on top of my laundry. Paranoid about the alcohol, those were the first things into my room, and the first thing I did when I got there was to rip the tape off the styrofoam of the cooler and immediately secret the beers inside the fridge. I stacked the food in front of it just in case anyone came looking, though Thomas was the only person likely to do so, and he was more of a vodka man.
My computer came in the second load of stuff, and I propped my door open with my trumpet case as I went about setting the tower back up, letting those who were still around know that I was here. I was eager to see all of my friends once more.
My ploy worked, because I had only just turned my computer on again for the first time when I looked up at a knock on my door. “Jamen! Hey man, what’s up?”
Jamen smiled to me and languidly made his way over to my bed, sitting on the edge of it. He looked as though he was coming down from being a bit stoned. “Nammuch, Cory. Just got back a few hours ago. Good to be free again.”
I chuckled, “Yeah, seems like you’ve been enjoying yourself.”
His grin widened and he leaned back onto his palms. “What can I say? It’s better up here.”
“Here from where? Where’s home for you?” I shook my head and set up music for us to listen to, “Can’t believe I still don’t know where you’re from.”
“Way down in Alamosa.” He leaned himself back on my bed and crossed his arms behind his head. He had kept his hair cut to about an inch and a half for most of the semester, but it had started to grow out recently, and he rubbed his hand through it now. “Down by New Mexico.”
“Wow, yeah, south even of me, in the Springs.”
“Uh? I thought you were in the mountains?”
“Divorced parents, dad’s in the Springs.”
He nodded and stayed silent for a while, eyes half open and roving over the ceiling. I leaned back in my chair and relaxed with the music, more of that jazzy, downtempo Japaneses stuff that Kris had given me. After a while, I started up my IM client and IRC, figuring Jamen was content to zone out on my bed for a while.
“Hey Cory,” Jamen said, sitting up partway and startling me from what I was doing. “You’re gay, aren’t you?”
My face reddened through no will of my own, but I nodded. “Yeah, I am.”
Jamen’s brow furrowed and he looked at me searchingly. “Then what’s up with you going out with Kris.”
“I dunno,” I shrugged and smiled. “Been working on that problem all week.”
My friend shook his head in frustration, “What problem, though?”
“Whoa, man,” I said, holding up my hands. “I just meant going out with Kris. It wasn’t exactly an expected turn of events, you know.”
Jamen was sitting up, now. Or, rather, slouching forward instead of back, his elbows propped on his knees and fists propping his head up in turn. “Well, alright…” he grumbled.
“Look, Jamen, what’s going on, here? I’m a little confused…”
“I don’t know, man,” he said, then faltered a little bit. “I just… I’m wondering why you’re going out with a girl if you’re gay.”
I sighed and leaned back against the chair’s back a little more heavily, rocking back in it. “I don’t really know, myself. I mean, I wasn’t aiming to, and it’s really weird now that I am, but I guess I sort of like it,” I replied, images of Kris and I the Friday before flashed through my mind.
“But you’re not trying to… er, change, are you? You’re not trying to turn straight?”
I blinked at this and smiled, shaking my head. “Nah, just trying to stay happy.”
Jamen sat up straight and rubbed his hands against his thighs as if to dry sweaty palms. “Good.”
I threw a crumpled receipt at him and laughed. “What the hell’s up with you, Jamen?”
Batting at the receipt, he smiled weakly at me. “Nothing, I guess. Just… those ex-gay people are freaks, I thought you’d gotten mixed up with them.”
I must’ve recoiled at the thought, because Jamen chuckled a bit at me. I shook my head and replied, “No. You’re right, they’re pretty messed up. I just kind of fell for a girl, is all. I’m not sure why. Everyone’s concerned about it and keeps asking me, but I don’t have any answers.”
Jamen tilted his head inquisitively.
“Like my mom and such,” I elaborated. ”And Kris’s dad, for that matter. They each had some weird opinions and were worried about us.”
“I’m not trying to change, I promise,” I said, feeling a pang of affection for my friend, who seemed genuiniely concerned about the whole thing. “Look, lets have a beer, and we can talk about it some more.”
Jamen chuckled breathily and nodded, so I pried myself from my chair to go over to the door and nudge my trumpet out of the way of the door with my heel before heading to the fridge. I rummaged behind the stacks of leftovers to pull two of the bottles from the back of the minibar fridge. Inexpensive Mexican stuff that my dad liked to drink. I opened them with my multitool before handing one to Jamen, who took it gratefully.
I lounged in my chair again and my friend shifted to sit cross-legged on my bed. “Sorry again for getting angry.”
“Nah, it’s alright. It just kind of confused me. What got you so worked up about Exodus and them, the ex-gay people?”
Jamen shrugged a little and stared down at his beer, watching his own fingers as they picked at the label. I watched with growing concern as the seconds ticked by. When no response came I hesitantly asked, “Did you… did you go through them.”
Jamen’s face went stony; any emotion that had been there before was replaced with a blank mask, and nothing showed through. He took a long drink of his beer before shaking his head. “No.”
I relaxed a little in my seat, watching him still.
Another handful of seconds passed. Then, “Not me.”
“Who, then?” I asked quietly.
He took another long drink from the bottle before setting beer down on my desk, a quarter of the drink still left in the bottom. “Thanks for the beer, Cory,” he said levelly, walking out of my room and letting the door swing shut behind him.