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  • Inspired by Ze Frank, I decided to look up my home town in Ohio on Google Maps. Immediately I was overwhelmed by a flood of memories. Every light pole, every rock, the texture of the buildings, the trees, the grass... I know it all, even though I haven't been there in well over ten years.

    Seeing all this brought back the image of an old friend. I tried to trace the route I would walk to his house, but because my only real memories of walking there are of me getting lost on the way, I was out of luck.

    I have been considering coming out to my family. The challenge there, of course, is that I must first come out to myself -a more difficult prospect than one might initially suspect. It's been a slow-going process, one that I question every day (am I really gay? is this all in my head?). As I searched in vain for this guy's house, the silt of years slipped off the face of our memory and surrounded me with the myriad unanswered questions. Finally, I turned to facebook, no longer satisfied just to relive the place.

    When we were kids, he and I were best friends. All our time was spent playing video games and watching TV, except for when I tried to pressure him into going outside. He hated the outdoors. But he would often go with me to the woods behind my apartment because I was the only real friend he had. Everyone else hated him. They hated me, too, which is probably why we got along.

    I have no idea when it started, the memories are so scrunched together and distorted by time, but it came to be that we hit puberty around the same time. And we engaged in some incredibly awkward pseudo-sexual explorations via the clumsy facade of Truth Or Dare. We always picked Dare.

    Then I moved to Texas. Once more I saw him, some years later, when we were teenagers. We slept in the bunk bed my dad made for me, and in the night I asked him if he remembered the games we used to play. He said yeah, and there was a certain anticipation in his voice (or is this retroactive colorization?). Long moments passed. Finally, I asked him, "Why did we do that?" He told me he didn't know.

    Neither of us could muster the courage to take that step, to say the words we wanted to say. We fell asleep and woke up the next morning as strangers. I realize, now, that when we were kids, we had no idea what sex meant, we only knew that we were having a particular kind of fun we'd never had before. As teenagers, we'd both rounded up our fair share of porn and had grown well acquainted with the otherworldly distraction of masturbation. The context was utterly different, and neither of us knew how to handle it.

    I'd think about him sometimes, wonder what he's up to. He's the one who left the closet door open, that I now slowly try to peek my head out from. I liked to think he was out, and proud, and happy, that he'd gotten into some university and started in on game development. Maybe we would one day reconnect as adults and finish what we'd started, in the ultimate display of Shakespearean poetry in vita.

    I knew it was him when I saw anime pictures. I clicked his profile and was happy to see that he hadn't set it to private. I was not happy to discover that at least 90% of his wall was occupied with PS3 trophies, the rest either video game related jubilance or work related complaining. But that doesn't really mean anything, does it? It wasn't so long ago I was stuck in a corner bedroom with nothing but the TV and an Xbox to keep me sane, hating every day I had to work and waiting for something, anything to happen.

    Two years worth of statuses (yes, I am a creeper) revealed consistent pessimism and the sort of grammar you'd expect from an early teen. He worked at a fast food place and hated everyone he worked with, often complaining about certain bitches and whores that he'd admit in comments were only necessarily interacted with for minutes at a time. Another comment revealed that he was a manager at this place. The deeper I dug, the more certain I became.

    He hadn't changed at all. He was still the angry, game-obsessed twerp who stomped his feet when I asked him if he wanted to go out and explore... only the innocence and infinite possibility of youth had somehow collapsed to an early grave of deep-fried potatoes and gaming bliss. He had no plans, no one in his life to force him to make them, no reason to have to make them because ambition, let's face it, is meaningless without effort.

    Where did the person stop and my imagination begin? All this time I was hoping that he would solve the riddle of my attractions, that finding him would find me, too. But he's just someone I used to know. A perfect stranger now, except for those memories. I entertained the notion of friending him, but eventually decided against it. What could come of it, anyway? He listed himself as interested in girls, and there seemed to be someone he was pining after, so probably I was just part of that experimental phase everyone goes through when you try to figure out what the hell these dangly bits are even for, and even if he was just closeted, even if he was waiting for me just like I was waiting for him, he's not the kind of person I'd be interested in having a relationship with, the 1400 miles between us notwithstanding. I'm an artist, and he's... well, he's a manager at a fast food place who calls his coworkers whores and bitches and just couldn't wait for the new Dead Space. That's not me. I can't even stand that shit in my friends, let alone...

    let alone lovers.

    I went back to my Google map and, rather faintly, continued round a corner only to find that things started looking familiar again. Down an alley, past a house, and suddenly- there, standing by a shed that I swear I've seen before. Someone. A man. Is it him? Is that his house? It could be. Or it could be anyone, anywhere. You could probably drop me in suburban China and I'd swear up and down that I'd been there. Whether it is or it isn't, it doesn't matter. It never mattered. He may have left the door open, but I'm the one stepping out of the closet.
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