The changes in me that had occurred since befriending Kyle were made all the more obvious by what I wore the morning I headed for the coffee shop. I was dressed in a tight t that made no secret of my nipples, and a pair of shorts that had a habit of crawling up my ass crack. Lately, I'd also let my hair grow a little longer on top, but kept it shorter at the sides.
As soon as I breezed through the door, I spotted the mop of spiky, black hair sitting at one of the tables. I gave him a friendly punch on the arm, and sat opposite.
"Cool. Fuck, I thought maybe you weren't coming."
"Stop looking so fucking miserable. I'm here."
"So what's up? You look relaxed and smiling, as though we'd been meeting every single day. I've missed you, man."
"C'mon, tell me what's happening."
"I've been fucked up busy. The boss is pretty impressed with the way I've been working."
"He should be... you've got good legs."
"Shut the fuck up," I smiled.
"I never lie. It's true."
I waited 'til Sam had placed our two coffees on the table, then left, before I continued. "Listen up. I'm going to Joburg."
"Wait, wait, wait," I interrupted. "Give me a chance. It's for a little while, and then I'll be back. My boss says I can get my job back any time. This other dude, the one from Joburg, says he's got a car for me that I can use, plus the room, plus everything I need."
"You don't have a license."
"Well, there's more. He's paying for me to get my learner's, then my driver's. He needs me to drive."
"Fuck, that's cool!"
"Then stop looking so fucking miserable."
"Hey, I can't help it. I've missed you, and I can't get hold of you. When are you getting your cell phone?"
"I sit here every morning, waiting and hoping that you'll show up. And then you don't."
"Yeah, well... I'm sorry."
"So when do I see you again?"
"Hey, stop bitching for fuck sake! I'm here now!"
"When are you leaving for Joburg?"
"I don't know."
"Can I phone you up there?"
"I'm not sure."
"But you're getting a cell phone, right?"
"Yes! Stop with the questions already!"
"I'm not gonna handle this," he said with an air of resignation.
"Hey, you can handle it. Hey, Kyle... I want you to be happy for me. There are things happening right now that are making this an exciting time for me. I know you're gonna be unhappy for a while, but you'll get over it. We're friends forever. This is not a goodbye. This is a I'm-gonna-see-you-soon' time."
"You might like Joburg."
"Look at me," I asked as he lowered his sad, hazel eyes, then raised them again. "The worst thing about this whole trip is that I'm not going to see you for a while. But I think it's going to be good for both of us."
"What does Carol say?"
"Well, that's something I haven't told you yet... but I think you need to know everything right now. Carol and I are splitting up."
"Now you're fucking joking, right? So you're not coming back?"
"Carol and I spoke about it when she stayed with me. We both think it's gonna be for the best. Carol's still got a year of school... she can concentrate on her final year. I'm gonna be away for most of the time. It also takes the pressure off her to hang around and wait for me."
"So you're not coming back." It was a statement, and not a question.
"I'm not sure when. There's a lotta work up there."
Kyle was being brave, trying hard to fight back the tears. But I knew the fucker too well, and could see that he was having a lotta difficulty controlling his emotion. "It's gonna be hard not seeing you. I thought things were coming together for us."
"Kyle, that's another thing. I need to sort out my mind. I felt something the other night at my mom's place with you that I've never felt before."
"Atta boy," I laughed. "I love you, Kyle. You'll never understand how much. This move is not all that easy for me. There's a lot of shit in my head at the moment. It's something I need to do."
"I know I've been coming on too strong."
"You were being you."
"Can we see each other? Like a sleep over before you go?"
"I'm gonna try... really."
Then I decided to change the subject. I told Kyle about some of the yachties I'd become friendly with, and how much I enjoyed sailing. It'd opened up a whole new world for me... a world of wide-open space and freedom... being at one with the wind and the ocean. Never in a million years could I have imagined the exhilaration of watching the spinnaker balloon, propelling the sleek yacht forward through the blue water, as the bow majestically dipped and rose with each oncoming wave. Even the smell of the sea was getting into my blood.
"Early days yet, Kyle, but I dream of owning my own yacht one day, and maybe sailing the world. How fucking awesome would that be?"
"All you need now is a pipe and a can of spinach."
By the time we'd left the cafe for work, we were both pretty relaxed. At least, Kyle was giving me the impression that he was.
The four of us went out on Friday night to the waterfront for burgers, then on to the Dockside at Century City, where we danced. I wore a tight vest and Levis, mainly to impress Kyle and Carol, but it turned out that I was impressing a lot more than those two. The gawks weren't bothering me like they used to, though. Kyle's constant and persistent attention over the past two years or so had almost desensitized me to people's admiring glances.
It was a pretty cool evening, 'cept for the fucking hiking. I'd had enough of hiking everywhere, and couldn't wait to get my driver's license.
Carol and I spent the whole weekend together. It would be our last. On Sunday, I took her to a very special place to say goodbye. The last time I'd been there was when Kyle was feeling lower than shark shit about finishing school and an uncertain future. It was where I'd told him that I loved him, and that one day, when I got up the nerve, I'd like to make mad, passionate love to him. It was also the first time I'd kissed him, open mouthed, with our tongues dancing. It surprised the fuck outa him. Not to mention me.
From where Carol and I were sitting, I could see Kyle's house way down below, and I wondered what he was up to.
"Spent Sunday going through my cupboards. Mark has this thing that every single shelf and drawer in his cupboards are like something outa Mary Poppins. His ts are all folded neatly and packed neatly on one shelf. He does the same with his shorts. Even his briefs are all folded in a drawer, with another draw for socks. His button-up shirts hang on hangers. His jeans are folded on a shelf, and his chinos, cargos and smart pants are on hangers... SO... my cupboard now looks the same. You should've seen the look my mom gave me when she saw that. Then I put a blank tape in, and taped all my favorite songs for Mark, but the first song on the tape has a real special meaning."
On Monday morning, I breezed into the cafe again to meet up with Kyle. As soon as I sat opposite him, I gave him my best evil grin.
"Hey, buddy, I hope you don't mind."
"I took Carol up to your special spot on the mountain yesterday."
"No... that's cool."
"This whole thing isn't easy on me or her, and it was good to be there to chat. I told her that it was your place. It was weird. I could feel you up there with us. I could see your house from up there, and I was wondering what you were doing."
"That's pretty fucking spesh! You were thinking of me?"
"Yeah... I was."
"Cool. You're gonna miss her, huh?"
"Her... and you. Yeah, I'm gonna miss her a lot. But it's best to do it this way. Carol has always made me feel king of the world. She taught me how to make love. And I guess you taught me how to love."
"I could teach you more if you had to hang around."
"Don't push your luck," I laughed. "Carol and I said our goodbyes up there."
As we left the cafe, I promised Kyle I'd phone him later, and I did. It was just a 'how's it' phone call, but I knew he not only needed it, but also appreciated it.
I hadn't told Kyle exactly when I was leaving for Joburg, and was undecided about how we should say our goodbyes. On the mountain? Nope. Not enough time. In the cafe? Nope. Not the right place. My place? That would only lead to us having sex. I was sure of that. And it would only make my leaving even more difficult than it was already... not just for me, but even more so for Kyle.
"Monday night, I was fucking miserable. It just came outa nowhere. One minute I was eating dinner with my folks, and the next I felt this lump in my throat, and the tears in my eyes, and I had to leave the table. My folks left me alone cos they know I'm having a tough time with Mark leaving. I must've gone to sleep by 9 or thereabouts."
On the way to the cafe next morning, I'd finally made up my mind about how Kyle and I should say our goodbyes. There was no other way. I'd decided that we each needed to leave the best possible impression on the other. Hey, we were more than buddies. Much, much more.
Kyle greeted me with a plastic, switched-on smile as I sat opposite him.
"It's not working this morning, Kyle."
"Your eyes are watering."
We sat there in silence as we sipped our coffee, and for the first time I wasn't sure how Kyle was truly feeling. Down? Yep. But how far down? Was my idea about how we should say our goodbyes such a good one? Maybe not. Maybe it would be better just to say them here in the cafe, and be done with it. Keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Shake hands and split while the opportunity was there.
"Wanna spend the night?"
"Wanna spend the night in my little garden flat?"
"You know the answer to that," he beamed. "You got two beds in there?"
"Nope. One single."
"Oh, fuck. Then it's the hard floor for me."
"What about the boss and his wife?"
"They're leaving this morning for Saldanha Bay to have a look at someone's yacht."
"Will you do me a fav?"
"Come home with me this arvie after work... just to say goodbye to my folks... they'd like that."
"I'd like that, too."
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