I must've dozed off 'cause I was woken in the morning by my mom who kissed me on the cheek and wished me happy birthday. Mark, thankfully, had gotten onto the spare mattress during the night. Mom was followed by dad, who also kissed me on the cheek. It had always been a family custom to kiss each other goodnight and goodbye... just like a little peck on the cheek.
My folks sat on my bed as Mark slowly stirred into life and wondered what the fuck was going on... at least for the first five or ten seconds.
My mom gave me a nicely wrapped gift, which I was tempted to tear to shreds in my haste to see what was inside. But I resisted, and opened the package carefully. Woohoo! A pair of Replay sneakers, a couple of cool ts, and the Tomb Raider soundtrack on CD. Fantastic! My immediate response was to give them both a huge hug. Tried my best to keep the covers over my furniture so as not to embarrass Mark, but they kinda slipped off as I threw my arms around my mom. Anyway, it was only a semi.
After my folks had left the room, Mark cracked up completely. It had been ages since I'd heard him laugh so loudly.
"Kyle! My fuck! I can't believe you did that!"
"What?" I asked with all the innocence I could muster.
"Hugged your old lady with a boner!"
"I didn't. I hugged her with my arms." But my answer just cracked him up all the more. "Anyway, it wasn't a boner. It was a semi. The fresh air turned it into a boner."
Mark sat up on the mattress, leaned over, and gave me a nice, big, warm hug. "Happy birthday, bro."
My hand must've been wide awake 'cause it decided all by itself to investigate Mark's furniture. "Now that's a boner," I grinned. "So don't talk crap to me. Thanks for the hug, though."
"Here," he said as he handed me a small packet that he'd retreived from his tog bag. Inside was a card, which I read aloud. "Your gift of friendship has always been the most valuable thing I've gotten from anybody. Have a great birthday, buddy. Love, Mark." There was no fucking way I could've stopped my eyes from watering as I read those precious words written in his own neat handwriting. And I could feel my throat closing as my mind searched for something to say. The card was fantastic. I didn't need anything else. But inside the parcel was something else... two pair of boxers, just like Mark's. A white pair and a black pair.
"Those are from Candy," he explained. "The card is from me. I told her you would dig those. I tried to organize Paul again but I couldn't find a big enough box. Sorry."
"You being here has really made this day special," I squeaked. "And I love the card. It's fucking awesome. And tell Candy the boxers are just totally cool."
"So try the black ones on."
I was chuffed with the way the satin hugged my furniture and butt. The slits on the sides of the legs made it easy for me to bend... and they really showed me off... made me feel pretty good.
"Now I can tell Candy the boxers are really super cool. And they fit. I was worried you'd gotten a big butt as well as fat while I was away."
After showering - separately - we were sitting at the breakfast table with my folks when the whirlwind ran in. "Hey, Codfish! Happy birthday, man!" [Kyle = Cody, so you get the connection. MrB]
Just as my mom was thinking the grommet was looking so damn cute, he buckled from the force of my backhander to his gut. "Go codfish your grommet buds."
"Ooer! So how's your birthday been so far?"
"Cool. What did you bring me?"
"Kyle!" mom scolded.
"I'm kidding, mom."
"Oh, yeah... right," my little bro smiled. "Anyway, I did bring you something. Here."
I figured Wingnut's card must've taken him all night to do. It was a hand-drawing of the Endless Summer poster on my bedroom wall. But where the title should've been, he'd written: "To my older brother." And on the inside: "Even though we hardly see each other, you're still the best brother a little grommet could have. I hope you have a totally kiff day. Happy birthday, Kyle. From your little bro, Wingnut."
"That is pretty f... uh... pretty damn styling, bro."
"Pretty kiff, huh?" he beamed. Then he slapped Mark on the back so hard even I could feel it. "So how's Conan?"
"Fit enough to beat you up."
"Yeah, but you old people just can't run anymore. Anyway, I've gotta jet. Kyle? I'll try to check you later. Maybe go for a wave or something." And with that, the little whirlwind vanished.
After breakfast, Mark helped me with a couple of chores around the house, then went to visit his mom for lunch. Damn! But I used the time while he was away to think about the things he'd been saying about my not being focused and having no plans. Maybe the sailing thing wasn't such a bad option after all.
My bud arrived home early afternoon. "Lunch went pretty well. Even shitforbrains was cool to me." It was only then, though, that I discovered Mark was flying out that night. My dad had come into my room to ask Mark what time he wanted to leave for the airport.
"Fuck!" I said once my dad had gone. "I thought you'd be here for a few more days!"
"I wish. I didn't wanna tell you when I arrived 'cause you would've been in a shit mood the whole damn time. So now I've only gotta put up with your shit for a few hours."
"Can I talk to you about last night?"
"What about it?"
"I just wanna say that it was pretty damn special... 'specially 'cause you initiated it."
"That was my birthday present to you, Kyle. It was pretty special for me, too. Actually, it was incredibly special."
"Do you think about it? About us? Like when we were in your flat in Cape Town, and we spent that time together?"
"Yeah... but not like you think. It's more about the closeness of our being together rather than anything physical that happens on the side. The sex is the result of how I feel... but it's the feeling that's really important."
"Does the physical stuff worry you?"
"No... and that's honest. I know that it's something special the two of us have shared. It's because you're special to me that I don't let it hassle me. It could... but I don't let it."
"Yep... you've definitely changed," I concluded as I studied my bud's eyes... my more self-assured, knowledgeable and experienced bud. "But I still wish sometimes that things could be different -- like you still living in Cape Town. But I guess I need to be happy for the way things are, which are pretty awesome."
"Code? There's something I want you to do."
"Anything for a bud."
"Nope, it's for you. Remember what I spoke about? I want you to write down the things you wanna do. Then write down how you think you're gonna get there. Then plan around what you've written, and go out and do it."
"That was just an idea. I think you'd enjoy it, though. You're very focused on who you think you are, but at the same time I don't think you know who that person really is. And I think that that is what's holding you back from starting the adventure."
"Whoa, boy! You're getting quite heavy!"
"Crap. I don't mean to sound heavy. It's just that Candy has taught me so much about myself, and how to look forward... to set goals for myself. There isn't a thing in the world that you can't do, Kyle. But you need to get outa that cocoon you've wrapped yourself in. I can't put my finger on it, but I know that you're in it... like a rut... a comfortable rut. You've got so much fucking potential to go out and get anything you want, bro."
"Jeez! That is pretty deep shit. I'm gonna have to think about it."
"Hey, that's a start."
For the rest of the afternoon, we just chilled out and spoke about all kinds of shit. Then, all too soon, it was time for the airport. Shallow Waters again.
We were sitting in a cafe at the airport having drinks while we waited for Mark's flight to be called over the PA; those dreaded words echoing throughout the building. Mark actually looked more upset than I was feeling. I was surprisingly in control of myself. Truth was, it was pretty damn neat... my folks, Mark, and me chatting. Mark was enthusiastically telling my mom and dad about his life up there in Joburg, and about Candy. And then....
The boarding announcement.
Mark became suddenly edgy and nervous. He gave my mom a big hug, then shook my dad's hand, and thanked them for the weekend. OK, OK, so I lost some of my self-control. My eyes began to water. Dust or something. Yeah, right.
Mark and I hugged each other, then he turned toward the boarding gate. He never looked back.
Second surprise. I wasn't feeling as down as I thought I would have. Maybe I was getting used to these goodbyes. I just stood there, watching him walking away, and wondered when I would see him again.
That night, in bed, I could still feel him and smell him. And I could hear him speaking to me. I loved his voice. It was a special voice. A voice that spoke to the very depths of my soul.
On Monday night, he phoned to tell me what a great weekend he'd had, and to remember what he'd told me about planning my future... and yachting.
"And that, B, is why this fucking email has taken so damn long to write. Since Mark has been gone, I've been in and out of depression, not so much 'cause I'm missing him or our relationship, but more 'cause of me."
"Fucking hell, B, I've been so deep that at one stage I thought I was having an out of body experience. Have you ever asked yourself that question, "Who am I?" over and over again, and really wondered about what the fuck you're doing here? That's what I've been doing, and I've written down a lotta things, and torn papers up, and thrown them away. I've been working my ass off at the shop, and had a two-day surfing trip which also gave me a chance to think."
"A whole lot has changed, B. I often wish I was still at school. It was a safe haven for me. Hehehehe. Yeah, even with all the fighting and crap. Paul's gone. Mark's in Joburg, and who knows where after that. Steve's thinking of going overseas to try his hand at surfing Hawaii's north shore. Wingnut is really nailed into his group of friends now, and that's how it should be. I see him often enough, and we still enjoy being close to each other... but it's definitely become and older bro, younger bro thing. A lot of my friends are in college, and a lot more have gone overseas to work in summer camps, and study in the States on sports scholarships. Who knows what Steph is gonna do? She says she'll finish school this year, and then isn't sure. Her dad says she should travel on a student work permit for a year or so... and he's even asked if the two of us wanna travel together 'cause it's easier travelling in twos. And that's something else I'm giving some thought to."
"Anyway, B, I'm gonna send this now, as confusing as it all is. There's really something I need to be thankful for, though, and that's the fact that you've always been there to pick me up when I needed it, and slap me around when I've needed that as well."
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