A Second Time

Olly walked into the downstairs entertainment room and hovered in the doorway until Sweetie noticed him. With only a quick glance over, Sweetie called out, “You wanna play?” Sweetie lounged on the broken in leather couch, a bag of chips on his lap, a blanket over his legs, and a wireless video game controller in his hands. On the big screen, his first person shooter was in the middle of storming through a busy business district.

He was clearly absorbed in his game, and Olly took a step back. “Maybe I should come back later.”

“Don’t be stupid. Come on in and sit down. Sure you don’t want a turn?”

After hesitating another minute, Olly entered and closed the door behind him. “I’m sure. I… need to talk to you alone.”

Sweetie nodded, not taking his eyes off the screen. “You’re in luck. It’s just you and me here now.”

Olly perched on the low back of the couch, hovering above Sweetie. “Yeah. You, me, and Super Mario there.”

“Aw, that’s not nice.” Sweetie was directing the figure on the screen through a store now, collecting items he’d need on his mission, presumably. “This is the great Colonel Rambus Rushtide, feared across three continents.”

“Could you pause him? I’m not sure I can compete with that level of greatness.”

With a deep sigh, Sweetie paused the video game. “Guess so. What’s up?”

“It’s…” Olly began then stopped abruptly. “Never mind. Go back to your game. I shouldn’t have bothered—“

He’d started to go, but Sweetie grabbed his forearm, holding tight. “Wait. You wanted to talk. So talk. I’m listening.”

Olly glanced at the television. “No… I—“

Sweetie grabbed the remote control and switched off the video game console without even bothering to save the game. He pushed another button and the screen went blank. Without its glow, the room seemed darker, but not dark enough to hide the flush in Olly’s cheeks. “What’s the matter?”

With a shrug, “Nothing… or everything. I’m not sure. I thought maybe it would help to talk it over with someone, and I couldn’t think of anyone else who’d listen the way you do, not even my sister. But now that I’m here, I don’t know how to say it…”

Sweetie’s hand slid down and took Olly’s. “Come here.  Sit with me.” He shoved the blanket and snacks off him and swung his legs around so he was sitting properly on the couch. But he held onto Olly’s hand the whole time, pulling the man around the side of the couch to sit next to him. “Now what is it you’re having trouble saying?”

Olly gave a laugh. “If I could tell you…”

“All right,” Sweetie laughed. “Good point. But it can’t be so bad.”

Olly couldn’t look at him. He looked down at his lap, the couch, the floor, the blank television screen.

“Olly… there’s nothing you can tell me that will change our friendship.”

Olly worried his lower lip between his teeth. “Nothing?”

“Nothing.” Sweetie squeezed his hand and spoke softly. “Olly… are you HIV-positive?” Olly quickly shook his head. “Because I’d still love you if you were.”

“I’m not,” Olly insisted. “Believe me, I’m not.”

“I’d still love you if you’d decided you’d had enough of this crazy house and wanted to move out. Or if you wanted to become a woman. Or if you’ve been a woman all this time and now you’re pregnant. Or if you were a straight, Catholic republican pregnant woman. Is it any of those things?”

Again, Olly shook his head. He gave a quiet, “no.”

“Okay. Then have you killed a man? Robbed a bank? Started a land war or a zombie apocalypse? Accidentally developed a deadly virus and unleashed it into an unsuspecting kindergarten class?”

Olly chuckled, shaking his head. “Stop making fun.”

“Oh, I’m not making fun. Making fun would be me holding your hand like this… and gazing into your eyes just like this… and asking you point blank and in no uncertain terms if you’re secretly and hopelessly in love with me.”

Olly let out a laugh at this, leaning forward, squeezing Sweetie’s hand back. “Oh, if only.” He pulled his hand out of Sweetie’s grasp and hugged his arms around his chest. “Sweetie…” The words stuck, and he swallowed back a shaky sob.

“Hey, take your time. The game’s turned off. No one will be home for hours. I’m not even expected in at the club tonight. I’ve got all the time in the world for you.”

With an appreciative nod and eyes very nearly brimming over with tears, Olly took a deep breath and started over. “Sweetie, I think… I mean, for a while now I’ve had this feeling… I mean… I’m not really sure…” He swallowed again, closed his eyes tight, and blurted it out. “Sweetie, I think I might be asexual.” He gave it a few seconds to sink in. And then he opened his eyes to gauge his friend’s reaction.

There wasn’t one. Sweetie’s expression was blank. “Sorry,” he said. “Could you explain that to me, Doc? I’m not sure I understand that term.”

“Don’t think biology class, think about yourself. You’re homosexual, right? You want to have sex with guys—“

“Well, one guy. Singular. Very singular now. But very hot and very worth monogamy.”

“Right,” Olly agreed. “You’re Jamiesexual now. But the point is, you’re attracted to men in general. Then take Julia. Men, women, somewhere in-between, it doesn’t matter to her. She’s attracted to all of them. She’s bisexual. Or maybe pansexual, now that I think about it. But when you come down to it, she wants sex. And you want sex. Everyone in all those movies I own. Everyone I’ve ever met… they all want to have sex with someone. And I… I don’t.”

“Olly, I know it’s been a while for you, but just because you’re not in a relationship right now doesn’t mean you should give up. You can still have a little fun.”

“That’s right,” Olly agreed. “I could. But the thing is, I don’t want to. I don’t have that desire.”

“You don’t want a relationship?”

“I wouldn’t mind a relationship. I just don’t want sex to be part of that relationship. And… if I’m perfectly honest with myself, I don’t think I ever did.”

Sweetie looked at him, searching his face for answers. “How can you not want sex? Did something terrible happen you haven’t told me about? I’m not sure I understand.”

“I’m not sure I do either, honestly,” Olly said. “Nothing bad’s happened, but nothing good either. See, I’m not sure I am actually asexual. It sounds weird to say. I mean, I’ve had sex. But I haven’t felt any desire during the sex.”

“I’ve seen you in the backroom at Strokes—“

“Getting my dick sucked. I still need to ejaculate from time to time and… and I keep hoping I’ll feel something, so I give it a try, but I don’t. I thought it was just because I was tired that I wasn’t feeling turned on by men the way you all seem to be. After a while, I started to think it was something more.”

“But you’ve had sex before.”

Olly nodded. “Yes, and it was okay. I could do it. Which is why I’m not sure what I am. The thing is, I didn’t feel much of anything while doing it. I was kind of bored. I start writing medical papers in my head or going through lists of movies by theme to pass the time.”

Sweetie laughed.

“It’s true.”

“No, I’m laughing because the last time I kissed a girl, all I could think about was how boring it was and I started reciting Russian love poetry in my head to see if that would get a rise out of me.”

“Did that help?”

“Not in the slightest. There was nothing there.”

“No desire, right? You didn’t feel any sexual attraction to her? That’s how I feel all the time. I don’t ever feel sexually attracted. I can appreciate the aesthetics of a big dick and a six pack and a handsome face. I just don’t ever want to have sex with it. Does that make me asexual?”

“Olly…” Sweetie took his hand again; it was shaking. “Olly, the only person whose sexuality I’m qualified to talk about is my own. So the question is, do you think you’re asexual? You must, or you wouldn’t be in here talking to me about it.”

Olly shrugged.

“Does this mean you’re not gay?”

“No!” Olly was quick to answer. “No, I… I don’t feel the need to have sex, but I know I don’t want to be with a woman. I still like guys.”

“How can you like them if you don’t want to have sex with them?”

“I don’t know,” Olly shook his head. “I just know I do. I’m… romantically attracted to them, or something like that. I don’t get a hard-on when I look at a hot guy, but I still long to be with one. I want my own Jamie. I want a guy I can spend the rest of my life with. I want someone who will let me hold him all night long and take care of him. I want a guy I can stay up late talking to and snuggle on the couch with during movie night. I want a guy I can love unconditionally. I just… I don’t want to fuck him or have him fuck me. I don’t have any interest in that.”

“Okay, okay. So when you see a good-looking guy walk into the club or walking down the street, do you get aroused?”

Cheeks burning, Olly shook his head.

“Nothing? Not even a twitch of attraction?”

Olly shook his head again. “I like looking at good-looking guys, but not more than any other guy, and not so I’d want to rip their clothes off and have them right there. Sex doesn’t even occur to me when I see a guy. I’d rather… go out to the movies with one or have a long conversation with one instead of having sex.”

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right person yet. Whatever happened to that guy you were always chatting with online? The one from the coffee shop with the book?”

“Sam? I think he got tired of me not wanting to meet up for sex.”

“Because you work crazy hours. Your job—“

“Is an excuse. If I’d have cared about it, I would have made time for it. Even when I was off work, I just never wanted sex. And after years of it I think he got tired of me saying no or coming up with stupid excuses.” Olly chuckled to himself. “He got tired of me always being too tired.”

“You two never had sex? In all your years of dating?”

 “Not once. I used to think there was something wrong with me, because he always wanted it and I didn’t. He was patient, but that only lasts so long. He was a good friend. It was just that I was a bad boyfriend.”

“Only because you didn’t know what you were.”

Olly nodded. “I’m asexual.” This time, when he said it, he did so with confidence and relief.

And Sweetie nodded back. “Yeah, I think you are.”

Olly’s voice cracked, and tears filled his eyes once more. “And you still…”

Sweetie lunged to the side and wrapped both arms around Olly in a hug. “I still love you. Of course I do. Oh!” He froze, stiffened. “Is it all right to hug you?”

“I like hugs. I kind of like kisses, even. I’m just not interested in sex. But hugs… I can’t live without those. Especially ones from friends who abandon their video games just to listen to me in the middle of a personal crisis.”

Sweetie tightened his hug and Olly’s arms came up to wrap around Sweetie and hug back.