It has always lived in his eyes, dancing in the shadows and avoiding the light, afraid of being discovered.
Yet I already knew it was there.
But he didn't know I knew.
It sometimes escaped in between his words, galloping out in his sighs and laughter, then promptly disappearing, like a vampire afraid of sunlight.
The sunlight of truth.
This friend of mine.
Recently we sat together to watch a movie, at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I would not say which film here since I watched three films with three different friends. I would not say which one because I care about my friend and would not want to undress him in public.
But this friend is delicately created, a sensitive soul sailing lonely through a judgmental world.
Yesterday he was so moved by the movie we watched that he turned to me with tears streaming down his face and asked me, “Jude, do you have a secret so dark and so deep that it feels like there is hot coal burning in your chest? A secret you want to share, but fear holds you hostage. A secret that follows you like your shadow and accuses you daily like the devil…”
And I shook my head.
He looked at me for a moment which felt like an eternity, as the film credits rolled and people walked out of the theatre.
Then he whispered, "I have a secret."
He hesitated. "How do you know?"
"I have always felt it."
"Oh no. I thought you... didn't... couldn't have... imagined... I... felt like that... about you?"
"Remember what I told you about me? That I don't know how I can hear the unspoken thoughts of people, sense their moods and feel their heart desires without them even sharing it with me?"
He slowly nodded before he whispered, "I truly didn't believe you."
He continued. There was trepidation coating his words. "Do you feel the same way about me?"
"I love you too, but not like the way you love me."
And I could hear his breath catch in his throat, and his lips began to tremble.
"I am so sorry, I shouldn't feel this way about you, but I can't help myself. I know you would stop being friends with me and..."
His words were mumbled, and I stopped him. "No, I would never feel wronged because I was loved. To be loved is an honour and to love back is gift. I love you too – as a true friend. Can't you see that I have always been here even though I knew how you felt? There is no shame in feeling what you feel..."
"But you are a guy and I am a guy, my loving you and you not even being like me would definitely change things between us."
"We are humans first and foremost. And love is a language that understands, not sex, race, religion or anything else. I see you as a human like me before anything else that seeks to differentiate us. And I want to thank you for loving me and assure you that even though I cannot reciprocate it as you want it, I will always be here as a friend. I promise you that. I would always be your friend."
"Even though you know I am what I am."
"I have always known. All those girlfriends you tried to hide behind never fooled me."
He fell silent and his chest heaved. His shoulders fell. His head sank lower slowly.
And I reached over and hugged him. I could feel his body slack against mine. Like a corpse bereft of hope. And my heart was filled with a terrible sadness.
"Please don't give up hope. The one who would love you like you deserve to be loved is already in search of you. He will find you. Just keep on believing."
And he cried, with the muffled howls of the hopelessly bereft.
So I hugged him tighter, and silently, I sent out a prayer to the universe on his behalf.
And when we left the theatre later on, there was light in his eyes. And his smile was painted with hope.
He knows he still has a friend in me, and believes, as I believe, that the guy for him is slowly zeroing in.
Brother, I know you would read this, thank you for giving me permission to share this.
Always remember, through the changing tides of this unpredictable world, that...
There is no shame in love.
Written by Jude Idada