From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV


Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.


If we hadn’t thought our girlfriends were cheating on us with Jonathon, I don’t think Ben and I would ever have become friends. Since our coach was making us run about three miles a day, and we ran at the same pace, we had plenty of time to talk about this weird thing we had in common.

Grace and I had been together for over a year, but we’d spent a lot of that time fighting. Jonathon had been my best friend since fifth grade; since he and Grace had become close friends, he frequently had to play referee.

Being our referee wasn’t an easy job, because Grace and I fought about everything. We were a dramatic couple, as our whole school knew, and we probably spent as much time broken up as we spent together, maybe even more.

But Jonathon was having problems of his own. He and his mom hadn’t been getting along, so he had been living with my family for several months. He slept upstairs, in the old bedroom I’d abandoned for the room my brother had vacated for college.

My new room downstairs was like a little bachelor pad, with a TV, its own bathroom and doors to the kitchen and outside. I could go anywhere and no one would know. Except for one thing: without my own car, “anywhere” meant “within walking distance.”

Jonathon, on the other hand, had inherited a tiny white jalopy from a distant cousin that was years past its prime, but it was still a car. He could come and go as he pleased. My parents left him alone. It was torture: with all the independence my new room conferred, I still needed my parents’ permission to go anywhere.

Having Jonathon’s car around changed things dramatically: instead of my mom and I sharing her car, with one of us dropping the other off at school or work, Jonathon was now my ride. I was completely dependent on him to get from home to school, from school to practice and everywhere else. But even though we were on the same team and spent a lot of time together, Jonathon had his own life. He skipped practices or went out late, and when he wasn’t available, I had to beg other people for rides or call my mom. I felt like the only child in a family with three parents.

To make things worse, Grace and Jonathon were spending a lot of time together. Frequently, they would hang out at my house while I was at practice, though Jonathon and I played for the same team, our coach let him skip practices without consequence.

Jonathon and Grace had their inside jokes, like one where they would rub their feet together: they called it “foot sex.” I was the monkey in the middle, supposed to play along. It seemed like I was always the butt of their jokes that I didn’t understand. Jonathon was taking everything that was mine—my girlfriend, my house, my independence—leaving me running around in circles.

My running partner, Ben, was in the same boat. His girlfriend, Melisa, was also spending time with Jonathon while we were at practices that Jonathon was able to avoid. There were the same inside jokes, traded smirks and rolled eyes; he was growing uncomfortable, too.

Ben and I talked about it constantly for weeks, trying to figure out what the three of them were doing. I was much angrier, thanks to Jonathon’s omnipresence in my life, but we were both confused and growing more irritated. Then, one day as we finished up a run, Ben turned to me and said, “Listen, I can’t tell you why, but you don’t have to worry about Jonathon and Grace.”

I asked what he knew, and how.

“Just trust me. I guarantee she’s not cheating on you. Not with him, at least.”

“What about Melisa?” I asked.

“It’s fine,” he said. “I promise.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t believe him. His advice only made things worse. Now I was left out of another group—first my family, then my relationship with Grace and now the people who “knew” that nothing was going on.

Meanwhile, my relationship with Jonathon grew worse. I would barely speak to him when he came home, which made him come home later and later to avoid the discomfort. Finally, it all came to a head.

“Can we talk?” he asked. It’d been a while since we’d really spoken: he had as much reason to expect a “no” as a “yes.”

My fists balled up as I said, “Yes.”

He suggested we go for a walk, so I followed him out the door toward the wetlands behind my house. There were acres of dried-out swamp with train tracks cutting through the middle. We had played on the tracks as kids, placing coins on the rails to see them deform into blank strips of copper.

Barely concealing my rage, I stood in front of him with my fists still balled up behind me, ready to do anything at all to take back my girlfriend, my house and my sanity.

He looked at me and said quietly, “So you know how Grace and I have been spending a lot of time together, lately?”

Prepared as I was, I couldn’t believe he was about to say it. As my heart skipped, I glared back, too angry to respond.

“Well, she’s been helping me figure something out. And we didn’t tell you, but I know that Ben knows, and since you’re my best friend, it’s only fair that I tell you. . . .”

As he trailed off, I pictured us wrestling on the tracks, a train approaching.

“. . . Dan, I’m gay.”

“You’re what?” I asked.

“I’m gay,” he said. It was clearly not an easy thing for him to say.

This wasn’t what I had expected. He was still stealing my girlfriend, though, right? Slowly I began to piece together that if he were gay, he might not want a girlfriend.

I was still suspicious: “So, you’re not sleeping with Grace?”

He laughed. “Um, I’m gay, Dan.”

“Are you sure that that’s it?” I asked. I still wasn’t convinced.

“Uh, yeah, that’s about it,” he replied.

“Oh. Okay. I thought you were going to tell me something bad that could have ended our relationship.”

That was the end of an ugly chapter in our lives. Jonathon returned home, and to refereeing other things Grace and I found to fight about. But I always found it funny that the one thing he seemed ashamed of was the only thing I wanted to hear.

Dan Levine

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