Before each of my young-adult novels, I’ve had to introduce myself. When Loathing Lola came out, I was William Kostakis, the teenager. When The First Third released, I was Will Kostakis, a little more mature, and a lot more ethnic. With each release, I have grown more confident sharing more of myself. As The Sidekicks hits shelves, I feel like I ought to tell the rest.
A close friend was diagnosed with cancer last month.
That was how I told most people. “A close friend”. When we dated, I would never admit he was close to that. “Oh, him? Oh I know him through a friend,” I would say. He was always just an acquaintance, to throw anyone off the scent that maybe, I liked kissing boys. I was scared people would look at me differently if they knew.
It was an act of self-preservation, hiding him for the eight-or-so months we dated. And when he told his friends about me, I was angry he had the nerve. They could tell someone, who could tell someone who knew me, and they might look at me differently.
It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to preserve yourself by making someone else invisible, so we faded, from more to close friends.
And after a phone call, last month, he went from invisible to almost gone.
I’ve always been comfortable gently implying where I sit on the Kinsey scale, hoping I say just enough, or write just enough that surely, people realise without me having to say.
But I have to say. Time tricks us into thinking we have a lot of it, we don’t. One minute, all is fine, the next, you’re driving your close friend to a sperm bank before he undergoes chemotherapy.
We stopped at McDonalds on the way. I filled the space with awkward jokes. I asked if he thought the nurses made pornography recommendations. Kind of like David and Margaret at the Sperm Bank.
“Production values leave a bit to be desired, but it’s Australian. 5 stars!” I joked.
We laughed and I worried. I didn’t want it to end. And I regretted everything. Romantically, we had failed, but he had never denied me. He had never diminished my significance or value in his life, and I, like some horrible cliché, was only recognising that when he was almost gone.
Almost. Turns out, his surgery was successful and he doesn’t need chemotherapy. There will be two years’ worth of tests and anxieties, but it appears, my dark-hour fears were just that.
He isn’t going anywhere, and I get another chance:
He is my close friend, and we used to date. He was my first relationship, the confirmation this wasn’t a phase, and that it could be just as wild, messy, lovely, perfect as hetero love. He was significant.
He is significant.