There was something magical about that day. It followed days of heavy rain, the world seemed to thaw out and embrace the beautiful golden sun as she gently rose over the horizon. It seemed to bring colour back to a world that had been engulfed by the cold grey, that had disappeared with the night sky.
On this particular morning, on my late morning walk, I was barely aware of the beauty that surrounded me. My mind was consumed by the conversation I had invited my best friend to have with me at our favourite coffee spot.
The closer I got to the restaurant the quicker the thoughts in my mind raced, almost blinding me to the world around me and filling me with a feeling that had never before dared to invade my time with Sibu; fear.
Sibu and I had created a bubble of safety that, no matter where or what was happening, we always felt at home with one another, like there was nothing the other could say or do that would invade the warm place of mutual respect and vulnerability we had built. This time, however, it felt different, it felt as though this time shame had put on her best dress and was ready to accompany me to have probably one of the most important conversations I’d have in my life.
As I walked into the coffee shop, a sea of wood and people chatting animatedly, I could see her staring down at her cell phone as she waited.
“Hey babe, sorry I’m late,” I said drawing her attention to me as I shed my coat and hung it on the chair next to me. She smiled up at me and stood up to hug me, that old familiar warmth silencing the anxiety at the pit of my stomach.
“About time,” she joked letting go and moving back to her chair, “I was about to order without you.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” I responded pulling the menu towards me, “Eating buddies don’t do that to friends.”
She looked up and did the classic ritual we had developed over years of being friends; straightened her back, folded her hands on the table and looked me in the eyes.
“How are you babe?” she asked with a blend of habit as well as genuine concern, “You look like you’ve had a long morning.”
I looked up from the menu and waited for a second too long to answer, then I folded my hands over the leather-bound book and felt a rush of anxiety take over my guts.
“So, remember I asked to add something to our hang out agenda today?”
“And you refused to tell me what it was over the phone,” she interrupted jokingly.
Up till that point I had considered my coming out to be an essential step towards finally being acceptable to myself. Sitting across the table from the one person who knew me and mattered the most to me I suddenly felt as though it did not matter anymore; as though it was too big a risk to take over a label I was not entirely sure of. A part of me knew she would not reject me for it, but a massive part of me didn’t feel it was fair to leave her with some of the questions that may haunt her because of it; questions that challenged everything we’d both thought we understood about love and what was acceptable or not.
“So,” I began, trying to not overthink it, “I think I know I’m queer.” The words tumbled out of my mouth much too fast for it to seem normal.
She smiled and looked at me in silence for a while before speaking. I was aware of the movement in the café, the loud chatter coming from a group of friends next to us, a young girl chatting enthusiastically to her father and the constant grating noise of the coffee machine followed by the clinking of cups and saucers.
“Okay…” she finally spoke. I could see her carefully stringing words together in her head as she spoke, “When did you know this?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I guess I just hadn’t thought about it consciously for too long. I feel like it just felt right as I was turning it over in my head. It felt true even though I’d never been brave enough to say it out loud or to think about it for too long.”
Almost on cue the waiter walked over to our table and asked for our drinks, we ordered the same thing we got every time and waited to resume our conversation as she walked off.
“ Why did you look so stressed out about this,” she asked after a moment of chatting about what we would have for lunch.
“I guess a part of me is aware that you and I come from a world where people who say things like this get rejected and where you could walk away from this friendship and very few people would see anything wrong with that reaction,” I said, breathing life to words that had only existed in the very back of my mind.
“Bra,” she said, a look of disbelief on her face, “ You and I have gone through way too much and shared far too much for me to toss it all away because of who you choose to be in a relationship with. Besides,” she continued with a smile, “you’re stuck with me forever.”
We both laughed, and with that, a wave of acceptance washed over me and sent shame scurrying off in a different direction.
My mum had once told me that a real friend is someone who looks at you and sees a human being worth loving, even when the rest of the world makes you feel invisible and completely insignificant. To this day my friend has always had a way of making me feel like I mattered and that there is nothing under the sun that could do that will ever make her love me less. She has taught me time and again the real meaning of home, where I can go back and expect to be loved no matter where I’d been and what had happened when I was there.