"Why are you staring at the water? We pass by this stream daily and I can't see anything new. Are you ok?"
Alex seemed to be lost in thoughts and Neel was getting irritated. Alex had been behaving odd these days. Neel knew something was wrong and Alex was not ready to share it with him.
Neel and Alex...they had nothing much in common except a strong bond of love for each other. Alex, a victim of child abuse, who was forced to live with his grandparents often found solace in their friendship. Alex was always welcome at Neel's house and Neel's mother made sure that Alex got a Christmas gift just like her son did every year. Such a great friendship they weaved and they were proud of it.
Since the start of high school, Alex had been behaving differently. The usual talkative and cool guy seemed suddenly silent and introverted. It was like he was less confident about himself and often recoiled to loneliness. Neel was sure that something was troubling him. But, Alex stood staring at the water instead of answering his questions.
"Alex, I am your buddy ... Tell me what is worrying you. We will sort it out?" They had been standing on the bridge for ten minutes and Neel kept asking Alex the same question throughout their meeting. Alex looked at him. The dark circles revealed troubled sleep and he had gone skinny too.
"Neel, I think I am gay," Alex said in a soft voice.
Neel was taken back for a moment and then he asked: "So what??? Why should that bother you?"
This time, Alex was taken aback. "Neel, I am a gay. I feel attracted towards guys. That's not normal I think. My grandparents say that being gay is against God. It's a sin. The society will not accept me. I don't think I can hide it for long...It's getting complicated every day..."
Neel stopped him. "Are you afraid that I'll desert you?" Neel asked Alex who had his head hung in shame.
"Yes...People will mark you as gay too if you walk with me". He said in a low voice.
"Really...Alex look at me," said Neel.
Alex was still staring at his foot. It had been a few months since he discovered that he was different from the other boys in his class. He searched the web about guys feeling attracted to guys and came to a conclusion that he was gay. He didn't know how to deal with it. Was that a disease? Was that antisocial? Would people make fun of him? Would he be thrown out of his house? Lots of questions pondered his thoughts. He was puzzled and lost. He even took an appointment with the school counselor but didn't have the courage to disclose the exact problem to her.
"Alex.Alex ...Can you please listen to me for a while." Neel raised his voice. Alex woke up from his thoughts and looked at Neel. Neel was his greatest fear. Neel was his best friend, a guide, a support, someone who had been with him in his tough times. He was not sure how Neel would respond to this confession.
"Alex, you know what...It doesn't matter to me if you are gay. You are the best buddy I will ever have". Neel held his hands and continued, "And holding your hands doesn't make me gay. Being gay is not a big deal. It's not against God since he counts only our good deeds. I don't think God will have a problem with you being gay. Maybe your grandparents will not understand that but I definitely do. My parents can talk to them. I am sure they will understand."
Alex felt a bit relaxed. He looked at Neel with a relaxed and confident smile. Neel continued, "If relationships are based on love and trust, then it doesn't matter whom your partner is. You and I ain't different. Maybe you will choose a guy as your partner and I will choose a girl. But we both value our relations which make us good people. So don't get bothered about it."
Alex opened his mouth to say something but Neel silenced him and said, "It's not gonna be an easy journey but I will be with you, buddy".
Alex felt like he had his life back. A ten-minute meeting and a few sentences had solved his crisis in a short time. Thanking Neel would be formal. But he had lots to say but Neel was already picking up his bag.
"Come let's go home. Mom is making hamburgers." And that was the reassurance...Friends Forever.