Danny stepped over a pile of cardboard boxes, careful not to stomp his foot directly into whatever was stored inside.
“Are you sure there’s enough space for a third person to live here?” Danny asked the man stuffing silverware into a drawer.
Simon looked up from the cluster of forks and spoons he was sorting. “Dude, Ryan and I managed to make a one-bedroom work for a year without stepping on each others’ toes. Why shouldn’t we be able to make a two-bedroom work?” He picked up two forks which had their tines tangled and ripped them free from each other. “And besides, you’re the one getting their own room. Leave the worrying to us.”
“If you say so!” Danny laughed and continued walking to his new room. He set down the last box of his things, and turned to his closet.
In the corner of the walk-in space, on the floor, was a smaller box which seemed to have twice as much tape on it than the others. It was the first box he had brought in, and not something he wanted to lose track of. Tonight, he thought. They’ll go to sleep, and everything will start to be okay.
Danny went back to the living area. “What can I help unpack?” He asked Simon, who was currently stacking cups into an overhead cabinet.
I always forget how tall he is, Danny thought, as he watched his friend effortlessly reach the top shelf. God, he doesn’t even have to go up on his toes. They’d known each other for nearly a decade, at least since middle school, and Danny could never get over just how different their bodies were. Simon, well over 6 foot and practically born with abs, compared to Danny, who never worried about bumping his head, and could never seem to ditch his soft, squishy body. Of course, he wasn’t fat. No, he hadn’t gone higher than 140 pounds on a scale his whole life. His muscles just refused to show through his skin. Not that he wanted them to, these days.
“Dishes are put away!” Simon slammed the cabinet shut. “So, I guess our next task is to get the entertainment center hooked up.”
They gathered all the boxes marked “Games” or “Cables” together, and got to work. Over the next hour, a 40-something inch TV, every game system made in the past few years, and a Google home were set up and linked together.
“Wow, Simon, your computer science degree actually helped for once.”
Simon gave Danny a playful shove as he laughed, “Low blow!”
Danny knew that Simon wasn’t actually upset. He constantly bragged at how happy he was working with the nearby schools. And, Danny had to admit, it was really cool of him to make a career out of helping kids get more active and live healthier lifestyles. But that wouldn’t stop him from dishing out some playful ribbing.
Behind the two, the door of their apartment had opened. “Woah,” A voice yelled out. The two turned around to see their other roommate with an armful of cardboard. “Simon, aren’t you going to introduce me to- Oh! Ha!” He hobbled towards them, still overloaded with boxes. “Danny, I didn’t recognize you from behind! Sorry but, I thought you were a girl!”
Danny let out a half-hearted chuckled, and fiddled with his ponytail. He struggled to not blush.
Simon stepped in. “Come on, Ryan, leave him alone. We’re trying to live together and don’t need to start off on the wrong foot.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s cool.” Danny scratched the back of his head.
Ryan finally dropped his boxes off in the shared room and plopped on the couch. “Yeah, relax Simon, Danny knows how to take a joke.” He looked at Danny. “But for real dude, I was like Who’s the redhead? Hope she isn’t the new girl Simon’s been talking about. And then imagine my shock when you turn around!” Ryan continued to laugh as Simon and Danny rolled their eyes.
“Yup, just me.” Another fake laugh. “But actually, all my stuff is still in boxes, and I’d rather unpack now than later.” Danny headed towards his room.
“Good call. But we have to catch up later, alright? I feel like it’s been years since we’ve talked!” It had. Ryan and Danny were never that close, and after high school neither of them made an effort to stay in touch. Still, Danny knew Simon well enough that he could handle living with one of his friends.
Before Danny closed the door to his room, he caught a little more of the conversation in the living room.
“Wait, Ryan,” Simon asked, “Why wouldn’t you have wanted to meet the girl I’ve been seeing?”
Ryan got up from the couch to look Simon in the eyes. Although even Ryan had to look up to meet his gaze. “Because you banging a redhead would be my worst nightmare! Do you have any clue how jealous I’d get?”
Danny closed his door. Ryan’s words echoed around his skull.
I thought you were a girl. I thought you were a girl. Thought.
He started to unpack a box of clothes, but couldn’t keep his eyes away from the box in the corner of his closet. Ok. Fuck it. I can’t wait. He picked up his boxcutter and sliced it open.
Inside, he recognized the two small pill bottles he had hid there in the morning. He took a pill from each, one white and one blue, both very tiny, and held them in his palm.
Here we go. With a large gulp of water, both of them went down his throat.
Ryan won’t be the last person to think I’m a girl.