Heartbreak

My Friend Surprised Me By Exposing Himself In My Living Room

Photo: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
man unzipping pants

I was eighteen years old, and I was so totally and completely grown up.

For the first time, I wasn’t going home to Missouri for the summer. Instead, I would stay in Boston and live in a grownup apartment — my very first — paid for with my own money, which I would earn from doing brain research. I had a grownup tattoo and a grownup long-distance relationship with Sam, who I’d been dating for a year and a half.

I hadn’t made many close friends during the year I’d been in Boston — partly because I worked a lot at the drugstore just off-campus and partly because I was studying my ass off in a really challenging program, but mostly because Sam was super controlling and spent random days and nights (often until daybreak) reminding me of my worthlessness at the perfectly reasonable rate of 69¢ per minute. (My dime, of course.)

Most of the students had left for the summer, but I’d managed to get an extension in my dorm because my sublease didn’t start until June 1. The halls were bare. The roommate I never bonded with was gone. The field hockey girls who were kept up late on game nights because I was screaming into my phone in the hallway were gone. Even the guys I hung out with sometimes at one of the many off-campus party houses couldn’t be raised. I could go an entire day without seeing anyone in my dorm.

I’d stopped smoking. I had no way to procure any booze. There was nothing left to study. I was bored and lonely as hell.

So I wandered. The late spring weather was nice enough, and the days were getting longer. I would leave my dorm in the evenings after I’d changed out of my work smock, sometimes wandering up and down the streets looking for a party but, just as often, just sitting on the bench outside the dorm.

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It was here that I met Kyung. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore, and though I’d never seen him, we’d apparently lived in the same dorm all year.

We became fast friends. We would grab food together at the student union, watch rented movies in my dorm room, and wander aimlessly around campus when I wasn’t working. After my shift was over, he’d come knocking and we would hang out for the rest of the day. I think we were each other’s only friends during those weeks.

One day he came in, ready to head out to dinner. The phone was up to my ear, and tears were streaking down my face. He made an exaggerated frown and waited patiently on my ex-roommate's ex-bed for Sam’s abuse to end. “Are you okay?” he mouthed at me, genuinely concerned. I nodded and shrugged.

When I sent him away to eat on his own, unable to cut off yet another phone call that drained me of my money, my spirit, and my self-worth, he nodded understandingly and departed without a fight, but he was back the next day with a warm hug. He was a good friend during a rough time.

When the day finally came for us to part ways for the summer, Kyung and I exchanged the only contact information we had — our AIM screen names. Mine was a variation of my name with some digits after it. “Oh, let me type mine in for you,” he said. He did so, and I looked at the screen and then back at him.

“MagnaKFC?” I asked with a bewildered smile.

He mumbled something about being the big chicken. I shrugged. Everyone’s got a thing. I used to call myself Angel for no good reason. So, Big Chicken, whatever.

We hugged and said our farewells and vowed to get together again when school started back up.

The summer was gone before I knew it, and so was Sam. I’d broken up with him shortly after leaving the dorms, in a surprising show of self-respect that had left me confident and much, much happier. I’d moved into an apartment with real, actual adults, with cars and careers and a liquor cabinet, and I had a room of my own.

I more or less forgot about Kyung, my one-time de facto friend who I’d naïvely fancied a close confidant, until one day I logged onto AIM and saw the unusual name in my buddies list. Immediately, memories of those May evenings came flooding back. I had a friend! A friend who I could invite to my apartment, and watch television with, and have a drink with, like the real, actual adult that I now was.

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I pounced. “Hey! Are you in town? Where are you staying this year? I have an apartment. You should come to hang out. I’ll get some dinner. Do you want some? No? Okay, see you in a half-hour!”

I was so jazzed. I ordered delivery from a local pizza place — garlic bread and ravioli — and Kyung and the food arrived at about the same time. I gave him a tour. I offered him a drink. I made a Midori sour for myself.

He asked for some tequila.

“Oh. Oh, okay. Like, a shot of tequila?” I asked. I hadn’t planned on getting shitfaced tonight. But maybe he had, and if so, who was I to judge?

“Just grab me a glass and I’ll take care of it,” he said. “Do you have any sugar?”

“Yes…”

Kyung poured himself a glass of tequila with about two tablespoons of sugar in it, and proceeded to drink it in short, frequent sips. “So, what do you want to do?” he asked.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Want to watch a movie?” I asked, leading him into the living room where my dinner sat on the coffee table. “I only have Trainspotting, but it’s a really good movie.”

He shrugged, sitting down, still sipping manically at his drink.

I popped in the VHS of Trainspotting, a dark comedy about heroin addiction which by this point I’d seen enough times that I could quote the entire movie, Scottish accent and all. But I was busy stuffing my face with ravioli and garlic bread, so I didn’t this time.

In one of the film’s early scenes, all the central couples are having sex. Or attempting to have sex, anyway. It’s not a very sexy scene, though, particularly if you know what happens next, and I’d been desensitized to it, having seen it so many times over the years. So, it didn’t occur to me that Kyung would think anything of it.

Until, when I was midway through chewing a bite of garlic bread, he lunged at me and tried to kiss me.

I pushed him away. “Whoa, dude,” I said after swallowing my half-chewed bite. “We’re friends. I don’t like you like that.” Not to mention, there’s nothing less sexy than having a mouth full of garlic bread.

He nodded, and we both went back to watching the film.

For about a minute.

Because, after that, my friend’s hands moved to his belt and began to unbuckle it.

“Kyung? What are you doing?” I asked, trying to mask my alarm.

He was silent; his fingers pushed the button of his jeans through its hole.

“Dude, stop, man. What are you doing?” I asked again.

And then his boxers were down and his genitalia exposed.

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“Dude, put that away,” I said, trying to pull his waistband back up.

He began moving his hand rhythmically up and down.

I stood up, finally putting my food down. “Kyung, pull your pants up!” I said. “You can’t do that here!”

“Why’d you play that movie, then?” he asked, with an indignance I can’t fathom to this day.

“It’s a good movie!” I said. “And it’s the only one I have!”

It took one more try, but I finally got Kyung to fasten his belt.

By now, the “what happens next” part was playing. We sat, watching what I considered to be one of the greatest movie scenes of all time, and neither of us absorbed anything.

“Do you want me to leave?” he asked.

The fact that I had to think about this for any length of time at all probably reveals how insecure and lonely I still was. My default assumption was that we would go on being friends, despite this ill-advised but surely one-time transgression. It took that question to snap me out of it.

This was some unstable behavior, and I didn’t want to put myself at risk that something more serious might happen in the future. And so, lonely or not, I said, “Yeah, dude, I think you should.”

I was no longer in the mood to watch my favorite dark comedy. I popped the VHS out of the player and returned it to the shelf, where it remained until it went into the donation pile when I moved out, two years later.

I had also lost my appetite; the food quickly landed in the kitchen trash barrel, a garlicky symbol of my naïveté.

But, before all that, in a rare moment of self-protection, I deleted MagnaKFC from my buddy list, thereby erasing the only evidence he’d ever been in my life — other than the unusual story of my close friend who revealed his true colors over tequila, garlic bread, and Trainspotting.

Nikki Kay writes fiction, poetry, and personal essays about parenting, mental health, and the intersection of the two. Check out her column at Invisible Illness.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.