“You know, this wasn’t what I had in mind… In fact, is pretty much the opposite I expected,” Cris said as he stared at the screen of the TV with a blank expression. Then he turned to Nelson and Marcelo.
Both swimmers were playing video games, too focus to even take their eyes off the screen. They sat on the floor with their backs against Nelson’s bed.
“Sorry to ruin your nightly schemes, Cris,” Marcelo said, his eyes wide and not blinking. He was so immersed he moved according to his players on the screen. “But when this idiot called and invited me, I knew he was on the verge of a panic attack. As his best friend, I simply had to answer his request.”
“I wasn’t on the verge of a panic attack. Stop lying to my manager,” Nelson complained, almost standing on his seat as he smashed the buttons of the controller. “And, if I was on the verge of one, not that I am, I mean, was, you should let your best friend win this damn match!”
“I would if I could, Nelson,” Marcelo said, smiling. “But you suck so much that even if I played with my eyes blindfolded and without touching the controller, you wouldn’t win.”
“Correction, if you didn’t use any cheats, you mean.”
“So now you’re calling skills cheats?” Marcelo shook his head slightly. Even as he disapproved, he never took his eyes off the screen. “I always knew you were a bad winner, but to think that you’re also a sore loser.”
“Then why did you give up on the match? For a while now, all you’ve been trying was make fouls and get my best players out of the game.”
Nelson didn’t answer as he tried to get his player to give a tackle from behind. But Marcelo saw and dribbled him with ease. Then the referee blew his whistle, indicating the end of the match.
Marcelo was the clear winner, with an amazing 7 to 1. And Nelson lonely goal was because Marcelo kept passing the ball to his goalkeeper and missed one. It didn’t help Nelson’s mood that his best friend could only grin.
“Shut up… Just… shut up, okay?”
Marcelo laughed nastily. “Now, now. Don’t talk like that with the winners. Instead, go grab me a beer,” he said in a commanding voice, stretching his hand at the same time.
Nelson started at his best friend for a while before getting up.
“Get me one too,” Cris said, sitting on the other side of Marcelo and picking up Nelson’s controller. “And don’t get one for you. You can’t have any alcohol tonight.”
“I know, I know,” Nelson said in a sour voice. He dragged his feet towards the fridge in his room while mumbling something the other two couldn’t hear. “I invited you here to hang out with me, so why now I’m being your waiter?”
“Because you’re a loser,” Marcelo said as if it should be obvious.
Cris covered his mouth, but he still laughed anyway.
The other swimmer turned to the manager when Nelson was looking for the beer.
“I’m really sorry for getting in your way. But when that idiot called…”
“I know, I know. You don’t need to apologize. I mean, I do have other expectations when a guy invites me to stay overnight, but Nelson might be too dense to realize that,” Cris said, shrugging. But his attitude didn’t hide his tiny smile.
“Oh, yes, my friend. I’m really sorry for you, but unfortunately, he’s as dense as a protagonist,” Marcelo said, shaking his head and sighing. “He’s a slow, sloooooow learner. It’s hard for something to get through that thick head of his. I’ve found that from personal experience.”
“Oh, like what?” Cris asked, his eyes shining with curiosity.
“Well, let’s see… Like with his last manager. I had lost count of how many times I told our mutual friend that she was very interested in him. But did he believe me?” Marcelo shook his head as he looked at Nelson’s back, still looking for the beer in the fridge. “It got to the point where I wanted to smack some sense into him.”
“So when did he finally believe she liked him?” Cris asked, trying to keep his voice casual. Maybe I can get some good information, he thought, glancing at the guy he fell in love with.
“I don’t know if he believed at the time, but when she kissed him after a competition, he was starting to get suspicious.” They laughed at the same time. “So, Cris, take a note. If you want something from that idiot that I call my best friend, you have to be bold and take the initiative.”
A sly smile crossed Cris’ lips. “I just might,” he said in a low voice, but loud enough for the other swimmer to hear.
“Shut up, you two. You know I can hear, right? Talking behind my back in my bedroom…” Nelson came back and handed a beer to each. He sat on the bed, next to the manager.
“Thanks,” Cris said, accepting the glass bottle. “Would you rather preferred if we talked about you before your face?”
“I’d rather you didn’t talk about me.”
“Sorry, my dear swimmer. That’s not possible. It’s hard to get you off my mouth,” Cris said, his cheeks a bit red. He looked up at Nelson with a smile and then leaned against the swimmer’s legs.
Nelson blushed and turned to the TV. “How’s the game?”
“About to start,” Marcelo said, pressing start after he and Cris had chosen the teams. When the players were on their respective sides of the field, a light rain began to fall. “Ah, great… I have to play in the damn rain…”
“We haven’t started yet and you’re already looking for an excuse when you lose?” Cris said, raising his eyebrow.
Marcelo closed his eyes, raised the index finger, and moved from side to side. “You got it all wrong, my friend. I don’t like playing in the rain, not that I’m not good.”
“Sure, sure… if you say so…” Cris flashed a smile as he turned to the screen.
The match began, but unlike against Nelson, Marcelo had no time to fool around. Cris wasn’t just talking; he was good and made the other swimmer concentrate the entire time.
After fifteen minutes or so, the referee blew the whistle for the last time.
The athlete dropped his shoulders and rested the controller on the floor.
The manager, on the other hand, raised both arms and waved his hands as if to calm down an invisible crowd. “There’s no need to shout, everyone. There’s autograph for everyone,” he said, grinning.
Marcelo stared at the screen, which was showing the highlights of the game, as if he couldn’t believe in the score.
“I lost… I… lost… how… how could I’ve lost…?”
“He seems more shocked than I’d ever believed,” Cris whispered to Nelson. “Guess athletes are too competitive in everything…”
The swimmer couldn’t stop smiling, even as he drank his water.
“Please, don’t lump me on the same level as that idiot. He keeps blabbing his mouth to everyone that he’s gonna be a pro gamer after he retires from swimming. When he’s not practicing, working out, eating or with a girl, he’s playing. In fact, I’ve never seen him traveling without the video game.”
“That’s… wow…” Cris turned to Marcelo, who was still shaking his head, with a curious expression. “Does it make me a bad person that hearing this only makes my victory even sweeter?”
“Not at all. But it does reinforce the fact that you’re a sadist,” Nelson said, laughing. He slid down from the bed to the floor to sit on Cris’ side. “So you’re a bad winner too, huh? That’s interesting to know.”
“Yeah, I’m a bad winner,” Cris said, flashing his sly smile. Then he lowered his voice. “When I win at something, or someone, I can’t help it but shout to everyone.”
Nelson widened his eyes, gulping. His cheeks became a shade of red and he looked at the screen.
“So… how… how come you’re so good at this game?” the swimmer asked. He couldn’t hide how relieved he was that he had managed to find something to change the topic and take the attention away from him.
“Yeah, how come you’re so good, Cris?” Marcelo asked suddenly, turning to the manager with his eye twitching. “Care to enlighten us all?”
“What? Just ‘cause I’m gay I can’t be good at video games? Is that what you’re asking?” Cris asked, his voice suddenly harsh. He stared at Marcelo without any trace of amusement. His face was completely serious.
The other swimmer faltered, gulped, blinked and looked away. . His face became an alarming shade of red.
“That’s not what… I mean, of course gay people can… It’s just that…” he mumbled, scratching his arm nervously.
Nelson couldn’t hold it anymore and laughed. He patted Cris on the head and ruffled the manager’s hair a bit. “It’s better to stop that now. He’s not used to your sense of humor. Look how nervous he got.”
Cris tried to keep his expression serious, but soon he cracked and was laughing. “It was too good of a chance to let it pass. I just love when people get nervous like that. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”
“I told you that you’re too much like your cousin. She did the same thing with me.”
“That was different,” Cris said defensively.
“Care to tell me how?”
Nelson stared at Cris with a mix of disbelief and amusement as the manager tried to find words.
“So that was all… Nelson did say you were a sadist, but I didn’t think it’d be at this level,” Marcelo mumbled, glancing at the manager.
“Oh? So that’s what you’re telling your friends about me?” Cris turned to Nelson with a surprised face. But it soon gave room to his sly smile. “What else did you tell him?”
“Nothing much. Only the truth,” Nelson said, shrugging. Despite his attitude, however, he wasn’t looking the manager in the eyes. “You know how much I like honesty.”
“Oh, really?” Cris leaned closer to the swimmer to whisper in his ear. “Did you tell him what I did to you in the locker room that day?”
Nelson’s face went a wild shade of red at once. He averted his eyes and covered his mouth to hide his expression. “Of course not,” he said in a hushed voice.
“Stop flirting you two. Don’t forget that I’m here too,” Marcelo said, irritated.
“We’re not flirting!” Nelson quickly said, widening his eyes.
Marcelo mumbled something unintelligible. “Since you like the truth so much, how about if I tell Cris what you revealed before?”
The manager’s face lit with curiosity right away. “Tell me what? Tell me what?”
“Nothing!” Nelson said before Marcelo could say anything. “Nothing at all! Just something stupid and boring.”
“Oh, sure. When you say it like that, it doesn’t make me interested at all,” Cris said. “What was it, Marcelo?”
“Nothing! I told you!”
“All right, Cris. Let’s make a deal. Play with me again and if you win, I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you the whole lot about Nelson. His past, all his embarrassing secrets he’s been keeping from you. Everything,” Marcelo said, offering his hand to the manager.
“Deal.” Cris shook the hand enthusiastically.
The next second, they both picked up the controllers and turned to the screen.
“Hey, don’t make a bet with my name in the middle!” Nelson complained, but neither men seemed in listen to him anymore.
They began another game, this time on a sunny day.
To the swimmer’s relief, his best friend won, though the match made his heart thump hard many times.
Cris rested the controller on the floor, dejected.
Marcelo, on the other hand, nodded slowly.
“Balance has been restored,” he said, closing his eyes. He pretended as if his victory was the obvious result, but he was sweating despite the air condition on.
“So now that the unimportant matter is settled, how about if we forget the video game and just–” Nelson began, but no one was listening to him.
“One more game!” the manager shouted suddenly, completely ignoring his swimmer.