When I was in the sixth form, I had a friend two years younger than me, who I'll name BJ (simply by virtue of the fact that they are his initials reversed; I could have called him James Blunt, Jason Bourne or Justin Bieber, but those would have attracted the wrong sort of traffic). Most of the sixth form (not to mention his own year) saw him as a bit of a rarity: a little oddball who didn't really fit into any box, even "outsider". He worked incredibly hard, has very few friends who weren't older than him and regularly attended Christian Union, being the only attendee still in uniform - everyone else who went was in the sixth form. Most people went to argue.
I liked BJ, although I wouldn't have called him a close friend. I knew there was something unnerving about him - he was clean, fresh-faced and well-intentioned, but had difficulty making friends (I saw a lot of myself in him for those reasons); he was close to Lightsinthesky (they met at the short-lived drama club) and thus myself and Einstein too. It was when he was at my house that he asked me a personal question.
"What is it?" I asked, pausing in the act of putting a The Big Knights VHS into the VCR.
He asked me if I'd ever lost anyone close to me. Coincidentally, I had; my mum's best friend (I always called her "auntie", even thought she was no blood relation) had died recently. BJ, it turned out, had suffered something a little worse than this - his uncle had died, leaving him without a permanent male figure in his life. he also told me that his mother had run away from an abusive husband - BJ's father - taking BJ and (I believe) a little sister with her. I felt sorry for him, but also slightly weirded out - why was he telling me all this? I have a good ear for troubles, but I had a lot of my own at the time, and they were well-publicised. Why was BJ confiding in this damaged, questioning, chronically depressed 17-year-old with a massive lack of confidence?
I sensed initially that he was attempting to project the dominant male rôle onto me, and as much as I liked him, I couldn't accept that sort of responsibility. We talked for a while, and eventually the subject turned to sex. Here BJ was incredibly inexperienced - as was I, but at least I knew what I was talking about. He didn't seem to have much of a clue, and the more he talked, the more frustrated he seemed to get. Towards the end of the conversation, he started to talk about the male side of things more, and I got more of a sense of what was going on.
BJ asked if he could show me his penis. I agreed because I didn't know what else to say. He showed me. It looked like, well, a penis. He put it away and then went home. I thought little of the matter, until I got three text messages from him later that day. He texted like he talked, with a stutter (he actually wrote "I - I..." before sentences), admitting halfway through that he thought he may be developing sexual feelings for me - which I'd worked out by then.
I suggested, helpfully, that he might be gay - which he thought was wrong. He also had a crush on a girl in his year, and when he pointed this out to me, I replied with, "maybe you're just bisexual." This possibility clearly hadn't crossed his mind. I was convinced, personally, that he was gay, and that this crush - I knew the girl too - was passing. BJ would eventually divine his own sexuality, although his staunch Christian views would cause problems for him - my Christian views had no problem with his possibly being gay... but that's the flexibility of religion for you.
Flustering, BJ texted me some ideas he'd had about how to "get it out of his system" - although all of them seemed like bad ideas to me. I was too kind to mention the fact that I thought trying to "cure" yourself of homosexual tendencies was abhorrent, but I didn't take too kindly to his plan to watch gay porn in order to be disgusted by it ("but I wouldn't know where to get any!"), mostly because I thought he would be fascinated by it and that may have confused him a little more. He agreed to step back and think about it until anything else happened.
A few weeks later and I found myself demonstrating how to use the Internet to BJ, who didn't have the Internet at home and had barely touched a computer before. I had a framed picture of Soldiergirl by my desk at the time, a heap of anti-live food leaflets next to the monitor and a load of soft porn on the hard drive, although BJ didn't know this. I didn't think soft porn would be his cup of tea. We were talking online to a couple of my friends, when (completely out of the blue) BJ asked if he could see my penis erect - to which I, politely but firmly, said no.
I wasn't comfortable with showing someone else my erect penis - and it wouldn't have been fair on me, or Soldiergirl. However, I also told him that it wouldn't have been fair on him either. It was becoming clearer to me that he wanted more, and that if I gave him a sign of such, he may have expected more. The last thing I wanted was a developing gay relationship, and to be honest, I didn't think he needed one at that point either. I didn't mention it to him ever again, and he never pressed the matter at any point in the future.
However, every time I saw him at school afterwards, he seemed more knowing - slightly more confident and self-assured. Not to any massive degree, but somehow more so. What had happened? I wondered to myself if he had done the soul-searching that he said he would. Was he more comfortable with his sexuality, or did he just shift his focus onto other efforts, like his studies, which (as the grapevine told me) had redoubled - which was remarkable, considering what he'd already done.
I like to think that, maybe in some small way, by drawing the line when I did, but remaining friendly and open, I helped BJ gain some more confidence and assurance in himself as a person. Quite a good job for someone who had no love for himself at all, really.
You may be wondering what happened to BJ. I didn't see him too much after I left school. However, the last I heard from him was that he went to UCL with a student grant. He had a steady boyfriend and was an active member of the university's LGBT society, even being president at one point. Bearing that in mind, I think it's a fair assumption that BJ got his happy ending after all.