The rest of the night was a blurry mess, and the following day showed little improvement. A throbbing pressure squeezed behind his eyes and prodded the back of his skull. Warm shame flooded his cheeks every time he was reminded of the night before.
As he slunk into the restaurant the next day, head down, he found himself avoiding everyone’s eye. From the fiercely inquisitive smiles Jasmine beamed at him, to the painful puppy-dog eyes Nathan directed at him every time he risked looking up. Blessedly, one of the chefs, a heavily tattooed white woman in her thirties named Judith, asked him to help out with prep since one of the prep cooks had called in sick. He gratefully accepted and managed to spend two hours neatly cutting vegetables in blessed solitude before she thanked him and sent him back to front of house.
Back to his standard duties, Inho could no longer dodge Jasmine’s knowing glances and suggestive grins. One of the cooks turned on a Bluetooth speaker and tinny heavy metal music drifted to where they sat folding linen napkins and refilling salt shakers.
“So.” Jasmine prompted.
“So what?” Inho asked, eyes evading her stare.
“Don’t make me beat it out of you. What happened with you and Nathan?”
Inho flinched, “How’d you know anything happened...did you see?”
“Ohohoho!” Jasmine cackled. “See? Was there something to see? Tell! Tell!” She reached over and grabbed his wrist, shaking it aggressively in her excitement. Her eyes sparkled with secondhand scandal. “I just saw you guys all over each other last night. You were practically in his lap.”
“Jesus Christ,” Inho covered his face. “That's horrific; I don’t remember at all”
“So what do you remember?” Jasmine wasn’t going to let it go.
“Just leave it. It’s nothing.”
“For sure not nothing kiddo, he’s been shooting you pained glances all day. Did you guys hook up?”
“No!” Inho almost shouted before he could catch himself, then with a furtive look at the kitchen doors, repeated in a lower voice “No. If you must know we...we just...made out a little.” He was twisting the napkin in his hand into a rope.
“Drama! I love it. How was it?” Jasmine was somehow unfazed. “But wait,” she paused, “don’t you still have a girlfriend? Although,” another thoughtful pause, “I guess Nathan’s got a wife.”
Inho couldn’t contain himself this time, “HE WHAT?!” A head popped out of the kitchen – one of the cooks looking to see what the commotion was. Disappointed, the cook disappeared.
“Chill dude, he’s polyamorous, his wife knows about it and it’s fine.” Jasmine waved her hand dismissively. “Though I guess your reaction means your situation isn’t the same.”
“Polyamorous, wife, what? This is all too much.” Inho began rubbing frantic circles on his temples, his hangover pulsing harder by the minute.
“Yeah it’s kinda wild, but they make it work. He’s pan too, and I guess you caught his eye.” Jasmine leaned forward eagerly, not spilling a grain of salt as she poured into the shaker. “Are you gonna tell your girl?”
“Tell her what? That I made out with my boss? I’m straight Jas. I’ve only dated girls!” Inho’s drunken indiscretion came crashing onto his conscience once more. He had certainly been aware he was not kissing a woman, though he’d been fuzzy on who it was. His dick also hadn’t seemed to mind the deviation from his regular make-out partners.
You thought it was Stephen, an accusing voice whispered in his head. He was not ready to face that part of the incident either, so he pushed that thought down too.
“Sure dude. Drunk actions are sober thoughts and all that. I’m not saying you’re gay,” the way she emphasized “gay”, long and drawn out, made Inho cringe. “But, I dunno, bisexual, or pansexual? There's a whole world out there, Inho.” Jasmine was having way too much fun with this disaster, but Inho in his weakened state had nobody else to cling to.
Inho slid down in the booth seat. “How do I know? How do you know all this? Jamie’s going to lose it.” The reality that he had cheated on Jamie was setting in and Inho was starting to panic. His stomach dropped what felt like an impossible distance, and his chest squeezed until air was just a touch tougher to find.
Are Jamie and I still together? Is it cheating if I don't even know? The thought did nothing to comfort him.
“It’s ok, Inho, breathe. I’m sorry, labels aren’t important right now, you’re right.” The playful joy was gone from Jasmine’s face, and her voice took on a more soothing tone. “Labels are never important really, they can just help you figure yourself out, and you know, build an identity that resonates.”
She squeezed his hand and patted him softly on the shoulder. Inho stared through her, worry and shame contorting his face.
“Okay, okay! Too much information! My ex-boyfriend was trans, and I just got really involved in the community. When you’re ready, we can talk about it, or not! It’s up to you. Now, deep breaths. What’s going on with Jamie? Is that your girlfriend?”
Inho was feeling hot - way too hot. Heat washed over him from his hips to his chin and he broke into a clammy sweat.
“Yes, well I'm not sure. I spoke to her last night, but...I don’t remember what I said.”