Boy Meets Boy

Page 12


I close my eyes and add the blue to my painting. When I open my eyes, I look over to Noah and see he's been glancing at me. I think he knows I understand.
Another song. I am now able to see things in my painting—the hint of a wing, the undertow of a tide.
Noah surprises me by speaking.
“Have you always known?” he asks. I know immediately what he's talking about.
“Pretty much so, yeah,” I answer. “You?”
He nods, eyes still on the canvas, his brush a mark of blue.
“Has it been easy for you?”
“Yes,” I tell him, because it's the truth.
“It hasn't always been easy for me,” he says, then says no more.
I stop painting and watch him for a moment. He is concentrating on the music now, moving his brush in an arc. He is completely in tune with the trumpet that solos above the beat. His mood reflects indigo. Is it heartbreak that makes him sad (I remember his sister's comment in the kitchen), or is it something else?
He senses my stillness and turns to me. There is something in his expression the moment before he speaks—I cannot tell whether it's vulnerability or doubt. Is he unsure about himself or unsure about me?
“Let me see what you've done,” he says.
I shake my head. “Not ‘til the song is over.”
But when the song is over, I'm still not satisfied.
“It doesn't look right,” I tell him as the next song begins.
“Let's see,” he says. Part of me wants to block his view, blot out what I've created. But I let him see anyway.
He stands next to me, looking at the music I've painted. When he speaks, Chet Baker's horn highlights his words.
“This is splendid,” he says.
He is so close to me. All I can feel is his presence. It is in the air surrounding us, the music surrounding us, and all my thoughts.
I am still holding the paintbrush. He reaches for my hand and lifts it gently.
“Here,” he whispers, guiding me across the paper, leaving an auburn trail.
“It's only twilight, I watch ‘til the star breaks through….”
The brush covers its distance. We both know when it ends. Our hands lower together, still holding on.
We do not let go.
We stand there looking. His hand over mine. Our breathing.
We leave everything unsaid.
The song ends. Another begins. This one is a blast of upbeat.
“Let's get lost….”
Our hands separate. I turn to him. He smiles and walks back to his easel, taking up his brush. I follow him to peek over his shoulder.
I am floored.
His painting is not an abstraction. He has only used one color, a near-black green. The woman in the painting is dancing with her eyes closed. She is all that he's drawn, but all you need is her figure to know what is going on. She is on a dance floor, and she is dancing alone.
“Wow,” I murmur.
He bashfully turns away. “Let's finish,” he says.
So I head back to my own easel, stepping on the marks of paint I have already left on the floor. We lose ourselves to the songs once more. At one point, he briefly sings along. I do not stop to listen, but instead work it into my canvas. My flights of color are meeting his dancer somewhere in the middle of the room. We do not need to speak to be aware of each other's presence.
We stay this way until twilight colors the window and the hour calls me home.
Chuck Waggin’
“So did you kiss him?” Joni asks first thing. It never takes her very long to get to the point. She's going to ask all the questions about Noah that I'm not going to ask about Chuck.
Now, I am not one to kiss and tell, but Joni's heard about every single boy I've ever kissed. Sometimes I've told her two minutes after the fact; other times it's come up years later, as my way of proving she doesn't know everything about me. From my first spin-the-bottle kiss with Cody to the final, conflicted kiss-off kiss with Kyle, Joni's been the one I've shared the stories with. So it comes as no surprise to have her question me now, on the phone, fifteen minutes after I've come home from Noah's.
“That's none of your business,” I say.
“Is that a ‘none of your business’ yes, or a ‘none of your busi-ness nor
“I don't want to tell you.” So it s no.
I don't know how to explain it to her. It's not that I didn't want to kiss Noah. And I think he wanted to kiss me. But we left the moment to silence instead. The promise of a kiss will carry us forward.
Since I don't say anything more, Joni lets the subject drop. Much to my surprise, she picks up the subject of Kyle instead.
“Has Kyle spoken to you?” she asks, in a way that makes it clear that Kyle has spoken to her.
“Does saying hi in the halls count?”
“Well, it's a step.”
Joni always liked Kyle. She liked his confusion, his woundedness, his bafflement… the same things I liked about him, as well as his natural charm and his sincerity. When these things turned against me, I think Joni was almost as hurt as I was. She'd trusted him with me. He let both of us down.
The thing is, Joni got over it easier than I did. I guess hurt is essentially a firsthand emotion. When Kyle started talking the straight-and-narrow, she was willing to believe him. Sure, he'd started dating girls—but those relationships rarely lasted longer than a PSAT prep course. After they broke up, they never stayed friends.
“I think he wants to talk to you. I know he wants to talk to you.”
“What could he possibly want to talk about?”
“I think he feels bad,” Joni tells me.
I wonder what feeling bad means in this particular situation. I can't imagine it's the same feeling bad as when you lend your boyfriend your favorite ultra-comfortable sweater and then find him wearing it as he says that the only feeling he can muster toward you is annoyance, and then wearing it again a week later as he walks past you in the halls, pretending you don't exist as he flirts with the one girl who had been after him the whole time you'd been going out. It can't be the same feeling bad as knowing that the sweater— the sweater you looked best in, the sweater you felt best in, the sweater you now fear he'll be wearing when you see him in between classes—is sitting at the bottom of a closet, where he doesn't give a damn about it, or has been given away to some other person he's pretended to love.