Boy Meets Boy

Page 14


“The only problem,” Chuck continues, “is our goddamn quarterback. He's totally psycho.”
Minus twenty points. Chuck knows I'm friends with Infinite Darlene. So why is he slamming her? Doesn't he know any better?
He goes on. “He's more worried about breaking his nails than throwing the pigskin.” (At the sound of the word pigskin, half the Veggie D's customers turn around and give us a nasty look.) “He should just enter the beauty contests instead of heading onto the gridiron, if you know what I mean.”
Oh, I know what he means. He means: I had a crush on the quarterback and she didn't have a crush back, so now I'm going to bad-mouth her since I can't undo the crush I once had. I can see right through every word he's said, because I've witnessed Infinite Darlene on the football field. When she is on the hundred yards, she is all business. She will break her nails and blotch her mascara and sweat and grunt and shove and do whatever it takes to get to the end zone. She is all precision, no distraction. It's probably what attracted Chuck in the first place.
I stop keeping score, because in my book, Chuck's already lost the game. I look over to Joni for confirmation … but she just smiles at me. As if to say, Isn't he cute?
Chuck asks me about movies, because Joni must have told him I like movies. But he only asks me about the movies he's seen, so he can give his own opinion. Opinions like “That helicopter chase was intense” and “She can't act, but she sure is a babe.” I look over at Joni again.
She's nodding along.
She's not saying much.
She holds his hand and looks happy.
Part of me wants to scream and part of me wants to laugh, both for the same reason: This is an impossible situation. Joni doesn't need my approval, but she wants it, in the same way that I would want hers. But if I approve, I'm lying. And if I don't, I'll be shutting myself out of a major part of her life.
“I really liked that article you wrote for the paper about the hate crimes law,” Chuck is now saying. Does he realize he's lost me? Is he trying to win me back? That effort alone would count for something, if not a lot.
I usually think our thirty-four-minute lunch period is too short. Now I feel it's just right. We sort and throw out our garbage, then head back to school. Since it's Friday, we talk about our weekend plans. For some reason, I decide not to mention Noah. In contrast, every plan Joni and Chuck mention starts with the word we. Usually Joni and I would plan a point to connect over the weekend. This time, neither of us makes that move.
I notice this. I wonder if she does, too.
In between sixth and seventh periods, before I get a note from Noah, Ted comes right up to me and calls me a traitor. Now, I've never felt any allegiance to Ted before. In fact, I was usually a big fan when Joni decided to dump him. But today it feels different. Today I do feel like a traitor, although maybe the old Joni is the one I've betrayed.
“You're taking sides,” Ted spits out at me.
“I'm not,” I try to convince him. “And I thought you said you didn't care.”
“I don't. But I didn't think you'd be supporting her stupid decision, Gay Boy. I thought you had some sense.”
I can't tell him I agree, because then word will get back to Joni and she'll know how I really feel. So I stand there and take his wave of anger. I make it clear I don't know what to do.
He stares me down for a second, says “Fine,” then heads off to his next class.
I wonder if it's possible to start a new relationship without hurting someone else. I wonder if it's possible to have happiness without it being at someone else's expense.
Then I see Noah coming over to me with a note folded in the shape of a crane.
And I think, yes, it's possible.
I think I can fall for him without hurting anybody.
A Walk in the Park
Our plan for Saturday is to not have a plan for Saturday. This un-eases me a little, since I'm a pretty big fan of plans. But for Noah, I'm willing to try a planless day out.
He's going to come by my house at noon. I'm totally fine with this—until I realize it means he'll be meeting my family.
Now, don't get me wrong—I like my family. While many of my friends’ parents have been arguing, divorcing, and custody-sharing, my parents have been planning family vacations and setting the table for family dinners. They're usually pretty good about meeting my boyfriends, although I think they're always a little confused about who's my boyfriend and who is just a friend who happens to be a boy. (It took them a couple months to catch on that Tony and I weren't a thing.)
No, my fear isn't that my parents are going to push Noah out the door with a cattle prod. Instead, I'm afraid they'll be too friendly and give too much of me away before I can reveal it. As a precaution, I lock all the family photo albums in a drawer and decide to tell them Noah is “a new friend” without specifying anything else. Jay, who (like any older brother) loves to see me squirm, is the big wild card—he's off at tennis practice, but there's no telling when he'll come home.
I clean my room thoroughly, then mess it up a little so it won't look so clean. I worry that it's not whimsical enough. Instead, it's the museum of my whole life, from my Snoopys with their wardrobes to the mirror ball my parents got me when I graduated from fifth grade to the Wilde books still open-winged on my floor from last week's English report.
This is my life, I think. I am an accumulation of objects.
The doorbell rings precisely at noon, as if it were attached to a grandfather clock.
Noah is right on time. And he's brought me flowers.
I want to cry. I am such a sap, but right now I am so happy. Hyacinth and jacaranda and a dozen other flowers that I cannot begin to name. An alphabet of flowers. He is giving them to me, smiling and saying hi, reaching out and putting them in my hand. His shirt shimmers a little in the sunlight. His hair is as unkempt as ever. He teeters a little on the front step, waiting to be invited in.
I lean forward and kiss him. The flowers crush between our shirts. I touch his lips, I breathe him in. I close my eyes, I open them. He is surprised, I can tell. I am surprised, too. He kisses me back with a kiss like a smile.
It's very nice.
Actually, it's wonderful.
“Hello,” I say.
“Hello,” Noah says back.