Boy Meets Boy

Page 15


I hear footsteps coming down from upstairs. My parents.
“Come in,” I say. I hold the flowers in one hand and swing my other hand behind me. Noah takes it as he walks through the door.
“Hello there,” my parents say together as they reach the bottom of the stairs. In one glance they see the flowers, and me and Noah holding hands. They can immediately figure out that Noah is more than just a new friend.
I don't care.
My mother instinctively looks at Noah's teeth as he says, “It's a pleasure to meet you.” I can't really blame her: she's a dentist, and she can't help doing it. The biggest fight we ever had was when I refused to get braces. I wouldn't even open my mouth to let the orthodontist see my teeth. He threatened to put the braces on my closed mouth, and as far as I was concerned, that was that. I won't be bullied into anything, and I have the crooked teeth to prove it. My mother is constantly mortified by this, although she's nice enough not to mention it anymore.
Because I am my mother's son, I noticed right away that Noah's bottom front teeth overlap a little. Because I am not entirely my mother's son, I find this flaw to be beautiful.
“It's a pleasure to meet you,” my father tells Noah, putting his hand out to shake. Noah and I disengage so he can make a good impression. My father has, I believe, the perfect handshake, neither fish nor fist. The handshake is his great equalizer—by the time he pulls his hand back, you feel you're right on his level. He's honed this craft in his years as the director of philanthropy at Puffy Soft, a national toiletries chain. His job is to take a portion of the profits that come from selling TP and give the money away to underfunded school programs. He is a walking example of why our country is such a strange and unbelievable place.
Noah is checking out our living room, and I am getting a look through his eyes. I realize how strange the wallpaper print is, and how all the pillows from the couch are in a pile on the floor, betraying the fact that someone (probably my father) just had a lie-down.
“Do you guys want pancakes?” my mother asks.
“My family believes breakfast can be served at any meal,” I explain to Noah.
“I'm all for it,” he says. “I mean, if you want to.”
“Do you?” I ask.
“If you do.”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you?”
“I'll make the pancakes,” my mother interjects. “You guys have about ten minutes to decide if you want to eat them.”
She heads into the kitchen. My father points to the flowers.
“You should put those in water,” he says. “They're lovely.”
Noah blushes. I blush. But I don't move. I'm not sure if Noah is ready to be alone with my father yet. Still, if I say that, I'll offend both of them. So I head for the nearest vase.
It's not until I'm alone—it's not until I'm given a sensory pause—that the full enormity of what's happened hits me. Two minutes ago, I was kissing Noah and he was kissing me back. Now he's in the living room with my father. The boy I just kissed is talking to my father. The boy I want to kiss again is waiting for my mother to serve pancakes.
I must fight the urge to freak.
I find an old Dallas thermos and put the flowers inside. Their color complements Charlene Tilton's eyes nicely. The thermos is a relic from the early years of my parents’ everlasting courtship.
Now that the flowers are in place, I'm feeling a little better. Then I hear my father's voice from the other room.
“Look at how big his thighs are herel”
Oh, no. The photo shrine. How could I have forgotten?
Sure enough, I walk in and find Noah framed by frames, the story of my transformation from pudgy to gawky to awkward to lanky to awkward again, all in the space of fifteen years.
Luckily, the thighs in question are on my six-month-old self.
“Pancakes are almost ready!” my mother calls.
We head to the kitchen. My father takes the lead, so I get to hang back a moment with Noah. He looks perfectly amused.
“Do you mind?” I ask.
“I'm having fun,” he assures me.
I know that other people's families are always more amusing than your own. But I'm not used to my family being the other person's family.
“States or countries?” my father asks as we reach the kitchen.
“You tell me,” my mother replies.
I have no idea why I'm surprised by this. It must be Noah's presence that makes me expect normal from my parents, even when I know this is rarely the case. Whenever my mom makes pancakes, they are usually the shape of states or countries. It's how I learned geography. If this seems a little bizarre, let me emphasize here—I am not talking about blobs of batter that look like California when you squint. No, I'm talking coastlines and mountain ranges and little star imprints where the capital should be. Because my mom drills teeth for a living, she is very, very precise. She can draw a straight line without a ruler and fold a napkin in perfect symmetry. In this regard, I am nothing at all like her. Most of the time, I feel like a perpetual smudge. My lines all curve. I tend to connect the wrong dots.
(Joni tells me this isn't true, that I say I'm a smudge because I can see my mother's precision growing inside of me. But let me tell you—I could never make two separate pancakes that fit together the way my mother's Texas and Oklahoma do.)
My parents steal glimpses of Noah. He steals glimpses of them. I watch them all openly, and nobody seems to mind.
“How long have you been living in town?” my father asks, perfectly conversational.
Just then, my brother busts into the room, leaving a trail of tennis sweat.
“Who are you?” Jay asks, pouring a little syrup on Minnesota before lifting the whole thing into his mouth.
“Noah.” I like that he doesn't explain any further, and that he resists saying “It's nice to meet you” until he figures out whether such a statement is true.
“Another g*y boy?” my brother says to me, then sighs. “Man, why can't you ever bring home a really cute sophomore girl to fall desperately in love with me? Do you have any cute girlfriends? Dogface doesn't count.” (He and Joni go way back; she calls him Dungbrain.)
Before I can say anything, Noah steps in. “I was going to set you up with my sister,” he says, “but you just blew your chance.”