Boy Meets Boy

Page 18


“And does she realize I like you back?” I ask, drifting closer, fingers moving over his shirt.
“Then I must say, you have a very observant sister.” We are at whisper distance now.
“Cut it outl” Claudia shouts from the other room.
Noah and I burst out laughing, which no doubt will only make her angrier. The TV is silent now, waiting for our next move.
We pick up the credit cards and head back to town.
Please Rewind Before
Noah and I split up—he'll get the pizza while I get the rental. This is probably for the best, since I'm headed to Spiff's Videorama, where newbies are discouraged. Spiff is the reason most of us still have VCRs—he's a tapehead like djs are vinyl freaks. He refuses to carry DVDs or any of the new technology.
Spiff arranges the videos in his store according to his own logic. American Pie is filed under Action/Adventure, while Forrest Gump sits in Pornography along with other inspirational classics. Spiff will never, ever tell you where a tape is, or even if it's in. You have to find it for yourself or leave empty-handed. He doesn't give a damn about any of us—just the movies. This is probably why we keep coming back.
Noah has given me a brief lowdown of what Claudia is willing to watch. Basically, if it features an Indie It Girl, it's a safe bet. John Cusack is also a plus. I head to Drama to look for Say Anything (knowing full well that Spiff believes that comedies hold life's true drama).
“Hey, Paul.”
It's my name, coming from Foreign Language. It's my name … and it's Kyle's voice.
I'm caught in Comedy. Only Science Fiction stands between us. It's a big section, but not big enough.
“Paul?” Kyle says again, this time hesitant. His expression is more open to me than it's been since we broke up. I mean, since he dumped me.
“Hey, Kyle.”
There's nobody else in the store—just me and Kyle and Spiff at the counter, watching the monitor he devotes solely to Tarantino and Julie Andrews.
“I've been meaning to talk to you,” he says. He shifts from foot to foot. I look down at the frayed cuffs above his shoes. I remember pulling a thread from those very frays and then touching the ankle underneath, all a part of a Sunday-park daydream that surprised me by actually being real.
His sneakers are different, though. I notice that.
I don't know what I'm supposed to say. I don't really want to get into a conversation right now, especially since Noah is supposed to drop by when the pizza's ready. And at the same time, I'm dying to know: What could he possibly have to tell me?
“I'm sorry,” he says. So plain, so clear. I lean on the nearest rack, nearly knocking over a full collection of Abbott and Costello.
“Why?” I ask. Maybe I've misheard him. I try to think of a word that could sound like sorry, but there isn't a single one.
“I was wrong. I made a mistake. I hurt you. And I'm sorry.” Then, as an afterthought—a punctuation—”I just had to tell you that.”
How many times have I imagined this conversation? And yet, it's not at all like I pictured it would be. I thought I would be angry. I thought I would turn his sorry into a spiked thing to throw right back at his heart. I thought I would say, I'll bet you're sorry or Not as sorry as I am for ever getting involved with you.
I didn't think I'd feel such a lack of rage. I didn't think I'd want to tell him it was okay.
I look at The Breakfast Club in his hands and remember all the times we rented it, how we would take turns reciting the lines— sometimes I'd be the jock, sometimes he'd be the geek or the princess. I know he must remember this, too. I know he couldn't rent that movie without in some way thinking of me.
“You don't have to say anything,” he continues—I remember how silence makes him nervous. “You probably don't want to talk to me.”
“That's not true,” I find myself saying, even though the better (i.e., smaller) part of my brain is yelling, STOP IT! STOP IT!
I nod. The door to the video store opens and I jump back a few feet, practically into Romance. But it's just Seven and Eight from school, too lost in each other to care about anyone else. Seeing them makes me feel wistful.
“Are you waiting for someone?” Kyle asks, unerringly picking the one question I least want to come out of his mouth.
“Why are you doing this now?” I deflect. “A week ago, you wouldn't even look at me in the halls. What's going on?”
“Don't you get it?” For the first time, he looks a little fiery and irritated. “The reason I couldn't talk to you was because I felt so bad for not talking to you.”
“That doesn't make sense,” I shoot back. But of course it makes perfect sense.
Kyle goes on, his expression half desperate and half appeasing. “There was a time I thought I was right. And that's when I was the most wrong. But the past month or so—I tried to stop thinking about you, and I couldn't. I just couldn't. I don't expect you to understand, but I can't avoid it anymore. I can't avoid you anymore. I walk around the school and I can feel you hating me. And the worst part is, I can't blame you.”
Don't make him feel better, that smaller (better) part of my brain screams. Don't accept his apology so easi—
“I don't hate you,” I say. “I've never hated you. I was hurt.”
“I know. I'm really, really sorry.”
The door opens again, and there's Noah, hoisting the pizza box like the Dino Diner waitress in the opening credits of The Flintstones. Kyle catches my glance and takes a small step forward.
“You've got to go, don't you?”
I nod. And then, surprising even myself, I take The Breakfast Club out of his hand.
“I need a movie,” I say.
“Can we talk again? Like Monday, after school?”
This is bad news. I know it's bad news. But I've got to keep on following it. I've got to see how the bad news ends.
“I'll meet you outside the chem lab. Only for a little bit.”
“Thank you,” Kyle says to me. And I have to fight the urge to say thank you back.
It doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense.