Boy Meets Boy

Page 2


Now I can't dance. It's hard to groove when you've got things on your mind. Sometimes you can use the dancing to fight them off.
But I don't want to fight this off.
I want to keep it.
“So do you think he's on the bride's side or the groom's side?” Joni asks after the gig.
“I think people can sit wherever they want nowadays,” I reply.
Zeke is packing up his gear. We're leaning against the front of his VW bus, squinting so we can turn the streetlamps into stars.
“I think he likes you,” Joni says.
“Joni,” I protest, “you thought Wes Travers liked me—and all he wanted to do was copy my homework.”
“This is different. He was in Art and Architecture the whole time Zeke was playing. Then you caught his eye and he ambled over. It wasn't Self-Help he was after.”
I look at my watch. “It's almost pumpkin time. Where's Tony?”
We find him a little ways over, lying in the middle of the street, on an island that's been adopted by the local Kiwanis Club.
His eyes are closed. He is listening to the music of the traffic going by.
I climb over the divider and tell him study group's almost over.
“I know,” he says to the sky. Then, as he's getting up, he adds, “I like it here.”
I want to ask him, Where is here? Is it this island, this town, this world? More than anything in this strange life, I want Tony to be happy. We found out a long time ago that we weren't meant to fall in love with each other. But a part of me still fell in hope with him. I want a fair world. And in a fair world, Tony would shine.
I could tell him this, but he wouldn't accept it. He would leave it on the island instead of folding it up and keeping it with him, just to know it was there.
We all need a place. I have mine—this topsy-turvy collection of friends, tunes, afterschool activities, and dreams. I want him to have a place, too. When he says “I like it here,” I don't want there to be a sad undertone. I want to be able to say. So stay.
But I remain quiet, because now it's a quiet night, and Tony is already walking back to the parking lot.
“What's a Kiwanis?” he yells over his shoulder.
I tell him it sounds like a bird. A bird from somewhere far, far away.
“Hey Gay Boy. Hey Tony. Hey folkie chick.”
I don't even need to look up from the pavement. “Hello, Ted,” I say.
He's walked up just as we're about to drive out. I can hear Tony's parents miles away, finishing up their evening prayers. They will expect us soon. Ted's car is blocking us in. Not out of spite. Out of pure obliviousness. He is a master of obliviousness.
“You're in our way,” Joni points out from the driver's seat. Her irritation is quarter-hearted, at best.
“You look nice tonight,” he replies.
Ted and Joni have broken up twelve times in the past few years. Which means they've gotten back together eleven times. I always feel we're teetering on the precipice of Reunion Number Twelve.
Ted is smart and good-looking, but he doesn't use it to good effect, like a rich person who never gives to charity. His world rarely expands farther than the nearest mirror. Even in tenth grade, he likes to think of himself as the king of our school. He hasn't stopped to notice it's a democracy.
The problem with Ted is that he's not a total loss. Sometimes, from the murk of his self-notice, he will make a crystal-clear comment that's so insightful you wish you'd made it yourself. A little of that can go a long way. Especially with Joni.
“Really,” she says now, her voice easier, “we've gotta go.”
“You've run out of chapter and verse for your study group? ‘O Lord, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of doubt, at least let me wear a Walkman….’“
“The Lord is my DJ,” Tony says solemnly. “I shall not want.”
“One day, Tony—I swear we'll free you.” Ted bangs the hood of the car to emphasize the point, and Tony gives him a salute. Ted moves his car, and we're off again.
Joni's clock says it's 12:48, but we're okay, since it's been an hour fast since Daylight Saving Time ended. We drive into the blue-black, the radio mellow now, the hour slowly turning from nighttime to sleep.
Noah is a hazy memory in my mind. I am losing track of the way he ran my nerves; the giddiness is now diffusing in the languid air, becoming a mysterious blur of good feeling.
“How come I've never seen him before?” I ask.
“Maybe you were just waiting for the right time to notice,” Tony says.
Maybe he's right.
Paul is Gay
I've always known I was g*y, but it wasn't confirmed until I was in kindergarten.
It was my teacher who said so. It was right there on my kindergarten report card: PAUL IS DEFINITELY GAY AND HAS VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF.
I saw it on her desk one day before naptime. And I have to admit: I might not have realized I was different if Mrs. Benchly hadn't pointed it out. I mean, I was five years old. I just assumed boys were attracted to other boys. Why else would they spend all of their time together, playing on teams and making fun of the girls? I assumed it was because we all liked each other. I was still unclear how girls fit into the picture, but I thought I knew the boy thing A-OK.
Imagine my surprise to find out that I wasn't entirely right. Imagine my surprise when I went through all the other reports and found out that not one of the other boys had been labeled DEFINITELY GAY. (In all fairness, none of the others had a VERY GOOD SENSE OF SELF, either.) Mrs. Benchly caught me at her desk and looked quite alarmed. Since I was more than a little confused, I asked her for some clarification.
“Am I definitely g*y?” I asked.
Mrs. Benchly looked me over and nodded.
“What's g*y?” I asked.
“It's when a boy likes other boys,” she explained.
I pointed over to the painting corner, where Greg Easton was wrestling on the ground with Ted Halpern.
“Is Greg g*y?” I asked.
“No,” Mrs. Benchly answered. “At least, not yet.”
Interesting. I found it all very interesting.
Mrs. Benchly explained a little more to me—the whole boys-liking-girls thing. I can't say I understood. Mrs. Benchly asked me if I'd noticed that marriages were mostly made up of men and women. I had never really thought of marriages as things that involved liking. I had just assumed this man-woman arrangement was yet another adult quirk, like flossing. Now Mrs. Benchly was telling me something much bigger. Some sort of silly global conspiracy.