Boy Meets Boy

Page 21


“Thank you,” he whispers.
I continue quietly. “If you want me to forgive you, I guess I have. If you want to know that I don't hate you, you know that now. Is that all?”
A slight shiver again.
“No,” he says.
“What, then?” I ask gently.
“I need your help, Paul. I have no right to ask you for it, but I can't think of anyone else to talk to.”
I am already involved. I've put myself in this position, and the truth is that I don't really mind.
“What is it, Kyle?”
“I'm so confused.”
“I still like girls.”
“And I also like guys.”
I touch his knee. “It doesn't sound like you're confused, then.”
“But I wanted to be one or the other. With you, I wanted just to like you. Then, after you, I wanted to just like the girls. But every time I'm with one, I think the other's possible.”
“So you're bisexual.”
Kyle's face flushes. “I hate that word,” he tells me, slumping back in his chair. “It makes it sound like I'm divided.”
“When really you're doubled?”
I smile. It's been a long time since I've heard a Right-O.
I know some people think liking both guys and girls is a cop-out. Some of Infinite Darlene's biggest rivals save their deepest scorn for the people they call “dabblers.” But I think they're totally full of garbage. I don't see why, if I'm wired to like guys, someone else can't be wired to like both girls and guys.
“We could call you an ambisexual. A duosexual. A—”
“Do I really have to find a word for it?” Kyle interrupts. “Can't it just be what it is?”
“Of course,” I say, even though in the bigger world I'm not so sure. The world loves stupid labels. I wish we got to choose our own.
We pause for a moment. I wonder if that's all—if he just needed to say the truth and have it heard. But then Kyle looks at me with unsure eyes and says, “You see, I don't know who I'm supposed to be.”
“Nobody does,” I assure him.
He nods. I see there is something else he wants to say. But he keeps it inside, and it fades somewhere behind his expression.
“Do you think we can be friends?” he asks.
It's so funny—if he had asked that during the break-up, that old “we'll be friends” fallback, I would have laughed out loud or torn out all his hair. But now, here, it actually works. It means exactly what it says.
“Yes,” I answer. Then he surprises me. He leans out of his chair and envelops me in a hug. This time he holds me with all his strength, even though I don't shiver. I don't know what to do at all.
I know he wants me to feel like comfort. And deep in my heart, I know I am afraid that he'll feel like comfort, too.
I tell joni everything.
Then she tells Chuck.
A few days pass between the events of these two sentences. But the effect is the same.
I find out from Infinite Darlene. This alone means trouble, since Infinite Darlene tries to put as many degrees of separation as possible between herself and Chuck.
“Oh, honey,” she says, “they were talking about it in the locker room.”
“Talking about what?” I ask.
And she tells me: They were talking about me and Kyle, and me and Noah.
Then it gets worse.
“I'm only telling you for your own good,” Infinite Darlene murmurs under her breath. “Rip is in on it.”
Rip is our resident oddsmaker. His parents own islands, so his allowance allows him to bet on just about anything: How many times will the principal's secretary use the word the in the morning announcements? How many kids will pass by classroom 303 between sixth and seventh periods? What color will Trilby Pope wear the most in the month of April? Rip is ready to make the odds and stand by them.
He loves betting on how long couples will last.
“What are my odds?” I ask.
Infinite Darlene pouts a little at me. “Darlin’, you don't want to know that, do you?” I m serious.
Infinite Darlene sighs. “It's six to one that you end up with Noah, five to one that you end up back with Kyle, and two to one that you botch both chances and end up alone in the next twenty days.”
“Which did you bet on?”
Infinite Darlene flutters her eyelashes at me. “A girl never tells,” she chirps. Then she spirits herself away.
I wonder what the odds are that Noah has heard the gossip. Two to one? Even?
I haven't noticed any change in his heart, any sudden suspicion or wariness. And I've been seeing him a lot the past week. We've been dating. On Wednesday we sneaked into the city after school, to go to a museum free night and look at all the people there. The art students stood like intellectual twigs in worn-through sweaters, while the too-beautiful Europeans dipped and glided around them, conversing in languages both floral and spicy. On Thursday we hung out with Tony. It felt like ages since I'd last seen him. Noah and Tony seemed to get along pretty okay, although Noah's presence did complicate the homework routine.
We've also been kissing like crazy. Hours pass and we don't notice. We have all the time in the world because it feels like, for once, the world is giving us the time we need.
Luckily, I haven't had to disappear from everyone else's lives in order to be a part of Noah's. We don't want to be that kind of couple (see: Joni and Chuck). I've also had time to check in with Kyle, for shorter amounts of time. It's hard to resist the pull of someone who needs you. We've kept all of our exchanges limited to conversation— but the fact that we're having conversations at all means something. Neither of us knows what.
I find myself relieved that both Noah and Kyle are going away for the weekend—Noah to hang with his old-town friends, Kyle to visit an ailing aunt.
Joni makes the mistake of approaching me on Friday afternoon, after I've talked to Infinite Darlene. Chuck is at her side. The fact that she doesn't realize I know she blabbed is more amazing than the fact that I didn't know in the first place.
“We're going to pick up Tony,” she says. “Wanna come?”
These are perhaps the only words in the world that could get me into a car with her at this point. She appeals to the part of me that yearns for instant time travel—a trip to the not-so-long-ago, when Tony, Joni, and I were a band of three.