Boy Meets Boy

Page 25


“Do you think I'm an agent of the devil?” I ask Lyssa Ling after she briefs me on Rip's odds and hands me my Dowager's Dance committee list.
“I would hope that an agent of the devil would be more attractive than you,” Lyssa zings back.
Before I take offense, I look at the committee list … and gulp.
“Um, Lyssa? You've put both Trilby Pope and Infinite Darlene on my committee?”
“So? It's already posted. A done deal.”
“Clearly, you don't realize the implications of this. They both HATE EACH OTHER’S GUTS. They can't be on my committee together.”
“They both wanted to architect, and I'm not going to be the one to play favorites. They'll just have to deal. And so will you.”
With that, she pulls her clipboard back to her chest and walks away.
I've gotten to school early to find Noah and see how his weekend went. But before I can find Noah, Kyle finds me.
“We have to talk,” he says urgently.
“How about after school?” I ask.
“No. Right now.”
As Kyle drags me into the janitor's closet, I can see the whole school watching through the eyes of the few people in the hall. I can only imagine what they're thinking, and what they'll say.
The janitor's closet has the usual brooms, mops, and buckets. At its center, though, is a state-of-the-art computer. Our janitorial staff is one of the richest in the country because of their day-trading skills. They could have retired long ago, but they all have a compulsion to clean schools.
“What is it?” I ask Kyle, trying to ignore the stock ticker scrolling across the computer screen.
Some of the confusion has lifted from his face, replaced by this decisive urgency. He doesn't look sad or happy. He looks as emotionless as a fact.
“My aunt died this weekend,” he says, “and I decided that we should be together.”
Before I can say anything, he continues.
“She wasn't very old, only a few years older than my mom. She always lived far away, so I didn't really know her until she moved out here for treatment. Her husband was with her; they got married two days after she got her diagnosis. He vowed he would never leave her side, and he didn't. I don't know how to describe it. She could be retching or shaking or not really there, and he would kneel right beside her, look her right in the eye, and say, ‘I'm here.’ And the way he said it—I'm here—was an I love you’ and a ‘Hang in there’ and an ‘I'll do anything, absolutely anything’—all these intense feelings in this one calm phrase. If he had to leave the room, he made sure she had this teddy bear propped up next to her—they called him Quincy—to take his place. Toward the end, there were these few moments when she got all anxious a few minutes after he left the room, and he would come right back in, as if he knew exactly how she felt. I came to the room early on Saturday and I saw him curled up in the hospital bed, singing Beatles songs to her and looking her in the eye. I couldn't go inside. I just stood in the doorway crying, because it was so sad and it was so beautiful.
“That night I stayed awake thinking about things. I thought about all the stupid things I've done, and you were at the top of the list. You gave me something, Paul. And I don't think I realized it until I saw Tom with my aunt Maura. Then I knew. I knew what I wanted.”
He sees my expression and laughs, which makes it worse, because I like him more for it. “Don't worry,” he says. “I'm not asking you to marry me, or to curl up with me in a hospital bed. I don't know what I'm asking you. All I know is this: I want something real. I know I'm young, and I know ‘real’ doesn't mean forever, like it did for Tom and Aunt Maura. But I want to feel like life matters. I had something real with you, but then the realness scared me. I decided to go for other things instead.”
“Like Mary Anne McAllister?”
“Look, I freaked out on you. And now I'm freaking out about it. I'm a mess. Aunt Maura died last night, as we were driving back. I have to go to the funeral tomorrow morning. It's going to be the worst thing. And I… I don't know. I wanted to talk to you before that.”
What can I say to him? I think about him standing in that hospital doorway—it was so sad and it was so beautiful. Because, yes, I see it: Right now, tears in his eyes, not yet released, Kyle is so sad and so beautiful.
He needs me.
I know I must step to him. He won't step to me. I open my arms and he folds himself inside. I hold him as he shivers. I stroke his hair. I whisper caring words. Then he pulls his face back, tears now released, and I kiss him. Just once, so I can take some of the tears away. Just once, because I want him to know something. I'm here.
We hold each other again, and I can feel the moment drain from us. We are transitioning to the moment when we have to open the door and head to class. What we have right now is real, but it is an isolated reality. It is the reality of a moment, of a separate calm. When we open the door, life will resume. We will be confused once more.
I know Kyle will not ask anything else of me. I know I have taken some of his freak-out and made it my own.
Even in the janitor's closet, the bell for first period rings. Kyle wipes his face with his shirtfront—not the most delicate of gestures—and picks up his book bag.
“Thanks,” he says.
“No problem,” I say, and immediately regret my choice of words.
Once in the halls, we go our separate ways. I don't have time now to find Noah. Part of me is relieved.
I expect to see him after first period, by which time I've managed to turn the moment with Kyle into a dreamlike surreality, to the point that I can pretend it didn't really happen. I have a note in my hand for Noah, but he never shows up to pick it up.
Bad timing, I figure. After second period, I head straight to the classroom he's coming from. But he's not waiting for me there, either. And while an hour and a half ago I was somewhat happy to avoid him, now I'm somewhat worried that he's avoiding me.
At the next break, I head to the fourth-period class he's going to instead of the third-period class he's coming from. Sure enough, our paths cross. He seems happy to see me, but I'm not sure he is happy to see me. He takes my note and says we should “touch base” at lunch.
He doesn't have a note for me in return.