Boy Meets Boy

Page 28


The note says:
I can't believe you Kissed him.
Since I was a little kid, I've been doing this thing I call Going Elsewhere. It's almost like meditation, but instead of blanking myself out, I try to color myself in. I sit in the middle of my room, on the floor, and close my eyes. I put the tunes on the stereo that will take me to the right Elsewhere. I fill myself with images. And then I watch them unwind.
My parents and even my brother are pretty cool about letting me do this. They never ask me why I need to leave. They respect my closed door. If someone calls on the phone, they tell the caller I'm Elsewhere and that I'll be back soon.
When I get home after school, the house is empty. I write a note on the pad lying on the kitchen table—Elsewhere—and head to my room. I put on Erasure's “Always” and take off my shoes. I sit in the exact center of the room. When I close my eyes, I begin with red.
The colors come first. Red. Orange. Aquamarine. Flashes of solid color, like origami paper lit by television light. After going through colors, I picture patterns—stripes, slants, dots. Sometimes I pass through an image in a split second. Others I hold on to. I pause on the way to Elsewhere. And then I'm there.
I never have a plan. I never know what I'm going to see after the colors and patterns are done.
This time it's a duck.
It splashes into view and beckons me forward. I see an island— your usual desert island, with crystal-blue water, perfect beach sand, and a palm tree angled in an arched slant. I pull myself ashore and lie looking at the sky. I can feel Joni pounding at a door, but I don't let her in. When I go Elsewhere, I travel alone. Shells ring my shadow. I reach over and pick one up, expecting to hear the sea. But the shells are silent. Tony walks by and waves. He looks happy, and I'm glad. I hear volcanoes in the distance, but I know I'm safe. The duck waddles at my feet. I laugh at its movements. Then it plops down into the water and begins to glide. I follow it in, wanting a swim.
I begin to sink. I am not drowning—there is no struggle, no fear. It's the opposite of floating, a simple downward fall. I am pushing through the empty water, unaware of what lies at the bottom. I expect rocks, fish, wreckage. But instead I find Noah in his studio, slashing colors into a canvas. I try to see what he's painting, but I can't. Then it occurs to me that he's not painting a picture. Instead he's painting emotions, and every color he uses means hurt. I try to swim away, but I hang suspended. This isn't Elsewhere; this is Somewhere. I try to switch back to colors and patterns, but all of them now come from Noah's brush. I try to go back to the beach, back to the volcano. But even the music in my head is telling me there's no escape. And I know this. I am floating back to the surface now. Noah grows smaller, his room diminishes. But I know it's my ultimate destination. He's where I want to be.
I don't open my eyes. Not yet. I am back now; I am sitting in the absolute center of my room, my brother's footsteps new on the stairs.
Sometimes the space between knowing what to do and actually doing it is a very short walk. Other times it is an impossible expanse. As I sit with my eyes closed, I try to gauge the distance between me and the words that I will have to say. It seems far. Very far.
I'm not ready yet.
I put my hand in my pocket and feel the edges of Noah's note. I can't believe you kissed him. It would be so easy to obsess about how he found out. But that's only a speculative digression. The real problem is that it's the truth.
I open my eyes. I take out my homework and do it with even less enthusiasm than usual.
I decide to call Tony. His mother answers.
“May I please speak to Tony?” I say.
“He's not here,” his mother frostily answers.
“Where is he?” I ask.
She hangs up.
I call my friend Laura and am relieved to find she's not at her girlfriend's house. I ask her to call Tony and see if he's okay (I'm sure his mom will let a female caller through). She readily agrees to the assignment, and calls back fifteen minutes later to tell me he's feeling low, but the situation is survivable. His parents are keeping him under constant watch, afraid he might steal some kisses if they're not on guard. The chances of me getting to see him in the near future are about as likely as me becoming Heavyweight Champion of the World.
At dinner, my parents notice my gloom. They try to skirt around it at first, but curiosity gets the best of them, and by dessert they're plunging right in.
“What's going on?” my mother asks.
“Are you okay?” my father backs her up.
“What have you done now?” Jay chimes in.
I tell them about what happened with Tony.
“Perhaps it's time to send in the P-FLAG commandos,” Jay suggests. In our town, P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is as big a draw as the PTA.
My mother nods at my brother while my father shakes his head at Tony's parents.
I dash back up to my room before I start blabbing about Noah. Jay calls me on it anyway.
“Busy day?” he pokes his head in and asks.
“How'd you bet?” I ask, since I know he must've heard things from Rip.
“I didn't,” he says, and holds on for a second. “Just do me a favor and tip me off when you know which way it's going to go.”
“I'll do that,” I say.
“Hang in, Paul.” He closes the door gently.
I try to arm myself with distractions. I finish my homework. I read a book. I go downstairs and watch TV. But the image of Elsewhere—of Noah in his studio—hasn't gone away.
I can't believe you kissed him.
It isn't until eleven that I decide I can't take it any longer. I know what I have to do.
My parents are in their bedroom, watching a cop show on cable.
“I have to go out,” I tell them. “I know it's late and I know you probably won't let me, but I have to go and do something because if I don't, I will be up all night and by the time I get to talk to Noah, it will probably be too late.”
My parents look at each other and converse without speaking.
“You can go as long as you wear the reflective vest,” my mom says.
“We're not having you walk outside in the middle of the night without wearing the vest. End of discussion. You decide.”