Boy Meets Boy

Page 29


I go to our front closet and pull out the hideous orange polyurethane beast. I put it on and head back to my parents’ room.
“Satisfied?” I ask.
“Be back by midnight.”
I don't even have time to think about the words I'm going to say. I have to hope they'll be there when I need them.
Boy Loses Boy
I throw pebbles at Noah's window. Finally the light goes on. He opens the window and looks out. Then he starts throwing the pebbles back at me.
“Go away,” he whisper-shouts.
“I need to talk to you,” I whisper-shout back.
“But I don't need to talk to you”
He closes the window and puts out the light. I linger for a minute, then give up. It was stupid to come here, stupid to expect to be treated better than I rightfully deserve.
As I hit the street, I hear a door open. Noah comes out of the house in his bare feet, and I step back onto the curb. The neighborhood is lamplight quiet. I can hear Noah take in a breath, waiting for me to speak. I look at his feet on the gravel, then at his pajama bottoms and tattered RISD T-shirt.
“Why are you wearing that stupid vest?” he asks.
“My parents made me wear it,” I explain. I begin to pull it off.
“I don't remember saying you could take off your clothes,” Noah says dryly. I keep the vest on.
The tone feels almost familiar. Then I remember why I am here in the dead of night.
“I'm sorry,” I say, finally looking him in the eye. “I don't know what you heard or how you heard it, but I want you to know that it was something that just happened. He needed me in a really serious way, so I kissed him. Just once. Just for a moment. I wasn't thinking about you, or even about me. I was thinking about him.”
I pause, then continue. “I know that doesn't make it right. And I know I'm probably not your favorite person right now. But the bottom line is that I still like you and want to be with you. I don't want to have to wait for Thursday or next week or next year. I want to talk to you and be random with you and be ridiculous with you. I don't know what I want from you, and I don't know what you want from me. If anything. What I do know, though, is that I don't want you to hate me because of one spur-of-the-moment kiss.”
I stop here for his reaction. His face shows more hurt than anger. I don't know if he's going to simply walk away, or lash out at me.
“So you did kiss him?” he asks.
“This morning.” Ihis morning.’
“Okay,” he says. “What I want to know is this. All along, I assumed you and Tony were just friends. So does this mean it's more than that?”
I double-take.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“I mean, is this the first time you've kissed Tony?”
“Tony?” I want to laugh.
“Yeah, Tony.”
Now I'm smiling despite myself. “I didn't kiss Tony. Is that what you heard? Oh, God! I was in the park with him yesterday and gave him a hug because he was bummed out. That's all.”
I figure this will clear things up. But Noah looks more confused than ever.
“So who did you kiss this morning, then?” he asks.
“Uh … er…”
“Uh? Er?”
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
“Kyle?” I say.
Noah's eyes widen. He's totally awake now.
“Your ex-boyfriend Kyle?”
I nod.
Now it's Noah who's laughing.
“Man,” he says, “I really have great taste in guys. I think I'd rather have you kissing Tony. But Kyle—wow.”
“I can explain,” I interject, although I suppose I already have explained.
“Don't bother,” Noah says. “Really. You weren't going to tell me, were you?”
“But I did tell you,” I point out. I should at least have that in my favor.
Noah goes on. “When I was home over the weekend, I hung out with my three best girlfriends. I told them all about you. And you know what they said? They told me to watch out. Chloe, Angela, and Jen all said that I'm too easy on people. I think things are too good to be true, and it ends up that they are too good to be true. I liked you so much, Paul. You have no idea how hard that was for me. To come to this new town, to leave everything I love behind—and then suddenly to put all this hope and trust into a stranger. I did that with Pitt, and then—despite the fact that I swore I wouldn't do it again— I started to do it with you. Luckily, it didn't get that far. Luckily I'm finding this out now instead of two months from now.”
I see where this is going. I want to stop it.
“Please don't do this,” I say quietly.
He starts to back away. “I'm not doing it,” he says. “You already did.”
“It was just a kiss!”
Noah shakes his head. “It's never just a kiss. You know that. So just go home.”
I am starting to cry. I have no control over it. I try to keep it in, just until he gets back inside and stops looking at me. Now he has the anger and I feel the hurt—hurt that is all the more painful because it's been self-inflicted. All he wanted was for me to be careful. And I was careless. So careless.
“Goodnight,” I say as he ebbs away to his front porch.
“Goodnight,” he says back—out of habit, out of kindness, who knows?
I walk home in the middle of the street, all alone with my thoughts and my frustration. Perhaps craziest of all, I still feel a flicker of hope. I know there isn't anything I can say or do right now to change Noah's mind about me. But soon right now will be minutes ago and days ago and weeks ago. What I feel about Noah can't be extinguished with one shut-down conversation. The fact that I feel so awful is a perverse proof of his worth and meaning to me.
I got myself into this mess. I can get myself out.
Or so I think.
Dealing with the
Club Kids
My mother finds me the next morning as I'm deciding whether or not to get out of bed. I don't see why I get to stay home when I have a fever (something that will pass in time) and yet have to brave the lonesome hallways when there isn't a single person I'm looking forward to seeing (something that may or may not pass). I quickly try to formulate an excuse, but before I can even open my mouth, she says, “Don't even try it. And be sure to hang the safety vest back up in the closet before you go. Don't leave it on the floor like that.”