Boy Meets Boy

Page 31


I explain this to Club Kid E, who doesn't seem too deterred. I think there just might be hope for her yet. I ask what her name is, and she tells me it's Amber.
“Anybody else have an idea?” I ask.
“How about death?” Kyle says.
“Excuse me?”
“Death. As the theme.”
We all pause for a second.
“That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard,” Trilby Pope sneers.
“I love it,” Infinite Darlene predictably disagrees.
“I'm not so sure…,” I say.
“No, think about it,” Amy pipes up. “It could be really neat. In most cultures, dancing is part of the death ceremony. It makes life seem even cooler than it did before.”
“You could decorate with images of death,” Emily says.
“And people could dress up as their favorite dead person.” Amy is pretty engaged right now.
“You could use tombstones as centerpieces,” I say, warming up to the idea.
“I mean, someone has to dance with the portrait of the dead dowager, anyway,” Kyle points out.
“You guys are sick” Club Kid B says.
“Shut up, Nelly,” Amber interjects. “This could be better than last year's debake-off finals!”
I shoot her a blank look.
“One of the finalists from Petaluma wet his pants onstage because of the pressure,” Amber explains. “It was fantastic.”
“You guys aren't serious, are you?” Trilby trills.
“You wouldn't know serious if it gave you a makeover,” Infinite Darlene shoots back.
“Well, at least I know how to apply my eye shadow.”
Infinite Darlene jumps out of her seat, yelling, “Do you want to take this outside, Trilby?”
“Kicking your butt isn't worth risking a run in my stockings, Daryl”
I step in before Infinite Darlene can lunge at her.
“Enough!” I shout. “We're trying to architect a dance here, so crouch your tigers some other time. Infinite Darlene, sit down. Trilby, if you can't say something nice, then get the hell out of the room. Okay?”
They both nod.
“Now, let's talk a little more about death….”
I'm starting to have a vision for this dance. For the rest of the period, we shoot out ideas and the architecture takes form. When the bell rings, most of us look satisfied. Club Kids A through D are a total loss, but Amber's sure to be a keeper. Trilby and Infinite Darlene have disagreed on every issue brought up, but their disagreement has at least given two points of view for the rest of us to choose between.
Amy and Emily stay a little late—they want to work some death poems into the DJ's mix. When they leave, it's only me and Kyle in the room. I feel a little awkward—the last time I saw him, I ran out of the building. I expect him to ask for an explanation. But instead he surprises me by saying, “You're really good at this, you know.”
“It was your idea,” I point out.
“I guess so.” He pauses and studies his sneakers.
“How are you doing?” I ask. “I mean, with your aunt and all.”
He looks back up at me. “Okay, I guess. My mom is really sad. I don't know what to say to her. Nothing is easy, you know?”
Some things are easy. But I realize he might not be experiencing them now.
“Thanks for asking,” he adds, and it's entirely genuine.
I ask him a little more—about home, about the funeral that morning. I don't touch him, and he doesn't seem to need to be touched.
The second bell rings. We're both late for seventh period. We pack up our bags and leave together. As we do, we talk about life being unfair and the idea of a death-themed dance. We don't talk about the kiss or anything after. And I find myself thinking how strange it is—once upon a time, when we were going out, all I wanted was for Kyle to open up to me and tell me what he felt about us. Now I am grateful to him for letting us talk without having A Talk.
As far as I know, nobody besides Noah knows about what happened with Kyle and me. So it's not at all awkward to walk with him through the halls—as long as we don't bring the issue up, and as long as Noah is nowhere to be found. Since seventh period has already started, we have the hallways pretty much to ourselves. I walk him to his classroom. Once we get there, he thanks me.
I thank him back. I don't tell him what for.
More Than, Equal To,
Less Than
I only see Noah once, at the end of school. He's about thirty feet away from me in the hallway. I can't decide whether to go up to him or leave him alone. By the time I choose to make a move, he's already gone.
This, it seems, is the new story of my life.
With Joni, it's even worse. She has our friend Laura tell me that she thinks I'm a jerk, and that if I'm going to be angry about her and Chuck, I might as well stay away.
“What is this, third grade?” I ask Laura.
She sighs. “To be honest, Paul—yes, it is. I didn't want to do this in the first place. I told her to talk to you herself. But she's in a mood. I can barely talk to her anymore. And if you think it's bad with you, triple that and you can begin to see how bad it is with Ted.”
“Is that supposed to cheer me up?”
“No, it's meant to clear you out.”
“But you don't really think I should give up, do you?”
Laura looks me right in the eye, but still it's not a direct look. I can see all of her thoughts canceling one another out.
“I don't know what to say,” she says, which I take to mean that she knows exactly what to say, but she's afraid if she says it, it'll get back to Joni and she'll be joining me on the blackout list.
It's not like Joni and I haven't fought before. But it's always been about stupid things—which soda goes best with pizza, or how early you have to get to a movie if you want to be sure to get tickets. Once we didn't talk for a week because she didn't think an outfit of mine matched, when I swore up and down that it did. (Under very specific circumstances, it is possible to wear white socks with dark pants.) That time and all the other times we both knew we were being silly, even as our pride got caught up in the argument. We got so into it that by the end we were both at fault, which made getting back together much easier.