Boy Meets Boy

Page 32


This time, though, it's different. This time I know she's being silly, and I know she doesn't think she's being silly at all. I blame her for blaming me. And that kind of game is hard to kick.
I decide to get all contradictory on her. I know I'm supposed to avoid her, so I search her out. I don't want Chuck to be around, so I wait until she has gym class. When there's a few minutes before the bell, I sneak into the girls’ locker room.
“What the hell are you doing here?l?”
This is Joni's reaction. The rest of the girls are nonchalant. They all know I'm g*y, and that their boobs mean as much as their elbows to me.
Joni's already dressed, so I know the problem is me.
“I want to talk to you,” I say.
“Didn't Laura tell you to stay away?” Joni asks. She doesn't see anything weird about this sentence.
“I'd rather hear it from you.”
“Stay away.”
The other girls are giving us space. One comes over to back Joni up, but she waves her away.
I can recognize her anger so well. There's the way her eyes shoot fire, and the perfect D her arm forms when her fist parks against her hip.
You don't want to do this, I want to say. Which is really me saying, I don't want you to do this.
I've witnessed this scene before. I've heard about it a thousand times. And now here we are, and there is no question where her tone is taking us.
“Are we breaking up?” I ask quietly. Because that's what it feels like. She's dumping me as a friend.
“We were never going out,” she replies sarcastically. There's a little hurt in her voice, a little bitterness. That's what I latch on to. That's what I'll take with me.
A locker door slams. Then another. Bags are slung onto shoulders. Towels are folded away. The girls around us begin to exit. I try to hold on to Joni's glance for as long as I can, hoping there will be another word to take all the other sentences back. She looks at me for a beat… and then she turns away. She starts putting things in her locker. She closes it. She puts on the lock (I know the combination). She is pretending I am no longer here. I had expected her to rage. I had expected her to be snide. Buf I hadn't expected her to make me invisible. She knows that's the thing that hurts me the most. So from her, it destroys me. I don't say another word. I want to cry in both senses of the word—I want tears, and I want to shout out. I push my way out of the locker room, out to a silent corridor between the gym and the nurse's office. I find a fire extinguisher and stare at the glass that covers it. I stare into my own washed-out face, into my own reflection. I want to break it, but I don't dare.
We were never going out. I wonder if things would have been different if I could've gone out with her, if we had been a couple at some point in our lives. We always said we had the best deal of all—friendship without sexual tension. We thought it was so uncomplicated.
“I hate the phrase ‘more than friends,’ “ Joni told me one night not long ago. We were bundled on her couch, flipping to strange channels. “It's such nonsense. When I'm going out with someone, we're not ‘more than friends’—most of the time, we're not even friends. ‘More than friends’ makes no sense. Look at us. There's nothing more than us.”
I snuggled in close to her and vowed to never use the phrase again. But now it comes back to me, and I wonder if she's used it with Chuck, told him that they're more than friends, more than Joni and me. The only thing I can't give Joni is sex. The only thing Chuck can give her is sex, from what I can tell. I never thought it would be a contest between the two. And I never, ever thought that it would be a contest I would lose.
I miss Joni. I miss Noah. I don't really miss Kyle, but he's the one who finds me. Not right then, not in the halls. But later, after seventh period.
“I heard what happened,” he says.
“How did you hear?” I ask.
He looks at me like I'm a freak. “You had a scene in the girls’ locker room. You didn't think word would travel from there? You might as well have broken up over the PA system.”
“Well, I wasn't planning on us breaking up. I was planning on us being okay.”
Kyle spins a little on that one. It's like he knows he should be consoling but is unfamiliar with the language of consolation. I appreciate the mental attempt on his part, and at the same time I am relieved that he doesn't take it any further. I don't know how I'd take kindness right now. Because of Joni, I feel deserving. Because of Noah, I don't feel deserving at all.
There's something else Kyle wants to say, I can tell. But he holds that back, too.
“I was thinking we could go to the cemetery,” he tells me. “All of us. For the dance. To get ideas.”
“Um … tomorrow?”
I'm in no mood to argue. And I figure if our dance is going to have a death theme, there are few better places to go for inspiration than a cemetery.
Kyle goes to spread the word of our deliberately morbid field trip. I try to focus on class for the rest of the day, which is a new experience for me. In history, I try to rearrange the words on the board into a poem.
no treaty but trenches
all quiet
years to years
home in no man's land
This helps pass the time, but it doesn't do my spirits much good.
After school, I turn a corner and find Infinite Darlene talking to Noah. I can't even hide my surprise—I nearly drop my books as I pull back for a hidden view. Neither of them sees me. They talk for no more than a minute. Infinite Darlene puts her hand on Noah's shoulder and smiles. He smiles back, looking a little confused. His hair is messier than usual, his shirt half tucked. I wish for the thousandth time that I could take back all the emptiness I've given him.
As soon as he's out of the picture, I leap toward Infinite Darlene.
“Have you been spying, honey?” she asks. “You know, good girls don't spy.”
“What was that about?”
“What was what about?”
“Why were you talking to Noah?”
“Darlin’, it's a free country.”
Now, “it's a free country” has to be the lamest reason ever invented. It's something people say when they have no other good excuse for what they've done. Hearing it come from Infinite Darlene doesn't inspire confidence.