Boy Meets Boy

Page 33


“What are you up to?” I ask, somewhat severely.
“Don't use that tone with me,” Infinite Darlene snaps. I've pushed her too far. “You're going to have to trust me on this one, okay?”
God, I wish I could trust her.
Seeing that I won't argue any further, her face brightens. “I heard what you said to Joni today. Thank you for trying.”
“I wasn't trying for you. I was trying for me.”
“I know. But we're all in this together. Against Chuck.”
Now it's my turn to snap. “Don't you see? We're not going to win that fight. We can't be against Chuck. Being against Chuck is like being against Joni right now.”
“That's how she sees it. But that doesn't mean that's how it is.”
“How she sees it is exactly how it is. She's the one calling the shots.”
“You're upset.”
“Duhl Of course I'm upset.”
“So you're taking it out on me.”
“I am NOT TAKING IT OUT ON YOU. Sometimes it's actually not about you.”
“Well, to me it is.”
“Aaaaaagggggghl” I don't want to fight with Infinite Darlene. She knows I don't want to fight with her. So I just throw my hands up in the air, scream my frustration, then move on. I can hear her laughing—supportively laughing—as I leave.
I want to laugh, too.
It hurts me that I can't.
To Bring You My Love
I'm walking through town on my way home from school, the sun on its way to down, the streets decorated with mailbox shadows and just-fallen leaves. I have nowhere to go (but home, eventually) and no one to see. My backpack is heavy, my thoughts even heavier. So I focus on the shops and the sky, expose my face to the wind.
I stop at the tune store, where I'm greeted by Javier and Jules. Half the store is Javier's, half is Jules's—they have entirely different musical tastes, so you have to know going in whether the tune you're looking for is more like Javier or Jules. They have been together for more than twenty years, and today as they offer me cider and argue the blues, I want to ask them how they've done it. To be together with someone for twenty years seems like an eternity to me. I can't seem to manage twenty days. Twenty weeks would be a stretch. How can they stand there behind the counter, spinning songs for each other day in and day out? How can they find things to say—how can they avoid saying things they'll always regret? How do you stay together? I want to ask them, the same way I want to ask my happy parents, the same way I want to go up to old people and ask them, What is it like to live so long?
Ella Fitzgerald croons through the speakers, then PJ Harvey lets out a forlorn cry. I flip through Javier's sale bin and see he's sneaked some of Jules's tunes in there, too. Javier jokingly tells me to be careful what I wish for. Jules warns me against having too many PJ Harvey dreams.
It's colder outside when I leave, or maybe that's only because I felt so warm inside. I stop in the coffee shop to get my mother some grounds. I look to the funky puff-couches in the corner and see Cody (my first elementary school boyfriend) hanging with his new boyfriend, whose name is either Lou or Reed. They have sunk into the cushions, sharing a single cup of latte, sip by sip. Happiness rises from them like steam. Cody sees me and waves me over. I smile and gesture that I can't. I pretend I'm running out of time.
Their companionship makes me think of Noah. It makes me think about how I'd never felt that close to someone before, in that exact way.
I slip into the five-and-dime, where things still cost a nickel or ten cents. I pick up some chocolate clusters for my brother and a strand of strawberry shoestring licorice for Tony. The root beer barrels are Joni's favorite. I have to stop myself from buying those.
Next stop: the thirdhand duds store down the block. I'm searching for combat boots when I see a woman who looks almost identical to Noah. I don't want combat boots for combat; I want them because I think they'll make me feel grounded. The woman is looking at a set of slightly chipped flower pots, asking if they'll fit geraniums. Her hair is longer than Noah's, well-mannered. But the eyes are almost the same.
Suddenly Claudia comes up to her side. That's when I figure it out—I am seeing Noah's mom for the first time.
“Why don't you go look for jeans?” she suggests.
I am in the middle of the aisle. It's too late for me to move. Claudia looks right at me. If I turn around and flee, it would be the ultimate cowardice. So instead I say hi.
She walks right past me.
I figure that's her right. I find a pair of combat boots, majorly scuffed, on the bottom shelf. I fit them on and lean over to tie the laces. I hear her come back towards me. This time, she stops. With one eye on her mom, she keeps her voice low.
“If I were bigger,” she says, “I swear I'd beat the crap out of you.”
Then she leaves. I don't have a chance to say a word. If I did, the word would be sorry.
I head out without the boots—they don't fit right. Or maybe it's my mood that doesn't fit. I'm pushing the outskirts of downtown now, moving past the shops to the insurance salesfolk and the dentists’ offices. I put on my headphones but can't figure whether I want a soundtrack that will reinforce my mood or combat it. I switch on the radio and decide to leave it to fate. As a result, I get five minutes of car ads.
Warnock Chevrolet's Never-ending November Sale… It would be
a ten-minute walk to Noah's house 3.5 percent APR financing…
but what else could I tell him besides “sorry”? I don't have any new
excuses Act now! This offer is good for a limited time only…. How
could I possibly explain that he's the one my heart was made for? That's how it feels—he's the one my heart was made for.
I walk. I am dizzied by all the words I can't say to him. I sprint. I scream at myself for all that has happened. The streetlights blink on in the last remnants of sunlight. I run. I push myself harder. Harder. I want my body to be as exhausted as my heart. I want to push it farther. I want to break through. The wind pulls against me. The darkness erases all the shadows. I feel pain in my legs, a rip in my lungs. I stumble over the curb. I slow down. I gasp.
I am home.
A Very Late Night
Conversation with Ted
“Gay Boy?”