Boy Meets Boy

Page 36


Kyle got the key to her memory book from the keeper and has been jotting excerpts into his biology notebook. I lean over to see, but he quickly closes the cover and shuffles the notebook away in his bag. I look around at the candles he's lit. They, too, are all blue.
“I wish we could have the dance in here,” Kyle says, nodding to a portrait of the dowager that hangs over her tomb. It is nearly identical to the portrait that is partnered at the dance. “I think she would have liked that.”
Next to the portrait is a piece of sketch paper. Kyle must have been trying to duplicate it. I walk forward for a closer look.
“I'm sorry again about interrupting,” Kyle says from somewhere behind me.
“Don't worry about it,” I reply, my eyes not leaving the drawing. He's changed the perspective—it's now a portrait looking slightly down. The candlelight makes her expression waver, her lines blur. The thing that strikes me the most is the portrait's silence.
I feel a hand on my back. When I don't move, Kyle turns me gently around. Then he leans in and kisses me. Softly, at first. Then embracing.
My instinct kicks in, and it isn't the instinct I'm necessarily expecting. After the surprise wears off, I quietly step away. I let go of the kiss, and he lets go of my body.
“What?” he asks soothingly. “It's okay.”
“No,” I whisper back. “It's not.”
“But it is.” He takes my hand in his. I used to love it when he did that, just casually holding my hand as we had a conversation. I don't pull it away now. “I know I messed up last time,” he says, “but that won't happen again. I know you're scared. I'm scared, too. But this is what I want. This is how it should be. I love you.”
“Oh nol” I say. Out loud. I don't mean to. It just comes out.
Kyle laughs, but I can see his scaredness grow.
I squeeze his hand lightly. “Seriously, though. I just—” I can't find the right words.
“You just what?”
“I just don't want to. Not like that. I love you, too, but as a friend. A good friend.”
He lets go of my hand. “Don't say that,” he insists.
“What? I mean it, Kyle. You know I'm not just saying ‘let's be friends.’“
“But you are, Paul. You are.”
There's shock in his eyes now. I actually have to reach out for him because he's about to back into a candle and set his shirt on fire.
“Thanks,” he says. His voice has lost all certainty. “But why did you kiss me? I thought that meant something.”
I can't tell him it meant nothing. But I can't tell him it meant what he wanted it to.
“Do you regret it?” he asks, after I haven't responded.
“No,” I say, even though I do.
“But you don't want to do it again?”
“I don't think we should.”
“And you know what you want.”
I nod.
“You always know what you want, don't you?”
“That's not true,” I say, thinking about the last two weeks. “And that's not fair.”
“No,” Kyle agrees. “It's not fair at all.” He is back by his book bag now, gathering his things. “I thought this would work. I thought it would be a perfect way to start again. But I forgot about you. I forgot how easy it is for you.”
“Yes,” Kyle says, punctuating the phrase by throwing down his things. “Easy. Paul, you don't know how lucky you are.”
“How am I lucky?”
“Because you know who you are. Most of the time, Paul, I have no idea what I want. And then when I do, something like this happens. You make me feel so low, when all I want is to be with you.”
I could point out that he used to make me feel the same way, but I've already forgiven him for that. I could point out that it isn't always easy knowing who you are and what you want, because then you have no excuse for not trying to get it. I could point out that right now—even now—I am still thinking about the few words I just exchanged with Noah. I could point out any number of things. But I am entirely disarmed, because now Kyle is shivering in front of me, holding in his tears as he picks up his bag. “I'm sorry,” I say, but I know this isn't enough. There isn't a single phrase for all the things I need to say—there isn't a single sentence that will explain how I want to hug Kyle into security but don't want to kiss him. He is walking around the crypt now, not looking at me, not saying another word. He blows out the candles one by one. I stand where I am and say his name. The last candle is on top of the dowager's tomb. Kyle leans over and extinguishes it. We are left in a darkness of blues. I say his name again. But the only response comes from the sound of his leaving.
I ask Amber to call Tony's house for me. When he answers, she passes the phone my way and I ask if I can come over. He says there's about an hour before his mother will be back from her prayer circle.
Emily gives me a ride. From her respectful silence, I can tell that she's pieced together Kyle's departure, my agitation, my own departure, and my need for respectful silence. She's probably figured out a close variation of the real story.
Tony's front door is unlocked. I head right to his room. After one look at my face, he asks me what happened, and I tell him.
As I talk, clocks chime throughout the house. A floorboard creaks under ghost steps. Alert, we listen for the sound of the garage door opening or a key turning in the back door.
I tell Tony about Noah. I tell Tony about Kyle and all the things he said. I show him my confusion, my hurt, my anger—I don't hold anything back. As usual, Tony reserves his words until the end, prompting me with nods and listening.
I expect him to tell me that Kyle is off base, that he'd been speaking out of confusion, hurt, and (yes) anger, not truth. But instead Tony says, “Kyle's right, you know.”
“What?” I heard him the first time, but I want to give him the option to change his mind.
“I said, Kyle's right. I know exactly where he's coming from.”
I'm so taken aback by what Tony's saying that I look away from him. I look at all the chaste decorations in his room, all the childhood relics—baseball cards, sports car ads—that he hasn't been able to replace with the telltale signs of his present life. Everything that's visible in this room is exactly the same as when I first saw it. Only the hidden parts have changed.