Boy Meets Boy

Page 38


The garage door is closing now.
“Are you sure?” I ask. I don't know what kind of trouble this will bring. All I know is that whatever he wants me to do, I'll do it.
“I'm sure.”
The door to the basement. Tony's mother calling his name.
“I'm in here with Paull” he yells.
Silence. Keys on the front counter. A pause. Footsteps on the stairs.
All those years of us pretending. All the “bible study groups” and midnight curfews. All those times we had to wash the scent of a basement rave out of Tony's clothes, or let Tony onto our computers to go places his parents wouldn't let him go. All those moments of panic when we thought we wouldn't make it back on time, when we thought that Tony would come home and the door would be locked for good. All those lies. All those fears. And now Tony's mother coming into the room—not even knocking—and seeing the two of us sitting on his floor, him cross-legged and leaning on the side of his bed, me kneeling by the bookcase, not even pretending to be looking for a book.
“Oh,” she says—the kind of word that falls like a stone.
“We're going to do some homework,” Tony says.
She looks straight at him. “I'm not sure that's a good idea.”
All those silences. All those burning thoughts kept hidden. And now Tony is letting them out, carefully. Now Tony is standing his ground.
“Why?” Tony asks—the kind of word that is thrown like a stone.
“Why?” Tony's mom repeats—an off-guard echo, an uncertain response.
“Paul is my best friend, and we've been doing homework together for a long time. He is my friend—nothing more, no different from Joni or Laura or any other girl. I am being totally honest with you, and I want you to be totally honest with me. Why could you possibly think it's a bad idea for Paul and me to do our homework together?”
I see it in her eyes. I see exactly what Tony was talking about. That strange, twisted, torn love. That conflict between what your heart knows is right and what your mind is told is right.
He's called her on it. And she doesn't know how to respond.
“I don't want to talk about this right now,” she says. Her body language is pretending I'm not in the room.
“We don't have to talk about it. But Paul's going to stay until he has to go home for dinner.”
“Tony, I'm not sure about that.”
“We'll leave the door open. We can even go into the kitchen if you want us to. There are some girls at school whose parents have those rules when boys come over, even if they're just friends, so I guess that would make sense for me, too.”
If I told this to my parents, there'd be an element of challenge in it, or sarcasm. But Tony's speaking is plain and simple. He is not crossing the line into snarkiness. He is making his point, but being perfectly respectful in tone.
I wish I could know what thoughts are going through his mom's mind right now. Is she trying to dismiss this away? Oh, it's just a phase or It must be that evil Paul's influence—he's the one to blame. Is she devastated that Tony is beyond “saving”? Is she cursing fate— or even God—for putting her in this situation? Is she embracing it as a challenge? I can see her thinking, but I don't know the thoughts. I am sitting no more than five feet away from her, but she's in a different world.
She looks at the walls, inhales and exhales.
“Leave the door open,” she says. “I'll be in the kitchen.”
Tony is speechless. He merely nods. His mom doesn't nod in return. She backs away, out of the door, down the steps. Tony looks at me. I burst out smiling. I clap without making a sound. He smiles, too. Then his smile falls and all of a sudden he is sobbing. He is shuddering and shaking and gasping. He has kept all this white noise inside him, and now some of it is coming out. His face is newborn raw, his arms wrap around his body. I move over to him and hug him tight. I tell him that he's brave. I tell him that he's done it—he's taken not the first step (that happened a long time ago) but the next step. His cry carries through the house. I rock him a little and look up to see his mother in the doorway again. This time I can read her perfectly. She wants to be where I am, holding him. But I know she will not say the things I am willing to say. Maybe she knows this, too. Maybe this will change, too. She looks at my face and gives me a nod. Or maybe she is finally returning Tony's nod. Then she retreats again.
“I'm sorry,” Tony says, sniffling back into composure.
“There's nothing to be sorry about,” I tell him.
“I know.”
I find my greatest strength in wanting to be strong. I find my greatest bravery in deciding to be brave. I don't know if I've ever realized this before, and I don't know if Tony's ever realized it before, but I think we both realize it now. If there's no feeling of fear, then there's no need for courage. I think Tony has been living with his fear for all his life. I think now he's converting it to courage.
Do I tell him this right now? I would, only he changes the subject. And I let him, because it's his subject to change.
“What are you going to do about Noah?” he asks.
“Why don't you ask me what I'm going to do about Kyle?” I'm curious.
“Because there's nothing you can do about Kyle right now. But you need to do something about Noah.”
“I know, I know,” I say. “The only problem being that (a) he thinks I'm getting back with my ex-boyfriend, (b) he thinks I'll only hurt him, because (c) I've already hurt him and (d) someone else has already hurt him, which means that my hurting him hurt even more. So (e) he doesn't trust me, and in all fairness, I (f) haven't given him much reason to trust me. Still, (g) every time I see him, I (h) want everything to be right again and (i) want to kiss him madly. This means that (j) my feelings aren't going away anytime soon, but (k) his feelings don't look likely to budge, either. So either (1) I'm out of luck, (m) I'm out of hope, or (n) there's a way to make it up to him that I'm not thinking of. I could (o) beg, (p) plead, (q) grovel, or (r) give up, but in order to do that, I would have to sacrifice my (s) pride, (t) reputation, and (u) self-respect, even though (v) I have very little of them left and (w) it probably wouldn't work anyway. As a result, I am (x) lost, (y) clue-free, and (z) wondering if you have any idea whatsoever what I should do.”