Boy Meets Boy

Page 39


“Show him,” Tony tells me.
“Show him?”
“Show him how you feel.”
“But I've told him. That night. I made it clear to him how I felt. My words were out there. He didn't want them.”
“Don't tell him, Paul. Show him.”
“And how do I do that?”
Tony shakes his head. “I'm not going to tell you. But I have a feeling that if you think hard about it, you'll figure out how to do it. If you want to be loved, be lovable. It's a good place to start.”
I think about what's just happened. I think about bravery. The risk of making a fool of myself in front of Noah is nothing compared to what Tony's just done. Nothing.
The Snoopy on Tony's clock is doing a disco-Travolta pose. It's time for me to go home for dinner.
“Do you want me to stay?” I ask.
Tony shakes his head. “I'll be okay,” he tries to assure me.
“But your father … ?”
“I'll deal with it.”
“You don't have to deal with it by yourself.”
“I know. But it would be better if you weren't here. My dad's actually more of a pushover than my mom, as long as things are a little out of sight.” He knows what I'm about to say. “I know that's not right, Paul, but that's the way things are. And right now, I'm going to have to work with the way things are.”
I nod. “Call me,” I say.
“I will,” Tony replies. He sounds so sure of it, I believe him.
Three hours later, he calls. My mom answers the phone.
“Tony!” she says, all happiness. “It's so good to hear your voice! I've been stocking up on macadamia nuts, so you'd better come over soon. I can even pick you up or drive you home, just like old times. You're always welcome here.”
(Man, I love her.)
“In the next election, I'm voting for your mom to be the next God,” Tony says when I pick up the phone.
“How did it go?”
“Well…” Tony's voice sounds a little glum. “I'm afraid you're not going to see the inside of my bedroom for a while.” lony—
“But you will be able to see a lot of my kitchen. Just be sure to keep your hands to yourself, okay?”
This is what a small victory feels like: It feels like a little surprise and a lot of relief. It makes the past feel lighter and the future seem even lighter than that, if only for a moment. It feels like Tightness winning. It feels like possibility.
I was the first openly g*y president of my third-grade class. I have seen men holding hands walking down the street in a big city and I have read about women being married in a state that's not so far away. I have found a boy I just might love, and I have not run away. I believe that I can be anyone I might want to be. All these things give me strength. And so does something as simple as talking to Tony on the phone after curfew, hearing that we'll be hanging out in his kitchen without having to lie.
It is, as I said, a victory. It might not last, but right now it means everything to me.
Possibly Maybe
It's a fine line between love and stalking. I decide to walk it. I want to do right by Noah. Show him, Tony said. But really, I'm guided more by what Tony's shown me. I will not hesitate to say who I love.
On the first day, I give him flowers and time.
The night before, I unlock my closet of origami paper—over a thousand sheets of bright square color. I turn them all into flowers. Every single one. I do not sleep. I do not take breaks. Because I know that as well as giving him the flowers, I am giving him the time it takes to make them. With every fold, I am giving him seconds of my life. With every flower, part of a minute. I tie as many as I can to pipe-cleaner stems. I arrange bouquets and lattices, some topped by cranes. In the morning, I garland them throughout the halls, centerpiecing it all at his locker, so he'll know that they're all for him.
Every minute, every crease is a message from me.
On the second day, I give him words and definitions.
This isn't to say I talk to him—no, I don't do that at all. Instead, I start a list of the words I love—
—and then I add definitions—
resplendent—shining brilliantly
giddy—lighthearted and flighty
trollop—an untidy or immoral woman
Soon I decide to look randomly through the dictionary to find other unique words and definitions. I do this at Tony's kitchen table, with Tony at my side. We decide this isn't homework that we can swap—it needs to come from me.
scrappage—material broken into scrap
mucronate—having an abruptly projecting point, like a leaf or a feather
frequentation—the act of frequenting
Tony's mother drops by the kitchen twelve times in the first hour. First she asks if we need anything. After a while she pretends to need something herself—scissors from the drawer, a phone number from the kitchen notepad. Does she honestly believe that I will suddenly start ravishing her son on the kitchen table if she doesn't interrupt to get a glass of water every ten minutes? I guess there's no way to assure her I won't. Instead, we confuse her with my assignment, as I read aloud all the words that I find, simply by flipping to a page and choosing a word that I like.
debauchery—indulgence in sensual pleasures
azure—sky blue
isochronal—equal or uniform in time
Tony tells me he's been thinking of calling Kyle, just to see if he's okay.
“He probably needs someone to talk to,” he says, “and it can't be you.”
I know it can't be me, and say so. I think it's cool that Tony could help him with things. I don't know why it has never occurred to me before, but I can really see them getting along.
prophetic—predictive, especially when ominous
vitreous—of the nature of glass
dulcet—pleasant to the ear; melodious
The words don't have anything in common. But that's what I like about them. There are so many words in our language; we get to know so few of them. I want to share some of the strangers with Noah.
After I jot down the words—a hundred in all—I rewrite them nicely on a long scroll, under the heading
Words to Find and Know in this World
I tie the scroll with a ribbon that Tony salvages from his room, a ribbon from a gift Joni gave him for his last birthday. I ask Tony if he's talked to Joni lately. He says, “Kind of,” but doesn't explain.