Boy Meets Boy

Page 44


“Are you ready to go?” Jay says. He has a date of his own to pick up.
In the car, he thanks me.
“For what?” I ask.
“For tipping me off about you and Noah,” he replies. (I had mentioned it to him, as promised, before Rip found out that Noah had asked me to the dance.)
“How much are you going to win?”
“Rip's going to owe me five hundred bucks.”
“Five hundred?!?” I can't believe it. “Were the odds that much against me?”
Jay shakes his head. “No. I just bet a lot on the two of you.”
Now it's my turn to say thanks. He's shown his faith, in his own twisted older-brother way.
We pick up his date, Delia Myers, who looks splendid in a purple spiral creation. She shows me a bracelet that belonged to her great-grandmother. It is the shape of two wings.
I am feeling nervous when I get to Noah's house. I still haven't met his parents. I wonder if this will be the night.
I ring the doorbell. Claudia answers. She looks surprised to see me so cleaned up.
“Is Noah home?” I ask.
“Duh,” she replies.
She calls up to him.
“Your parents home?”
She shakes her head glumly.
“So I guess I should ask your permission,” I say.
She looks at me like I'm a Martian. “For what?”
“To take Noah out.”
“You don't need my permission.”
“But I'd like it.”
She looks me over again. I guess so.
That's all she'll give me, but I figure it's a start.
Noah comes down and I give him the flower. He hands me a photograph of a flower—it's beautiful, more vibrant in color than the real thing.
“I figured it will last longer,” he says, gently placing it in my pocket.
Claudia fades into another room. Noah takes my hand.
“Let's go get Tony,” he says.
We are almost out the door when Claudia returns.
“One second,” she says. We turn to her and she holds up a camera. “I want to get a picture of the two of you.”
She poses us by the staircase. She asks us to lean into each other, for me to put my hand on his shoulder. It's something so simple and everyday—smiling before the flash, checking to see if everything's in place. But for me it's a revelation. For the first time in my life, I truly feel part of a couple. I feel that Noah and I together are one thing. Posing for his sister's camera, heading down the front walk hand in hand to my brother's car—it's not something we have to think about. It feels natural.
Jay and Delia welcome Noah to the car and drive over to the block before Tony's. We'd all planned to meet up there and walk to his house together. Kyle is already there (I'll later find out he was the first to arrive). Infinite Darlene is there wearing a Grace Kelly gown. Trilby and Ted are there; their outfits don't match, but something in their expressions does. Amber looks amazing in a cocktail dress that used to belong to her great-grandmother, from her flapper days. Laura and her girlfriend are dressed as Hepburn and Hepburn. Emily and Amy are low-key in jeans and antique sweaters.
Joni is nowhere to be seen. The time has come for us to head to Tony's, but we don't move. Those of us who know her are still waiting for her to come. Even though we don't say anything, I know that Ted is waiting and Infinite Darlene is waiting. We still don't think she would miss this. But it's looking like we're wrong. After five minutes, Kyle says we'd better go. To my surprise, he leads the way. I walk alongside him, and he shows me a ring that his aunt gave to her husband Tom. He let Kyle borrow it for the night. I thank him for showing me.
We get to the house. The cars are in the garage. Both his parents are home. Kyle steps aside so I can be the one to ring the doorbell. I am about to do it when I hear Joni's voice say, “I'm here.” I turn to look at her. Chuck is at her side, looking displeased.
“Sorry I'm late,” she adds.
“No worries,” I say. Then I ring the bell.
Tony's mom answers. His dad is at her side.
“We've come to pick Tony up for the dance,” I say.
Tony walks up behind them, dressed in his Sunday best.
“I see,” his dad says, not sounding too happy. “And are you his date?”
“We're all his date,” Joni answers.
Everyone steps forward. Girls and boys. Straight boys and a drag queen. My boyfriend. My ex-boyfriend. My brother. Me.
Tony angles past his parents and joins us. His tie is crooked and his suit is brown. But I've never seen him look so marvelous.
“Can I go?” he asks.
His parents stare at him. They stare at us. His mom puts her hand over her mouth. His father steps back from the doorway. -
“It looks like you're going anyway,” he says sternly.
“But I want you to say I can go,” Tony implores, his voice cracking.
His father looks torn between dogma and helplessness. As a result, he simply walks away.
Tony turns to his mom. Tears drop from her eyes. She looks at Infinite Darlene. She looks at Joni. She looks at me and Kyle. Then she looks at her son.
“Please,” he whispers.
She nods. “Have fun,” she says. “Be back by midnight.”
Tony beams with relief. His mother does not, not even when he leans over to kiss her good-bye.
“Thank you,” he says.
She holds him for a moment, looks into his eyes. Then she lets him go with us into the night. We all want to cheer, but we know we have to wait to do that. We've been given another reason to dance.
We head back to the cars. Tony holds back for a moment.
“Wait a second,” he says.
“What?” I ask him. Everyone stops to listen.
“Can we be late for the dance?” he says. “I have an idea….”
What I Will Always
9 P.M. on a November Saturday. We are in a clearing surrounded by trees and bushes, under the protection of a hill we like to call a mountain. Word has spread, and most of our friends are here. The Dowager is waiting in the gym. She'll get her chance soon enough.
Someone's brought a radio, and we're dancing as the tunes dangle in the air. We are illuminated by flashlights and candles. We carry our grandfathers’ cigarette cases and our grandmothers’ bangles. We are young and the night is young. We are in the middle of somewhere and we are feeling everything.