Boy Meets Boy

Page 5


He said I'd tricked him. He said it to everyone.
Only a few people believed him. But it wasn't what they thought that mattered to me. It was what he thought. And if he really believed it.
“He's the worst,” Infinite Darlene says. But even she knows this isn't true. He is far from the worst.
Seeing Kyle always takes some of the volume out of my soundtrack. Now I'm no longer floating on a Noah high.
Infinite Darlene tries to cheer me up.
“I have chocolate,” she says, reaching a big hand into her purse for a Milky Way mini.
I am sucking at the caramel and nougat when Joni comes up to us with her latest Noah Report. Sadly, it's the same as the last five.
“I haven't been able to find him,” she says. “I've found people who know who he is, but nobody seems to know where he is. Chuck was helping me before, and Chuck said that he's one of those arty types. Now, from Chuck that wasn't an ultimate compliment, but at least it pointed me in the right direction. I looked at the wall outside the art room and found a photo he did. Chuck helped me get it.”
I am not really alarmed by Joni's thievery—we take things off walls and put them back all the time. But my inner security device does take notice of the number of times that Joni's name-checked Chuck. In the past, I've been able to tell that things with Ted were getting better when Joni began to name-check him again. The fact that it's now Chuck has looped me for a throw.
Joni takes a small, framed photograph out of her bag. The frame is the color of Buddy Holly's glasses, and has largely the same effect.
“You have to look at it closely,” Joni tells me.
I hold the photo up to my face, ignoring my own reflection to see what lies beneath. At first I see the man in the chair, toward the back of the photo. He's the age of my grandfather and is sitting in an old wooden rocker, laughing his head off. Then I realize he's sitting in a room covered by snow globes. There must be hundreds— maybe thousands—of the small plastic shakers, each with its own blurry locale. Snow globes cover the floor, the counters, the shelves, the table at the man's arm.
It's a very cool photograph.
^You can't keep it,” Joni says.
“I know, I know.” I look at it for a minute more, then hand it back.
Infinite Darlene has kept quiet through this whole exchange. But she's about to burst with curiosity.
“He's just some guy” I say.
“Do tell,” she insists.
So I do. Tell.
And I know as I do that he isn't “just some guy.” There was something in our two minutes together that felt like it could last for years. Telling Infinite Darlene this doesn't just feel like I'm setting myself up for gossip.
No, it feels like I'm putting my whole heart on the line.
Pride and Joy
Joni, Ted, and I sit together for the Homecoming Pride Rally that afternoon. It's the first rally that I've ever been in the stands for. This is due to a fluke of scheduling. Our school has too many activities and teams to be represented in each and every cheering session, so whenever we have a rally, only a dozen groups are spotlighted. They'd asked me to bring my acting troupe this time around, but I felt such recognition might damage our art—putting the personality before the performance, as it were. So as a result I am sitting in the bleachers of our gymnasium, trying to gauge the Joni-and-Ted barometer. Right now, it looks like the pressure is high. Ted keeps looking over at Joni, but Joni isn't looking as much at Ted.
He turns to me instead.
“You find your boyfriend yet?” he asks.
Panicked, I look around to see if Noah is in the immediate vicinity. Luckily, he is not.
I am starting to wonder if he actually exists.
The principal's secretary gets up to the microphone to start the rally. Everybody knows that she wields the real power in the school, so it makes sense to have her leading things here.
The gymnasium doors open and the cheerleaders come riding in on their Harleys. The crowd goes wild.
We are, I believe, the only high school in America with a biker cheerleading team. But I could be wrong. A few years ago, it was decided that having a posse of motorcycles gun around the fields and courts was a much bigger cheer-inducer than any pom-pom routine could ever hope to be. Now, in an intricately choreographed display, the Harleys swerve around the gym, starting off in a pyramid the shape of a bird migration, then splitting up into spins and corners. For a finale, the cheerleaders rev all at once and shoot themselves off a ramp emblazoned with our high school's name. They are rewarded with massive applause.
Already the rally is doing its job. I am proud to be a student at my high school.
The tennis team is the next up. My brother and his friend Mara are the doubles champions, so they get a pretty good reception. I try to cheer loudly so Jay can hear my voice above the crowd. He's a senior now, and I know he's started to feel sad about everything coming to an end. Next year, he'll be on a college tennis team. It won't be the same.
After the tennis team has been cheered, our school cover band comes out to play. The cover band's stats are actually better than the tennis team's—at this past year's Dave Matthews Cover Band Competition, they went all the way to the finals with their cover of the Dave Matthews Band covering “All Along the Watchtower,” only to be defeated by a cover band that played “Typical Situation” while standing on their heads. Now they launch into a cover of “One Day More” from Les Miserables, and I admire the lead singer's versatility.
After an encore of Depeche Mode's “Personal Jesus,” the principal's secretary asks for quiet and introduces this year's homecoming king and queen. Infinite Darlene strides out in a pink ball gown, covered in part by her quarterback jersey. The homecoming king, Dave Sprat, hangs from her arm, a good thirteen inches shorter than her (if you count the heels).
Infinite Darlene is holding a portable microphone we borrowed from Zeke's van, so she can introduce and march at the same time. As the school cover band strikes up a skacore version of “We Are the Champions” (we're not entirely without tradition), the members of the football team line up for their presentation.
I lean over to Joni. She's fixing her eyes on Chuck.
I honestly don't know why. Chuck is the second-string quarterback who fell for Infinite Darlene and got all upset when she didn't return his affections. He was real bitter about it, worse than Ted in his fouler moods. Ted, at least, is able to lose his cool without totally losing his sense of humor. I'm not sure that Chuck's the same way. I wish Tony went to our school, so I could lift my eyebrow and get his take on the situation.