Boy Meets Boy

Page 6


Ted doesn't seem to notice where Joni's glance is taking her. He is looking elsewhere.
“Is that him?” he asks.
Because he's Ted, he goes right ahead and points at someone in the stands across the gymnasium. I squint to make out the faces from the crowd. At first, I think he's pointing at Kyle, who is somewhat; subdued in his applause for the football players as Infinite Darlene introduces them. Then I realize Ted is pointing a few rows up.
I see an empty seat. Then, next to it, I see Noah.
He senses me looking. I swear. He looks right at me.
Or, maybe he's looking at Ted, who's still pointing.
“Put your finger down,” I say between gritted teeth.
“Chill,” Ted tells me, moving his finger through the air, as if he hadn't been pointing at Noah at all. I try to play along.
When the whole pointing charade is over, I see that Noah's still where he was a second ago. I don't know why I thought he would have disappeared. I guess I don't believe these things can ever be easy, although I also don't see why they have to be hard.
Joni's broken her attention from Chuck for long enough to get what's going on.
“Don't just sit here,” she says.
“If you don't go over there, I will—and I'll tell him all about your crush,” Ted informs me. I'm not sure if he's kidding or not.
It's a mighty thin border between peer pressure and bravery. Knowing that Joni and Ted aren't going to let me get out of it, I head to Noah's side of the gym. One of the teachers shoots me a stay-in-your-seat glance, but I wave her off. Over the loudspeakers, I can hear Infinite Darlene's crystal voice: “And now, introducing the quarterback … the one … the only … ME”
I look at the crowd. Everyone cheers, except for some of the more elitist drag queens, who feign disinterest.
I duck behind the bleachers, weaving to the stairs. I wonder what I'll say. I wonder if I'm about to make a fool of myself.
All I can feel is this intensity. My mind beating in time with my heart. My steps keeping sway with my hopes.
I get to the bottom of the stands. I've lost track of the space. I can't find Noah. I look back to Joni and Ted. Much to my mortification, they both point me on my way. The football presentation is over and the quiz bowling team is preparing to enter. Infinite Darlene is basking in her last round of applause. I swear she winks when she looks my way.
I focus on the seat next to Noah. I do not focus on his crazy-cool hair, or his blue suede shoes, or the specks of paint on his hands and his arms.
I am beside him.
“Is this seat taken?” I ask.
He looks up at me. And then, after a beat, he breaks out smiling.
“Hey,” he says, “I've been looking all over for you.”
I don't know what to say. I am so happy and so scared.
There is a roar through the stands as the quiz bowling team is announced. They come sprinting onto the court, rolling for pins while answering questions about Einstein's theory of relativity.
“I've been looking for you, too,” I say at last.
He says, “Cool,” and it's cool. So cool.
I sit down next to him as the audience cheers for the captain of the quiz bowling team, who's just scored a strike while listing the complete works of the Bronte sisters.
I don't want to scare him by telling him all the things that are scaring me. I don't want him to know how important this is. He has to feel the importance for himself.
So I say, “Those are cool shoes,” and we talk about blue suede shoes and the duds store where he shops. We talk as the badminton team lets its birdies fly. We talk as the French Cuisine Club rises the perfect souffle. We laugh when it falls.
I am looking for signs that he understands me. I am looking for my hopes to be confirmed.
“This is such serendipity, isn't it?” he asks. I almost fall off my seat. I am a firm believer in serendipity—all the random pieces coming together in one wonderful moment, when suddenly you see what their purpose was all along.
We talk about music and find that we like the same kinds of music. We talk about movies and find that we like the same kinds of movies.
“Do you really exist?” I blurt out.
“Not at all,” he says with a smile. “I've known that since I was four.”
“What happened when you were four?”
“Well, I had this theory. Although I guess I was too young to know it was a theory. You see, I had this imaginary friend. She followed me everywhere—we had to set a place for her at the table, she and I talked all the time—the whole deal. Then it occurred to me that she wasn't the imaginary friend at all. I figured that I was the imaginary friend, and she was the one who was real. It made perfect sense to me. My parents disagreed, but I still secretly feel that I'm right.”
“What was her name?” I ask.
“Sarah. Yours?”
“Thorn. With an h.”
“Maybe they're together right now.”
“Oh, no. I left Thorn in Florida. He never liked to travel.”
We are not taking each other too seriously, which is a serious plus. The paint on his hands is not quite purple and not quite blue. There is a speck of just-right red on one of his fingers.
The principal's secretary has the microphone again. The rally is almost over.
“I'm glad you found me,” Noah says.
“Me too.” I want to float, because it's that simple. He's glad I found him. I'm glad I found him. We are not afraid to say this. I am so used to hints and mixed messages, saying things that might mean what they sort of sound like they mean. Games and contests, roles and rituals, talking in twelve languages at once so the true words won't be so obvious. I am not used to a plainspoken, honest truth.
It pretty much blows me away.
I think Noah recognizes this. He's looking at me with a nifty grin. The other people in our row are standing and jostling now, waiting for us to leave so they can get to the aisle and resume their day. I want time to stop.
Time doesn't stop.
“Two sixty-three,” Noah tells me.
“?!???” I reply.
“My locker number,” he explains. “I'll see you after school.”
Now I don't want time to stop. I want it to fast-forward an hour. Noah has become my until.
As we leave the gym, I can see Kyle shoot me a look. I don't care. Joni and Ted will no doubt be waiting under the bleachers for the full report.