Two Boys Kissing

Page 2


Focus in. The blue-haired boy leads. He smiles as he takes the pink-haired boy’s hand. He feels what we know: The supernatural is natural, and wonderment can come from the most mundane movement, like a heartbeat or a glance. The pink-haired boy is scared, so incredibly scared—only the thing you’ve most wished for can scare you in that way. Hear their heartbeats. Listen close.
Now draw back. See the other kids on the dance floor. The comfortable misfits, the torn rebels, the fearful and the brave. Dancing or not dancing. Talking or not talking. But all in the same room, all in the same place, gathering together in a way they weren’t allowed to do before.
Draw back farther. We are standing in the eaves.
Say hi if you see us.
Silence equals death, we’d say. And underneath that would be the assumption—the fear—that death equaled silence.
Sometimes you glimpse that horror. When someone close to you gets sick. When someone close to you gets sent to war. When someone close to you takes his or her own life.
Every day a new funeral. It was such a large part of our existence. Imagine being in a school where a student dies every day. Some of them your friends. Some of them just kids who happen to be in your class. You keep showing up, because you know you have to. You become the bearer of memory, and also the bearer of sorrow, until it is your turn to be the one who is gone, the one who is mourned.
You have no idea how fast things can change. You have no idea how suddenly years can pass and lives can end.
Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.
It is 10:45. Craig Cole and Harry Ramirez are planning their big kiss. There have been months of preparation leading to this kiss, and now here they are, the night before. Most kisses only require two people, but this one will end up needing at least a dozen. None of those other people are in the room right now. It’s just Craig and Harry.
“Are we really going to do this?” Craig asks.
“We most certainly are,” Harry replies.
They know they need their sleep. They know it’s a big day tomorrow. They know there’s no backing down, and also no guarantee that they’ll make it.
They should be going to sleep, but good company is the enemy of sleep. We remember this feeling so acutely—the desire to linger away the hours with someone else, talking or holding or even just watching a movie. In those moments, the clock seems arbitrary, since you are setting your understanding of time to another, more personal measure.
They are at Harry’s house. His parents are out for the night, the dog already asleep. Because the house feels theirs, the world feels theirs. Why would you want to close your eyes to that?
They are at Harry’s house because Craig’s parents can’t know about the kiss. At some point they will. But not now. Not before it’s happened.
Eventually Harry will leave Craig curled on the couch. He will tuck Craig in, then tiptoe back to his own room. They will be in separate places, but they will have very similar dreams.
We miss the sensation of being tucked in, just as we miss the sensation of being that hovering angel, pulling the blanket over his shoulders, wishing him a sweet night. Those are the beds we want to remember.
We are excited for the kiss tomorrow. We don’t see how they can do it, but we are hoping they will.
Pink-haired Avery was born a boy that the rest of the world saw as a girl. We can understand what that’s like, to be seen as something that you are not. But for us it was easier to hide. For Avery, there is a thicker chain of biology to break. At a young age, his parents realized what was wrong. His mother thought that maybe she’d always known, which was why she’d chosen the name Avery—her father’s name, which was going to be given to the baby whether it was a boy or a girl. With his parents’ help and blessing, if not always comprehension, Avery charted a new life, was driven many miles—not to dance or drink, but to get the hormones that would set his body in the right direction. And it’s worked. We look at Avery now and know it’s worked, and appreciate the marvel of it. In our day he would have been trapped by an insurmountable body in an intractable world.
As they’re dancing, Avery wonders if Ryan realizes, and worries that Ryan will care. The blue-haired boy sees him—this is for sure. But does he see everything, or only what he wants to be seeing? This is always one of the great questions of love.
Ryan is more worried by time, and what to do about time. He cannot believe he’s found someone here in the bowels of the Kindling community center. The same place he learned to swim. The same place he took rec-league basketball when he was nine. The same place he’s staffed bake sales and blood drives and the same place he’ll vote, when he’s old enough to vote. Yes, it’s also the same place he ducked out of to have his first cigarette and, a couple of years later, his first joint, but it’s never been somewhere he would have imagined finding a pink-haired boy to dance with. He can sense his friends watching from the sidelines, whispering about what will happen next. This only amplifies his own need to know. Time is running out, but what is it running toward? Should he stop and talk to this boy more, before the DJ plays the last song and the lights come back on? Or should they stay like this, paired by the music, cocooned in a song?
Talk to him, we want to say. Because, yes, time can be buoyed by wordlessness, but it needs to be anchored in words.
We know what their best chance is, and in this, the DJ does not disappoint. As most DJs will at some point in an evening, he spins a song that means a lot to him and nothing to anyone else present. Within seconds, the floor starts to clear. Conversations rise from a buzz to a clamor. A line forms at the men’s room.
Both Avery and Ryan stop. Neither wants to leave if the other wants to stay.
Finally, Avery says, “I can’t see any way to dance to this song,” and Ryan says, “Do you want to get some water?”
An escape is made.
The DJ opens his eyes and sees what he’s done. By all rights, he should switch the song. But it’s a long-distance dedication to the boy he loves down in Texas. He dials up the boy right now and holds his phone into the air.
Not all songs need to be for dancing. There will always be the next song, to draw the dancers back.
This is what happens when you become very ill: Dancing stops being a reality and becomes a metaphor. More often than not, it is an unkind one. I am dancing as fast as I can. As if the disease is the fiddler who keeps playing faster and faster, and to lose step is to die. You try and try and try, until finally the fiddler wears you down.
This is not the kind of dancing you want to remember. You’ll want to remember a slow song like Avery and Ryan’s last dance. You’ll want to remember dancing as Tariq remembers dancing, as he heads home from his night at the club. It’s only eleven at night—which is barely noon when you’re on party time—but he promised Craig and Harry that he’d get some sleep, so he can be with them for the big kiss tomorrow without nodding off. It was hard for him to step away from the music, from the pulse it created. He tries to simulate it now by blasting music in his ears, ignoring the other sounds on the late-night suburban train. It’s not the same, because there are no other boys to look at or to be looked at by, just remnant commuters and some girls who’ve just seen some Broadway show. One of them tried to catch Tariq’s eye earlier, and he just gave her a nice try, sorry smile, sending her back into her Playbill.
If you close your eyes, you can conjure a world. Tariq closes his eyes and sees butterflies. The vibrancy of them, spinning in the air to the music in his mind’s eye. That’s who he wants to be—on the dance floor and in life. A butterfly. Colorful and soaring.
There is something about the pureness of butterfly dreams, about all the things that dancing can unlock when you are young. When it works, that freedom doesn’t stop when the last song is played. You take it with you. You use it for bigger things.
You notice when it’s taken away.
Ryan and Avery can feel their words working with each other, can feel the simple joy of falling into the same rhythm, thinking companionable thoughts. Ryan’s friend Alicia is giving him a ride home, and she is hovering on the periphery, shooting him a look every now and then. Ryan ignores this, because he and Avery are in their fortress of non-solitude, talking about how small their towns are and how strange it is to be at a g*y prom. Ryan loves the way Avery’s hair swoops, loves the shy curiosity in his eyes. Avery, meanwhile, keeps stealing peeks at the tip of Ryan’s V-neck, at his jeans, at his perfect hands.
We remember what it was like to meet someone new. We remember what it was like to grant someone possibility. You look out from your own world and then you step into his, not really knowing what you’ll find there, but hoping it will be something good. Both Ryan and Avery are doing this. You step into his world and you don’t even realize your loneliness is missing. You’ve left it behind, and you don’t notice because you have no desire to turn back.
You keep your eye on him.
Perhaps because of the Diet Dr Pepper consumed earlier, Peter and Neil are up later than they expected to be. The date was a success, even though they’ve been together long enough that they don’t even think of it as a date, just as a night together. They watched both movies in quick succession—horror first (for Neil), then romantic comedy (for Peter), with Neil holding himself back from smiling at Peter’s fright during the horror and his tears as the romantic comedy resolved itself in predictable romantic comedy fashion. Peter is still self-conscious about these things, and Neil is conscious of this self-consciousness … even if he can’t always contain his amusement. (“Are you all right?” he asked at a moment during the romantic comedy when Peter seemed particularly tense, and he couldn’t help but squeeze Peter’s arm with mock sympathy when Peter said, “I just want Emma Stone to be okay.”)
Neither of their sets of parents are ready for sleepovers yet, so Neil left Peter’s house a stroke before midnight, and now they are in their own rooms in their own houses, talking to each other over the Internet as they each get ready for bed. Every now and then one of Neil’s Korean relatives pops up in the Skype column, and Neil is relieved that none of them attempt to say hi. Peter’s connection is devoted solely to Neil, at least at this hour.
Peter thinks there is nothing more adorable in the whole universe than the sight of Neil in his pajamas. They are proper pajamas—striped button-down shirt with matching striped elastic-waisted bottoms. They are at least a size too big, and make him look like he’s waiting for Mary Poppins to pop her head in and say it’s time to go to bed. Peter is in boxers and a T-shirt that reads LEGALIZE GAY. Even though they’ve just spent hours talking, they spend another hour talking, sometimes sitting at their computers and looking at each other, and other times letting the cams gaze on as they walk around their rooms, brush their teeth, pick out clothes for tomorrow. We envy such intimacy.
There comes a point where Peter and Neil’s conversation becomes too cloudy to continue. Even Diet Dr Pepper wears off after a while. But their cloudiness is the white, puffy kind, the kind of clouds that little children imagine will carry them off to sleep. Peter wishes Neil sweet dreams, and Neil wishes the same thing back. Then, for just a moment, they wave to each other. Smile. One last glimpse of pajamas, then goodnight.
Eventually, we all must go to sleep. This is our first intimation that the body always wins. No matter how happy we are, no matter how much we want our night to stretch out infinitely, sleep is inevitable. You might be able to dodge it for one giddy cycle, but the body’s need will always return.
We used to fight it. Whether our allegiance was to talking in the dark or to dancing in the flashing lights, we wanted our nights to be endless. So the conversation could continue, so the dance could push on. We’d fill ourselves with coffee, with sugar, with stronger, more dangerous substances. But drowsiness would always tug at our tide, and eventually turn it.