I am really fucking bored right now. Someone please take me out of my misery.
For one, I am actually really surprised that I was able to slug my way to school after only accomplishing three hours of sleep. After Blake had dropped me off, I crept to my room with an aching emptiness pooling in my stomach as if I hadn’t eaten all day. Once I was in bed and couldn’t drift off to sleep to save my life, I had finally figured out what was eating me up so bad.
The Almost Kiss That Would’ve Completed My Life.
I tried to ignore it, but it pained me to have to sit in the car with Blake and knowingly accept that we both had feelings for one another. It hurt because I knew at the end of the day, we’d have to keep things professional and just be gang associates. What kept me up all night was the crazy interference of romance and how it had to come along and jumble things up. If being in a gang wasn’t bad enough, corrupt emotions and the feeling of wanting to be wanted had to come and kick me in the ass. Always something setting me three steps back when I take two steps forward.
The worst part of it was that I was robbed of having my first kiss with a boy. As gay as I am and never once have I had an authentic experience with a boy. It really sucked, and I secretly held a grudge against Valerie for even butting into our one-on-one time just to see if Blake was still down there with me.
She is the reason I can’t even focus now. Mrs. Powell’s vague Powerpoint is barely being comprehended by me and I’m finding better entertainment in the lead of my pencil than in her lesson. All that is consuming me is emptiness and the wonders of how Blake’s lips would feel against mine.
You’ve got to knock it out Ron. Try to focus on your work.
As if it was that easy.
The only easy part of that class is walking out of it. I strut down the halls and stop at my locker, switching out binders and books for my next few classes. When I’m about to close my locker, all of a sudden, a strange, subtle urge washes over me.
I don’t want to be here. There’s so much going on in my life right now and school is the last thing on my mind.
I shudder, resting my head against the cool metal of my locker. I don’t want to get too comfortable with skipping school, but another part of me genuinely doesn’t care. My heart is heavy with the stressors that Blake and drug dealing are bringing me, and mixing that with the stress that school naturally brings is just a recipe for disaster.
I reconsider once more. Do I just finish the rest of the day, or walk out and find somewhere to clear my head?
Bodies move all around and discourage me from resuming. I choose to put my books back and leave, walking towards the entrance in a calm, discreet manner. A swarm of student bodies walk towards me and I downcast my gaze and continue to push forward. Just then, a random grip finds itself on my arm and I’m pulled into a tight corner. My heart beat increases with anxious speed as I expected the force to be that of some random bully who wanted to taunt me in the middle of the hallway. But to my relief, it’s not. I stare into the brown eyes that belong to Barbara, who searches my face for any sign of awareness.
“Hey Ron, didn’t mean to scare you. You okay? You look like you’re about to leave.”
I’m unable to say anything. Barbara softly smiles at me and grabs my hand for reassurance.
“You’re freaking out, just like I was when I first got introduced to all this. I see it in your eyes. You’re overwhelmed.”
Barbara makes me feel oddly at ease, and it may be because we’re similar in more ways than one. We’re both very guarded and come across as meek and vulnerable, and from what I’ve conjured up so far, Blake has saved both of our asses and has become the savior of our well-being. I feel closer to her compared to Antonio and Valerie, who I have yet to grow close to.
I let out a deep breath and attach my eyes to the floor. Shuffling my feet, I keep my tone low and admit, “I just need to clear my head. School isn’t cutting it for me right now.”
“That’s okay Ron. Everyone needs a break every once in awhile. So tell me, where do you wanna go?”
“You’ll leave with me?” I ask, shooting my head up in surprise.
Barbara shrugs, lips curling into a playful smile.
“I’m not in the mood for school either. Besides, you’re family now, and I gotta look after your well-being.”
I smile, and it’s not something I do often. Barbara smiles at me too and we look like two smiling idiots who are both one and the same. I am growing to appreciate Barbara. If she keeps it up, I may just come to terms that I’ve made my very first true friend.
“It’s Friday and it’s two-thirty,” Barbara states as we walk side by side on the sidewalk, away from Lincoln High. “got any plans for the rest of the day?”
“No,” I say bluntly, still feeling uneasy about skipping school.
Barbara looks over at me, but I keep my gaze forward. Autumn is such a feel-good season, as it’s not too hot or too cold. The trees blanket us in shade and it’s a bright carnival of red, yellow, and green. These things distract me, and it feels a little easier to breathe. I know I’m being super tense and Barbara can sense that, as she grabs my hand and squeezes it tight. She doesn’t let go either.
“This will all feel natural to you soon,” she says, still keeping her eyes on me. “and I’m not rushing you to be comfortable by any means. I know it took me awhile to get comfortable.”
I don’t say anything, and I feel as if I’m coming across as a little starch. But I sigh. Nothing is feeling good right now.
Barbara and I make a turn on Lennon Street and I can tell we’re headed towards the strip of shops and food establishments that are just outside the bordering neighborhoods.
“Where are we going?” I inquire, stomach starting to rumble as I realize I haven’t eaten all day.
“Lunch perhaps?” Barbara jokes towards my growling stomach. “Lunch at school today sucked. I can get a wing and fry combo for like, five dollars.”
I nod, and notice that Barbara and I are still holding hands. It feels nice though. I don’t budge for her to move it.
Silence conquers us for a few moments as we strode in a comfortable peace. Between holding her soft hand, feeling the cool breeze on my skin, and walking to get something to eat, I can honestly say I’m partially satisfied. This even sparks a conversation starter out of me.
“So,” I start, and Barbara smiles for me to finish. “how did you end up in the predicament of Blake’s hands?”
“You want a story huh?” she teases, loosening her grip on my hand. I notice she’s fallen solemn. I walk a little slower, trying to ease her into telling me.
“I mean, I know you kind of gave me a brief overview in the cafeteria that one day, but like, how did it all begin? How did you come to notice Blake?”
“I never noticed Blake first,” she starts, tone even and voice solid. “he noticed me, which was really weird and sad at the same time. I was like you. Walking in the hallways feeling like an outsider. Being a black girl in a predominately white school doesn’t help either, especially when you’re poor and live on the outskirts outside of the school district. The only reason I go here is due to my nana’s address because she lives in this nice area. She doesn’t really care about me though, some dirty, worthless trash from the ghetto. According to her, my father was supposed to marry much better and have a little caramel baby with good, wavy hair. But that didn’t happen. He had me, and then abandoned me for a better woman to have kids with, and I grew up practically alone. The bare minimum from my nana doesn’t count either. I was all alone and sometimes I still feel like I am.”
Her story literally makes me tear up. I feel awful. Guilt eats away at me and I’m not sure why. Is it because out of all the gang members so far, it seems like I’m the only real, privileged kid? I grew up in the suburbs, my parents both graduated from universities and have wholesome careers from their hard-earned degrees, and they’ve given me the best they could offer all my life damn there. This is what makes me feel guilty. It’s almost too much to bear.
Barbara searches my face and sees my eyes watering. She then chuckles, stopping to look me dead in my face. I wipe the sadness away, trying so hard not to feel like her situation is my fault for some reason.
“It’s sad, right?” she asks, and I chuckle to try to ease the growing tension. “It’s okay Ron, I used to cry all the time too. But after awhile, you stop crying. You stop crying, and then you just try to live life the best you can. Nothing really starts to matter anymore.”
“I’m sorry Barabara,” I gasp, trying to catch my breath. “all that sounds horrible. I wouldn’t know what to do if I were in that position.”
“You’d be like me at first. Just cry and be angry and start losing yourself. Out of all that, out of all the dark and rainy days I had internally, finally, a sunny day shone through and I couldn’t believe that Blake was the one who found me and knew I needed to be saved.”
“That’s funny. It seems like this ‘gang’ is more like a victim saving club under Father Blake the Great,”
We both laugh because we both find it to be true. Then our nerves settle. The sunlight is shining through the gaps of the trees and the breeze feels wonderful mixed in. Barbara looks at me with caring eyes. She has had it rough in the past, and it’s apparent in the way she treats me. There was no one looking after Barbara to make sure she was okay, and now, she’s taking that responsibility into her own hands. I like her even more for that.
“Yep. You’re right Ron. Father Blake the Great noticed me and wanted me to be steered in the right direction. At first, I thought we clicked because we were both black, you know? But it turns out Blake is just as damaged as all of us. He’s a really great guy and even though he’s crazy and little manipulative at times, I still love him. It’s just so hard not to love him.”
Her words make my soul feel weak. I smile sheepishly, falling in love with this fairy-tale version of Blake without really knowing what’s he’s really like. He sounds like a great guy. I believe he’s a great guy.
“So he notices people like us, right?” I ask, chest swelling with hope and wonder.
“Blake always keeps a good eye out for people like us. Lost, broken, and crying for help. Even when you don’t see it at first.”
It’s official...I am really falling for Blake. Me being upset with us not kissing really lets me know how I feel about him. On top of Barbara’s telling of Blake being some caring hero with a passionate heart, all the feels are burning in my chest with a warped version of reality now.
I will no longer title Blake as Blake the Bull. He is not a bull. He is an angel and he is great and I believe in him.
I finally decide to ease up. It’s a beautiful autumn day and I am spending it with an equally beautiful person. What is there to be stressed about at the moment?
“Enough about Blake and gangs for a day,” I say, taking Barbara’s hand and forcing us to walk again. “I’m hungry and up for that wing combo you mentioned earlier.”
“Same,” Barbara smiles and grips my hand harder. We talk about normal things up until we’re scarfing our faces with hot wings and seasoned fries.
And it is then that I confirm that Barbara and I are going to be good friends.