And So It Begins
"Houston, we have a problem." Trina Delgado looked at me, her eyes filled with that tell tale glee that I've come to know her for. Her eyes darted back and forth between me and something or someone over my left shoulder. "I'm telling ya, if you look, the world as you know it, will come crashing down around you." She has a thing for dramatics and exaggeration.
"What?" I'd heard it before and the question was asked with a mixture of 'oh no, not again' trepidation.
"Your destiny just walked in." She has a thing about my destiny. You know, the happily ever after fairy tale, no pun intended, that was going to make my life thus far seem drab and dreary. Of course my life thus far has been pretty drab and dreary so a new pair of jeans from The Buckle would have the same affect.
We were in the cafeteria of the freshly minted Fairweather High School comparing our class schedules for the billionth time since registration. First period didn't start for another hour, but Trina wanted to get to school early, check out the lay of the land, scope out the lunchroom territories, which cliques sat where and with whom. It was a reconnaissance mission we did every year, although it seemed that every year the same clicques and same people were always together. But, as Trina pointed out, this was a new high school, bringing in new students from other parts of the district. I say we were in the cafeteria, but the cafeteria has an outdoor patio with about 15 round tables, the color of green chalk, you know the sort you would find around a swimming. A burly cafeteria worker stood at the automatic sliding door on guard against the first sign of graffiti bandits. And I have to say, the temptation to scribble an obscenity or two was a bit overwhelming, what with such exquisite canvases to deface.
Trina nonchalantly tipped her tray off the table.
"Why is it, every time my destiny walks in the room, there's a calamitous noise that follows?"
She gave me her patented shrug and looked down at the tray and silverware. I bent to picked it up, looking around in the direction she'd been eyeing earlier.
Several students were looking in our direction and I felt a sudden blush flaring in my cheeks. I knew I hadn't knocked the tray over but I read in their snickering and smirks a perceived reality and I knew it didn't matter what I thought. To each of them, their perception was reality.
If I'm anything, I'm the epitome of smooth and suave. I have to tell myself this to get past the fact that I'm anything but. When I saw him, standing in the opening to the patio area, looking around for his friends, I dropped the tray again and the clatter drew more laughter and pointing and the blush on my cheeks burned a bit brighter. I even heard Trina laughing and the daggers I stared at her bounced off her smile, which was at that moment, all knowing.
Trina knew I was gay before I knew I was gay. We've been best friends for that proverbial forever and nobody knows me better than she does. She's always been my sidekick and confidante, my "do it, you big chicken" or "I'm you're fag hag so I can say these things" doing the whole fag hag in quotation marks with her fingers because she was truly adverse to the notion of being any sort of hag.
"I told you, crashing down around you." I sat closer to her on her side of the table and watched him walk towards the jock end of the universe slipping his Hilfiger backpack to the ground. I think he must have put off a pheromone that attracted popularity. High fives fluttered in the air and those jocky handshakes that make almost no sense, you know the ones where they tap and grip and fingers sometimes wiggle, like some freaky hand jig. I don't know. I've always hated high fives and couldn't do a hand jig to save my life. I know, I've tried with Trina. She's better at it than I am.
"Oh, I wonder what his name is. I wonder if I have any classes with him. I wonder what he looks like naked." Trina said it all with a fake dreamy smile and a sing songy falsetto voice as she hugged herself. Then she laughed, deflecting more of my death daggers.
"You're such a bitch." So okay, she was reading my mind. And now that I thought about it, I did hope I'd see him in one of my classes. And the very idea of seeing him naked nearly sent the tray to the ground a third time. I wiped condensation off of my Dr Pepper can and flicked it at her face. She shrieked like it might have been acid. And then we laughed.
I sat with her and watched him, okay stared at him, for the better part of half an hour, in the back of my mind, waiting and wondering for 'the girlfriend' to appear, for her to walk up to him and wrap her arms around him and pull his lips to hers for an envy inducing kiss. I felt a smile blossom on my lips as I watched him open a bottle of water admiring how his throat worked as he swallowed. I watched him nod an innumerable number of times to everyone who walked by his table. "Oh great, Mister Popularity. You know this isn't going to end well."
"Oh Nick, it will. I have a sixth sense about these things. He's your destiny." Her sixth sense always got me into trouble. Granted it was a lot of fun, that trouble, but trouble all the same. I looked over at him one last time, grabbing the tray in a firm grip and headed to the garbage can. Trina followed behind me, kicking the heels of my shoes. It might have been cute had I not tripped and sent the tray sliding across the patio. I shouldn't have to tell you where it came to a halt.
Having a girl as a best friend has it's drawbacks. They have a tendency to make you a romantic. I had no desire whatsoever to amble over there and take the tray from his outstretched hand, but my feet moved on their own volition and suddenly I was a walking cliché. Mumbling thank you, riveted to his green eyes and the red lips of his half smirk grin, beguiled and bewitched. God, I was such a fag.
"Move it fag."
Grunt Masterson has my undying love and admiration for his elocution skills. We had a short history in 9th grade. It was a field trip in our history class, towards the end of the semester, in a darkened movie theater watching Saving Private Ryan. He was already built like a brick house and playing varsity football.
Anyway, in line for the theatre he was behind me and was bumping into me and either he was really excited to watch the movie or to use the police vernacular, he was carrying.
By 9th grade, the rumor mill had already started about me and my being a card carrying member of the rainbow brigade. It's funny how gay radar is, that's what straight people have, as opposed to good old fashioned gaydar. You can be a flaming faggot and people are afraid of the proverbial fire, like it's going to catch the roof and then spread to the rest of the neighborhood. But if it's just a rumor, if you're adequately good looking, walk like a man, talk like a man, so to speak, then what's the harm. Just stay away from me seems to be the attitude. I don't flaunt my sexual desire just like I don't flaunt my Calvin Kleins.
Whatever the case may be, Grant, that's his real name, knew or thought he knew I was gay. To be totally superficial and tactless, our history class wasn't exactly a gold mine for the Who's Who list. Aside from myself, relatively good looking, smart, charming and well I could go on but then I might sound like a bit of a egotistical ass, there were only a few candidates that would attain Grant's attention. Oddly enough, he never talked to me in class, but I'd spied him casting glances in my direction on a number of occasions. He was a blip on the gaydar screen.
He bumped me again in the concession line and I looked back and he looked down abashed. He was doing it on purpose. And he wasn't carrying. And I was feeling a bit brassy.
"You want to share a large popcorn?"
He looked up, and I could tell part of him wanted to run from the headlights, but he couldn't, he wasn't thinking with that part of his brain. He nodded and handed me a five dollar bill and I leaned over the counter, sticking my rear in his direction and ordered the popcorn and a couple of drinks. I turned around and he's walking into the theatre, casting glances over his shoulder to make sure I'd seen him go in. I didn't know how this was going to happen. I mean we were there with two other history classes so the idea that we were going to get all hot and heavy in the back row of a darkened movie theatre seemed a bit farfetched. But at the moment I wasn't thinking with my brain either.
He had chosen a row pretty close to the center of the theatre and I worked my way to him, accidentally stepping on a toe or two, dropping a few kernels of buttered popcorn in someone's hair, and all and all made something of a nuisance of myself. But what do you expect when I'm trying to hide a erection which would have been blatantly obvious from a seated position. I sat next to him and my heart was hammering a bit. He took his drink and muttered a thank you. He was fidgeting a bit, his foot tapping on the cement floor. I put the bucket of popcorn between our legs, reaching inside his thigh and pulling his leg out in my direction so that his leg supported that side of the bucket. His eyes bugged out until he figured out what I was doing. All through the previews and the now infamous opening scene of the movie, we were in our own personal space. I don't think I could have maintained any sort of erection anyway. Those first ten minutes filled the theatre with so much testosterone; I think my gay cells were suffocating. I heard him mutter an "oh shit", when one of the soldiers on screen was looking around for his arm as if he'd misplaced it like a piece of luggage and until that moment I'd forgotten he was in the theatre at all. I looked over at him and I could see him eyeing me too. I sat back and leaned over in his direction and I felt him pull away. I didn't move and slowly he inched his way back to me. I could feel the heat emanating off of him and that was all it took to banish the testosterone. I pretended to reach for more popcorn and let my hand slip down the side of the bucket onto his leg and then up to his crotch. His eyes were straight ahead, his attention apparently riveted to the screen. While I wasn't looking, he had made preparations for my assault as his jeans were already unzipped. He wore a Polo button down, his collar "popped", the shirt tails untucked over his crotch. I took my time, taking a certain amount of joy, watching the expression on his face change, watching his chest heave, listening to his breathing, those sudden catches, looking down and seeing the grip he had on the arm rest and how he fought not to arch his back when he finally came. He wouldn't look at me while he quietly zipped up and then got up to go to the bathroom. I watched for him to come back in the theatre and saw him sit next to a couple of freshmen from the jock squad. I didn't watch the rest of the movie. I just sat and stared at the back of his head, waiting for him to look back at me. He never did.
Truthfully it was three years ago and I doubted he remembered it at all. Three years of varsity football, being knocked to the ground so many times and three years of girlfriends and all the sex that supposedly came with them, being jerked off in a movie theatre seems infinitesimal. I wonder why I remember it so well. Maybe it's the three years of no boyfriends and the sex that didn't come with that. For me at least, being gay has been very frustrating.
"Oh come on Grunt, you know you want me." My mother's always saying I've got a smart mouth.
"You know, Houston, you've got a smart mouth." Hmm seems it's catching on. He was looking at me and I noticed he was broader and taller and brick house seemed a bit diminutive a description.
"You know Grunt, you've got a little dick." I heard the laughter and gasps as his face twisted into embarrassed rage.
I think this hit too close to home, not that he has a small penis, but that I would know anything about it. I didn't expect him to swing at me much less knock me unconscious, but apparently that's what happened. I woke up in the nurse's office, a cold compress on my jaw, my vision a tad on the blurry side and the back of my head pounding. Around me stood fuzzy apparitions of my mother and Ms Jensen, the school nurse, and Mr. Callahan, the principal.
Apparently there had been no mention of him calling me a fag, or my circumspect description of his manhood. My mother looked at me like she knew exactly what happened, what with me having a smart mouth and all. My mother drove me home, telling me she'd given the keys to my car to Trina and that she would drive it home for me after school. Then what followed was one of her maternal diatribes about how I'm starting out the school year in a bad way, that I wasn't going to make any friends this way and how with the rest of the day off and more than likely in bed I should think about my approach in social situations. I just leaned my head on the window feeling the air conditioner blow on my swollen jaw trying not to think about the fact that I would have to wait another day before I could find out if the boy from the cafeteria would be in any of my classes and how chances are I'd have a black eye and a puffy face and that zilch would be the amount of attention I would get from him. This is not how the first day of school was supposed to start out.
I heard the knock on the door from my bedroom upstairs and the pounding of feet on the stairs as Trina made her way up to my room. I heard my mother bellow a greeting and Trina's hello back as she opened the door and looked in at me on my bed.
"You know Nick, as first days go, that wasn't so bad." She smiled and jumped on my bed, sitting on her knees with a Cheshire grin plastered to her face. "I mean, you did get to meet the super sexy, super hot super delicious Lucas Hightower. That's a good thing right?" She looked at me and grinned even bigger. "I did a little digging, you know, for your sake. You know…to get the down low on the hot guy. You'll be happy to know, he isn't Mr. Popular. At least not after Grant Masterson was slammed into the locker after you hit the ground like a bag of bricks. Sure, sure, everyone thought he was cool for taking up for you…well everyone but Grant…which is where the not so Mr Popular got his new name. There's at least one person who doesn't like him now. And what's better than being the only two people on campus who felt it necessary to piss off Grant Masterson, you and Lucas Hightower." She took a deep breath as if all that talking took a great deal out of her and then slumped onto one of my pillows. She looked up at me and blinked a couple of times innocently. "Oh and Bee Tee Dubayou…he's in our English class." She nodded.
"So…when you said you did a little investigating to get the down low on the super hot guy, what you meant to say is that you showed up for English class and saw him there and heard roll call? Wow, I think it's time you got your P.I. license. You're the new Nancy Drew." I have to admit I was feeling a thousand times better since Trina showed up but I felt a sudden lump in my throat. "Umm….about the roll call, there's not like assigned seating…"
"Oh yeah, guess what…super hot and sexy, sits right in front of you."
This sent Trina into gales of laughter. "Anyway, I gotta go. Here's your key." She tossed them too me as she bounced up off my bed as if the bed springs had tossed her into the air. She really had way too much energy. "I need a ride to school in the morning. Can you pick me up?"
"Sure Sherlock. No Problem."
And with that, in a whirlwind she was gone and I was left contemplating Lucas Hightower in my English class, just an arm's reach away. I slumped back down against my pillows and closed my eyes, certain the world as I knew it had just come to an end. Oh how I hated it when she was right.
I Pulled the pad of rainbow colored notebook paper out from under my pillow and wrote his name in print. I ran my fingers across the letters remembering his green eyes, the subtle smirk of his smile. Oh Lord, you're such a queer. I wrote over his name several times with random letters adding a few letters before his name and a few after to cover my tracks. I've learned to do this with Trina. I'm pretty sure she'd figure it out if she ever happened upon the evidence, but with Trina it's best to take no chances.
I heard my phone ringing, it was Trina's ringtone and I had to scramble to find it under my comforter and pillows. It was a text.
WHO'S the coolest person you know?
It was a rhetorical question if there ever was one. And I had to admit, for a girl, she was pretty cool. I mean it went without saying that her accepting me for who I am put her at the very top of my list, but I couldn't feed into her ego, just yet. I couldn't help but smile.
ME! I texted back laughing to myself and pushing send.
I stared at the phone, mentally hearing her laughter as she read it, which made me smile even bigger. I waited for the minute that it took her to respond.
WRONG! It's Nancy Drew, detective at large. Now ask me why.
I felt a sudden flurry of butterflies in my stomach
Scenarios, quite a few of them flew through my mind as I waited, now, somewhat patiently for her response. I imagined it could only be about Lucas.
You're not going to believe it when I tell you. The anticipation is killing you, isn't it?
I could see her smiling that all knowing smile of hers. I gritted my teeth and texted back.
So tell me already.
I suddenly felt hot and pushed the comforter off of me and sat up, leaning against the wall for support.
A certain someone moved just two blocks away, into a recently vacant house. I'll give you a hint. Do the initials RS mean anything to you.
I stared at the phone. The butterflies just did a freefall to the pit of my gut. A thousand questions went through my mind. Another thousand emotions rushed through my heart, which was beating the proverbial mile a minute. This was not happening to me. I could hear myself breathing as I tried to text a response. My cheeks were hot and I was dumbfounded. RS. Ryan Slater. My ex. I suddenly heard Trina's words from this morning ringing in my ears. "Your destiny just walked in."
The phone rang again. I aborted my text and answered. "How do you know? I mean, how did you find out? This is crazy. I think I'm gonna be sick."
Trina laughed. "Calm down Romeo. First off, you don't even know if he has a thing for boy parts. I mean sure, I like 'em. And you like 'em. It might turn out that he'll have the hots for me. When Lucas and I are making out in Ryan's old bedroom, I'll just put him on pause and send you a text. Then you can be sick."
"You know, in our next life, I get to be the bitch." She laughed again. "So start from the beginning."
"Well Ashley just called me and told me that, and I quote "the most hottest guy just moved in next door to me." Well of course I had to ask her why Chace Crawford would be moving to this hell hole of a town and there was complete silence on the other end. You'd think she'd get the Gossip Girl reference, alas she's blonder than Barbie. Anyway so I asked her to dish and she started describing him and then her doorbell rang and a delivery guy from some furniture store said they had a delivery for Hightower. Well you put two and two together, you get super hot super sexy guy. My powers of deduction are phenomenal."
I was shaking my head. "That doesn't mean…"
"Let me finish, you dimrod. So she told me to come over. Well you know me and my curiosity. I was hot on the trail. The very thought that your destiny was going to be right next door to Ashley. I mean come on! First, there's Ryan, your ex paramour, sent off to boarding school for being one of those gays." I pictured her doing the rabbit ears for the one of those gays comments. She was prone to putting things in quotation marks. "…And then there's Ashley, who God love her, wouldn't recognize a gay guy if he came up and did her makeup. I mean why else would she still have the hots for you after all this time."
"I'm not that gay."
"I didn't say you were, I'm just saying after 5 years and her seeing you over at Ryan's for as much as you were over there, doing who knows what, you'd think she'd get a clue."
"But anyways…She asked you to come over?"
Yeah. So my curiosity piqued, I headed over as fast as I could. I had to beg and plead with mom just to use her car. So I get there right in time to see super hot super sex lug this old ratty sofa out to the curb. Oh and Bee Tee Dubayou. He was shirtless. And Oh My God." I could see her rolling her eyes as she said this last part, her hand fluttering like a fan in front of her. "But anyways. What are you doing on Friday? Cuz you have plans now. Super hot super sexy's parents are having a housewarming party and Angela's parents were invited and Angela doesn't want to go over there and make a fool of herself so she asked me if I could go with her. But I told her I had plans with you and she jumped at the chance to invite you along. So what d'ya think?"
I looked at the ceiling, absolutely certain fate was up there somewhere laughing at my situation. I had sworn off guys after breaking up with Ryan. He and I were hot and heavy for six months. But it was all secretive. He was in the closet. I was in the closet. And then his parents caught us in a compromising position sans our clothes. It was too close for comfort. His parents shipped him off to a boarding school and packed up and moved away. Mrs. Slater called me a disgusting unnatural pervert who was going to burn in hell and she wasn't going to let me take her son with me.
"Hello? Earth to Nick Houston. Do you read?"
"I don't know T. Like you said. He may not like … boy parts." I cringed at saying it. And then squirmed at the notion; what if he did?