Meat Head wasn’t always comfortable around me. I had to teach him to let his guard down, but it’s something I’m sure he wanted.
“So I can...” he stumbled on his words.
“Kiss me; you can kiss me,” I told him.
It was a few days after we started dating. I’m not sure I could call us a couple yet, but we weren’t friends, and we weren’t enemies anymore.
“Without being aggressive,” I added.
“I’m not aggressive,” he argued.
We were in my grandma’s backyard, hanging out after school. I was supposed to be cleaning the pool, but Meat Head followed me home.
“You’re gonna rip my sweater,” I said as he yanked me close.
Everything was a battle with him back then. It’s like he couldn’t be gentle without associating it with weakness.
“How many of these things do you have,” he asked.
“Sweaters? I don’t know, a lot. But you’re stalling,” I said.
He was right there but too afraid to close the distance, so I attempted to do it for him. I leaned in just enough to imply what I wanted, but left enough space for him to pull away or go with it. It was my way of pressuring him to do what we both wanted. Unfortunately, he pulled away and pushed me back.
I almost stumbled into the pool, but he caught my wrist before I did.
“Have you ever freaked out about kissing a girl?” I asked, taking my hand back after getting my footing.
“No,” Meat Head said while turning away before he added, “you’re not a chick; this is different.”
“Never mind then,” I gave up and went back to cleaning the pool.
The water was filth because the pool cover was ripped in a bunch of different places.
“Why can’t we ever hang out inside your house,” Tom asked.
“Remember prom night?” I remarked.
“No,” he said, tossing a rock in my direction.
“Well, I know you remember the morning after. You tossed my room, cursed me out, and threatened to kill me, but we weren’t the only people in the house,” I explained.
“She heard everything, and she doesn’t like you. I shouldn’t like you,” I said.
“But you do. You like me, right?” he asked.
How was someone like him that insecure?
“When you’re not trying to kill me, I guess you’re tolerable,” I joked.
“I don’t know anything about you other than what you’re afraid of. Being gay isn’t enough to like someone,” I argued while he wandered around the yard.
I could have used his help, but I didn’t bother to ask.
“I’m not gay,” he said.
“Whatever you are, I don’t know you,” I answered.
He came over and hugged me from behind. His grip, his hold on me, was tight. Was he trying to get close to me or lift me?
“What do you want to know?” He said like I was stupid for wondering about him.
“What’s your favorite band? Where did you grow up? Do you like hamburgers or hot dogs? Give me the basics,” I said, but he sighed in my ear.
“I don’t know. I’ve lived here my whole life.”
“Boring, but continue,” I teased him.
“I’ll eat anything with meat.”
“Explains a lot, but go on.”
“I don’t think I have a favorite band,” he admitted, and the thought must have surprised him just as much as it did me because he let me go.
“Favorite song then?” I said while I turned around.
“...I don’t know,” he answered and showed those insecurities again.
“So you’re just another predictable Meat Head of a jock,” I joked at his sad expense.
“Fuck you,” he said, shoving me.
Again I almost fell into the water, but twice that day, he caught me just in time. When he pulled me back, I shoved him and went inside.
Behind my back, he called out, “Wait! I didn’t mean...”
I thought about leaving him there, but when I got to my bedroom, I found something that gave me another idea. I brought my MP3 player outside and tossed it at Meat Head. For a football player, he fumbled around with the device and headphones a moment longer than expected.
“What’s this?” He asked.
“Just listen,” I told him and put the headphones on his ears.
I wasn’t sure which song I played, but nothing I listened to was mainstream.
“You like this?”
“I do,” I said.
“But it’s... it’s so sad,” he said.
“It’s honest,” I corrected.
We sat side by side on a lawn chair, listening to my playlist of indie music.
“We don’t have to like stuff for the same reason as everyone else. We’re different. Why not embrace it?” I said, but Meat Head wasn’t paying attention.
It was a good thing. Maybe he didn’t like my taste in music, but it was new to him. I didn’t have to say anything for a while. He and I were docile and at peace with one another. But then he took off the headphones.
“I like your hair; it reminds me of my dog,” he said awkwardly, but it made me smile.
“I didn’t know you had a dog?”
“I don’t, not anymore,” Meat Head answered.
It was sad.