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CONTROL and KAOS
They sat in Emilio's dabbing the oil off their pizzas. It was relatively empty -- only a few of the other customers were from school. EJ and Seth sat next to each other, with Topher and Theo sitting across. Topher was telling a story.
"So Cooledge hands out this test, right? And fucking Uzi writes out his phone number for the answers, like number one is seven, number two is three, like that. Then when Cooledge comes over and looks at it, he says, what's that? And Uzi says it's the answers. And Cooledge says, no, that. And he points at the top of the page. And Uzi say, oh. I spelled my name wrong. And Cooledge says, you can't spell your own name? And Uzi says, all superior, I can spell my name. I just didn't want anyone knowing my phone number."
The boys laughed. "Was he serious?" Theo asked.
"You can never tell with Uzi," Topher answered between large gulps of coke.
"Wilson passes out a test a couple days ago," EJ said, "and Missy Clark says, are we supposed to take this now?" Everyone laughed again.
Both pairs of boys were sitting close to each other. Seth was practically in EJ's lap, while Theo's proximity to Topher was just enough that the hair on Topher's arm tickled Theo's forearm when they laughed. Hidden under the table, Theo impishly hooked his foot around Topher's ankle. Taking it as a game, Topher grinned and spun his foot around behind so that his was hooking Theo's instead.
Unaware of the footsie exchange going on across from them, Seth took EJ's arm, draped it around his shoulders, and nestled in.
"You may feed me now," Seth said imperiously, aiming his dimples at the older boy. EJ looked down at the cuteness crooked in his arm and smiled. The kid was adorable, there was no doubt about it. EJ took a slice in his free hand, brought it to Seth's lips, and happily shoved the majority of it in. Seth choked and laughed simultaneously.
"You know," Theo said, returning them to their conversation, "Seth hasn't taken a test solo since I met him."
"Aren't they always telling us that we have to be good members of a team?" Seth protested, wiping the spittle and tomato sauce from his chin. "All this cooperative learning shit? I'm just following instructions. Besides, if teachers didn't want us to cheat, they wouldn't have made it so easy."
"I once bet him that he couldn't pass a test on his own without cheating." Theo said.
"I won that bet," Seth pointed out.
"Stupid bet," Topher said, the bite of pizza still prominently in his mouth. "No way to check it."
"You want a stupid bet," EJ asked, "Topher drank the unknown in chem lab last year."
"That wasn't stupid. I made 20 bucks on that bet!" Topher protested.
"Dude, you had no idea what it was! You could have died!" EJ said.
"But I didn't and I made the 20 bucks, so who's stupid now, huh?"
There was a brief silence while the other three came to differing answers to that question.
"Besides," Topher went on, oblivious to the fact that the rest of the table had come up with him, "you were the one who set off that rocket in the bathroom."
"You blew up a toilet?" Seth asked.
"No, he just set it off," Topher said, trying to keep the slice from spilling out of his mouth. "It was in the middle-school boy's room. You should've seen it -- fucking bouncing off the walls in every direction. I thought it was going to fucking kill us!"
"That's okay, Theo superglued his hands together," Seth said.
"You did?" Topher asked.
"I had broken this vase of my mom's," Theo explained. "I was trying to fix it before she got home."
"So she gets home, right?" Seth added, "and his hands are glued together and the vase is stuck to his face."
They laughed at the mental image.
"Fuck you!" Theo shot back playfully. "Seth wet his pants in school."
"Disgruntled snort! You So missed the point of that story," Seth said rolling his eyes. "I got caught stealing the answers to a homework out of my teacher's desk, right? So I wet my pants. She didn't know why I was in her desk, and she felt so bad for me she totally forgot why I was there. I did my Pathetic Look thing. It worked perfect." Seth demonstrated his Pathetic Look. EJ smiled.
"Dude," Theo said bringing them back to the real point, "you wet your pants."
"So? The first time you got drunk, you fell asleep on the couch!"
"What's wrong with that?" Topher asked.
"It wasn't in his house," Seth said. "Not even the right street! He just decides he had walked far enough on his way home and he's there. So he goes in and goes to sleep on this old couple's couch. The woman came down the next morning and saw him passed out there and called the cops."
"Fuck, she was loud," Theo recalled. "I've never heard anyone scream that much. Anyway, at least I didn't do it on purpose."
"You want on purpose?" EJ asked. "Topher got his tongue stuck to a flag pole. Man, I never thought you were going to agree to that!" They were laughing hard, knowing that the sparring was harmless.
"At least I never spray-painted Mrs. Wheeler stinks on the blackboard."
"That's not so bad," Seth said.
"He signed it," Topher added.
Sprite sprayed out of Theo's nose.
"I was ten," EJ said, by way of explanation.
"You were a fucking idiot," Topher rejoined.
"Fuck you. You owe me fifty cents!" They laughed.
The conversation continued, as conversations among boys will. The four ate and talked and laughed. They interrupted each other with insults and bested each other with stories. Seth and EJ stroked each other as overtly as Theo and Topher did surreptitiously. Each was happy in being in the others' company, and happy with himself and his place in the world.
There is my construction -- a world in which people can discover each other and themselves. You have noticed, I'm sure, that I have not fixed its setting, though I assure you I know where it is. It takes place in Everytown, where life is finite until you get a car, where September is the month of possibilities, where new faces are as exciting as the old faces are comfortable. And while it is clearly not here, perhaps, as time wends on, we can find our way there.
You will want to know the ending, I expect. But that's for you to construct. Beginnings and endings are the hardest, and I have done my work. If you are a romantic, Topher and Theo are still together, discovering new ways of interacting without rules. If you are a pessimist, they were too different to last. If you are analytical, you can argue with EJ and Seth about who is more narcissistic, or, if you truly enjoy a fight, who really is in control. If you are horny, the argument can end in passion. My only hint at ending is this: they are, all four, happy. Beyond that, it needn't be decided.
That is the joy of fantasy. It is the chaos which only you control.