The Dark Side of the Moon

Chapter 9


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From the previous chapter:
“ The kid that lives next to him is friends with one of the guys that they arrested.” He doesn’t offer more and I don’t have to guts to ask so I stare down at my food and then when I look up I see this guy. He’s standing six feet behind Carl and he’s got a tray of food in his hand and he’s looking around. He looks so familiar to me like somehow I know him. He’s pretty tall and he’s got dark brown hair and one of those builds that even though you can’t see it all you just know that he’s an athlete. Finally he glances at me then looks away and the quickly looks back, you know, like a double take. Then he kinda smiles but not so much at me but more like he’s just answered a question in his head.

Then someone yells, “Dean!” and the guy whips his head around, looks relieved and walks off.

The Dark Side of the Moon 9

Carl is shoveling huge amounts of the brown stuff that we’re eating for lunch into his mouth but glances up at me between swallows. “I think I got the answer to your problems.” There’s a bead of gravy hanging at the edge of his mouth and I almost have to hold my hand down to keep it from reaching over and wiping the gravy off.

He’s pausing for dramatic effect but since this is my life we’re talking about he’s killing me. “Carl, will ya fucking tell me!”

“You need to start getting some cooter.” He’s nodding sagely like I’m actually supposed to understand what he’s talking about.


He gives me a frustrated look and says firmly, “You need to start fucking girls!”

“Oh.” I gotta admit that would probably help but at the same time there’s just something in me that refuses to go there. I mean like I’m a thousand light years away from coming out but I still can’t bring myself to use somebody like that. And, of course, there’s the whole issue of nobody being the least bit interested in me.

“Carl, as it stands right now I figure I’m gonna be ready for sex when you’re ready to be elected President!” This is probably the point where I should tell him I’m gay but I just can’t. I mean I gotta have one person in my life who hasn’t changed and it really feels like to one degree or another everyone else has.

“Oh, c’mon, Robbie, you’ll get over it!” He says it like I’ve had a lingering cold and then looks around quickly like he’s asking the most important question in the world and doesn’t wanna be overheard. “I mean as long as everything…there…still works, it’ll be cool.” I decide that he really means to be supportive and I force myself to accept what he’s said in that light even though I have no clue if everything still works or not.

I glance up at the huge fucking clock on the wall and say, “We only got fifteen minutes.” He nods and lowers his head to shovel in the remains of his food. He accepts what I said even though I’ve basically told him to mind his own fucking business.

My next class is Biology followed by Government and then gym. The first two I just don’t get. I mean what is the point? How does this shit help me? The last one I get only too well. I’m pretty sure that gym class was invented to teach kids that there’s a price to be paid for being different. You’d think that the least they could do would be to break the classes up into people who read and people who don’t. I mean it’s not like I wanna deport jocks from the planet or anything cause I’m sure they’re good for breeding and shit but I just want em outta my life for this one hour.

So on my way to gym class I’m walking down this corridor with a whole bunch of other kids and I get this strange feeling, kinda like in the movies when somebody steps into a time warp or some shit. It’s like I just walked thru an invisible door and all of the color is washed outta the world and then I realize that that door up ahead on the right is the door to the john where it happened and in like a zillionth of a second it feels like my lunch is gonna be waving goodbye to me and sweat has broken out on the back of my neck. Somehow I just know that the most important thing in the whole fucking world is to keep my legs working and to keep swallowing and then gradually I’m past it and the color seems to come back and I’m almost okay. I don’t look up but from the sounds of the other kids I’m pretty sure that that little drama was lived by me alone cause we’re all like exploding into the locker room now and if anyone else lived it with me they shut up about it.

Boy’s locker rooms are this like intensely sexual place. It’s like the testosterone is just radiating off of all these bodies and there’s naked asses and cocks everywhere. And there’s like this boiling hormonal cloud, all hot and damp, I mean it feels like you could open your mouth and take a bite out of it.

It’s pretty much a roomful of guys pretending that they’re not looking at each other or really not looking at each other so hard that it doesn’t work. Some guys just don’t ever meet the eyes of anyone else and it makes you wonder. It’s like we’re all afraid of the same thing and nobody’s gotta explain it to anyone cause we all get it and maybe the price for gettin caught isn’t death but it might just as well be.

And all the while the yelling and laughing and locker slamming always put my nerves on edge. The sounds all seem to be so sharp, like razors cutting into me, almost physically painful. It’s like I’m afraid that all that energy could pretty easily be turned against me. Kids are like that, one guy yells something and everybody else figures they gotta go along with it and I would be a good target. They’d turn on me like an army of zombies. The thought gave me the shakes.

Here and there I spot a guy that I went to middle school with but our high school is really big and a couple of different middle schools and a couple of Catholic schools send kids here so it’s kinda catch as catch can. Besides, I was never that popular. Every once in a while there’s a guy who looks at me funny, like he’s trying to decide if I’m queer or not, like maybe someone told him something and sometimes a guy’ll look at me and then kinda nod, like he figures I’m okay, at least I figure that that’s what he’s thinking. For a split second I wish I could know what they’re all really thinking but then I realize that that’d probably be worse.

Then on the other side of the room I see the guy from the cafeteria, his back is to me as he’s pulling one of the school’s tee shirts on over his dark brown hair and onto his muscular back. The skin on his back still has a bit of color from the summer and as he pulls the shirt down he shakes his head like a dog. The gym shorts he’s wearing are riding low on his hips and you can almost see the crack of his butt. He looks so comfortable. He’s standing talking to a couple of guys and you can tell by the way he moves that this place is no kind of problem for him, he’s in his element. He shoves his hand down the front of his shorts while he’s talking and adjusts himself and you can tell that he’s not even aware that he’s doing it. It’s so strange cause here we are, probably the same age, in the same grade and I’m so scared I could hurl and he’s acting like he’s home layin on the floor watching TV. Life is so fucking unfair. Some news flash huh?

Guys start wandering out onto the gym floor and stand there in groups. The jocks are animated and way loud while the nerds like me stand around waiting for our daily doze of humiliation, getting picked to be on a team. It’s not really a question of if we’ll get picked cause everyone does. The real question is how soon you’ll be picked. I’m usually last or in the rare event that there’s someone around even nerdier than me, maybe second to last. I’ve even had teams argue with each other over who had to take me. Now that’s humiliation!

The coach comes out of the locker room reading a clipboard as he walks. He’s wearing a grey tee shirt and dark blue gym pants. He’s a total stud with heavily muscled arms and a thick chest. I hate him. Well, actually I don’t hate him, at least not all the time. He does embarrass me and the other guys like me but he really seems to be bothered by it. He gets this weird little hurt look on his face when I’m trying to crawl into the ground because of something that he’s caused. But I definitely get the feeling that he wishes he could have stopped it. It’s like he’s trying to send me telepathic messages about how I shouldn’t be mad at him.

The senior that helps the coach with our class is hauling a huge mesh bag full of basketballs out of the equipment locker which tells me that that will be our method of humiliation. As far as I’m concerned they might as well be neutron bombs. Finally he dumps open the bag and starts kicking the balls out onto the floor. They roll in every direction like someone spilled a big bag of marbles.

The coach blows a whistle and six guys walk over to him, six of the best athletes and I wonder how they knew to do that. He must have talked to them. Cafeteria guy is among that group and looking incredibly studly and so cool. The six guys gather around to hear the coaches quiet words while the rest of us, mostly the uncool or the not quite cool enough, await their verdict.

Finally the coach dismisses the six, blows his whistle and tells us what we already knew, that these six would be calling us to their side, to their team. I wonder if I had a heart attack right now, just this second and my body fell to the wood floor, if everyone would feel bad. If they would say, “We shoulda treated him better! It’s all our fault!” But I know that they wouldn’t, even in death I’d be a loser.

The six guys form a loose semi-circle around us and start calling names. I’m barely listening because this is way too soon to hear mine. Cafeteria guy calls the name of the best player there, or at least someone who looks like the best player there, cause how the fuck would I know. And then he looks the crowd over and looks me right in the eye and I feel myself begin to sweat and turn red. Why is he doing this to me? I could kill him!

But then he smiles and points at me and in this really deep voice says, “You…come on over.” My heart is going a mile a minute and I can barely feel my arms and legs. I figure this for a setup. He’s gonna let me get half way to him and then say that it was a mistake that he couldn’t possibly use someone like me, that nobody could ever use anyone like me. If he’s tryin to get to me it’s working cause my body has gone into shut down and I could be hitting that floor really soon but some part of my brain has taken over my legs and I begin to take a step towards him. I’m sure this is a mistake and I finally override all commands from my brain and my legs stop. If he wants to fuck with me he’ll just have to do long distance.

In the meantime he calls another guy to come up to him and I figure maybe he’s done with the joke, or shit, maybe I even heard him wrong to begin with. Then he looks at me again and kinda puts his tongue into his cheek and lifts his eyebrows. Then he smiles and says, “Well, come on.” Like he was a Chinese emperor, I hear and tremblingly obey.

He keeps picking guys until everyone on the gym floor has been picked to a team. Then Cafeteria guy turns to us and says, “Let’s round up some basketballs and then we can start dribbling practice.” He points out five guys and says, “You guys get the balls and find somebody to teach. There’s something in his voice and they take off running. He turns to me and says, “You’re, Robbie, right?”

My head is nodding like one of those dog dolls that people put in the back of their cars and I say, “Yeah, that’s me.”

He turns a thousand watt smile on and says, “Cool. You and me’ll work together.” It’s slowly sinking into my head that someone told him to call me, because otherwise how would he even have known my name, right? Unless, he asked someone but I figure the odds against that are high. I wonder if the coach told him to call me and I figure that’s gotta be it. He’s probably being punished for something and I’m the punishment. He’s been ordered to take care of me. Then I hear a thump thump sound and realize that he’s been standing there for awhile bouncing a ball while staring at me. When I look up at him he grins.

He has to practically yell over the noise in the gym. “A little trip to veg land?”

I feel like a charity case and I hate it. “You don’t have to take care of me.”

He tilts his head to the side. “You already know how to dribble?”

“That’s not what I mean.”

He does some amazing things with his stupid basketball while he seems to be thinking about how to answer me. Finally he walks over to me and picks up my right hand.

“Lemme show ya how to handle the ball.” He positions my hand on the ball and then shows me how my hand should be hitting the ball. It takes about ten minutes of encouragement but I finally begin to get it. It’s really pretty easy and he’s so patient. He never once got mad or even raised his voice a little bit but he hadn’t answered my question either. Just as I was getting calm enough where I was at the point where I was beginning to be aware of things other that my own guts he took the ball away from me.

He said softly, “Nobody told me to take care of you.” He was twirling the ball on the tip of his finger and I stared, mesmerized. Then he bounced it once on the floor and tucked it under his arm. “But I do know what happened.” My heart lurches.

I drop my eyes to the floor and my hands are behind my back my fingers twisting each other. It’d be a snap to start crying about now but I really fight it hard and finally decide to just pretend that we’re talking about someone else.

Trying to sound casual I say, “Who told ya what happened?”

He has amazing skin, tanned and so smooth. It makes his teeth seem really white. He says simply, “My brother.” He hands me the ball and I try to dribble. I know that I can do this, at least I could a few minutes ago but that was before we started talking about this. Somehow my muscles refuse to work together and I’m beginning to get embarrassed but that’s when he moves in and shows me how again without even a hint of irritation.

As a matter of fact, he seems to be enjoying himself and he laughs a lot but never at me, usually at himself. It’s pretty obvious that he’s trying to be nice cause there’s nothing about him that’s lame. Then he tucks the ball under his arm again and says, “You don’t recognize me do ya? I mean everybody says I look just like my brother.”

This time I look at him hard. “You do look really familiar but I’m just not sure. Who’s your brother?”

There’s a glint in his eyes, almost a challenge. “Mark Daniels.”