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`We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.
For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts...
The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.
Chaplinesque (Hart Crane, 1921)
Angel blinked in the sunlit hallway, letting his eyes adjust. The stage door sank shut
behind him. A bell had sounded and students moved through the side hall weighed
down with backpacks and morning scowls. Angel's first class wasn't in the Performing
Arts building so he walked into the drama room, retrieved his pack from the floor,
hoisted it to his shoulder and headed out for Trig. Boys and girls nodded sleepily
or kissed his cheek `en passant' as he walked the blue carpet to the building front. I really need to have a little discussion with Bobby. He's becoming impossible. I'm not really the sensitive type, thought Angel, but some things are just too much. You could never tell what Bobby's mood was going to be but the sulky thing wasn't uncommon. Neither was the Ignore Thing. Angel sighed, following the carpeted hall around to the main exit.
The door to the debate room opened and Gene walked out, briefcase in hand. He looked up, saw Angel's expression and paused mid stride. Gene, a junior also known as Clean Gene and Gene The Machine, was the star of cross-x debate, wooed already by universities though only a junior. Right now, he was dressed down, for Gene, in a button-down shirt, tasseled loafers and dark jeans. The jeans looked as if they'd been pressed, seams sharp. Angel couldn't help a slight smirk. Gene raised a Mr. Spock eyebrow and raked his eyes up and down Angel, taking in the tousled hair and hastily tucked shirt. His eyes narrowed.
"Rehearsing, Angel?" came the cool baritone, eyebrow still arched.
Angel flushed. He was very conscious, suddenly, of being only a sophomore.
"No, just doing some homework before class." Angel said.
"You might try doing your homework at home, Angel. I do all my homework in my own bedroom. Maybe you should try it." Gene's eyes never left Angel's face.
Angel swallowed and felt the flush reach his chest. He never could understand his reaction to the debater. Gene wasn't really good looking even if he was smart. And who irons their blue jeans? Too thin, too tall, too Vulcan. Plain features. Brown hair. Gene the Machine. Angel slowed his breathing with an effort.
"Try what, Gene? Your bedroom?" Angel answered archly.
To Angel's surprise, Gene laughed. He looked Angel up and down again and smiled.
"Your mascara's smudged." Gene said simply and walked off down the hall.
Angel exhaled, counted to ten at the ceiling and went to class.
Morning classes blew by, leaving nothing in their wake. Angel had finally pulled Bobby out of Theatre Major Studies, their three-hour afternoon block of drama, and squirreled the two of them away in the prop storage area above the shop. No one ever went there in the daytime, so there'd be no interruptions. They curled against the far wall, talking. Or rather, not talking. It'd been fifteen minutes but Angel couldn't get anything out of him.
"Okay, Bobby, I know you don't wanna talk to me right now but its days now and you've been crazier than usual. I gotta know something. Tell me what you're thinking. Any more dreams? And what's up with the attitude lately? Tell me something, anything...please?" Angel said gently.
Bobby hunched forward, nearly crouching, hands tucked under his knees. He looked at the floor, not meeting Angel's eyes. He said nothing. Angel sighed, wanting a cigarette, wanting a magic wand. Bobby could be really difficult.
"Bobby, seriously, what's up lately?" Angel felt the silence slowly stretch out for another five minutes and then, just as Angel realized he was tired and should probably leave, Bobby spoke.
"I told them." Bobby said flatly, not looking up.
"Told who, what?" Angel asked reflexively but he knew. Bobby had told his parents he was gay. I can't believe it, thought Angel, he'd been talking about this for months and suddenly he just does it? His parents are so old, they're almost like grandparents and they adore their youngest child. God knows what they think.
"I told Mom and Dad I thought I was...that I might be...that I was..." Heavy sigh. "That I was queer." Still not looking up, studying his Nike sneakers.
Angel slid closer and put his arm around Bobby's shoulders.
"And?" Angel asked his friend.
Bobby let out a slow breath.
"Mom cried, I don't know for how long, we talked then I went to my room. Dad went into his study and hasn't come out, hasn't said a word to me since, hasn't looked at me. I didn't see him this morning," answered Bobby.
"Okay, what'd you and your Mom talk about?"
"She wanted to know how I know. She wanted to know if I'm sure. She wants me to not, um, have sex with anyone." Bobby's face flushed as he spoke, eyes still downcast.
"Okay, and what'd you tell her?" Angel asked.
Bobby scowled and looked up for the first time.
"Well, fuck, Angel, I sure as hell didn't tell her that I know because I love going backstage and blowing you. What the fuck d'y'think I told her? I told her I knew because I knew. I told her I was sure. She just kept crying. She said my life was ruined. She said I had to promise not to `do anything' with another boy. She wants me to date this girl, some friend's daughter my age." Bobby saw Angel's eyebrows go up. "Yeah, I fucking know. And I have an appointment with a shrink tomorrow. And a date on Sunday night." He made a tired face at that last. "A fucking dinner date with some Alison-something I've never met."
He exhaled shakily and went almost limp against Angel's arm, leaning into his shoulder. Angel pulled him closer, wrapping both arms around the boy, his mind on mute. He couldn't work out how he felt, couldn't get past the idea that Bobby'd finally told them after all this time. His own Mom was cool but she hadn't always been. Dad sure wasn't cool. Not cool six years ago when Angel'd been a skinny ten-year-old who couldn't possibly know, not really, that he was gay. That something else could suck worse than that day he knew was possible but he just couldn't imagine it. His father had whipped him three separate times that night and still been as mad as Angel had ever seen him. Maybe that's why he wasn't sorry when the man moved out four years later. It had been a long four years.
Angel held Bobby closer without speaking.
Eyes clenched shut, head down, Bobby felt Angel's arms pull him tighter and something loosened in his chest. He gasped; god, it hurt so much. I'm not going to cry again, he told himself. I'm not going to cry. He felt Angel's lips light on his hair, his neck. Tears escaped as his throat constricted; his chest tight and painful. I hardly ever cry. I'm not really crying. Bobby's shoulders shuddered as he wept silently into the smaller boy's shoulder. Why do they say that boys don't cry? We don't cry for nothing but, when we cry, our whole hearts break into pieces and are squeezed out as tears.
`I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.'
The entire class was spread around the drama room, kids in every corner, sprawled in the center, draped across one another, relaxed and listening to Ms. Robi's voice. The overhead lights were off but sunshine from the hallway managed to banish full darkness. Ms. Robi's voice was calm, low, controlled. They listened with their eyes closed, limp and liquid, ready to follow her voice.
"Take yourself to that quiet place you've found before and feel yourself there. Smell, touch, taste, breath, be there. Everything is fine, nothing to worry about, nothing to think about. Just relax and feel the special place you've chosen, take yourself there completely. Keep your hands and feet relaxed, quiet, loosen the muscles going downward again, if you need to. Stay loose. Stay calm."
Ms. Robi peered around the dim lit room from behind her heavy glasses. Bodies rustled, then fell still.
"Everything is fine, it's a wonderful day and you're at peace. Feel your chest relax, your breathing slow, your heart quiet down. Everything is wonderful, nothing is wrong, you're at peace. Breathe evenly, in and out. In and out. Calm. Peace."
Her voice was familiar to the drama kids and the exercise known to them all. Ms. Robi conducted relaxation exercises before all serious work; theatre games, rehearsals and all performances. This was so important. It wasn't possible to give a good performance at anything without being relaxed. The cool thing was that it could help with other stuff: tests, talking to parents, first dates, anxiety attacks.
And that last was a good thing because Anthony tended to have them right before an opening, almost without fail. He was sure having one now. He lay on the floor near the door, a kind of flight panic-need he had to be close to an exit, and he tried to let Ms. Robi's voice fill his thoughts. It wasn't working. It really never did for Tony, before openings. His breathing was rapid and shallow, his hands shaking a little against the carpeted floor. He felt a terrible urge to jump up and run outside the door and on out into the parking lot. Just to run. He pulled hard at the air but couldn't seem to get enough. He felt lightheaded. Jesus. Every fucking time.
Jaye opened his eyes from his prone position on the floor and looked at Tony. Anthony's chest rose and fell faster than it should. His eyes were squinched shut, definitely not relaxed, and his left leg was twitching a little. Jaye laughed to himself. He'd bet anything that Anthony wanted to jump up, do something, anything; needed to run off some of that wild energy was that he always got before a performance. He really was a great Oberon in the play but you can't tell him that. Especially when he's like this.
Jaye, on the other hand, felt extremely relaxed, his whole body felt calm and under his control. He felt, for instance, relaxed enough to rake his eyes across Tony's body near his and consider the whole theory of relaxation from a new perspective. Anthony was wearing faded jeans that were pretty snug, outlining his thighs and crotch well enough to give Jaye some ideas about working off nervousness. Jaye smiled to himself and leaned over.
"Tony?" he whispered.
The other boy's eyes flipped open and he turned towards Jaye.
Jaye looked into Anthony's eyes and smiled slowly, languorously. Image of a cat sliding through the grass; gleaming eyes fixed, smiling.
Anthony leaned on his elbow and stared through the semi-darkness into Jaye's eyes. His breathing slowed a little as he let his lips curl up in response. He shushed Jaye with a finger to his lips.
"Jaye, you're supposed to be relaxing." But Tony smiled when he said it.
"Well, that's the thing. I do need to relax. I think a walk would be good. Wanna come with?" Jaye sat up quietly as he spoke softly, not disturbing the others. He looked down at Anthony on the floor, met his eyes and inclined his head towards the door to the shop.
Anthony grinned, holding back a laugh in the quiet room, and stood. The two boys walked gently over the others, picking their way out of the drama room and into the shop. Anthony couldn't stop smiling to himself as he followed Jaye into the boy's dressing room. He'd just cleared the door when Jaye abruptly turned and shoved the door closed with one hand and Anthony against it with the other. He held his face close to Anthony's and grinned.
Anthony laughed. "You do know you're nuts, right?"
Not answering, Jaye kept one hand on Anthony's chest, holding him against the door, and moved his other hand down to cup the front of the other boy's jeans. He squeezed lightly, causing Anthony to grunt softly and lean in to kiss him. He pulled back with a sly smile, evading the kiss. His hand groped harder, stroking Anthony through the denim. He pulled Anthony's right hand and put it on his own fly button. Eyes still locked.
Anthony's left hand joined the right and he fumbled with the metal button. It wasn't helping that Jaye was hard, pressing against the denim, bulging larger as the button continued to resist. Jaye laughed again, the button came free and the zipper down. Jaye's white briefs were a little full, Tony noticed. His weren't the only ones.
Anthony was having trouble keeping his breathing under control. He was vividly aware of the door at his back and the others not far beyond it, past the shop, in the Green Room. The dressing room door was hard at this back but something else was hard at his front. Jaye's hand held his shoulder against the door. That made him twitch in his pants. Jesus.
Anthony's breath focused as his eyes did. God, Jaye was gorgeous. Blonde hair, loose and smooth, fell across his brown eyes. A single diamond ear stud, some of Angel's liner on his eyes. Jaye looked like a surfer boy gone a little Goth, a little Drama. He looked delicious.
Jaye licked his tongue across his lips and Anthony let out a little moan, leaning in. Anthony pressed closer, trying for that kiss again.
Jaye grinned and pulled away entirely. He reached down into the waistband of his jeans, grabbed the ends of his tee shirt and whipped it up over his head and off in one fluid movement, chest and stomach muscles flexing as he did so. Jaye tossed the shirt behind him and gently pushed Anthony to the side. Jaye leaned his back against the door: shirtless, pants unzipped, bulge straining against his white briefs, looking right straight into Anthony's eyes as he slid his fingers under the band of his own briefs and, never taking his eyes from Anthony, pushed them down with an agonizing slowness, pulling the jeans down further as he did so. The waistband caught and then released.
Anthony groaned. Jesus fucking Christ. He knelt down without one single conscious thought in his head and took Jaye into his mouth, knees hitting the dressing room floor.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, was Anthony's last coherent thought as he took Jaye deep in one smooth movement.
Anthony was about to be seriously relaxed.
[End of Chapter 3]
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