"Why do I even bother?" I muttered to myself as I stared into the bathroom mirror over the sink. I wiped steamy condensation from the large glass to reveal my damp hair; if I cut it too short, it accentuated my glasses even more, and if it's longer, then the waviness and the cowlick are even worse. I give uponce it's dry, it won't lay flat anyway. My eyes were brown, with just the faintest touch of green, and my complection was pretty clear, which only made my stubble more obvious. I hate having to shave every other day!
I dropped the towel into the hamper, and walked the short distance down the hall to my room wearing only my red briefsno one was home, as usual this time of day--so I had nothing to fear. I took in my room's autumn gold walls and gold curtains on the front and side windows before pulling white socks from my dresser. I liked the room before it was painted better, but it had been more than ten years since it was last donemy oldest sister had painted huge peacocks on the wall's burnt orange backgroundit took four coats of paint to finally obscure them!
My parens' room was next door on the back side of the ranch, then a smaller bedroom with the single bath opposite before you got to the front door next to the combined living/dining room which ran the depth of the house. The kitchen was next in front, with the utility room and another bedroom behind which opened off the living room. A tan brick fireplace wall separated the kitchen end of the house from the main areas, and provided a nice ambience in winter. Off the utility room was a half-bath and the door opening into the garage where my car was currently kept. The original house ended there, but my father had built on a second garage for his tools and our yard equipment.
None of that mattered as I opened my closet door and stepped into the long, narrow space, two short rods front-to-back on either side of the door with a shelf above. In spite of the space, my selection was limited; tees and socks and underwear were in the dresser, as were sweaters...one side of the closet was mostly empty except for a couple coats and one dark-blue dress suit, the other side held most of my pants and shirts. Way in back, behind the coats, were a few pairs of bell-bottom jeans and a couple brightly colored polyester shirts I'd worn in middle-schoolthe high-heeled platform shoes I had thankfully outgrown and thrown away years ago.
Jay said it doesn't matter what you wearbut it does! Since it was a little chillier this April day than it had been, I wore a cream-colored sweater to school with tan twill slacks...he couldn't see me in those again! I couldn't wear black at home because my long-haired tuxedo cat had a mad ability to shed at will on her selected target. Jeans? As far as I knew, we were eating in--but I wanted to show him that I put a bit more effort into this than just a usual school day. I pulled out a pair of off-white chinos and hunted for a shirt; button or sweatshirt, long- or short-sleeved? I held up a shirt to match the pants but put it back after a quick glance in the mirror on the inside of the door--you look like an ice-cream salesman!
I heard the clock in the living room strike four, and cursedhe'll be here in a half-hourunless he's early! He wouldn't do that, would he?! I knew I was going to wear my oxblood penny-loafers, so maybe a shirt to match those? After sliding metal hangers back and forth on the rods another five minutes, I pulled out a short-sleeved red shirt with white buttonsit was only slightly lighter than my briefsnot that anyone would be seeing them. I threaded my leather belt through the loops at my waist, and fastened the steel buckle as I stepped into my loafers. A thin silver chain around my neck, and my metal-strapped digital watch completed my outfit.
As I passed the bathroom, I swigged a little more mouthwash and put on a little more Old Spice, acutely aware that my palms were already sweating. Four-twenty-five...according to the glowing red numbers on the black screen of my watch. I wound my way past the dining room table to look out the front windows toward the road. Each was composed of two large panes sliding side by side in their aluminum frames. Their pink-marble sills were chilly even in summer, but in my room in winter, ice built up and had to be covered with folded towels to collect the melt water. The gravel drive approached the main garage directly before curving east to continue back out to the one-lane road. I watched as the sun struggled to come out, finally managing the task as it floated to the west. The eight maple trees in the yard were just beginning to bud out, but the forsythia planted along the front of the house was already yellow with tiny flowers.
A soft sound behind me made me turn; my largish black and white long-haired cat was staring at me out of pale yellow-green eyes. She walked across the table to stand at my elbow, her tail curling up into the air like a question-mark. I reached out slowly to let her sniff me before trying to pet her, and she butted my hand with a chirp. I let out a sigh of relief--maybe she would be nice to Jay and let him leave the house in one piece! This wasn't always the case--I remembered vividly the insurance lady who had been ambushed as she walked past the table into the living room--not knowing we even had a cat, let alone an attack one. I used my softest, most pleading voice: "Please don't kill him, Fifty-eight! He's one of my only friends!"
When I turned back to her after looking out at the road again, she was gone...
* * * * * * * * * *
As the seconds crawled by, I thought back to the past twenty-four hours; finding out that Greg Newton was Kurt had been less scary than I thoughthe was naturally quiet, and no one considered that oddso he was safe with my secret, since he shared the same one. When he called me after school as we'd planned, I wasn't sure what to expectmore phone sex, or just idle chat. I hoped for the former, but got the latter: his little sister was home so he had no privacybut he did whisper a few suggestive remarks to me, which were enough to fuel a fantasy session after we hung up. His main reason for wanting to talk was to ask if I would draw a picture for himhe'd seen the green dragon I painted on the art room window last year, and wanted one for himself! When I expressed shock that Ms. Skopik had left it there, he said she refused to remove it. I agreed to do it for him, and he said he'd make it worth my while--I hoped that meant what I thought it did.
I hadn't seen Jay at lunch today, and frankly, I was a little worried. Was he sick? There weren't many people I could ask, but one of his 4-H friends said he'd been there first period. Kurt had saved me a carton of chocolate milk as I picked my way through the lunch linesloppy joesanother decent meal. I was feeling a bit down until Kurt sat across from me for a bit to eat his own lunch before getting back to workit still surprised me that he was talking--but I found that I could relax with him and let my guard down a bit.
With my usual caution, I looked around before asking him the question that had been burning in my mind since we'd had The Call. "Kurt...why me? Am I doing something to give myself away?" The thought of that had me worried, so I needed to find out what caused him to pick me.
He gave me a reassuring smile before he answered quietly: "Don't worry about that, Miles--you...we're fine! Kids our age are supposed to be moody and withdrawn," he gave me what I was fast becoming aware of as his `signature' snicker. "I heard there's a thing called...gaydar...which we can use to spot others like us...all I know is that I watch other people, and if I notice certain things, there's a chance I'm right."
"What things...help me out here, Kurt!" I hated the note of pleading in my voicealmost like a whinebut if I could spot others like myself, maybe I wouldn't feel sovulnerable. For the moment, I hadn't considered that I now knew two others like myselfwhich was two more than I had a couple days ago.
Kurt thought for a few moments before replying. "It's nothing specific, Milesyou have to add in what you know about the person and figure how that affects their actions toward others. Youare pretty quiet so that's no helpbut when you talk to people, you tend to be friendlier to guys than girlsand when you look around at people, I think you look just a bit longer at guys. None of that is noticeable to normal people since you are pretty reservedif I hadn't been doing the same things, I wouldn't have noticed."
The auburn-haired boy took a few bites of his own lunch before going on. "Body language is a big part too...whether a person stands a bit closer to guys than girls in talking, does he touch a bit moreor at least let it last a second too long when he does...it varies from person to personbut I'm afraid you won't be able to use the most important bit..." I looked more intently at him when he stopped, and my face fell as I slumped back into my chair.
"Ohthatagain!" All my life, it seemed my vision had limited or even denied me doing certain thingsunless someone was very close, I missed a lot of fine details, such as the moods reflected in a person's eyes. I knewas I was constantly remindedthat I was fortunate to still have my sight at all despite my optometrist's childhood predictionsso why had I expected my capacity to find a boyfriend to be any different?
I pushed my tray aside, no longer interested in the remains of my vegetables or dessert. Kurt patted my arm for a moment, and I managed to summon up a wan smile. "Who's Dave, Kurt? Are there many others that you've spotted?" I could think of four `Daves' right off the top of my head. Not to mention five Jeffs, eight Joes...but only one Miles.
Kurt gave a small shake of his head and actually smirked at me! "Not tellingnot unless he says I canjust like I won't mention you to anyone else. And, yes...I've got confirmed sightings of five other boys in our `clan'!" He started to stand, and added just before turning away "I've also got two more suspects to watch a bit longer."
As he went off, collecting a few trays after dumping his own, I couldn't help but wonder if he included me in those fiveor if Jay was one of the `suspects'. If he meant the `clan' was me and him, then there could be as many as eleven of us in schoolif the possibles turned out to be true! How in God's name did I miss seeing any of them?
For the rest of the day I kept an eye open for Jay, but with no luck...and he didn't show up for art class either!
* * * * * * * * *
Four-forty...four-fifty. Jay was late. He didn't call. When he was five minutes late, I sat down at the table where I could still see out the window. At ten minutes, I went to the wall-phone in the kitchen, and picked the receiver up for just a secondthere was a dial toneso he just hadn't tried to call. When the ten minutes stretched to twenty and there was still no sign, I began to pacewhy was he late? Was there an accident?or was it simpler than that: he just didn't want to come? Jay was avoiding meI had obviously done something wrong...I just wish I knew what it was!
At five til, the anxious butterflies which had been banging around in my stomach were stillthey had been crushed by a leaden weight of black despair. My eyes were gritty and sore as I sat on the edge of my bedI rubbed absently at them and found the back of my hand to be wetwhen had I started crying?
A soft mewing made its way to my brain, and I looked to the side and saw Fifty-eight rubbing against my arm. Stupid name for a catbut she was a present from my niece, who chose that since it was the kitten's cage number at the poundunfortunately, she proved to be allergic to cats. I picked her up and cradled her for a while, my cheek rubbing on her forehead as I continued to cry. I walked into the kitchen to feed her, changed her water, and looked vacantly at the door to the garage. "You love me, at leastbut it's not enough anymore..."
The notepad by the phone was next to the hook where my car keys hung, and I stared at it for a minute, blinking tears away enough to write two words:
Five-thirty. The phone rang as I walked out the door. Should I answer it? It didn't matter anymorenothing did. I can't even keep a friend, much less a boyfriend.
I unlocked the door of my car, and sat there for a few seconds, not really seeing anything, but my hand reached over to the glove-box, feeling for the bottle of sleeping pills there. For the last time, I poured them into my hand: only ten? I thought there were more? I didn't know if that was enough--then I stared at the keys I had put in the ignition switch on the steering column. That's painless too.
Climbing out of my Pontiac's seat, I checked the doors to the house, the back yard and the second garageall were shut. I walked to the overhead door and looked out at the driveway...it was still empty, and it had started to drizzle again. I gave a tug on the rope to pull the wooden door down in its metal track, and got back into my car, leaving the driver's door open as I started the engine. The grey fabric seat was very comfortable...it would have been nice to share it with Jay, leaning together at the drive-in...
My foot depressed the accelerator slowly, revving the V-8 engine up to a full-throated roar. She was a tank, but she could move with the right person at the wheel. That wouldn't be me. As the acrid fumes of burning gasoline began to fill the garage, I lay my head back on the seat and closed my eyes. Were there tears as I thought of Jay? Probably.
Somewhere, somehow, it had all gone wrong.
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Original chapters with pictures can be found at GayAuthors.org/Jay & Miles