Life In A Northern Town
I waited at the bus stop in the cool autumn morning, one of the first to arrive. I didn't know any of the kids that were there as they were all
underclassmen, no doubt rousted out of their beds early for fear of missing the bus on their first day of high school. The morning was quite temperate.
It had rained the night before, and I was happy to have a few seconds to myself before the mad rush to climb aboard the bus started. I idly wondered for
the hundredth time who I would draw for teachers, how much trouble I would get in on the first day, etc.
My high school is typical of those found in this area: under-funded, old, and backward. It's a three story red brick building with a lighter color stone used for contrast around the windows and such. The gym was in the back and the rest of the building centered on the auditorium on the ground floor. My friend Randy was walking up the block, a pack dangling off to one side and his head in the clouds like usual. He has always been a dreamer, his nose in a book instead of watching TV. Don't get the wrong idea, he's not some bookworm that does nothing but read and thinks he's better than everyone else. He plays sports and video games and stuff too. He and I became fast friends when we met, and have been pretty much inseparable since then.
Randy is a riot, always joking and fooling around. He is about five eight, and gets busted on some for that, dirty blond hair and green eyes. He is well tanned and lean, muscled but not what you'd call built. Pretty normal he is, I guess. He turns the girls heads wherever he walks past, dates a number of them, but invariably they fail to click and they break up in short order. I personally think he's hot as hell, but if I told him I'd either get punched or lose our friendship. Probably both. So I keep my mouth shut. We talk about everything except that one thing, cause I never mention it, but we have a really tight friendship and that is worth it to me to keep my mouth shut. Randy has been away all summer at his mom's place in Florida, so I haven't even seen him in two and a half months! He called me up last night though, to say hello and that he was back and all that stuff. You know it really means lots to me that he does those little things 'cause it shows he really does care.
"What're you daydreaming about this morning?" I asked as he approached.
"Just wondering if you'll ever get laid." He said absently, before bringing his sparkling eyes level with mine and smiling that killer smile that made me forget what I was going to say.
"I missed you, man!" he said suddenly and gave me a quick hug, which brought me back, from the land of Nod.
"I missed you too, although right now I can't remember why!" I replied.
We both laughed and idly talked about our summers, took inventory of the new kids, cataloguing them for further use, and of course making fun of them to each other. All in all, a typical morning for us.
We arrived at school and separated to obtain our schedules. After weaving my way to the table with the large "A-G" taped to it, I retrieved my schedule and met up with Randy.
"Adam, let's see how much I have to put up with you this year!" he said.
"Dude, you've got it backwards. You always get me in trouble!"
We grinned and compared schedules. We shared the majority of our classes and even better; gym was one of them! You have no idea what Randy in running shorts does to me. Talk about the agony and the ecstasy! We walked together to our first period class and took seats next to each other and continued to bullshit.
"Randy, dude! You're in this class?" came a familiar voice.
"No, man. I'm just sitting with my boyfriend, ya know?" came the saucy reply.
Troy stopped in his tracks and looked at Randy, then realized he was joking. "Shit, you scared me there for a second, bro. Don't need two queers in this school, they'll take over!"
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"So, where have you been?" Troy said, ignoring me.
"Troy, don't be a dumb shit. What did you mean when you said two queers, who?"
Troy looked momentarily hurt, then brightened at the opportunity to trash someone else.
"There's a new kid. His name is Nick and he went to the basketball clinic we had this summer. Probably cause his folks wanted the little fag to meet people. Anyway he popped a fuckin' boner in the shower!" Troy shook his head in wonder.
"Troy, YOU popped a rod in gym last year, what the fuck's the big deal?" Randy pointed out sharply.
"Shh! Dude, no one saw anything. It can't be proved, and anyway...you know, it was just the fabric rubbing and stuff cause I had to freeball it."
"Oh, yeah, so why were you freeballing it again? Hmm, oh yeah! You thought you just had gas that's right! Look, Troy, leave the new kid alone. Moving is tough enough without an asshole like you on his case, ok?"
"Fuck you, Randy! Why should I take orders from you?"
"Cause Adam here heard your confession. You shit yourself and then got a hard on in Gym. That could be damaging, don't you think?" Randy smiled sweetly.
"You're a prick, Randy," Troy replied, defeated.
"All right people, let's settle down. Places, places, we don't have all day. Ah, find a seat, will you young fellow? Yes you- the one standing up."
A slight boy was confusedly standing in the aisle; Randy waved him over to an empty chair next to us. The kid hesitated and then moved over near us. Troy gave the kid a look and then stuck his foot out at the last second, tripping him, The kid landed with a loud 'whoof' as the air rushed from his lungs. Troy sniggered to himself. Randy stood quickly and helped the kid to his feet, taking his bag from underneath him where he had fallen on it. A large wet spot that smelled like yogurt was appearing on one side, obviously a member of the kid's lunch.
Randy guided the kid to the empty desk, and in doing so strategically turned, managing to solidly whack Troy in the head with the fragrant book bag, leaving a strawberry smear on the side of his head and matting his hair. Troy glared at Randy.
The kid forlornly took his bag back from Randy and sat still, trying to catch his breath. The teacher, oblivious to the scene, now spoke:
"Do try to be more careful, and Mr. Proctor, have a seat. Mr. Sullivan are your brains leaking? If so, contain them post haste, as you can ill afford to lose any. Now I will begin by..."
He was back to his speech. Randy sat and then turned around and offered his hand to the new kid. "I'm Randy Proctor, and this here," he gestured at me, "is Adam Castle."
The new kid tentatively reached out to Randy's offered hand and shook.
My next class was one of the few without Randy, which meant I had a half a chance of paying attention. Unfortunately, Troy was also in that class, which meant I would be nauseous the whole time. As I took my seat and class began, Nick stepped through the door. After a brief discussion with the teacher to confirm he was indeed supposed to be in that room, he began looking around for a seat. I waved him to one next to me. What? I was just being nice. I swear.
He gracefully made his way to the chair I had pointed out. Gracefully? When had I EVER thought something was graceful? Never, that's when. Nick sat down and brushed his blonde colored hair away from his eyes and gave a weak smile, a nervous smile I'd say. Well, who wouldn't be, especially with Troy in here, and with the trouble that inevitably followed him? Not me, that's for sure. I smiled reassuringly, and his grin widened and became more genuine. And he blushed. Aw, that was cute.
What? I felt my own flush building and faced forward. What the hell was this? I just met this guy, hell I hadn't even talked to him! I sat face forward, but my traitorous thoughts returned time and again to this fellow next to me, who had suddenly wormed his way into my heart. Just like that, wham! I wonder if this was love? No, just lust I'll bet. I giggled to myself. Lust? This was a GUY, helloooo! Randy was one thing, but this one, well, if it were true then I'd be gay right?
The teacher stepped out of the room to go next door for a misplaced book, and of course that was like opening Pandora's box. The usual loud talk started and I slumped in my seat just waiting for the inevitable return of the instructor who would be so surprised and outraged that this group of teenagers had gotten loud in his absence and acted like...teenagers.
The status quo was broken when Troy took center stage, probably cause everyone wanted to see him embarrass himself or someone else, since you had a fifty-fifty chance of either one happening. But this I wasn't ready for. He stood and announced loudly that someone at his basketball camp had popped a woody in the showers. Oh, boy, think quickly.
"Troy, I thought you didn't want anyone to know you popped a rod, man." The room grew quiet, waiting for the other shoe to drop, "But I'm really proud of you for coming out of the closet. You have more balls than I thought!" I smiled condescendingly. The room erupted with jeers and catcalls, which were stifled by the return of the instructor.
Well that was the highlight of the day. At least until lunch.
Our lunchroom was on the third floor in the middle of the building. Randy and I met up in the lunch line and started talking about occurrences throughout the day. Out of my four morning classes, I had two with Randy, and then three more in the afternoon. So far Nick had been in two as well. What?
We took our seats with the gruel du jour and Randy started in about Nick.
"So what do you think of him?" he asked.
"He's ok, I guess. I haven't spoken to him or anything."
"He's from down south, you know, that's why he doesn't talk. Sounds funny to us."
"How do you know so much, huh?"
"I read the news, especially the political stuff."
I chewed this for a moment, but failed to make a connection. What the hell does politics have to do with Nick? Maybe his family was into politics? I suppose that could be true. I was wondering about all of this, with nothing more than simple curiosity ruling my mind, I swear, when a tray clattered to the floor and a small tussle started a few tables away.
"Look, fag boy, you better just watch where you're going or I'll fuckin beat you. And not the way you'd like, either."
Randy was up and moving, I sighed and followed 'St. Randy', protector of all those who couldn't stay clear of people bigger than they were. My mood altered when I took in the scene. Troy had grabbed up Nick by the shirt and was stepping on the remaining food on the tray. I snapped.
Troy was turned at a right angle to me, I lashed out with my foot in a vicious kick to the back of his knee. As he started to fall, his head whipped around in surprise and my fist seemed to whistle in an arc, landing just beneath his left eye. Oh, that was gonna bruise.
Troy tried to recover and re planted his left foot on the tray, which suddenly skidded across the floor, with a little lube from the pizza grease under it, and some power from Randy's sneaker. Troy went down in a Technicolor rainbow of smashed food and humble pie. It was cool.
"Mr. Castle, I really was hoping you would avoid detention at least one day this year, but it isn't meant to be, is it?" came the voice of my nemesis and my mother's boyfriend, Bernard Swanson. "Bernie," if you wanted to piss him off. And I did.
"Back off Bernie, you missed the show. It was his fault, I was just trying to stop him from harassing this guy here," I began, knowing I was dead meat anyway.
"Come with me, Mr. Castle. Let's see to your arrangements."
I followed sullenly. This was so unfair! It's bad enough this guy seems to know my every move before I make it, but then to go home and have to discuss it with him and my mother over dinner as well? Of all the guys, she had to pick him? We walked into the main office and then into his, where I took a seat in front of his desk, where he deposited himself.
"Adam, what was going on?" he asked through steepled fingers.
"Does it really matter?" I asked bitterly.
"Yeah, as a matter of fact it does."
I looked up at him and stared into his eyes. My dad used to say that someone was telling the truth if they could hold your gaze, nine times out of ten. He met me eye for eye, and I decided to be honest and quit fucking with him.
"There is this new kid, Nick. Troy was picking on him; in fact he's been doing it since first period. Randy and I were only trying to stop him cause he dumped the kids' lunch and had him grabbed up at the shirt collar. He was stepping on his food, deliberately. He'd already smashed the food the guy brought with him from home. I snapped and I hit him. That's it."
Swanson leaned back in his chair and appeared deep in thought. I just figured it was cause he didn't do it all that often. "Can anyone confirm your story?"
"Yeah, ask Randy. He was there."
He leaned forward and looked at me, hard.
"Ok, I believe you. I'm going to cut you a break, but if this kid keeps harassing this new fellow, you let me in on it, ok? I can do more than you think I can."
I looked at him incredulously. He was letting me go? Suspicion flared in me and I asked, "So what are you going to tell mom?"
"About what?" He asked.
I opened my mouth and then realized his implication. Was he trying to buy me off? Well, it wouldn't work, but I should take what I could before he bailed on me too, right? I stood and headed out the door wordlessly and went to my next class.
My last class was gym and I headed down for the coach's lecture about fair play, building our bodies and all that crap. It was the same speech he'd been using since the dawn of time. Names, it proved, were not coach's strong suit.
"Ok, now. When you come down, you get changed in to your equipment. Then read the sign in the window telling you if we are going inside or outside today. Don't be a smart ass and change the sign, half you idiots go one way and half you idiots go the other way and by the time I herd you all back together we won't get anything done. Now, you all listen for your names and respond "equipment" if you're dressed out to play, say "here" if you're not. For today everyone has equipment and you will respond like that.
"Ok, Airplane? Uh, Airport? Aircraft? What is that name, anyway?"
"Oh, Ashcroft, you here?"
"I said you tell me equipment, didn't I?"
"But only if were dressed out to play, you said."
"But for today, everyone..."
You get the idea. Randy and I stood off to one side and watched the antics of our coach, older than dirt was the rumor, and just shook our heads. We had brought our book bags with us so we wouldn't have to return to our lockers once school let out. When coach let us go, we walked through student parking on our way to the front of the school. A quiet voice with a gentle southern lilt wafted over to us.
"Um, hey guys."
We turned as one and took in Nick walking gracefully; here we go again, across the lot in our general direction.
"Hey, Nick. What's up man?" Randy greeted him.
Nick shrugged and walked over to us.
"I'd like to thank you guys for helping me today. I never thought this was going to be so hard."
"Who, Troy? Ah, we'll kick his ass any day, right Adam?"
Suddenly I got the feeling I had missed something, cause I was busy staring at; um I mean I was glancing at, uh, Nick.
"What?" I asked.
"Nice day out, huh?" Randy asked grinning.
"What are you grinning at?" I asked. Did I sound defensive?
" I said we'd kick Troy's ass any day, since he's bothering our friend Nick here, huh?"
"Oh! Yeah, of course. Sure!" I responded. My palms were sweating. What?
"Y'all want a lift home? I could drop you off."
"Cool, sure. C'mon Adam."
Me? In that small space with Nick? I'm hot, is anyone else hot? I'm hot. I think I just developed claustrophobia. Instead I said, "Sure."
We walked over to Nick's car, and the coolest thing happened. When he put the key in the door lock, all the doors unlocked at once. He started off and Randy gave him directions to his place. The ride was quiet, the radio played softly in the background and Randy was talking a mile a minute while I watched the scenery slide by. We pulled up to Randy's place and we agreed to come over on Friday for a sleepover. Nick drove quickly and we chatted idly about nothing. Hell, I was surprised I was talking! We pulled into my driveway and parted company. As Nick drove away it occurred to me to wonder how he knew where to drop me off.
The rain returned again tonight, but the mood was much different. The cool drizzle washed the air clean and I sat quietly, content in the knowledge that I was right about him. His soul is good, and his nature sweet. This day had been rough, but many more were likely to follow and I feel as though I can withstand the flood if he is by my side. I sit in my room in the dark and wait.
Wait for the second story light to come on, and see my secret love.