The Moon in Your Eyes
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The Moon in Your Eyes
"As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low. "
William Wordsworth, "Resolution and Independence," 1802
I was not certain I had heard correctly, nor was I certain how to react. Jeff was sitting in front of me on the front lawn and apologizing for his behavior toward me over the past three days. I looked him in the eyes and he had such a look of sorrow, sincerity, and embarrassment that I wanted to just hug him. Yet, I was afraid. What if it was just a hoax, a tease? What if he really didn't mean it? Besides, I was such a loser, such a freak. Why would someone as cool and good looking as Jeff want to be my friend?
I couldn't say anything. I looked at him and then looked downward. After a moment, Jeff sighed and started to get up.
"Well, I guess you can think about it," he said sadly.
He looked back at me hopefully.
"I don't need to think about it. I think it would be cool if you were my friend. I don't mean to sound like a wuss, but I really need a friend right now and I think you're really cool. I mean, the way you told me off yesterday showed you have a lot of strong opinions. And, the way you took care of Fielding today shows that you've got guts. I think you're cool."
Jeff relaxed and smiled at me.
"You really think so? `Cause I think you're cool the way you got a scholarship and the way you're smart. And, you're cu... uh, kinda... uh... compassionate. Yeah. Compassionate."
Was he really going to say "cute?" I couldn't let myself jump to conclusions. Every time I hoped for something, I lost it or something terrible happened. I couldn't let myself get too excited over the possibility that Jeff could like me that way. Besides, if he did and we became that kind of friends, God would definitely do something to mess it up, to punish me, maybe even punish Jeff. But... it really would be nice.
"So," I said bashfully. "You really want to be friends with me?"
Jeff blushed and looked down at the grass. His slim legs looked so pretty. I wanted to run my hands up and down them, to squeeze and caress the muscles, to feel the almost invisible down on them.
"Yeah," he almost whispered. "I need a friend and I think you might be a good friend."
He paused, then added, "I think you might be a great friend."
I looked up and saw from his face just how sincere he was. He seemed so lost, so pretty, so alone, so hopeful.
I almost felt as if I were saying, "I do." The look in his eyes seemed to suggest he was thinking the same thing.
Suddenly, he cleared his throat and asked, "So, uh, what are you reading?"
I was a bit surprised by the sudden change in mood, but I understood.
"My English assignment, `The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge."
"Hmm. I read it this afternoon. You like it?"
"I like poetry."
We were both smiling at each other. I was surprised that he seemed to share an interest in poetry. You just don't admit something like that to another thirteen year-old very often.
"I don't really like Coleridge that much," I admitted.
"Yeah. Neither do I. But, tomorrow's assignment is `Tintern Abbey,' by Wordsworth. Have you ever read that?"
"I think you'll like it."
Jeff took my English book and flipped a couple of pages and started reading "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey." It was difficult at first to understand, but after a bit, I found myself in the rhythm and Jeff's clear and relaxed, yet precise, voice and diction made it so easy get into the poem. Wordsworth was writing of the peace and beauty of the Wye River in eastern England and his descriptions of the rural serenity of the area almost reminded me of the small town I had lived in, been happy in, before my life changed. When he spoke of "the coarser pleasures of my boyish days, and their glad animal movements all gone by," I wondered if I might possibly have something more in common with Wordsworth than simply a love of the country. However, it was the passage about his "dear friend," understanding the language of his youth, that caught my attention, and Jeff's as he looked up at me and blushed as he read those lines.
When he was finished, he closed the book and lay it back in my lap. He smiled shyly. I didn't now what to say. He, too, was silent until my little brother, Jimmy, rode his bike past with his friend. He made some comment we couldn't hear and both started laughing as they looked at us. Jeff shrugged as I scowled.
"It doesn't matter."
And, happily, I realized it didn't.
"So you like to read anything else?" he asked.
"Well, I just finished Oliver Twist."
"Cool! Did you see the movie?"
"Yeah. It was neat."
"Yeah. I liked Oliver, and The Artful Dodger was cu... cool."
This was the second time Jeff had seemed to catch himself just as he was about to say "cute." This couldn't be coincidence.
After an embarrassed silence, I added, "I'm reading David Copperfield right now."
"I've never heard of it," Jeff replied. "What's it about?"
I took a deep breath, not sure I wanted to go into this sort of thing at the moment, so happy was I to have a friend and to be talking about mutual interests, interests which no one else seemed to share with me. But, he was looking intently, obviously wanting to know.
"Well, its based on Charles Dickens' childhood. Its about a boy who has a wonderful and happy life until his mother marries an evil man."
"What happened to his father?"
"He died before David was born."
Jeff's face took on a strangely serious look as his gaze turned toward the grass between us.
"Anyway," I continued, "he's sent away to a terrible school, where he's treated really badly and then his mother dies and his evil stepfather sends him away to London to work in a factory and... well, that's as far as I've gotten so far."
Jeff was quiet for a moment and then looked up with a hint of pain in his eyes.
"I don't think I want to read it."
"Why not? I thought you liked Dickens. You liked Oliver Twist."
Jeff took a deep breath.
"Yeah. I love Dickens. And, I really liked A Christmas Carol. But, this sounds... well, it sorta sounds like... well, I don't know. It's kinda like my story."
The sun had moved below the houses along the street and the shadows were growing. Soon, it would be dark.
"Hey! You wanna see my room?"
Jeff's face immediately lit up.
"Yeah! That'd be cool!"
We both jumped up and he followed me to the front porch. As we entered the living room, my brother and sister were both on the floor watching some variety special on the TV. My stepfather was reading the Evening Journal. I heard the paper rustle as we passed and as I turned, I saw his eyes above the page suspiciously watching us.
"Who's that?" my bratty sister asked.
"My friend," I replied, a feeling of pride welling up in me as I was actually able to say it. "My friend."
She turned up her nose and turned back to the television. Fred raised his paper back and resumed his reading.
As, I entered the kitchen, Mother was in the utility room sorting the dirty clothes.
"God-damn it, Scott! What the hell happened to these pants?!"
My heart froze. This was not the time for Mother to have one of her tantrums. I was mortified.
"I fell in the grass at school," I replied softly as we approached. Unfortunately, there was no way to the stairs leading to my bedroom except past Mother at the washing machine.
"Do you know how much I paid for these damn..."
She froze as she saw Jeff standing behind me.
"Why didn't you tell me someone was here," she said softly, yet pointedly. I wanted to say because she hadn't given me a chance to, but I decided to play it safe.
"Mother, this is my friend, Jeff."
Mother looked distinctly embarrassed, as did Jeff.
"Hi, Mrs. Forrester," he said softly, trying to smile. His face looked so cute and sweet to me. Apparently, it did to Mother as well, for she seemed to mellow immediately.
We climbed the stairs and when we reached the top, I turned, embarrassed, and muttered, "I'm sorry about my mother."
He smiled sweetly at me and said, "Don`t be. I know what its like. Hey, this is really cool."
"Yeah, well, my stepfather wanted to keep me away from the rest of the family."
"That's too bad."
"Not, really. I kinda like being away from everyone."
Jeff grinned, too.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. This is kinda like my room, except mine's in the basement."
"Yeah. Hey! Cool!"
With the slanted ceiling caused by the roof, there wasn't a lot of headroom except in the middle. My bed was against the north side of the roof. There was a little alcove poking out the south roof with a window looking down on the front yard and the street. In the alcove was my desk. To its right was my telescope and a bookcase. To its left was a four foot tall model of the Saturn 5, the rocket NASA used to launch the Apollo moon missions. That is what had caught Jeff's attention and he ran over to it and gazed admiringly at it.
"You like it?" I asked proudly.
"This is TOO cool! Did you build it yourself?"
He grinned at me. "This is too cool," he repeated. Then he spied my telescope.
He ran over to it. It was mounted on my tripod and stood in front of my bookcase.
"Can you see really cool stuff with it?"
"Yeah. Daddy bought it for me when I was in the first grade. It's a hundred power refractor. You can see the moons of Jupiter with it and the rings of Saturn, too."
"Wow. You're dad bought this for you in the first grade?"
I said nothing for a moment, just looked at my telescope, remembering.
"Yeah," I replied softly. "We used to climb up on the roof with it or go out in the country and look at stuff. It was really cool."
I had to watch myself because I wanted to cry; and, I couldn't do that in front of Jeff.
Jeff's gaze moved between me and the telescope several times before he finally said, softly, "Can I ask you something?"
I had been lost in thought for a moment; I looked up quickly and replied, "Sure."
"What happened to your dad?"
I looked out the window at the darkness growing around the maple tree in front.
"He died a couple of years ago."
Neither of us said anything for some time until Jeff suddenly looked at the clock on my desk. It was nearly eight-thirty.
"I have to go," he said softly.
I followed him down the steps and through the house. Mother had joined the family in the living room, but no one said anything as we walked across the room, past the television, to the front door. Standing on the porch, Jeff turned and said, "Well, see you tomorrow."
"Yeah," I replied. "And, Jeff."
He turned as he stood in the grass by the porch.
He just looked at me for a moment and then smiled, turned, and walked away. I stood on the porch and watched him all the way to his house.
The next morning, Jeff was just walking up to our yard as I emerged from the front door. It was going to be a beautiful day. I just knew it. After Jeff had left the previous evening, I had entertained myself in the shower to fantasies of cuddling and loving him. Twice more in bed, I had dreamed of making love to this beautiful, sensitive, understanding boy. Even as I awoke, I indulged in dreams of laying in bed and kissing those sweet puffy lips and gazing into those wise, loving eyes. Eating my quick breakfast of peanut buttered toast, I wasn't even bothered by my bratty sister's attempts to provoke me. As I emerged from the front door and saw my friend, my friend, standing at the corner awaiting me, I knew that it didn't matter how mean and cruel the kids at school would be. I had a friend; and, not just any friend. I had a friend who had principles, who was decent, who was understanding. I could tell, even without him saying anything, how he felt when I told him of my father's death. I saw the anger in him when he thought I was being a snob earlier. I could tell in everything thing he did, every breath he took, every word he spoke, he was special. He wasn't one of them. And, I knew I was in love.
"How ya doing' this morning', darlin'?" he drawled in an exaggerated southern accent that did not fit his personality.
"Whah, Am as happy as a pig in shit!" I replied. Jeff nearly choked as an unexpected laugh erupted from within. I couldn't help but laugh as well. This was the first time I had seen him laugh and it made him even more beautiful.
We carried on in like fashion as we walked the three blocks to the Metro stop on Twenty-fourth Street, nearly missing the bus because we were talking our time having so much fun. And, we garnered looks from the other passengers as we continued to joke and tease each other during the ride.
I had such a feeling of freedom and release when we climbed off the bus at Thirtieth Street to walk the rest of the way to St. Stephen's that I wasn't watching the group of boys accompanying Baldwin the Elder as they slowly surrounded us at the corner of campus. Jeff was the first to realize what was happening. I didn't realize until I saw the smile disappear from his face, replaced with the more familiar blank look, that we were in danger.
"Well," one of the gang members sneered. "Look who we have here, Pretty Boy and the Plebe."
"Yeah," said another. "Looks like Pretty Boy found himself a boyfriend already."
The third, whom I recognized as the Pustulent Sophomore, spat, "Yeah, I figured Plebe here was a fag."
I looked at Jeff and saw he was looking at the ground, though his face remained passively neutral, as if he were in a coma, not hearing or comprehending what was happening around him. I became angry as earlier thoughts were confirmed. Jeff had, indeed, been the target of abuse before. He knew what I had been experiencing. Perhaps, that had something to do with the way he had avoided me before, not for fear of association with a new target. It was probably more empathy with what I was going through and knowing he couldn't do anything to help. Perhaps, it was too much for him to see someone else experience the same abuse he had known. I didn't know, but suddenly, I was furious.
Baldwin the Elder approached and stood directly in front of me as I did something I had never done before. I stood tall and proud, gave him a level look in the eye and refused to flinch.
Baldwin looked at me as well.
"You got something' to say, Plebe?"
"Yes. Leave us alone."
"Or, what?" This was said with a smirk.
"Or you will spend the next week in detention."
We all turned toward the church and saw Mr. Ostrander, my Fourth Hour History teacher striding toward us. Baldwin's cronies seemed to disappear immediately.
"Hey, Mr. Ostrander!"
"Shut up, you little fascist. That doesn't work with me."
I was stunned. Apparently, so was Baldwin. He stood, open-mouthed, facing the teacher.
"What the Hell do you think you're doing?"
Baldwin stood, confused for a moment, and then seemed to gather his wits.
"I'm showing these fags they aren't welcome here. We don't need fags at St. Stephen's."
The fury on Mr. Ostrander's face almost frightened even me. With a quiet, yet livid voice, he said, "Get out of here. Report to the Headmaster after First Hour."
I turned and looked with shock at Baldwin.
"What did you say?" Mr. Ostrander asked, apparently as shocked as I.
With each word, Baldwin seemed to gain confidence.
"I said, no."
"Who the Hell do you think you are?" Mr. Ostrander demanded.
"Who the Hell do you think you are?"
Mr. Ostrander took a deep breath.
"I'm a teacher and you're a student. And, I told you to be in the Headmaster's office when the bell rings for Second Hour."
"Don't you know who my father is?"
I was getting scared again, though Mr. Ostrander obviously wasn't. He looked at Baldwin contemptuously and spat, "I don't give a damn who your father is. He's not going to buy your way out of this. Now move. NOW."
Baldwin stood just long enough to be insubordinate before turning and sauntering toward the front door.
Mr. Ostrander took a deep breath and turned to Jeff and me.
"If that crud gives you any trouble, you tell me. You understand?"
"Yes, sir," I answered. Jeff was almost catatonic, looking at the ground and not responding. As soon as Mr. Ostrander began to stride back toward the east door of the school, I began walking toward the main door, pulling a still silent Jeff with me.
I had never heard a teacher speak to a student in that fashion before. I was grateful, but surprised. I was also a bit apprehensive. I didn't want Mr. Ostrander to get into trouble for defending us; and, I sure didn't want Baldwin to seek revenge on us for Mr. Ostrander reporting him to the Headmaster. None of this, however, did I articulate to Jeff, who meekly followed me past the few remaining stragglers outside into the building.
Civics was boring again, except when Baldwin the Younger made an insubordinate remark which resulted in Mr. Gordon ordering his return to the corner in front of the class. He, once again, grinned at the class as he sauntered up to the front and raised a fist in triumph.
"Mr. Baldwin," Mr. Gordon intoned sadly, "rebellion is honorable only when one is oppressed. You are not oppressed, but merely oppressive. This will be your last march of triumph before the class. You are truly revolting, though not in the sense you think. One more act of defiance and you will take your evil and foul countenance to the Headmaster, who I pray will deliver us from any further suffering at your hands by expelling you."
"Not a chance in Hell, Mr. G! My dad's on the Board. It ain't never gonna happen!"
Jeff turned to me with a meaningful look. I bit my lower lip. There were a few stifled gasps from around the room. Mr. Gordon stood still, looking at Baldwin with a sad expression before turning to his desk and writing out a pink slip.
"Go, Mr. Baldwin. Take this to the Headmaster and leave my class."
Baldwin shrugged, gave an insolent grin, and sauntered out of the classroom. Mr. Gordon took a deep breath and resumed his lecture on the similarities between the Roman Republic and the American system of government.
After class, as we were walking to Gym class, I asked Jeff who Baldwin's father was. Another boy, a reasonably nice guy in our Civics class who had never caused any trouble for us before, answered from behind, "He's on the Board of Trustees for the school. He's the President of the Mercantile National Bank and his grandfather is the Chairman of the Board of the bank. Don't get on his bad side or he could really make your life hard here!"
If I was worried before, now I was truly concerned, for my grandfather was a senior loan officer at Mercantile National! I would have to ask him about the Baldwins.
Gym class did not offer any serious problems at first. Coach seemed to be on the watch for Spenser and Fielding, both of whom left Jeff and me alone. There were a couple of other boys who experienced a little hazing, sort of the usual teasing one sees in gym class, but nothing along the lines of what had occurred over the previous three days. However, that changed when it came time to head for the showers.
I was sitting on the bench removing my shoes when I heard laughs and hoots emanating from the showers. After dropping my shorts and t-shirt on the bench, I walked into the shower to find, to my horror, my friend standing in the corner, surrounded by several bigger boys. He had a look of absolute mortification on his face and his penis was rigidly erect.
"I always knew Robinson was a fag!" one of the boys laughed. Spenser was among the group of Jeff's tormentors.
"Yeah, look how he's checking us all out. You like what you see, Pretty Boy?"
Spenser grabbed his own penis, which interestingly, had, itself, plumped out a bit, and sneered, "Is this what's making you hard, Pretty Boy?"
Jeff's eyes were as red as his face and I could see they were getting moist. I had to stop this, but before I could do anything, I heard a voice from behind me declare in a calm and even tone, "Alright, that's enough."
Everyone turned around to see the tall redhead I had seen the other day entering the shower. He was skinny and freckled and his face was red with anger.
For some reason, most of the boys separated, though Spenser stood his ground. He looked contemptuously at the redhead and spat, "Fuck off , Penfield. We're just having fun with Pretty Boy."
"Come on, Jeff," Penfield said. Fearfully, Jeff stepped forward, and then he saw me standing by the doorway to the shower. His face suddenly took on such a look of abject humiliation that I feared he would lose it right there. Penfield put his arm around him and whispered, "Don't worry about it; it happens to everyone," and led him from the shower.
I ducked under a cold shower and quickly ran to the towel bin, as I felt my own penis starting to respond to the sight of my friend's arousal, much to my shame. How could I be getting hard when my friend was in such pain, was feeling such embarrassment, and was experiencing such humiliation?
Jeff was holding his towel to cover himself as he struggled into his underwear. Our eyes met. I tried to smile at him to reassure him. Quickly, he turned away and resumed dressing. Once I was back in my coat and tie, I waited at the hallway door, but as Jeff approached, he looked downward, and as I reached out to put a friendly hand on his shoulder, he angrily jerked away and hissed, "Leave me alone."
I was stunned. I didn't know how to react. He strode away, eyes locked on the floor, refusing to acknowledge anyone around him. Penfield, who was standing nearby and had, apparently, witnessed the entire incident, walked up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, as I had tried to do with Jeff.
"Don't worry, Scott," he said reassuringly. How did he know my first name? Everyone in gym went by their last names and Penfield, I had learned, was a sophomore. "He's just embarrassed and hurt. He'll be OK. Give him some time."
I nodded, blushing, though Penfield's hand, which remained on my shoulder a second longer than would have been appropriate, seemed to send a warm feeling through my body. I nodded and rushed on to Third Hour.
But, I could not help but think of the tidal wave of emotions I had experienced over the last few days, the peaks and valleys, the emptiness of rejection, the joy of friendship, the sharing of a friend`s pain. What more would I see? What more could I take?
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