Never Be The Same
And haunt me it did. All through my Biology and Computer Science classes thoughts of Dominic continued to pervade my thoughts whenever I let my mind wander. When I grew tired of listening to my teacher's lectures on biodiversity or different types of data, I replayed the scene in the cafeteria over and over again.
I usually had a handle on how much I fantasized about the boys at my school. In the back of my mind I always knew that most of them would never be interested in me. I liked to think that I wasn't as deluded as I knew some people, especially some of my girlfriends, could be about guys that they liked. I had never obsessed about any boy, no matter how attractive I found them.
So then, what the hell was it about my encounter today with Dominic that set all my nerves into a frenzied state? He was just another boy. A stunning, goregeous boy, of course. But straight. Hopelessly straight. I knew that, and it was foolish of me to hope otherwise.
The thoughts continued to revolve in my head until the school day was over. I deposited my books into my locker and took my uniform off so that I could be comfortable in my undershirt while I worked in the school's media office. I caught up with Alyssa, who probed me about my sullen attitude, but I waved her off and said my goodbye.
I want to say that writing for the school newspaper was a fulfilling activity. I really do. When I first started writing for The Window, which I came to realize was an incredibly stupid and lame name for a publication geared towards high school students, I was wide-eyed and enthusiastic in my naïveté. I fantasized about covering the exciting things that were sure to happen in my high school years. I waited for the day when people would come up to me and gush about the amazing piece I wrote in the latest issue. I'm still waiting.
I was not at all expecting how incredibly mundane high school life could be. Sure, things happened, but nothing ever really happened. My expectations were influenced by all those sitcoms and dramas that I watched growing up. I was waiting for the elaborate dances, the roaring crowds at sporting events, the awesome concerts and plays and musicals that were the tenets of all the popular teenage dramas. Instead of that, all St. Greg ever did was throw a lazily organized dance in the gym every now and then and maybe a winter concert that band students had to perform in mandatorily.
Even the gossip was stale. The cycle of break-ups, hook-ups, parties and scandals was exciting for a while during my freshman year, when hormones started to bubble up and spill over and make people do things only those in the throes of adolescence were bound to do. Eventually, this all became commonplace in my psyche, and things began to surprise me less and less. What was surprising was the jealousy that I began to feel. Not jealous of the drama, jealous that I was being excluded from what I thought was the typical teenage experience.
This was as good as it got writing for The Window, highlighting another club-sponsored activity that most of the student body didn't care about. Last week was No Smoking Week, one of the events that GREGACT, a club ran by our resident social worker Ms. Vitello, put on every now and then to raise awareness for social issues that us students would face. It was a week of hastily thrown together games and activities designed to bombard participants and passerby with facts and statistics about smoking.
My personal favorite was the Disease Dart Board, which was essentially a target with pictures of various smoking related diseases at which students would throw darts that resembled cigarettes. One cigarette dart thrown and I was enlightened(?) with some gory details about throat cancer.
Thankfully Mary had finished half the article and left me her notes so that all I had to do was insert some structure and fluff into it and we'd have another piece that was going to be read by no one.
After an hour of trying to make the article as interesting as possible, I was finally finished. Although the tediousness of writing was mind numbing, I appreciated the distraction from the errant thoughts about Dominic. Which I was now left with now that my mind was no longer preoccupied.
I hadn't felt this way about a guy since 7th grade when I so badly wanted to be friends with Michael Jimenez, a boy who I hadn't had a class with yet. Of course my mind was still too immature to process it as attraction, but I was overcome with the urge to be near him, to have some sort of interaction with him. He was taller than most of the students in our class, with spiky hair and green eyes framed with square glasses. At that time, he was the epitome of cool to me. He liked to crack jokes and be obnoxious, the complete opposite of my shy and reserved persona.
He was smart, but I had proven to be smarter, which at the beginning frustrated him but soon led to our friendship. When I continued to best him at tests and homework, which was always announced by my teacher, he couldn't shield his frustration. He started to ask me to show him how I would do my work which of course I would oblige. I would have done anything at that point to be his friend. It was only a matter of time before we started hanging out more during recess, walking home together after school, doing classwork together regularly. For a while, this was enough for me.
When he started to date one of our classmates, Tanika Roberts, a spunky and flirty Jamaican girl, he caught a lot of flak from our friends and his family. I was always supportive of him, but by then I couldn't ignore the feeling of attraction that was starting to rear its ugly head. I started to wish that it was me that he was kissing instead of Tanika. I was scared of these feelings, but my feelings of jealousy were stronger.
"Just stop dating her then!" I blurted out one day when we were walking home together when he was complaining about his mom's disdain for his new girlfriend.
"What? How can you even say that? You know how much I like her," he said, blinking rapidly as if I had just slapped him.
"Yeah well I'm kind of getting tired of hearing about the two of you. All we ever talk about is your problems with her. Maybe everyone and your mom are right."
I didn't believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. It was like a stranger had taken hold of my body and used it to say things that would hurt him. Seeing the look on his face nearly caused me to start sobbing and beg for his forgiveness. There was hurt and anger in his green eyes, and even worse, defeat. I didn't know it then, but it was the last time I would ever see him in such a vulnerable state.
Michael and Tanika broke up after 5 months of dating, just shortly before the school year was over. I had expected our friendship to go back to the way it was before, but something had changed between us. I was seeing him in a different light. My relationship with him was now tinged with feelings of attraction and longing which I could no longer ignore. It made for a complicated year when we returned for 8th grade, and by the time we had graduated and moved on to high school I had receded so much from our friendship that all we could manage these days was a simple nod of the head if we ever passed each other in the hall.
My friendship with Michael changed the way I interacted with guys after middle school. I never became close friends with a guy since then and was always careful in the way I talked to another male. I became so self-conscious that I would betray myself by being obvious in my attraction to guys that I almost avoided talking to them all together.
I then made a resolve to try and put my interaction with Dominic out of my head. It wasn't worth the heart ache it would inevitably cause were I to get close to him. It would play out just like it did with Michael, he would get a girlfriend, I would get jealous and ruin our friendship. I could see it all happening in my head and I was going to do my best to not let it play out in real life.
I finally wrapped up the article, defeated in my efforts to try and put an exciting spin on anti-smoking week. After packing up and shutting everything down in the computer lab, I wandered through the empty halls of the school. I passed a large window overlooking the field where I saw some runners cooling down and I noticed how dark it was. I must have been so wrapped up in my thoughts that I didn't realized how long it actually took me to finish the article. My mom was going to kill me.
As I walked out the front doors of the school, I was greeted with a gust of cold air. The temperature had dropped to an absurdly low level which I was unprepared for, causing me to shiver.
I began a brisk walk away from the school to the bus stop, already agonizing about how long the wait would be for the next one to come by.
"Collin, hey, Collin!" I heard a voice call from behind me, a voice that caused my body to be suddenly flooded by uncomfortable warmth.
I turned and sure enough, there was Dominic, face glistening with sweat, dressed in nothing but a pair of blue shorts and a loose white tank top, making his way towards me.
"Oh, uh, hey, uh Dominic," I managed to blurt out as he extended his hand towards me. For a moment I was completely puzzled as what he expected but then caught myself and gave him my best (and probably worst) attempt at a bro-style handshake. He clasped my hand firmly and briefly, heat radiating from his touch.
"You're here pretty late, what were you doing?" he asked, genuinely interested.
"I, um, was just finishing up this article for The Window, you know, the school newspaper. I guess I caught a little bit of writer's block, hehe."
"Not gonna lie to you, I don't really read much, but I'll definitely check it out now that I know you write for it. What was it about?"
I'm sure I was sweating just as much as he was at this point. This was not a conversation I was expecting to happen today, let alone ever. I couldn't believe that this amazing guy was interested in anything that I wrote.
"Pretty much just a write-up of the No-Smoking Week we had last month. Nothing special. I was doing a favor for one of the other writers."
"Oh yeah! I remember that! I played that game that was kind of like a board game on the floor. I can't remember what it was called..." He trailed off, his face lost in deep thought. It was magnificent.
"The Smokey Path," I answered.
"That's the one! I won this funky pen that looks like a cigarette, I can't remember what I did with it though."
"I have some leftovers that I stole, I can give you one if you want it," I offered, not trying to sound too eager.
"Bro, that would be so sick," he said. I never thought someone would use the words "So sick" in reference to me but at this point I was taking whatever I got.
"Are you going home?" he asked.
"Yeah, I live by Craft and Boden so I have to take the TTC," I replied.
"Well you don't have to tonight. Come with me, I'll give you a ride. It's on my way anyways. My car's that way," he said as-a-matter-of-factly, turning and walking in the direction of the east parking lot.
"You really don't have to, I mean it's not a big—"
"Just come on Connor, I'm expecting you to grab me that pen when I drop you off so consider this fair trade," he said firmly, not even turning to look back.
Defeated, I followed him to his car, which turned out to be an older model of a Pontiac Thunderbird. It was a slightly faded grey but looked to be in good condition.
The car had a distinct odor to it. It was a musky yet not unpleasant scent that was probably from used sporting equipment, deodorant, and sweaty clothing. I couldn't help but think that this is what a real man's car should smell like.
"Sorry it's a little messy, I don't usually have passengers in my car," he said apologetically, chucking his stuff into the back seat which, true to his word, was littered with a random assortment of his belongings.
"At least you have a car. I'm probably years away from having my own," I said as he pulled out of the parking lot.
"It was my cousins up until last year. He decided to join the army, and since his sister's still too young to drive my aunt figured I could have it for my birthday last year."
"When's your birthday?" I asked, feeling a bit more comfortable in talking with him.
"July 25th, Leo and proud," he boasted with a grin on his face.
"You actually believe in all that astrology crap?"
"There's actually a story behind it, and it's not because I believe in astrology. By the way, I'll kill you if you tell anyone I told you this. Not even my best friend knows," he said, turning to look at me sternly. He held it for a few seconds then burst into a fit of laughter.
"I'm just fucking with you," he said, punching me softly on the shoulder. I wasn't sure exactly how to respond, but luckily I didn't have to because he continued to tell me his story.
"My mom was the one who was really into astrology. She would always call me her little lion when I was a kid because I was a Leo. She always told me that lions were brave, noble, powerful, and that because I was a Leo I was going to be all those things when I grew older," he mused, keeping his eyes on the road but looked as if he was seeing something else.
I wasn't sure where he was going with this conversation and was caught off guard by him sharing this intimate story with me. I ran through a dozen responses quickly in my head before finally settling on one.
"That's a cool story. Your mom sounds awesome," I responded, feeling just as lame as I sounded.
"She is, well, was. She developed schizophrenia when I was in middle school. It's been pretty bad so she has to stay in a mental hospital most of the time these days," he said, his voice hardening.
"Wow, um, I'm really sorry to hear that," I said, choking up, my heart swelling with emotion.
"It's fine, I'm used to it by now. She's on this new medication so it's not as bad so she can actually come home some weekends." His tone was a little more chipper but I still heard sadness in his voice.
"Seriously though, don't tell my friends about that lion thing, it's kind of silly now that I've said it out loud," he added.
"No, of course, of course not. I mean, I don't think it's silly, and I'm glad you told me." I said, stumbling over my words.
He looked over at me briefly, his amber eyes glinting in the passing streetlamps.
"You know what, you're right. I'm glad I told you too," he said. "So when's your birthday?"
After letting him know my birthday was in September, we maintained a steady flow of conversation. We talked about what classes we were taking, which teachers we liked, how much homework we had, typical things that high school students would talk about. I was surprised to learn that he was in the advanced math class and that he had goals of becoming an engineer in case his hockey career didn't work out.
"Of course, I'm still shooting for that hockey scholarship. Coach McCowan said I had a really good shot if I keep it up until next year. He even said I might even make it to McGill!" He said excitedly.
I also found out that he was struggling in English, and before I knew what I was saying, I blurted: "I can tutor you!"
"Really?" Really? "That would be awesome bro. I don't know why, but I'm just not getting this Great Gatsby stuff." Damn, I hadn't read that one yet.
"Yeah, no problem, no problem at all..." I was realizing that I had dug myself a hole that was already looking like it was too deep.
We finally pulled up to my house. As I picked up my bag, he extended his hand to me. This time, I was a little more prepared as I took it and gave him a better hand shake.
"Thanks again for the ride, Dominic," I said meekly.
"No prob. And now that we're buds, you gotta start calling me Dom now," he said, still holding on to my hand.
"Yeah, yeah sure, uh, Dom," I stammered.
"Cool. See ya tomorrow bro, don't forget my pen!" he said through the open window when I had stepped out onto the sidewalk.
"I won't, I promise."
With a salute, he sped off. As I stood there in the cold autumn air, I felt surprisingly warm inside.
Sorry for the long wait everybody. I hope you enjoy the second chapter of Collin's and Domnic's story! As always, feel free to send feedback at email@example.com.