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There's something about being in this open air with a nasty cold that left me lightheaded and drowsy. I took as much medicine as I could sneak past my mom's watchful eye, and now I think I'm starting to regret it. Especially since I also took a giant handful of cough drops and shoved them into my pocket. I've already had three of them, not that they helped much. They just succeeded in making my eyes run, and it turned my saliva into this thick syrup of 'blecchhh' that I wish I could get rid of. Crazy.
As we were buying our tickets, I noticed Tyler paying Ariel's way in. You know, like a date. And the way that boy's knees dipped, I think Ariel just found himself a whole new level of Tyler obsession. Yeah, something is definitely 'happening' between those two now. I know that look well. Very well. I'm pretty sure that's the reason those two were late today. Which is awesome! Good for them. God knows it took us an ice age and a half just getting them to talk to one another, much less start anything frisky.
I felt a sneeze coming on, and quickly reached into my other pocket for a tissue. You know...in the Winter time, it's not so bad having stuff like this in your coat pocket or something. But during Spring Break...it's just in my jeans. The tissues get all torn and balled up. The cough drops start to melt and get all sticky. DAMMIT, this sucks!
With a louder than expected sneeze, I turned my back to every body while I blew my nose...hoping not to leave anything behind. I was trying to be somewhat discreet about the whole thing.
Leave it to Sean to screw that up.
"Do you need MORE tissues, Randy? That sounds like a lot of nasty mucous that you've got going there. Ewww..." He said, totally humiliating me in the process.
I felt Ryan rubbing my back lightly, which was sweet, but...ugh! I just didn't want to draw any attention to how disgusting I was at that moment. "You ok?" Ryan asked, and I just nodded, making sure to get my nose clean before turning around again.
Sean said, "Are you sure? Do you want to stop and sit down for a second. You look a little weak."
"I'm FINE..." I said.
Sean said, "Well...don't take anymore medicine. It's not good for you. Your breath smells like you took an awful lot of cough drops."
Ryan said, "Come on, dude.. Don't make him feel worse."
"I'm just saying."
I felt so embarrassed, but Ryan sort of pulled me over to the side for a moment, he privately told me, "Randy...honestly, I'm starting to worry about you now. The second you decide that you don't want to be here anymore, I can take you home. Do you want to leave?"
As horrible as I felt, I said, "No...no, I'm ok." Ryan gave me a sideways look. "Seriously. I mean, we just got here, and everybody paid their money..."
"I don't care about any of that stuff. If you want to go home just tell me, ok?"
I have to admit...the sentiment was comforting. I looked into those hazel eyes, and the moment Ryan gave me that mesmerizing smile of his...my heart melted. "There's no place I'd rather be...than here with you."
With that Ryan gave me a quick hug, and then we went back to join the group. Strange thing though...I managed to catch a brief glimpse of what Sean was doing, and got a bit of a surprise. I'm not exactly sure what it was that he said to Tyler, but Ariel hurried over to claim his angel so quickly that I half expected him to knock Sean flat on his ass! I actually started to laugh, but it turned into a cough half way through. Ariel physically held on to Tyler's arm, and I think he actually told Sean not to talk to them anymore. What the heck was THAT about? I don't know, but hey...I'm with him. If I wasn't so worried about infesting Ryan with disease, I'd probably take the same action. Hehehe, asshole.
We looked around and we saw the gaming booths and the rides and all. They put the carnival together in a rather big way this year. It was cool. I recognized a bunch of faces from school and just from the surrounding neighborhoods and stuff. After the first half hour of being there, the whole place felt like we were walking the high school hallways. But, as much genuine attention as Ryan showed me...it still bugged me to have him share even a tiny percentage of it with Sean too. It was supposedly just friendly banter, with no subtext or flirtatious undertones to it most of the time, but I found that even more disturbing. If Sean was just blatantly 'hitting' on him, I'm sure Ryan would say 'no thank you' and keep moving. I mean, I definitely have that much faith in him. And in us. But the friendship? That was much sneakier.
That was a connection that appeared innocent on the surface, but you could never tell what the hidden motivations were lying beneath it. It was a way for Sean to siphon as much of Ryan's attention away from everything around him and make it seem like he was just being nice. Even though I knew better. Luckily, Cody knew better too. And I was happy to have him close to me. He was almost like having a guard dog on my side. A MEAN one! Hehehe!
As we were walking up to one of the rides, Ryan looked over at me to make sure that I was still feeling good enough to be a part of everything that was going on. He gave me a little smile, and I gave him one back. And then...without really thinking about it...Ryan reached out and gently took a hold of my hand. I mean, right there at the carnival. With EVERYBODY from school, everybody in town, practically...watching us!
I had a feeling of confusion at first. As if I didn't understand what he was doing trying to hold my hand in the first place. Then...there was this instant sense of 'comfort'. Because...you know...my sweetie and me sharing a moment of physical affection is the most natural thing in the world to us a this point. But then...the presence of other people around us became more evident in my mind. The walls began to close in. The paranoia began to build. I attempted to ignore it. Even tried to convince myself that there was nothing suspicious or sexual about two teen boys holding hands in public. But it didn't work. The brainwashing was too strong. And just as I thought I might have a shot at letting it go and maybe just not giving a damn...
...I look over to my right ...and I can clearly see a small group of girls hanging out by one of the snack booths. One of them was Hailey.
Our eyes only made contact for a second or two, but it was enough to know that she noticed us holding hands. Or...or maybe that's just my mind playing tricks on me. It's hard to tell when my senses are half in a frenzy from paranoia and half doped up on cough medicine. But after what happened outside of the restaurant, my involuntary reaction was to instantly detach myself from Ryan immediately.
Thinking fast, I reached into my pocket to pull out another cough drop, unwrap it, and pop it into my mouth. Ugh! I REALLY didn't need another cough drop! But I didn't want Ryan to think that...well...you know...
I don't think Ryan even saw her. I doubt it would have made much difference if he did. But I felt bad for not standing my ground. In fact, I missed the contact the second that it was broken. It's funny how 'pride' has a different impact on you, depending on your environment. I should have remained strong. Because now Sean was talking to him again and being all...open and genuine with him. Me? I was on the side again. Alone. Stupid.
We were going to get on one of those big twirly swing things in the center of the carnival when I noticed Ariel still gazing into Tyler's eyes with a subtle grin. Tyler was staring back at him, and it just looked like they were having an entire conversation with one another without using a single word at all. The love radiating off of them was hot enough to cause a sweat to break on the foreheads of anyone within eyesight of the happy couple. It was really sweet to see. I actually found myself smiling at them without even knowing it.
And when Sean, Ryan, Cody, and I, went to get in line for the ride...Tyler looked back and forth between his boyfriend and the rest of us. "Um...you know, why don't you guys go on ahead? I think...me and Ariel are going to check out the...you know...the thing. Or...or something." Tyler started to giggle a bit, and so did Ariel. They both blushed fiercely at the idea of being apart from us, and before even really waiting for us to tell them where to meet us, they were walking off to go be on their own.
I remember when Ryan and I used to be like that. You know...back when everything was brand new between us.
Waiting in line, Cody seemed to try to give me a few silent cues to tell me to work up enough energy to keep Ryan entertained...but it was SO exhausting. After that last cough drop, which I should have spit out instead of finishing it off, my head was swimming something awful. Jesus, I think I was actually getting MORE sick just from breathing in the smell of hot dogs and popcorn. What was I going to do? Ryan and Sean were chatting away like a couple of bosom buddies, and I was just trying to use my remaining energy to stay conscious.
At one point, I heard Sean tell him, "Hey...why don't we get a chocolate shake after this? Like one of those giant ones over by the carousel?"
"Nah, I can't finish one of those by myself. those things are huge."
"Well, we can share one. You and me." Sean smiled. "I'll get us two straws." Cody tried to signal me to say something, but...I wasn't thinking straight. I can't get mad. Ryan thinks I'm being a psycho when I get mad. Sean was like, "I'd get Randy a straw too, but...you know. Germs. Besides, who knows where his mouth has been."
Cody couldn't take any more. "Luckily for you, Ryan...every boy in the whole PARK knows where Sean's mouth has been. Like...everybody. Stop a random stranger and ask him. I'll bet he can tell ya."
Ryan snickered to himself as Sean gave Cody a nasty look. "And exactly what was the reason that you came with us today?"
"Don't change the subject, babydoll." Cody said. "Seriously, Ryan...Sean's mouth is about as clean as EVERY single guy here. He's got enough hotel and back alley security footage to have his own reality show at this point. It's rather fascinating, to be honest! If there was a total boy slut hall of fame..."
"Thanks, Cody! I don't think your commentary will be needed for the rest of the day." Sean said.
"Awww, are you getting shy on me? I'm sorry, I didn't think you had a conscience, much less a sense of shame."
"ANYWAY, Ryan...as I was saying..." Sean knew that matching insults with Cody wasn't going to be an even match. I giggled a bit, giving Cody a wink for the help. But I guess I let my attention slip for a second.
Cody whispered, "Footing. Footing!"
"Huh?" but it was too late. Ryan and Sean were the next two to go on the ride, and they were standing in front of us. Sean made sure to keep himself right at Ryan's side the whole time. Just like Cody told me he would.
The guy standing at the gate said, "I've got room for two more. You two? Let's go."
There was a second where Ryan looked back at me, and then at Sean, and he was like, "Well...hold on. Wait. Randy, c'mon."
Sean said, "Aww, really? Come on, dude. Come up with me. I wanna ride with you."
Ryan said, "Sean...hehehe, dude. I think I should go up with Randy. Seriously."
"Why?" Sean said. "I mean, no offense, Randy. It's not because you're really really sick or anything..." That ASSHOLE!!! "It's just that...you know, there's four of us. Two and two. You don't expect me to sit next to 'Satan' here, do you?"
Cody gave him the finger. "It wouldn't be for long, sweetheart. I was planning to cut the chain on your swing the second we were going fast enough to fling you across the park."
"You SEE? Don't punish me like that. Come ride with me. And Randy and Cody are friends, they can go up on the next one. Come on." Sean even looked at me to ask out loud, "You don't mind us going up together, do ya, Randy?" Knowing full well that I couldn't say no.
Cody was egging me on, but I honestly just...I just...
"Whatever." I said.
Ryan looked a bit confused. Almost hurt. And Sean just dragged him forward as the guy at the gate pressured them to get on. And then he was gone. Both of them were gone.
I stood there for a moment. I felt...numb.
And it wasn't the medicine.
I just stared at the ground beneath my feet for a moment...and then I mumbled, "I'd like to get out of line, please." The guy told me that once I was out, there was no getting my spot back. But...you know...who cares?
I stepped through the fence and worked my way back out to sit on one of the little benches on the side.
Cody, of course, was right behind me...and sat down as well. There was a silence at first. I don't know if I even wanted to talk to anybody right now. I just wanted to sit there and nurture the heartbreak of being so helpless when it came to fighting for something that meant so very much to me. All I had was my pain. I kept telling myself that Ryan loved me. In my heart of hearts, I KNEW that he loved me. And that should be enough, right? Even John Lennon believed that love is all we need. But...today I can't get past the idea that an endearing and long lasting love just isn't enough.
And that hurt me more than anything. Because I don't know what else I had to give him.
I heard a long sigh beside me, and Cody said, "You're gonna make me be 'nice' to you now, aren't you?"
"It's ok. Go. Have fun. I just need to sulk for a while." I said. "Maybe Sean's right. All I'm gonna do is ruin everybody's good time. And it's not like me being here is having any real effect on what's going on here anyway. I could have just stayed home." I coughed a bit, my stomach muscles almost as sore as the gaping hole in the center of my heart.
"You know, all of these little tricks that Sean is pulling to get Ryan's attention...it's just a gimmick. One that wears thin pretty quickly. Without his looks, Sean has all the personality of a reheated bowl of soup."
It wasn't enough to get a smirk out of me. Nothing was. Telling me not to worry doesn't keep me from worrying. Not this time. "Do you really think that Sean is that hot? Hotter than me?"
"Yes. Especially today." Cody said it absentmindedly. At least I think he did.
"Great. Thanks a lot, Cody." I said, now feeling the emotion well up in the back of my throat. "I feel a lot better now."
"Huh? Dude, Sean's hotter than a lot of people. He just...look, that's not the point!" Cody shifted in his seat to put his hand on my shoulder and look directly at me while I hung my head low. "Listen...Sean's whole 'persona' is mostly something that people just make up in their own heads. It doesn't exist. He's really cute. And I get it. I fell for it too once. You see somebody you're attracted to and go 'WOW'...and then Sean smiles at you and gives you a wink and you nearly fall all over yourself trying to get a piece of him because you're thinking that he's a PERFECT TEN! But he's NOT a perfect ten, Randy. People look at him and they instantly give him a nine point handicap for being cute. The rest is some fantasy that they create about how awesome it would be to fall in love and live happily ever after in some magical castle in the sky. But it's all a lie." He said. "You want to know what it's like to date Sean? It SUCKS! He's not smart, or funny, or sympathetic. He's about as selfish as he can be. A class A narcissist. But I wanted to be a part of the illusion that things were 'working' between us and that we were happy. So my brain kept coming up with excuses to continue lying to myself. Sean didn't care about me. He smiles just enough to keep me around, sure. But the second I stopped useful...he bailed."
Still pouting, I said, "I know what you're saying, Cody. And I want to be more confident. I do. I'm really trying not to care. ButI just hate him soooooo much. And what if Ryan is one of those people who give him the nine point handicap? I mean, Sean doesn't have to do much of anything at all when he starts off as a solid nine. I just...I feel old and sick and boring and ugly right now...and Ryan's up there hanging with some boy who, in his mind, is the picture of perfection. It just hurts. You have no idea how much this hurts."
"Well, we'll just have to spend this week breaking that illusion, now won't we?" He smiled, but I didn't return it. In fact, I could feel the sorrow inside getting worse. The void in my chest expanding. That's when he said, "Look, I know that it sucks having to deal with something like this, but believe me...it'll be alright. All Sean knows how to do is be pretty. That's it. He uses his sex appeal to manipulate people and get what he wants. That's all there is to him. Put you and Sean in a dark room and all of that 'pretty' won't do him a damn bit of good. What else does he have to keep anybody interested? Nothing. That's not love. It's not even close." Cody lifted my chin, and I don't think I've ever seen such a tenderness in him before. "You know real love when you feel it. When someone can truly 'move' you. When they fascinate you with something besides being physically attractive. Sean doesn't know anything about compromise, or sacrifice, or selflessness. At the first sign of trouble, he bounces over to the next problem-free boy and starts manipulating him instead. It's just dumb. I deserve better. Everybody does. If it was me? I'd choose you over Sean ten times out of ten."
"Heh...I'd like to think that you weren't biased in any way..." I said with a teary-eyed grin.
"Well...I'll definitely give you that one. But it doesn't mean that it isn't true." He smirked. "All I'm saying is...if I wanted to look at someone pretty and 'pretend' that they actually loved me, I can just jack off to online porn. But when it comes to the real thing, and I get all squishy in the middle and weak in the knees and giggling to myself throughout the day for no reason at all...simply because he told me that I was special? That's where the real magic is. To share a feeling like that with another person...wow. Like, you can experience that same rush, that thrill, over and over again for the rest of your life. Not everybody gets that in life. But I plan to be smart enough to be one of the lucky ones. You'll see."
Did it make me feel better? I don't know. Maybe a little. It didn't solve the problem, but I think I was flattered that Cody even bothered to be 'nice to me', as he called it. "Thanks, Cody. I'm sorry if I'm being a downer today."
"Yeah, I'm actually pretty surprised. You should be turning cartwheels right now with the amount of Codine you've got pumping through your system." He said. "Look, as soon as they come back down, whaddya say I accidentally elbow Sean across the bridge of his nose and fuck up his centerpiece of a face for the next couple of days?"
That time, I did smile a little bit at the thought of it. "Tempting. But no. Actually, I think I'm just going to...wander around for a bit. On my own, you know?"
"Randy, dude..." He said. "You don't have to walk around a freakin' carnival all by your lonesome on the first day of Spring Break. Are you kidding me?"
"I know. I know. I just...I wanna get my head straight. Ok? Just for a little bit. I'll come find you guys. I promise. I just...I don't want to be here when they come back. It's hard for me to explain, but...I just need a few minutes away from this whole situation so I can get a chance to breathe." Cody gave me a determined look, but I let him know that my mind was already made up.
"Fine. But if you stay away too long I'm coming to hunt you down."
"I won't be hard to find. I'll be the only ugly kid in the whole park who looks like he's about to throw up in the nearest garbage can." I said. Cody rolled his eyes. "Just tell Ryan that I went to go...find a snack or something to keep my strength up."
"Whatever you say, boss." He said, and he left me to walk off to...I don't know...suffer in silence for a while.
It's a strange thing, but sometimes you just don't want to feel better, you know? Sometimes you embrace the pain. Even though it hurts, you almost crave that agony. If for no other reason to validate the reasons surrounding it.
I spent the next five minutes or so just wading through crowds of people and not really acknowledging a single one of them. I never thought you could feel so utterly alone in such a huge crowd of people. Bright colors, cheerful music, smiling faces, warm sunshine...it all went unnoticed. Those things couldn't improve my heartbroken mood any more than it could cure the flu bug I had swimming around in my bloodstream.
I kept thinking back to Sean and Ryan, and how happy they looked as they got on that ride together. I thought back to them sharing secret giggles at lunch, or talking about boys together, or taking drama classes together, or just...being together! I kept trying to think of ways for me to compete...but there weren't any. Not if Ryan decides that's what he wants. I mean, just look at Tyler. Tyler was Ryan's first love. Super gorgeous and blond and all that. That's probably what he saw the second he laid eyes on Sean. What's to stop him from giving Sean a taste? It's certainly not the chance to nurse me back to health. Or to talk about the same things, or share the same jokes, or have the same sex. I'm not out of the closet, I pull away from him in public, we argue and we fight and we...we're just a ring away from being an old married couple. So what weapons do I have when somebody like Sean comes along. Only one.
And that's me saying, "I love you, Ryan" for the 15 billionth time. I mean...do those words hold any real meaning for us anymore? I say 'I love you' and Ryan says 'I love you more', and it's gotten to be as common as asking someone how they're feeling and having them say 'fine'. There's nothing special about that, is there? Would Ryan miss it if I never told him I loved him again? What would be the difference?
Feeling more tears welling up in my eyes, I decided to head for one of the park restrooms. I don't think I was quite ready to go back and find the others yet. After making such a pest of myself in front of Ryan so far today, the last thing I needed was to add spontaneous crying spells into the mix.
I was surprised to find the bathroom empty. Then again, it was a bit of a walk from the center of the festivities, and they had set up port-a-potties all over the place. I wanted a sink and a mirror though. I needed to get cleaned up.
Looking at my reflection, I was even MORE horribly disfigured than I was when I woke up this morning. Oh God...why did this have to happen to me today? I don't know WHAT I'm going to do about my hair. My eyes were red, my nostrils were red, my cheeks were pale. I just wanted to cry. Just...just cry.
I felt a tear or two drip from my eyes and tried to wipe them away, sniffling and looking for some paper towels or something to blow my nose with. Nothing. Fresh out. So I looked over to one of the stalls to see if I could get some toilet paper instead. That's when I heard the door to the bathroom open.
I closed the stall door to keep from being seen. I've humiliated myself in front of enough random strangers for today.
However, when I peeked through the tiny crack in the door...I saw Sean standing there at the bathroom sink, using some napkins to wipe some kind of a big stain off of the front of his shirt.
I don't know if what I felt was inner rage, or actual fear. I think just seeing him was enough for me to size up the competition...and feel completely inadequate in every possible way.
Then...the bathroom door opened again, and Cody walked in behind him.
He didn't say anything at first. He just leaned up against the sink, arms folded, looking Sean directly in the eye.
Sean said, "If you've come to hurl more insults my way, you can save it. First of all, I don't care. Second of all, I'm sure they're not much good without an audience."
"I know what you're doing, Sean. Why don't you just back off this time, huh?"
Sean started to fix his hair in the mirror. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Listen, I know that you've got your little 'scorecard' of random boys to worry about, but can't you just have a heart on this one? Just this ONE time? Would it hurt you to not be a heartless asshole of a human being?"
Sean just gave him a smirk. "I'm just here to enjoy some fun times with good friends. You worry too much."
Cody was quiet for a moment, and then...almost in a pleading tone, he said, "Please, Sean? Dude, Ryan and Randy are happy. Truly happy. Maybe that doesn't mean anything to you, but it should. Don't stick your nose into their relationship and ruin everything like you always do. Listen to your conscience. Don't do this. Let them be happy...."
"If they're so 'happy'...then I shouldn't be much a factor in ruining anything. Don't you agree?"
"You son of a bitch! What the hell is the MATTER with you? What is it? Are you jealous that two people can share a love that you'll never have and won't ever understand? How the hell did you get to be such a fucking prick?" Cody growled.
"It's 'us', isn't it?" Sean asked him. "That's what this is all about? You're still bitter about our break up, aren't you? I can't believe you're still hanging on to that. Then again, I'd be pretty bitter too if I let a prime piece of tail like me get away too. I'm sorry that you lost out, but get over it already."
"You're so full of yourself that it truly baffles me, you know that?"
"Look, Ryan is his own man. He's got a brain and he's fully capable of making his own choices in life. All I'm doing is making myself available. If he loves his boyfriend so much, then there's nothing to sweat over. He has fun, I have fun, and it's no harm done." Sean told him. "But if he doesn't...if they're not as 'in love' as you think they are...or if Randy is too slow to keep up...well, that won't be my fault, will it?" Sean turned back towards the mirror to pretty himself up some more as Cody stood there, almost in shock over how long Sean was willing to stoop to play this stupid mind game. "Besides, Cody...I'm surprised you're invested in this situation at all. It's not like you to go around caring about anybody other than yourself. Are you going soft on me, or what?"
"Maybe I've grown up, and you haven't." Cody told him. "And because Randy is a FRIEND of mine. He's a really sweet guy with a big heart. He's a good person who doesn't deserve to be treated like this, and I'm sick of watching you fuck with his emotions for your own selfish reasons. Why don't you lay off? Go find some other pretty face to chase after. You could walk around the carnival and find some stranger today if you wanted to. Find him, pull him into one of the stalls, and suck him off like the whore you are! Leave 'love' alone."
Taking note of how riled up that Cody was getting, Sean took a step back...and he actually smiled at him in response. Then, he snickered to himself for a moment. "Oh wow. Seriously? Oh wow...I can't believe this. Hehehe!"
"What the fuck are you laughing at???"
"You LIKE him, don't you?" Sean said.
"What? What are you talking about?"
"I know you, Cody. You are SO protective of the people you care about. LOOK at you? You've got a little crush of your own going, don't you? I can tell. Hehehe, priceless." Sean straightened himself up a bit more, getting ready to walk out. "If you're interested in Randy, then you're certainly on the wrong side of this situation, dude. Maybe if I turn up the charm levels, and get Randy naked and weak in the knees...I'll be doing both of us a favor..."
Suddenly, before Sean could finish his sentence, Cody reached out with both hands and violently shoved Sean back against the bathroom wall! "I'm telling you for the LAST time, Sean! BACK THE FUCK OFF!!!"
"Hahaha! Or WHAT? You're gonna kick my ass?" Sean replied. "Are you going to go out there and tell Ryan that we can't be friends anymore? Get real." He walked past Cody, and lightly patted him on the shoulder. "Don't try to threaten me, Cody. You forget...I know where your soft spots are."
Sean walked towards the door, but Cody said, "For the record..." Getting his attention. "...I didn't 'lose out' on you or let you get away. You broke my fucking heart and I kicked your sorry ass to the curb for it. If you're going to go around thinking that I'm bitter...you could at least get your facts straight."
Sean smiled again. "Now that's the Cody I know and love. See you back at the carnival." And he left.
I was still basically holding my breath from the start of the whole conflict. I definitely didn't want to get caught now! That would be bad for me AND Cody right now.
I saw him pace back and forth for a few seconds, his fists balled up...the expression on his face was sooooo angry. And just before walking out, Cody brutally kicked one of the other stall doors as hard as he could, and he walked out looking like he wanted to actually murder somebody.
I don't know what to say. Or feel. Or do. I'm just...stuck. How did I get so damn 'stuck'?
IS FREE!!! NOW THROUGH