"You show me how to see
That nothing is whole
And nothing is broken.
In you and I
There's a new land.
Angels in flight...
Where fears and lies melt away."
-"Sanctuary", Utada Hikaru
You know, when I'm with Jonathan, I'm almost happy enough to not cuss at you. But guess what? Not quite, motherfuckers! I'm still the old, abrasive Joey you know and... well, you know me at least.
I resisted the urge to hold his hand, since we were in the cafeteria during the middle of breakfast. We sat right by each other, though, and no one had to know that our knees were touching in compensation. The background roared with conversation, drowing out all that was said at the far ends of our table.
School is prison for kids because people don't know what else to do with us. "It's your education!" they say. Education? Riiiight... and I suppose the cafeteria pizza that swims in grease is actually good for us, huh? Teachers who couldn't teach their way out of ripped paper bags, books that are older than I am, and desks that look like they were made for preschoolers. That's some high-quality edumacation right there, mhmm. Like I said, prison.
We all stared at our schedules with concern, excitement, hope, dread – amazing how a slip of paper holds so much dominion over your life for eighteen weeks. Jonathan's was expectantly different from mine. I was a brain; I slept through classes and passed with flying colors, all the while teaching the teachers a bit of what they should know. Jonathan had a bit of difficulty in the academic area, so he took the normal classes while I took advanced, accelerated, AP, honors, all of that.
That didn't really make it any less annoying, though. Right now Jonathan was here so I couldn't complain, but I knew I'd get grumpy as the day went by. I was already considering switching all my advanced classes for normal ones on the off chance that I'd be in the same ones as Jonathan. I knew that wasn't a good idea, though. The advanced courses had a GPA bonus thing, the letter grades counted differently, and it made my transcript look better.
So I stared sullenly out into the crowd, but cheered easily as I saw people I'd all but forgotten about. I hugged a bunch of people, and raised an eyebrow at the amount of happy in the air. Was there some new drug I didn't know about?
Leigh came in, her usual bouncy self, and I realized that I actually missed school a little. As much as the administration sucked, the teachers were idiots, the uniforms were dumb... at least I got to see some people that made life a little more bearable.
"JOEY!!!" she screamed before she leapt onto me.
"LEIGH!!!" I screamed back. You know what's surprising, though? Nobody turned to look at who was screaming. Our table was well known for being insane, so everybody just left us well enough alone.
"I missed you! Why didn't you ever come to Benji's house or call or anything?"
"I was kinda busy, Leigh. Sorry, though. I love you!"
"I love you too, Joey! And I love you, Jonathan! And I love you, Jordan! And I love you, Evan! And I love you, person-whose-name-I-have-forgotten! I love this whole goddamn table!" And now you know why I love Leigh.
The bell rang, cutting off our nonsense and jerking us back into the dreariness of academic pursuit. For an hour and a half, I stared blankly at a board. I'm sure the numbers meant something, and I'm almost positive the teacher was talking at some point, but I didn't really care. I was excited, happy, wanted this little interval breaking up my life to end so I could get on with it. And finally, the break bell rang!
Why is it that the break bell sounds so much better than other bells? The other ones always sound so harsh, echoing violently in your ears, threatening to give you a bit of temporary hearing loss. The only one that sounds better is the one that signals when to get the fuck out of there. I've suggested many times that they pick something that would better suit the occasion, like have the choir sing a nice chorus of hallelujah, or allow the band to give a little fanfare. Nobody listens to me, though.
I caught sight of Jon sitting at my table, and walked quickly to join him. The blonde brigade blocked my way for a moment, but I handled that.
"Excuse me." I said.
"So like, did you see her? Like, what was she wearing? He is so not into her, it was so not sexy." The blonde chatter continued.
"Excuse me, please." I said.
"And I told her, too! I called her and said `Lissy, you can't do that!', but she just didn't listen! She was all like `Shut up, bitch!'" All the other blondes gasped in unison and the first nodded her head quickly. I wondered if I listened closely, would I hear a rattle, or would there be silence.
"Excuse me, ladies." I said, a bit louder just in case they simply hadn't heard.
"That whore! You were just trying to help her!" stated the blonde chorus.
"Like, I know!" said blonde 1.
"Look, there she goes! Right there! I heard she said you were pregnant and you're on crack, too! Go fuck her up! Somewhere away from the bottom of the stairs!" I yelled. The confused gaggle disintegrated enough for me to press my way through before realizing they'd been had, and by that time I was walking up to a snickering Jonathan.
"What was all that about?" he asked with a grin. I sighed, and took my seat, slamming my backpack down on the table.
"I don't know, but I feel so sorry for them all." I said.
"Really?" Laura asked me. I noticed I had the attention of several others at the table as well.
"Oh, yeah. You know," I said, pointing, "that one's pregnant, and on crack, too."
History is so boring. I do not have any interest whatsoever in the détente policy and I don't need to know who the contents of the Zimmerman telegram to be happy. It was only the first day of school and I already had that anxious, itchy, wishing for summer vacation feeling. Or was it the anxious, itchy, wishing for Jonathan feeling? Who cares, I just wanted to ditch talking about King George the umpteenth and get the hell out. Lunch was soon, at least.
I decided to fix my concentration on the clock. I knew, of course, that this was the worst possible thing to do, but I couldn't help it! Honestly, when you're somewhere you don't want to be, where is your focus at? On how much longer you have left! It's just a universal thing, a kind of self-defeatist mechanism built into all humans for some reason.
To make things even worse, have you ever seen a clock without a second hand? At least the second hand moves, and gives you some sense of accomplishment. It makes you think you're making a bit of progress, some finite measurement, you know? So whoever invented the second hand-less clock should be drawn and quartered. It just stays static; you can't consciously figure how much time has actually gone by. Minutes take SO much longer than seconds.
"So when Queen Liliuokalani was removed from power, what was the reaction of the general population?" I heard in the background. Liliuokalani... now that was a mouthful. Hawaii, huh? Pineapples... mmm, pineapple is yummy. You know what else is yummy? Jonathan. I bet if you took Jonathan and made him into a pineapple he'd be twice as yummy.
Leigh came up to me with the most adorable sad puppy dog look ever. She looked into my eyes, then hugged me tight, then held my hands. I smiled, knowing what was coming.
"Are you hungry, Joey?"
"Nope, Leigh, c'mon and let's get you some food." I laughed at her as we walked toward the lunch line. I never ate school lunch, but I got free lunch, and Leigh never had money for her lunch, so I just gave her mine. That way her lunch money went toward gas and other stuff and I did a friend a favor.
"Yay! Okay, you want a taco... wait, no, you want a chicken sandwich. And you definitely want French fries, and you want mustard. Ooo, you want a rice krispies treat too!" She said, hopping around the line and piling stuff onto my tray. She was a teeny tiny girl, but she ate more than I did in a week every day at lunch.
We situated ourselves at our new official table. I thought briefly about how territorial teenagers are. You can't go in their rooms without permission or you risk their wrath. Tables were claimed by some unwritten system that just seemed to work. They're all so, well, angsty.
"Open wide, Joey!" Leigh said, making airplane noises as she piloted a French fry toward my face. I complied gracefully, only making a few noisy chomping sounds as the fry was demolished. As I got to the end of it, I growled and snapped at her finger, then stuck my tongue out at her. Yeah, I flirted with all my girl friends like that, it's just what we did.
"Bad Joey!" Leigh said, shaking her finger at me. "But I still love you anyway. So I have a question for you."
"Hm?" I replied, taking a big swig of her chocolate milk. The rest of the table went momentarily quiet and so our conversation was now the focus of interest.
"Are you and Jonathan an item now?" Remember that chocolate milk? Yeah, guess where that was at now. Yep, through the nose and onto the table. I reached hurriedly for a fistful of napkins, cleaning up my mess and the front of my shirt.
"Why do you ask, Leigh dear?" I asked carefully. I was a little paranoid about the motives behind the question. Everyone around the table stared, waiting for an answer, and I was tense wondering if there was any sort of set up going on.
"Why Joey dear, I believe the two of you would make a splendid couple, poppet!" She said in her terribly phony English accent.
"Well, in that case, yes we are." I'd deal with Jonathan later. For some reason I just wasn't sure how he would handle my openness with the large group of people. I didn't really get a chance to formulate a plan of attack with him, though, since he came striding up carrying a lunch tray moments later.
"Hey guys, what's up?" He said, not really paying much attention as he tore into a chicken sandwich. I was practically frozen in place, wondering what to do or what to say. I just wasn't quite sure as to how Jon would take this one.
"Hey Jon." I said, still uneasy. He gave me one of those `why're you actin' so funny?' looks. Leigh laughed at the situation.
"Kiss him!" she said. I gave her the death stare, but that didn't deter her a bit.
"Yeah!" Laura joined in, and was soon reinforced by a mini-chorus of others.
I looked over at a confused Jon. "They know."
"Oh." He said. He looked around quickly, then gave me a quick kiss. The girl element of the table immediately broke out in cheers and the guys... well, if you were a straight guy, how awkward would the moment be for you?
I was blushing furiously, I knew, but it was cute. I knew he had to be uncomfortable with the situation, but to play it off like that for me was really sweet of him. I was hoping none of the administration was around to see it, and luckily our backs were to a column and our fronts to a wall, so the only people who would be able to see were the ones to our side. It didn't look like they'd really been paying much attention, though. I took a deep, relieved breath, and grinned big.
Happiness is such an odd thing. I almost didn't feel right being happy without being high. It kind of felt like I was high, in a weird way. I guess all those high-on-lifers had a point after all, even though I still considered them incredibly stupid and oversimplified.
I floated through the day, happy as I could be. I didn't quit smiling for more than a few moments at a time, thousands of times more congenial than I ever was before. I garnered odd looks for my behavior, but nobody complained about it.
And, for the first time in probably six months, I hugged my mother when I got home and told her that I loved her. I could've sworn she was crying, but she smiled and just asked me what I wanted for dinner. I helped out in the kitchen, cooking with her and ignoring the roar of the kids for the most part.
I realized that I'd practically been in solitary for half a year or more, since the depression had set in really hardcore. The kids were so much bigger than I thought they were, and I wondered if they actually remembered who I was through all of the gloom and doom I'd projected before. We laughed, joked, and had a lot of random family fun. I couldn't shake that feeling of normalcy, which of course was completely abnormal for me. Maybe I was just another teenager after all.
I hugged my mom again before she went to bed, and I sat in my room listening to music and wondered about life in general for a while. You know what I mean. You get in those reflective moods, and life seems so full of mystery and adventure, so much to do, so much to accomplish. The total opposite of the dreariness and complete motivation loss that is depression.
Tapping at my window alerted me to what could only be Jonathan, and I knew his dad was probably acting up. There was no other reason he'd come over at 10:30 at night. I opened the window, and before he could say the usual "sorry", I wrapped him in a hug. We snuggled up on the bed, and I held him for once.
My problems were taken care of, but it seemed like I'd left one major issue untouched. This little situation with Jon's father needed taking care of, and I knew who to go to for help. That's a wonderful feeling; knowing what to do. I didn't feel helpless and lost anymore. Before I couldn't even help myself. Now I was taking care of my boyfriend. MY boyfriend.
Frank Stephens watched out of the corner of his eye the boy in black sitting at the trouble maker table. He knew that generally they were all good kids, they just got mixed up in the wrong things sometimes. Most of them would sort themselves out eventually. Some would go on to college, some would get jobs right out of highschool, some wouldn't even make it out of highschool. Some of them needed an eye kept on them. People would be surprised if they knew what keeping an eye on a kid could do for them. Just a little help, a push in the right direction.
Some of the kids in financial binds as seniors received grant applications they didn't ask for. Every now and then one of the troublemakers would do something stupid that wasn't really such a horrible thing, and he'd cover it up and let it go if they were genuinely sorry. Some of those kids just needed a little help, that's all.
This particular one he was paying special attention to, and decided to let the boy on boy PDA go. It wasn't like they made out, and it looked like a happy moment. Shame to ruin it by dragging them into the office when it hadn't made any problems. He dug out his cell phone and walked back toward his office, dialing the number as he went.
"Hey Frank." A very old, very southern, very smoky voice on the other end said.
"Hey Mary Lou, he looks just fine. No problems, but I'll keep an eye out for him like you asked."
"Just you make sure you do, young'un."
"Yes ma'am," he said, laughing. "So this is one favor repaid, I only owe you about a billion more, right?"
"Damn straight you do. Take care of them young'uns, Frank. More than just old me looked out fer yer lil ass."
"You've got to be the most vulgar lady in the south, you know."
"I don't get paid fer talkin' nice like some people I know." Mary Lou said pointedly.
"Okay, okay. Take care of yourself, I'll talk to you later." Frank closed the phone, and smiled. Who'd have ever thought he'd end up a principal of all things? It just didn't seem very likely. He didn't know a lot about this Joey kid, but he'd bet when he was younger he'd have made him look like an angel.
After Frank hung up, Mary Lou paced her kitchen, kitty in hand, thinking. "Somethin' ain't quite right. I can't tell just what it is, but it ain't quite right. It's so far off, I can't tell. I'll just keep a eye on him, that's all." She heard a knock at the door, and opened it for an expectant lady who'd been having love troubles lately.
Mary Lou hated playing the trumped up psychic for these people, but that's just how she got some return customers. Some people wanted show, not truth. Mary Lou blended the two together rather nicely most of the time, but her patience was thin with this woman. She didn't take advice. As she rattled on about the latest events and asking what she should do, Mary Lou nodded and shuffled her cards. She lit another cigarette off the end of the first. The twenty dollars just didn't seem worth it.
So, there's another chapter. Yeah, I'm slow, oh well. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch my site at http://members.gayauthors.org/razor
Hope to hear from you guys, tell me if you liked it.