That having been said--enjoy! And feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All flames will, of course, be laughed at and summarily deleted.
By Nicholas Nurse
Chapter One: Say It Like You Mean It
I'd gone and hurt her feelings again. One of these days I'll remember how sensitive she is about her weight. For now, though, apologies are in order, as usual.
"Look, Liza, I'm sorry, alright? I didn't mean to—I mean, I was trying to prove a point, not make you cry." I put a hand on Liza's shoulder, much as I wasn't really one for physical contact. "I mean, I was just telling you why I think Steve doesn't like—"
Liza turned to face me and slapped my hand away. Her cheeks were wet. "I think you've said enough." I hadn't seen her this angry in awhile—weeks, at least. "I don't want to hear your reasons and I don't want to hear you try to explain yourself, Tristan. Just—just leave me the hell alone, alright?" Liza turned away from me again and kicked her locker door shut. The metallic slam echoed down the hallway and I winced. People turned to stare as she stormed off down the hallway.
I think my mouth was hanging open. I closed it quickly and folded my arms across my chest. "What the fuck are you all looking at?" I said loudly enough so that everyone in the corridor could hear me. Having been called down, most of the onlookers turned away. It was over, anyhow; Liza had already entered Ms. Felding's room and was undoubtedly blotting at her eyes with tissues. She got so red-faced when she cried, and her mascara always ran. "Mind your own goddamn business," I snarled at no one in particular as I too turned to walk to my next class. I was pissed, and I wasn't sure if my anger was more at my own harsh tongue or at Liza's propensity to embarrass me in front of the whole world. Part of me wanted to try to apologize to her again; the rest of me wanted to walk in there and smack her. So I decided to do nothing.
Yeah, alright, so I'm not the nicest guy in the world. So much for the stereotypical caring and sensitive "Ooh! let's get in touch with our feelings!" sort of gay kid. I just don't have the patience for that sort of bullshit—all it does is get you hurt in the long run. Trusting someone too much is like running with scissors; sooner or later, you're gonna get stabbed, and it's going to be your own damn fault. I saw what had happened to Julian Lambowski when he decided it was a brilliant idea to come out of the closet.
I turned the corner and ran smack into someone. "Ow, Jesus! Watch where you're going, you stupid sack of—"
"Dude, Tris, calm down, man."
Oh. Whoops. I'd nearly sworn at my other best friend. "Hey, Garrett, sorry. I just ran afoul of Liza again and . . . well, you know what kind of mood that always puts me in."
"You really gotta stop talking about her weight, you know."
"Look, it wouldn't be an issue if she weren't so sensitive about it."
"It also wouldn't be an issue if you didn't bring it up."
I was still sullen. "Well, maybe she should just lose some weight, then."
Garrett raised an eyebrow. "You're acting stupid, Tris."
I sighed. "I know. But I'm pissed. I'm allowed to act a little stupid when I'm pissed."
"Sure you are—but you're not allowed to act a lot stupid. Which is, incidentally, what you're doing." Garrett pivoted to walk alongside me. "Look, let's talk about it after gym, okay?"
I shrugged. "Whatever. There's not much to talk about, really. She was just complaining that Steve Johnson doesn't pay any attention to her, blah blah blah . . . "
"Ah, I see you lent her your sympathetic ear again."
"If you want me to tell you what happened, put the sarcasm in your ass, where it belongs."
Garrett barked a laugh. "I know what should go in your ass, and it isn't sarcasm."
I jerked involuntarily. Did Garrett think—there was no way he could know, even after all these years; I went to such great lengths to hide it from him, from anyone—I decided it was best to stay calm. "Crass, and unoriginal, too. You can do better than that." I opened the door to the boys' locker rooms. "Look, you're right—we'll save it for after gym." Garrett and I both had gym the same period, but we had different coaches; ninety juniors were too many for one coach to handle, especially when you factored in the inherent stupidity of high school coaching staffs.
Garrett grinned. "Fine. See you in the showers." He took off down the rows of lockers to find his own. Not for the first time, I wished we shared a row together; sure, I'd seen him in his boxers plenty of times, and even naked in the showers, but it would've been nice to be able to scope out his ass on a regular basis. Like a daily vitamin, or something—Vitamin G, definitely. But G for "Garrett" or for "Gay"? Ah, yes, that was the question.
The bell for classes to begin rang. I had five minutes to change and be outside in my gym clothes. Hurriedly, I put my satchel in the locker, took off my black boots and stripped off my jeans. I folded them neatly—they'd been kind of expensive, since not too many stores carried low-rise distressed boot-cut jeans. I pulled off my shirt. It was tight, and black, but long-sleeved. I folded it, too, and set it atop the jeans. In rapid succession, off came the necklace and bracelet and watch and ring, all of which went in the locker. I stood there for a moment in my boxers as I rooted around for my gym clothes.
Well, shit. I'd gone and left them in my car again. I had two, maybe three minutes before the second bell rang. Briefly, I considered a mad half-nude dash down to the parking lot; if I ran quickly, would anyone really have any time for a good look? Too bad I'd left my jacket in my regular locker; it came down to my knees, so I could've hidden most of the juicy parts behind it. Damn, damn, damn, there wasn't time for any of this, and the longer I stood there the later it got.
Garrett popped his head around the corner of the row. "Hey, Tristan, what're you waiting for?"
"I forgot my gym clothes in my car."
"So go out there in your boxers."
"Yeah, I definitely keep you around for your brilliant ideas."
"I'm kidding, assface. Look, gym's the last class of the day. Just skip it and go home."
"I haven't skipped a class since last year, Garrett. I don't want to start now."
"Well, it's either you skip or take a zero for the day—oh, wait, they're the same thing! And this way you get to go home early. I'll meet you there first thing after school." Garrett vanished again.
I gave up. He was right, really—there wasn't much else to do. I unfolded my clothes and put them back on, then grabbed my satchel and left. I trudged down the now-empty hallways to my locker—I noticed that Liza's, right next to mine, had a huge footprint on it—and grabbed my jacket. Stopping for a moment, I ripped out a page from my binder and scribbled a quick "Sorry" on it. I folded it in quarters and slipped it through the vent in her locker. She'd know who it was from; there was really only one person who owed her an apology, after all. I put my jacket on and went out to the parking lot.
Two of the wardens—well, alright, they're just proctors, but everyone calls them wardens when they're not in hearing range—were guarding the gates to the parking lot. They were there as much to keep kids inside as to keep strangers out; luckily for me, however, I'd built up a friendship with all the wardens over the years. It came in handy when I needed to circumvent petty little things like state law—as I was doing now by leaving school an hour early.
One of the wardens smiled at me as I walked up. "Hey, Tristan, what's going on?"
"Just leaving, Mary," I replied. "I get to go home early today."
"Lucky you. How's AP English these days?"
"Eh, about like all the other advanced classes—we spend all year getting ready for the college exams. If I'm lucky, I'll have enough credits by the end of senior year to start college as a sophomore."
"Just don't work too hard, alright?"
"Trust me, that'll never be my problem." I scooted out through the gate and hit the disarm button on my key. My car, a BMW 330ci convertible, unlocked itself.
Perhaps explanations are in order. My parents are fairly well-off and they decided that as long as I'm entering college a year ahead and saving them a good thirty thousand dollars or so, they didn't really mind turning around and dumping that same amount of money into a nice car to get me home on weekends. I was finally able, on my seventeenth birthday, to convince them to buy it a year early. I had gotten it so recently that the license plates hadn't even come in yet.
I pulled out of my parking space and left the school. I was antsy; I didn't want to go home right away. Garrett would be over, and we would hang out, but I wanted to get him off of my mind. Lately the gay thing had been weighing heavily on my mind, and seeing him all the time didn't make it any better. I spent enough time at night with my hand wrapped around my cock, thinking about him naked and sucking me off; I didn't need to think about him during the daytime, too. I headed for the beach. Southern California was the coolest place to live, no doubt about it; even in October I could roll back the roof and cruise down to the beach for lunch. I stopped at a small pizza joint my friends and I frequented, got some pizza, wolfed it down, and hit the road again. Half an hour had gone by. Time enough now to get home, enjoy a good jerkoff session, and wait for Garrett to arrive.
When I pulled up onto my street, I parked my car on the curb so I wouldn't block the driveway when my parents got home. They'd both be home between five and six, so I had a good three hours before they got there. Inside, I made a beeline for the fridge and poured myself a glass of water. I parked myself in front of the TV, deciding against the jerkoff session, and flipped it on. Then I stopped, wondering what the hell I was doing. I hate TV. Oh, yeah. Trying to get my mind off of Garrett. That's what I was doing.
I grabbed a book instead.
The doorbell rang far too soon for my liking, but that didn't stop me from running and sliding across the wood floor to answer it. I let Garrett in and poured him a soda. We went around to the backyard and sat out on the courtyard. We have a pretty big backyard, actually—about two acres' worth of land, replete with swimming pool and tennis courts and a wide courtyard area. Our house was large, too, but so were most of the homes in the area. Garrett and I sat on the stools around the outdoor bar.
"So have you talked to Liza yet?"
"I stuck a note in her locker, but that was about it. I figure she'll call eventually, or I'll see her at school on Monday if she decides to waste the weekend by being pissed at me."
"You could call her, you know."
"Oh, right, I'd considered that." My tone of voice made it clear that it had been summarily rejected.
Garrett rolled his eyes. "You're so goddamn difficult, you know?" He finished the rest of his soda. "She really has a thing for Steve. Seriously."
"I don't know why; he's really nothing to look at." I grinned. "I'm a helluva lot cuter."
Garrett laughed. "Yeah, like you'd even give her the time of day. You have about as much interest in dating Liza as you do in eating horseshit."
"I think you're being a little harsh—"
Garrett raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"On horseshit." Garrett rolled his eyes. I laughed. "Seriously, though, she's just not my type."
"I doubt you're hers either—she doesn't like the thin look. Or dark hair."
"Okay, I get the idea."
"What is your type, Tris?"
Oh, shit. I hate it when this comes up. Deflection. "You've known me for six years and you're just asking me now what my type is?"
"Every time it comes up, you do a deft subject change." Does this boy have me pegged or what?
For a moment, I was silent. If I wanted to, I could begin laying the seeds here. Slowly introducing him to the idea that I was gay, and, beyond simply being gay, that I wanted nothing more in this world than to have Garrett love me—not as a best friend, but as a boyfriend. As a lover. Not for the first time, I felt as though I were standing at a crossroads. Down one path lay safety, security and constant self-consuming secrecy. Down another, pain, risks—but the payoff could be great.
"I guess you could say I . . . like 'em blonde." Garrett was blonde.
"Oh, that's good," Garrett said sarcastically. "That clears everything up. Oh, in case you didn't notice—Liza's blonde."
"Hazel eyes. I dig hazel eyes, too," I said desperately. Liza's eyes were blue; Garrett's were hazel.
Of course, he wasn't making the connection. "This all seems rather superficial to me."
"Brains, brains! And humor, and . . . cleverness, and wit."
"Boy, you ran around in a full circle there."
"Look, I just don't think about this shit, alright?" I did.
I thought about it every time I thought of Garrett. I thought about
it late at night when I came across my chest, thinking of his body, his face.
I love you, Garrett. But how to tell you? And what will you think?
"For never thinking about dating, you sure do dress to impress, you know," Garrett said, gesturing at my clothes. "You always look like you just stepped out of a damn catalogue."
"I just like to look good. It's an issue completely separate from dating, or sexual appeal," I countered. "Sort of like how your inability to shower has no impact on your opinions on girls."
"Ooh, aren't we the clever one today? You'd better take advantage of a rare circumstance."
I laughed. "You know, we're just too witty for our own good." I finished my soda. "Now, what are we doing today? My folks are coming home around six-ish, and then they're flying to San Francisco for the weekend. They're taking Izz and Sandy with them, too." Yes, my sisters' names were Isolde and Sandra. My parents, you see, think they're clever, and apparently we children get to suffer as a result. Opera fans, and classical literature fans as well, they found a way to make a dual reference out of three children's names.
"What is there to do today? We could go see a movie, or go to the mall . . . "
"Well, if Liza calls, I'm not opposed to hanging out with her, but—"
"But you're too much of an asshole to call her yourself."
"Exactly." Hey, why lie? "Look, I just get tired of her whining. I know she's got a weight problem, but what can I do about it? It's not like we can always avoid it if it comes up—ducking around the issue doesn't make it go away; it just means you're lying to yourself." I could stand with taking some of my own advice. But being fat and being gay were two totally different things. I mean, you really can't hide being fat. And nobody beats you up for being fat. "You know I love her. But . . . I'm not going to pretend that a facet of her—one I don't care about, mind you—doesn't exist. It would be like me pretending that you're ugly." There, that was slick.
"I'm flattered, but still. I guess that's enough said. Besides, you did leave her that note, which accounts for something. I'm kind of surprised, actually—that's a bit out of character for you."
"Well, what can I say. Perhaps I have some lingering degree of sensitivity after all."
"Spare me. Let's swim before we decide on what to do."
We walked back up to the house and to my room, where Garrett, who spent so much time over anyhow, kept a spare pair of swimming trunks. I grabbed my boardshorts—I longed to slip on a tight black Speedo in front of Garrett, just to see how he'd react—and changed. Garrett stripped down and grabbed his boardshorts. For a brief and glorious moment, he stood completely and unabashedly nude. I, of course, feasted in those few moments, storing up as much as I could for later masturbatory fodder. Garrett was of a rare breed of human: naturally gifted with a perfectly-proportioned body that was the result of pure genetics as opposed to any effort on his part. Sure, Garrett jogged and occasionally worked out, but by and large the majority of his exercise took place in gym class and in walking or biking around. And yet he was slim and muscular—the kind of build where when he walked, you could see the flex of calf muscles in his legs and when he wore a t-shirt, you could see the outline of his pecs. But what drove me wild were the twin downward curves of his hips—the downward curves that led straight to the small blond bush of hair at the base of his cock. Garrett was naturally not hairy, and his blond hair further minimized the appearance of hair; one would think that Garrett shaved his entire body, excepting his small bush. And yet for all of his apparent hairlessness, Garrett had a cock like a tree trunk. I'll admit that in one respect, that was a big turn-off; I wasn't at all a fan of huge cocks, especially since I had a pretty large piece of meat myself and I always imagined myself as more of a top than anything else. Ah well. Garrett slipped the boarshorts over his hairless legs and laced them around his slim waist. After we'd changed, we headed outside for the pool, boardshorts on and towels in hand. We dived into the deep end of the pool. Between the two of us, I was the better swimmer, having taken lessons and been on swim teams for years.
Garrett and I swam a few laps before we relaxed, floated on the surface of the water and drifted. In some respects, I was more comfortable in water than on land. I especially enjoyed slowly sinking under the surface of the water and hovering, suspended. Submerged, time slows, and I imagine that this is much what death is like—there is no breath, no sound, and everything stands still, as though expectant, waiting for something that does not come. Then the moment passes and I run out of air; before I really get the chance to find out what death is truly like, I pop back up to the surface and inhale sharply, greedily, drinking in as much air as I can to fill the gasping void in my lungs.
Garrett had been waiting for me to resurface. "I hate it when you do that, you know."
"It's creepy. You stay under for so long, I start getting worried. Like, should I go and grab you by your hair and drag you out?"
"You don't grab a drowning person by their hair. You actually lace an arm over their shoulder, across their back and under the other shoulder, and lay them so that their back is in the water and their face is turned out above the surface. That way you can still swim and you can make sure they don't drown."
"Thanks, David Hasselhoff."
"What do you do down there, anyway? You close your eyes and just . . . float."
"I think about all manner of things, really. It's about the stillness. Underwater, it feels like the world is holding its breath. When I have a problem, I like to come out here and just sink. It helps to put things in perspective." I shrugged. "Try it."
"What, just go underwater and float?"
"For as long as you can, until you start to run out of air. Your lungs will burn. When the burning is too painful to tolerate, come back up again. But when you're down, listen for the silence." As Garrett sunk underwater, so did I. This time, I imagined kissing Garrett underwater, the feel of our lips meeting and pushing out water, breathing only each other and floating in a world where time had no meaning. And hands, gently on wet skin, serving as eyeless sight.
When I came up, Garrett was gasping for breath. "Do you see what I mean?" I asked.
He nodded, emphatic. "That's . . . wild. When you shut everything else out. It's like Zen."
I laughed. "Great book title. I can see it now—Zen and the Art of Drowning." Just then, my cell phone rang. I jumped out of the water, heedless of the October cold that was starting to take hold as the sun began to sink. I flipped open my phone. "Hello?"
"Tristan." It was Liza. "You'll never believe what he did."
"Oh—you're not still mad at me, I see?"
"I can't be—not when you're as wrong as you have been. He left a note in my locker. Steve did, I mean."
I paused for a moment. "Er . . . what did the note say?"
Liza had a giggle in her voice. "Just one word—'Sorry.' "
Shit. What to do? I was silent for a moment, and then a sly smile spread across my face. "So did you call him already?"
"No, not yet—I don't know how to respond! I mean, what does this mean? In red ink, too."
"You're sure it's not blood?"
"Shut up. Seriously—what should I do?"
Garrett looked at me curiously from the pool. I grinned at him and covered the phone for a minute. "She says Steve left a note in her locker that said 'Sorry' on it."
Garrett jerked and almost sank. "Oh my god, Tris—you can't let her think—" I waved Garrett to silence.
"Well, Liza, maybe you should call him up and tell him you want to fuck him."
Liza suddenly sounded breathless. "Oh, Tris, I love it when you talk stupid to me." I really hated her sarcasm sometimes.
Garrett got out of the pool. "Tristan! Don't do that to—" I backed away from him, a huge grin spreading across my face. "Tristan! Give me the phone!"
"I think you ought to call him, Liza," I said again, leaving out the "and fuck him" this time.
"What's going on in the background? I can hear Garrett saying something," Liza replied, ignoring my comment.
"Oh, nothing; Garrett's just getting out of the pool and he wants to talk to you or something." Garrett was coming closer, irritated and dripping wet, and I couldn't keep a laugh from bubbling up inside of me. I backed away from him. "Look, my reception's starting to cut out, so if I lose you—" Garrett made a lunge for the phone. I hit the "End" button and let him take the phone out of my hands.
"You hung up on her!" Garrett flipped the phone shut.
"No, I just . . . lost reception," I replied innocently.
"Don't give me your cute little shrug. You're such a bastard!" Garrett was the stronger of the two of us; he picked me up bodily and flung me into the pool. I spluttered and bobbed to the surface.
"You're lucky I like you too much to bust out the Shotokan," I muttered.
"Oh, right, like I'm not a brownbelt too. Bite me, karate kid." Garrett was flipping open the phone again, presumably to call Liza back. "Where the hell is Liza's number?"
"I have it memorized," I said smugly. "What, you don't?"
Garrett was silent for a moment. With a snarl of frustration, he set the phone down. "I just program numbers into my phone and forget about them," he admitted. "Goddamnit, Tristan, you can't let her make a fool out of herself like that!"
"Why not? It's the least she deserves for both making me look like a fool in the hallway and for taunting me mistakenly for a letter I wrote! The only reason she called was to gloat, Garrett, and you know it." In a huff, I heaved myself out of the pool. Garrett stood in front of me, dripping wet. God, he looked so hot with his trunks hanging so his hips were visible.
"Look, whatever. I think you should call her back. You can gloat all you want that you wrote the note, since that's what you seem to need to satisfy your cruel urges. But don't let her make a fool out of herself."
"We're forgetting an essential fact here, Garrett—even if I do tell her, why would she believe me? There's nothing that suggests that it's me any more than that it would be Steve, and two factors work against honesty here: the fact that she'll think I'm toying with her, as is admittedly my nature, and the fact that she wants it to be Steve more than she wants it to be me."
"You're such a prick."
"Look, I'm sorry."
"Maybe I'd believe you if you said it like you meant it."
"Fine, I'll call her." I picked up my phone and dialed her number. It was busy. "It's busy."
"Here." I handed Garrett the phone. He heard the busy signal and nodded. I hung up. "She's probably calling him right now. If she's smart, she'll just ask him if he left her the note; he'll say no, she'll call me back, and I'll tell her that I left it for her. She'll be disappointed, and probably a little mad that I wasn't honest in the first place, but I'll tell her exactly what I just told you."
"Fine, fair enough. But still, Tristan, you really don't need to fuck around with us like you do. I mean . . . it makes us feel like lesser people. Look, we're all in the same classes, but we know you can run mental rings around us. You just don't need to remind us of that fact." Without another word, Garrett turned and started walking back toward the house.
I stood still for a moment, dripping wet and suddenly very cold.