WHAT LIES WITHIN: CHAPTER 6
When I consider this carefully, I find not a single property which, with certainty, separates the waking state from the dream. How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream?
-- Rene Descartes
I walked slowly down the hall towards the graphics lab. My brain hurt.
My mind was still in a daze from that football pep rally. Man, what a circus. Still makes me dizzy just to think about it. It was hard for me to concentrate on getting the shots I needed for my first yearbook assignment...the way those stupid cheerleaders were screeching and screamin' every two seconds drove me absolutely nuts. At one point, I joked to myself about trying to find a gun so I could really just `shoot' all of them. Just to get them to be quiet...for like, ten seconds, ya know? Next time, I'm definitely bringing earplugs...
As I reached the door, I wondered vaguely to myself if it would even still be open. I wasn't really sure just what the program was around here, yet. But, to my mild surprise, the door opened easily in my hand. Cool. Now I can get my backpack, and head off for home. Phew. That backpack suddenly felt very important. It kinda scared me for a second to think that I wouldn't be able to retrieve it from the room. You see, I wanted to finish my current book tonight before I went to bed... and if my stuff was locked in the room here, I couldn't get it.
I spotted my backpack right where I had left it. At least now I know I can probably get to sleep tonight. Ok, so I have some strange hang-ups. I admit it. But, like it or not, I just can't fall asleep at night if I don't read for a while beforehand. But, I can't read just any book. That's the problem. It has to be the book. Whichever one I'm reading at the time, you know? I can't just pick up a different one. Nope. It has to be the book, or I'm totally screwed. It just seems impossible for me to fall asleep if I can't read. So there.
As I wandered across the room, aiming for the general area of my backpack. I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone sitting silently and staring at one of the computers. Apparently he was lost so deeply in thought, that he hadn't even noticed my presence yet.
Oh my god! It was him. What in the world was he doing here?
I stood there staring at him in disbelief, completely frozen. It was definitely him. I immediately sighed inwardly to myself as my eyes traveled down the length of his straight golden-brown hair with those amazing summer-blond highlights...traced over the line of his perfect nose as I gazed at his profile...admired the intensity of his eyes as he stared at the computer screen...begged me to reach out and touch his smooth, flawless olive-skinned cheeks. I marveled at the definition of the muscles in his shoulders and upper arms.
I don't know exactly how long I stood there, but when he finally noticed me, it sent us both into a brief state of panic.
"Fuck!" he shouted angrily, "What the hell are you doin' sneaking up on me like that? Nobody's supposed to be in here, damn it! I thought the door was locked."
I just continued to stare at him in complete shock and surprise, my feet glued to the floor, and my mouth hanging open. His eyes gave away his surprise for a split second, as soon as he recognized me.
"Oh great, it's you..." he said sullenly (almost like he was saying it to himself), and turned away from me. His hand immediately reached out, and angrily jabbed a key on the keyboard in front of him. He looked at the computer screen briefly. Apparently seeing what he was looking for, he shut the system down quickly.
He immediately stood, and headed for the door without looking back at me. "I'm jettin' dude. You gotta clear out, `cause I'm locking up," he said impatiently.
He waited for me at the door, still refusing to look at me even once more. As soon as I cleared the door, he locked it, and sped away quickly on his board.
I stood there for a few minutes, staring blankly down the hallway where he had just vanished moments before. I could still see the image of his receding figure in my mind quite clearly. Ok...I'm a little confused here, I admit. Not only was I confused by his mere presence in the graphics lab; I was also confused by his abrupt attitude when he saw me. I mean, we were both a little shocked at first, but he didn't seem all that surprised when he realized it was me...not nearly as surprised as I was to see him in there!
Still, he didn't look very pleased to see me, either. On Saturday, I had been pleasantly surprised, and really quite grateful, that he had treated me as an `OK' person. You know...like, somebody who wasn't so totally uncool as to make them completely unacceptable to even acknowledge in public?
As I pondered that thought for a moment, my brain interrupted me with a recollection from earlier today in sixth period (it's always doing that...drives me crazy!). Before I had to leave to go shoot the pep rally, I had asked Mr. Brill about my pics from the weekend. He showed me seven that had been printed out, and told me what he liked about each of them. But, I wanted to see all of them, and I asked him about the rest. He told me I would just have to ask Russell about them, but he was already gone for today. Maybe I could catch him tomorrow if I came a little early...
Hello? Anybody home in there? I was beginning to feel one of those cognitive leap type moments coming on here...Let's see...Russell?...Rusty? Don't you get it? Of course! It was him. I bet Russell was Rusty!
OH MY GOD! The pictures! He must have seen the pictures. Well, of course he did, you idiot. Why else do you think he acted that way?
Oh, man. He knows. Surely, he knows. God...I am sooo dead.
Slowly, I staggered home; lost in a depressing fog of painful emotions. The feeling of rejection I felt from it all crushed me a little bit inside. All of a sudden, it looked like I was back on the list of the uncool and unworthy. Heck, I was probably on the list of `to-be-avoided-at-all-costs.' For some reason (ok, not some reason...you know the reason!), after last Saturday, I had been hoping we could almost be like, kinda friends, or something...you know, casual acquaintances...anything that would allow me to talk to him without breaking one of the million unwritten rules of high school society (that I never totally understood anyway). The horny gay boy inside me would settle for any stupid reason to get close to him. He was just so darn sexy to me...
Now, I was just hoping we could still be...uh...well, that we could just still be, you know? I winced to myself when I realized just how stupid that idea was.
Oh man! I still couldn't get past that one simple thought. He knows. Surely he could see it. But, I didn't know him well enough to gauge what his reaction might be. Will he beat the shit out of me? Or just out me at school, maybe?
Suddenly, I got a picture of him in my mind, watching smugly as half the football team was beating me to death in the main quad. No! He wouldn't do that, would he? Just don't go there, I told myself, it's way too painful to even think about. I wiped a single tear from my eye, and kept plodding towards home.
Oh, man. What am I gonna do? How am I even gonna talk to him now? As much as I was attracted to him physically, I was just as intrigued by the idea of simply knowing him as a person. There was just something about him. I can't remember the last time I met someone who sparked my curiosity like that...made me just want to get to know them better.
Well, no need to worry now, that's for sure! It seems unlikely that will ever happen. A wave of despair washed over me as I realized that I had once again managed to alienate someone before they even got a chance to really know me. Only this time, it hurt even more than usual.
Maybe I just need to quit this whole photography gig and go back to my life in the shadows. All of a sudden, those shadows seemed so safe and welcoming...so familiar. More than anything, I wanted to hide. I wished I could just make the world stop for a while, so I could have some time to figure out what to do.
As soon as I got home, I flopped down on my bed, and my hands automatically reached for the little reddish-brown teddy bear that now resided next to my pillow. I hugged him tightly to my chest, as I lay on my side while I thought about my dilemma. After a couple minutes, my hands were idly stroking over the bear, as my brain was searching furiously for an answer to my problem. Soon, my hands and eyes were pointing out to me something that seemed quite important all of a sudden. Reluctantly, my full attention went back to the bear in my hands. My fingers were playing with a small tag on the back of the bear, and I noticed that there was some writing on it. As I read it, the irony of it all made me smile and weep to myself at the same time.
It seems that my little reddish-brown teddy bear, given to me at birth by my real mother, had a name.
His name was Rusty.
I awoke the next morning. Barely. I hadn't slept well, at all. I had the same nightmare, over and over again all night long. It was those damn eyes...everywhere I went, I could see those intense blue-green eyes looking at me, and they knew. They knew my every thought, every emotion inside me. I could just tell by the way they were looking at me. I felt so naked...so vulnerable...so transparent. They never blinked. They never looked away. They never left me alone. Right now, I was beginning to hate those eyes.
After their third attempt to get me up, I finally convinced the parents that I wasn't feeling too well. I told them I was definitely staying home from school today, leaving no room for debate. End of discussion. I turned my back to the bedroom door, buried myself deep under the blankets, and fell into something of a deep, exhausted sleep; or perhaps a brief coma.
Around noon I awoke to an empty house. I was really hungry at that point, and I fixed myself a nice big sandwich with some chips, and sat down to watch a Hawaii 5-0 rerun on TV while I enjoyed a leisurely lunch.
I managed to sit all the way through the show, but just barely. I was still so anxious and confused about things; I finally couldn't make myself sit still any longer. My brain was so messed up, the only thing that I could do was just...I dunno...something. Anything. I just needed to get up and move around long enough to get that uncomfortable, antsy feeling to go away.
Soon, I realized I was wandering down my street, still lost in a cloud of troubling thoughts. Before long, I found myself back at the park entrance. Oops! I didn't really want to be here...I'm supposed to be home, sick. I checked my watch. Hmmmm. School won't be out for another hour or more. I looked across towards the empty skate park, and remembered sadly the one brief moment two days ago when I was actually almost cool. I was almost `one-of-the-guys.' I guess it was fun while it lasted. My mind replayed all the images of him that day...just looking so darn sexy...so, uh...oh man!
I saw a picnic table sitting nearby under a tree, and I felt the urge to sit down for a minute. I folded my arms in front of me, and put my head down to think for a while...
I could see him lying there naked on the grass, right in front of me. In plain daylight. Strange. But, he looked so warm and comfortable in the afternoon sun. Oh my god! My heart skipped a beat when I realized that he was hard. Painfully hard! My eyes were transfixed by the beauty of his hardness, as it arched stiffly over his stomach. Man, it looked so big. So incredibly sexy...and sooo big. My mouth felt suddenly dry. Unconsciously, I licked my lips, and tried to swallow, with a little difficulty.
Before I even looked up, I could feel his unwavering gaze locked onto me. As my eyes met his, a sense of calm and warmth washed over me. His eyes told me everything would be ok. Hell, everything would be better than ok. Everything would be good. Damn good!
His eyes invited me to come closer, to worship and savor his incredibly sexy body. It was all mine for the taking...I could enjoy it all at my leisure. I knelt gently beside him, and soaked in the image of his face for a moment. God, he was so handsome. I loved the way his long hair fell across the corners of his face.
I wanted so badly to kiss him...No, I needed to kiss him. I had to know at that very instant the deep joy and satisfaction that I knew was to be found in those lips. I brushed his hair softly away from his face. I shuddered as I felt our lips touch lightly at first, and then gently but firmly for many moments. Kissing him was definitely the heaven that I knew it would be, but I wanted more...I desperately needed to taste more of him. My lips wandered down to his chin, where they delighted in the feeling of his slight stubble...they savored the succulence of his neck...enjoyed the soft firmness of his chest. My right hand decided on its own to explore the mystery of his huge erection. I was amazed at the warmth and softness of the skin, and at the hardness beneath. Feeling the need to taste more and more of him, my tongue discovered an erect nipple, and sampled it for a time. Driven by the ultimate goal that I knew I had wanted from the very beginning, my tongue drifted downwards across his firm belly, tracing the line of hairs that led to my prize. As my tongue finally reached its goal, and circled slowly around the head, I heard him groan out loud. I moaned inwardly to myself, in sympathy with the sensations I knew he was feeling. I felt his whole body begin to stiffen, and then he...
"Hey dude...wake up. I think you and I need to have a little talk..."
I slowly lifted my head, attempting to shake off the drowsiness that still enveloped me, as I tried to determine if I had actually just heard someone speaking to me, or if I was still dreaming. I smiled briefly to myself at the recollection of the dream I had just been having...I could still feel my erection pressing against the leg of my pants.
"So, are we back with the land of the living now?" he asked.
At the sound of his voice that second time, I immediately realized exactly who I was hearing. My eyes shot wide open, and my head snapped quickly in the direction of his voice. I saw him sitting there casually on the opposite end of the table, with his board resting across his lap.
"Rusty!" I said out loud, but mostly to myself, as I jumped quickly off my seat at the table, and inched back away from him...keeping the length of the table between us as a protective buffer. My heart was beating at least a hundred miles an hour. My whole body was tensed and ready to run like hell to save my life if it needed to. I felt my hard-on deflate almost instantly.
He sat there looking almost as he had in my dreams, except clothed of course. His long dark brown hair hung back behind his shoulders, with his bangs tucked behind his ears. The way the sun was shining from behind him made the golden blonde sun-bleached highlights in his hair glow with a subtle fire. His deeply tanned arms extended from his sleeveless T-shirt, and you could see every muscle in his arms detailed clearly. He was simply amazing to look at. He was dressed in typical skater fashion, but the way he did it...the subtle combinations of colors, the meticulous details of his necklace/choker thing around his neck and the cool things he wears around his wrist...what are they called again? I can't remember...anyway, for a skater boy, he was always very impeccably dressed. He just had a natural sense of his own style that was so cool...it only made him that much more awesome to me.
I looked at him nervously to gauge his intentions. He sat there for a second regarding me silently, with those penetrating eyes. Now that I had a moment to collect my own thoughts, I could see he wasn't looking too good at the moment himself. He looked tired. He had the same dark circles under his eyes that I had seen in my own mirror this morning. He looked almost as exhausted as I felt. Finally, he sighed to himself and began to speak again.
"Look, dude...I'm not gonna hurt you or anything," he said, shaking his head to himself. "That's not my style. But, I do think we need to have a little talk, ok?"
His eyes locked onto mine again, and I felt like I wasn't really in control of my own actions any more. Against my better judgment, I found myself slowly stepping back towards the table, and carefully sitting down exactly opposite from him, to preserve the maximum distance between us...just in case.
"It's Ian, right?" he asked.
I nodded silently.
"Well, uh...I guess we both know what this is about...by now you realize I saw all the, um... `extra' pictures you shot of me. So, uh...well, then...uh, I mean...shit. You're gay then, aren't you?"
I cringed inside, as I felt my blood run cold when I heard that word. I tried not to let the terror I was feeling at that moment show on my face, but I'm not sure if I succeeded. I tried with all my concentration to avoid looking into his eyes at that point, because I knew that would blow it for sure. I just knew instinctively that I couldn't hide anything from those eyes of his...
"That's ok, I guess you don't really need to answer that," he said with a wry smile. "I'm sure you didn't know, but I'm the senior graphics editor for the school newspaper and the yearbook. So, everything you shoot for the school is gonna come across my desk, so to speak."
He took another deep breath, sighed, and began again. "So, I guess we're gonna have to figure out how to work together, here. Look, I know you're scared to death right now, and I totally understand, believe me. But, you just need to know it's ok. I don't hate you or anything. You don't have to quit the yearbook, or school paper, or anything like that. I'm not gonna do anything to hurt you, or out you, understand?"
I nodded again slowly, but sincerely. I really did believe him. His eyes told me that I just needed to believe him.
He glanced quickly around the park. "Shit," he muttered to himself, as he looked at his watch. "Maybe we shouldn't really talk here. School's just getting out, and this place will be full of people pretty soon. I think maybe we should go someplace else where we can talk more...uh, privately...ok?"
His eyes pleaded with me not to be afraid of him...to trust him.
"Look...Ian?...my house is pretty close by. Nobody else will be home there for a few hours. Is it ok with you if we go there? I promise you it's safe. Just trust me, ok?" his eyes pleaded again.
I nodded. I had to. I'm not sure exactly why I had to, but I just did, ok?
"You don't say much, do you?" he smirked to himself.
I shook my head no, but a brief smile crossed my face just long enough to let him know that I was feeling safe enough to play along with his little gag.
"Well, it's this way then," he said, as he stood and headed towards the side of the park opposite my house.
We didn't speak at all on the way there. We just walked, with him holding his board under his arm, and me following a safe distance behind him. Somehow, it just didn't feel quite right to talk about it just walking along the public sidewalk...and I sensed that I wasn't the only one who preferred the emotional safety of a more private setting.
God, I just hope my instincts were correct...that I really could trust what I had seen in those eyes.