Maybe it was the emotional drain of the night before that made me sleep so deeply that night. My father had a pretty hard time just waking me up that morning. And even THEN I felt like my body was made out of cold mashed potatoes. But my Dad was determined to get me up and dressed for the day. I suppose after having the decency to actually pay me a compliment the other night, he didn't want me letting it go to my head. Might make me slack up on my duties if he thought he was losing a bit of that grip with his iron hand.
I rolled over lazily in my sheets, and I saw my brother Nick still sleeping peacefully. Him with his little cute face and his puppy dog and his worry-free existence. Sometimes...I felt like I could be mad at that boy for no reason at all. I should be mad at God for making boys 'like' that instead! He's wrecking the 'curve' for the rest of us average folk.
But before I sat up completely...I thought back to last night. To Cyrus and his gang of punks pressing me to join their little hit squad or whatever it was. What did they need ME for anyway? They seemed to have everything they needed and more as far as 'friends' were concerned. Hell...everybody else at Rainbow's End seemed divided between wanting to fuck their brains out or being scared shitless of the trouble they'll cause. Despite my need to find out what they're all about, I really doubt that my personality fits into their little group there. They'll just have to look for someone else.
"Wesley...let's go. You're gonna be late." My dad asked, opening the door a crack. And I released my inner thoughts so I could get up and get dressed. Sighhhh....looks like I've got another long day ahead of me.
I made sure to grab Freddy's necklace before I left, and I put it on. I think he'd be hurt if I didn't wear it. Besides, I really liked it. It's still hard to believe he would do that for me. He must really be developing a crush on me to take the time to walk way out here and put the envelope on my door and all. You can just tell when something takes a little bit of extra thought, a little bit of extra effort. He made this for me, and he didn't have to. His whole 'life' was interrupted, no matter what else he had to do, JUST so he could show me a little extra affection. Just so he could do something for me that I know he wouldn't have done for anyone else. It really meant something to me...and I have to admit, I was kinda touched by Freddy's friendly gesture.
Once my father and I jumped into the car, he started it up and pulled out of the driveway. I think we had only been driving for 90 seconds when he turned to look at me. "What's that necklace for?" He asked.
"Oh...this? Somebody made it for me. So I thought I'd wear it."
"Well who made it?"
I knew better than to answer that question honestly. It was one of those moments when you knew it shouldn't be a big deal...but it WAS a big deal anyway. So after a brief pause, I turned my head to look out of the window. "A camper made it for me. One of the little ones." I lied. I HATED lying, to him of all people. But the truth was sure to get him all judgemental and angry with me again. Not only that, but he'd probably end up taking the necklace from me to keep me from wearing it at all. My only defense would be to expose myself of possibly being just like Freddy, without the fairy-like motions. To come clean and maybe make him regret saying those awful things in front of me. I simply couldn't understand why everybody was so uptight about what I'M feeling inside. It was just....just something I wish I didn't have to 'think' about so much. This feeling inside is normal for ME, why can't it be normal for everybody else too?
We didn't talk much more on the way to camp. Mostly because of my evasion tactics keeping me distant from him. As much as I loved the man, conflicts and all, there would always be a small part of me that resented him for making me continously 'hide' like this. Sometimes I doubted he was any better than the rest of the homophobes out there. But we hadn't done much father/son bonding this whole trip, so what would make this morning any different? When we arrived at breakfast, watching as the young campers began to fill up the place, I noticed Freddy walk in from the kitchen to help serve pancakes once the feeding frenzy began. He was searching the room, and didn't stop until his gaze softly landed on me.
I looked back at him from across the mess hall, and smiled gratefully. I held the necklace slightly out from my neck to show him that I had it on, and he smiled shamelessly in my direction. It was like he had no control over the grin on his face, and it made me feel good to know that I had made him THAT happy by just accepting his gift. Freddy was a really good guy...just...'girly' for a guy, I guess. It's not that I'm not 'proud' of who I am and WHAT I am...I just...I'm not ready to be quite that visible yet to anybody who takes the time to take a closer look at me. It's not my time for all of that yet. Maybe it never will be. All I know is that being around Freddy is just as much of an exposure and a threat as being around my straight little brother is. Just at the opposite end of the spectrum. And I'd rather walk the safe line in between them.
My father led the morning prayer that day, and asked us all to bow our heads. Sometimes, a morning prayer can seem like an entire eight hour work shift with someone reading off names out of the phone book. It's THAT bad if you're not really into it. You know? So my mind began to wonder a little bit, and I sorta opened one eye to peek over at Freddy. I'm not sure what made me do it, but I was curious for some odd reason. And sure enough, once I opened my eye, I saw him peeking right back at me. He caught me looking at once, and I looked away swiftly. But I could still see the smile on his face, and he giggled silently to himself before closing his eyes again. Shit...I didn't mean to 'confirm' any giddy feelings or anything. I just wanted to know whether or not he was watching me. I hope I didn't just make my situation worse here.
"Amen..." My father said at last, and we all finally started to dig in to breakfast. I noticed that Kyla didn't show up that morning. I'm not surprised. She was probably EXTREMELY hung over after last night! How she got away with THAT little scheme, I'll never know. But if her dad had found out, the 'shameful' news would have been all over the cafeteria by now. Whispers never echoed louder than they do in the church, believe me. Oh well, I guess she found a way out of it. Or at least a way to hide it. She was a pro when it came to stuff like that. Maybe next time she won't overdo it so much.
I looked up from my plate a few more times to see if Freddy was still looking, and he caught me everytime. His brown eyes would sparkle so brightly that it would blind you if you stared for too long. I had the strangest feeling inside at that moment. Not so much that I was infatuated with Freddy all of the sudden. It was more like...I was infatuated with him being infatuated with me. While that may be arousing for a few moments, it wasn't a game I was really willing to play with his emotions OR mine. I wasn't really sure how to handle that just yet. So intead I forced myself to fight the urge to look and just kept my eyes down towards my tray for the rest of breakfast. Was it my actions that caused him to stare in my direction? Or would he be staring at me anyway, whether I was peeking back or not? I was a bit confused on how to handle the whole thing, but for now it was best to just ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening at all. That's the easiest way.
Dodging Freddy's attention became the gameplay for the morning, and when we were dismissed from the hall to go out to start camp for the day, I was relieved to get away from there. The air was getting kinda thick in that place anyway. We all walked out in a big group together, the kids bouncing around with tons of energy and minimal mischief. I found myself submerged in a crowd of 'like' people...and thoughts of what Cyrus had said to me the night before began to haunt me. It was instantaneous...a moment of sobriety in a world drunk with inconsistent rules and nearly psychotic control issues. I looked around me and saw everyone walking almost in step with one another. Laughing at jokes that I had heard a billion times before, as if rehearsed repeatedly to use again and again in the attempt to sound witty and original in front of someone new. I saw similarities in the clothes, in the hairstyles of the kids, in their shoes, in their lingo and slang...everything about them had been...'mass produced' somehow by the people around them. TEACHING them what it is to be a person. Instead of teaching them how to be themselves. I felt so incredibly alien all of the sudden. It was just as Cyrus said it was...they were all bad actors in the same movie with no script and no soundtrack. And I was walking with them. The last survivor at the end of some surreal 'body snatchers' horror flick.
"Hey...Wesley..." I heard a voice come from over my shoulder, and sure enough, it was Freddy. A gentle blush already flooding into his cheeks as he struggled to keep his feelings hidden from sight.
"Heya, Freddy." As easy as it would be to accept his affections and maybe get a shot at being with, as far as I can tell, the ONLY other boy around here who might feel like caring about me...I got nervous. With all the sex dreams, and all the prayers, and all the wishes, and all the times I fantasized about taking a cute boy to some dark corner and unravelling the mystery of sex once and for all...I just...couldn't bring myself to try it. I couldn't bring myself to ask Freddy if he wanted to, even when I knew that the answer was a definite 'yes'. It was a scary step for me, you know? I don't know why. But it was a leap into some foreign area of life that I wasn't familiar with yet. I WANTED sex...I just...didn't quite know what to DO with that desire yet. Even with Sebastian kissing me in the woods, half of me was scared out of my wits and the other half was just blindly following his generous lead. As I walked slowly forward, worried about looking Freddy in the eye, I felt his crush on me growing stronger and stronger by the minute. And it made me a bit uncomfortable, flattering as it was.
"I see you found your um...your...." He pointed to the necklace on my neck.
"OH! The gift? Yeah, I did." I said. "Thanks so much, Freddy. Really, you didn't have to do that."
"It was no trouble, really." He smiled. "I had some leftover beads and all from the camp kids.....and...I wanted you to know that I was...'thinking' about you. That's all."
The comment, mixed with the flirtatious way that he said it, reminded me of what position I was holding in his world right now. One where saying or doing the wrong thing could really hurt him and shatter his dreams completely. Where saying or doing the RIGHT thing might make him fall even harder for me than before...making the pain to follow even worse in the long run. It was the equivalent of balancing, one-footed, on the end of a huge one hundred foot tall needle in high wind. God help me if I fall. "Thanks....that's...that's sweet." I said nervously.
"Awww...you're still shy. That's so cute." He grinned, and I gave him a playful shove.
"I'm not being shy." I said.
"Yes you are. I can tell by the look on your face." He thought for a second, "Do you remember a few years back, when the church was having a bake sale, and you had to stand up in front of everybody and greet them as they came up to the table? And you were sooooo nervous and shy that you actually looked white as a sheet."
"Hehehe, geez, Freddy, I was eleven."
"Doesn't matter. You had the same look on your face that you do right now." He let a bit of that fragile effeminate aura brighten a bit, and some of his gay mannerisms began to increase in intensity. "Anyway, I remember that you were SO scared, that day, that you accidently kicked the collapseable leg from under the table and dumped half of the baked goods on the floor in front of Father Johnson and everybody. Hehehe, you were so embarrassed I thought you were going to cry. Hell, I almost cried FOR you."
"I DID cry, I just didn't let anybody see me." I reminiced with a smile. "You know...I was kinda trying to forget about that incident."
"Yeah, well...don't." Freddy told me. "Sometimes...those little humiliating moments make us appreciate ourselves for getting past them. Consider it 'comic relief' in an overly dramatic world."
I looked over at him, and adopted the little pearl of wisdom into my memory banks for later. I smiled, and he turned away from me to laugh. I kinda remembered what I was doing, and decided not to push it any further. Freddy deserves a lot better than plain old me anyway. He walked alongside me for a bit without saying a word, and I cautiously looked out for my father's watchful eye, just to make sure he wasn't spying on us. Then he cleared his throat and spoke. "Um...you know...there certainly is a lot of cool landscape to see here at this place." I wasn't sure where that comment came from, but it caught my attention. "I mean, when I was younger...I couldn't necessarily wander off by myself. But now I have a bit more freedom to explore the campgrounds and stuff."
"Hmmm...that's cool." I looked around again, and this time saw my dad talking with Mr. Rigby and Brother Chris about camper assignments and the like. I guess I should cut this short.
But before I could say anything, Freddy said, "So....I was thinking of taking a little hike on my own later on...after camp activities and stuff. You know....just to explore some more....maybe get some peace and quiet........away from everybody..." And his hands started to fidget, his breathing getting short, as he tried to find a 'subtle' way to ask me to go with him. My fears got the best of me, and I cut him off.
"Ah, there's my dad. He's gonna kill me if he sees me not enhancing my 'work ethic'. You know...punishment and all. I should go see where he's putting me today." I said, and Freddy let out a deep breath. I think he was as relieved to have me postpone his plan of action as I was.
"Sure. Sure, I understand. Go ahead."
"You sure? I mean, I don't want..."
"NO, it's fine. Great." Freddy said, backing up from me already.
"You know...it's just that I've got the Lord's work to do." I said sarcastically, sorta forgetting that Freddy was a part of the religious 'machine' in this place. Albeit one of the more accepting and friendly gears in the process.
"It's MAN'S work you're doing here..." He said. "God's just the 'inspiration' for it." He grinned, and then turned away to walk back to be with the other counselors.
"Hey Freddy!" I called out, and he turned around. "Thanks again...for the necklace."
His whole face brightened up. "Anytime." He paused to enjoy the moment, and then let himself return to his 'normal' good-boy behavior. "Listen...I'll see you in the mess hall later. Around lunch, k?"
"Cool." And we went our seperate ways. Freddy practically skipping on air.
I saw my father looking through papers and handing out activity assignments as I approached. I was silently praying for another day of clay figurines and nice 'solo' projects that didn't require any type of talking or enthusiasm at all. I guess God's answer was delivered in the form of a joke. "Wes, I'm glad you're here. I need you to go to children's choir today."
"What exactly is that?"
"All you have to do is pass out booklets and get them to sing with you and Brother Chris."
Um...it's funny how he can say that as though it's no excruciating punishment on top of what I already have to endure in this damn place. "Singing...hours and hours of singing. Great. Thanks dad." I said sarcastically, taking the paper from him with a bit of snatch.
He didn't respond with anything other than a quick look. Then again, I was already walking away, and didn't really give him much of an opportunity to. I doubt he could have cared less whether or not I wanted to do it. My whole trip here WAS a punishment, afterall. So any attempt to argue would be pretty much in vain. It's the equivalent of a death row prison inmate complaining about a hair in his soup. What's the use, you know? It wasn't even worth pouting over at this point, might as well just make the best of it and pray that the time goes by quickly. Although I doubt that I'll get off that easy this time, and without Kyla's company, the day is sure to be even longer than usual.
After the first hour or so, I began to realize that my concept of this being a 'long day' was severely understated. This day was going to be ETERNAL! Handing out paper booklets while trying to tune out the half singing/half screaming sound of fifteen to twenty children all at once is a torture I wouldn't wish on anybody. If there was any weapon that mankind possessed to ward of the devil and his minions...this awful catterwalling would be it. It was tolerable while we sang "Michael, Row The Boat Ashore" 50 times in a row. It was only mildly annoying during "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", which we got away with only singing 49 times. But now that we're reaching our 35th verse of "Kum Ba Ya"...I'm literally praying for some wild animal to jump out of the woods and attack a camper just so we can cut this short. The only thing keeping the mindnumbing melody from lulling me into a deep sleep was the occassional squeak of a child's voice as it searched for the right pitch. Something tells me I'd rather be hung over and in bed like Kyla instead of being here. At least then I could be 'visibly' miserable.
Then...as if my prayers were answered...a disturbance came to upset the predictable actions of the day. At last...that 'wild animal' that I was looking for emerged from the woods, and brought its minions with it.
We all turned to look as some cheers and whistles came from out of the trees behind us. And looking closer, I saw Cyrus walking towards the group of campers, his platoon of delinquents following behind him as always. They all came closer, and while I was thankful for the unexpected break, the intrusion left me feeling a bit nervous about what brought them out for a visit in the daytime. Cyrus walked right up and put his foot on top of one of the nearby camp tables. "Bravo, bravo. That is some mighty fine singing, if I do say so myself." He turned a courteous smile in my direction, and I felt so....unbalanced inside, having him watch me. To be bold enough to strut in front of me after what happened last night, and then smile in my face as though he didn't know my deepest secret, as though he hadn't broken my life down to almost nothing with his words alone....it was both fascinating and insulting at the same time. It was a warning that I should've been heeding immediately. But much like some tragic fire, I was forced to stand in awe of the flames and watch for just a little bit longer. Even though my instincts warn me to stay clear of their destructive path.
I could see their negative influence in their every gesture, heard it in every word they spoke. But it was a part of their charm. One thing's for sure...you could never say that they were boring or predictable. Not at all.
"Can I HELP you boys with something?" Brother Chris asked, trying to keep their invasion from breaking up the easy going mood of the class.
"Nope. Nothing at all." Cyrus answered. "I heard singing. I liked it. I wanna hear some more."
As the others approached behind him, I noticed their systematic 'order' for walking together. It was the exact same line up as it was the day before. No matter when they were all together, they had 'positions' to fill, and they guarded their positions well. Especially the twins, always standing at opposite ends of the group. Two sinister bookends to the rest of the squad. Cyrus took his foot down from the table, and sat down on the bench, tapping the table's surface with his thumbs as though happily demanding 'service'. He was definitely not just passing through this time, and made as much of an obnoxious entrance as he could manage while stayng so low key in his attitude. But my eyes were guided away from his antics momentarily. It was then that I saw Sebastian's lovely face peek out from beneath the silken veil of his long brown hair. His skin like warm cream, his eyes glowing with a dull sparkle, his thin lips showing no visible emotion in their shape or movement. He leaned sideways against a tree, and his eyes met mine for just a brief moment before I turned away. I couldn't deny the fact that my body was still aching to be close to him. My heart ready to give itself away cheap, if only he would bless me with another of his passionate kisses. I hated myself for wanting him so badly. Especially after breaking my heart without remorse the way he did.
"I'm afraid we're gonna have to ask you to leave." Chris said. Now Brother Chris was only about 25 years old, and about as intimidating as a two-dimensional paper clown cut out on a string. He was one of those church diehards that could quote scriptures in everyday conversation and wouldn't watch anything racier than a Christmas episode of "7th Heaven". Somehow, I don't think Cyrus was inspired to even give him a second thought in terms of subtle threats.
Still, he liked to play mind games, and he liked to drag them out for as long as he could. Cyrus enjoyed that. It was daily proof that he could do anything he wanted to, IF he wanted to. "C'mon, just one more song. I liked what I heard. You kids like singing, right?"
"I said...we need you to leave. Now." Brother Chris was trying, but Cyrus never lost the angle of his grin.
He looked over at me again, and said, "Hey Wes...why don't you get them to sing a little 'ditty' for us? Huh? Just one. Then we'll leave." Brother Chris turned to look at me as though having this intruder know my name was proof postive of some kind of awful sin. "You can do that...can't ya?"
"Um....you know....maybe you guys should...kinda...take off..." I mumbled. Attempting to give Chris some help.
Cyrus stared deep into my eyes, "Hmph..." He shook his head. Almost as if he were laughing at me in disappointment. As if I just didn't 'get' it yet. "Wolf in sheep's clothing." That's when Chris had had enough, and attempted to get some kind of control over the situation.
"Do you want me to get somebody to escort you out of here?" He said.
"Chill out, my friend. We're just having fun."
"This is a PRIVATE camp. Technically, I can call the police on you right now for even being on the grounds."
Cyrus wrinkled his brow with a slight chuckle. "Dude...it's not that serious. We only asked for a song. Where's the harm in that?" He was pushing, I could tell. He wasn't going to move from that seat until he got what he wanted. I almost gave in, just to get them to go before they really got into some kind of serious trouble.
And that's when Chris made a mistake. "I want you ALL out of here, right now. Let's go."
"Hehehe! Why? What did we do?" He sat defiantly, giggling at Chris' so-called firm stance in the situation. "We can't hear you guys sing? What the hell? You were singing already...we just wanna watch."
"I'm not about to discuss this with you." Chris said. "Let's GO! NOW!"
Cyrus smile faded, just a little bit. And I could feel Chris walking up to that uncrossable line of Cyrus' tolerance for disrespect. His face hardened a bit, and I could feel the temperature rise in the air around us. "Look...like I said...it's NOT that big a deal. Chill out."
"I don't think you heard me. I said get UP!" And Chris put a hand on Cyrus' shoulder to physically lift him up. But before Cyrus had moved an inch, this mental 'explosion' traveled through all of the other kids with him. All at once. The second that hand touched his shoulder, his team of soldiers all stepped forward, and the tension in the air rolled over all of us like a thick warm fog. Chris felt the sudden change in the mood, and slowly took his hand off of Cyrus as the younger boy stared him down. Cyrus rose slowly to his feet, and I watched as the others approached in unison. Ready to break Chris' arms, legs, and even NECK, if needed. It was just like it was when Cyrus was confronted at Rainbow's End....but worse. Their efforts were so synchronized, so in tune with one another. It was like they were speaking to each other through emotions and aggression alone. John Boy and Kristin seemed to be the ones displaying the most concern, and Scout's hostility was ever present whenever anyone even got NEAR Cyrus, much less laid a hand on him. The children with us fell silent, and I was trapped between helping Chris out, and backing away from the freaks in Cyrus' inner circle before they raised some hell that we couldn't control.
Cyrus stod silent, and then...out of nowhere, he threw up both hands. "Ok...you win. We're leaving." He giggled a bit to himself, and the others relaxed their stance a little bit. It was something that you really had to observe first hand to understand. They obeyed his every command before he even had a chance to give it to them. As though it was the most natural thing in the world. I watched as Cyrus smiled at me again, and then he stomped his foot loudly back on the table top. "I just wanna say that you kids are FUCKING awesome! Those are great fucking songs, you should sing that shit from the heart!" All of the children's eyes widened in horror, and Brother Chris looked like he nearly had a heart attack. Me? I was shocked, to say the least, but felt more like laughing out loud at Cyrus' sudden outburst.
"EXCUSE ME!!!" Chris said loudly.
"What? I fucking LOVE that shit?" Cyrus said innocently with a boyish shrug of his shoulders. "I'm trying to pay them a fucking compliment for Christ's sake!" I saw two or three of the kids cover their ears and shut their eyes to protect themselves from the offensive language, but I personally couldn't stop from snickering. I covered my mouth with my hand and tried to hold my breath, but Cyrus just kept going.
"Can you LEAVE now, please?" Chris asked, very serious about having the serpents excised from our Eden.
"WHAT??? Oh SHIT! Is it because I swore? Oh fuck...what was it? Was it because I said 'fuck', or because I said 'shit'? Which one's worse?"
Chris was NOT amused. "We don't appreciate that kind of language here. Kindly take it elsewhere."
"Fuck...I've got such a fucking dirty mouth. Don't I have a dirty mouth, Scout?" He said, calling out the youngest of his tribe.
"It's the fucking dirtiest fucking piece of shit mouth I've ever fucking heard Cyrus!" Scout answered proudly, and I was about ready to burst out with a laughing fit that would bring me to my knees.
"JESUS, Scout!" Cyrus said. "I'm sorry. The fucking little kid's got a whore for a mom. He says all kinds of vulgar shit."
Sebastian calmly piped in with, "Don't say 'Jesus' in front of the holy kids, Cyrus. It's a fucking sacrilige."
And both twins added, in stereo, "Yeah, asshole."
"Shit, I'm sorry...I can't do anything fucking right today!"
"OUT!!!" Brother Chris shouted, and Cyrus began to back away.
"We're going, we're going. Hehehe, promise!" But before he was more than a few steps away, he looked at me and said, "You feel like joining us today, Wesley?"
It put me on the spot, right there in front of everybody. All eyes were focused on me. To have them create that kind of turmoil and then associate themselves with me...I just KNEW that this would be getting back to my father by the end of the day. "What?" I asked.
"Do you feel like joining us? We're going on a little excursion, loads of fun. What do ya say?"
"I'm...I'm working with the campers today..."
"Yeah, and that's just...that's lovely! But we're talking about having a GOOD time here. You can mix it up with these 'rebels' later." He said, his invitation calling to me, even after all that he had put me through. Something about him spoke to me. It could translate the language of something deep inside of me that was dying to get out. Struggling to be uncaged and express itself like it was MEANT to be expressed. But I guess my responsibilities won out over the chance to have, what might have been, the time of my life.
"Uhhh....no. No thanks. I think...I'm fine right here." I told them again. But Cyrus could tell that I didn't really want to stay. He new my every deep desire, and all it took was a look at the hidden emotions in my eyes. He smirked, and shook his head again at me.
"Alright. Suit yourself. But you'd be a lot happier joining us today. Just thought you should know that." And with that said, he turned to rejoin his friends. Making little 'sheep' noises as he walked off.
I then saw Sebastian smile at Brother Chris...which seemed to make him a bit nervous. "Hey Chris. Remember me? From last summer?" He grinned. "I'll bet you do." And then he winked at him before backing up to join the others. "Guess what? Only three and a half more YEARS until my 18th birthday. Cool, right?" The way Sebastian said it...it was a taunt. A sudden forced strike of shame against Chris, and whether it was true or not, I wasn't sure. But judging from the look on Chris' face at that moment...something 'secret' had to have happened at one time or another.
They all disappeared into the trees and walked off into the distance. With Cyrus shouting out one last, "Keep singing kids! It's good for the fucking soul!" And then they were gone. As vulgar and as sudden and as disruptive as they were....I had to admit...
..They were the most exciting part of my day.
Chris was clearly ruffled by the intrusion. I mean, he was actually mad to the point where he was turning red in the face from the frustration. I took the whole thing with a grain of salt really, but everyone else seemed to have had their lives altered in a way that wouldn't allow them to get back to just singing the silly songs and getting it overwith. As I looked over my shoulder....wondering whether or not I would be able to catch a glimpse of them still walking in the foliage...I found myself smiling. I was enchanted by them all over again. I don't know how to explain it. It's just...they had no rules in their world. No polite little habits, or limitations, or masks to wear. They just did and said whatever the hell they wanted to and screw anybody else who didn't like it. It was more than curious...it was admirable. Almost inspiring. And although I couldn't see them anymore through the trees, no matter how hard I looked...I felt a piece of them still calling to me. And, God help me...I really wanted to go.
What can I say? I LIKED their sense of freedom. I wish I could be more like that.
The singing didn't continue for much longer that afternoon. Slightly offended children and a pissed off camp counselor do NOT make a good mix for happy times and fond memories. But it hardly affected my mood in one way or the other. My mind was still soaring on wings of shameless worship for Cyrus and his crew of misfits. There was this strange, unexplainable, attraction to living without fear of consequence. A gentle tug at the more 'wicked' side of my personality. It's a journey really...cautiously exploring that darker side of yourself, discovering those secret places that your social teachings tell you to avoid at all costs. God forbid if that Pandora's Box were to ever be opened. When you think about it...would you ever be able to close it again? Would you WANT to?
The rest of my time there went by rather quickly that day. And I could have gone back to the mess hall for lunch, mentally dodging the eyes of my father as well as Freddy's flirtations. But instead I decided to go further down the road, and maybe see if I could pay Casey a visit like I promised. To be totally honest, under any other circumstances, I would have been too chicken to go. But I felt good at that moment for some reason. Motivated, encouraged, impassioned. Where I normally would have turned to jelly and slinked off to be alone, dreaming of what could have been...I found a hidden stash of courage, allowing me to at least give it a shot. I think I smiled for the entire walk there.
My nerves attempted to lock up on me as I stepped my first foot on the porch of the old dusty gas station mini mart. And yet, my will pushed me forward anyway. I opened the door, hearing the bell chime as I walked in. I half expected to see the old man standing behind the counter like he was before, but fortunately the only person there was Casey. He was sitting behind the front counter...feet up by the cash register, reading a comic book. He didn't look up right away, possibly used to the occassional customer coming in and grabbing what they wanted without a need for any assistance. Unless of course they went knocking over the Kool-Aid packets again like I did. It gave me a quick moment to drink in that fragile beauty of his without having to be sneaky about it. The very aura around him was magically seducing all of my senses and causing me to secretly swoon over his visible perfection. My heart beat sped up slightly, as Casey's soft curtain of blond hair flowed backwards and revealed his sparkling hazel eyes to the sunlight pouring in through the shop window. A brown and green mixture that seemed to change back and forth and back again as he stayed submerged in the pages of his comic. As always, he had his pint size cd player going, playing Eric Clapton's 'Layla' on repeat. All this...I absorbed in the few seconds between me walking in, and him looking up from his reading material.
"Oh...HEY!" He said, bringing his feet down to the floor to sit upright in his chair. "Sorry...I was kinda...engaged over here."
"It's ok. Really." Every word that I spoke to him felt awkward and abnormal, but I attempted to keep my wits about me anyway. There was a slght pause between us. I guess it was normal, considering we've had two conversations, probably adding up to a whopping four and a half collective minutes total. But I didn't wanna just stand there and stare at him. Well...actually, I DID...but not while he was watching me. "So...Clapton, huh? Very cool."
"Yeah...I like the older stuff. The new music doesn't really do it for me, you know? It doesn't have the same heart as it used to. The expression is different."
"Yeah..." I sighed, and straightened up the second I heard the way the words left my mouth. Like some dreamy celebrity stalker type. "I agree. Totally." I said, in a slightly more 'heterosexual' tone. Casey was cute, there was no doubt about it. I wanted to be near him...there was even LESS doubt about that. But for us gay boys, the gameplay has to be a little bit different. I can't just let on what I'm thinking just yet. Not entirely. Besides, I'd kinda like to postpone his heartbreaking rejection for as long as I could.
"I'm glad you came by. I was almost done with my comic book. I have NO idea what I was gonna do once I had read the last page. Hehehe!"
"Really? So...I mean, you don't mind me keeping you company for a bit, do ya?"
"Well, that was the plan, afterall. Besides, what else have I got to do besides sweep up dust that settles back on the floor and shelves before my hand leaves the broom handle?" He smiled, and my world was transformed into something beautiful. I smiled warmly in response, and he stood up on his feet to unlatch the 'flip up' part of the front counter. "Come on back here. I've got a deck of cards if you feel like playing."
"Can I?" I asked, and he simply stepped aside to let me join him behind the register. "Won't your uncle be mad?"
"Nope." He said confidently. "Besides, he's gonna be out for most of the day. He had to pick up stuff from town to fix the air conditioner in the back." Then he added. "I hope it's not too hot back here for you."
Only because YOU'RE sitting here you sexy son of a bitch! "No....not at all." Casey pulled me up a folding chair, and broke out the cards for us to play. "So what's your game? Poker, Rummy, Spades, Go Fish? You name it." He began shuffling the cards like a pro, and I got the feeling that I was playing with a little 'hustler' here.
"I'm afraid I don't know how to play much of anything except for Blackjack and Solitaire." I said softly. A blush coming to my cheeks for not knowing any games that might be useful in this situation.
"Yeah. Sorry. I suck, I know."
"No you don't." He giggled. "Don't sweat it. Look, how about I teach you Spades? It won't take long. We'll practice. That way, the next time you come around we can play for money and you can leave broke." He joked, and we shared a slight chuckle about it. This wasn't so bad. As long as I kept my mind off of the fact that I was sitting here with what might just be the hottest boy I've ever seen in my life....I might be ok. However...no sooner had the thought of being able to block that from my already love-crazy mind...Casey dealt us both a hand of cards and said, "Here...scoot next to me."
"What...?" I felt the air in my lungs expand, a nervous jitter filling my stomach, and a shy giggle tickling the sides of my mouth.
"Come here. I'm gonna show you how to play." Suuure, THAT'S easy enough, huh? It was a somewhat 'normal action' to him. Just a friendly gesture that he was using to make a friend. But to ME? Wow....it was like crossing an entire ocean to run into the arms of a long forgotten lover. With fear filling me up inside quickly...I moved my chair ever so slowly closer to him while fighting my own bashful smile until my cheeks burned. I was just out of arm's length from him, keeping a safe enough distance away to keep from stumbling over my words when I spoke. More importantly, to keep from being 'duped' by the uncontrollable urge to suddenly lean over and kiss him on the cheek. I swear, the impulse had been right there in the back of my mind since I stepped on the porch of the old place, and he was only making it worse. However...my plans to stay away from him were foiled when he decided to scoot his chair closer to mine to further decrease the distance between us. I was too scared to move away, too infatuated to stay this close. It was a rough middle ground, and I found myself walking a very thin tightrope in high wind. My concentration and balance being the only things to keep me from 'falling' hopelessly in love.
"Okay...here's what you do. Let me see your hand...." That was how the lesson started, and for the next fifteen minutes or so, we tried playing a few practice hands together until I got the hang of it. I was trying to pay just enough attention to his instructions to learn the rules of the game. But most of my focus was devoted to the tender curves of his young face, and the moist motions of his kissable lips. To the silken texture of his golden locks of hair, and the gentle flare of his nostrils every ninth or tenth breath that he took. I focused on the sweetness of his boyish scent, and the texture of his soft hands as he tried to tell me which cards to use for what, and how to develop some kind of strategy. He was a living, breathing, miracle. And it was hard to ignore my honey coated crush on him when he was this close to me. Thank goodness he didn't catch me staring, or I would have been exposed for sure.
We played a few hands, with me losing every last one of them, and his mock frustration at me forgetting what good cards I could have played when the 'match' was over. I think I would have lost on purpose, if only it got him to smile and touch my hand again. I couldn't believe it. Casey was a combination of Freddy's instant infatuation with me, and Sebastian's instant rejection of me. The treasure that called out to my heart, and yet I had no way of ever reaching it. I almost wanted to just run my hand across the softness of his cheek. In fact, my fingers were itching to do so! But I kept my composure. Hell...I didn't have a choice.
"Do you want a juice or something from the cooler?" He asked, standing up to get one for himself.
"Um...nah, no thanks."
"You sure? It's kinda hot in here, don't you think?"
"It's not that so much..." I said. "It's just...I don't have any cash on me."
"Well..." Casey walked around the counter, and grabbed two fruit punches from the cooler anyway. "...The juice costs a dollar and five cents." He set it down in front of me. "But it's FREE as long as you take a brownie and a couple of tootsie rolls to go with it." He laid the snacks down next to me, and plopped back down in his chair again.
"Hmmm...you drive a pretty hard bargain there."
"Well I don't want you drinking anybody else's juice." He said with a playful lisp and a twist in his hips. I couldn't help but laugh, he was so damn cute.
"Are you sure you won't get into any trouble?"
"Who knows? Who cares? If I gotta be stuck in this place it's the least my uncle can do for us." He grinned. "Now shut up and eat." He grinned, and we chowed down for a bit before getting back to our card game. Watching his sweet lips wrap themselves around a moist brownie was a vision better than anything I could find in an adult movie. A wet dream, right here in 3D for my viewing pleasure. It took some effort on my part, but after a while, I started to forget how exceptionally gorgeous this boy was, and just began talking to him like I would any other person. As long as I didn't allow myself to stare at him for more than a few seconds, it was almost like not seeing him at all. It really helped to keep my infatuations at bay.
We seemed to click immediately, each one of our small pauses between topics of conversation, diminishing more and more with every word. I liked that. Casey was a bright and experienced kid, with witty comments that could slip into a conversation with ease. He had this warm persona that pulled you in, making you wish he could have been a part of your life long before now. It was awesome. He had evidently been moved around a lot in the last few years of his life. From neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state. He was so happy to have found some kind of stable foundation in me so quickly. So effortlessly. I actually liked to travel, but I guess if I was forced to do so as many times as he had, it would be more of a burden. When I asked him why he hated being such a nomad because of his parents, his answer was, "Because I got SO tired of being amongst strangers all the time. I got tired of being a stranger myself. There's only so many times that you can make and lose good frends before you wonder why you're even trying anymore." And then he warmed my soul when he said, "You know...I think you're the first person I've felt this comfortable talking to since we starting moving around a few years ago."
I blushed, my heart pumping a swift potent sugar high to every part of my body. "I find that hard to believe."
"It's the truth. I mean...most people keep you at arm's length when they first meet you. Others are friendly just because they feel they should be. But you sorta let me in right away. It's kinda cool." He told me. "It's a special thing to have someone really listen to you, and truly hear what you're saying. Not just with words, but between the lines too."
My blush got worse, and I heard myself giggle outloud befre I could stop it. Ok, that's enough. Abort mission to flirt! Abort! Abort! "Well...I'm glad that I was able to impress you." I grinned, and tried gathering up my cards to have him shuffle the deck again. As much as I loved the compliments, the conversation was getting...um...'scary' for me. My body was losing its control again, and my chest felt tight as it trembled helplessly in Casey's presence. I just hoped that a return to our card game would keep him occuppied.
It was then that we heard the bell to the front door ring, and his uncle came walking back in with a large bundle of groceries as well as the repair stuff for the air conditioner. "Casey, give me a hand, would ya?"
"Yeah, sure." Casey stood up to help, and I hid my 'free snacks' under the counter. Just in case.
"Do you guys ned any help?" I asked.
"Nope, don't sweat it. I got it." Casey said, bouncing his way out of the door and out to the truck. When his uncle went in the back, I used the opportunity to guzzle the rest of my juice and quickly shove what was left of my brownie in my back pocket. When Casey reentered the store, I figured I'd take off. He saw me standing and put a few of the bags on the counter. "Are you leaving?"
"Welllll....yeah. I mean, I've gotta be back at camp in about a half hour anyway, so..." I trailed off, and was really flattered that Casey seemed genuinely disappointed to see me go.
"Oh...well...ok. I'm glad you stopped by. It was fun." I felt myself growing stiff as the moment seemed to gather that dreamy haze of affection again. I didn't know if I should read it as 'homosexually interested' or 'heterosexually friendly'. I chose the 'safe' option and put both of my hands in my pockets to hide my reaction. He paused for a second, and looked over his shoulder as his uncle went into the back of the store again with a few more bags. "Soooo....." he started softly, rocking back and forth on his heels a bit and taking little glances at his shoes. "...Maybe...you'll come back and see me again sometime? I mean...I really don't have any friends here, to tell you the truth."
"Yeah..I'd...I'd like that. I might be able to come by tomorrow or something. The breaks we have at camp are pretty long, so...it's not really a problem."
"Cool." He smiled, and I turned red as I bashfully gave him a little wave on my way out. "See you later." He said, and I simply smiled in response.
My legs were shaking as I walked back up the trail. There's something about being this sweet on someone that causes your entire surroundings to sing with a whole new brilliance that you never noticed before. It was like the whole world had gotten brighter for me, and yet...I was too enraptured with thoughts of Casey to notice. I suppose that's the only way to balance out again, huh?
I made my way back to the cabin for a quick second to change clothes before going back to deal with the happy go lucky kids at camp. I think I was still lost in my thoughts whenI opened the door, and a certain little 'wiggly' creature came running at me top speed to greet me. I had almost forgotten that we had a puppy in the house. The clumsy canine practically slid right into me, his tail moving so fast it was almost a blur. And I reached down to pick him up as he twisted and struggled to lick me across the face. You really can't hold those things once they going, so I was able to give him a quick smooch on the forehead before he jerked around and licked me in the EYE! Needless to say, at that point, I put him back down on the floor. Geez, if only everyone could be that happy to see me.
"Come here 'Prince'!" Nick shouted out.
"I gave him a name today. I had to call him something."
The pup was jumping up on my leg, as though he were trying to climb back up on my face. And he was so entangled between my legs that I couldn't walk without either falling or stepping on him. "I don't know if we're gonna get to keep him, Nick. I mean, he must belong to somebody."
I don't think the idea of letting that dog leave his sight was ever a part of Nick's plan at all. "Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he ran away."
"That's possible, but...don't you think whoever owns him might want him back?"
"No. If they wanted him, he wouldn't have ran away in the first place." To Nick, it made a strange kind of sense. But he still had some living to do before 'kids' logic' stopped working in his favor. I didn't push it. No need to take away his fantasy of having God suddenly drop this bundle of joy on our front step just for him. So I let it go.
"I guess you're right." I said, and walked back into my room to change. New shirt, new pants, same socks, same shoes. And took a few seconds extra in the mirror before leaving. Wondering...is this what Casey sees when he's looking at me? Is it alright? I mean...am I 'cute', or plain, or just...ugly? I suppose it depends on the frame of mind you're in and the circumstances that caused it. Today...I felt good. I felt 'cared for', and with a little smile and a closer look, I saw my reflection change into something that I could be somewhat proud of. It's a cool feeling to be pleased with what you see when you look in the mirror. It doesn't always happen for me, especially at this age. So I consider this a field trip away from my insecurities while the idea of Casey still traveled through my mind. Maybe today won't be so bad afterall.