It felt strange going back to school after my lengthy absence. I caught a few random stares as I made my way to my locker before first hour. It was confirmation enough that the rumor mill had generated something about the undersized, long haired blonde boy that nobody really knows. Yup, word of my ass whooping must have got out. No big deal. If these kids had any clue what my life has been like since that stupid afternoon in the bathroom, they’d realize their judgements mean less than nothing to me. Go ahead, have your fun.
Kim stormed my locker when she spotted me. She plowed me with a tight bear hug. Her face displaying a mix of both joy and concern. I agreed to hang out with her after school, so we could reconnect as she put it.
It didn’t take long for school to revert back to how I remembered. A long, tedious jail sentence. I struggled through my morning classes. I just couldn’t focus. Lunch arrived and I couldn’t suppress the smirk from my face. Thinking back to my last school lunch, and how well that went. I grabbed a few items from the window and took a seat by myself near the outer edge of tables. I kept my head down and slowly jammed the bland food in my mouth, when I heard my name being called. I looked up and saw that kid who followed me home the week before. He stood in the most non-threatening posture imaginable. His head tilted to one side. His opposing hip jutting out the other way. His tray tilted in such a way that you had to wonder how the contents weren’t already spilled on the floor. I looked up to his foot long eyelashes and caught a glimpse of his desperate eyes.
“Can I sit with you,?” he asked with a nervous smile.
I looked back down and unenthusiastically replied “I don’t care.”
“How are you? It…it’s good to see you back. You look good…too.”
I found myself as confused by this kid as I was the other time I’d met him. I found his comments to be a bit annoying. I found him a bit annoying. “Why aren’t you sitting with the ogre. This isn’t exactly the ‘cool kid’ table.”
My comment seemed to temporarily deflate his good mood, but he shrugged it off. He looked back at me and said, “I told him to fuck off. Actually, everybody did.”
“Yeah. After what he did…to you. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was like, I had to be his friend or get my ass kicked. I’d rather get beat up than be friends with that loser.”
“He hits hard. Just a heads up.”
“I know. He used to beat on me in elementary. He’s such a dick.”
“See. I don’t understand why you’d be friends with him then. Please enlighten me.”
“It’s complicated. I…I can’t really explain.”
“Hmff…well then, can you explain why you wanted to sit here? As you can see, I’m not too sought out, unless it’s for an ass whooping. This school sucks and pretty much all of these kids suck.”
“Easy! I thought maybe you and I could be friends.”
“That’s it? Just like that.”
“Yup. Pretty much. So…are we friends?”
“We don’t even know each other.”
“Yet…but it has to start somewhere, right?” He took his hand out from under the table and presented it in front of me. “Hi. I’m Jessie.”
I hesitantly took his hand into mine and said, “Tyl…”
“I know that already hehe.”
“Oh yeah…I forgot. So, what else do you already know about me? Why do you want to be my friend?”
“Well, you look like you could use one. Nobody likes to be alone ALL the time, and you seem pretty cool.”
“Okay…so what about my other question?”
“Hmm…let me see. I know you go out a lot at night, alone, and sometimes you don’t come back until late. Well, like after I go to bed.”
“What the fuck?! You follow me or something?”
“Haha. Calm down Tyler. You’re so intense. I…I live on the same street as you, but a few blocks away. I see you out my window. Where do you go so late? My mom would say no way if I asked to go out that late on a school night.”
“I sneak out. Well, my mom works until late and my dad doesn’t give a shit, but I sneak by him anyway. And, it’s none of your business where I go. You don’t know me that well. Nobody does.”
“Do you go meet someone? That other blond boy?”
“Well, most of the time when I do see you come back, there’s this other kid, like behind you a ways. It’s like he doesn’t want you to see him. I don’t know, whatever you do must be kind of crazy, but you’re right, it’s none of my business.”
He has certainly peaked my interest. I hadn’t realized I’d ever been followed home. “What’s this other kid look like? The one you see following me.”
“I don’t know. Kind of skinny. Always wears just black. Maybe looks a little younger, but he, I don’t know, seems cool. Like how he walks and carries himself. What’s really weird is I think he knows I’m there. Sometimes he glances up to my window, so I duck back down. Crazy huh?”
It had to be Timmy. “How long ago? Was it like just recent, or further back?”
“Since forever. He’s always been there. Before winter even. I always try to figure out who he is, so I can find him at school, but I haven’t figured it out. I haven’t seen him.”
“You won’t find him at school. He doesn’t go there.”
“So you do know him!”
“Shit! Well, actually I was looking for him, but…never mind.”
He noticed my mood change, and thought better of asking more questions. Instead, he made to change the subject. “I…I didn’t know if you were ever going to come back to school. I’m sure happy you did. Do want to like…hang out? After school sometime, or something? Today?”
“Sure. Umm…not today though. I can’t today, but yeah.”
“Cool. Well, tomorrow we got lunch, and then maybe after school. You could like come over, if you want.”
I walked home with Jessie and Kim after school. They hit it off right from go. The whole thing seemed kind of surreal to me. It was the most natural thing in the world, but it felt so foreign to me. Jessie peeled off first as Kim and I continued on toward nowhere in particular.
“So where do you know this Jessie from?”
“Uhh…I don’t really. He just started hanging around me.”
“Odd, but still kind of cute. HE is very cute. Do you think he liked me?”
“How would I know? But anyway, how could he not like you?”
“You’re too sweet. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.”
We ended up at the park. We talked some about the fight and she quizzed me about my vampire quest. I gave vague answers and told her my interest was waning. I just wasn’t prepared to tell her I struck up an intimate relationship with a vampire. Or that I turned another one to ash. That’d have to be a conversation for another day, or not.
That night when I was lying in bed, when I normally think only about Tyler, my mind kept drifting to Jessie. I’d only met him a few times, but I could tell already that we could become good friends. He seems so good natured, kind, and gentle. I get the impression he doesn’t have many friends, and chooses them very specifically. I do understand how he could have been roped into that mess with his bully. His entire posse was probably forced into that situation.
Kim had called Jessie cute. I guess he is. Not in a double take kind of way. Kind of sneaky cute. Average body. Average looks. It’s his personality that makes him shine. If you’d never talked to him, you’d never notice how his face lights up when he smiles. Or how his brow furrows when he thinks. He’s so charismatic and enthusiastic. A real contrast from my typical unenthusiastic demeanor.
His dark medium hair, combed forward, frames his large, caramel eyes in just the right way. I always envy people who know how to wear their hair in just the right way. Jessie does. A set of full lips and slightly gapped teeth finished the ensemble. His teeth were straight enough and putting braces on them would change his character. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s a signature quirk, that I hope he keeps. It didn’t make sense that I barely knew him but I was already looking at him in this way. Puberty, hormones, and sexual identity sure is an all consuming concept at this age.
Thinking about him in this way was causing some familiar stirring under the blanket. Great. My first friend in years, and I’m lusting over him. Maybe it’s a phase. Just as I reached in to take care of that business, it occurred to me that I didn’t go back to clear my blood from the rooftop. I glanced at my clock and saw it was 8:30. If I snuck out my window, I could be back by 10:00. I got myself dressed and headed out.
As I passed in front of Jessie’s house a dog barked from nearby. The next thing I saw was Jessie’s silhouette in an upstairs window. He spotted me and slid the glass up.
“Hey Tyler. Whatcha doin?”
“Hey. Just…something I got to do. Now I know how you always see me. Bark bark bark.”
“Yeah. That dog barks at everything. Want some company?”
“Oh…ahh…not tonight. Sorry.”
I could feel his rejection as he simply said “Okay.”
“Anyway, it’s a little cold out here to be shirtless. What you doin up there?” I made a jerking motion with my hand, playfully ribbing him like friends do.
“Ahha. Good one. My mom keeps this place like a hundred degrees. I’m always nearly naked when I’m home. Stop by on your way back, if it’s not too late.”
“Yeah. I won’t be long. I’ll say hi on my way back.”
I walked along replaying our last exchange. Was he flirting with me? Nearly naked. Stop by and see me. Was I flirting with him? Jacking off. I’ll stop by and see you. I wish I was better at this kind of stuff. I quickened my pace to a jog. I wanted to get back and visit Jessie as soon as possible.
When I got to the apartment building, the dumpster I had used was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t find anything to stand on to get me close to the dangling fire escape. Then, as if from heaven, it started to rain. Ordinarily I’m no great fan of the rain. Especially a cold, early spring rain like the one coming down right now. To me, this rain was my assurance that my blood would be cleared away. I turned back and jogged toward Jessie’s house.
When I got back there, the dog didn’t sound the alarm. I suppose he took cover from the rain. I thought about running the rest of the way home, but the lure of seeing Jessie and showing him that I kept my word, was too strong. I found some pebbles in his garden and started throwing them at his window. After a minute, his head peaked out, so I called his name.
He glanced to just below his window and spotted me.
“Tyler? You came back.”
“I said I would, didn’t I?”
He smiled broadly, lighting up the sky as he does. “Step back a few feet.”
The next thing I knew, a collapsible ladder fell from his window. “Climb up. You must be freezing. Come warm up.”
I did climb the ladder and Jessie helped me into his warm and cozy room.
“Won’t you get into trouble with your parents sneaking me in like this?”
“Nah. It’s just me and my mom and she goes to bed at like 8:00. She gets up super early for work.”
“Where’s your dad?”
“Minneapolis. They’re divorced.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be. He’s an asshole. Take off your clothes. I’ll get you a towel. You’re soaked and shivering.”
I was, too. I slid my hoodie over my head and tried to work my fly with my wet, frozen fingers. I watched as Jessie, clad in only boxer briefs, exited his room to fetch me a towel. Near naked, he was skinnier than I thought. His ass looked great in his snug boxer briefs.
He returned holding a big, fuzzy towel and draped it over my bare shoulders. “Come. Sit on my bed. If we’re not too loud, my mom won’t have a clue you’re here. She’s a really heavy sleeper. I sat at the foot of his bed, wrapped in my warm towel, and Jessie sat across from me in his computer chair.
“Thanks for this. You’re a real lifesaver.”
“It’s nothing. I’m surprised you stopped by, to be honest.”
“I said I was going to. Anyway, I wanted to see you.”
He blushed a little, but deflected with, “did you do what you needed to do, mystery man?”
“We’re you meeting that boy?”
“No. I just needed to drop something off.”
Even though we were talking, I was struggling to keep eye contact. My eyes kept drifting down to his only article of clothing. I definitely was into Jessie. I felt myself boning up, so I made sure the towel was covering my own boxers where it mattered.
“Jessie? There’s something that’s been bugging me. Umm…that day you came to my house. I’m sorry I was such a dick to you. I said some hurtful things and I really feel bad about it.”
“It’s okay Tyler. I would have done the same thing. I understand.”
“Well thanks for giving me another chance.”
“Oh, I wasn’t going to give up that easy.”
“And look at us now. You got me in your bedroom and we’re both only wearing underwear.”
“Yes. Everything is going according to my plan.”
“Ah haha. You’re funny Jessie.”
“Am I? Anyway, welcome to my room. Can I get you anything?”
“No. I’m good.”
“Well, I’ll have to borrow you some clothes. So just remind me before you leave, but please don’t leave now. Stay awhile, okay?”
“Yeah. For sure.”
“Want to watch some tv?”
Jessie got up and propped a few pillows against his wall at the head of his bed. He sat at one side and tapped the spot beside him. I was dried off, so I draped the towel over the back of his chair, and sat beside him. He had a small bed. Probably the same bed he’s had all his life. We fit next to each other okay, but not without some inevitable contact. Our shoulders were touching, and my elbow was rubbing against his slim torso. I liked it and he didn’t seem to mind either. We sat and watched some X-Files rerun, talking a little bit about how cheesy it was. We both let our arms slip to the middle, causing our forearms to press together. At one point he took his arm away, to itch his face, and placed it behind his head, instead of returning it to where it sat before. My immediate reaction was sadness, until he shifted around, scooting a bit my direction, causing my entire arm to rest snuggly against his thigh. I could feel the transition from his boxers to his smooth skin with my knuckles resting just above his knee.
I’m no genius, but this whole scene felt rather suggestive and playful. There was more going on here than two new friends watching tv together. However, I didn’t want to do anything foolish, go too far, and wreck my chances. I did lift my hand to itch my knee and when I put it back where it was, I first set it on top of his thigh and slid along the curve of his leg. Nothing too risky, but maybe enough for him to notice. I think we were both very tuned into what was going on. I think we were feeling each other out. Neither of us knew much about the other, but we were charting the territory and gaining clues from one another.
He brought his arm back down and set it in his own lap. His elbow rested right on top of waistband near my hip. He scratched his tummy a few times, and the movement caused his elbow to edge in closer to my own lap. When he rested his arm again, there was a lot more of his elbow on my body. It was the boldest move so far and when we glanced at each other, we both wore nervous smiles. We pretty much locked in like this for the rest of the show. After that, I told him I should go because it was 10:00.
He picked out some clothes for me to wear and they were only a little too big on me. Amidst the awkwardness, Jessie tapped my shoulder a few times as I was about to descend the ladder. Not much of a goodbye kiss or hug, but neither of us knew what we should do.
“Love the ladder, by the way,” I said while climbing through the window.
“Oh ha…it’s my mom. She’s sort of scared of house fires. Safety first.”
“Haha. Cool. Well, see ya’ tomorrow and thanks for having me over. It was fun.”
“Yeah. See ya’ and thanks for coming.”
As I was about to the ground, Jessie said in a loud whisper, “sweet dreams Tyler.”
When I looked back up, he was already gone.
We hung out like this for the next week or two. I’d go over there around 8:00 and he’d sneak me into his room. It wasn’t every night, but most of them. We’d watch tv or a movie and just talk and have fun getting to know each other. I kept my clothes on after that first night, because I never had a reason to take them off. He started wearing a pair of shorts as well. We’d always seem to do the same amount of flirting and touching. I was starting to think it would always be like this, because neither of us was raising the bar.
It was a Friday night, and I was staying later than usual because we didn’t have school to worry about. At around midnight Jessie got really quiet, and I could tell he had something bothering him.
“Something wrong Jess? You seem kind of quiet.”
“Oh…uhh sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”
“What is it? Maybe I can help.”
“Well…I’m kind of scared you’ll get mad, so I don’t know.”
“I won’t get mad. Promise. You’re my bestie, and I can’t get mad at you,” I said while nudging him with my shoulder.
“Well, you always get mad when I ask about it, so why would it be any different now?”
“What? When do I get mad?”
“The blonde boy.” He paused for a minute before saying “See! I can tell you’re getting mad already.”
“Am not! What about him? You haven’t talked about him in forever.” I waited for him to respond, but he didn’t. “Seriously, what is it?”
“Weellllll…I was wondering if…if…?”
I could sense the seriousness in his tone so I encouraged him. “What is it Jessie? Ask me anything.”
“Phewww…this is hard. Ok. Is he your boyfriend?”
His question was definitely not what I expected him to ask. It was a damn good question, and not an easy one to answer. Technically, he was not my boyfriend. We never really talked about it. It was also, I’m sure, a very hard question to ask. He really put me on the spot. He risked making me mad, or question his own motives. There were so many ways to analyze his simple question. I was tongue-tied. Here was Jessie raising the bar and pulling us out of our comfortable level of coexistence, and I owed him an honest answer.
My lack of a response caused Jessie to fidget. I could tell he was second guessing himself. “I…I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer. Sorry Tyler.”
“No. No. No. Don’t be sorry. You just caught me off guard. I will answer, and I’m not mad. See? Just like I said.”
I tried to ease his mind with a smile, but I was nervous as Hell trying to decide what to say next.
“No. He is not my boyfriend.”
“Ok. I’m really sorry I asked. I just thought maybe y…”
“I’m not done Jessie. He’s not my boyfriend, but…there was a time when I really wanted him to be. He’s gone now, so yeah.”
Holy shit! I did it! I actually told Jessie I was gay, in a roundabout way. He doesn’t even seem disgusted or angry. I felt a rush of adrenaline running through my veins. He really needs to react. Say something Jessie. Please!
“I just figured, you know, if you spent all that time looking for him, like you said, that he must be pretty important to you. You went out on some nights that were too cold for me hehe.”
“Someday, maybe I will tell you what all that was about. I’m just not ready to yet, ok?”
“Yeah. Sure. Umm…have you ever…umm had a boyfriend?”
“Not really, but I kind of got someone in mind.”
“Oh. Well he’s sure one lucky guy.”
“No. I am.”
I know everybody in the world would say that this was the perfect time to kiss Jessie, and show him that HE is the boy I had in mind. Of course it is, but we’re just awkward like that. Instead, I asked if he wanted to watch one more movie with me before I had to go home. He agreed, so we assumed our positions and turned on the next DVD. Our hands had settled between us like they always do, but this time my fingers sought out his, and we interlocked them. Another one of our shared nervous smiles followed.
When the unfortunate time came for me to leave, we both got real quiet. I took my position on the ladder and started to say goodbye.
“Thanks for having me over Jessie. It was fun as it always is.”
“Thanks for coming over. I really like it when you’re here.”
“Maybe we can do it again tomorrow?”
“Oh. Unless your busy or something. Like trying to get that boyfriend you want.”
“Hey! Come here. Closer. I have a secret. Yeah. Yeah. Closer.”
Jessie leaned in so his ear was right up against my lips. I whispered “it’s you Jessie. It’s you a want, if you’ll have me.”
He slid his face across mine and placed his lips to my ear. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted Tyler.”
He slid his face back toward mine and stopped where our breath met. I leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on his soft, full lips. I could feel the smile forming on his beautiful mouth. He pressed back and returned the gesture.
“Thank you Tyler. You make me so happy.”
“Thank you Jessie.”
“So tomorrow then?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
I slid down the ladder on wobbly knees, barely able to contain my excitement. I wanted to run through the streets screaming, but instead I just ran home. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep, but I sure want to try. Tomorrow can’t get here soon enough.