I love society's way of approaching delicate topics. Things like "can I ask you a question?", which incidentally doesn't give the person responding much choice, and "no offence, but . . .". These things tickle me. Isn't it odd that when you're in your most emotional, sensitive places, insane things like this intrude into your thoughts? People are pointing from the restaurant and smiling. They see two boys embracing outside, and think they understand. They pretend to understand us. Maybe they even think they do understand us. How sweet, say they; there aren't enough boys like that any more. Yeah, point and smile. Point and smile. I've always been influenced by what people think. No, that's not true. I've been afraid of what will happen because of what people think.
I weep. Years of bottled corrosive emotion releasing. And all the time I'm waiting for Tren to say 'not here – there are people watching'. It's just too good to be true that he cares, unconditionally. You're holding more than just my body Tren. I need you not to let go now, and yet I think, indeed I know somewhere deep down that you won't. This is too good to be true. Everyone's afraid of the death and judgment dealt out by society. I'm waiting and waiting . . . and it doesn't come. He's holding without a hint of letting go. He's not moving either. This is not one of my infamous tests of Tren's character, either. I'm desperately holding onto a lifeboat in an emotional storm. And what paralyses me with terror is that it might start taking on water, or worse – suddenly go under.
I cling, and he holds. And the storm slowly subsides. Time has lost meaning for me. There just comes a point where I feel in enough control to let go. He puts his arm round me, and we carry on walking. It isn't really that late, and we still have time before my dad arrives to pick us up. There's a park a little way from the theatre, and by some unspoken agreement we're heading towards it. It's on the top of a high part in the city, so when we get there we can see Washington's sparking evening gown. We pick a bench with a good view, and sit. He still has his arm around me, and it's keeping me safe. There's a shadow of fear in the back of my mind, but as long as Trent is holding me, I'm safe. I rest my head on his shoulder, and start sobbing again. This is going to be a long process. He starts to run the fingers of his free hand through my hair. And this is how we stay. Now is not the time for talking.
At the appointed time, we stroll back to the theatre. I feel ok now, but I know that the healing process is just beginning. My dad arrives, and we make pleasant conversation while we drop Trent at his house. I mutter appropriate responses to his probes about the evening when we're alone. Right now I just need to lie in bed and catalogue the day.
I wake up early. This is new. I'm usually rather corpse-like during weekday mornings, not being a 'morning person'. This tends to mean that weekends are usually a rise-after-noon type affair. This weekend has become one for the early-bird. Well then, time to look for some worms then. Mum looks rather stunned to see me up and about so early. I smile, and munch on my ironically worm-like serial. I want to see Tren.
"Mum, can Trenton come and spend the day here?" I don't think I'm ready to explain details yet; let her think I've just made a good friend. Or perhaps guess otherwise. She grins.
"Sure, cupcake. Go give him a call when you've finished eating and fed Sally. Got any plans?"
"No, not really. Was just thinking we could bum around here for the day."
"Oh, how very inspired of you. Well, if it keeps you happy, go ahead." She kisses me on the top of my head. I suddenly realize that my usual feeling of inner pessimism and worldly hate is just . . . not there. I feel new. I feel different. Happy? Sally trots in, and puts her shaggy head on my lap. Yeahyeah, I know. I'll feed you now. I get the point.
Having fed Sally, washed and dressed, I root around for Trent's number. Would you believe it, it's sitting neatly in the middle of my desk. I know I didn't put it there. Hmm, I wonder how on earth it could have got there. I'm completely stumped.
"Hello?" Hehe – unspoken 'what the blooming hell are you doing calling at this hour?'
"Well Tren, if you don't want to talk, I could always not ask you round and let you go back to bed." I giggle. I don't remember doing that before.
"Mark! Hey, how're you doing?" Perky all of a sudden.
"I'm . . . ok actually. So, do you wanna come and spend the day here? I'm bored; and I'm certainly not doing homework."
"Hold on a sec. Mom! Can I spend the day at Marks place! Thanks! Give me an hour to wake up and get there ok?"
"Hah – a creature of sleep are you? I shall be most upset if you're not here within 30 minutes."
"You drive a hard bargain. Make it 45."
See you soon, Tren. I can't wait. I'm still not what you might call presentable – that means I'm still in my frilly pjs. So it's upstairs to shower, and to get dressed. It occurs to me that since I've met Tren, what I wear has suddenly become important. This is something of a problem, since up until this point I haven't bothered to buy any particularly nice clothes. I settle today for a pair of jeans and a golf shirt. Best I can do, to look casual and semi-smart at the same time. Finally, I have to try to smooth the messy tangle on my head. I feel almost presentable.
Doorbell. Wow – he made good time indeed. This seems to have been a family outing. All 4 of them stand grinning at me from the doorstep. I'm caught a little on the wrong foot, but I play the gracious host and invite them in.
I am still a teen though:
"Mom! Dad! We've got guests!" I bellow to the house in general. "Come in and sit down." I smile sweetly. This is me: take it or leave it. They all still have the grins they came in with, so I can only assume that everything is still peachy. After everyone is seated, I feel the need to break the ice.
"How's life been treating you, Richy?" His face really shines when I talk to him.
"I'm OK thanks Mark. How're you? You had quite a hard time didn't you?"
"I'm doing very well thanks." As I say this I look at Tren. You made it so. "But can we talk about something different please. I'd quite like to be happy today, if it's the all the same to everyone here."
"I think that's a brilliant idea." My dad has sneaked in while no-one was looking. He's scandalously still in his dressing gown (which to my utter dismay probably means that he isn't wearing much else). Sunday's are slow days for my dad. I don't remember my dad ever getting to know Tren's parents, but he seems to be on very friendly terms with them. They lapse into some small talk as adults tend to do, leaving us kiddies to sit quietly and do nothing, really. Well, this is not the way that I want to spend this day, so I make a move.
"Is it OK if we three go and find something interesting to do? Because as fascinating as the conversation is . . ."
"Go ahead, my eloquently rude offspring. Deprived as we'll be without your company, I think us poorly adults will find a way to cope." Thanks dad. So with not a word from Tren or Richy, we head off to my room. My room is messy. I read on a fridge magnet once that it's better to have creative mess than idle clutter. In my dad's office, he has a poster of a messy office that reads "tidy people are just too lazy to find things". I'm not sure that I really believe either of those, but it's a nice way to explain the mess. It's not as though I set out to make a mess. Mess just sortof happens around me as day to day living happens in the room. And it tends to adopt a lot of children. I like to think of my mess as being kind-hearted.
"I'd apologise for my mess, but it's unlikely to change, so think of it as the state of order in my room. What's the verdict? What we gonna do? I got board games, game cube or you could help me move the mess around in an attempt to impose some order onto it."
Richy giggles: "How about we try the game cube?"
"I second that." puts in Tren.
"Then game cube it is. How about Asterix and Obelix racing? It's about the only game I got we can play 3 ways."
"Sounds good to me."
And there goes the rest of the day. I agree that it was perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating way to spend it, but it was just so much silly fun. And how often can one claim to have honest to goodness silly fun? There is much thumb bashing, screaming at the TV and each other, and general boyish naughtiness. I go off to a place where I don't worry. I'm just happy (please do forgive the cliché). My burden is lighter for a few hours, and I can just be me.
It's late afternoon when we realize that we haven't yet been fed. There was no lunch – scandal. What have the parents been up to while we were smashing away in my room? The answer is talking – which we discover when we wander downstairs in search of food. It seems to be an in-depth conversation, so I decide not to disturb them. Well, that, and the fact that my dad is still in his dressing gown. We head straight for the kitchen.
Now you need to understand that unless you have some very specific qualifications, do not even apply to be a kitchen operator at my house. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, unless you have Kitchen Navigation 101, you'll never find what you're looking for. This is because of some bizarre scheme of mom's to put everything where it is most illogical. Example: the pots and pans, instead of all being neatly in a side cupboard, are gleefully spread around the entire kitchen. Secondly, heaven help he (or perhaps even she) who maketh mess. You shall need a law degree, and perhaps years of debating experience to weasel your way around mum. Finally consider the interaction between a systemless arrangement, and a mess-making eater monster. It's a lose-lose situation, unless of course you know what your doing.
It is for the above reasons that I say "Don't touch anything. Don't look at anything. Don't even think about anything, because if something goes wrong, my ass is gonna go really red." It occurs to me that this sounds like a military ultimatum, but from their grins, I know I pulled the tone off right. And maybe the ass comment got through to Trent. I scrounge around for odds and ends to make a snack for three, and what I find is simple. Just bread and cheese and butter and so on. We make ourselves some sandwiches. I stack the dish washer after the food has been consumed and put away left over food.
"What do you guys say to renting a movie?" I feel like a change from the video games – but a change in the direction of less physical exertion. I guess I am something of a couch potato, but that doesn't really bother me. Vegetating has a certain special quality for me.
"Now there's an idea." Says Tren. "Richy?"
"OK – let me just ask mom and dad, and we can go. It's just round the block, so we can walk." So off I go to the living room, where they are still talking. What do they find to discuss? "Is it OK if we head off to the video shop to rent a dvd?"
Mom looks skeptical: "It's getting dark, Mark."
But dad to the rescue – yay!: "It's not far, and there are three of them. What's the verdict Julian? Sarah?" Now the moment of truth. I'm not really sure if it would be appropriate to exercise my manipulation, so I just keep my trap shut for the time being. They consult – an unspoken conversation: - will they be safe? – like he said, there are three of them; and our Trent is quite a big chap – I'm not sure. Then something that I just cannot read.
"It's fine with us. Just be careful OK?" I'm on the back foot now because I thought it was heading the other way, but recover quickly.
"We'll go quickly. Thanks everyone." I grin stupidly, and head back to the kitchen. "Parents seem to be in agreement that something terrible will happen to us, but have conceded to let us go." This gets smiles. Us teenagers know more about parenting than parents. We know where they go wrong, and when they worry too much.
So it's off to the video shop in search of a DVD. The general consensus is for something comic, but with a lot of action. We glance over what's on offer, and decide on Pirates of the Caribbean. Tren has seen it and says that it has really cool special effects, and is also very funny. Also, how often does a good swashbuckling pirate movie come along? The fact that it has Johnny Depp also intrigues me.
We return to the house and the parents are relieved to see that we were not stolen by the changelings. The movie passes in a flash, and before I know what's happening, people are saying goodbyes, and I'm watching them drive away. I stand on the doorstep for ages watching the empty road. I can't believe it's over.
The next time I see Tren, is for a date. I know it, he knows it, and the rest of the world . . . well, they can think whatever they want. When I answered the phone, I thought it was a prank call because when I said hello there was just silence. I was just about to hang up when a shy Tren squeaked my name. Terror hit me in the chest, because I thought something was wrong. Had something happened to someone in his family? Had I done something to put him off me? What was wrong? I was so taken aback that I didn't even respond. It all poured out of him then.
"I . . . I was . . .wonderingifyouwouldliketogoonadatewithme?" I didn't know what to say. I was stunned. I wanted to jump for joy, jump over the moon with the cow and the spoon. "I'll understand if you say no . . . I just, I like you in that way and I thought you might like to give it a try and -" I realized then that I hadn't responded to him and he had started rambling.
"Yes! Yes, I'll go with you". I was grinning like a fool.
"Um, how's Saturday at 5? I'll meet you outside the movies we went to last time?"
"Sounds fantastic – absolutely fantastic. I can't wait!" As I hung up, I did actually jump for joy. I punched the air like I'd just won a tournament.
I finish gelling my hair, and start to comb it into place. Tonight I will look as good as I can for him. I've bought some tailored black pants and am wearing a light blue, patterned, long-sleeve dress shirt, without a tie. Polished (I polished them) black shoes, and a dark brown leather belt. I feel so smart, but not too smart. Last step is to slap on some of that after-shave I love the smell of. It stings to high heaven, but it's worth it.
I get the weirdest look from my dad as I get into the car. I don't care – I'm determined to have a great time this evening. Let him draw his own conclusions. "Onward, Jeeves" I tease.
"Yes sir". My dad touches an imaginary cap. My family is originally from London. I was actually born there. We moved to Washington just after I had left preschool, leaving everything English, and good old Freddy Berkowitz way behind. I still have a distinctly British accent. I think someone in Tren's family must also be English, because he has a hint of English in him – mannerisms, and accent.
We pull up outside the movies ten minutes early, but there Tren is. Wow, he looks amazing. He's actually wearing a suit. I suddenly feel really underdressed. I get out of the car, and shoo my dad away. I take a deep breath and look nervously at Tren. He flashes a grin at me. That smile. He looks so dashing with his hair gelled back, and a full suit. He walks over and gives be a hug. A full, squeezing, heart-felt embrace. I hug back, but I'm beginning to be scared of what people will think. Maybe they'll just think 2 friends are embracing after a long absence.
"Hi Mark – you look, well, fantastic"
"Coming from you? You look totally stunning" So much for the illusion of straightness.
"This way – I've a surprise for you." He leads me towards the pizza place where we didn't eat our pizzas last time, and just as I think he has been monkey-brain enough to take me there, we keep going. And on to the restaurant outside which I first hugged him. Oh Tren, thank you. I smile happily at him and take his arm. Now I just don't care. We go in, he gives his name and we are taken to our table. He made a reservation. He made a reservation.
After the drinks orders, I take his hand on top of the table. "Oh Tren, this is amazing. There is something that I never said to you, and I think it's only fair if I do now. I think I'm gay as well. I know it's kind of obvious now, but I think it's only fair if I say it. You are truly one of the best things that has ever, ever happened to me. Thank you so much for everything." He smiles, and I think he wants to cry. I would let him have all of me – all there is to be Mark, just to see him smile. His smile is, is, something that has been missing in my life. It's the missing piece in my puzzle.
"I've had so many things to make me happy." He pauses, puts his free hand on top of my hand holding his, and I put my free hand on top. "But something was missing, and I always felt that there was something wrong with me. Until I saw you at the hotel. It wasn't love at first sight. But by the end of the first day, I knew what had been missing from my life. When you ran out at the end of the trip, I panicked. My parents thought I was having a panic attack. I felt like something had been torn out of me, that I had torn something off, and would never get it back. I had moments when I wanted to end it all." He stops, and it's me who wants to cry. I squeeze his hand and he squeezes back. "I wasn't really myself until I saw you again. I think that was the first time I knew what it's like to be really depressed." His eyes glisten, and I think mine do too. My first significant other. My first pursuit of the heart. I am exultant.
"You are so special Tren. Special a million times more for me." We have a wonderful evening. We laugh, sometimes we cry, and we eat spaghetti, tiramisu, and many delights Italian. After Tren has paid (my turn next time), we walk arm in arm back to that bench looking out over Washington. I snuggle up to him, and he holds me.
After a wonderful time just sitting together - I lost track of how long because time wasn't important - I look up into his eyes. Those eyes, those portals to my soul. I reach up and pull his head down to mine. Our lips meet, lightly. Quickly. Then he relaxes, and we kiss more passionately, but still gently. I return to my cuddling position with my head on his chest, and he keeps his arm around me.
I think I might just be in love.
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