Josh

I didn’t know who the dark haired kid was when I first saw him, but I’d get to know him very well before we finished high school. I still remember the first time he caught my eye. I was closing my locker and saw him staring at me. When he realized that I’d noticed him looking at me, he turned red, quickly slammed his locker, and hurried off down the hall.

I got to school early the next day, hoping to see him again, but it was a wasted effort. It wasn’t until lunch on the third day that I did see him again. He was sitting with some guys from the football team. Now, I was never exactly bold in high school, and there was no way I was going to go up and start talking to him. What I did do, though, was sit in his line of sight just a few tables away. I watched him until he looked up and met my eye, and when he did, I smiled at him, then looked away. I’ll spare you the details of the repetitive back and forth game of eye tag that this started. Let’s just say it went on for almost two more weeks.

A few days before the homecoming game, I was on my way to drama class, running a few minutes late, and as I hurried around a corner, I ran into a wall. A wall with black hair and dark green eyes. I mean, I literally ran into him. I mentioned earlier that he was sitting with the football players at lunch. Turns out it’s because he was a football player himself. As I unintentionally threw myself at him, he remained firmly planted in place, and I bounced off of him and onto the floor.

He offered me his hand to help me up and apologized for knocking me down. I tried to tell him it was my fault, but everything in my brain was focused on his hand. His hand holding my hand. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.

“Are you ok? Seriously? Say something,” he said, sounding worried.

“Wow, your eyes are really green.”

I wanted to slap myself. Back then, I never really gave much thought as to why I wasn’t interested in girls, but the last thing I wanted to do was sound like I was into guys. I was a drama and band nerd. The last thing I needed was people going around saying I was gay…although, I later found out that they’d been saying it long before any of this ever happened.

He shrugged. “Yeah, they are. Thank for noticing, I guess?”

Before I could respond, the bell rang. Having just made a fool of myself, I didn’t say anything else and just ran off to class without looking back. I spent the entire class period going over in my head what had just happened. Why did I say that about his eyes? Why couldn’t I have just thanked him for his help or apologized for running into him? Why did I have to run into him like that in the first place? Why did his hand feel so warm and strong? Why did I notice that his pants were-

Stop, I told myself. Just stop.

I didn’t stop, though. I was so caught up in thinking about this kid that I didn’t hear the bell ring. I was still sitting at my desk when my best friend, Erin, walked in.

“Hey, what are you doing here?”
“Huh?”
“Here. What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be going to gym right now. What are you still doing here?”
“Oh. Yeah. Nothing. I just…yeah. Nothing. Gotta go, I guess. Gym class and all that.”

I grabbed my bag from the floor next to me and hurried out of class. What was with me that day? I was never late, and there I was about to be late for the second class in a row. I stopped at my locker to throw my bag in, rushed out the door of the main building, and started running towards the gym. If I was late, Coach would make me run laps. I don’t run. Well, I mean I don’t run unless I’m late to class. Anyway, I noticed that my shoe was untied and slowed down a bit, thinking I should tie it, but then told myself that I was just going to be taking the shoe off when I got to the locker room, so I let it go and picked up speed. I reached the gym and ran around the corner towards the locker room entrance. Just as I made the turn, I tripped over that goddamned shoelace and fell face first into a wall.

A wall with black hair and dark green eyes.

I guess I should have been thankful that I hadn’t landed on the ground this time. The reason I didn’t end up on the ground, though, was because the wall caught me in his arms and kept me from hitting the ground.

In his big, thick arms. Strong arms.

When I looked at his dark green eye- I mean his face, he was grinning and what he said next had to have come straight out of the cheesiest movie of all time.

“Hey, we have to quit running into each other like this.”

And me, being the self confident, quick and witty guy that I am, I mumbled something like “your hair’s wet” and scurried (yes, scurried, as in a rat or a weasel) off to the locker room. I was late, naturally, since I was in those strong arms when the bell rang, so I spent most of the period running laps. Usually, when gym was over, I didn’t bother showering since it was my last class of the day. I normally just drove home and showered there before doing my homework. I had a doctor’s appointment today, though, so I took my time getting undressed, waiting for most of the guys to leave before I headed for the showers. I’m not shy about my body. Never have been. I just wasn’t comfortable being around a bunch of naked guys back then, mostly because I never knew how my body would react. I figured it was just teenage hormones at the time, but looking back I guess it should have been obvious that there was a better reason for it.

When the locker room was empty, I took off the last of my clothes and wrapped a towel around my waist, then headed to the shower. Now, here’s something I’ve never understood. The showers in so many boys’ locker rooms are communal. The shower heads are either mounted on the wall in a straight line (sometimes along two or three walls) or they’re around a pole that stands in the center of the floor. Either way, you end up with a shower full of naked teenaged boys with no privacy. This is the time in a kid’s life when sexuality is constantly at the forefront of his mind. It’s also the time of his life other guys are mercilessly cruel. I could never understand how a bunch of sex crazed fifteen and sixteen year olds could shower together, jostling each other, slapping each others asses, trying to hit each other in the groin and not see anything “gay” about it. Yet at the same time, they single out the kid in the corner, the kid minding his own business, trying to go unnoticed, and call him a fag. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.

Anyway, our showers were set up with one large doorway, and then shower heads lining the left and right walls, as well as the far wall facing the entrance. On the rare occasion that I did have to shower with the other guys, I tried to get the first or last shower in the room, off in a corner. Since I was the only one in there this day, I took one in the center, facing the entrance, since they had the best water pressure. I suppose I could go off on a descriptive tangent, telling you how I soaped myself up and got turned on at the thought of the dark haired boy I couldn’t get off my mind, and then go into detail about how I relieved myself. The truth is, though, I didn’t do any of that. Sorry if that’s what you were expecting. I was running late (which seemed to be the theme of the day) for my appointment since I’d waited for everyone to clear out of the locker room before I got undressed. So I hurried with my shower, dried off, and rushed to my locker. I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing, so I didn’t wrap the towel around my waist like I had earlier. I just threw it over my shoulder and headed for my clothes. Just as I was bending over to put my underwear on, I heard a voice.

“Oh, hey. I didn’t think anyone would still be here. Do you always hang around the guys’ locker room after school, or did you know I’d be here?”

I looked up and saw him standing on the other side of the room, his locker wide open. I wanted to explain why I was in there so late. I mean it was a legitimate reason, right? Instead, I said “How would I know you’d be here. I wanted to be alone.”

His left eyebrow raised. “Alone? In the shower? In the locker room?”

There wasn’t much I could say to that. I was afraid I’d just put my foot further in my mouth, so I just shrugged and finished pulling up my underwear, just then realizing that I’d been on display for him while he was talking to me. I immediately turned all shades of red.

“Hey, don’t blush on my account.”

“I’m not blushing! I just-  Um. Well. The water. It was hot.”

“Dude, relax, I’m just messing with you.”

I don’t know why I that frustrated me, but it did. It really did. “Oh yeah? Well, why are you in here after school? You had gym last period. What, were you hoping to find me in here?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I could take them back. Great. He’s going to think I’m hitting on him. Shit.

He laughed. “As much fun as I’ve had running into you today, I’m afraid to tell you that you were the last thing on my mind when I came in.” He reached into the locker and pulled out a bag. “Laundry day. This shit’s getting ripe. Forgot it earlier, so here I am. Just had to pick up my drawers so my mom can wash them. Sorry to disappoint you.”

It didn’t dawn on me until later that I actually was a little disappointed. “I’m not disappointed. I’m annoyed. Every time I turn around today, there you are making me look foolish.”

“What? You think I’m enjoying having you throw yourself at me all day long?”

“I’M NOT THROWING MYSELF AT YOU!”

And as I said this, while pulling up my jeans, I fell over, in his direction. He was across the room, though, so I didn’t fall into him this time. I swear to God I’m not a clumsy person. I’m not. Still, for the third time in one day, I was tripping over myself. In front of this guy. This really good looking guy. This guy who was… Ugh. His back was to me, but he was clearly laughing.

“Oh my god. Stop laughing at me. Please.”

He turned back around. His face was red, but he wasn’t laughing. “I’m not laughing.”

I sighed, stood up, pulled my pants up, grabbed my shirt and pulled it over my head.

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t help it. All this time you’ve been staring at me in the cafeteria, I thought you were trying to be smooth. Now I see you’re not smooth at all. Just out of curiosity, why have you been staring at me at lunch?”

I instantly denied it. I told him I look at everyone during lunch, that I was a people watcher. If he saw me looking at him now and then, it’s just because…just because…

“Just because you were staring at me?”

“No!”

He shrugged. “Ok. Whatever. No big deal if you were. I’ve got to get out of here before I’m late for work.” He slammed his locker door and headed for the exit. Just before the door closed behind him, he stuck his head back in. “Oh, by the way, your shirt’s on backwards. And inside out.” With that, he was gone, and the door clicked shut.

I looked down. He was right about my shirt. I was thankful that he’d at least been kind enough not to mention the fact that my pants zipper was wide open. I shook my head and groaned. Could today get any worse? I gathered up all my stuff, then thought about his dirty underwear. I mean, about what he’d said about his drawers being ripe. It made me think about my own gym clothes, so I decided I might as well take them home to be washed. I grabbed them out of my locker, then locked it, and headed for the parking lot.

I was lucky. I was one of the few sophomores to have my own car. My birthday was late in the school year, so I was a little older than most of the kids in my grade. One of the upsides to that was being able to drive myself to school. What wasn’t so lucky was that my car was a POS. Piece of shit. The front seat passenger side door didn’t latch, so it had to be held shut with a piece of rope. If I was driving alone, I could just tied the rope to the steering column. If someone was in the front seat with me, they had to hold the rope.

My car had no seatbelts.

I threw my bag and my books into the back seat and climbed behind the wheel. When I turned the key in the ignition, my eardrums almost exploded. When I got to school that morning, Billy Idol was on the radio and I had cranked up the volume all the way. I forgot to turn it off before getting out of the car, so when I started it, I was blasted with some Toto song.

I made my way across the parking lot and around the building to the student exit. Just before pulling out into the road, I noticed a beat up old pick up in the far corner of the parking lot with the hood up. I knew I was going to be late for my doctor appointment, but I felt like I should see if the owner of the truck needed any help. It’s what my grandmother would have done. I hesitated just a few second before putting my car in reverse and heading over to the truck.

When the owner come out from under the hood, I cussed out loud. Of course. It was him. Of course. Of course it was. Who else would be it today? I thought about just driving away, but it was too late. He’d already seen me and a grin replaced the scowl on his face. I exhaled loudly before turning off my car and climbing out.

“Hey,” he said, “I don’t know what-”

I shook my head, held up my hand, and interrupted him. “I don’t care. I don’t know what’s going on today, but I’ve about had it with you. I don’t want you to talk to me. I don’t want to know what’s wrong with your truck. I’m going to give you a ride to wherever it is you work, and then I’m going to go to the doctor. He probably won’t see me because I’m already late thanks to you, but whatever. You’re going to have to find your own ride home from work because I’m not going to go pick you up. My car is a piece of shit, the passenger door doesn’t close, and you’re going to have to hold it shut with a piece of rope. You’re not going to say one word to me. You aren’t going to smirk. You aren’t going to laugh or grin. Nothing. If so much as a corner of your mouth perks up, I’m kicking your ass out and you can walk. Now get in the fucking car.”

I have no idea where any of that came from, and it certainly wasn’t typical of me. I’d just had enough for the day. I wasn’t comfortable with the feelings I got when he was around me, and he was around me far too much today. I watched as he walked around the car and got in. I waited until he closed the door and had the rope in his hand before I got in. I started my engine and pulled out into the road. I drove half a block before I realized I didn’t know where I was taking him.

“Where do you work?”

He looked at me, but didn’t say anything.

“Oh, bullshit. Haha, I get it. I told you not to talk to me, so now you’re not going to tell me where you’re going, right?”

He nodded.

“Fine, you’re going to the doctor’s with me.” I assumed that when he heard that, he’d stop being stupid and tell me where he needed to go. He didn’t, though. I wasn’t about to let him win, so I turned my radio back on and drove right to the doctor’s office. When we got there, he let go of the rope, watched the door swing open on its own, and got out of the car. He looked back at me, smiled, nodded his head, and walked across the street to a small chinese food place. I watched him go in. I waited for him to come back out. After a few minutes, I looked at the building I was parked in front of and then looked at my watch. I was twenty five minutes late for my appointment. Screw it, I thought to myself, then headed across the street. I figured he was in there using their phone, and I felt kind of bad for the way I’d talked to him. If he wasn’t able to get a ride, I’d offer to drop him off at his home or his work.

When I walked in the front door, there was no one in sight. I stood there for a couple of minutes before he came out of the back. “Oh, sorry, the hostess is on the phone.” I looked at him. He was wearing a white apron. “Are you dining in or is it a to-go order?”

“What?”

“Dine in or carry out?”

“I’m not eating here.”

“So, to go, then?”

“No, I don’t want to order any food.”

“A drink?”

“What?”

He looked at me like I had two heads. “You know, I never got the impression that you were slow before. Now I’m wondering if that might explain how weird you are.”

“I’m not slow!”

“You’re in a chinese restaurant. You don’t want to order anything. You keep saying ‘what’ to me. What else am I supposed to think?”

“You’re an ass. Do you know that? Because if you didn’t know before, you know now. You are an ass.”

Before he could reply, I walked back out the way I’d come in. I crossed the street, got in my car, and drove home.

To hell with him. I hoped I’d never see him again.

 

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