It’s December 6th when he first speaks to me.
He asks me for a cigarette.
I’m smoking outside the 7-Eleven when he walks up, his hands in his jacket pockets. He’s wearing dark jeans and his leather jacket. I watch his breath come out in white clouds. He walks past me, into the store, and I hold my breath. He looks like the lovechild of every famous movie actor I’ve ever had a crush on, male model gorgeous. His eyes kill me. Bluer than the Caribbean.
I’m almost finished with my cigarette when he walks back out. It doesn’t look like he’s bought anything. He leans against the wall next to me. He’s so pretty I want to screw him right there on the sidewalk. But he’s got a girlfriend, and he’s straight. It’s wishful thinking when I wonder if I can change that.
“Can I bum one?” he asks, and it hits me that he could’ve bought a pack when he was inside, but instead he came out here and asked me for one. I don’t say anything as I shake one from the pack. I watch him light it, and I stamp mine out.
“You’re Riley, right?” he asks, and I nod. “You’re in my Physics class.”
I nod again. I live for that class. For forty-five minutes every day, I get to sit across the room from him.
He holds the cigarette between two long, tapered fingers and grins. “Thanks.” I walk away, and that’s that. I dream about hooking up with him that night.
He speaks to me again on December 10th. Same time, same place. He asks me for a cigarette again and wonders why I don’t talk.
“I do,” I say, and his cigarette dangles between his sculpted lips when he smiles.
He nods at me in the hallways after that. He says hey to me in Physics. We smoke together outside the 7-Eleven – he never buys his own pack. He always asks me for one. I let my fingers brush his when I hand it to him, and my entire body tingles. He’s electric. He talks about his girlfriend, how he hates their relationship, and I dream about kissing him until he can’t remember his own name. He’s clueless about me, like everyone else. I’m not the kind of person you’d think was gay. The guys I hook up with don’t even believe it. They say I look like too much of a ladies man, frontman for a punk band. But I don’t want him to see me that way. I want him to know.
We talk about anything but that. He tells me about his family, crazy stories about his friends. I tell him about my mom, sob stories about my shitty childhood. We smoke together every week. He calls me his friend. We start to hang out outside of school, sometimes alone, mostly with his girlfriend. She’s perfect in every way, and I hate her. He does, too.
It’s December 31st when he dumps her. I’m fucking insane if I think I actually have a chance, but I invite him over for New Year’s. He’s used to big parties, but tonight it’s just us and my mom, who’s passed out in her room before the countdown even starts. He says he doesn’t mind. I open up a bottle of champagne. He grins when the cork goes flying. He sits close to me when we watch the ball drop. My heart starts to pound when his thigh touches mine, and I drink too much. It’s January 1st when I turn to look at him. He’s laughing – he loves this holiday.
“Happy New Year,” he says, raising his glass.
“Happy New Year,” I say. We look at each other. I think I must be crazy when I lean in.
It’s 12:01 when we kiss.
It’s 12:01 when his tongue meets mine and he tastes like champagne and cigarettes. It’s 12:02 when his arms wind around my waist. It’s 12:04 when I kiss his neck and make him sigh.
I have been waiting for this.
I lead him to the bedroom, half afraid that he will run away, but he doesn’t. He fixes me with his electric blue eyes as I lock the door.
“I’ve never done this with a guy before,” he says, but there is no uncertainty in his voice. He grins. I smile and pull him closer to me. I can feel his heat, and I know he feels mine.
“That’s okay,” I say. “I have.”
It’s 12:23 when we fuck for the first time. Gentle at first until he gets used to it, and then until the whole earth shakes. I collapse beside him at 12:45 and smile. He is sweaty and grinning as he finds my hand underneath the sheets and threads his fingers through mine. He tells me I’m the best he’s ever had, and he’s never felt like this before. It’s 1:30 when we both fall asleep holding hands.
We start meeting in secret. My house, his house, under the bleachers at school, the back of the 7-Eleven, by the lake in the bed of his truck. I don’t mind. I’m used to secrets. It turns both of us on, the thrill of hiding, the possibility of being caught. I’m living inside my dreams. Kissing him, touching him, is all I’ve ever wanted.
It’s February 14th when I tell him I love him.
It’s February 14th when he freezes up and doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t speak to me for a week. He goes back to his girlfriend on February 23rd.
I have never felt this way before. It hurts so much I punch my fist through a window. That pain doesn’t even measure up to the anvil pressing down on my chest. I go to our old smoking spot and wait for him, as if he’ll actually show up. He ignores me in Physics. He makes out with his girlfriend in the hallways when he knows I’m watching.
I don’t cry. Instead, I go to Anthony. The only out gay kid at our school, my good friend since 8th grade. I tell him. He says he already knew. I tell him I like him, but really I just like the distraction he’ll mean. He knows that too, but we hook up anyway. When we walk together in the hallways, people start to whisper. It’s February 28th when we walk past him and his friend calls us fags. Anthony grins. He’s heard it before. I laugh and take his hand, even though I’m burning inside. I’ve never been called that before. I never thought I would hear it. It’s a new feeling, knowing people think that way about me. But I guess I’ll get used to it. I knew what I was doing when I went after Anthony.
All I wanted was for him to say something. To notice me. To acknowledge what he did to me. But when his friend says that word, he just looks away.
It’s March 7th when he and his girlfriend get into a fight in the hallway. He walks away, and when he passes me, his eyes find mine, and I see pain and anger and guilt and confusion. He shoves me with his shoulder as he marches past. I stumble back. His girlfriend’s eyes meet mine, and then all of a sudden I know. It hits me like a punch in the gut. The world turns upside down. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m falling, and the ground is coming up fast.
I wait. For what, I don’t even really know.
It’s March 10th when he speaks to me again.
He shows up at our smoking spot. I’ve shared it with Anthony, who is standing next to me when he walks up. He is angry; he has been since the fight with his girlfriend. I can’t tell if it’s at me or her or himself. I tell myself I wanted this.
“We need to talk,” he says. His eyes are blue fire. I think about the first day he spoke to me and asked me for a cigarette.
I don’t know what to say. Words won’t come out of my mouth. The anvil on my chest hasn’t gone away since the day he went back to his girlfriend, and it chokes me. Anthony speaks for me.
“That’s not a good idea right now, man,” he says, trying to sound placating. He doesn’t even look at Anthony. He keeps staring at me, and behind the anger in his eyes, there’s a plea for forgiveness. But I can’t give in. He needs to know what he did to me. He needs to know why it’s not that easy.
I shake my head. Something in his face changes, and he walks away. I can feel my heart twisting and twisting and twisting painfully in my chest, and I can’t breathe.
Anthony tells me things will work out eventually. I tell him I don’t know if that’s true.
I still dream about kissing him. I think about the smell of his leather jacket and the feel of his body under mine. I can’t stop, and I hate it.
It’s March 20th when he comes to my house.
I step back in surprise. He kisses me hard, and suddenly there is no anvil on my chest anymore. His hands come up to hold my face.
I pull away first. He doesn’t get to do that, not after everything.
“What the hell?” I say, to make it seem like I’m angrier than I am. But really, I feel like crying.
“I told her,” he says. “You saw that fight. She knew something was up and I wouldn’t tell her anything, so she got mad. But I told her today.” He’s breathing hard, and there is still pain in his face. Less anger now, and more relief. But still pain. I want to take it away.
I ask him what he told her. I need to hear him say it.
“I’m gay,” he says. “I’m fucking gay and . . . .” He stops, shakes his head, looks away, then back at me. My eyes never leave his face. “And I’m in love with you.” When he says it, his shoulders fall, like he’s let go of something. He sighs. “I love you.” Then he laughs and shakes his head. He runs his hand through his dark hair. “Are you happy now?”
“No,” I say, and I pull him forward and tear off his clothes. I throw him on the couch where we first kissed and I screw him angrily. It’s payback for what he did to me. His moans are my reward. When I finish, I push him down and stare at him. He is gasping for breath, shining with sweat, and he is still as beautiful as the day I met him, and I’m so in love with him it hurts us both.
“Now I’m happy,” I say. He closes his eyes, and he looks relieved.
He tells me he’s sorry. I tell him he’s an asshole. He leans in and kisses me like the world’s about to end. He whispers in my ear that he loves me again, and he is tender and soft and full of sorrow. I tell him I loved him first.
It will take some time to mend. It will take some time to heal from this. But I know that we will.
And this, I know, will last.