Mike doesn't always talk. Not in the mornings.
Dave is walking into the classroom, and oh wonderful, Cathleen and Rich, furrowed together and Rich is trying to make Cathleen bend back her rigid standards, and Mike is by the computer which flashes green "SUPPORT BRICK WRESTLING". Dave wants to say that's how you got sick, right Mike? but he would never. Mike looks up at him. Cathleen is not smiling. Rich is pulling her sleeve.
"Did you get the schedules?" this is Dave, trying to sound like the coffee-colored rings under Mike's eyes aren't affecting him.
"Yah." this is Mike, mumbling, inventing lexicography that seems to be intent on escaping Dave's understanding. Dave understands anyway. He offers a laugh and Mike waves his hand, his face back on the scrolling computer marquee. Dave does not mean to, but he turns to Cathleen.
She is not smiling. Rich is pulling her sleeve again. She waves him away. Dave walks out again. The hallway smells like olives.
Cathleen doesn't mean to let Dave see her look, and she turns her face away and the sun gets in her eyes.
Rich waves her down from further up the hallway. Dave isn't walking out of the room. I love Matt because he doesn't love Mike Cathleen thinks, and Cathleen has been calling them by their first names all year. She doesn't want to talk to Rich. But she will anyway.
Okay, okay, okay-
Matt thinks about the handbook, because it's a solid item that he can hold, and it tells the girls not to wear finger-length skirts, and it tells the boys to not be INAPPROPRIATE, and it doesn't even say she is seventeen she is seventeen she is seventeen only it does say it. It says it over and over again. Matt thinks Dave has it infinitely easier because Mike isn't seventeen, and Mike is only suicidal-deep-blue-fevered. That is easier. That is so much easier.
She is smiling like a spy.
Dave knows Cathleen looks at him, and Dave wonders what her face would melt into if he said simply "Mike" just the name. Dave figures she wouldn't smile. Dave walks to William's room(William is out; his mother died) and she is standing there smiling, and Dave says "she wouldn't smile" and damn, Todd is right there. Todd frowns.
"Who wouldn't smile?"
Dave thinks Todd will follow him just to catch the half-whispered phrases. Dave shakes his head. "Just singing."
Todd doesn't believe him. Todd walks past William's room and down the stairs.
Dave figures Cathleen wouldn't smile.
(like a spy)
"Oh-my-God oh-my-God he's standing-reaching-smiling and I am here under his reach and I am talking about my uncle(whom no one admires any longer) and I am underneath his reach, and he has a green paper in his hand.
"I wish I could see better. Then I might make his handwriting fold into my mind, and come out when I am dreaming. He is wearing
a gray sweater."
Malcolm is sitting at his desk saying "no I don't love Alexander." and Malcolm is sitting at his desk saying "No I don't love Charlie Prescott Nick Andrew." Cathleen is the next room over. She is reading about Frederick the Great. She is thinking about how Dave smiled at Mike before, and about how she didn't even notice Rich pulling at her sleeve until Dave walked away. Cathleen says to her book (with only the smallest whisper) "Matt would make a perfect spy."
Dave wonders if Mike still believes he will never be ill, because Mike has become ingrained with illness. It stands about him like a garrison. It says to Dave(the illness)"I am his only lover. He will never bed down another."
Matt thinks about the handbook. He thinks maybe he should try loving Mike or Dave or even Todd because it would be easier.
A bell rings. It is more like a tone.
When they open the doors every morning, the cold snakes to Billy first. He thinks the cold makes him older. He thinks the cold fades into his eyes, and makes him see deserts where there are none. Billy is not an old man. He can still run with the boys on the field, and watch them sweat under August, and he can still breathe Brian in his sleep.
Yes. Brian comes in late. The bell has rung, and there is Brian. His hair is falling in his eyes. "Oh! You wore brown. It looks great!" this is Brian. He is smiling with a lopsided quickness.
Billy is not old. Not yet.
"he's wearing a lovely sweater today."
"do you ever think about anything else?"
there is some laughter. Cathleen and Malcolm have been friends for a while.
"I hate these damned hallways."
and Cathleen sees the broad boy purse his lips as he picks up a fallen pen.
"Kyle Watson. Great looking, but he's the biggest jerk in the school."
Prescott turns around and stares at Cathleen. She laughs. She laughs at Prescott, and Malcolm wants to see the inside of his black shirt.
1. Richard's tie has math equations on it, Andrew thinks they glow-in-the dark. Andrew likes how Richard draws bell curves on the chalk board. Andrew purposely does not learn math, but he can pile up high marks almost as well as Alexander can tap his shoulder and mouth 'what are you staring at?'
2. Charlie did not mind being tied up in the snow.
3. Nick remembers when he had to fix the printer with Malcolm and Prescott and Charlie and Alexander and Andrew, and he wonders if Malcolm leaned closer on purpose, or if Nick had fallen by accident.
4. "I am not the biggest jerk in the school, I don't know what she's talking about, I don't know why she would say that. Is he staring at me?"
5. Alexander thinks that maybe if he had white hair, Andrew would perform a cannonade of equations under his dark eyes. Alexander finds being insulted is the best way to realize a person is beautiful.
6. Malcolm likes the urgency in which everyone is trying to hide everything that was never said.
7. Cathleen hates numbers.
Cathleen breaks off and John is not in school today so she does not wait, because Malcolm doesn't ask her too. Andrew is staring at Richard again, and Alexander is grinding his pencil into the desk. Malcolm is deciding an inconsequence. Cathleen breaks off as soon as the bell rings. She hurries. Upstairs is el dorado, it is the el dorado and casablanca, and there are spies and copper water upstairs.
Matt is standing by his door and his eyes are taking in all the sun imaginable. Cathleen wants to lead him to an Algerian city and see what it is like to kiss him in the sun, the hot and full sun.
Dave walks out of the classroom at the end of the hallway.
Mike knows he doesn't speak as often as he should and Mike knows one day he will have to stop wearing sweaters that cover his neck but Dave's hair is graying and Dave is only twentyeight years old. Mike
feels a lot of things would be better off if the world went deaf and blind. He wants to feel Dave touch his neck.
Dave passes Cathleen in the hallway.
Dave: "There is a meeting today."
Cathleen: "I know."
Dave: "Good, see ya then."
Todd thinks his colleagues are crazy.
"I think that color looks great." this is Brian, and they are waiting for the class to come. Billy is wearing brown. He smiles at Brian.
"Of course. Anyway. Cold in here, huh?" Brian hugs himself. Billy realizes that Brian wouldn't mind anything. That is the amazing butterfly at the center of the world. Billy suddenly touches Brian's arm. "Cold?"
Brian smiles. "A bit."
Billy is not old. Not yet. And he is wearing brown, too.
Cathleen almost trips down the stairs, and Dave laughs. Cathleen smiles, and thinks maybe Prescott isn't the biggest jerk in the school, even though she had never thought so until he had looked at her. Cathleen smiles at Dave. Matt is at the other end of the hallway, burrowed in his room.
Matt wonders why she never walks past his room after class, and only before.
He likes watching her drink from the fountain. He likes guessing her name. Maybe he should be in love with Mike.
"Cathleen, you are so strange-" Tierney says. Cathleen smiles. Malcolm hands out gum. "So what?" Cathleen throws out. Malcolm laughs. Tierney smiles. They are all chewing gum, and Malcolm says "Do you realize that we are all alone?" and Cathleen laughs again. "Yah. But who isn't?" and Tierney shrugs. "Good question."
They chew gum.
"You're still strange, Cathleen."
"Thanks". Cathleen smiles. She is in love with Matt. She is in love with Matt. It is a breath and a prayer and a butterfly and a stick of chewing gum. Matt is like a silver plane over a foreign city.
Billy-"I love your last name."
Billy-"It always looks so even. Symmetrical. Perfect."(the classroom is empty)
Brian-"I'm not that much younger."
Billy-"I know."(silence is the best kept secret. Billy writes out Brian's name on the blackboard. They would kiss if the door could lock)
Dave and Mike are alone-together. Mike is angry.
"You could always date that girl in your club. She seems willing."
"No. No, never." Dave says. When Mike is angry his voice drives deep pitching wells into the air about him, and his eyes harden like almonds.
"Then why don't you fall in love!?" Mike is screaming.
This is the time between classes, when they can be alone-together. Mike touches his collar, drawn over his neck. Dave reaches and touches Mike's hand, atop the collar. Mike stares at Dave. His eyes could blaze oil into flames.
"Fall in love David!" David, David, David. Mike uses formality like a weapon.
And the classes are switching again, and the lull is over if there ever was one. Todd is walking past when Dave cries out.
Todd wonders why lunatics are always the first to admit they're insane, and how the sane will never admit it. He grew up in New York, and he's used to most things.
"My teacher has a name like a star, and I do not love him. He is dividing light shards into measurement." Cathleen could never write a song. She sits and stares at the white board until her eyes hurt. She thinks that at the meeting today she will ask Dave if Matt would ever-
And then she realizes she would have no way of finishing the question. Cathleen hates biology. She writes in her notebook 'kyle Watson is the biggest jerk in the school.'
Her teacher is an old man.
Billy walks by in a brown shirt. Cathleen catches him out the edge of her eye. She smiles.
Cathleen is standing by Sal against the lockers.
Dave walks past and up the stairwell.
Mike walks past and out to the courtyard.
Billy walks past and takes a drink from the fountain.
Brian walks past, and he is smiling rakishly.
Prescott walks past, he is not the biggest jerk in the school.
Alexander walks past. love is a bitch.
Andrew walks past and his mind is filled with the intricacies of mathematics
Charlie walks past, he thinks of being tied up in the snow
Nick walks past, and doesn't see anything but sun
Todd walks past and waves.
Matt walks past. Sal and Cathleen walk after him. Cathleen asks Sal where Matt bought his shirt, and Sal laughs at her. Cathleen does not place much stock in friends, but they are sometimes assuring.
And she thinks men are a lot like birds.
Malcolm thinks he should tell Alexander that Andrew loves Richard just to get it over with. Cathleen is sitting next to Malcolm eating a bagel. Matt stands by the soda machine, his hands behind his back. Cathleen thinks he could be a spy. She goes to throw out her napkins and Leonard speaks with her. Cathleen does not mind Leonard, she can see over his shoulder into Matt's eyes and the hollows of his cheekbones.
was he looking?
no. no. why would he look at me-
Leonard thinks it's ridiculous that teachers cannot date students, if the students are lonely enough. Cathleen sits down and spills her iced tea all over herself and Malcolm. They both laugh. Matt laughs. Matt watches against the soda machine and laughs behind his eyes. Maybe she would be an awful spy. But it would not matter at all. Cathleen laughs, and sits down with her head in her hands.
Todd always stops in to see Billy. Brian stands in the back of the room and Todd wants to say "What would I report? At least the two of you aren't like Mike and Dave…"
Billy is wearing a nice brown shirt today. Todd talks about the newspaper. Billy is a pleasant kind of guy, and Brian is too. Todd leaves for class.
Billy: "Brian you don't have to be-"
Brian: "I know. I can't-"
Billy: "I know. I-"
Brian: smiles. They would kiss if the door had a lock. a class comes in.
(the study of the sea)
Andrew is sitting in oceanography and knowing that Richard is an old man with equations on his tie. But yes, yes, Andrew is in love. Andrew wonders why Alexander always taps him on the shoulder. Andrew wonders what Malcolm knows. They are watching a movie about the deepest part of the ocean. Andrew knows in a world of muted light and blind fish, Richard would only have his touch.
(the study of the sea ii)
Cathleen would like to see Matt in the ocean
(the junior football team)
ZACHARY BOYCE(the ones who count. kyle Watson is the biggest jerk in the school)
The bell is about to ring and Dave peaks in to Mike's room, and Mike is staring at the computer. It says "SUPPORT BRICK WRESTLING". Dave does not say anything. Mike always stays late on Thursdays and Dave wonders why. And he knows it is for him. And he knows Mike will never, ever say that.
Dave has to think of something to say at the meeting. He is thinking Mike's name would sound lovely with any intonation.
(Sal and Cathleen and Tierney)
The three are walking to class, and Malcolm is in the library. Tierney is something like jealous of Cathleen, because Cathleen can always be in love,
and let it fall about her like sunlight. Sal thinks that Cathleen is the most imaginative Realist in the world. Cathleen is going to Spanish class, with Kyle Watson and the junior football team. Cathleen says good-bye. It is all right that Sal and Tierney do not understand poetry.
"How do you say parentheses in Spanish?"
"I don't know."
"It's good your name is Cathleen. You look like a Cathleen."
Jim and Joe are talking about skiing. Zach is doing his homework. Cathleen chews on her pen and wonders what kind of car Kyle drives, and if he knows he
is the BIGGEST JERK IN THE SCHOOL.
Kyle moves Cathleen's sleeve as Abby sprays some perfume. Cathleen is oddly touched.
Kyle takes Joe's hand, and makes certain Cathleen can see.
Alexander and Charlie and Nick and Prescott have walked together since before they knew what a bitch love could be. Prescott even says it. "Love is a BITCH." Alexander doesn't laugh because Andrew never walks with them. He patterns to a beat of calculus. He dreams in refracted z-scores, in summation, in random probability distributions.
Alexander trails off for Lit. "Malcolm is in love with me." it doesn't matter.
(like waiting for horses)
Brian and Billy have no last-period class so they trek to Billy's car and they sit in the back seat, and Brian lets Billy kiss him, and it is the best part of the day, and it tastes like oranges in the desert, and it feels like a brick of pure heat, and it seems like they have been running for ages and ages and they have finally been granted rest. Brian likes Billy kissing him. He lies deep on Billy's chest. Brian says "I'm glad you wore brown today."
Billy kisses Brian again. The doors to his car lock. It is like all the wild horses finally became stars. Billy loves Brian. It is as simple as that.
(first tale, first day)
Alexander watches because Cathleen is talking and Alexander does not like Cathleen and Cathleen does not like Alexander. Lexi does not like Alexander or Cathleen, and Cathleen does not like Lexi. Chris and Cathleen get along but he likes to try and make her jump off a cliff. Chris likes Lexi. Chris hates Alexander. Gina thinks Alexander would be a very nice person and Gina does not mind Cathleen or Lexi or Chris. Megan and Lexi do not mind Cathleen sometimes, and Megan sometimes like Cathleen and Cathleen does not mind Megan or Gina, and sometimes she likes Lexi. Megan does not like Alexander. Megan and Chris are friends. And somehow John comes in, but John is sick today, and he does not like or dislike anybody.
Cathleen reads from the Decameron. She thinks she would like Matt to take her from the plague infested city, and into the countryside, filled with sun and stories.
Lexi asks Cathleen about Iraq. Megan listens. Chris laughs. Alexander sleeps. Gina stares. John is sick
Dave says "Mike could speak with an accent." the bell is ringing, and Dave has a meeting. Mike is in the next room with his face green by the computer(SUPPORT BRICK WRESTLING). Mike will stay until Dave leaves. Dave knows this. It's is completely nonsensical. It is like knowing a horse will let you come close, before kicking out its sharp hooves, and blinding you.
Dave sits by the window
Matt leans on the doorframe as his class leaves. He thinks about the old movies where the smog is almost a primary city. He wants to see her in a khaki jacket and a cigarette thin and long dangling from her fingers and he wants to see her face black-and-white and he wants her to whisper "love is like espionage. I am seventeen and it does not matter." Matt does not think about africa at all, except
when he hears her laughing down the hallway.
here's lookin at you kid
Matt thinks. Matt brushes his hair back. He wants to throw the handbook out of the window. He is in love with her. He wants to wear a fedora cap and take her to a city of spies.
when they know the school
day is over billy drives brian
to his house and they park
the car and billy opens
the door for brian and no one
can see them and they run into
the house and brian kisses billy
and billy thinks he could turn into
dreaming, and it would not make
a difference. he likes how brian
makes him feel like age is as inconsequential
as a brown shirt.
then they disappear into one another
Cathleen and Malcolm are going to the meeting and they pass Todd who is going home and Todd smiles and wants to say "admit you're insane, so you can be completely sane. it's a maze. Be in love." but Todd just smiles and somehow he thinks Cathleen and Malcolm know exactly what he means.
Dave takes a moment and looks into Mike's room because Fate of the Administration place Mike right next to Dave. Mike is not looking at the computer. He is looking out the window and pulling at his collar. Dave coughs a bit and Mike does not turn around.
"Fall in love, Mike."
"That's what I tell you."
"But I already have."
"Go away. Go to your damned meeting. Lead the world."
"What would that be worth, if I didn't know you were in love?"
"Shut up Dave."
Dave leaves the room. He has a meeting to run. Mike is pulling at his collar again and remembering that he is still very ill.
Her voice is coming down the hall. She is talking about Vietnam. Dave is laughing. Matt wipes his hands on his pants and gets up and walks to Dave's room and looks inside. She is sitting on the radiator. Another boy is sitting beside her. Dave is laughing. There are others, but they fringe about her, they do not matter, nothing matters, they are the city to hide her. Dave sees Matt by the door.
"What's up?" Dave asks.
And she looks up and she smiles. She smiles at Matt. She smiles completely at Matt. Matt wants to know if she has infiltrated the enemy's headquarters yet. Matt wants to know if she likes champagne.
Then Matt realizes Dave is giving him an odd look.
"I want to borrow a film projector. For tomorrow." Matt blusters. She is still smiling.
Dave nods. Dave knows a lot about being in love.
"Sure thing." he says. Matt decides he should probably go. She is smiling at him.
"Cathleen!" she suddenly says.
Dave looks at her.
Matt looks at her.
"My name is Cathleen." she laughs this and her voice is like champagne and casablanca.
Matt cannot help a smile. And he walks from the room, feeling like he has discovered the greatest secret of any known government, of any known love.
Dave: "What was that about?"
Cathleen: "What do you mean?"
Dave: (smiling) "Never mind."
Malcolm: "So. What about human rights in China?"
Dave: "I'm all for them."
and they are laughing. and Dave thinks at three o'clock he will kiss Mike, whether Mike wants to or not.
Dave: (aside) "Cathleen"
Cathleen: (aside) "Yes?"
Dave: "Fall in love."
Cathleen: "Already done."
and the kids are gone.
and dave is completely alone with the sun and the windows. and then he stands and he is going to see mike. and dave walks to the doorway.
and mike is standing outside of the doorway.
"you are such an idiot." mike says. his collar is down. dave does not see the illness.
there is a pause as thin as thread and as thick as fog in a foreign city and it fits like a brown shirt and it is as indescribable as calculus or how a class of ap lit students feel about one another, and it is as brazen as a junior football player or wild horses and it is like coming home and it is like loving a spy and it ignores handbooks and it walks through hallways and it is a film projector and it makes as much sense as the united nations and it looks like its own name and it is the BIGGEST JERK IN THE SCHOOL and it SUPPORTS BRICK WRESTLING and it is insane and it knows about economics and it is seventeen and it is a young man and it is
a calendar day.
mike smiles at dave.
they are very close. very damned close.
"fall in love you damned idiot." mike says.
(february 20, 2003)
someone kisses someone else.