I like the title even if it doesn't fit because I love Spoon. I think it fits though. This story is bad. And there are probably mistakes.
I've often wished I could hold my breath long enough for someone to believe I'm dead. I think it'd be even better if I could leave my eyes open without blinking. That would really freak someone out. And although, much to my lament, I cannot do such a thing it doesn't stop me from trying at 7:05 this morning when my mom bursts in my room yelling about how school starts in ten minutes. I really should remember to lock my door.
And, my god, who just bursts in on someone like that. I could've been masturbating.
"I don't feel well," I say.
She throws my car keys at my face. Really, lady. My eyes. I need them. My mom slams my door shut even through I'm not supposed to, and I admit defeat and get dressed.
Very slowly though, because I am not feeling well.
I get to school thirty minutes late and enter the building thirty-five minutes late because I was listening to my favorite song in the car. Some songs you have to listen through the whole thing, you know?
It's 7:55 AM when I finally grace my first period Trigonometry class with my presence. "You're late, Nathan," Ms. Clark says, after glaring at me through my entire trip to my seat. It would not be a good time to reply, "I didn't know." Anyway, she asks, "Do you have a pass?" before I would've even had a chance to say anything. I tell her I don't have one and she tells me I do have lunch detention.
These things happen.
"Asshole," my friend Andy whispers to me when the teaching resumes. I am not making anyone happy today. "Where were you? I needed your homework."
"I didn't do it either," I tell him, staring at the board wondering if I should understand any of it. I will write a letter to the school board detailing the reasons why Trig should be considered a foreign language, the number one reason being that I already have my foreign language credit, and yo hablo español real good.
I'd probably leave that one out though, for the sake of credibility.
"She's got you too, huh?" Andy whispers, with a creepy ass grin.
"Who did what, you say?" I reply, really, really thinking about taking some notes.
"Ms. Clark, man. She's hot. It's distracting."
"I guess you could say that." I hope he ends the conversation there. I don't really have a problem of being distracted by Ms. Clark, as teacher lust is not my thing. I take out a notebook I think is supposed to be used for this class and mindlessly copy the notes. We are then instructed to do some problems alone, which I take as an opportunity to start my letter.
To Whom It May Concern:
When we learn Trig, the terrorists win.
I think it's perfect because nobody likes terrorists. I'm trying to think of a good next line (but really, tough act to follow) when I'm distracted by the neck in front of me. There are three freckles on it, and they form a triangle that probably has some sort of name.
Who the fuck sits around naming triangles?
I stare at the freckle triangle. This isn't the first time this has happened. I mean. I clearly only have a mathematical interest in this neck, named plane N, with points A, B, and C that form triangle (all together now) ABC.
For real, that is the only reason I'm drawing the back of this guy's neck and head.
Sometimes point A gets covered up by the kind of floppy curly hair this guy has, and all I see is segment BC. Which is sad, because I really like triangles. They're…pointy.
My study in art and geometry turns around. "Can I borrow a pencil?" he asks. He's staring at me, right in the eyes, and it's unsettling. I only do that when I think someone is lying. Does he think I'm going to be all, "No, I don't have one," and he can expose me?
No, he probably doesn't. I hand him the pencil I've been using and he smiles a thank you. Then he looks at my paper. "Is that my head?"
"Yes," I say, because he's looking me in the eye again.
"Oh. Neat," he says, and turns around again to finish his work.
Neat. He said neat. Who says neat?
I should say neat.
I take the pen from Andy's desk because he is sleeping and it was probably mine at some point anyway. Under my killer opening line I write, "Trigonometry has made me gay."
Terrorism and faggotry go hand in hand.
The school day drags by as slowly as possible, but eventually it's afternoon and I am sitting on my bed struggling with a Trig worksheet. My little sister Anna is next to me, playing with two white Barbies and two of their ethnic friends. It appears she's named them all Brittany. Aside from all this I'm also on the phone with Andy who is trying to convince me to do stupid things with stupid people. The details escape me because I'm not listening.
"So, you coming?"
"Nah. I'm doing our Trig homework, plus I have work in an hour."
"Man, that sucks. That class is impossible. I bet Ms. Clark became a math teacher on purpose."
"Well yeah. Probably."
"I mean like with malicious intentions. She has to know how hot she is. She wants to distract her young male students."
"Why?" I ask, watching Anna make two of the Brittany Barbies have lesbian sex. I mean, at least that's what it looks like.
"I don't know man. But I've gotta be right. Only ugly people like math, you know?"
I think about the guy who sits in front of me in Trig. His name is Brian. He's really good at math and…not ugly. Like, really not ugly. Maybe he could tutor me.
"Maybe she'll get a facial tumor or something and we'll end up with C's, at least," Andy says after I'm silent for a long time. A facial tumor is probably the only way Ms. Clark would ever be distracting to me. I know it would be a bad move to say this, because I have been under suspect since I wore that 'Nobody Knows I'm a Lesbian' shirt.
It was like the opposite of a coming out and it still backfired.
"We can only hope," I say to Andy. "I've gotta go…do things now." And I hang up.
Not that normal is my thing or whatever, but it can't be right to hate your friends.
I look at Anna, whose Barbies are all snuggled together in a big homosexual pile. Perhaps this is genetic. "You know your dolls are going to burn in the fiery pits of hell, right?"
She looks up at me, a curly lock of hair in her mouth. She chews thoughtfully before replying, "I'm telling mommy."
I'm going to work early.
I workin a guitar store, and here I am pretty much useless. There is something satisfying about that. I basically get paid to point Mitch out to customers, because he's the guitar guy. I don't know shit about them.
I mean. I clean. I do something.
Really, I'm not sure how I got the job, but Mitch likes me so he keeps me around. I'm not sure why he likes me either, but it's probably one of those "he's clueless, I will guide him" type things.
"Your fingers are on the wrong fret, man," Mitch says. He's trying to teach me to play guitar. It is going well. I move my fingers up and down until he nods. "See, you're getting good already."
"Yeah," I say, strumming aimlessly. Mitch smiles encouragingly, but soon my fingers tire and I put the guitar down. "I'm hopeless."
He laughs. "Not completely. Check that shit out." He leans closer to me and points to something in a catalog he's flipping through that I guess I'm supposed to be able to recognize? I give a kind of "hmmm" of acknowledgement and approval and Mitch leans away again. But not before I have the chance to note that he smells really nice.
I'm starting to get really creepy.
It occurs to me at this point that if anyone could help me sort this all out, it's Mitch. Mitch happens to openly like boys and seems to be okay with it. I wonder if he's the type to draw classmates and sniff coworkers. Probably not. If I have to be gay, he's the gay I want to be.
Mitch stands up and yawns, stretching dramatically. "Man, I need a cigarette. Come with me."
We step outside and Mitch leans on the door, effectively blocking anyone from entering during his nicotine break. "I told Jared I'd quit," he says, grinning. "He doesn't like the smells so I bought some shit to cover it up."
"Heh," I say, or laugh or whatever. "Jared. How is he?"
"Whining about trying to get some magazine to publish his stuff," Mitch replies, crossing his arm over his chest. "Fucking fag."
Yeah, hey, speaking of that. "Can I ask…like. I mean. How does someone know they're gay?"
"Another gay person tells them. There's a list."
Where can I obtain a copy of this list?
"Shit man, I don't know," Mitch continues after a moment. That is how all his advice begins. "It was never like a big revelation thing for me. I just am and I knew and…why, anyway?"
"Uh. School project?"
He snorts. "Okay sure. You'll figure it all out soon enough. High school is never the best time for self-actualization. Or some shit."
Mitch is a psychology major. I hate college kids.
As we go back into the store, Mitch says, "Oh yeah. I told Jared you were into writing too, and he got you some poetry book." He chuckles a little. "Poetry."
"I didn't say I like writing. I said I'm terrible at it."
He shrugs and tosses me the used and worn book. Way to be cheap, Jared. The book is called Leaves of Grass and it's by Walt Whitman, who I remember ignoring during American Lit. What am I going to do with some gay poetry book?
The answer, as I find out in Trig the next morning, is read it. Ms. Clark goes on and on about stuff I won't even try to understand, and I reach into my backpack to get a notebook. Instead I grab the stupid book and curiosity leads me to open it.
I'm two lines into it and I've decided I hate poetry.
I flip around the pages, and stop when a title catches my eye. "We Two Boys Together Clinging."
I look around like someone who is browsing a porn site in a library. Feeling safe, my eyes drift back down to the page. It's tame, even the stuff about "fingers clutching" or whatever, but I feel inexplicably dirty. Or giddy. One of those.
"Hey," someone whispers, tapping on my desk. I look up alarmed. Brian. He smirks a little. "I need a pencil."
I hand him mine and clutch the book tightly. "Don't you ever do any work in this class?"
"Don't you ever bring your own pencil?"
"Yes," he says. "But it doesn't have an eraser." His really green eyes glance at my hand, squeezing the gay out of the book.
And into myself?
"What's that?" he asks, reaching out to take it. His hand touches mine and I'm so shocked my grasp loosens and he grabs it. "Poetry," he laughs. "I wasn't expecting that." He starts to read and the smile on his face kind of fades away. I know he's reading about the boys clinging and loving and generally gaying it up, and is coming up with a long list of ways to torture and eventually kill me. The next time I see Jared, I'm taking his nuts.
God, I can't even threaten violence without making it queer.
"Hmm," Brian says, putting the book on my desk. He's big on looking people right in the eyes. "Neat."
"Hey Nathan," Andy says, hitting my arm in the light sort of way that will leave a bruise. "What'd you get for number six?"
"Have you read this?" I ask Mitch that afternoon, thrusting the book into his face. He smacks it away, and resumes changing the strings on a guitar. "It's like. Really gay."
He looks up, an eyebrow raised.
"I mean literally, dude."
"Enjoy it, then?"
I snort. "It was terribly inspiring. I feel like unleashing the poet within all of a sudden. Tell Jared I hate him."
"Just because the book sucked?" Mitch laughs.
I blow my hair out of my face. "No. Because I am completely queer and there was this stupid poem with boys clinging and shit and someone read it and now he knows and I'm going to get my ass kicked, and plus I'm in love with—" And I'm cut off by the ding-dong sound that is made when someone opens the door. My love and future ass kicker is standing there. "Oh hey."
"In love with who?" Mitch asks.
"Hey man," Brian says, walking up to the counter. "I didn't know you worked here."
"I do," I say brilliantly. I do as in "now we're married but only in Massachusetts." "Are you uh…buying a guitar?"
"Not today," he replies. "Just looking around." And he begins to do so, leaving me there with Mitch about to laugh and myself about to vomit.
"You are so obvious," he says.
"I hate myself."
"Cute kid," he says, running his finger down a guitar string.
"Kid. He's only like three years younger than you."
"Three years too young," he says. "When are you going to jump him?"
I pretend to consider it. "Oh you know. Never. He's the one who read it and—"
"He's gay," Mitch says.
I'm silent for seriously about ten minutes. "Is not."
"He is. I bet you like ten bucks."
"That's not a bet of confidence."
"Fuck you," he says, and mumbles, "Your boyfriend's back."
"So," I say to Brian. And I smile, I think. My fingers begin drumming the countertop. Mitch shakes his head and walks away.
"Cool place," Brian says. "I wish I had enough to get one right now. I have this really old one that my dad got cheap…" He starts to blahblahblah about guitars and my eyes glaze over, a mixture of confusion and panic that he might ask me about something musical. "So, you ready for the Trig test tomorrow?" he asks suddenly.
There's a test tomorrow? "Yeah...not at all. That stuff is like French to me or something. Russian, maybe."
He laughs. "I really like math."
I win another laugh. He's either forgotten the poem or Mitch is right or maybe he's not gay but just a fan or…something.
"I could help you, you know. If you ever need me to or whatever," Brian says, staring at me and making my face and stomach hurt.
"That would be cool," I say. "Trigonometry is something I have always wanted to excel in."