Chapter 3

I wake up and realise it's Monday morning. I hate Mondays. I hate all days of the week. I hate any day that involves school. It's petty, I know, but I always wish death and destruction on my school at seven in the morning on Mondays. Mondays are God's punishment for our sins, I swear. My grandmother likes to say that fags, cigarettes, and porn are the "Devil's Work." I think she should amend that list and add Mondays, after cigarettes and before porn. Well, the Devil's Work should include a lot of things, including Adrian.

Adrian invades my dreams. Naked. And god, do I like him naked. And I like the idea of having butt sex with him.

Who thought of butt sex? Who the hell thought, hey, I'm going to shove my dick up this dude's ass and hope it feels good. Yeah, who thought of that? Because that was one fucking sick cave man. Fucking sick, I tell you. It does look like fun though. But, seriously, all jokes aside, what the fuck? I mean, I get the whole prostate thing, but still. Ow.

I know I shouldn't refer to it as "butt sex" because the proper term is "anal sex." But somehow, anal makes it sound that much more nasty.

And I realise that my morning wood is not at all abating, especially with all these thoughts of butt sex and Adrian and cave men having butt sex, and it's just not a good morning, already.

I stumble into a very cold shower and think about smelly cheese and girls. That works.

---

Abby is pissy this morning too. Mondays are clearly the Devil's Work. Or at least, grumpy Abby is the Devil's Work.

"Fuck you," she says when I tell her to get buckled. She does it anyway. She hates her car seat, but Mom makes her sit in it anyway because she's not quite sixty pounds. I think the rule is "six or sixty pounds" but Mom doesn't care. She doesn't want Abby flying through the front window, so Abby may very well be the very last first grader stuck in a car seat.

"Don't use that word," I say automatically, aware that I sound vaguely robotic. Not even a nice big cup of black, black coffee could make me cheer up. I am zombie-Eli right now, and she'll take full advantage of that. I am on auto-pilot driving. Turn right here. Turn left. Signal. Make sure you don't kill any bikers.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," she chants in a sing-song tone. She's the Devil's Work. It's not Mondays that are bad, it's Abby that's bad.

I glare at her, using my best older brother laser eye glare. It doesn't work. She just grins, showing off her little baby teeth.

"FUCK."

"Get out of the car," I say finally. "Just get outta my car!" She grins, unbuckles and slides out the passenger door. And she flounces off to tackle that poor boy again, who is in a pink polo this time instead of green. His parents must have a cruel streak a mile wide. Or he's a flamer already. I feel for him. Getting the crap beaten out of him by a fifty pound girl must do nothing for his ego. Poor little 'mo. I sniffle slightly, only slightly sympathetic. Really I'm thinking hah! Motherfucker.

I should have more sympathy for my fellow homos. We're all in the same closeted, bitter boat. Or at least some of us are.

And for not the first time in my very short life, I wish I was Ellen Degeneres. Out, and proud. Happy to be who I am and whatever.

And then I'm glad I'm not a lesbian. Because then I'd have to be a snatch-catcher. I try to think of good gay icons and all I can think of is Elton John and Will from Will and Grace. And honestly, those aren't exactly good role models. Why don't gay guys have an Ellen? I pout.

And then realise I'm still in the loading zone of the elementary school and must look like a total creeper.

---

I am sitting on the bench outside of class. I have been kicked out. For passing notes. Mr A has had enough of my moody silence, and has decided to get personal.

"You need an attitude adjustment!"

More like, I need a new dick. Seeing him all flushed and angry makes me all jumpy and sexually excited. Oh Mr A, don't you understand? My sullen glares are not signs of attitude, just signs of my impossible and hopeless crush on your slim calves and short blonde hair.

So now I am in the hallway, chewing on my fingernails and staring at the door. He better not give me detention. Because the idea of punishment meted by him, even non-corporeal, is probably enough to make me cream my briefs. Ahem. Really, I watch too much porn. I mean, what straight guy hasn't fantasised about the teacher/little school girl phenomena? Except with me, it's all-boys Catholic schools. Probably too much information, huh? Well, I'm a boy, get over it. I like porn.

And thinking about porn, Mr A, and rulers has just given me too much of a problem. I cross my legs. And squeeze them tighter when I hear footsteps coming down the hall.

It's Adrian.

Fuckity fuck fuck. Every time he comes by it seems that I have enormous wood. And, really I didn't think it possible, but now I'm even inconceivably harder. Dammit. Fuck him!

"Hey."

He sits down next to me. I squirm. Squirm. Squirm. Shift, squirm. I flush.

"Hey," I say finally, my voice rough, even on my own ears. He raises an eyebrow. He must think I'm sick or something. All bright red or whatever.

"What are you doing out here?"

"Out here?" I am confused for a moment. "Oh. Mr A decided he hates me."

"Really?"

"Really."

Adrian grins. "He hates me too. Doesn't like my jokes much. Although, that might have just been the enormous amount of bright green condoms I put in his staff locker." I snort. Bright green condoms? I imagine Mr A with a bright green condom on, and flush even brighter red.

Adrian has moved closer to me. His thigh is parallel with mine. And my thighs are shaking so badly I am sure he can tell. And it's not as if my boner isn't painfully (oh, so) painfully obvious. God, life sucks. Fuckity fuck fuck.

"You did that?" I ask, my voice shaking with admiration, disbelief, and lust.

"Sure," he replies, followed by a careless shrug that I both respect and resent. There is something foolhardy about him: he is nonchalant in everything he does. But at the same time, his movements seem calculated, thought out, intelligent. I hate him.

His knee is touching mine. And I nearly jump at the unexpected contact, the strangeness of proximity. I am not used to physical nearness. I'm a virgin, remember? Untouched. Impure in thought, but clean in body. Unless you count masturbating as sex, and then I'm a hardened whore.

"Did you get in trouble?" I sound like such a little boy, tremulous and afraid.

"Couldn't pin it on me," he says, grinning like a kid.

"Then how could he blame you?"

"Oh, I just taped a bright green condom to my back pocket, let it hang out, just so he could see." Adrian rolls his eyes and smiles.

I laugh, a sort of odd choking noise that I don't like, but I understand. He seems to understand, and smiles accordingly. He's adorable. So adorable that it hurts. I want to throw myself in his lap and have him kiss me. But...

I inch away. I can't let myself be so close to temptation. He's untouchable. He's off limits. I'm off limits. I'm in a no-touch zone. His smile falters slightly, but zips itself up again.

"He doesn't like me 'cause I don't talk in his class," I volunteer finally, shrugging slightly. I don't know what else to say. We both just watch each other for a moment. I can't look him in the eye, because I'll probably kiss him if I do.

---

I'm home for dinner, for the first time in months. Carl invited me out, but I didn't feel like going. Especially since Adrian's probably there. I can't handle him. Not right now.

My mom and dad are ecstatic to have me here. They keep putting more food on my plate and watching me chew. It makes me feel a tad guilty. Dad keeps watching me as if I'm ill, and Mom is fussing like an old lady. And of course, Abby is righteously pissed off that nobody is paying attention to her for a change.

"Excuse me!" She says when Mom interrupts her to offer me more rice. "I was talking!" She's so indignant that I am forced to stifle a laugh.

"Abby, please don't interrupt. Eli, would you like some more chicken?"

Abby makes this face like all the world's injustices have come crashing on her shoulders and I swear to god she gives me this look like she's going to eat my soul. Or my chicken. I'm not sure which.

"So, Eli, seeing anyone special?" My dad jokes.

I cough on my chicken, and Abby gives me a look of pure vindication. Little bitch.

"What?" I manage after spitting out a wad of chewed up chicken into my napkin. "Someone special?"

"Don't harass him," Mom scolds. "Want more chicken?"

"No, no more chicken," I growl. "No more chicken. No one special."

They all look alarmed, even Abby.

"No need to get snappish," Mom snaps and puts down the plate of chicken in a huff.

I flush. "It's just a bit overwhelming, that's all..." I trail off and look down at my food. When I look up they all seem to have softened a bit, except for Abby, who still looks like murderous. But her mouth is full so the effect is sort of lost. Now she looks like a murderous chipmunk.

Dad looks chastised. "Sorry. Just... We don't see much of you these days. And we're just..." He gives Mom a look. She just pushes more chicken onto his plate. "We've been worried, Eli." He gives Abby a nervous glance, as if he's concerned that he might upset her with this revelation. But she's too busy giving me glares to notice his expression.

"Worried?"

Now I'm worried. Have I given them any reason to be upset? Not really. Did they find my secret, hidden file folder of porn, hidden among homework folders on my laptop? I think they would have dragged me to a psychologist if they'd found that.

"Yes," Mom says, stirring her food around on her plate animatedly. "You've been seeming sort of... Well, depressed is the word I would use."

"Depressed? I'm not depressed." I try not to sound defensive, but end up sounding defensive anyway. They look at each other, as if to say Yeah, right. I huff.

"Right." Dad looks at Mom. "We think you should see someone."

"Is this appropriate to be talking about in front of Abby?" I ask icily.

Dad looks at Mom and I am briefly vindicated by the fact that they are not a united front. In fact, there seems to be a silent war going on. This makes me slightly relieved. Without a united front they have no chance of getting me sent to a shrink.

"Abby's old enough," Mom says finally. Abby gives me a triumphant look, which only cements my opinion that she is definitely not old enough.

I roll my eyes. Enough of this shit. Need to see someone? Please. People these days are too quick to send kids to doctors. I mean, seriously. I have nothing worse than a severe case of homosexuality, which is, at worst, an annoyance and burden. Besides, aren't all teenagers sulky and moody most of the time? It's practically in the fucking job description.

Teenager: a hormonally imbalanced adolescent, i.e. a pimply seventeen year old with emo bangs and a deep love for make up.

Except I do not have emo bangs, or a love of make up. It was just an example. Pimples, yes. Not pimply per se, however. I have acne, I mean, come on, who at my school doesn't? But it isn't bad enough for me to consider anything drastic, like cutting my face off, or sticking it in a vat of pimple cream each night.

"You know what," I say finally, pushing my plate away. "I'm going to bed." I stand as regally as possible, and walk out the door.

I wonder if they know I'm gay, and just don't know how to bring it up. Because if I was a parent and suspected my kid was a homo, I wouldn't want to bring it up just in case they weren't. Because that would cause a spectacularly awkward situation.

Can you imagine? Uh, no, Dad, I don't like it up the bum, thanks. Sorry, I like tits.

No, please. I'm going to my room now. Besides, the whole idea of things up my bum has made my dick twitch a tad too much for comfort.

---

I wake up in a puddle. And I hate myself. Because I haven't had a wet dream in years, years I tell you. I had them all the time in junior high. All the time. Every other night practically. I didn't get into the habit of masturbating until I was older, perhaps because I was so ashamed of what I imagined when I did. Even now, I feel guilty when I touch myself. I masturbate a lot, but clearly, not enough.

I strip the bed and carry them down the stairs to the laundry room. My mom is already starting a load. I put them in the top-loader and try not to look her in the eye. She frowns. She washed them a few days ago.

I walk back up the stairs and I can feel her eyes on the back of my head.

A small, sick part of me, wishes I knew what I dreamed about. What made me cum all over the sheets in my sleep. I've an inkling of an idea, though. That stupid boy. Adrian, that stupid stupid boy.

I put new sheets on the bed and crawl back in. I can't go to school, not today. I curl into a ball and sort of want to die. I'm too much of a coward to actually kill myself, but I still hate myself enough to wish I were dead. Silly, huh? I mean, there's practically nothing wrong with my life. Besides the homo part.

---

Mom calls me in sick. I can hear her in the kitchen, her voice carrying clearly up the stairs. "Yes, he's got a fever. Sniffles. I'm sure he'll be better tomorrow."

She hangs up and I hear her sigh. She sighs a lot, especially these days. I don't like causing her to worry, but I can't really help it. I guess I'm afraid if I get too close to them, they'll figure it out. And I'm sure, sure they'll be fine with it. But I don't want to be Lily's fag son. I don't want that label. I can't handle it yet.

I curl up and breathe in the scent of my blankets. They smell like sleep and warmth and I wonder if I can hide here forever. There's something sacred about my bed; it's a haven.

My cell starts ringing. Carmina Burana. My friends think I'm a freak for it. I guess it's a little weird to have Orff blaring as your ring tone, but seriously. Carl has a Hellogoodbye song as his ring tone, so I don't think he can talk. Hypocrite.

"Hello?"

"Hey, you sick?" It's Carl. I'm glad he cares.

"Yeah, just don't feel good."

"Oh, well, Adrian was looking for you. He'll come by after school with your homework."

"You told him where I LIVE?" I can't help but yelp.

There is a confused silence. "Wait... Isn't that okay?"

"Yeah, sure," I mutter. "I wish you'd asked first."

There's another confused silence. "Okay, man. I'll ask next time." Carl sounds doubtful. I feel badly for not telling him why. But I can't, and I think he knows that I won't explain.

"Sorry," I sigh. "I'm just..."

"Don't sweat it." Carl makes a dismissive noise. "Go back to sleep. I'll come by tonight. Give you a hug and kiss. And Teddy wants to bring you cake."

I love Carl and Teddy.

---

I don't even have a class with Adrian. And my friends gave him all my homework. Apparently he told them that he was on his way over here anyway, so he'd just drop it off. He's sitting in my bean bag chair telling me this. He smirks when I look at him suspiciously.

"I had to see your record collection. You promised. Remember?" He smiles.

I remember no such thing. But it's too late now. I point to the trunk at the foot of my bed. I refuse to get up. He'd see my raging hard on if I did. Frankly, I don't want to nip this friendship in the bud quite yet. Can I even call it a relationship? No, not really. It's me avoiding him because I love- no, like, him. Like him? Is it even that? It's a mix of lust, admiration, adoration, sweetness, and something else. Something deeper than all that. Love? No, not yet. I remember that mischievous smile he gets and I want to grab him by the hips and haul him onto the bed, straddling me and pressing me into the mattress.

But I watch him sift through the records instead. His hands are delicate, thin-fingered, pale, bony. I want to draw each finger into my mouth and suck on them.

"Jeff Buckley," he says, interrupting our comfortable silence. "Amazing album." He smiles, sadly. We both know why. Buckley, dead too young in the river with his boots still on. It seems to me that the talented and beautiful are always early to the grave.

Adrian looks up at me. He puts the record back in the trunk, gently. I watch him stand and come over and stand by the bed. I move my feet so he doesn't sit on them. He watches me, big eyes.

"So," I say. "Thank you."

"No problem," he says, clutching his elbow in a '4' across his belly. He's skinny. Skinnier than me, if that's possible. But I like his angles and his jabs and all the little imperfections of his body. The dusking of pale freckles on his wrists and nose.

We are silent for a moment.

"My band is playing a concert this weekend," he says, as if we haven't just been staring at each other like drowning people. "Wanna come?"

"Sure." I am close to breathless.

"I'll see you in school tomorrow?" He is awkward, biting his lower lip and looking at me from under his eyelashes.

"Yeah," I breathe.

"Okay." He walks out, pausing only to look me in the eye one last time before going through the door. I fall back into the pillows and stare at the ceiling. This can't be happening. But it is. And I'm thrilled and terrified and absolutely fucking amazed.

I think I like him better without his bravado. Exposed. Sweet. I don't want to like him, and I don't want him to like me back. I want us to be friends and nothing more. But I don't really want that. I really want him to hold me.

---

Carl and Teddy wake me up and shove a piece of cake under my nose. I smile at them blearily but put the cake on my bedside table. They give each other concerned looks.

"You must be really sick," Teddy says after a moment. "You never turn down cake. Unless you're dying. You okay?"

I'm glad they're so sweet. I need them right now. Teddy pats my head and I feel like crying. A lone tear drips down my cheek and I realise that I'm making an idiot of myself. I bury myself back under the covers and my shoulders shake with the effort of stifling my sobs. They don't say anything. They know better than to ask. They just crawl onto the bed, and Teddy pulls my head into his lap, and Carl spoons behind me and we just sit there and cuddle.

It's stupid, I know. And I know that most guys don't do shit like that.

But Teddy and Carl are different. And that's why we're friends. I wish they weren't straight.

---

I come to school the next day. I am wan, withdrawn and probably look as if I've been run over by a truck. I am without my sharp tongue. I am sullen. I know it. Even Abby kept away at breakfast and during the ride to school.

I sit at the back of the group at lunch and smoke, and pointedly ignore Adrian when he comes up. He doesn't say anything. I guess he knows I'm ignoring him. He's smart. Which annoys me. I want him to be stupid, and push the matter. I want him to put his hand on my knee and caress my shin bone. But he doesn't.

Fuckity fuck fuck.

---

I know I'm being emo. So I try to stop. I clean my room. I listen to happy music. Indie shit. Which you cannot tell anyone I'm listening to, by the way. It would totally ruin my reputation if people knew how much I like Regina Spektor. I vacuum under the bed, and find my favourite stuffed, blue hippo, Ricardo, in the back corner of my closet. I organise my book shelf and alphabetise my records.

I answer the deluge of emails that have piled up in my inbox. I actually look at my Facebook and Myspace. I have like twenty friend requests, which makes me happy for two minutes.

And after a couple hours, I'm doing better. I don't like to slide backward, but sometimes I can't help it. It's like drowning. You sort of flounder for a few minutes, and then you let yourself sink. And then if you're lucky, someone will save you. Or you save yourself.

I never liked the damsel in distress stories. I've always liked the ones where the princess saves herself. So, I save myself. Through cleaning. And Regina Spektor. And occasional sweet thoughts about Adrian's hands and ass. And that's enough for now. Just the thoughts. And hopes, and possibilities. And now I'm happy again.

---

Carl notices that I'm good. He doesn't say anything about it. I tell him about the gig Adrian invited me to. I ask if he's going too.

"Yeah, I'm going," he says, fussing with his sandwich, but smiling. "We should go together. Ellen wants to go too." I haven't heard about Ellen in a while.

"You two are still together?"

He shrugs. "Not really. She's seeing some guy from East Valley."

He doesn't seem all that upset.

"You seeing someone else now?"

"Nope." He takes a bite out of his sandwich and chews thoughtfully. I raise an eyebrow. He catches the gesture and flicks me the finger good naturedly. "Shut up."

I shrug. "I just can't remember you..." I can't finish the sentence without sounding creepy. So I don't. I think he knows what I mean.

"I'm not a whore," he says calmly.

"I know," I agree easily. "Just, you're always dating someone."

It's his turn to shrug. "Just not right now, I guess."

I am a little flabbergasted, but I keep my face smooth. I'm good at that. Not. He knows I'm surprised and he seems to be a little insulted.

"I'm not a whore," he repeats.

"I know."

He gives me a sceptical look. I want to hug him and let him know how little I care about that. I couldn't care less. As long as he still loves me. Fraternally, of course.

---

Abby is covered in mud. I don't want her in my car.

"What the fuck happened?"

"Nothing the fuck," she says, giving me the stink eye. "Freddy pushed me."

"Into the mud? Prick."

She shrugs. "I pushed him first." I wonder if Freddy is the little 'mo in the collared polos. Poor Freddy. Well, it seems that he got his revenge anyway. Abby climbs into her car seat and I help her buckle up. My hands are unavoidably muddy. I give her a glare. "Don't look at me like that," she snaps. "Fucking fag."

I freeze.

And look at her.

"What did you just say?" My voice shakes. The blood has drained from my face and I feel like a ghost. "Do you even know what that means?"

She looks horrified. "No... Not really." I'm glad to see she looks contrite.

"It's not a nice word, Abby." I'm practically whispering.

"I'm sorry," she says, looking like she's going to cry.

I'm quiet for a moment. "Abby, have you ever heard the word homosexual before?"

"Yes."

"What does that mean?"

She looks confuses. "It's a guy who... Who likes guys." She doesn't seem too upset by this concept. I wonder if her teacher has one of those books, "Ellie Has Two Mommies" or whatever they're called. A good idea in theory, but perhaps not edifying enough. How the fuck does she know all this stuff anyway?

"Well, there's nothing wrong with that," I say finally. "It's love, right?"

"Right."

"Well..." I struggle to say the word. "Fag... is a really mean word for a boy who likes boys."

"Oh."

I watch her and my heart is still racing. "Abby, there's nothing wrong with boys who like boys. Nothing." Is it strange that I want her to know? Yeah, it's strange.

"Do you... know anyone like that?"

"Yeah, Abby, I do."

"Who?"

I look at her and sit down in the seat next to her. The car door is still open and I can see the playground from my spot. The sun is shining and there isn't a cloud in sight. I want it to rain, all of a sudden. I want it to pour. But it won't. It's nice today. Perhaps I should go to the beach. I wish I could hold Adrian's hand and show her, show her that there's nothing wrong with it.

"Abby, can you promise to keep a secret?"

"Cross my finger hope to die." She sticks out her pinky finger. We pinkie promise.

"I like boys." I look at her.

"Oh." She settles back into her seat and looks up at the ceiling of the car. "You like boys? I like boys too. Does that mean you're a fag?"

I flinch and she covers her mouth.

"I'm sorry, I won't use that word," she says, looking like she wants to cry. I tousle her hair and kiss her forehead.

"Yeah, it means I'm a homosexual."

"But there's nothing wrong with that, right?" She sounds so worried for me that I answer quickly.

"Nope, nothing wrong with it."

"Then why do I have to keep it a secret?"

I hate that she's so fucking smart. I don't answer the question.

"Just don't tell anyone."

---