Back then I didn't know anybody who could put up with me for long except Terry, and then it was a question of how long I could put up with her. She was too friendly with me, it annoyed me. She would crack jokes at my expense but couldn't tell when they made me unhappy. Not that many people did; I tried not to let it show. She helped me get through the school days, anyways, and a few weekends.
I had been leaning against the counter reading my book. It was one of those terrible novels I would get for a dollar at the bookstore on Richmond and Dundas. The counter was poking into my back but I didn't want to pull a chair over from the table. Every couple minutes I'd check to see if the water was boiling yet. Our oven was this crappy thing that never got hot as fast as it should have, but I didn't mind because I was so engrossed in my book. I would shuffle my feet so neither one would get too cold. Even though I had the heat on as high as possible the linoleum floor in the kitchen never seemed to get warm.
I practically dropped my book when there was a loud cracking noise behind me. I turned and looked out the window. It was pitch dark at Seven o clock, even the snow looked black. I squinted a bit and then I saw a piece of gravel hit the window pane. I struggled to open the old window and said just barely loud enough, "Who's out there?"
"It's me!" the disembodied voice said. I could hear him almost laughing.
"Garnet?" I asked.
"Who else? Let me in!"
Half a minute later I opened the door to let him in. He was so bundled up I was surprised he could move. He kicked off his big black boots with several inches of snow stuffed onto the bottom while I closed the door behind him. He unwrapped a scarf that must have been as long as he was tall, unzipped a jacket, unbuttoned a sweater, pulled off his tuque, and pulled down his snow pants; now he was just in a dark shirt and blue jeans, with his thermal socks sticking out. He stuck his hands onto my neck, and I let out a yelp and swatted them away.
"Jesus, you're cold!"
"Why're you naked Jeremy?" I was in boxers and an undershirt.
"Doing laundry. How did you find my house?"
"Ran into Terry at the market." That girl would end up giving my address to a serial killer one day, I thought. She had no head on her shoulders. I paused, wondering what to say.
"Would you like some pasta? I'm making it now."
"Sure," he said, following me up the stairs. "Are you the only one home?"
"Nope, Ma's here, she's taking a nap in the living room. But I don't mind making dinner. All I've got is cheese sauce, is that okay?"
Garnet pulled up a chair from the table and sat on it backwards, with his head and hands resting on the back of the chair. He was still beautiful, of course, his black hair sticking out funny from being in a hat so long, and his boyish cheeks flushed from the cold. He was looking at me, curious, like he was observing an animal in its natural environment. He absent-mindedly scratched the bridge of his nose.
The water was almost boiling now. If this were at Terry's the pasta would already be finished; her parents had just bought a new oven at Christmas. I was a little embarrassed about the oven, but I rummaged around in the fridge for the cheese sauce, and put it in a pan. Once that was done I settled against the counter and looked at Garnet again. I was trying to think of something to talk about. I looked at him, wondering if he felt the same need, or if he just wanted to sit and wait.
I poured in enough pasta for the two of us, and watched as the bottoms got bendy and the parts sticking out of the water slowly fell in. I gave it a stir and put the lid on, turning down the heat a little. I noticed the absence of a familiar sound somewhere. After a second's hesitation, I turned to Garnet.
"I've got to go move my clothes to the dryer," I murmured, motioning my arm down the dark hallway. Garnet gave a small grant to confirm he heard me. After I'd already started down the hall I turned back and peeked out into the kitchen. "If it starts to boil over just take the lid off and turn the element down, okay?"
I pulled the heavy wet clothes from the washer and stuck them in the dryer, taking the lint from the trap. After I switched it on, I put my sister's clothes in the washer and started it. I sat on the dryer for a minute, thinking. I was glad Ma was asleep. She wouldn't be upset about me letting someone in, but she always found a way to embarrass me. I liked to hang out with her without my friends, but she had a way of mentioning the most embarrassing things, like my sheets, or how long I spend in the bathroom. Did people talk about that stuff when she was my age?
When I got back to the kitchen, Garnet was stirring the pot. "Did it boil over?" I asked.
"No, but if you don't stir it, it'll stick to the bottom."
"Yeah… thanks." Garnet laughed at that.
"It's my dinner to, you know. I don't want crusty noodles." I blushed at that. "Is this what you were reading?" He asked, picking up my novel.
"Yeah." I hoped he didn't think that was what I usually read, even though it was. I wished I'd been reading something impressive, like that book of poetry my aunt had given me a few years ago and still sits in my room today.
"Cool," he said. Good. Cool is good.
I threw a noodle at the cupboard to see if it was finished. If it stuck, it was finished. It stuck, so I drained the water by holding the lid onto the pot and tipping it into the sink. A few noodles came out but not too many. I fished them out so they wouldn't clog the drain, threw those deserters into the garbage, and mixed the sauce into the pot. I served up some for Garnet and some for me.
"Do you like salt and pepper on it?" I asked. I set the bowls on the table.
"Yeah, I'd love that."
"Kay." I reached up for the cupboard above the stove.
"Uh… we're out of pepper. Just a sec, I'll go downstairs and ask Mrs. Walker for some." I set the salt between the two bowls and ran softly down the flight of wooden steps. Garnet tried to tell me not to bother but it wasn't any big deal so I ignored him. The Walker's lived right below us, renting the basement suite. They only lived there for about three months before they moved out and a Polish family moved in, but I really enjoyed them while they were there, especially the Mrs.
When I came back up again Garnet was waiting expectantly.
"You didn't have to wait for me," I mumbled, dashing some pepper on the pasta and sitting down. We ate mostly in silence.
"So you go to St. Mary's?" He asked me. I nodded. "Do you know Andrew?"
"Yeah, we have History together."
"That's my older brother."
"Really? How old are you, then?"
"Huh. I thought you were older than I was." I picked up his bowl and put it in the sink with mine. "What do you want to do?"
"I dunno. Maybe I should go back home." He was looking thoughtful, eyes not focused on anything in particular. I didn't like that idea. We weren't really doing anything, but I enjoyed the company.
"Let me show you something," I said. I went down the dark hallway and heard his socked feet whisper as he followed me. I lead Garnet into my room, flicked on the light, and went looking for something at the bottom of the closet. I made an 'mmm' noise when I found what I was looking for, and handed him a paper bag. He opened it and laughed.
"They were my brother's, before he moved out," I said. He pulled out some guitar strings, a pick, and a pitch pipe. That's how we'd met. Just a few days I earlier I had been walking with Terry down the street, downtown, when I felt a big sting on my cheek. Garnet had been busking with some friends, and his guitar string snapped and nearly hit me in the eye. I was right angry with him, and he had apologized as much as he could. I wasn't impressed; I never was. But Terry was charmed. He introduced himself and we must've spent ten minutes with him and his friends.
He put the strings back in the bag, and waited for a second. He was looking at me. I stepped up to him and pressed my lips against his. It was a small and childish kiss, the kind you would give your mother, but it was the first time I'd kissed a boy. Afterwards I felt tingly. I looked at Garnet for some kind of response.
"Jeremy…" he said, his inflection not giving away any of his feelings.
"Did you like it?" I asked, more than a little nervous. He smiled at me.
"Yes." He looked down though. "I've got to go…"
"Okay." I led him to the door, not sure what this meant. He laboriously put on all his layers: snow pants, sweater, jacket, tuque, scarf, and boots. I opened the door for him, and he looked at me.
"Bye," he said. His breath came out white from his scarf.
"Bye," I said. I shivered from the cold and closed the door. I sat on the steps that lead up to my house. I was thinking for a while. I couldn't really understand what I was feeling, but overall I felt like something had passed me by. After a few minutes I scrunched my brow and went to open the front door again.
A meter from the bottom of the steps Garnet was standing still, shivering visibly, looking surprised. He must've stood there for a good five minutes after he left.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Um… would you like to walk me home?" he asked. He was blushing. I smiled wide.
"Sure. But I need to get some clothes on. Will you wait inside?" I scampered upstairs and stopped the dryer near the end of its run. I pulled on some winter clothes, warm in the way clothes are when they're fresh from the dryer. It felt surrounded in warmth. I wrote a quick note for Ma and left it on the counter.
"So," I asked, "Where to?"