We're sitting in the car last friday night, and I look at Noel and I say, "So, who's this new guy?"

He's smoking a blunt, has it perched between his lips. He has really full lips but a wide face that makes them look right. He's Asian or something. Y'know, slanted eyes and black hair, but he's got his all soaked in blue. Looks right on him, kind of; the style looks forced. After seeing him in his private school uniform, nothing looks right. Like a precious stone on my damned faded leather.

He looks at me, doe-eyed and grinning. Passes that thing that's leaving gray all over and says to me, slow-like, "Ryan, I'm not telling you his name."

"You haveta."

"No, I don't have toanything."

He and I keep puffing, and he keeps changing the radio station. I don't know what kind of music this guy listens to. See, I've known Noel since middle school, but he's a clam. Not like, quiet, but he could talk at me forever, and I could get nothing out of it. He's good with nonsense words, training to be a lawyer and all that. Born and bred. His daddy's one, his granddaddy, I think the great-granddaddy before that. He's some illegitimate son, but he's got their stuff. I met his dad once, and they don't look alike, but their mannerisms...It kills me, laughing so hard that he punched me in the side, but I'm getting off the point.

So he says, he says to me after a moment, "Guy's name is Jamal."

"He's black?"

"I didn't say he's black."

"You said his name was Jamal. He's black. He's black, ain't he?"


I grin, and he's scowling. He's getting serious on me. I dunno how he does that. Smokes and keeps his brow straight and his cheekbones beautiful. He's like some elegant statue- even when he laughs, it's reserved, and I'm conscious of the fact we're sitting in a 1994 Buick LeSabre when the year's 2010.

"So. How is he? This Jamal?"

"Dunno. Bigger guy. Older. S'got dreadlocks..."

"So, good lookin?"

"Ryan, you don't care."

But I kind of do. I imagine Noel being squashed into the mattress by some big rasta-looking motherfucker and snort and then cough phlegm all over the dashboard.

Noel grimaces but wipes it up with napkins from the center console, maybe cuz he knows I won't. He sighs, grumbles something, then admits, "Y'know, us was a...casual thing. You're not into guys like that."

"I'm not." There he is, being serious again. Looking at me like he might hurt me. He hurts a lot of faggots but not me. I hurt people; I break hearts. I got two kids and two baby mamas and a mess of my own. He isn't my mess, he isn't my problem-

But we're approaching his house. Dread fills me. I don't know how else to say it- someone might've seen it welling out of my eyes like fluid, it's so thick. He's sensing it, he's in the beat of me. He knows me, but I never know him.

Before he gets out of the car, he pauses, and he says, "It's exclusive, between me and Jamal. This kind of thing is done."

He's got my hickeys on his neck, and I don't think I know myself- I have to breathe, shallow and choppy, and that, that fluid- saline, funny how it gets everywhere like that. But I'm driving, and he's home, and his parents can send him to a school with politicians' kids and

I'm not into guys like that.