There are two things that high school has taught me about being a teenage boy. One, always pretend you know what you’re doing that you’re doing it in the only correct way. Two, despite the truth you must always claim to have eight inches tucked away in your shorts.
Are either of these valuables pieces of information? No. Never. Not in any way shape or form will these two things help you out. On the first regard, you find yourself failing classes and burying the emotional toll of the stress because if you ask for help you are giving up your manhood. And the second, well, that is your manhood. When you claim to have more manhood than you really do, the girls you go to bed with will be thoroughly disappointed in you. Whether for lying or having a tiny dick? I’m not sure, could be one or the other or a combination of the two.
A little long and drawn out, but my point is that high school teaches you nothing. Not how to write a check, do taxes, have sex, budget, use an excel spreadsheet, cook, or the simplest thing of how to appropriately ask out another person.
The last one hits hard, everything else is something I can push the stress off until later, yet that last one . . . the last one is getting to me right now. I’ve been putting it off for a while now, hiding out here in the bathroom and pretending to take a shit and hoping for the love of whatever that maybe I’ll walk out and there won’t be anyone in sight. Too bad that chance’s of that are slim, this is their house after all. I can’t put it off any longer.
One pull of the lever, the sound of the toilet’s flush nearly scares me right out of my briefs. I take my sweet time to wash off my hands, scrubbing the thick layer of sweat off my palms. It’s been building up for the last fifteen minutes while I’ve been in here, but I wait longer after it’s gone to dry off my hands and walk out the door.
“Miles? What was taking you so long?” The voice calls out from the living room.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I scoff.
The sweat is starting to trickle onto my palms again as I plop down on the couch. I need to calm down. This is my best friend, it’ll be too obvious if I’m not able to keep my cool. The Xbox controller is thrust into my hands abruptly before the game is turned back on. Not a beat in between for me to stutter out the words.
“Lio, pause.” I manage to squeeze the words passed my lips.
“Why? We’re getting to the good part here. It’s taken us seven tries already, but I feel like this is the time we finally make it passed this asshole.” Lio says.
“The other guys will be here soon, we might as well grab some food before everyone gets to fighting over the good stuff.” I say.
“Then there won’t be time to finish the game. I want to try to get passed this guy one more time before they get here or else we’ll have to wait forever to play it again with only you and me.” He says.
There’s no way for me to argue around his logic. Lio logic is a thing to recon with. Somehow it always manages to make perfect sense without making any real sense, even when it’s inconvenient. Such as right now. But . . . if I can somehow hurry us around this boss level there’s a chance there will still be time for me to ask. Not much, since they’re already a good half an hour late, but there may be a sliver of time open wide enough for me to squeeze the question in and wrangle out a fast yes or no answer.
Come on, Miles, I believe in you. I think the words without the entire certainty that I believe them.
With every fiber of my being I focus on the television screen. It’s huge and perfect for hooking up the Xbox or putting on a movie. Despite the great view of the graphics it doesn’t do anything to make this level go by any faster. Try with all my might, but this is going as slow and as bad as the last time we tried it. For some reason we can’t get him to go down. If there were one more of us it wouldn’t be so difficult but right now I need only the two of us. No more, no less. I need to find a way to make time. I know I’m going to hate myself for it but I do it anyways.
It’s a rookie move, the kind you make when you first start playing and you haven’t quite figured out the controls yet. A stupid slip that could be made while you’re too distracted. But hell, right now I’m more than a little distracted. I’m focusing on the game, I guess, but I’m focusing on it to focus on something else. Does that make sense? It sounds a bit like Lio logic in my head. I watch as my character dies before my eyes on the screen, collapsing to the ground on a pull of blood with a pathetic, pained groan.
“Fuck!” Lio lets out a string of profanities as, distracted by my death, his own character dies.
The controller is tossed aside like a piece of garbage, thankfully landing on the pile of decorative pillows next to him.
“I was so sure we had it that time, what happened?” He pouts at me as if it’s my fault.
It is my fault though.
“I must have gotten a little too distracted, my bad.” I shrug.
“Too distracted? What could have gotten you distracted when we were so close this time?” He says.
I shrug again. “I don’t know, but we weren’t any closer, Lio. I think we died at the exact same time we did before I went to the bathroom.” I say.
“Ah! Well whatever, wanna grab some grub?” He raises an eyebrow.
There’s only one thing I want to eat at the moment, and it sure is hell isn’t food. The remote slips in my hands from the sweat that loosens my grip. I can feel the thought going straight towards the “eight inches” in my shorts. God damn it, little Miles, now is not the time for this.
“Yeah, man, I’m starving.” I shrug.
I follow him into the kitchen, keeping an eye on him as I wipe my palms on my shorts. Hopefully he won’t be able to see the wet marks that have been wiped on the dark material. He pulls food out of the cabinet while I snag a couple drinks from the fridge. Now is the moment, I’ve been waiting for this. In fact, I made it happen by ruining our progress in the game. If I let myself back out of this now there’s no way I’ll be able to let myself live it down.
“Lio . . . I’ve got something to ask you.” I start.
“Is it about a girl?” He sighs. “Miles, I know as much about the females as you do. Little to nothing. It’s all guesswork, nothing more and nothing less.”
“No, it’s not . . . about a girl.”
I find myself awkwardly shifting my weight. Stop fidgeting, Miles.
“Is it about the game? Aw, don’t look so freaked out. I’m not really upset about it, we can always try again the next time you come over. Or even when the others are passed out on the floor. Either way, we’ll find time to fix it.” He says.
“No, no. I don’t mean the game. How do I say it?”
I can feel myself becoming frazzled. What I want to say is lost somewhere in my head. Ideas trip and fumble around, they’re at the fingertips of my train of thought but always seem to stumble away before I can get a grip on them. It’s not hard! All I have to do is ask him if he wants to eat dinner with me this sunday, alone. I manage up all my courage and puff out my chest as I prepare to say the words.
He’s looking at me in confusion. There’s an undertone of something else on his face. Is he freaked out? Worried? Does he know what I’m about to say? Does he know and not like it? Maybe he doesn’t like me back in that way. All those little hints I was seeing were all in my hand. It was me seeing what I wanted to see. But I can’t back out now.
“Do you want to eat food? You and me?” I ask.
The words practically fall out of my mouth, like throwing laundry onto your bed, the neat stack is gone as it falls out of order and scatters onto the bedspread in a jumbled mess. It looks nothing like it did near moments ago when it was handed to you, neatly folded with pants on the bottom, shirts in the middle, and underwear on the top.
“Miles . . . We’re eating food right now.” He laughs.
I laugh back, covering my embarrassment with fake amusement. He pushes the bag of chips to me across the table. I take half of a handful and shove it into my mouth to keep me from talking.
There’s a rap on the front door and without missing a beat it’s thrown open to reveal a pair of assholes whom I’ve learned to call friends. Andie and T walk in like they own the place, throwing their bags into the chairs at the kitchen counter and leaning against the counter with the kids nowadays refer to as “swagger”.
With my wonderful timing I really never will be able to let myself live this down.
“Ooo! Food!” Andie digs in, swiping the bag of chips away from me.
Lio rolls his eyes, chuckling. But nothing is funny to me now. From this sinking feeling in my stomach and my heart pump blood like a hummingbird pumps its wings, I’ll never find anything funny again for as long as I live.
“Sorry it took us so long, somebody” T sighs at Andie. “Decided it’d be a great idea to stop at the park we were driving by to say a quick hello to his girlfriend. A quick hello turned into an hour long conversation and a half an hour make out session on the jungle gym.”
“Ew, a jungle gym? You realize that there are kids at parks, right?” Lio says.
“The equipment is for kids to play on, not your nasty sex life.” I snort.
Andie pouts at all of us. “Just wait until one of you guys gets a girlfriend, then you’ll understand how hard it is.”
He catches his own pun in the sentence and bursts out laughing. However, he’s the only one who’s laughing. Of the four of us he’s the only one with a girl, but he’s far from the brightest. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fun guy to be around, but you’re not going to get much intellectual conversation out of that thick skull.
The conversation continues to progress before my eyes but I’m not paying attention to the words. All I can focus on is Lio who is stand across the counter from me. His short fluffy hair and the way his nose wrinkles when he laughs, I can’t focus on anything else. I can’t believe I ruined what could possibly be my only shot to ask him out. For fuck’s sakes, I’ve had one girlfriend before, I don’t have a clue as to how to ask someone out. Let alone my best friend.
I’m not sure if I can do this all on my own.
I take a breath and look at all three of the guys in front of me. My three best friends. Andie is fun to hang out with and drink with, but he’s not the brightest. His girlfriend doesn’t play a factor into the equation because none of us are even sure how he got her; I’m not sure he knows how he got her. And Lio is more than just a friend to me now, that’s become increasingly more evident to me over the last six months. That leaves T. Patient T with a nickname to hide his ridiculous and awful long name. I guess I have only one choice.
It's taking all of my will power not to vomit at the smell. Lio gags a few more times before spitting into the trashcan. Man, T's gonna be in for a surprise when he comes up to his bedroom later.
Andie rushes back in, holding his phone in one hand. He throws an annoyed look at the trashcan.
"Damn, I missed it. How long did it take him this time?" He pulls out a pack of gum and forces it into Lio's hands.
"Only a couple minutes, faster than at the lake actually." I say.
"Poor sucker, you should probably take him home before he gets any sicker. T's going to freak when he find out there was any kind of mess soil his germ-free room." He clamps his hand's on Lio's shoulders and helps him to his feet.
Pulling a paper bag out of his pocket, Andie opens it and switches out the trash can with it. Lio spits up in it, gagging over the opening of the bag.
"Won't it leak?" I nod at the bag.
"I little, but he can't take the trash can with him, that'd be a little noticeable." He shrugs.
"Can't you take him home? I was hoping to get to see Felicity take her shirt off again." I scratch at the back of my neck. It's only half a lie so maybe he won't notice.
"Nah, besides, her boyfriend already dragged her home. I don't think he was happy with her doing that the first eight or so times." He gives us each a little push. "Onward, you pieces of shit."
Lazily, Lio leans against my shoulder, wrapping his arm around my waist. It must be the leftover awkwardness from that drunk kiss because everywhere he brushes against me I can feel my skin tingling. It's like that feeling when you feel at least eight legs skittering across your skin in the dark, but you're too afraid to turn on the lights and look. So, just like one of those spidery situations, I gulp and pretend like I don't notice anything as I try to go about my business. I wrap an arm around him to keep him steady as we head back down the stairs.
T raises his eyebrow at me from across the room. Before I can respond with any gestures more people pour into the room as a new song starts and his face is cut off from view. If it's really that important for him to know where we're going he can text me later.
Next time I'm making Andie take him home, or at least help me help him out the door. He's completely useless at the moment. I try to hold up his weight as I open the door. The door is the easy part, but as soon as I have it open Lio slips out of my arm and stumbles against the wall.
"What did you drop me for? I thought we shared something special, Miles." He groans.
A short brunette girl stops as she's walking out of the kitchen to snicker at us. I recognize her from my English class.
"I'm sure what you two have is very special. Do you need some help getting him out the door?" She takes a tiny sip of her soft drink.
At least she's not drunk. If I can't handle my drunk best friend, I don't want to attempt to handle a drunk chick.
"I've got it under control." I pull Lio to his feet and wrap his arm around my shoulders while putting my arm around his waist.
She holds up her hands in defense. "Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you and all your manly pride - or lack thereof - I just thought you might want some help getting Lio here to the car."
"Thanks, but we're fine. . . except maybe. . ." I pause, staring at the door behind me.
"Could you get the door?"
"You're welcome." She smirks as she slams the door shut.
Dragging Lio, I make my way back to the car and dump him in the passenger seat. He doesn't bother to buckle himself in even by the time I start car, he just sits there staring out the windows at the T's house. And it's not like he's sitting here all calm and mellow, he hasn't stopped moving since I forced him in here. I feel the annoyance that I can only imagine my parents felt when I was a kid as I lean over and force him to sit still as I buckle him in.
"Where are we going? Didn't we just get here a few minutes ago?" He stares back at the house, sliding his face against the window as I drive away.
"No, we've been here for maybe twenty or thirty minutes and I'm taking you home." I answer.
We've dared each other to do a lot of stupid things. But there is not a single time I can recall when we - or anyone else for that matter - have given a dare that involved any sort of romantic or sexual contact. I can still feel my lips tingling, and it makes me want to throw up. My stomach is dying itself into one giant knot as a bunch of manly butterflies are making the knotted organ flip and flop inside me. Even during the most intense soccer game I've never felt my heart beat this fast.
Lio is rattling on about plaid shirts and baseball caps. It's nearly impossible to understand a word of what he's saying when he talks this fast. The more he talks, the wilder his hand gestures get and the louder his voice grows. I might as well be watching an American tourist in a foreign country.
"Will you shut up for one second?" I snap.
His eyebrows scrunch together and his mouth snaps shut. Those vomit eyes waver as he tries to focus on me. My gosh, why does my best friend have to be such a lightweight?
"Are you mad at me?" His voice quavers.
"No, I'm not mad you. What is wrong with you?" I take my eyes off the road for just a second and catch a glimpse of tears welling up in his eyes. "Don't tell me you've turned into an emotional drunk. They're the worst type of drunks to deal with."
"I'm sorry Mikey." He mumbles, falling back in his seat.
Is it considered murder if I tell the drunk boy to open up the car door while I'm driving sixty down the highway?
"Only call me Miles, nothing else. Come on, Lukie, you know this by now. You should know this especially when you're drunk, because that's when I most want to decapitate you." I sigh.
He goes completely silent. I expect to hear some upset slurring or whimpering or something from the passenger seat. Instead I get sweet, sweet silence. Maybe he died in the seat next to me, I can sneak his body back into his bed and set a couple empty beers on his nightstand and no one will ever know I was involved in my best friend's death. It'd be a lot easier than dropping him out on the highway too.
The silent minutes start stretching on and on, but I prefer it to the annoying babbling I was hearing as we left T's house.
By the time I pull into Lio's driveway, I'm ready to head home and play some video games. Driving just isn't entertaining, especially with the joyful conversation of a passed out teenager. I won't be long, so I leave the car running. Opening the passenger door, I'm careful not to let him fall out onto the concrete. Besides, if he wakes up I'll be forced to hear him talk some more.
Scooping him into my arms, I carry him bridal style around back. Thankfully, the back door is unlocked like always. While stumbling through the dark house I somehow manage to only stub my toe eight times and trip up the stairs twice. Somehow I still manage to carry him up to his bedroom without dropping him.
"Where am I?" He mutters.
"Shhh, you're home. Go back to sleep." I say, setting him down on his bed.
He rolls over on to his side, gripping onto his pillow. Pulling the covers from under him, I drag them back up to his shoulders. One of his feet hangs out next to the bed, his tennis shoe still on. With a sigh I reach under and pull off his shoes, setting them on the floor next to his closet.
"I thought I told you to go to sleep." I whisper.
I sit on the edge of his bed and curls up next to me.
"Hey, you know I can't stay. I'll be bored out of my mind if I stay here, you'll be passed out so it won't make a difference to you." I say, rubbing his back lightly.
"A little longer." He sighs, burying his face into the pillow.
I'll only stay until he falls asleep, as soon as he's out I'm out of here. Good, I won't have to stay too long, he's barely awake right now.
A smile stretches across his lips as I scratch his back, it feels like one of those sappy movie moments. You know, if he was a girl instead of a guy.
This is starting to feel a bit like a bad movie. Less than an hour ago, this idiot kissed me. I didn't know two beers would mess with his brain that much. Normally he just loses the filter between his brain and his mouth and does things he'd normally only think about when he's sober. It must've been too much for him this time, because he's never tried anything like this before. Maybe my thoughts are a bit like a broken record now, I keep thinking that. This is the first time he's done something like this. It's a shocker because it's typically not something he'd ever do, not even in the darkest recesses of his mind.
At least to my knowledge, he's straight. But now that I think about it, I can't ever recall him specifically telling me that he's straight. He didn't even like the only girlfriend he's had. Surely though, that was because she was a bit out of her mind. She was always wanting to hang out and talk about her feelings, that's what he told me.
I search his face for any kind of sign to tell me what he was thinking about, hoping to find his sexuality in his facial features. But there's nothing. Only his lips parted slightly in a content smile, relaxed features, and a slack jaw. All I can tell is that he's been asleep for the passed few minutes at least.
Sitting up slowly I hope I don't trip over the crap piled up on his floor and wake him up. All the way until I shut the door, I watch him to make sure that he stays asleep and doesn't wake up. The door gives out a quiet click as I shut it and I can't hear anything other than faint breathing from inside his room.
Success, I didn't wake him up this time. That boy is not one to take waking up easily.
Jogging back out to my car, I climb in and turn the radio on to break the silence. It's on the top forties station. A whole list of forty songs, and I don't seem like one of them. Most of it is pop music, not my preferred genre to listen to but I'm too lazy to find a better station. All I need is something to serve as background noise anyway.
By the time I get home it's only 10:30 and I've still got some energy to kill. Sneaking inside, I try to make it down the stairs quietly. My curfew isn't until midnight, but I'm not sure my parents will be thrilled if I wake up my two little brothers this late.
I turn the TV on and pop Call of Duty into the console as it starts up. Flopping down on the couch, I pick a few random game options before starting. For some reason it isn't as entertaining tonight. And not only because I'd rather be at the party at T's house, even though they'll soon be rushing to clean everything up before his dad gets home at 11.
Upstairs there's the padding of feet across the floor, but it sounds like it's probably just the dog, Woody. I still don't insist why my brother had to name him after the Toy Story character. The only woody I care about is my own, thank you very much. He thumps down the stairs before waddling over to the couch where I'm sitting. He noses my arm. The little devil only wants to me sit up so he can take a seat on the couch.
"Woody, you're not allowed on the furniture. Furniture is for humans, not dogs." I grumble.With a sigh he lays down on the floor as I shoot at some other loser who has nothing better to do on a Friday night.
There’s the feeling of something crusty and sticky glued to the side of my face. I scratch at it, my fingers hitting the plastic of the controller. As I sit up the controller falls away from my face, but the crustiness remains stuck to my cheek.
I scratch the slobber away as I stumble up the stairs. To my despair there’s not the slightest smell of bacon, eggs, or any other kind of breakfast-y food. When I get to the kitchen my mom and brothers are already sitting at the table. Mom is reading the newspaper while drinking her coffee and the boys are arguing again.
“The last time you borrowed it I told you not to get your icky, sticky gum all over it. This time I tried to tell you again but you went on saying ‘I know, I know, I know’. Clearly you don’t know!” Robert fumes, holding up his Nintendo, a piece of dry crusted gum clearly stuck to the bottom.
“It’s not mine, although it’s not like the thing could look any worse.” The oldest of my younger brothers, Tony, chomps on his gum.
Tom glares at the two of them over his glasses. He’s the youngest of my brothers. “Will the two of you shut up already? I am trying to do my homework here.”
“You’re fifteen, you should know well enough by now not to go sticking your gum everywhere. Michael doesn’t stick his saliva covered goo on other people’s property.” Robert’s still waving his game around in the air.
“Yeah, well he’s noisy and always has his stupid friends over.” Tony stretches out his gum before sucking it back in.
“Of course that’s your complaining point, neither of you have friends.” Tom snorts.
“The three of you are giving me a headache, why don’t you all go to your bedrooms so I can read my paper peacefully? And don’t go make a ruckus in the living room, your dad is grading in there.” Mom sighs in exasperation.
I steal the seat on my mom’s left as Tom slides out of it.
“What, no breakfast for your first and most attractive son?” I say, scratching off the remainder of drool.
“Sorry, honey, it’s every man for himself this morning. Not that any of you woke up in time for breakfast anyway.” She says. “There’s some leftover chicken in the fridge, a loaf of bread next to the toaster, and we might have a couple pancakes left from Thursday. Go crazy.”
I drop a few slices of bread in the toaster and grab jelly and a couple pancakes from the fridge. After the toast pops out, I slather it with the jelly and put everything back in its place before returning to the table. I didn't realize how hungry I was before I had the food right in front of me.
"Miles Edward, chew slower or you're going to choke." She sighs.
I dramatically slow down my chewing, glancing at her out of the corner of my eye. I finish up my breakfast without dripping jelly on my shirt and throw away my trash before heading on downstairs. Before I head on to my room I make sure to turn off the TV and game console.
Stripping down, I throw my clothes into a pile in the middle of the floor on my way to the bathroom. I throw a fresh towel on top of the closed toilet lid and slip into the shower. The water is a cold blast in the face at first. The spray shocks me into complete awareness. Waters drips into my eyes from my bangs. I push them back, away from my face as I turn my back to the shower head. I can feel my sore muscles from yesterday's soccer practice start to ease up.
"Miles, Lio's here." Mom yells.
I poke my head out of the shower. "I'll be out in a couple minutes!"
Great, I didn't know his drunkenness was coming over this early in the morning. Or this early in the afternoon. I have no clue as to what time it is.
I grab the shampoo and wash it through my hair as well as scrub-a-dub-dub and take care of the rest of my shower-ly business. Shutting off the water, I wrap a towel around my waist. I take my sweet time with swiping on my deodorant and brushing my teeth, twice.
After double checking that my towel is secure I head back into my bedroom. I'm sure he won't mind me taking plenty more time to put on some clothes. I start unwrapping my towel as I head over to the closet.
"Ignoring your best friend, are you?"
I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of his voice. I yank up my towel and hope too much of me didn't have a chance to show.
"Oh hey Lio, I thought you were in the other room." I clear my throat.
"Don't get all nervous on me now, I've seen your penis before." He rolls his eyes, laying back on my bed.
"I just wasn't expecting you to come over today. I thought you'd be nursing your hangover with some popcorn and video games and sleeping the day away." I shrug.
Grabbing a pair of boxers from off the floor, I give them a quick sniff to check that their clean before slipping them on under the towel before I drop it. I've never been shy around Lio before, but for some reason I don't feel like it's okay for him to see me naked today. I hurry to grab a pair of short and a t-shirt from the closet and slip them on to cover the rest of me.
"I've got a bit of a headache and lights are brighter than usual, but other than that I"m fine. I thought we could hang out today, play some video games, go see a movie, or whatever." He shrugs.
I kick the clothes on my floor around, slowly forcing them into a pile in the corner of my room by the bathroom. The last time I cleaned was a couple weeks ago and I keep forgetting to take my dirty clothes upstairs, so it's been piling up. What's surprising is that I'm only just now noticing it.
"I don't know." I scratch the back of my neck. "I was kind of expecting you to be home all day, so I was just going to. . . you know."
"You already made plans without me?" He says. "Aw, poor guy can't even look at me. Don't feel bad, I'll be fine hanging all on my lonesome."
He sighs loudly. I glance up to see his mock look of despair before returning my gaze to the floor.
"No, I don't have plans." I admit.
"Great! Then we can go out and do something. So what do you want to do? Movie or games?" He asks. "Or hey, here's an idea, there's always that old arcade at the edge of town that we could go waste fify bucks at. Maybe go get some greasy burgers from the diner afterwards."
I shuffle back over to my bed, plopping down on the opposite side Luke's lying on.
"Listen, dude, I'm tired. I don't even feel like doing anything today, I was just going to be lazy and lay around before my soccer games tomorrow." I drop my head forward and rest my elbows on my knees.
He rolls over onto his stomach and scoots forward until he's lying next to me. Rolling over onto his back again, he pokes me in the arm.
"Are you okay? You didn't head back to the party and drink, did you? You do tend to get upset when you drink." He says.
"No, I came right here and fell asleep playing video games." I sigh. "Okay, how about we go into town to the old arcade? Will that make you shut up?"
"Yes, thank you." He grins. "Let's go."
Lio rolls off my bed and leaps to his feet. He grabs my arm and yanks me up. It feels like my arm is being yanked out of its socket. He pulls me all the way up the stairs and doesn't let go until we get to the door. He picks my shoes up off the floor and shoves them into my hands.
"You really want to go to the arcade don't you. You played me like basketball." I snort.
"I have been trying to get you to take me there for months, if not years, but on the weekends you're either a lazy ass or a party animal. Both of those options clash with the version of Miles that will take me to the arcade." He says.
Shoving my feet into my shoes fast enough to mess up my socks, I follow my overly excited best friend out the door. He yanks on the passenger door of my car. Then proceeds to fix me with an evil glare.
"It's your fault I got drunk last night, you are driving there. I could see a bright light - like the sun - and pull right off the road and hit a cow. Then your ghost will annoy me forever about how you didn't even want to go out in the first place." He puts his hands on his hips in an almost feminine pose.
You can't tell if someone's not straight just from the way they strike a pose, right?
"What's your point?"
He sighs dramatically, his shoulders sinking lower against his sides. "Keys, Michael, you need keys."
I turn back around and jog through to the kitchen. My keys are lying on the counter top where I left them last night. Snatching them up, I head back outside where Lio is still waiting next to the car. I hit the button on the tiny remote and with a beep and the sound of clicks the car unlocks. With a grin plastered to his face, he hops into the car.
Within a good fifteen minutes we reach the tiny parking lot across the road. It's as empty as it is every other time we've driven through here. Other than a dirty old Honda and a Volkswagen beetle covered completely in bumper stickers. So we get a nice spot in the front row.
"How much cash do you have on you?" Lio asks.
I look around the car. Tucked under the passenger seat is my wallet. I awkwardly gesture towards it with a jerky motion from my hand. He grabs it and hands it over, his hand covering a majority of it as he holds it out. Using my fingertips, I snatch it from his hands and pull it open. It's beginning to look rather empty.
"Only twenty bucks, and I can't spend it all. I'm going to need some left over for lunch tomorrow between my soccer games." My voice takes on a sharper tone. "Or maybe if I find a cute girl and want to impress her with a couple cups of hot chocolate."
Shoving the wallet into my pocket, I head out of the car and lock it as soon as Lio's out of the car. As we cross the road he takes the lead for the rest of the way into the building. The door opens with the dinging of a little bell, followed by all the beeps, clicks, whoops, chirps, and theme songs of the machines and the games on their screens. There's a plump man with a pair of wire frame glasses. Printed on his tshirt is a dramatically posed image of Link from Legend of Zelda, swinging a fancy sword while a glowing orb hangs over one of his shoulders. Nerd alert. Video games are cool, but I'd never want to wear them on my shirt, especially not the older games that lack the cool blood and weapons of video games that we have out now.
"All the machines take two coins to play except for the ones in the back right corner which take four. Ten coins costs four dollars, twenty coins is six dollars, and fifty coins is twenty dollars." He sighs loudly as he gestures to the lamented sign on the counter.
"I got it." Lio smiles at me, and something about that smile makes me want to step right back out the door. "Hey man, twenty coins please."
The plump nerd takes Lio's six dollars and places it in the cash register, there's a little clink from under the counter and he hands a hefty handful of silver coins over to him. Lio drops ten of the silver coins into my hand. Grinning, he turns around and heads over to a first person shooter game. It's an older one with a boxy orange gun and pathetic pixel zombies crawling across the screen. He puts in a couple coins and picks the gun up out of its slot in the front of the giant black box.
"Want to play with me? There's a mode for two players, but it'll cost you a couple coins." He pulls the second player gun out of it's slot and pushes it into my hands. "Come on, it'll be fun."
"Sure, whatever. But the graphics are so shitty my expectations really aren't that high for it." I shrug, popping in another couple coins before shoving the rest in my pocket.
A large boxy countdown begins on the screen, the numbers spinning around until they turn into the next. The numbers hit zero and the screen splits into two halves, him on the top and me on the bottom. Zombie after zombie bolts, crawls, or staggers towards the two dimensional guns that represent our characters. It's not difficult in the smallest sense of the word. We easily beat the first few games, making it through the awkward silence without making it anymore uncomfortable. At least, it's uncomfortable for me. I don't know how awkward he's feeling right about now.
"We should probably move on to something else now, what do you want to play?" He asks. Sliding the gun back into its place, he turns to server the room.
"It doesn't matter to me. Honestly, I'm just waiting for the coins to be all gone so I can head home and take a nap." I slump against the zombie shooter game. One of the gun jabs at me right in the back, or you know a little lower on my back. . . okay, a lot lower than my back.
Lio's forehead creases and he looks me up and down. Is this his way of checking me out? How am I supposed to respond if that's exactly what he's doing? What if not only is he gay, what if he likes me? I can feel my palms getting slicker with sweat the more I think about it.
"Are you okay? You look as uncomfortable as that Lee chick when she has to talk in front of the class."
He takes a step towards me, and unconsciously I try to take one back. I only end up poking the end of the plastic gun farther into my backside.
"Listen, you two, I'm not judging or anything, but if you're going to do that you please do it in a less public place. You can hang around in here after you're finished doing the dirty." The nerd yells.
I reach up and scratch the back of my neck. I can feel my face heating up. Shit. Why do I feel so weird?
"Miles?" He reaches towards me, and I just can't take it anymore.
"Stop!" I slap his hand away, sliding around him so I'm not trapped between him and the machine. "Don't touch me, Lio. You know I'm not like that."
There's a slight quiver in his jaw and his gaze hardens. His brows draw together on his forehead to deepen the wrinkled crease on his forehead. For a second I think I even see his bottom lip shaking but it must either be a figment of my imagination or a trick of the light, because in the next moment it's gone.
"What is wrong with you? You've been acting weird all morning, and I didn't do anything to you to make you act like such a little bitch. What? Did I say something to you at the party last night? I don't even remember all of it, my head was spinning so badly I was shocked to find myself in my own bed when I woke up. So tell me Michael Williams, what the fuck did I do to piss you off so bad?" He gets right up in my face as the volume of his voice rises. And the closer he gets the more I want to shove him away.
"I didn't even want to come out with you today. I should be lazing about the house right now doing nothing with shit and wasting the day away. But instead I end up stuck in this dump with you because you don't know how to shut up and leave me alone when clearly I don't want anything to do with you." I hiss, trying to keep my voice low.
"Well you know what, Miles? I'm sorry I wanted to hang out with my best friend to help myself feel a bit better when my head is pounding. It's not even my fault that my head hurts so bad, you're the one who made me drink last night. If anything you should be pissed with yourself because nothing I did last night was my fault. Just get out." He says, his voice low but stern. It sounds like he's constantly on the verge of yelling and the clenching of his teeth is the only thing stopping him from it getting any louder.
You're the one who made me drink last night. . . nothing I did last night was my fault. Is he trying to say that it's my fault he kissed me? I know he doesn't even remember it, but that's what I'm hearing. What I'm getting from this is that it's all my fault that he made a move on my last night.
"Maybe you should stop being such a fucking lightweight!" I seethe.
"I dare you to get out of my sight. Go home and laze around the house, clearly you've got nowhere better to be. Oh, here's something better. I dare you not to talk to me until you have to." He gives me a light shove towards the door.
A quiet anger takes over me. I'd like nothing better to do than drop him to the floor and use his head as a soccer ball for my next practice. I flip my middle finger up and point it at him until I'm well out the door. That asshole, as if it's my fault that he just came onto me like that. Slamming the door shut, I start up the engine. Guess he's going to have to find another ride. And I hope he has fun trying, because sitting in the passenger seat of my car, I notice, is his cellphone.