You were guarded when we met, and you stayed that way. I don't remember you well from our
first encounter, but I know you seemed nice, if a bit reserved compared to your friends.
Now, your friends I do remember. The charmingly eccentric, darkly dressed Nichola, and the
cocky, hormonal hearthrob Charles. They would become my closest companions in Tennessee,
and so would you. I didn’t expect all that, of course. All I knew was Nichola had a thing for me
despite his girlfriend, and he offered to pick me up for a night of debauchery.
When I got in Nichol's car, you and Charles had given me the front seat. I assumed both of your
heterosexuality from this gesture, but even if I hadn't, there was an announcement on the subject shortly.
Straight males love to tell me that they are such, even though I never yell about being gay. But I
guess I don't have to. Anyway, it was Charles who initiated the comings-out. I knew Nichol to be bisexual, and so far he was the only one I was interested in pursuing, but I stayed polite during the go-around of orientations.
"Straight." That's what you said, after Charles. I was fine with you as a friend-only. Secretly
disappointed, but not publicly put off in the least.
When I said what we already knew and the ritual self-labeling ceased, Nichols drove us to a
nearby park to get high.
I hadn’t smoked weed since I had left Oklahoma, so the whole night after that was a hazy
revelation in my eyes.
We drove to a local club of sorts called the Hail Mary. Upon entering, I was immediately excited
and at ease, despite my obvious incapacitation. There were murals and mantels on every wall,
depictions of horrific gore scenes, satirical propaganda, and unfinished contemporary art, all
sporadically placed between the vintage dining sets, ugly and comfy couches, and the stage. The live music was electronic and louder than anything conceivable. A long bar covered the wall farthest from the exit, and there was a menu that would make a vegetarian orgasm. Being one himself, Nichols wasted no time in ordering.
I only got a coke, and it was a brand I had never heard of, but one that apparently supported the arts.
This hippie wonderland was the perfect entrance into the world of experiences that were yet to
come, and I was happy to have made new friends. I got dropped off home around two in the morning, and Nichols said he thought we should hang out more. I agreed sincerely.
For the weeks and months that came after that, Nichols kept picking me up and we would drive
around the countryside, smoking all the way.
There are nothing like Tennessee landscapes on drugs. The rolling hills and towering trees were a fresh sight compared to the Midwest. I could never get used to the vibrancy there.
You came along for the ride most of the time- notably more than Charles. There was a stated tension between him and Nichols, but it wasn’t yet at a volatile point. At that time, and sometimes still, I didn't think much of it.
Regardless, I felt that I was becoming the new member of an exclusive, long-standing friendship. The conversations the three of us would have were like none I had ever had before. We talked about Fitzgerald like a god and punk rock like it was brand new. I felt close to Nichols in many ways, and I could see him and I dating, but I still was only a mark past acquaintenship with you.
There was never a deviant action between us, and no plan on my part for any future corruption. You were becoming, without a doubt. my only real heterosexual male friend, and that was a great thing to me. I felt it was important for me to acheive and mantain a platonic relationship if only to experience it for the first time.
After only knowing you a few months, I had some idea that Nichols presence in our company was important to our state, yet I had no expectations for the catalystic nature of his absence. Soon. though, I would have no choice but to embrace it.
That all came later, with summer.
Meeting you, in a word, was understated.
It seems so long ago that I first saw you. I wasn't initally impressed, but I thought you were funny. We were enrolling at the same summer camp for a college-readiness program and I may have glanced over you in the earlier meetings for the program but we hadn't spoke.
When you first walked in I was talking to our advisor, Jessica. She was hilarious and so genuinely interested in all her students. Her and I could talk about anything without me feeling like there was an issue of status between us. You rushed in the door and frantically went for the water fountain. In between slurps of hydration you told Jessica that you had run all the way to Cameron (the school where the program was held) from your house across town. I thought it was an exageration, but an entertaining one. Jessica and the entire staff were brightened by your presence, so I was too. I don't even think we exchanged words at that time, but I asked about you afterwards.
Jessica said you were going into your senior year, which put you two years ahead of me and made this your last summer with the program. She said you were a fun guy, and that you had recently broken up with a girl who was also in the program, Michelle. I asked, half-jokingly about your sexuality, but she was sure you were straight so I left it at that.
Only a few days later, when all the students had settled in our assigned dorms and everyone was getting acquainted did we begin to interact. You seemed to be interested in me, maybe even actively seeking me out. I was flattered that some random boy could tolerate my untailored androgony, and we definitely hit it off. I did notice a nervousness in your person when we were alone. I loved it.
My roomate at the camp was a flaming homosexual named Sean, and he and you were friends, so I asked him about you too. He told me that things were bad between you and Michelle now, and no one knew why you had broke it off, but from what I had seen of the two of you everything looked okay. I assumed it was all gossip.
The next people I asked about you were Chloe and Ashley, the wickedly humorous duo that had "faghag" written all over them.
"Gay. I called it like years ago." That was all Chloe had to say about it. Ashley totally disagreed but they both thought you were adorable and insanely sweet. Then they told me about how you had been such a crazy little freshman with a huge afro and a nack for random rap sessions. I couldn't help but blush for you, and for my own attraction to you.
Soon after that, Sean told me that you had asked for my number, and that you had something to tell us. Well, it was irrefutable at this point that you were coming out to us. What else does a het have to tell the two nearest homos? I gave Sean my number for you, and it only took a few texts for you to say something along the lines of "I've been thinking about guys a lot lately."
Everything was still very secretive and there was no public discussion, so Sean and I arranged a sleepover for the three of us in order to get some alone time. Before that, Sean dramatically spilled the beans that you had told him you liked me.
You liked me. I was liked. Not just how you like a sweater in winter, or a cold drink after a marathon. You liked me like a cigarette. A like of pleasure yet to be had. And I liked that.
Sean insisted that another boy at the camp should also sleep over, a young, unintentionally cute, deep-voiced, closeted bisexual named Drake. Anyone, including Drake, could see what Sean's intentions were, but none of us had any objections, and I was madly excited for our kiki.
The evening came, and I had gotten ready a second time that day just for your arrival. Back then getting ready only consisted of coating on more eyeliner and re-straightening my fried hair, but I knew you'd appreciate it. You and Drake came together to our door, and at first it was terribly awkward. There was no conversation, forgiving Sean's random outburst of homosexuality, but there was silent dialogue between you and me. Long glances. Pats on the shoulder. Nervous smiles.
As most camp stories go, our small party decided to play Spin the Bottle. Sean inevitably went first, and he got Drake. I think everyone kissed Drake first, actually. It was so silly to play with only four people, but smooching cute boys is never a bad thing. Then it was your turn, and you got me.
I leaned in for a peck, like the others before. I saw you close your eyes, so I did. Our lips met and I was overcome with the sensation of falling, but in a spectacular way. The kiss became more than a game for both of us, and in that moment I felt I could know you entirely.
In a word, meeting you was clandestine.
There is really only one night that I can start this season with. I should remind you of the circumstances that led to it, though.
In short, there a was a random drug search at our school and one Mister Nichols was found guilty of possession by the means of swineful pups. Needless to say, he was expelled without question. As he awaited the legal issues to be reconciled, he was unreachable. The three of us had already planned to get drunk together the weekend following that unexpected mess, so you and I decided to go ahead as planned and drink to our troubled friend.
You were dropped off at my house, a two-story, newer model home a few miles out of town. I answered the door, and instantly became enchanted by your surprising appearance. The long wavy locks you rocked on the day were now cute into a feircely unapolagetic mohawk spiked to the stars. I liked it well enough. Your face was no longer hidden, so that was good. Anyway, I wasn't there to admire you- yet, at least. You did mention that after getting it cut some strangers were pointing and laughing at you. I should have told you how many times I have embraced such ridicule, or how stupid the people in Clarksville were, or maybe even how you should have punched the fuckers in the face. Instead, I probably said something cheesy about how their opinion doesn't matter.
We rode with my mother to pick up the liquor. I don't know how you felt about my mother, but frankly I can't grasp the idea of anyone not absolutely loving her, so I wasn't worried. Besides, anyone willing to buy us substance was a friend indeed. You asked for 1800 Tequila and gave her what you assumed would be enough to cover it. She returned with a different brand, much cheaper, just as classy looking. The 1800 had turned out to be out of any of our price ranges.
The brand, branded onto my memory, was Camerena. The bottle was traditional, clear to show the silver liquor, and topped with a wooden stopper. You seemed dejected by the absence of the heavily advertised bottle you had aspired for, but I was excited to drink and I knew your dejection wouldn't last.
I wasn't sure at all what the night would hold, but I knew I wanted to get trashed enough that the nervousness of entertaining a straight guy one-on-one (perhaps for the first time ever) would be drowned.
We thanked my mother, then took the beautiful bottle to my room. I had painted the walls white since moving in, with lines of gold and black dissecting the top of the room from the bottom in random designs. In between designs and on the blank space, I had began drawing on the walls. You and Andrew had joined in and there was marvelously ammature art everywhere. I also had two dramatix mirrors, one on a make-shift vanity, the other at the end of a window nook. My bed was frameless, just a mattress on the ground. You srpung to the bed first thing, as usual.
It wasn't uncommon for us to sleep side by side, sober or not, without any weirdness. You loved my comforter, the white, pillow-top paradise I had gotten for Christmas. You would wrap yourself in it all snug and make cooing noises. It was maddeningly adorable.
Anyway, as you relaxed, I sat down at the vanity and fetched my tumblers from the dresser beneath. As I prepared the drinks, you raised to attention, then made your way to the seat next to me. We took turns smelling the liquor in an unneffective effort to prepare ourselves, then we sat down the glasses and thought too hard about whether to drink or not.
I remembered, then, that you had never been drunk before. You looked anxious. I made fun of you a little bit and we laughed. Then we talked about Andrew and how awful it was. You were fearful of the change. It had been nearly six months now that we had been chaperoned and stimulated by nearly every day, and it would be hard to find a way to be that close without him since neither of us had a car. I missed his presence, but being alone together was already easier than I had anticipated.