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Chemistry class. Warm synthetic vapors newly formed from our last lab permeate the room so that the air felt snug - like a cozy quilt, enveloping me in its billowing folds of warm, trance inducing goodness. Half awake, I shuffle over to my Chemistry compatriot, Genesis. I loved Gen as much as Romeo loved Juliet, the only exception being that, although stony limits could not hold love out, I was not trying to get in. Except maybe to gush over the latest episode of Gilmore Girls.
But my attraction to the same sex did not impede on our facetious romantic banter. Jokingly I clasp her hands.
“You have the most beautiful eyes... Take me to Fall Formal?”
She starts to form a response, no doubt something teenageresque - a concoction of wit, vulgarity, but mostly shock value - until Brian Young, Prince Charming of the Floridian suburbs, saunters over, and in the most casual manner possible asks me,
“Do I have the most beautiful eyes too?”
In a flash the standard side effects of impromptu conversation with a breath taking boy of my age set in. Sweaty palms, eyes like a deer in the headlights, a heart thumping similar to the way King Kong beat his chest - and after stuttering, sputtering, and stumbling over my words I at last manage to tell Brian Young that his eyes were indeed beautiful. Thankfully I’d managed to say this before the books I’d been carrying toppled out of my hands due to some awkward hand gestures Gen later informed me of. And with all the grace that befitted Prince Charming, Brian swept up my textbooks in a moment, and handed them to me in the next. The bell rang, and with one last curious glance Brian Young left for class, not so differently from the way Superman flew off after rescuing Lois Lane – of course I’m hardly a romantic.
Walking to lunch I theorized about why Brian Young would ask me something like that. Odds were he was just joshing around - guys said flirty things to me in jest all the time because I was openly gay - only I didn’t think Brian was being snide. When he talked to me what he said seemed so heartfelt. He had an adorable half smile with pearly whites that shone, not a snarky smirk that curled on his face. And his eyes, his benign, baby blues weren’t spiteful and scrutinizing. Maybe what Brian said hadn’t meant anything, perhaps it was just a cordial encounter; still, I couldn’t help but feel like I was Eponine and Brian was my Marius. But I wasn’t the greasy, grimy “Eponine of the gutter” from Les Miserables the novel, I was the tragic Eponine from Les Miserables the musical - with my own solo.
Over the next couple of weeks I fell in love with Brian from afar, and my tale of unrequited love only grew more desperate. To be honest I knew a chance with Brian was slim to none. Still it was incredibly difficult not to be infatuated with Brian. He had tousled, chestnut colored hair, olive skin - suntanned from all the sports he partook in; as a result, he had a robust figure and was possessed of a sprightly demeanor. Yet I hadn’t fallen for Brian over his good looks. He was charming and handsome, true, but Brian was no Adonis - he wasn’t some suave, sleek, sex god - just the opposite; Brian was modest, and wholesome, and good, and pure. And it was hard not to fall in love with Brian really. In fact, I was hardly his only admirer, there was an entire hive of busybody girls always buzzing and bumbling around Brian. You’d be hard pressed to not find Brian some place in school, hounded by bubbly, golden haired beauty #23, teehee-ing at all the funny things Brian hadn’t said... The ray of hope in this overly cheery, blonde hair, blue eyed, busty, storm? Brian had not dated a single girl. Ever. True, this wasn’t enough to confirm my suspicions of Brian, all the same it was enough for me to keep on dreaming.
By the time it was November the Fall Formal had passed, Gen and I went as friends, and unremarkably Brian did not whisk me away in that tiny white jeep he drove. In fact Brian hardly talked, or even noticed me after that day in chemistry class. I decided I’d spent enough time stalling for some serendipitous solution to my love troubles, so I pored through all my Taylor Swift albums, straining my ears for some promising love advice. To my dismay, Taylor Swift’s lyricism was more or less directing me to do what I’d already been doing; languishing in my lagoon of misery, waiting in anticipation for that distant promise of love. Needless to say I had to make some alterations to my approach when it came to wooing Brian. As in, I needed to initiate some sort of interaction at least.
I shared Chemistry and World History with Brian. I did my very best to stand out and garner his attention. And my attempts were acknowledged! Meager as my victories were, every time I made Brian laugh, the sun sparkled those days and I felt as chipper as the birds that chirped around Snow White. After a bit it dawned on me that it was easy to elicit Brian’s attention. We played jeopardy in World History, when asked to choose a name for my team, I spout out the name “Lovers in the Clouds”. Silly, still, it gleaned a grin, and chuckle from Brian. I spoke louder when Brian was around, telling jokes I’d thought of the day before, soon Brian actually began to initiate conversations himself. One day I was telling Gen in Chemistry about how my heart really belonged in North Carolina, where the leaves turned a dazzling scarlet and gold, or California with its shimmering white sand and brilliantly blue oceans. Brian leans in from the lab table beside us to tell me he moved from California and visits family in North Carolina. Not long after, I post a Facebook status, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, the title of an album by my favorite band, Explosions In the Sky, Brian comments - “awesome band.” - I spend the entire rest of the week listening to nothing except Explosions In the Sky.
As sparse and insubstantial as my communications with Brian might seem to an outsider, I was making strides compared to the swarm of straw haired schoolgirls perpetually in desperate pursuit of Brian. He was pretty reserved for a 16 year old boy, and that’s not to say Brian was a brooding silent type, actually he was one of the most affable, outgoing, guys I had ever met - he played most sports and joined every other honors club - he just didn’t speak without purpose. Despite my slight victories, my time with Brian was too fleeting. To have an honest shot at dating Brian, we needed to hang out, outside of school.
Finally, it seemed fate had dealt me a hand worth dealing. I was invited to Susan Brook’s Christmas party on the last day of school before Winter Break. So was Brian. In preparation I took for Target just to buy a new sweater vest! The last few days of classes whiz by, and I’m overtaken by a bizarre surge of Christmas cheer; the chill air is invigorating, and for once holiday carols are cause for cheer - I sure knew how I intended to make the Yuletide gay.
The day of the party the stars seemed to have aligned in my favor; all the small details that make up a regular day ran so smoothly, the weather was just right - crisp and cool, my hair fell perfectly into place, December 18th welcomed me with open arms. Susan lived in the same neighborhood as me, only a few blocks down, so Gen drove home with me. I prepped, and she primped for the party. By 6:20, ten minutes til, we had left for Susan’s Christmas bash.
Susan was the poster girl of virtue and chastity; she even led her youth group at church. Subsequently the party was a respectable affair. Susan was an obliging, good natured host, and we were exemplary guests. We played charades, ate Christmas cookies (made from scratch!), all that was missing was Doris Day’s Christmas CD. I managed some conversation with Brian, we discussed Pokémon at length, but it was nothing like I had hoped. Eventually some kids decided to start a game of Ultimate Frisbee outside, when I saw Brian get up to join them, I left to play as well, procuring a quizzical quirk of the eyebrow from Gen.
I hated Ultimate Frisbee. Somehow I kept fouling, and whenever I flung the damn frisbee it’d flutter for a few seconds then flop to the ground pathetically, not to mention I was perspiring in nearly ten minutes, and halfway through the game I flung the frisbee so terribly askew that it fell a good twenty feet away in the reeds by the lake.
“Alligators are nocturnal!” someone ejects.
“Duly noted, thanks!” I call back, “I’ll get the damn disc.” I mutter.
“Not if I get it first!” retorts Brian.
All of a sudden my interest in the frisbee has been rekindled. Now it’s a race to the frisbee, I feel muggy and hot - the farthest thing from cute and presentable - but we’re playfully pushing and shoving to get to the frisbee first. Bounding towards the prize, and falling to the ground, I plunge forward and lay my hands on the frisbee only seconds before Brian’s hands have also locked onto the disc, as well as my hands. Nope. No kiss, but he stares at me, paralyzed. He snatches his hands back as he leaps upright.
“We should get back...” he says awkwardly.
I nod, shake the dirt off my sweater vest (my poor sweater vest) as I stand up. We return to the game with the Frisbee in silence. The game continues for however long it continues - I didn’t really care. I didn’t even care that my next toss glanced off of Chris Owen’s head, I hardly even noticed Chris’s hollering, it sounded more like distant barking, I didn’t care. But Brian Young held my hand. Sort of.
Back inside I couldn’t help but keep glancing at Brian - only to catch him glancing back. The party was coming to a close, and Susan invited “all the girls and Amir” to stay for a slumber party. I was tempted, Susan had all the seasons of Gilmore Girls, but I declined as soon as I saw Brian sweep up his coat and thank Susan for having him- He lives a block away. I hastily thanked Susan for a wonderful night and recommended The Doris Day Christmas Album, promptly following Brian out the door.
A walk home with Brian Young on a frosty December night? I even forgot about my violated sweater vest. Brian catches me as I walk out the door.
“Hey, cool game of Frisbee.”
We get to talking as we head in the direction of home. Comparing our favorite books, he mentions John Steinbeck. Oh my god. Brian Young reads John Steinbeck - I swear I’ll marry him. He tells me that I’m “like the best at history”, I say he’s just as good, maybe better - I’m lying - but World History is hardly on my mind. We slow our pace by a dried out man made lake, bereft of life and romantic scenery, a casualty of the Floridian winter, but there was a lone stone bench. I ask if he’d like to sit down and talk some more, he looks uneasy and unsure, peers off towards his house and -
“Sure, why not?” he says.
The two of us sit, but he seems skittish. I’m staring off at the lake unsure of what to say or do, but I’m terribly excited, I must be shaking because he turns to me with the most curious expression on his face. Fidgety and worried Brian might leave if I don’t say anything I bring up Pokémon. Again. My mouth is a metaphorical waterfall, useless odds and ends about Pokémon cascading out, and Brian just keeps studying my face, I don’t think he’s listening, I’m worrying there’s something on my fa - and he leans in, kissing me! I’m enchanted, ensorcelled, spellbound! It was unequivocally, without a doubt, the most magical fairy-tale moment of my life, every other experience thus far paled in comparison. He pulls back, but we’re barely an inch apart, he looks more confused than happy.
Then dogs bark. A neighbor’s patio light flashes. And Brian pushes me. Hard. I cry out as I fall to the ground. Bryan sprints off, track star speed. I feel like I’m sinking in the grass, all I could hear were his foot steps fade away; I’m too shocked to think or be upset. I don’t start crying until I’m halfway home, when I get to the door I dry my eyes and settle myself so that I can complain about this cold I think I got - because I don’t want to tell my parents the boy that I like shoved me to the ground because he didn’t want to be seen with me. Because my parents don’t even know I’m gay.
That Christmas break was the most unpleasant time of my life. Which I suppose might be a blessing, that a love story gone awry is the worst I’ve had to experience. Winter break was heartbreaking anyway. As was befitting the mood; the cold was biting, to my infinite pleasure it was a perpetual downpour, the sky eternally grey and lifeless, the days were bleak in general. I lost myself in a whirl of self imposed isolation, Slyvia Plath coupled with Billy Holiday on repeat - it was a very demoralizing winter. Maybe worst of all, those damned grass stains on my sweater vest wouldn’t come out. But despite my flair for the dramatic, it was a harrowing winter all the same.
As I fell deeper into the abysmal melancholic pit of my own making, Gen served as the wings of my ascension out of that chasm of self pity. Gen left me some mix CDs, and after a barrage of Bernadette Peters, Barbara Streisand, and Patti Lupone; I felt ready for school when winter break ended.
I didn’t tell anyone except Gen about Brian. I wasn’t bitter, nor was I a vindictive person. I understood that Brian was probably a maelstrom of conflicting emotions on the inside - I didn’t care that he pushed me, I felt bad for him really. Though, I couldn’t help but feel dejected when I saw Brian in the hallways - or worse, caught him looking at me. Within in a few weeks he started to date a harpy dispossessed of a heart, constantly spewing interminable sermons on the virtues of Christ, and who ironically and tragically resembled a miniature Anita Bryant. One day after World History I assured Brian what happened would stay between us, and let him know that he could come and confide in me if ever need be, but he shrugged it off with a “sure”, and we haven’t talked since. I still have feelings for Brian, and I don’t even feel it’s pathetic because I know he wants to reciprocate those feelings. I wish things could’ve been different between us. But mostly I wish Brian could live unhindered, I wish Brian didn’t have to hide his spontaneity and be the reserved guy everyone thought he was, I wish Brian wasn’t forced to choke down the lies he told every day, and I wish he wasn’t coerced into his current lifestyle because his friends and family impressed what they thought a boy should be on Brian. I wish I didn’t know why Brian was crying the day at school before he was rushed to the hospital for attempted suicide. I wish Brian didn’t feel he had to run away.