His house was exactly nine houses away from mine. I know, because I counted. In fact, I counted more than a few times. Almost as if his house would, one morning, move closer by trading places with one of the others like shuffling cracker boxes.
I had only been able to catch brief glimpses of him in the six weeks since he moved into the neighborhood. I remember seeing the moving truck, and this being a pretty quiet place to live…everybody gets nosy and comes out to see the fresh meat. I just never thought of having a boy like that move so close to me. A boy who could basically…’expose’ a part of me that I was hoping to keep quiet. At least until I went off to college. God forbid, I became the lone gay kid on the block.
Like I said, everybody in the neighborhood gets nosy about that kind of thing.
I peeked and I poked around and I, sometimes, pretended to casually ‘stroll by’ his house during one of my routine investigations…but the most I ever saw of him was the far away form of a boy with longish blond hair, dyed with strips of emerald green. Nobody on our block had ever actually seen a real life teenager with green dye in his hair before. But, to me, that made him all the more intriguing.
He was cute. Even from a distance, his beauty ensnared you and refused to let go. But only for the few seconds that I was allowed to get a glance at him. His hair was long enough to sweep over his eyes. It was almost as if he didn’t have any.
All I know is that my heart would always speed up whenever I walked outside of my front door, hoping to see him for another few seconds and fill my day with dreams and boyish wonder. The only problem was…I didn’t have a way to get close enough to talk to him. I mean, unless I sat down on his front porch, or threw a freakin’ brick through his window, I really didn’t have much of a reason to go over there. If he lived next door? Maybe. Two or three houses down the street? Perhaps. But nine houses down? Nine? I’d have to come up with a damn good excuse to pass up eight other houses just to go over to his place and ask to borrow a rake or something.
That has always been the biggest challenge. Finding a reason to talk to him. I never had one before…until today!
Once school lets out for the summer, our neighborhood gets together and has a block party. They go down and sign up for permits, they block off the street to everyone except for the people who live in the area, and we all come out and set up tables and barbecue and play music…it’s always a good time. And best of all, the entire block gets involved in the festivities. Which means that my once distant dream boy is going to have to come out of that house and mingle around in the street with the rest of us.
This is it! This is my chance!
I showered to get extra squeaky clean, fixed my hair, perfect…brushed my teeth and gave them the old gleaming white, baking soda, treatment. Found my favorite shirt and that pair of jeans that make my ass look awesome! My mom looked at me strange when she saw me taking a wet cloth to my sneakers.
“Brian? You’re not going out somewhere else are you? Not during the block party?” She asked.
“No. Why?” I asked.
“No reason.” She said, and then let me get back to my ‘sneaky dream boy prep’.
I could already hear kids running around, screaming, laughing, and splashing in their front yard inflatable kiddie pools, before I even put my hand on the front door. The whole street smelled of lighter fluid from grills just getting started up…some of them being dragged out of their musty garages for the first time since Spring Break and Easter Sunday. All of our neighbors, all familiar grins. Some of them making punch or lemonade. A few clusters of fathers on opposite ends of the street, repeatedly reaching into ice cold coolers of bottled beer. It was a vision that I had gotten used to over the years…but this day, I had a new target in my sights.
Where was he? Come on…he’s got to be here somewhere!
I must have dodged enough toddlers and inhaled enough barbecue smoke to have won a medal of honor, just searching one crowded lawn after another…looking for a shade of green not related to the grass beneath my feet.
Everything happened so fast that I barely had a chance to brace myself for the opportunity. I just happened to look up as he was crossing the street. His lips were blushed a deeper shade of red from the watermelon popscicle that he was sucking on at the time. Ohhhhh….oh wow. Soft, cool, pillowy lips…wrapped around the king of phallic frozen treats. My heart began to thump loudly as he approached. It was hard for me to fathom a boy like this just ‘walking around’ like normal people. The very concept of it seemed so insane to me.
My breath got caught in my throat, and then…just as he made eye contact, I sheepishly mumbled, “Hi…” to him.
Without breaking his graceful stride, he smiled at me and said, “S’up!” Then kept walking.
That was the most sexually charged conversation that I had ever experienced up to this point in my life. I felt totally drained by it! Once I started breathing again, I had to find something to lean against to keep my legs from caving.
That was the beginning of a 45 minute surveillance mission. Watching that boy come and go, getting food from the neighbors, playing with the younger kids, being introduced to other neighbors by his parents. I passed him a total of six times while trying to stop him and have some sort of conversation. But all I could manage was a brief ‘hello’ and a blush that nearly rendered me unconscious from its intensity. I wasn’t making much progress was I?
But I did happen to notice that he was wearing multicolored bracelets on his right wrist. At first, it just seemed like a cute thing for a boy like him to do. But…watching him closer, he always seemed to cover them up when he was talking to people. Either with his free hand, or by holding his hands behind his back. I normally wouldn’t find that odd, except he seemed rather insecure about it. It definitely caught my attention.
When we were ready to cross paths for a seventh time, I decided to go for the plunge. I know that him being gay was probably the very definition of wishful thinking…but he was too cute to pass up without at least giving it a shot.
“Hey…” I said.
“S’up!” He replied again. But I stopped him from passing me up this time.
“I’m Brian. I live…well, I’m right over there.”
“Really? Cool! I’m Howie. I just moved here a few weeks ago, so…”
“Yeah, I saw the trucks and stuff. You’ll like it here. It’s quiet.” So far, so good. But I noticed that he was still hiding his bracelets with his hand.
“It’ll be cool, you know…getting a fresh start.” He said. I nodded.
“Bracelets, huh?” I asked, and he sort of moved his hand back around his side. “Can I see?”
“They’re just bracelets. They don’t mean anything…” He said, but the biggest one was pink, and had the letters ‘LGBT’ stamped into it.
When I saw it…he didn’t say anything.
I didn’t say anything.
Then I gave him a smile, and said, “Cool. Maybe I should get one of these too.”
He wrinkled his brow for a moment. “One of…wait…which one?”
I gave the LGBT bracelet a gentle tug, and let my smile widen in front of him. “Shhhh…” I giggled.
He had to fight a moment of surprise, but once those amazing hazel eyes focused themselves on mine, I knew he got the hint. “Shhhh for me too.” He said. “For now, anyway. I’m trying to drop some hints but…you know how it goes.”
“Hehehe, very subtle.” I told him, and it made him laugh in the cutest way. “Say, have you tried some of Mr. Warner’s burgers yet? They’re incredible. He’s just across the street. You wanna go?”
He paused for a moment, and with a little sigh, he said, “Yeah. Sure, I’m game.” And as I guided him over to officially welcome him to the block personally, he kind of peeked over at me and said, “You know…I think I’m gonna have fun here.”
You definitely will, Howie. We both will.