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 to mine by trading places with one of the others like a shuffling collection of cracker boxes in the street.
Is it weird that I walk by his house so often? Even if it’s out of my way? Even if I’m not going anywhere…just strolling around the block? Even in the rain a couple of times? I don’t know, that might come off as kind of creepy…but to me it’s just random curiosity. That’s all. I swear.
You can’t be a stalker at thirteen, can you? I think there’s a rule about that somewhere.
I had only been able to catch brief glimpses of him in the two months 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 on the table. 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 until I went off to college, at least. God forbid, I became the lone gay kid on the block. That would suck.
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 stop in front of his house and tie my shoelaces…just in case I was walking by too fast. Just trying to increase the productivity of my routine investigations. But, alas…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. It was a pretty sheltered and conservative gated community. But, to me, that freedom of expression made him all the more intriguing. Like…cool! You know? The kind of boy you only see on TV in a heavily ‘structured’ place like this. Not on a neighborhood street, or in school…and certainly not in church. Not that I didn’t check for him there too.
He was really 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 constantly sweep over his eyes in the most beautiful way. Sometimes, it was almost as if he didn’t have any eyes at all. How did he see through that golden curtain? Well, I mean when he wasn’t seductively flipping his hair back with a turn of his head, or running his long fingers through its silky texture.
All I know is that my heartbeat would always speed up to dangerous levels whenever I walked outside of my front door, hoping to see him for another few seconds and fill my day with daydreams 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. Or even get him to come out to see me. 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…I don’t know…a rake or something.
I wish I could, like, sell Girl Scout cookies or something. Just…something to give me a chance to knock on his front door!
That has always been the biggest challenge for me. Finding an opportunity to meet him, face to face. Trying to map out a way for us to cross paths in an unassertive way that would allow me to strike some small talk. At least I could hear his voice, or figure out what color his eyes were. Unfortunately, I never had one that I thought would be convincing enough to work before…
Once school lets out for Spring Break, our neighborhood gets together and has an annual block party. They go down and sign up for all the appropriate permits, they block off both ends of the street to everyone except for the people who live in the area, and we all come out to 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. At long last…my angel is going to walk among us.
This is it! This is my chance! And I’ve been losing sleep for the past week just trying to run down the clock and make it to this very special Sunday! Thank God, it’s finally here! I wouldn’t have made it another day with my sanity in tact.
This morning, I hopped out of bed extra early. FULL of joyful energy and an involuntary grin on my face. 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 planning on going out somewhere else today are you? Not during the block party?” She asked.
“No. No way. Why?”
“Oh. No reason. Carry on.” She said, and let me get back to my ‘sneaky dream boy prep’ without pressing the issue. I hope I’m not acting weird. Did she think that was weird? I don’t want to be weird! Not today!
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 of last year. 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 their ice cold coolers of bottled beer for a hearty sip while they talk sports and ‘pretend’ to not be competing with their barbecue skills. I kind of liked seeing the block come alive like this. Sure, it was a vision that I had gotten used to over the years…but on this day, I had a new target in my sights. It just hit the reset button and refreshed the whole experience for me.
I passed up the Fogle’s house, who always decide to use the block party as a reason to clean out their attic and basement by having a garage sale on the front lawn every year. And I passed by the Mitchell’s place, where their sons, Terry and Todd, always have a free car wash for people on the block. And I checked over at the Brennan’s place too. They set up a small stage that they built themselves in their driveway, and their daughter’s all girl rock band, ‘Fool Me Twice’, performs for everybody who comes over to see them. They’re pretty good, to be honest. I thought that my mystery boy might be lured over there at some point…but no such luck. I did wait for a while, but decided to keep moving after a while to make sure that I didn’t miss him elsewhere.
I must have dodged enough toddlers and inhaled enough charcoal 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. I passed by Mr. Warner’s house, who makes the best cheeseburgers ever…but didn’t want to wait in line. I was on a mission, after all. Got to keep my wits about me. Stay focused.
Where was he? Come on…he’s got to be here somewhere!
I started to hang around at his end of the block after a while. Ms. Jenkins was having a book sale across the street from where his house was. Mostly stuff that she bought at the bookstore, or old hardbacks that she ordered online. Mystery books. Thrillers. Sometimes, I swear she’s using them as manuals to figure out how to kill her husband someday and get away with it. She’s weird like that. Still…I tried to linger around her table and see if I could angle myself in just the right way to see if my angel was going to come floating out of that front door and glide his way into joining the rest of the party. What’s he doing in there, anyway? I was starting to get impatient. And soon after…I started getting depressed.
Everything happened so fast that I barely had a chance to brace myself for the scary luck of it all. I just happened to look up as the boy of my dreams came outside with his parents right behind him, and started crossing the street. His lips were blushed a deeper shade of red from a watermelon flavored popsicle that he was sucking on at the time from his home freezer . Ohhhhh….oh wow. Soft, cool, pillowy, teen boy lips…wrapped snugly around the undisputed 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 in the neighborhood streets like a ‘normal’ person. He’s not normal. Not even close. He’s one of the most beautiful boys that I had ever seen before in my life! Geez! I can’t believe that I’ve never been this close to him before now. The very concept of this whole surreal situation seemed so insane to me. He’s actually standing right over there. Wow! I feel like I’ve got a belly full of nervous goldfish swimming around in circles right now.
My breath got caught in my throat, and then…just as we made eye contact, I sheepishly mumbled, “Hi…” to him.
Without breaking his graceful stride, he slid the popsicle out of his mouth, wiped his lips on the back of his hand, smiled at me and said, “S’up?” Green! Bright green! I had finally seen his eyes up close for the first time, and just as he flicked his golden strands of sunshine out of his face, I found myself almost paralyzed with fear. They were SO much more mesmerizing than I ever could have imagined! I think they even matched the strands of green in his hair. How awesome is that? Then, all too soon, the moment was over. He just kept walking, and I was left breathless as I struggled to keep from turning around to stare at him some more.
There were a few people in the neighborhood that did a double take when they saw the green dye in his hair, and they seemed to treat it as though it was something so foreign and strange. Not in a bad or insulting way, but they did tend to stare when he walked by. They’d better keep their narrow minded conversations to themselves though! I will FIGHT any jerk that makes him feel out of place for looking a little different. Leave him alone, you jackals!
Sigh…he spoke to me.
‘S’up?’ That’s what he said. It was really cute. I think that was, quite possibly, the most sexually charged conversation that I had ever experienced with another boy up to this point in my life. I felt totally drained by it! He’s gorgeous. Indescribably so. I can’t believe we just spoke to each other. My heart is so full of Helium right now. I’m, seriously, going to float away if it gets any more pumped up with a feeling this strong.
Once I was able to unscramble my thoughts and could focus again, I had to find something to lean against to keep my legs from caving in.
Thank goodness for Mrs. Parker’s table of freshly baked cupcakes and homemade pottery.
That was the beginning of a 45 minute surveillance mission that had me secretly following him around from one end of the block to another. 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 in the street while trying to stop him and work up some sort of conversation. But all I could manage was a brief moment of direct eye contact and a blush that nearly rendered me unconscious from its intensity. I wasn’t making much progress was I? After thinking about this for an entire week, I thought this would be easier.
But I did happen to notice that he was wearing multicolored bracelets on his right wrist as I studied him from a distance. 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. I wasn’t sure why he would be, but it definitely caught my attention.
I kept trying to get close enough to him to observe him, but not so close that he would realize that I was deliberately following him around like some kind of secret agent. I was just…fascinated by the idea of him living on the same block as me. This boy. This breathtaking beauty. It was like having a celebrity move into the neighborhood, you know?
But I wanted to keep a certain level of chill for now. Let me chase him for a bit longer and see where this goes. I don’t want to jump in too early. Don’t want to jump in too late either. Ugh! Complicated plans SUCK!
When we were ready to cross paths for a seventh time, finally catching him without his parents standing right there next to him, 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 actually stepped to the side to stop him from randomly passing me up this time.
“I’m Brian. I live…well, I’m right over there.”
“Really? Cool. My name’s Fisher. I’m sorry if I don’t recognize anybody yet. I’m sorta new around here. I just moved a few months 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 hiding his bracelets again with his hand.
“Ok.” He said quietly. Then, a brief, but awkward silence passed between us. “I like the whole block party thing. It’s a good way to get everybody to know each other, I suppose.”
“Yeah…” I said, not sure how to press forward with any other words that would make sense to someone who wasn’t swooning with infatuation at the moment.
“I do like it here. It’s cool, you know…getting a fresh start, and all.” He said. I nodded.
“Bracelets, huh?” I asked, and he sort of moved his hand back around his side to further hide them from my vision. Odd. “Can I see?”
“They’re just bracelets. Adding some color to my outfit. They don’t really mean anything…” He said, but as he reluctantly offered me his arm to take a look, he seemed to get extremely nervous.
I touched his hand. Oh my God, I actually made physical contact! I felt a sensation in my pants that I knew I had to fight off before I found myself standing in front of Fisher with an ‘obscenely visible’ problem! But his skin was so soft. He was so warm. Is the air getting thicker, or am I just not breathing like I usually do?
Looking at the different colored bracelets, one of the wider ones caught my eye. The biggest one was a bright pink, and when I looked closer, I saw that it had the letters ‘LGBT’ stamped into it.
I had to hold my breath to keep from gasping out loud!
When I saw that bracelet, specifically…he sort of looked away from me. Almost timid about the fact that I might have a bad reaction to it. It doesn’t mean that HE’S gay, though! He might just be supportive of the cause or something, right? Maybe he’s got a gay cousin, or a close friend? But…tolerance is a good thing. I’ll still take that as a win in my book.
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. Oh God, am I really doing this? I can’t believe he’s so cute that he’s given me the courage to do this! I pressed my index finger to my lips, “Shhhh…” I giggled.
He had to fight a moment of surprise, but once those amazingly bright green eyes focused themselves on mine, I knew he got the hint. The jitters that ran through me felt more like a full blown earthquake than just a bashful confession. “Wow…” Fisher said quietly. “But you’re so…” What? I’m so what??? What was he going to say? Nooooo, don’t stop there! I wanted to grill him for an answer, but he just mimicked my gesture and said, “Shhhh, for me too.”
Holy shit! Is he kidding me? “Oh? O-O-Ok…” I stammered.
“I wasn’t sure what the whole block might think about…you know, stuff that’s ‘different’. I’ve been laying low until I knew for sure. I’m not really hiding who I am or anything, but…I didn’t want people on the block to start whispering about it before they get to know a few things about me that don’t involve…well, you know.”
“Laying low. Gotchya.” I sighed with a smile. “I totally understand. Believe me.”
“Well, for now, anyway. I’m trying to drop some hints here and there, but…you know how it goes. Sometimes you’ve got to ease people into knowing about the private parts of your life.”
“If you want, I’d love to be closely involved with your private parts.” I didn’t know how that sounded until I heard my voice saying it out loud. Then, I seriously wanted to smack myself silly!
“Hehehe, ummm…okaaay!” Fisher giggled.
“I swear to God, I didn’t mean for it to come out like that!” I told him, and it made him laugh in the cutest way. “I’m sorry!”
“Hehehe, it’s ok. I know what you meant.” He snickered. “Still pretty funny, though.”
Hoping to keep him from thinking about it for too long, I asked him, “Say, have you tried some of Mr. Warner’s burgers yet? They’re absolutely 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. Maybe you can help me navigate my way through this madness.” 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, Fisher. We both will.
From that point on, Fisher and I spent the next two or three hours together, practically joined at the hip. Our parents even met one another and seemed to get along. We checked out the ‘Fool Me Twice’ encore performance, we had some burgers, a few grilled corndogs, some of Maybelle Wilson’s famous sweet tea…we even got into a big Nerf Gun war with some of the other neighborhood kids. Fisher KILLS when it comes to Nerf wars! Hehehe, it was amazing to watch him take down all opponents! Thank God he was on MY team and nobody else’s!
But…more than that, it was just a blessing to see him smile. We had this strange dynamic, where we could never run out of stuff to talk about for, like…ten minutes straight. But then…we’d suddenly get silent, and all we could do was stare at one another and giggle. His eyes were so green that it was kind of intimidating to stare into them for any length of time. For once, I was glad that his blond hair shielded those bright headlights from my view every now and then.
I still don’t know how he can see through it though.
But, much sooner than I thought, the sun began to set on our party. Neighbors started cleaning up and breaking things down. Charcoal pits began to smolder and burn out. And I knew that our special annual block party was coming to an end. I could always tell when it was about to get dark outside, because the buzzing song of neighborhood cicadas would start to ring out all around us.
My heart began to sink. Would I have to wait a whole year before I saw Fisher again? Have I gained a position in his life that might allow me to visit him at home once in a while? Or for him to visit me? Or…will he go back to laying low until he feels more comfortable around here?
I probably should have done more. To make myself more ‘memorable’, you know? I was having too good a time to concentrate on the mission at hand, I guess.
Fisher and I were walking down one of the alleys, the sounds of the afternoon’s festivities dying down to a few goodbye conversations and mating crickets. I really didn’t want this day to end. It had gone way beyond my expectations, and I wasn’t ready to let Fisher go yet. Or ever, to be honest.
We finally reached my back yard, and I took in a deep breath, hoping that I could muster up the courage to say goodbye. “This was…ummm…this was cool. Like, the whole day. Very cool.” I said.
“It was cool for me too, Brian. You guys sure know how to make the new kid on the block feel welcome. Hehehe!” He’s so cute when he laughs. SO cute! That’s when I saw him reach for his wrist, and he pulled off his ‘LGBT’ bracelet and handed it to me.
“What? No. Dude…I can’t…”
“Sure, you can.” He smiled. “Go on. Take it. I’ve got a couple more of them at home anyway. Consider it my official ‘thanks’ for a day well spent.”
He put it in my hand, but I looked down at my feet. “But, I’m not…like…I haven’t told anybody about myself yet. Like…nobody. I don’t know if I’d have the guts to wear it out in public or anything.”
“It takes time.” Fisher said. “And practice. Plus, I’m assuming you’ve never had a bracelet before today. Maybe this will be an incentive. No rush, though. I’m still getting used to it myself. And, here, I thought the green dye in my hair was going to be the hardest thing to explain. Hehehe!”
Feeling a warm rush of emotion, I said, “Thanks. Maybe I’ll get some use out of it, after all. It would certainly make for a great conversation starter.”
“Now you’re getting the idea.” He said. It was at that moment that the streets seemed to brighten up a bit, distracting Fisher’s attention. “Oh, looks like the streetlamps are turning on…”
But before he could finish his sentence, I was overwhelmed by this sudden urge to jerk my head forward, and give Fisher a quick and innocent kiss on the lips. I don’t know what made me do it. I was already in motion before my overwhelmed brain had a chance to stop me.
Dammitt!!! I can be so annoyingly impulsive sometimes!
Fisher’s eyes widened, and a little sigh escaped his lips before he brushed his hair back with his hand. What have I done? Everything was going great, and I just ruined it all! Arrrgh!
“Hello…hehehe…” He said.
“Oh man, I’m sorry, Fisher. I’m…I’m so sorry!”
“No! It’s ok. Honestly.”
“It’s not ok. That was practically sexual assault, what I just did. I should have asked first.” I whimpered, looking away so I didn’t have to face his accusing eyes.
“I would have said yes.” He smirked. But as he saw me blushing even harder than he was, he suddenly put his hands on my shoulders and leaned in for a kiss of his own. His was a bit slower than my clumsy attempt at stealing a few seconds of affection from a boy who was way out of my league. But I liked it. His lips felt…they felt good on mine. Wow…I didn’t expect this either. “There you go. Now we’re even.” He said. I just sort of stood there for a moment, and Fisher asked, “Are you ok? Hehehe!”
“I’ll let you know when I catch my breath!” I giggled in response. I wanted so much more, but decided not to push things too far, too fast. I wouldn’t know how to go any further, anyway.
Wait…was that my first kiss??? Did I miss it? It happened so fast! Shit! I’ll remember it later!
“Hehehe, you’re so cute!” Fisher said. Then he reached in his pocket and said, “Say, let me give you my number. Maybe you can call me some time. And we can go do something. You know…together.”
Trembling violently, I said, “Ummm…ok. Sure.”
“I just live down there. At the end of the block. I’m like…”
“Nine houses down. Yeah. I know.” I said.
His forehead got that cute little wrinkle in it again as he gave me a sideways look. “Yeah…it’s not creepy at all that you know that just off the top of your head. Hehehe!”
We shared a laugh, but I still hated to see him walk away from me. Even though my emotions were soaring through a confusing gamut of mind-blowing joy that I had never experienced before, it hurt to know that I’d have to wait to see him again. Even if it was only until tomorrow morning.
My legs are wobbling. My breathing is so short that I almost felt like crying, just to get a few extra gulps of oxygen in there. I did it. I met him. I talked to him. I friggin’ KISSED him on the lips! TWICE!!! This is easily the best day of my whole life! Wow!
As I walked into my back yard, I slipped Fisher’s bracelet on my wrist. Then I spread my arms out, and did a little spin with my eyes closed. I’m not much for dancing…but spinning and grinning? I can do that easy.
My dream boy exists. He’s a real person. And he lives right here…right now…
Only nine houses down.