Chapter 49


Wow! Is it weird that as I learn more and more about Chandler, the more amazed I become?

I need to watch it. I think he’ll start to see the stars in my eyes pretty soon if I’m not careful. I wish he wasn’t so much older than me! I wish we could be, like, together and me not get him in trouble. It’s so not fair! It’s weird how much he and I have in common and yet we are so many years apart! Five years doesn’t seem like much to some, I guess, but for teenagers it’s a lifetime! So many changes in such a short amount of time. It’s almost like you don’t have time to breathe!

But, I’m not stupid. I know, as far as numbers go, it’s not very much. It’s not like a 19-20 year old and a 14-15 year old have never had relationships before. It was always pretty common back in the day from what I’ve read in history books. But, in this day and age, it is a distance in age that is just out of reach, you know?

But, oh gosh! If we were closer in age and I was ‘legal’, it would be a no-brainer for me! I wouldn’t even think twice about being Out or not! I’d be Out for Chandler! He’d be wearing me like a coat! I’d be so all-over-him! He’d never have to shower alone or be without someone in bed with him to warm him up on cold nights or . . . make hot nights hawter! Oh, man . . .

Saying that I’d be Out for him, though, is saying one hell of a lot, since, I’m pretty much petrified of being Out at all! I’m still, actually, trying to straighten myself out and be Marie’s boyfriend since she’s a Cross and she’s perfect!

But, I’ll be honest. It isn’t working . . .

I’m going to have to break it off with her in some way pretty soon. It’s not fair for her to have feelings like that for me and me unable to return them like she wants.  She’s still pretty young, even for me.  She’ll have time to get over me and get with someone much better suited for her than me.

But, you know what, and this is just evil of me . . . a dark part of me resists doing this for Marie because I know that in doing it I’ll, more than likely, lose Chandler!  I’d like it if Marie could just, naturally, lose interest in me and move on! That would be so much easier! But, all that seems to be happening is that she’s getting more involved with me!  I feel like I’m being gently, but firmly, wrapped up in her web cocoon like a fly in a spider’s web . . .

. . . . Heeeeelp meeeeee! Heeeeelp meeee!

Ok, enough of that! Let’s talk about the amazing things I saw today!

It became my Dad’s duty to drive us down to the Art Institute where Chandler was having his exhibition! Chan had to bail on me as far as picking me up because he just had too much to do, apparently. Marie came with us and behaved herself, though, I think that was mostly because of Jamie being there. He came with us too and he kept babbling about something he saw on ESPN yesterday afternoon.  Something about the Cubs and a winning line-up or something. I don’t follow baseball much. I follow basketball a little, but not baseball. But, my Dad and Jamie were actually having a great conversation between them about it. I think it was a bonding moment. I hope I don’t get traded in for a better model son!

So, we went all of the way Downtown, this time! I don’t know why, but I thought Chandler’s thing might be a little outside Chicago proper, but we actually went into The Loop!  I forgot how tall the buildings are down there! You feel like you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or something! I also didn’t quite reckon that Chandler’s school was part of THE main art museum Downtown, the Art Institute of Chicago!  Chandler’s like a for reals artist if he goes to school there! It was stupid that I should have felt so shocked by this, but . . . wow!

Dad had to pay for parking in a nearby parking structure near the entrance to the school where Chandler was going to meet us.  Chandler’s school isn’t actually in the institute of art like I thought but up the street a ways. It calls itself SAIC for some reason.

So, there Chandler was, standing there with a loose long coat on because, weird as it may seem, the strong breeze blowing down the street today was nippy! His coat was flapping in the breeze and his dark red hair was, kind of, flowing a bit! He was just . . . beautiful! He had his round sunglasses on and he looked like a rock star! How did I ever manage to meet THIS guy and how on earth will I ever get him to think of me as anything other than just a kid?

Jamie, like some kind of big blond puppy-dog, actually ran up to Chandler and gave him a big hug which caught Chan by surprise! To be honest, I felt like doing the same thing . . . and then taking him around the corner and . . . well you know.

Marie grounded me, though, as I felt her arm loop through mine as she escorted me across the street, walking like civilized people, Hehehe! I had to say Chan looked very happy to see us! I almost got the feeling that this was, sort of, like him having that feeling you got when you were, like, 7 and it was Open House night at school. A feeling of excitement and nervousness that’s all mixed up because two very different parts of your world were coming together!

“Hey everybody! Welcome to SAIC!” Chandler flourished like a gameshow host at the big sign at the front door of the building. For some reason, it just got me giggling. He’s so cute about things sometimes!

“I like to call it the ‘Stute’ because I’m stupid! I keep hoping it catches on, but it never does. But, hey! If you can’t feel stupid in art school then you shouldn’t be going, I’ve been told . . . lots of times. Hehehe!” Chandler remarked. I didn’t like him putting himself down! He’s a long, long way from being ‘stupid’!

“You are so-o not stupid, Chan!” I said as much, too! Don’t make fun of my best Gay friend! My . . . only Gay friend!

“Hey, Brandy. One thing you gotta learn in this world, never take yourself too seriously! That goes double for art school. People in art that take themselves too seriously end up curating museums instead of doing anything themselves.”  He whispered and winked at me over his sunglasses. I blushed so damn hard! He smelled like strawberries today! I loved that!

“What wicked thoughts are you giving my dear, innocent Brandon, you pervert artist you!”  Marie stomped up to claim me again. That was actually getting to be uncomfortable for me! I . . . . don’t like feeling, um . . . owned, somehow!

“What would you know about Art, MiniMom! Paper dolls and play-dough aren’t for real artists, dummy!”  Jamie sassed which earned him a hard smack on his shoulder. “Hey, ow! That’s my bum shoulder from practice! You fu…” and Jamie was cut off right before he said anything he couldn’t take back.

“You kids knock that shit off or we’re going home!”  Mr. Cross said as he walked up to meet us.  I think I see where the lack of appropriate language comes from. Hehehe!

Chandler rolled his eyes at me and I rolled them in answer.

“Philistines!” Chandler said. I agreed although I didn’t know what a ‘Philistines’ was.

My Dad and I followed Chandler into the school while the rest of his family sorted themselves out. When I got past the glass doors I was, kinda, shocked by the place! It was a weird mix of art museum, school, and factory all at once!  There were pictures hung all over the lobby and a strange sculpture of what looked like a balloon animal in front. Doors led off down different halls in different directions with lists of plaques telling where the doors led to.

As soon as the rest of his family caught up with us, Chandler led us into a door that had as its list of places behind it: Print Graphics, Photography, Graphic Design, Interior Design and . . . ugh, Preliminary Architectural Design! This, of course, got my Dad all excited: “A-ha! See? I knew I’d heard that the Institute had a great school of Architecture!”

‘Oh, boy. Why did Chandler have to take us this way for?’ I thought.

We stomped through rows of lockers that instantly screamed ‘High School’ to me! It was all too familiar and my heart sank a bit at first. I hoped college would be different from High School, but then we got out of the locker hall and entered a workshop that didn’t look like any classroom I’d ever been in before!

There were rows of work tables spread out with what looked like giant printers next to computers with really big screens!  There were also work benches set up around the studio, I guess you could call it, with familiar things like staplers and rulers and ruler-like things. There was even a weird looking stapler that looked ‘bent’ in a weird way. I had to ask Chandler, “What’s that thing?”

“A saddle stitcher. This is the Print Graphics department where they teach layouts and stuff like for newspapers and magazines and stuff.”  Chandler explained like that helped me understand what a ‘saddle stitcher’ was. Yeah, right! But, he saw I wasn’t getting it, “You use those kinds of staplers to staple magazines, booklets, comic books, all that stuff. You only use them for mock-ups though. Things that go to press have stapling systems built right into them.”  Chandler explained.

“Cool.” I said, but I must not have been very convincing.

“Oh, don’t worry Bran Bran, this is just one work department. The next is mine!” Chandler said with a beautiful little twinkle in his blue-blue eyes! I tried not to stare. I really did!

We entered into another big room with computers and big hooded monitors. There were, again, work tables everywhere and closed doors to dark rooms and stuff. It was only impressive because Chandler let us see his particularly favorite workstation. It was only a large table for spreading things out and he had some other things like ‘contact’ paper, whatever that is.

“Don’t you ever use a computer?” I asked.

“Sometimes, but I’m specializing in classic film photography so I live mostly in there.”  He pointed to one of the doors to a dark room. The lightbulb over the door was dark so I suppose that meant it was empty.

“Could we go look in there?” I had never seen dark rooms except on TV so I was curious.

“Naw. Didn’t bring my PPE. I usually need to wear like a hairnet, gloves, and goggles. School policy. Pain in the butt too!” Chandler said and I was a little disappointed. I was guessing ‘PPE’ was a fancy way of saying ‘safety equipment’ which made me more curious. Why would you need safety equipment to develop photographs?

So I did ask, “Why do you need safety stuff just to develop film or whatever?”

“Oh, there’s lots of chemicals and things in there that aren’t that great for a person if you get it in your eyes and stuff. It’s just a pain because my goggles fog up sometimes and then I can’t see what I’m doing!” He shrugged and I giggled just because of the cute way he put it.

“You got any samples . . . maybe, like, girls or something?” Jamie suddenly appeared and tried to pretend like he was interested and not bored out of his skull.

“Later. I don’t have any of that in here anyway. We don’t keep our results in here. We have to keep the place cleaned up for other students. You’ll see my stuff soon enough!” Chandler assured Jamie.

“But, like girls and cute ones, right?” Jamie had this really goofy smile that made me chuckle. He’s so silly.

“Why would Chandler take pictures of girls for, Knothead? He doesn’t even like girls!”  It was Marie’s turn to chime in. I suppose I’d been neglecting her, but I wasn’t really here for her, I really was here for Chandler and . . . for myself a little too.  Art School: it never seemed like a real choice, you know? The school counselors and teachers and stuff all expect me to go to a ‘real’ university or something.  The more I learn about ‘u-nies’ the less I like them. Although, it is ‘just’ artwork, this stuff actually looks like it could be, I don’t know, useful somehow. You can actually make things at an art school. Like you learn real skills and things. All I can see in my future at a university or college is more books, homework, papers . . .

Things I’m already tired of and I’m not even a third of the way through High School yet!

“Oh, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mimi, but I actually do have quite a few girls in my portfolio! The girls from the Gibson Modeling School down the street insist I do photoshoots for them. A lot of them are friends now and as I build their modeling portfolios they help me build my photography ones.  Models are fantastic at networking too and I’ve already gotten a few paying freelance shoots where an agency that’s hired a couple of my girlfriends use me.” Chandler said and figured out the mistake he made with his choice of words too late.
“You got girlfriends that use you?” Jamie seemed way too excited by that. It is his ‘look squirrel’ routine where he only hears and sees what he wants to.

“No, dummy! The modeling agency uses him! Get your mind out of your crotch! Jeeze!” Marie sneered.

“Um . . . song in your heart, zip on your lip, Marie!” Her Dad said picking up on the sudden tension in the air.

“Sorry, Dad.” She said as she took my arm. I think holding on to some part of my body calms her mean streak somehow. I don’t look forward to being on the receiving end of that one day . . . a day that may come sooner than later, I’m afraid.

To be honest, I felt a pang of jealousy when Chandler started talking about beautiful model girls actively seeking him out just to photograph them. I had to wonder if a few of them actually did have it in mind to use him like Jamie was hoping. There had to be loads of photographers in the school who’d love that and they might be more senior than Chandler is. But, then again, wasn’t it Chandler’s own exhibition we went to see tonight?  Someone, somewhere must have taken notice of his talent.  I couldn’t wait to see it. When I did . . . I wasn’t disappointed!

Before we could make it over to the Sullivan Gallery around the corner from the main school, my Dad insisted that we take a hike through the Architecture department.  It figures that this part of the school would be the part to look the fanciest. I imagine it is the school’s ‘bread and butter’ since Architectural design is still a ‘well respected’ occupation in business, according to my Dad, counselors, teachers, and other people that want to ruin my life. Fortunately for them, walking through the Institute’s School of Architecture did make me think twice about maybe taking it up as something to go for after High School.  Seeing the various miniaturized models of buildings and seeing the 3D studio they have where they model buildings and stuff really gave me an education as to what architecture was all about. After I was done doing a walk-through (which a staff member was happy to guide us through) I had a whole new appreciation for architecture and had to hand it to my Dad that he might not be as sneaky about ruining my future as I thought he was! Hehehe!

Architecture is definitely something I need to look into since I like geometry.

So, we finally get into the Sullivan Gallery thingie and they have a section blocked off just for Chandler’s pictures! It had four cubical ‘rooms’ made of free-standing drywall (yeah, I know all too well what that is, sheesh)!  All around, leaning up against the walls, were covered rectangles and squares that I suspected were Chandler’s pictures.  Already, he’d gotten nails and hooks up in strategic places in all of the ‘bays’, as he liked to call them.  So, he started to uncover some of the pictures and I could feel my breath catch as I saw them!

They were so beautiful! The colors were so rich and bright! He had each one put in a glass-covered frame and he began to carefully hang up one of the pictures. I noticed that a number was drawn on the wall right under each hook.  I also saw a sticky-note on the glass of the picture with the same number.

I may not always be the sharpest tool in the toolshed, but I can figure a thing or two out on my own! I don’t even need a calculator for something like this!

“So, you want some help hanging these? They’re . . . beautiful by the way!” I offered.

“Oh sure, if you don’t mind and thanks! Just match the number on the picture to the wall. You’ll find a little saw-blade thingie on the back of each picture. Just hook the center-most ‘teeth’ of the saw on the hook. I’ll show . . .” He offered to help me. I have to admit, some things are more complicated than they seem to be when first tackling jobs like this! A sawtooth hanger? Why?

That said, and I could get the feeling for it pretty quickly.  Before long we had all four bays done except for one wall that had been intentionally left bare. Under it was an extra-big covered picture! It must have been five feet long and, maybe three feet wide!

“This one’s a bit heavy and needs two to hang it. You think you can handle it with me?” Chandler asked. Of course, no problem, though . . . he wasn’t kiddin’ about heavy! Glass can be pretty heavy, plus he wanted me to lift it with the cover still on for some reason.  This one had a different kind of hanger which made a LOT more sense to me than the saw-tooth one. It was a simple wire stretched across the back that fit into two hooks. All you had to do was move it from side to side a bit to get it to level out without having to guess which set of ‘teeth’ worked best for hanging the picture.

“So, you wanna see it?” Chandler was asking me if I wanted to see it? After all that work getting it up there, it should have been obvious. But . . .

“Oh, that’s not necessary. I figure you want to surprise everyone with it and stuff.” I figured that was the point in hanging it covered.

“Well, actually, I just wanted to surprise you with it!” Chandler told me, grinning, which made his blue eyes sparkle under the bright museum lights which almost made me faint right there!

“Uh, ok. Sure! I mean . . . really?” I found that weird. Why do all this just for me?

“Ok, then. Here goes!” And like a magician peeling away his cape to show his magic hat with rabbits, Chandler whipped the cover away in a flourish!

“OHHH EMMM GEEE, DUUUDE! That came out fucking AWESOME!”  I shocked myself using that word, but trust me . . . this needed it!

Chandler started to giggle at me for it though: “Wow, got the butter to melt in your mouth that time didn’t I Mr. Choir Boy? Hehehehe!” I was fortunate the adults had gotten distracted by some other artist up front or my Dad might have wanted to say a thing or two about his squeaky-clean boy suddenly going all ghetto at an art museum!

“You caught that just perfect, Chan! I remember every detail! WOW!” It was Chandler’s image of the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park that we did a few weeks back! It even had that sexy guy running except this time I saw him facing the camera and waving back at it, or rather back at Chandler behind the camera!

Every detail was crisp and clean! The color of the sky and clouds were perfect! Hyper-real!

“This took quite a few hours of developing up to this size, but I like how it turned out, too! I’m glad you think it’s fuuuuuxing Awesome! You helped with this one and . . . it’s the one that won me the certificate to hang here today!” With that, Chandler put a sticker under the picture calling it ‘Brandon’s Gateway’ and then put an official looking seal with the logo of the school next to the title making it look all official!

I still, like, can’t deal! He named his biggest and best picture after me? Plus, it’s one that the school wants to showcase in the lobby and possibly sell prints of in the Institute Gift Shop! The original might even hang in the Institute itself! Chandler will get the fame he deserves for this and he named it for me!

Chandler’s already having the prints done and I get the very first one, full size!

I’m honestly overwhelmed! I’m, kind of like, crying here!

Brandon’s Gateway!

This is Brandon Inspired!

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