I had been watching the cafeteria doors for the past ten minutes. TJ said he’d join us for lunch, but I was beginning to worry if he would show.
“What’s the matter with you, Randy?” Dean asked. “Who are you looking for?” Dean could read me like a book. He’d probably already figured out I had seen some hottie that morning and was watching for him.
“I’m looking for TJ,” I replied, keeping a close eye on the door.
“Some stray Randy wants to be a friend,” Deanna said sarcastically. She gave me her intimidating stare. I’d seen it a million times over the years, so she was just wasting her time.
“Is he cute?” Randy leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“Dude, he’s so hot,” I whispered back. Just then I saw TJ come walking timidly into the cafeteria looking for me. When Dean noticed the wide grin appear on my face, he let his eyes follow mine to where TJ stood.
“Damn! Is that him?” he asked lustily.
“Back off, Dean. He’s all mine.” I elbowed him in his side.
“We could always do a threesome,” he suggested seductively.
“Shut up.” I stood up and called out TJ’s name and waved him over to the table. He smiled when he saw me and walked over to the table. Dean moved over and made space for him between the two of us.
“Hey,” he muttered as he sat down.
“TJ, I want you to meet some of my closest friends.” I wanted him to become a part of our little group, and I hoped they would accept him.
“You already know Deanna.” She looked across the table and gave TJ a fake smile. He gave her a timid wave.
“This bozo sitting next to you is my best friend, Dean. He’s Deanna’s twin brother.” Dean extended his hand and offered it to TJ. When they shook, Dean held his hand a little too long for my comfort. I shot a warning glare over TJ’s shoulder and he dropped his hand.
“The guy across the table is Wilson. We’ve been friends since the first grade.” Dean is my best friend; however, Wilson comes in a close second. The only reason he’s not is because he’s straight. I can’t talk to him about guys like I do with Dean. But if I were ever in trouble, Wilson’s the guy I would want on my side.
At first glance, he looks like the typical dumb jock. He’s a defensive lineman on our football team. Wilson is African American with a very dark complexion. He’s also very large. He stands 6’2” and must weigh close to 260 pounds. He appears intimidating, but you couldn’t find a nicer guy. I call him my big teddy bear. On the football field, though, he becomes the terror of the opposing team.
We met in the first grade. As soon as my mother left me at school the first day, I went to the corner of the room and started crying. Wilson came over and sat down beside me. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him that I missed my mommy. Then he started crying. He told me he missed his mommy too. We sat there a good ten minutes looking at each other and crying. Finally, a teacher came over and wiped away our tears. We’ve been the best friends ever since.
We messed around once when we were twelve. Actually, I messed around. Wilson just sat on my bed and let me suck his dick. We were both too young to cum at that time, but he did have a dry orgasm. A few weeks later, when I suggested doing it again, he refused. He said that it wasn’t his thing. I never asked again.
When we were fourteen and he was beginning to like girls, he noticed that I never talked about sex like the other boys. One night in my room when he was sleeping over, he came out and asked me if I was gay. I told him the truth. He said it was cool with him. He even let me hug him that night. That’s why I call him my second best friend.
Wilson extended his hand and gave TJ a strong handshake. TJ winced when he grasped his hand tightly.
“The pretty girl beside him is Trisha.” Trisha is a beautiful caramel-skinned girl. She’s extremely thin and tall like a model. Seeing her and Wilson together is almost comical. He’s a big, fat jock and she’s a very attractive, slender lady. I used to wonder what she saw in Wilson. I asked her one day, and she told me he was the kindest and gentlest person she’d ever met. She’d dated the cute guys and found them to be artificial and self-centered. Wilson treated her like a queen, and he never demanded anything in return. After that conversation, Trisha soared to the top of my nicest people list.
Trisha waved at TJ, and he returned a shy wave. He had now been officially introduced to three of my best friends. I can’t include Deanna. She’s been such a bitch since I started talking to TJ this morning. If she rolls her eyes once more, I swear I’m going to yank them out of their sockets.
“Are you new here?” Dean asked TJ.
“Yeah, I am.” TJ tensed up realizing that there would be a barrage of questions aimed at him. Knowing how he reacted to it in Mrs. Jones class, I quickly tried to shift the attention from him.
“Is anyone going to the party at Melanie’s house Saturday night?” I asked excitedly. I really wasn’t all that thrilled. I just hoped it would get the others talking about something else. Actually, I didn’t like Melanie. Last year she corned me in the bathroom at her house when she was having another party. She came into the room drunk and proceeded to grab my dick, telling me she wanted me to fuck her.
I guess most boys would have jumped at the chance to get laid, but not me. There were two things wrong with that picture. One, I hate pissy-ass drunks. I’ve never understood why anyone has to drink to have fun. I tried it one time and barfed all over the inside of someone’s car. Since then I’ve never touched the stuff. And two, Melanie just didn’t have the right equipment.
I’m glad she was drunk that night. She didn’t even remember me shoving her into the bath tub and turning on the cold water. One of her girlfriends found her several minutes later, lying passed out in a pool of water.
“You know I’ll be there!” Dean exclaimed excitedly. “Her parties rock! Loud music, cute boys, lots of food, cute boys, beer, cute boys.” Everyone laughed except Deanna.
“Shut up, Dumb Ass,” she said to her twin brother. “You’re such a fag sometimes.” Everyone stopped laughing and looked at her. She was definitely not in one of her better moods. I figured it was probably just that time of month.
“Damn, Deanna. Let up.” I was trying to ease some of the tension around the table.
“And you, Randy. You’re not much better. You’ve been making goo-goo eyes at poor boy here all morning. What is he, a charity case?” She shot me deadly look. “Sometimes I wonder if you aren’t a fag, too.”
“You fucking bitch.” She’d really crossed the line. I stood up while Dean reached over and grabbed my arm just as I was getting ready to swing it at her smug face.
“What’s the matter, Randy? Truth hurt.” She stood, preparing to slap me. Trisha grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from the table.
“Come on, girl. You need to chill.” Trisha led her away from the table. You could hear her cussing throughout the entire cafeteria. Everyone got quiet as they listened to our argument. Many had a shocked look on their face because most thought that Deanna and I had a solid relationship. She’d always given them that impression. I’d never said a word.
“Fuck you, Randy!” She suddenly turned and shouted. “You and your boyfriend can go to hell.” With those final words, she stormed out of the cafeteria with Trisha on her heels. Everyone looked over at me and the boy sitting next to me- TJ. I looked at him and his face was a crimson red. He looked humiliated. It was obvious by his reaction that he was the ‘boyfriend’ Deanna had referred to.
“Look, TJ. I’m really...” I started to apologize when he suddenly pushed his chair away from the table and stood.
“I gotta go.” He was obviously very upset. He looked down at me, then over at Dean and Wilson, who sat staring at him. It seemed like the entire cafeteria had their eyes focused on him.
Suddenly, he bolted from the table and ran for the nearest exit. Within seconds, he was gone. The cafeteria immediately began buzzing about the incident they had just observed. Students continued to look over at our table. I knew they were talking about me. Fuck it. I didn’t care.
“Damn, Dude. What was that all about?” Dean asked. “You alright man?” He reached over and put his arm around my shoulder. Good old Dean. He is always there for me.
“I’m gonna kick Deanna’s ass when we get home tonight,” he warned.
“I have to go find him.” I told Dean and Wilson. I got up from the table and hurried out the door that TJ had exited. I looked down both sides of the hallway. No sign of him. I sighed and began walking to my next class, hoping I would see him 5th or 6th period.
* * * * * * * *
It happened again. I don’t know why I expect anything good to happen to me. I was born with a rain cloud hanging over my head. Sometimes the sun peeks through, but only briefly. There’s never a rainbow, only dark, ominous clouds.
I didn’t even know where I was going when I ran out of the school. I just kept running. I must have gone about five blocks when I came upon a small park. It had a swing set and a small sandbox. I sat down in one of the swings and tried to catch my breath.
I closed my eyes and basked in the warmth of the sun. I kept thinking about Randy. I liked him, liked him a lot. Our little exchange in Mrs. Jones class had given me a small glimpse of hope. But I knew now that his friends would never accept me, especially Deanna.
I don’t know how I was going to go back to school, now that everyone thought I was gay. Randy would survive this. Everyone loved him. I was the bad boy trying to influence Mr. Perfect. I considered dropping out of school; but at 16, I was too young.
I had been in the park for about fifteen minutes when I saw a lonely figure approaching. He had his head down, and he was kicking rocks that were in his path. He looked up, noticed me and walked over. He was very thin. He stood about 5’7” and probably weighed no more than 120 pounds. His pants were loose and baggy, almost falling off his thin waist. He had on a faded red tee shirt. His hair was long and coal black. He had it tied in back with a rubber band. I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were because he was wearing sunglasses.
“Hey,” he said timidly.
“Hi,” I replied.
“Carter.” He extended his hand for me to shake.
“TJ.” His handshake was weak and limp.
We swung silently for a few minutes. I looked over at him several times, and he would look over at me.
“Sucks, don’t it?” he asked after a long silence.
“What?” I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I saw what happened in the cafeteria. Happens to me all the time,” he said sadly.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” I responded angrily. Seeing my irritation, he quickly tried to explain himself.
“Me and you. We don’t fit. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never fit into their world. You’re new here, but you’ll see.” He seemed almost apologetic.
“Yeah, whatever.” I wanted to get up and walk away, but Carter intrigued me. It did seem that we had a lot in common. Just looking at him, it was obvious that he probably came from the same background as me. I didn’t find myself particularly attracted to him; but he was cute, in a waifish sort of way.
“I’ve been going to the same school as them since the first grade. They’ve never so much as said hi to me.” He didn’t sound bitter, he seemed hurt. He continued to swing, kicking the dirt.
Suddenly, he stopped and reached into his sock. He pulled out a joint and grinned, holding it up and shaking it in my face. He pulled out a lighter from his pocket and lit it. He then held it to his lips and inhaled deeply. He sat quietly for a few seconds before offering it to me.
“That’s all right. I don’t smoke,” I informed him. He looked over and studied me.
“Come on, Man. You’re down. This will make you feel better.” He offered it to me once again. I looked at it and took it between my fingers, careful not to burn myself.
I didn’t know what to do. I really didn’t want to smoke weed. I’d seen my brother smoke it many times. I could smell it coming from his room. He smoked it when he couldn’t get crack.
“You’re letting it burn down,” Carter said as I continued to hold it. I put it to my lips, took a puff, and immediately started coughing. He got off his swing and stood before me.
“Go slow. Put it to your lips and inhale it into your lungs. Don’t rush it,” he instructed me. I did it without coughing. I handed it back to him and watched him place the joint between his thin lips. He looked over at me and smiled, then handed the joint back to me.
I took it and inhaled once again. I could feel it beginning to burn my fingers, so I tossed it down and stepped on it. We sat quietly swinging with our eyes closed, feeling the warm sun on our faces. He got up and sat under a tree, shading himself from the hot sun. I walked over and lay down beside him.
“Feel better?” he asked, looking over at me.
“Yeah,” I smiled at him. I was getting what I guess most people call a buzz. I felt relaxed and lay back closing my eyes. We sat and talked for the next hour. I learned a lot about Carter. We did have a lot in common.
He comes from a single parent home. He lives with his mother and three other siblings. There are seven children, but only four still live at home. He’s the oldest remaining, so he spends most of his time watching his younger brother and sisters while his mother works. There’s not much money to go around, but she does the best she can.
Carter makes money by mowing yards in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter. Most of his money he spends on weed. I also learned that he was a freshman, but he wasn’t a very good student. He cuts class a lot, just like today. First day of school and both of us were already missing our afternoon classes.
While we talked, we smoked three more joints. I was feeling good. I lay back and talked casually to Carter. I felt comfortable with him. I felt he understood me, and he wasn’t judging me. He knew where I was coming from, even though I had told him little about my life. He knew my mother was a waitress, and that I lived at home with her and my brother.
When he asked me the street I lived on, I didn’t need to tell him much more. He lives several blocks away in the same impoverished area. It’s funny how just a street name says so much about a person. Twenty Second Street isn’t as glamorous as Shady Maple Way.
Suddenly, an overwhelming depression hit me. Everything that happened during the morning came flashing back. Randy. I really liked him. But like Carter said, I don’t fit into his world. I couldn’t understand why. I’m just as good as them, maybe better. I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. Why don’t I fit? Just because I was born poor? Why couldn’t a guy like me have a guy like Randy? What force separates two people from being together?
Carter looked over at me and noticed my change. “You all right?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Listen. I’ve enjoyed your company, but I really have to go.”
“You wanna light up another before you go?” He held up a joint and waved it in my face.
“No. I think I’ve had enough.” I was getting tired. All I wanted to do was go home and lie in my bed.
“Let’s go then.” We got up and walked home. It was a thirty five minute walk. By the time I got to my street, my head was beginning to clear.
“See you, tomorrow,” Carter waved goodbye as he began walked away. When I entered the apartment, Butch was in the kitchen opening a can of beer.
“Where you been, fag?” He looked me over suspiciously, and then he sniffed the air.
“You’ve been smoking weed! Give me some,” he demanded.
“I don’t have any.” I turned and headed to my room. He suddenly grabbed me by my shoulder, spinning me around.
“If you’re lying to me, fag, I’ll kick your ass.” I knew he’d do it. He’d sell his soul to the devil for drugs. I went into my room and slammed the door. As soon as I leave in the morning, he’ll probably ransack my room looking for a joint. Minutes later, I heard him leave the house. I returned to the kitchen to find a bottle of alcohol. I needed a drink. The weed had soothed me, but I needed to escape. Only alcohol could do that for me.
I rummage around for a minute. Eureka! I found a half bottle of gin hidden behind a bag of flour in the cupboard. It belonged to my mother. She’s the one who drinks gin. She has probably long forgotten about it. I headed back to my room.
I opened the bottle and took a big swig. I couldn’t get Randy out of my mind. We’d only spent a few hours together, but it was long enough for me to realize that I really cared about him. After a few drinks, mixed with the weed I’d smoked with Carter, it didn’t take long for my self-pity to emerge. Then the tears. After a while, I cried myself to sleep.