As a friend pointed out, there less than a week until the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2014. Yes, it’s that time of year again and I once again will be working on my novel-in-progress, Guys Like Us.
I had planned to spend most of this year working on it, getting a manuscript completed and getting feedback but my personal transition took center stage and my novel gathered dust.
Last year, I posted excerpts of my novel writing throughout the month of November and I will do the same this year. If you were a reader back then, you might remember watching the sweet romance of Buddy and Desiree form and develop. And you might remember how things turned sour at the end. I realize that I need to read through what I wrote last year and figure out what portion of the novel I’m working on this year.
Here’s where I left off on Nov 29 and 30, 2013:
It’s hard at this point to remember how I got through those next few days. I was doing a lot of compartmentalizing, numbing myself against the pain and trying not to see what I didn’t want to see. And what I didn’t want to see most of all was Desiree hanging out with Bobby. She started sitting with him at lunch and he was walking her to and from class.
I finally got a phone call from her after school on Monday. Two full days since her date with Bobby.
Yeah, this wasn’t going to be awkward at all.
I tried to keep my voice light, but the tightness in my throat threatened to choke me. “So, how are you? How’d it go?”
I wanted to say, and ask, a lot of other things. And I also didn’t want to ask or say any of those things. I could feel my soft, vulnerable parts begin to retreat, holing up deeper inside me while the harder elements surrounded them.
Deep sigh from her side of the phone. “It was… well, I hated it but it wasn’t as bad as I was worried it would be. He didn’t push too much once I said ‘no’.”
“What did you have to say ‘no’ to?” My voice rose up in panic. “No, no, never mind, I don’t want to know… dammit, that fucking bastard.”
“Buddy, I’m sorry, you know I don’t want this, I don’t want him, I want you. I’m doing this for us, you know that, right?”
Yeah, I knew that, and at the same time it felt like betrayal. Wasn’t there always another way? She’d asked a question I didn’t really want to answer, the hurt feelings I had were making a stand.
“Buddy… please, talk to me, I can’t stand this if you won’t talk to me. I love you, Buddy, he doesn’t mean anything to me.” She was pleading with me, nothing like the take charge attitude she’d had in the gravel pit, she was begging me. Begging for what? Understanding? Forgiveness? Could I give her either of those right now?
“I know you’re doing what you think is right, I know you think this is the only way” Now that I’d started, I had to keep going. “I just believe that if we’d put our heads to it we could have come up with another solution.”
“Oh, really? What solution, Buddy? What are we going to do to keep Bobby from telling everyone that you’re my girlfriend? That we’re lezzies?” She snapped it out angrily, like a whip crack. “You think you’re so smart, you tell me how we keep Bobby from ruining our lives?”
I didn’t have an answer to that, that was the problem. I just knew I hated her solution, couldn’t stand it, wasn’t sure I could live with it. “I don’t know, Des! I just know that I love you and I don’t want to keep pretending I don’t. I hate that you are with him, even if you are pretending. Even if you are just doing it to keep him from talking.”
These were words that I’d been holding back for days, words that now felt like hand grenades and balls of barbed wire crowding my throat, eager to be set free. There was a destructive energy in them that I’d been afraid of allowing into the light but I was feeling reckless. Or maybe it was just too much to hold back anymore, I was hurting myself in my attempt to shield her from how I really felt about ‘the arrangement’.
“I hate this, Des. I understand that you’re afraid of everyone knowing that you love me, that we love each other, but imagine how it makes me feel to see you walking around with him. He taunts me, do you know that? He walks by with you and gives me that stupid smug look and mouths ‘lezzy’ at me. He’s rubbing my nose in it, he thinks he’s won. Every day it’s like getting a knife to the gut watching you two together.”
“He and I are not together, Buddy, I don’t care what it looks like!” She shouted defensively. “Why do you care what it looks like? You know the truth!”
“Yeah, why do I care what it looks like… Well, why do you care if people know you love me? Tell him to fuck off! We’ll have each other and even if people gave us shit, we’ll be together, we could take care of each other. Besides, we’d have Jamie and Sarah May on our side.”
“Right, I’d lose all my friends and get the freaks instead, awesome. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
“Oh, I see, my friends and I are the freaks. And you’re going out with a thick headed, bullying idiot instead of me because you care what people think. That’s lovely, Des. I guess now I know where I stand. You love me as long as no one else knows. Got it.”
We sat there in an acidic silence. Then I could hear her breathing hard, heard her sniff. Oh, shit, I made her cry, dammit. I gulped and struggled to keep my tears inside.
“So what are you saying, Buddy? Do you want to break up?”
I guess that was the logical question to ask, but as soon as I heard it, I thought my heart would lurch out of my chest, I was close to hyperventilating.
“No, Des, no.. I don’t want to break up with you.. it’s just.. dammit, this is hard, this is so fucking hard! You act like this is nothing, like it’s no big deal.”
“Buddy, baby, I know it’s not nothing, I know it’s a big deal. I’m sorry it hurts so much, it hurts me, too. I just … maybe I’m just not strong enough, not as strong as you. I don’t think I can handle everyone talking about me and losing my friends.”
And your place in high school society, I thought. Let’s not forget that your popularity ranking would drop like a lead weight if this scandal came out. It wasn’t a very nice thing to think, but it was real. It was the kind of thing Sarah May would point out. And I knew very well how it felt to have people talking about you in not so great ways.
“Buddy, please trust me. I love you, no matter what happens with Bobby. You’re the one I love.” I wanted to believe her. I did believe her but maybe the problem was I didn’t know if that was going to be enough for me. Was it enough to know she loved me more, if I wasn’t able to be with her? If I had to watch her with him?
I took a moment, “Ok, Des, I believe you. I know you love me. When can I see you? I need to kiss you, Des, hold you in my arms.”
The way she exhaled told me I wasn’t going to like her answer.
“Oh, baby, I’m not sure, soon, I promise. I’ve got a bunch of things to take care of and he wants to see me later. We’ll do it soon, baby, I promise.”
There was no reason to push, I could imagine her face right then, the way she set her jaw when she wasn’t going to be argued out of something. Or into something.
“Ok, just… I love you and the sooner the better, alright, babe?” I knew I needed to get off the phone soon, not just because I had stuff to do and it was almost dinner time, but because I couldn’t stand having her so close and feeling so far away at the same time. “I, uh, I need to get going. Homework and stuff.”
“Yeah, me, too. Love you, Buddy. See you soon. Goodnight.”
See you soon. It echoed in my ears as we hung up, kept coming back to me as I stared at my math homework and my dinner plate and the dishes I was supposed to be washing. See you soon was a promise and also a potential lie. Would she see me tomorrow or continue to train her eyes away from me in class and the hallways. Would she make time for me after school or would she keep letting Bobby monopolize her time. See you soon felt like an empty promise at that moment, empty and yet potent for it’s ability to cut into me every time the phrase popped into my mind.
I know she believed what she was saying, all along. She loved me and thought she could continue loving me while giving Bobby what he demanded as payment for his silence. She couldn’t see that he’d already won, he’d already ruined what we’d had. The light-heartedness, the sweet innocence of what we shared — and yes, even with the sex, there was an innocence — that sweetness, and the ease we had had with each other had been destroyed. Bobby had made it something horrible, something that had the potential to ruin our lives. That was Des’ viewpoint. I didn’t see it as ruin, I was pretty romantic, I thought true love was the most powerful substance in the world. I always thought we could make it together as long as we stuck together and loved each other. Bobby fucked that all up. He made it into a dirty secret, he turned her love for me into a bargaining chip. It seems obvious now that this would change me, change my romanticism into something more pragmatic and cynical but at the time I wasn’t looking into the future that far. I couldn’t see much past the fact that he’d taken my true love away and ruined everything. I was going to have to share her with him and no amount of ‘I love yous’ from her was going to make that any easier to live with.
High school suddenly looked an interminable sentence in hell. The halls had become potent with potential violence and grief from Bobby and his friends. I had previously looked forward to school, not just because of Des, but even before that because I enjoyed learning, I actually didn’t mind homework. But right then, after that phone call, I couldn’t stand the thought of going through those front doors the next morning.
And Bobby hadn’t even shown all of his hand yet.
At one point, before I’d resolved to stop looking,I had to learn to stop looking when the two of them were walking past me in the hallway. Bobby kept up his practice looked directly at me and mouthing “lezzy” or “faggot” or something else, before turning to her and saying something that made her laugh. She usually didn’t look at me at all which was fine because I got tired of seeing the apology on her face. ‘Sorry’ wasn’t nearly enough to make me feel better.
For a while, Sarah May and Jamie did their best to console me, but once they realized I didn’t want to be cheered up, they kept up a constant chatter to cover the almost complete silence I maintained. Sarah May, who usually got to the cafeteria before me, started sitting in a different spot. I knew why but didn’t say anything. Nothing needed to be said. The new spot made it harder to see the table Desiree and Bobby were sitting at.
Jamie’s favorite topic was a girl she had her eyes on. I remained cynical and sarcastic, earning me a lot of dirty looks. Somehow Sarah May’s clinical detachment didn’t get the same reaction.
“So you believe that the girl you are attracted to you is amenable to your advances?” Sarah May asked Jamie. “And you believe you have a specific ability to detect persons who are lesbians?”
That almost made me laugh. Jamie guffawed. “Wow, well, you know how to squeeze the believability out of anything, don’t you?”
Sarah May continued to stare at Jamie, she was waiting for an answer.
“Alright then, number 1, yes, I do believe Rebecca is open to my charms.” Jamie paused for a sip of soda. “And as for number 2, yes, I do believe in gaydar. I do believe that with a high degree of accuracy I can tell who’s gay. Even if they don’t know it themselves yet.”
I snorted and looked at Sarah May. She had raised a cynical eyebrow.
Jamie put up her hands in surrender, “Fine, you don’t believe me, that’s OK. I know what I’ve got and it works… I invite you to observe.” Jamie packed her lunch and got up with a wink back to us, she walked a few yards away and sat down next to a brunette, Sophie Winchester. She and another girl were talking and laughing. When Jamie sat down, and Sophie turned to her, puzzled look on her face. Jamie leaned over and and appeared to say something in her ear at which point Sophie’s expression turned into a huge smile. Jamie said something else, and Sophie laughed loudly enough for us to hear. Jamie continued and Sophie’s smile changed, becoming a little coy and flirtatious. Jamie was nodding her head and smiling and shortly thereafter, Sophie began nodding her head and smiling. Jamie stood and gave a small bow, then turned and walked back toward us.
“Well, did you see? My mojo is totally online.”
“I saw you talk to her and I saw her laugh at you.” I responded a bit sourly. “Is that your mojo? Getting girls to laugh at you?”
There was a pause as Sarah May and Jamie both registered the fact that I’d spoken. Then Jamie gave a chuckle.
“She wasn’t laughing at me, she was laughing at something I said, which is totally different. And what you couldn’t hear was that she agreed to go out with me Friday night.”
I was back to being silent, though this was from complete shock rather than lack of interest in the world. Sarah May had a quizzical look, my mouth hung open.
Sarah May, who had gotten savvy to Jamie’s tendency toward braggadocio, raised an eyebrow, “So, exactly what did you propose and exactly what was her answer?”
“What is this, an interrogation?” Jamie laughed. “I asked her if she liked ice cream and movies and she said yes. I asked her what movie she was hoping to see and she told me and I responded that I hadn’t seen it yet either and would she like to go with me this Friday. I offered to spring for ice cream afterward.”
Jamie sat up straight and smiled smugly, “She said yes, she’d love to and we agreed to meet at the theater.”
“So you consider this to be a date?” Sarah May pressed on.
“Yes, I do, and I understand that she may not. Yet. But give me time, I have my ways.” This was Jamie to a tee, never losing her cocky optimism, no matter what the odds were.
I was confused about one point, “What did you say that made her laugh so loud?”
Her face became shrewd, “Oh, I can’t tell you that, that’s a trade secret. You’re gonna have to come up with your own lines, Buddy, my boy. I’m not gonna give you mine.” She winked.
“Well, that’s OK, I don’t need lines, do I. I have a girlfriend.” Which of course, brought the realization of exactly what I had and did not have squarely down on my head like a truckload of bricks. “I have to go.”
I walked out without waiting for them to say goodbye. I’d had enough of socializing.
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