I saw him sitting in the bleachers looking my way. I rationalized that he’s probably looking at the new computerized scoreboard our piss-poor high school just installed. Everybody does, more in disbelief than anything else.
I kept running around the track, eyes forward.
Then I ran in front of the billboards. They’re bright and colorful and eye catching. He’s reading them word for word, I told myself. We all do. During every game. Even though we’ve seen them a thousand times.
I kept running around the track, peripheral vision set on high.
But then came the real test. There’s a wall along a stretch of the track, at the far end. Where will his eyes be after I come from behind the wall? I stared into the blue sky, aiming for detachment.
Oh god, he’s really staring at me, I thought. At the same time, I wondered if he’ll be in the shower room later on. I ran faster.
First I dripped with sweat then with shower water. Vainly, I wondered when I looked more sexy. But he wasn’t there. Not in the shower room or the locker room. And he wasn’t out in front, lingering. I lingered for a bit and continued imagining the what-if scenarios I started during my shower. Then I left for home.
* * *
Home is hell. My older brother smirked at me and muttered under his breath. He’s so self-righteous.
* * *
I was on my last lap and I saw him again in the bleachers, staring. I tried playing the same game I played the day before, pretending that his eyes were looking elsewhere, but knowing all along that he was looking dead at me the whole time. I liked him looking at me, so I ran another lap.
I went to the showers and he wasn’t there again. But then I saw him outside the gym and I froze. I thought about running back inside like I forgot something. I just wanted to get away from him so that I could toke on my imaginary, what-if scenarios in peace before going home. Home is hell.
“Hi,” he said.
I said, “Hi,” then I said, “You weren’t here yesterday.”
“Yeah, I was.”
“Where were you?”
“I waited here, but you didn’t come out so I left.”
“Well, how come you’re here this time,” I said.
“I waited longer.”
“Why didn’t you come inside?” I said.
“Are you fucking crazy? They kill faggots at this school!”
“I’m not a faggot.”
“Yeah, you are.”
“Are you a faggot?”
He smirked. I hate it when white boys smirk. It seems to come so natural to them. I muttered whatever and walked passed him. He didn’t follow.
* * *
My mother starts in with her usual rant about how I’m not half the man my brother is because I don’t know my bible verses. He started his smug, superior routine. I wanted to scream Halle-fucking-lujah in his face, but I enjoyed living too much. Not that he’d beat me up, the fucking pansy, but my mom would whip my ass good.
* * *
I was running around the track again. My time was good. The coach slapped me on the back. He told me I was good, good for the team. I don’t like teams. That’s why I opted out of ball games, all ball games. Teams make me sick. The people on them make me sick. I don’t want to follow their gestalt. At least in track, I could pretend I wasn’t part of a team.
I jumped. He was waiting outside the gym again. I jumped because I didn’t see him in the bleachers this time.
“Hi,” I said.
“I’m going to the Castro Saturday.”
“Wanna come along?”
“Never been. What do you do there?”
“Hang out. Then get a burrito.”
“I can’t. I gotta go to a family thing on Saturday.”
“Anyway, you can get burritos in Fruitvale, man,” I said.
He smirked again. I wanted to kill him.
* * *
Home is hell. My father makes a big deal about my stupid older brother’s “promotion” in the church. He’s gonna be a good minister one day, you’ll see, he said to me. Then he adds, and where will you be? Well gee, Dad, with my grades, I should be at Cal or Stanford, what do you think? That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t.
My brother looked more and more like The Church Lady everyday.
* * *
It was drizzling but I’m on the track, running. The wet didn’t bother me. I ran and ran around the track, looking at the scoreboard, at the billboards, at the gray sky, at the empty bleachers. They stayed empty with peripheral and direct vision. And he wasn’t hanging outside the gym when I came out of the locker room. I didn’t bother toking on what-ifs. I just went home. The weekend awaited.
* * *
“And you better wear your best clothes! I don’t want you embarrassing me, you hear? If you do, I’ll fucking smash your face in!”
Jerome loves to hear himself talk. And he loves to swear and make threats against me when he knows our parents aren’t in earshot. He does a good job of hiding what a motherfucker he is from them. They’d never believe me even if I tried to tell them, since I was the Son of Satan.
“Are you dressed yet? Come on! Get you ass out here!”
I can run as fast as anyone on the team, as fast as any black man ever knew how. But I also know how to take my sweet time.
Jerome’s induction in our funky church’s hierarchy did not excite me. But I had to go. If I didn’t, he’d have a hissy fit, then my parents would kick my ass for embarrassing the family. I hated my fucking tie so much. I stared at my watch, second by second.
* * *
After Jerome’s thing they went to dinner. I told them I had a track meet so I couldn’t go. I lied. I ran straight to Fruitvale BART. I ran. I didn’t want to miss another train. I had missed too many as it was.
I got off at Embarcadero. Transferred to Muni. I got off at Castro Street Station. I took the stairs up to street level, and then I just stood there. What was I doing? I didn’t know where to find him. And there were sharp blue eyes looking at me from everywhere. I heard their tongues smacking and I felt their thoughts carving me up. Fresh meat. Dark meat. Forbidden fruit. I started to freak, so I walked down the block. Eventually, I ducked into a bookstore. It was packed with sharp blue eyes, too, but at least they were looking at books and not me. At least not directly.
He was at the magazine section, reading an Advocate.
“When did you get here?” he said.
“Just a while ago.” I smiled, relieved.
“Cool! Are you hungry?”
We walked to this burrito place next to the black bar. Eric – that’s his name – explained that’s the bar where white guys go find black guys. I just nodded my head.
We both got super-sized burritos with the works. I took a chip off his plate, even though there were still plenty on my own. He didn’t say nothing.
“So,” I said, “You ever go next door to find some black boys?”
“Don’t have to, do I?”
Then he smirked.
I put my burrito down. Reached over the table. Grabbed the sides of his head. Sat up. Then kissed him square on the lips, deep and long, until the sour cream and salsa from our mouths dripped onto the table. When I let him go, we both caught our breaths.
“Why don’t you sit next to me?” he said.
“Sure.” So I sat next to him. “You got guacamole in your hair.”
He smirked, and told me to lick it off, then. So I did.
I love it when he smirks.
© 2011, gar. All rights reserved.