By Galilea Oregon
Of course Princeton was in love with me. I mean, what’s not to love? But, God. Princeton? Gay? For me? I guess it all did make sense. Why he was always watching me and why he seemed to care about every little detail about my personal life. But how in the hell was I supposed to deal with that? I couldn’t just walk up to him when we were hanging out and say, “Hey, look, I know you’re totally gay for me and I guess we can still be friends, but we can’t change next to each other for PE.”
So, the weeks following the Sadie’s dance, I did my best to avoid Princeton. We’d hang out with the rest of the boys, but I never looked at him or even talked to him. I sat with Cole and went to his house instead of Prince’s, but that kind of sucked because Cole didn’t have an XBox, so we just smoked in his room (with a towel pressed against the bottom of the door, just to be cautious) or watched surfing videos.
On a Friday night, two weeks after Sadie’s, Cole slept over at my house. After school, we ordered pizza and watched The Simpsons until my parents came into the living room, arguing as usual. Fighting made Cole uneasy; he had enough to deal with at home. He tugged at my sleeve and motioned over to my bedroom door.
Once I shut and locked the door behind me, Cole let out an exasperated sigh.
“Why don’t they just get divorced?” he asked.
“I dunno. My parents are stupid, and you know them—they fight like this all the time.” I jumped into bed, outstretching my arms. Cole sat on my floor, texting some girl.
We were there in my messy room. It was weird; almost as if we were communicating through our silence. Every once in a while, Cole would look up at me from his phone and make a stupid face. Our bond was nice. We didn’t have to talk much to understand each other. With a simple glance, I’d already know what was on his mind. And it was funny, how it wasn’t like that with Princeton. Oh God…Princeton…
Almost as if he had read my mind, Cole crawled over right next to my bed and gave me this look of complete curiosity.
“So…” He leaned over close, reminding me of a gossipy thirteen year old girl. “I heard you found out…about Prince.” What? I thought Mia was the only one that knew. I clenched my fists tightly before saying something I’d regret.
“I swear to God, if you knew about this from the beginning—”
“Okay. Well…no. Not exactly. Did I suspect it? Yes. But I mean, who didn’t?”
“Touche.” I bit down on my lip uneasily, furrowing my brow, unsure of how to deal with such a sensitive topic of conversation.
“Okay look, I got Princeton really crossfaded a little over a month ago and he said you were adorable and stupid. And I mean, it’s true. You’re adorable. But also really stupid. Anyways, Princeton would NOT shut up about you. I just assumed he was gay and totally head over heels for you. So of course I’m like, ‘Oh, shit this could end badly. Better keep this one to myself.’ But I have it on video because it was pretty hilarious.”
I don’t know what happened first: either me yelling or when I punched Cole in the face. There was blood oozing out from his left nostril like a river, down his parted lips to his peach fuzzed chin. He covered his nose and threw his head back in agony.
“Shit, I saw that coming. Sorry, man.” He looked at me and laughed, “I’ll be more subtle when talking about your gay lover.”
“Shut up.” I outstretched my hands and helped him up from the ratty carpet. He followed me into the bathroom and propped himself onto the sink countertop. I grabbed toilet paper and crumpled it up in one hand while I tilted Cole’s head back with the other.
“Hold this. Pinch your nose. I’m gonna go get ice.”
“You are such a gentleman, Kingsley!” he mocked. God, that boy could be dying and he’d still be cracking jokes.
I snuck down the hall, trying to avoid my parents’ room. I could hear shouting from behind the door. Something about how irresponsible my mom was and how it reflected on my poor behavior. Whatever. It’s the same shit every single goddamned day. They toss me around like a ball. It never ends. I grabbed ice and put it in a plastic bag and found a couple beers in the fridge.
“Here,” I tossed Cole a beer when I walked back into the bathroom.
“Shitty apology, but I guess it works.” He took the ice from me and pressed it against his face.
“I’m a man of few words.” I tried smiling at him. He didn’t deserve to get punched. But he was being pretty annoying.
“King. You’re barely a man. Anyways, Prince likes you, like a lot. What are you going to do about it?” Cole asked as he dabbed crumpled tissues on his nose. I watched his blood drip into his bottle of beer, onto his hand.
“Gee, I don’t know Cole. Maybe I’ll just ask him out on a date and we can see a movie and have a nice classy dinner afterwards. GOD. I. DON’T. KNOW.” I could feel the room spinning around me, sweat beads starting to form on my forehead, “YOU THINK I ASK FOR THIS?” I punched the countertop and let out an exasperated sigh. “I don’t know what to do. Like I can’t make up some shit up on the spot. This isn’t some shit that’s just gonna go away.” How in the hell was I supposed to just deal with this? I could feel my knuckles starting to throb. Dealing with a crush from any old girl was simple and easy. I rubbed my fist, wincing slightly. But this, this was something completely uncalled for.
“Hey, look.” Cole patted my back. “We’ll deal with it. If I’m gonna get punched in the face, it’s for a worthy cause, right? And what’s a worthier cause than saving a bud from a gay relationship?”
“You’re so stupid.” I slapped his hand off me. “Nose good?”
Cole set the bag of ice in the sink and lightly prodded at his nose. He winced and quickly wiped his hand on his lap. “Yeah I think so. Look, King, if anything, you can’t cut Prince from the group. We aren’t lowlife conservative homophobes.”
“Yeah, no shit. We’re not cutting him. Then what?”
“Hmph.” He put his head down, picking at a scab on his elbow. “I got it. We make you ugly and undesirable.”
“Or we could just be upfront about it and tell him to back off.”
“Yeah, that’s easier.” He hopped off the counter and walked out of the bathroom nonchalantly. “Let’s go, bud. Time to break Prince’s heart.”
“God, it’s not like we’re doing anything else tonight. Let’s go!” He jumped up and down, impatiently tugging at my sleeve, just like a five year old.
“But.” I hesitated, looking over at my parents’ bedroom door. “Yeah, I mean, whatever. Let’s go before my parents realize I left.” Not like they’d care anyway…
Cole followed me down the hall, skateboard in hand. I didn’t know what I was doing. I never knew what I was doing. I was just making things up as I went, hoping I wouldn’t get caught, hoping for as little repercussions as possible. I peered down at my phone. The clock read 7:14. I had the whole night to fix things with Prince.
“Where to, King?”
“Princeton’s,” I mumbled as I got on my board. He gave me a reassuring nod. I had to confront him. And I was so scared.