I didn't have any time this week. Oh yeah, Valentine's Day fever just caught me by surprise... whatever. VALENTINE'S DAY SUCKS! VALENTINE'S DAY SUCKS! DAMN YOU! DAMN YOU ALL! Back to your regularly scheduled program.
(Variations and Copyright Encroachment on Night Creatures, by Paula Boock. Yes, this is a gay love story, although it never defines the sex of the author.)
He will not be expecting me. Not tonight. A boy needs his sleep, and I have exams. Tomorrow, English in the hall with the clicking pens and hot, stuffy sighs. Afternoon, though. I can cram a lot into a morning's swot. Last year I wrote two essays on books I hadn't even read and I still got an A. He calls me a smart little bastard.
This street smells. It smells of hot asphalt, of dust that the rain hasn't touched for weeks; it smells of English roses- I'm not kidding, people here have very English gardens; it smells of salt, the sea.
I'm telling you how it smells because at night, at one o'clock in the morning to be precise, that's what you notice. When you're standing still as I am and looking down his street, it smells, and you know that that's what you'll remember, though you don't know when, or where.
He wants to travel. He says he wants to get going, to see stuff, to feel the buzz of big cities. What he really wants is to escape his parents, this little town, being different. And he's right. In the big cities he won't be different, he won't have everyone telling him what to do, because they won't care. He doesn't want people to care.
His street is ugly and plain. It's filled with the nasty hum of street-lights. It's filled with ugly, plain houses like his, like his parents'. The thought that he lives in that ugly little house just kills me. I want to smash it down. I want to smash it down and raise him out of it, pure and beautiful. Now that would crack him up. Pure and beautiful. If he heard that he's throw back his head and roar with laughter. A lot of my ideas have that effect on him.
The first time he saw me he laughed. I was walking to school in the pouring rain, my umbrella trashing about in the wind, flapping inside out. I stopped and tossed it over a fence, turned my face to the sky and opened my mouth wide, letting it fill with rain. He says he fell in love with me at that moment.
I do not remember this. In fact I am concerned that it may have been someone else altogether, as it isn't the sort of thing I would do. For one thing, I would be worried someone would yell at me for dumping my umbrella in their garden. For another, I hate getting my face wet, on account of my contact lenses.
These things I have not told him. I understand how he would have admired the boy who did that. So would I. It is the sort of thing he would do. And, after all, who am I to say it was not me?
There are no lights on. This is a good thing, for his father has a habit of early-morning snacks. I have often arrived to find him in the bright rectangle of the kitchen window happily frying up a feast. Sometimes he stops and stares blindly- I hope it is blindly- at the black night. What does he see?
He was spotted by my mother. When I say he, I don't mean my mother recognized him, because she didn't. Thankfully, baggy pants look like a dress in silhouette. So when she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and illuminated a figure in a dress outside the window, she assumed it was female. A girl, she later decided. She ran off, she said at the time, but later added, She more... danced, I suppose- yes, danced across the window. My mother likes to finalize all the tiny details. My father , who has no interest in details, had already stormed out the door and up the street after the intruder, a word my mother was already doubtful about. But that was the clue for me. She danced, she said. He danced. And then my beautiful bold boyfriend was streaking up Hill St, tripping on a gutter, wrenching his ankle, falling on his hands and crawling under a rhododendron hedge to hide from my father with scraped and bleeding hands. That was the last time he came to my house.
There is a problem with gates. There are two gates down each side of the house. The ones on the far side would be safer, except they squeak badly. The first one on the near side is next to his parents' bedroom window.
His parents like me. Parents usually do, I sell well. They say to me, You are good for him, he has settled down a lot, as if we're in some kind of conspiracy to set him like a problem jelly. They say, You are a good influence, being older, as if my carefully jellied self will keep him cold and still long enough to set. They trust me. What they don't know is that he is seriously unsettling this jelly. Ahh, they would kill me.
They have their curtains drawn wide apart and a fanlight window open. This is disconcerting. In my more paranoid moments I think his mother knows and is waiting for me to make a mistake. I think of her lying there, straining to see a shadow or hear a noise she could rightfully investigate.
I make no noise on the first gate. As I pass their window I take smooth, measured steps in my sneakers. I know how to relax. It is important to relax. Then, unexpectedly- crich! A bloody snail! I am directly outside the window and I am not breathing. This is a terrible moment. Do I freeze, make no movement, assuming people will not investigate one noise; or do I give in to the paranoia and bolt from the prospect of his triumphant mother appearing at the window' My eyes flick to the ground, to the broken brown egg of a snail glittering on the concrete.
I stay suspended, a still shot of a moonwalker, then slowly move on, my heart boxing. Once past their window, I lean against the bumpy roughcast and take long, deep breaths.
When we first discovered each other it was like being on a mountain top without enough oxygen. We just stood sometimes, just looking at each other, just staring, my hands resting on the worn denim of his hipbones, his on my elbows. It was like standing on the edge of a cliff. It was like standing in an electric current. It was like all these things, but enormous, in full color, in quadraphonic, and in me. I breathed a lot that term. I don't recall when the oxygen started coming back.
Two specks shine in the shrubbery. Then a rustle, a soft thump. It is his cat, Trigger. He murmurs to me in cat-talk, gurgling, purring, and then, ducking his head, folds on to his back and waves his paws at me. This is more dangerous than the snail, since her mother might hear and open another window to let him in, but I smile all the same. Crazy cat I whisper, stroking his head. Reaggle, ruggle uck, he replies and slopes ahead of me, under the net gate. He knows.
I told you how he fell in love with me, if it was me. I fell in love with him over Trigger. We'd been at hockey. As we turned into his street a car squealed to a stop and collided with a small animal. He dropped his bag, cried out Trigger! and sprinted up the middle of the road, faster than she ever did at hockey, and that was fast. The man had moved the animal and got back into his car before he got there, but he smashed his hockey stick into the boot as he took off. By the time I caught up, lugging his bag, he was sitting on the curb with tears in his fierce eyes, holding a dead possum. They're night creatures, he said. They shouldn't come out during the day.
The next gate is only a problem if there is someone in the kitchen, which there isn't. The latch is already undone. Trigger has disappeared, but as I round the back of the house I can hear him. He has found something.
It is him. The outline of his tall body stands against the blue night. I gasp, quietly as it is possible to gasp- maybe what they call a sharp intake of air, except there is nothing sharp about this, I am melting inside. In my mind, well prepared for tomorrow's exam, I am quoting like a good English scholar, It is my lord, O it is my love, but in my heart I am thinking, I am feeling. He is waiting. He is expecting me.
now i'm cruising through a chromakey blue sky/and i know/that in an hour or three/the sun is gonna be in my eyes and i know that sometimes all i can see/is how i feel like the whole world is on the other side/of a dirty windshield/and i'm tryin to see through the glare/yes i'm struggling just to see what's there