May 29 2006
Almost two weeks had passed since school started. It was Wednesday of that second week, and having just completed my home-work, I got up from my computer desk, turned down the lights and briefly sat down on the queen-sized, four poster. Looking at the digital alarm clock sitting on the night stand, I saw that it was 10:24. I lazily got up and walked out of the room towards my bathroom.
Looking at the mirror I saw a haggard face staring back at me: eyes slightly red and hair unusually unkempt. I turned on the faucet, brushed my teeth and washed my face. Having finished, I dragged myself back into my room, collapsing on the bed again.
There was a gentle knock at the door.
"Hey baby, how's it going?" It was my Mother, her sweet voice instantly soothing me.
"Hey Mom. I'm good. What's up?"
"Well, you tell me. You seemed really quiet at dinner tonight, and you haven't really been yourself the last few weeks…" She studied me intently, almost as if daring me to lie to her "Is everything alright?"
I instantly sensed her concern, and knowing my Mother the way I did, I knew that I needed to give her an answer she would believe. If I didn't, she almost certainly would continue to worry, and her being worried never bode well with me.
"Umm… I'm great, Mom. I promise. It's just…" I exhaled loudly, thanking God at that moment that the lights were dimmed. I've often been told that I wear my emotions on my face, and it would have been easy for her to see that I wasn't telling everything. "Well, I guess…I don't know… I'm just worried about school. Senior year, you know…college applications, SATs… stuff like that."
"I understand. Look, I know that it seems as though your Father and I don't pay much attention to you, but you do know that we love you very much, don't you?" She said this almost as if she were pleading with me; willing me to understand.
"Look Mom, I know it's no big deal. You and Dad work hard, I've always understood that. You just want the best for me."
"Yes we do." She seemed to relax. I saw on her face the metamorphosis of emotions, from fear to concern, to relief. I had said what she was hoping to hear.
I knew that I had just played dirty; bringing up the one topic I knew my mother would both understand and excuse - school! I had just manipulated her, making her feel guilty for wanting the best for me; for having to work long hours to give me everything I could ever want. I instantly thought about Riley and him mentioning "hell" when he dumped me.
Realizing I was no better than him, I brought both of my hands towards my face and placed my fingers over my eyes.
Almost as if reading my mind, my Mom asked, "Chase, did you and Riley have a fight?"
My heart skipped then began racing. I struggled to control my breathing. "A fight? Why would you think that?"
"Well, he's a great kid and he was always here. Now, all of a sudden he's not anymore. Also,well…"she started to look uncomfortable "… since he's stopped coming around you've been looking really miserable…like you've lost your best friend. So, am I right…is that it?"
I hated that my Mother was so damn....URGGGGGH!!!! Why couldn't she be like other parents…other BLACK parents? Why did she always have to pry, dammit!? So,Riley wasn't around anymore….SO DAMN WHAT!!!
Realizing that I was getting frustrated over nothing, I took a deep breath and calmly replied, "Yeah, I guess…"
"'Yes' is the word, Chase…not 'yeah'. Can you please speak properly? We pay enough money at that school of yours for you not to sound …like some …hoodlum."
Rolling my eyes, I sighed. "Sorry Mom. I meant to say 'Yes'. But, you're right. We had a fight and we're not friends, anymore." I was surprised to feel my face twisting into a sad smile. "If you don't mind, I'd really prefer not to talk about it, please." I knew that I was being overly factitious, but really, I could care less at that point. I just wanted to be left alone with my thoughts.
I heard my Mother sigh.
It was laced with a mixture of disappointment and frustration…and just a tinge of hope. I knew that she was only trying to help; to play the only role she could …but I couldn't let her. What was I supposed to say? 'Yeah Mom, he screwed me and then decided to be straight again!"? That was the last thing I needed her to know.
"Ok Chase." she said resignedly. She came over and gently kissed me on the forehead. "Have a good night, Ok? Sweet dreams."
"Night Mom." She began to walk out the door.
"I love you, Ok? And tell Dad I love him also, please."
I could see her silhouette outlined from the hall light behind her. I saw her lips curve into her trademark smile and knew that I had said the right thing.
"I love you too, baby." And with that she closed the door.
Left alone with my thoughts again, as much as I tried to convince myself that I was over Riley, I knew that I wasn't. The conversation with my Mother began a ricochet of emotions within me. I needed my nightly dose of therapy. Lifting my stereo remote from the night stand, I clicked the power button, and set the Boyz II Men CD 'Evolution' to repeat on the song "Never".
Over the last few weeks, it had become a nightly ritual for me. I would listen to the song and think about Riley while drifting off to sleep.
I set the timer for the stereo to turn off in an hour, and allowed the song's beauty to guide my thoughts.
The soft, smooth voices singing those powerful lyrics seemed to give me a renewed sense of hope, just enough to carry on. So many times over the last two weeks I felt like giving up, just forgetting about love. I mean, two failed relationships; both before I was even eighteen? That couldn't be good, right? But, as the song would play I always felt the lyrics wash over me, slowly caressing my consciousness.
This song had become my mantra, a personal affirmation that I wasn't giving up.
In this world today
Love is scarce and far away
And your heart gets so afraid
To trust someone
I was afraid… not so much to trust again, but to love. I knew my type oh too well - guys who fell for guys they knew they could never have- and the signs for guys like me were never good.
I was afraid that I would love and not be loved in return. I thought I had love with Riley. Hell, I was almost certain I did. A year spent in a relationship where I constantly offered my body for what I assumed was his exploration and pleasure, but now realized was simply experimentation; ignoring my own needs and desires in hopes of pleasing him. Wasn't that love?
I wanted so badly to keep him….I wanted that more than anything else. It didn't matter that I couldn't tell anyone about us. It didn't matter that we were never together outside of my house. It didn't even matter that intimacy with him was always physical…he never got that it wasn't his body I wanted…it was always about his soul…his heart.
I saw pass all of that. At first, the only thing that mattered was that he had never been with a guy, and that in itself…the mere idea of being with a straight boy turned me on more than anything. That was only in the beginning, however. Quickly…almost too quickly, I fell in love.
All the times he let you down
There was no love to be found
Well it's not the end
There'll be time to mend
And you'll love again. oh
Shit! He more than let me down. HE ThrEW ME AWAY! I was sure that the first day of school would bring me the distraction that I so desperately needed to help me ignore the pain, but it didn't. Instead, every class was a constant reminder of my failure; a constant reminder of what I'd lost.
Everything reminded me of him. The way my first period English teacher would absentmindedly touch his lips with that long boney index finger of his when he was thinking too hard-Riley! The way guys would wrap their arms around their girlfriends in the hallways, ignoring all we single folk like we didn't exist-Riley! The way everyone seemed so happy…just like Riley and I once were. Now, what was there to be happy about?
I felt the hot tears stream down my face.
Every logical thought in my head told me to let love be…leave well enough alone…that this was the end of the "Chase and Riley" story. Every logical thought told me to ignore Boyz II Men… but I couldn't. The more I saw love being expressed, the more I wanted it.
Never let a broken heart
Take a chance for love away
Don't never let it make you
Never, ever let the pain (never, ever let the pain)
Take your need for love away
It was as if they were singing to me, standing in front of me serenading me; singing their song of hope and frustration sweetly into my ears. Imparting a type of wisdom; pleading with me to forget about Riley, to let him go before thoughts of him destroyed me. I wanted to let it all go. I wanted anything that would stop the pain I was feeling. I wanted to damn it all to hell!
And I know it seems hard
Open up, let down your guards
But you owe it to your heart
To try again
Oh, comes the time when we must change
What the past has thrown away
Don't take the blame
Don't be ashamed
Throw your fears away…
As I walked into the gothic school building the following morning, I was comforted by the thought that there was only one day left before the weekend. I looked around as someone screamed my name.
Scanning the developing clutter of students I saw Rick smoothly walking towards me. There he was, a collage of charcoal grey trousers, buttoned down, short-sleeved, white cotton shirt, sky blue and black checked tie and navy blazer. There he was…smiling warmly.
I smiled back at him. Rick was everything that I was not, but he was doing his best to make sure that some of him rubbed off on me. We were two of a handful of coloured students (Asians and Hispanics included) at our school. Me, because my parents had the money to pay for it, and Rick because of a scholarship.
Even though he didn't look it, Rick was arguably the smartest in the school. Easily, he got some of the highest scores without even trying. Yup!, he could be just a tad bit effeminate when he wanted to be, but get him angry and he became like the Hulk. He could easily teach an offender the lessons of his rough life.
He was tall, just over six feet, and had a really nice swimmer's build. Like me, he was black, just a shade or two darker, and very soft on the eyes. Strangely enough, his looks rarely got him noticed. What did get him attention however, was his sex appeal.
THE BOY WAS SEXY!
Everything about him screamed TAKE ME! The way his pants comfortably hugged his firm, muscular hips, tapering at his narrow waist while adorned with a loosely held belt. His sexy, lazy 'boy' swagger, bouncing gently to the right before rising vertically; almost as if daring anyone to judge him. Beautiful teeth surrounded by full, pink lips. That's Rick!
When he spoke to you, his eyes locked with yours, almost like two almond-coloured tractor beams drawing you into him. He took his time speaking, careful to annunciate every syllable, especially ones that caused dramatic movements in his lips. Adding to his appeal was the fact that you could never figure him out. You couldn't help but be cliché in describing him as a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, and hidden in an enigma.
Looking at him, you'd think he was a slacker, but like I said, he wasn't. You could never pin point his sexuality either. Some thought he was gay, others would have sworn he was straight; especially the ladies.
At first, he captivated me. I'd had a HUGE crush on him. I wanted him so badly it took weeks before I could even speak to him and not make a fool of myself, but I got over it. Now, to me, Rick was simply Rick - my best friend.
"Waz up homie?"
I rolled my eyes almost involuntarily and sighed heavily. Rick knew that I hated street talk, but it never stopped him from using it around me.
So, using my index and middle fingers on both hands to mimic the quotation sign, I responded almost indignantly "Nuttin' homie…Whad up wit' you, PLAYA!?"
"Why you always 'gotta roll your damn eyes, nigga…and do you always 'gotta be so damn sarcastic?" Rick spat out, sucking his teeth.
I knew that I my 'preppie' attitude annoyed the hell out of him, but truly, I couldn't help it…well, I didn't want to.
"What? You think just 'cause ya damn eyes hazel, they cute?" he asked with an overly exaggerated look of mock annoyance on his face.
"The same reason why you speak the way you do. And yes, because my eyes are cute, I roll them. That's why you've always wanted me, isn't it?" I replied coyly, softening my features and smiling sweetly at him, making sure to slowly lick my lips, giving him an almost teasing glance of my tongue.
"Whatever homie. Annnnyyywayyyyzzz…" the anyway was exaggerated and stretched, "moving on. I was wondering, what's the deal with you and Riley? You two mad?"
I'm sure he had to have noticed the surprised look on my face. He quickly continued, "Firs' y'all always together and now…well go figure!"
I knew that lying to Rick would have been pointless. Like I said, everything about me shows up on my face. It's easy to see when I'm lying, and Rick, like my mother, knew me far too well. I was sure that he would have already spoken to Riley, and whereas, I was willing to bet that Riley would never have told him the true reasons behind our fight, I'm sure he told him that something was up.
(Sigh)… "Yeah well, we fought…now we're not friends. Done deal! OK?"
I tried to sound as final as I could. I didn't want to give Rick the impression the topic was up for discussion. He had the uncanny knack of getting me to confess anything to him, and I really needed to keep this one to myself. Not so much for me, but for Riley. Yes, he really hurt me, but not enough for me to tell his secret; even if it was only to Rick.
"As simple as that, huh?" he asked in a way that appeared to be sincere.
"Yup. As simple as that." I stated matter of fact.
"Well, seeing that you choose to lie to your best friend…"
I cut him off, "What do you mean 'lie'?" I was starting to get annoyed. I knew that he was right, and I was indeed lying to him, but he was supposed to always trust me. Ok, so maybe I'm being a hypocrite.
"What do I mean by 'lie'?" he stressed the word 'lie' in a way that made me feel uncomfortable; like he knew something. "Well, tell you what…I'll forgive you this time, OK? But only because I understand…" he got even more serious, "But if you ever lie to me again, Chase, I swear I'll cut off your balls."
I was still too nervous to say anything. I couldn't figure out how much he knew, and I didn't want to give anything away, so I just remained quiet. On about the fifth step of silence, I began to get uncomfortable.
"What am I lying about, Rick?" I said it this time with a lot more humility. Something in me told me to brace myself. Something in the way he was looking at me told me that Rick may have known more than he let on, but whatever it was, I would let him talk to me. No way was I spilling anything!
Rick rolled his eyes at me and looked annoyed. I took the opportunity to chide him a little, hoping to lighten the mood,
"Now look who's rolling his eyes." I smiled.
"What-fuckin'-ever, Liar. But anyway, I have a message for you."
To say that I was curious would be an understatement. Immediately, I began to think about Riley.
"A message…from who?" I made sure not to sound too eager.
Smirking evilly, Rick replied, "Mr. Thomas, the correct way to phrase that question would actually be, 'A message from 'whom'?'…not 'who'. But, anyway…it's from Riley."
I couldn't help but get excited. I hadn't heard from Riley since the day of the fight, and even though I was dying to hear from him, I had refused to call. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that the distance was because of me…I had asked him to give me my space, but the ball was still always in his court. He had to put himself out there now… I risked everything in telling him that I loved him and wanted to be with him, and I was happy to see that he was now willing to risk something.
"What is it? What did he say?" I couldn't control the way that I sounded. I knew that I was overly anxious, but at that point I didn't care. It only registered that Riley had reached out to me. I'd have to deal with the consequences of showing Rick too much later.
Rick looked at me, his expression somber, "Chase, why didn't you talk to me?"
"Talk about what, Rick?"
"What about Riley?"
"ABOUT- THE- FACT- THAT-YOU-TWO-WERE-TOGETHER…Why didn't you tell me? I thought I was your best friend."
By this time, Rick had already led me into the cafeteria. I turn to face him, only to see a pained expression on his face. I could only hang my head, gluing my eyes to the floor.
Finding an empty corner table he walked over and pulled up a chair, looking at me expectantly when I didn't follow. I glanced left at the clock on the wall hanging over the entrance way- 8:00; a full half hour before I needed to be in home room. I walked over to him and pulled up a chair. I still refused to look in his face.
(Sigh)… "He told you, huh?"
His voice sounded almost sympathetic. "Yup! Look Chase, the boy's a mess. He came over last night, practically in tears. He told me everything. How you refuse to talk to him…told him you needed space. How you got mad when he told you he couldn't love you---"
WHAT! I was incredulous. Maybe I didn't hear Rick correctly, or maybe I simply didn't understand. I felt my eyebrows furrow.
"What? Back up!!. He told you that I got angry because he told me that he couldn't love me?"
"Yup…" Rick stated with his 'matter of fact' voice. "But hold up! Before you tear my head off, know that I don't believe him…I didn't buy his bull for a minute! Well, about you getting angry 'bout the love thing anyway. I know you, and I always knew what was going on between you two…there may have been many things not happening, honey, but hear me when I tell ya…love wasn't one of um, that shit was for real."
So many questions were running through my head at that moment. Did Rick just say that he always knew what was going on between us? How? Did Riley tell him? I was just about to ask him, but as if he were reading my mind, he cut me off before I had a chance to speak.
Shaking his head, "Nah sweetie. Riley never told me nuttin'. I saw it. From that first gaddam day. I saw the looks you gave him… shit! I saw the looks he gave you. Aint brain surgery, bitch!"
I was shocked and had a hard time trying to contain the erupting fit of trembles. "But you never said anything…Why?"
"Well, I figured that if you wanted me to know, you'd tell me. Simple!"
I smiled. "So anyway, what's the message?"
Rick dug around in his backpack and withdrew a white envelope. Handing it to me he said, "He told me to give this to you…he also said to tell you that he's sorry 'bout the whole 'hell' thing…he said you'd understand."
He then got up and walked away, leaving me alone with the letter. I fumbled it open and began reading:
"Right now I'm smiling thinking bout that right eyebrow of yours that just shot up:. I know I'm probably the last person you want to hear from right now, and honestly, I can't say that I blame you. I know that you said that you needed space, but please, just hear me out. When you've been with someone and heard from him every day for more than 365 days, it's hard to just pretend like he don' matter no more. I miss you Chase. SHIT! I miss you more than I thought I would. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I was wrong. The only person I want right now…is you.
"You have to understand that it's hard coming to terms with who I am. I spent my whole damn life believing I was straight, you know…my whole fucking life, and then almost instantly, I find myself attracted to you. Shit, homie!!
"I tried so hard to just be friends, you know. I would see you looking at me when we hung out, and then I'd look at you to let you know that I knew you were looking, and you'd turn your head in this cute way. I'm smiling thinking bout you baby. I'm sitting down in Ricky's room right now, writing this, and I'm crying playa! ME! FUCKING CRYING! I'm crying 'cause I realized this afternoon that I fucked up. I realized this afternoon that I want you back.
"When I came to you that day, I came 'cause I thought that I wanted out of our relationship. From the beginning I thought that what we had was wrong. You know, love is supposed to be between a man and a woman. NOT TWO MEN. I couldn't come to terms with what I felt for you, and everything I knew told me that what we had was wrong. So I became comfortable thinking that it was only sex for me, you know. But then you kept buggin bout us being intimate…bout me kissing you and all that shit. It made me realize that you wanted a real relationship with me, and I wasn't ready for that shit. So, I ran.
"Chase, you know I aint like you. I don't stand up and fight. I RUN! I run, because that's what I know how to do best. I aint smart like you! I can't figure things out the way you do. HELL! Right now, I'm still fucking confused. I honestly can't tell you if I want to be straight or gay. All I know is that I want to be with you and I want you back. Can't that be enough for right now, baby? So I came here to Rick. I wanted you to know that I was ready to tell someone. I told him. I told him everything! I need to be with you…pleaseeeeee!. I'm ready to be with you the way you want me to. Call me… please.
It would be impossible to describe what I felt at that moment; a complex mixture of anger, frustration, elation, and relief. I was finally getting what I wanted, but somehow it didn't feel the way it should have felt. I wasn't even aware that I was crying…that is, until a smooth, confident voice jarred my thoughts.
"You alright, bud?"