They say everyone has a double, a doppelganger, someone who’s their mirror image. What if you just met your double? What if you were a thirteen-year-old kid who’s gay and you just met your double?
As soon as I got to my Creative Writing class I knew I’d screwed up. I couldn’t ride home with Lane and Josh. I normally took the bus home with Scott and Frank. How could I explain to Scott that I rode home with Lane and Josh? Now, how to find Parker before the end of eighth period. How could I find out what class he had eighth period? How could I get out of my Creative Writing class to go find him?
Okay, I suddenly knew how I could find out what class he had. I remembered Heather’s friend say that her sister worked in the office. If she was there now, then she could look it up for me. I needed to find out the sister’s name. I’d have to start with Heather. So, what class did Heather have eighth period? I had no idea. But Todd might know. He’d also know her cell number. I’d still have to get out of Creative Writing and figure out how to talk to Todd in his Journalism class. He would have Heather’s cell number. But I couldn’t call her. The school had a no-cellphones policy. Anyone caught using their cell during class would have it taken away and returned at the end of the week. Even if she had her cell with her she’d have it turned off.
‘Think, Tony, think!’ I mentally shouted to myself.
Wait a minute. Parker and I both walked into the Language Arts building. I thought I saw him head for the stairs so his class would be on the second floor. But I couldn’t be sure that he actually went upstairs. But that wouldn’t make any difference if I could get out of Creative Writing a few minutes early and wait on the sidewalk between the building and the bus pickup area. Even if he went to a different building to get his stuff out of his locker, I’d see him come outside. There were only two exits out of the building, one at each end. I’d see him whichever exit he used.
Class hadn’t started yet, so I walked up to Ms. Porzio’s desk. She looked up and smiled.
“Hi, Tony. I got your reviews and thought all three of them were well written and insightful.”
I blushed, and she grinned seeing that. “Thanks, Ms. Porzio. Um….”
“Do you have a question?”
“Uh, I sort of would like a favor. I have a problem with my ride home after school. I had a ride all set up, and someone else offered me a ride. So I cancelled my first ride.” Well, that was a stretch, since my first ride is the bus, but desperation is the mother of invention. I read that somewhere. “On my way into the building the second ride bailed on me, he doesn’t have enough room So, I need to catch the first guy before he leaves. I live all the way across town, and it’s too far to walk.”
“After hearing all that I’m a bit confused,” she said, “but why don’t you tell me what you want and let’s see if it becomes clear.” She smiled, a good sign.
“Okay, what I’d like to do is get out of class a few minutes early so I can find my first ride and make sure he doesn’t leave without me. I don’t know what class he has eighth period, and I don’t know his cell number either.”
“I think I can let you out early. Is five minutes enough? Or would ten minutes be better?”
“If you could let me out ten minutes early that means I’ll be sure to find him before he leaves.”
“I don’t see a problem. I’ll write you a permission slip so if you’re questioned by a teacher or staff member they’ll know you’re authorized to be outside.”
I must have looked relieved because when she handed me the slip she said, “You can calm down now. I’m sure you’ll find your ride home.”
“Thanks, Ms. Porzio. I really appreciate it.”
She smiled. “You’re welcome, Tony.”
‘Oh god, lies, lies, lies!’ I read the riot act to myself. ‘I hope she doesn’t see me getting on the bus. That would be like the most embarrassing thing. She’d guess that I lied to her.’
I took a seat near the rear door to the classroom, and about half-way through the class I started glancing at the clock every few minutes. Finally, at three-ten, ten minutes before the school day would end, I quietly picked up my backpack, smiled and waved to Ms. Porzio who nodded. I left without anyone noticing.
When I got to where I could see both exits from the Language Arts building, I started watching. As soon as I heard the bell, I saw Parker coming out of the east exit, so I ran all the way across the quad to intercept him.
“Hey, Parker,” I called out, breathing heavily. He turned around, smiled, and waved.
When I got to where he stood I took a couple deep breaths. “I just realized that I usually take the bus with Josh’s brother Scott. I think it would be sort of embarrassing to ride home with Josh. Scott would want to know why, especially since he isn’t able to ride with them. Anyway, I think I’ll take the bus as usual.”
“Hey, no problem, Tony. I can see how it could become weird for you.”
“Thanks. I don’t want to make things strained between me and Scott. And Josh, too.”
“Hey, you know what I forgot? To get your cellphone number and address, and give you mine. You got a minute to do that now?”
“Sure.” So that’s what we did.
“You doing anything after you get home today?” Parker asked. “Maybe we could meet up somewhere we could talk.”
“Sure. We could do it at your house or mine, or if you want privacy we could go to Bixby Park.”
“How about the park? At my house we have my brother and sisters and my mom and our dogs and it’s likely to be super congested.”
“My house would be quiet because I don’t have any brothers or sisters. But my mom would be there, and you’d be subjected to her third-degree interrogation.”
Parker started laughing when I said the ‘third-degree’ part.
“Your mom sounds exactly like mine. She’d be like, ‘Who are you, how do you know Parker, what classes are you taking, do you like school, are you a good student, what do you want to do when you grow up, tell me about your family, what do you parents do, where do you live, what sports do you play,’ and so on, and on, and on.”
I chuckled. “Okay, the park definitely sounds like the best solution,” I said. “What time do you want to meet?”
“How about when you’re through with your homework?”
“I don’t have much, so I’ll do it tonight after dinner,” I replied. “So we could get together this afternoon.
“Then, how about right after you get home?”
“I should be home about quarter to four. I’ll change, chat up my mom a bit, grab a couple cans of root beer to bring for us, and be at the park around ten after four. Is that okay? Oh, and is root beer okay for you?”
“Yeah, that’s all good. You know the park entrance off of San Luis Road?” I nodded. “There are some picnic tables off to the right. Unless someone’s using them, that’s a good place. If they’re being used, then to the left of the entrance there are some benches.” We said goodbye and I headed to my ‘ride’ home.
When I got to the bus I didn’t see Scott or Frank. I got on, and saw Leslie and Sandra wave at me from the back seat, the one that goes all the way across. I walked back and sat next to them.
“Where’s your twin?” Leslie asked.
“Todd lives near school, so he either walks or rides his bike.” I grinned. “So tell me about your second day of the Sex 1A class.”
Leslie rolled her eyes, and Sandra chuckled. “We didn’t get to look at pictures of guys’ privates.”
“I thought you were supposed to learn everything about guys yesterday. What happened?”
“Yeah, well, that’s what they supposedly taught us,” Leslie said. “There weren’t any pictures, though, just some pencil drawings.”
“Pencil drawings? What, are they afraid you’d see a real penis and rush out and jump on the first guy you saw?”
“Most of us have seen at least one penis in our lives. You know, there are lots of pictures on the internet. Some of us have boyfriends who have them and they’re always hot to show them off.” She bumped shoulders with me and wiggled her eyebrows. “Anyway, they showed us pencil drawings of a soft one and a hard one. They showed anatomical drawings of how it is constructed. We were told about the prostrate and what it’s for. I’m glad girls don’t have one of those after hearing about how common prostate cancer is. And then that was it, and we had to sit around waiting for the bell. They didn’t even offer to answer any questions.”
“They didn’t even talk about gay and bi sex,” Sandra said. “We were interested in hearing about that. Did they cover that in your class?”
“Yeah, there was a gender and sexuality part on Monday, but we didn’t learn anything new, just the school district policy about respecting people regardless of their sexual orientation, and a reminder of the no bullying agreement we all signed at the beginning of the semester.
“I have a question for you two. Guys know about gay guys, but do girls know about gay girls? Lesbians?”
Leslie replied, “Ew, don’t use that term. It’s gay girls, not lesbians. Especially don’t call a girl a lesbo. That’s like calling a guy a fag.”
“Okay. But what’s the answer to my question? And are there any gay girls at Wilson?”
“Of course we know about them here at Wilson,” Sandra replied. “But there are lot more bi girls than gay girls. Most girls are attracted to guys, but it’s always safer to make it with another girl ‘cause you can’t get preggers that way.”
“Preggers? I can figure that out, it means pregnant, right? But I’ve never heard that word before.”
“It’s better than ‘knocked up,’ don’t you think?” Leslie said. “Preggers is a slang term that comes from England.”
“So there’s no big stigma for a girl to have sex with another girl?”
“No, nothing major,” Leslie said.
“Except for religious girls who think it’s a sin,” Sandra added.
“Too bad it’s not that way for us guys. We don’t want to get a girl pregnant just like the girl doesn’t want to get pregnant. So if it’s not a big thing for girls to get it on with each other, why are so many guys homophobic?”
“I don’t think we can answer that for you, Tony. If you find out why don’t you let us know?”
“Yeah, if I find out.”
By then we’d arrived at my bus stop.
“Bye, Leslie. Bye, Sandra. See you tomorrow morning.”
“Bye, Tony,” they said simultaneously.
I got off and walked to my house. I thought about what they said about bi girls, and wondered if Leslie and Sandra ever messed around with each other. ‘Why not,’ I decided. ‘If Todd and I can do it, then those two girls could do it if they wanted to.”
I got home and unlocked the back door and walked in. Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, so I called out, “I’m home!”
No answer. I went upstairs to my room and pulled out the books I’d brought home for my homework. I changed to casual jeans and a T with a rainbow flag on the front. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered if the T might be too gay.
I grinned. I thought the T looked fine. Parker would probably think it looked fine. Good enough for me.
I grabbed some cans of root beer, then left a note for Mom telling her that I’d be at Bixby Park with Parker Hampton, and that I had my cell with me. It was about a fifteen minute walk to the park, and when I got there I saw Parker sitting at a picnic bench off to the right of the entrance, right where he’d said we’d meet.
He waved when he saw me, and I walked over and sat across from him and handed him a root beer.
“Wow, cool rainbow T, Tony,” he said.
“Thanks, Parker. How much time do you have to talk?”
“Until about six. My mom took the kids to the mall to buy some clothes. They’re outgrowing everything she bought them in the summer. Lane wasn’t home yet. So it turns out we could have met at my house. But, this is still better. There’s no chance of being interrupted.”
“You seem nervous,” I said.
“I am, I guess. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about stuff with another guy. You know, sex stuff.”
“You can talk about anything you want, and my lips are sealed. I’ll never repeat it to anyone, including Todd.”
“Thanks, Tony. I think we’re going to be good friends. At least I hope so.”
“Yeah, me too. So, do you want to start?”
“No. But I will, since this was my idea.
“I figured out that I was gay back in sixth grade. My best friend Kevin and I started experimenting and I liked it a lot. Actually, I loved it, we both loved it, and I guess we became boyfriends. About halfway through the eighth grade his family had to move to Seattle because of his dad’s job. But that’s not important, what is important is that I’d learned that I’m gay and that I liked being gay.
“You’ve seen me in the showers. I’m fourteen, but I’m built like a guy four or five years older than me. I’ve seen Lane naked and I’m a lot bigger than him. Being so much bigger freaks me, Tony. I was more normal size when Kevin and I were messing around starting in sixth grade. It’s after he left that I started to grow.
“Okay, I had a boyfriend once, and I really loved having a boyfriend. We messed around a lot, and we both loved that. Now I don’t have a boyfriend, and I want one. I know once I meet the right guy I’ll have to go through the whole ‘getting to know him’ thing before we start messing around, and that’s fine. I have a different problem.
“First, it’s hard finding a guy who’s gay. I’m lucky that I have pretty good gaydar, but if I feel that tingle looking at a guy it’s just the beginning. I have to figure out a way to talk to him, to become friends. If you’re a guy who likes girls, you’d just walk up to one and start chatting them up. Eventually you’d get around to going out together, then serious dating, and so on. But what do I do about a guy? Do I chat them up? And if so, when can I do it? What I mean is, how do I get to talk to them alone without coming across as some sort of sex maniac? I’m so freakin’ confused!
“Then there’s the size thing. I think guys are way size conscious. They’re going to be freaked by a guy who is a lot larger than they are. They’ll think he’ll laugh at them, that he wouldn’t be interested in someone… well, someone whose stuff is a lot smaller. That’s not true! I like guys, and to me size doesn’t matter.”
I guess he thought I looked like I didn’t believe that, and that’s probably true.
“Think about it this way, Tony. I’m about four inches taller than you. Does that make any difference to you?”
“No, why should it.” Parker raised his eyebrows and looked at me. I thought for a few seconds. “Really, it doesn’t make any difference. Scott’s my friend, and he’s about eight inches taller than me.”
“Okay, that’s a good answer. Now, I don’t know exactly how much longer my penis is compared to yours, but let’s say it’s four inches longer, and that’s maybe twice as long. Does that make a difference to you?”
“I guess I don’t know. It’s never come up.”
“What I’m mainly interested in is when it doesn’t come up. How about then?” He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.
“What?” I exclaimed, then started laughing. “You’ve got a dirty mind, Parker Hampson.”
“Hey, I’m just trying to make sure you’re not all stressed by my question. You’ve seen me and I’ve seen you in the showers. So what if I said I’d like to be friends with you, and maybe more. Does how we’re built make a difference to you?”
“Let me answer it this way,” I replied. “No. But that’s a conditional no. The condition would be your reaction to how I’m built.”
Parker waited for me to say something more, but I’d finished.
“Okay, I understand,” he said. “If I expressed interest in the way you’re built, then we’d get togeth….”
“No!” I interrupted, “not ‘then we’d get together!’ There’s a big ‘if’ and that ‘if’ is that I also expressed interest in getting to know you first. It’s gotta be a two-way street. We have to be interested in each other, and start off being friends first.”
“Friends who are interested in and accepting of each other,” Parker added. “That’s a real two-way street.”
“You’re right, and both the interest and acceptance are needed. So we’ve arrived at a place where you and another guy can meet and get together. So your problem is finding that other guy, right?”
“Right. And that’s no easy job.”
“You just said you have good gaydar. Wouldn’t that help you find a guy who is gay and might be interested?”
Parmer took a deep breath and let it out as an audible sigh.
“Okay, let’s talk reality. I actually found a guy who I think is gay. At least my gaydar makes me tingle when I look at him. Thing is, I still don’t know how to approach him. Like I said, I don’t want to freak him. He doesn’t know me, and having me walk up and just starting to chant with him — well, if someone did that to me I’d be wondering ‘who the heck is this guy?’ and that’s not a good start. Maybe you could give me a few tips about what you think I might be able to do so he’ll at least know who I am.”
“You hinted at what you’ll have to do. You need to find out about him, what classes he has, where he lives, who his friends are, what his interests are, what he likes to do. So to start, is he in any of your classes? If not, that’ll make it more complicated but not impossible.”
“He’s in two of my classes.”
“Do you know where he lives?”
“That’s not necessarily a big problem. Are you friends with some of his friends?”
“Yeah, a couple guys and maybe one girl. I think.”
“Okay, a start is to ask them about him.”
“I’m not out to them. You’re the only one who knows I’m gay, Tony. If I ask them about him they’re going to wonder why I’m asking about him and where he lives.”
“You don’t need to ask where he lives. It would make things easier if you did know, but skip that for now. What classes do you have together?”
Parker put his hands over his face, and said, “Biology. And PE.”
“PE? That’s perfect! He’s probably seen you in seventh period PE. Is he athletic? Wait! Don’t answer that. Instead answer this question: Is he going out for freshman football?”
Parker dropped his hands and just looked at me for a few seconds. “Yes.”
“Have you talked to him?”
“Okay, you’re going out for freshman football. He’s going out for freshman football. You two are in the same Biology class. Just walk up to him before or after Biology tomorrow and ask him something about the fitness pretesting we had today. Ask him what position he plays. Ask him where he’s played football, like middle school or Pop Warner. Talk to him!”
“Ask him all those questions?”
“Yes! Guys like to talk about themselves. I know I do. I’ll bet you do, too. And I’ll bet that he does, too. You’re going to ask him those questions and others you’ll think up on your own, and you, Mr. Parker Hampson, are going to show that you’re really interested in what he says, in his opinions and things he likes to do. You are going to become his friend. Once you’re friends find out what kind of movies he likes, tell him you like the same kinds, even if you don’t. Ask him if he’d like to go see some movie that’s in his area of interest.”
I could tell from the way Parker’s eyes opened wider that he’d caught on.
“There’s lots of other things you can suggest that you can do together. In Biology you have to memorize all of the bones. Ask if he’d like to get together to do that. Invite him to your house to bone up on the bones.” Parker groaned at that, but I ignored him. “I know the reasons you might think that’s a bad idea, but do it anyway. The fact that you’ve got lots of siblings will make it seem real normal and real safe for him to get together with you at your house. Or, maybe he’ll suggest getting together at his house.
“All of this is playing it by ear, Parker. Go with the flow. Keep your cool, and let things happen by following their natural course. Don’t push the boyfriend thing, don’t push the gay thing. Worst case you’ll have a new friend. Best case you’ll end up coming out to each other and maybe even become boyfriends.”
“You know, Tony, I was making this more complicated than it needed to be. You spelled it out and showed how simple it can be. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. I always aim to please,” I said.
“So tell me about you. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Do you want a boyfriend?”
“Not right now. I want to make the freshman football team and help us win some games. That’s number two. Number one is maintaining an A average.”
“That’s a big number one, methinks!”
“I think I can do it. I’ve had a straight-A average since first grade. I think I’ll be able to continue it in high school too.”
“So what do you like to do in your free time?”
We chatted for the next half hour, until we both had to head home for dinner. I did have homework to do, mostly reading. Then tomorrow would be my first time on the freshman football practice field. Then I’d be going home with Todd tomorrow night. It would be a very full day. Very full and exciting, too.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing A Time When It All Went Wrong
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