The next day at school, I dropped by the library after lunch again. Adam was sitting alone again, and I joined him.
"Hey, guy, how's it hangin?" he asked, a smile on his face."
"Just great, Adam. And, I've got something to tell you. I did a lot of thinking. Your idea is great. I think we should go to the Prom together."
"Really?!" His eyes lit up and his smile got bigger. I could tell he was excited. "I didn't think you'd do it, Greg. I thought all the pressure we'd get about being gay would stop you. But you'll go with me? Really?" His voice had risen to a higher pitch than usual in his excitement.
"Yeah, it'll be great. But, I’m still concerned about people labeling us. I don’t want them thinking either one of us is gay, even if that doesn’t bother you. I’m been thinking about how we might do this ever since you mentioned we could go together, and I figured out something that at least has a chance of working. I think we need to set the stage for us going together. I think we need to start sort of subtly making noise about not wanting to ask any of the girls we know, about being pissed off we have to, about wanting to go to the Prom with someone but not sure how we are going to do it. Maybe make it sort of a question we have, a problem we are trying to solve. Then, when we hit on the idea of going together, it'll seem sort of natural, sort of like it just worked out that way. What do you think?"
"What a neat plan! I love it! It’s sort of subtle and sort of some kind of mind control we’re doing. I don't know how good an actor I am, but it'll be fun trying. I'll sort of let my friends know this Prom business is bothering me, you do the same with your friends, and in a few days we can run into each other where other people can overhear us. We can both complain about the same thing, then stumble on going together as a way to solve our problems. This is kinda neat!"
We sat there and talked more about this for the rest of the period, working out details, but the more we talked, the more realistic the plan seemed. This could work! I was excited. I also found myself getting more excited sitting next to Adam and talking to him, soaking up his enthusiasm, his appeal affecting me more than usual. I was already regretting he wasn't gay. Of course, had he been, I might have had a difficult time controlling myself, not showing too clearly how I felt about him, at the dance. This way, with no preconceptions, that didn't have to enter the equation, and I was much easier with the whole thing.
- - - - - -
A couple days later, my friends and I were eating lunch together in the cafeteria. Becky spoke up. "Jason asked me to the Prom this morning. He's going to take me to dinner first. I didn't even know he liked me!”
I saw my chance. "See?" I said. "Girls always think you like them if you ask them to the Prom. That's why I'm having a problem asking someone. Other than my sweetheart Susan." I made an exaggerated face at her, and she giggled.
"Gary asked me yesterday. I knew he would. I'm excited. I know he likes me."
"See?" I said again. "There you go again. Gary probably didn't have anyone else to ask. Jason was probably desperate. Or maybe someone bet them both $20 they couldn't get a date. Something like that. And then both you guys think they're in love with you."
Both girls gave me nasty glares. Kevin and Bobby broke up. Tim glanced at me with a questioning look in his eyes, thinking.
"Yeah, I don't know what I'm going to do," I continued, "but I've got to find a date who won't think I'm in love all of a sudden. I'm still looking."
Tim suddenly spoke up. "You don't want to hurt their feelings, do you?"
I looked at him gratefully. He was helping! He was embellishing my excuse. "That's right. I don't want to break their hearts like Gary and Jason are going to be doing with these two. It just isn't right. I'll figure something out, though. I am looking forward to going to the dance."
- - - - - -
When I joined Adam in the library a few minutes later I asked him if he'd been working on our excuse. He nodded.
"I've got a bunch of kids looking for a date for me who won't think I'm hot for her. When they suggest someone, I always have a reason why it wouldn't be fair to her. Yeah, I think I'm getting the message across."
I told him about what I'd done at lunch, and he broke out laughing. I loved watching him laugh. Then I asked him a question.
"I heard someone talking about a contest or something at the Prom. Did you hear anything?"
"Yeah. I heard they're having a contest where you perform something that has something to do with the '50's. It can be anything at all, a dance number, a song, a comedy routine, anything as long as it relates to something in the ‘50’s."
"Wow, that'd be cool. Can you do anything like that? Do you want to get into the contest? Maybe together? I think that'd be great!" And I did. The thought of preparing some sort of act and then performing it was exciting. I hadn't actually performed in front of anyone before, but liked the idea of doing so.
Adam gave me his little shy smile, which I'd come to think meant he just didn't want to boast or come across too cocky about something. I waited, and he said, "Actually, I play the piano."
"You do? That's neat! I sing. I've taken voice lessons for a few years now. Wouldn't it be great if we could perform together? You could play and I could sing a song. We can maybe do something popular, that'd go over well. How about something by one of the '50's singers who was popular with teenagers back then, somebody like Bobby Darin, Elvis, Bobby Vinton, Frankie Avalon, somebody like that? How well do you play?"
Adam looked uncomfortable. "How well do you sing?" he countered.
I was excited and not as reserved as I usually was when asked a question about myself. "I do pretty well. I can certainly sing well enough for this sort of thing. It'll be fun working it out, singing a '50's song and trying to do it as an imitation of somebody famous. Can you play popular song music? It might not be all that hard. Or we could simplify it if it's too difficult. We could work something out."
Adam picked up on my enthusiasm and didn't seem to hesitate this time. "Yeah, I can do that. No problem. What do you want to do? Is there any song you have in mind? Anyone in particular you want to imitate?"
Rather than answer the question directly, I asked, "Do you know how it's going to work? Are we just supposed to do one song, or can we do more? Is there a set time limit?"
"I'm not sure they've announced that yet. I think Mrs. Cameron is in charge, and I have her last period today. I'll ask her what the rules are, and then I can call you tonight and we can talk about it. Can I have your phone number?"
I liked the thought of him calling me, us talking. I pictured him calling me, me sitting in my room talking to him, and felt a pleasant glow. I started picturing me on my bed, the phone to my ear, hearing his raspy voice and visualizing him sitting in his room, maybe with his shirt off . . . and then I was startled out of what I realized was one of my trances when he grabbed my arm.
"Hey, Greg, your phone number?" he said with a slightly confused smile. I smiled back and told him my number.
- - - - - -
That night, he called me right after I'd finished dinner. I lay on my bed holding the phone as he told me what he'd found out from Mrs. Cameron. "She says each group or performer will have about 10 minutes. She isn't sure yet because she doesn't know how many people will sign up, but she's thinking probably about ten acts and she's figuring about an hour and a half for the entire show. If fewer people want to participate, then the time for each act can be lengthened."
"Ten minutes is enough," I said. "We could do two songs in that time, maybe three if we did a short version. Have you thought about what we could do?"
"Gee, Greg, it doesn't make too much difference to me, I'll just be playing accompaniment. It's what you want to sing that's important. What are you thinking off?"
"Well, actually, I was sort of thinking of maybe doing a couple songs that different singers performed, try to sing them in the styles of the performers, and maybe make like a quick change of costume between songs to get into character. You know, I'm thinking of this more as an act than just a couple songs. Working something out that fits together as a performance rather than just me singing and you just playing."
"Yeah, that'd be neat! I can see it. When you finish a song, you could move behind the piano where you weren't in the spotlight, and make a short costume change sort of out of sight, I could play a real short something or other piece from the '50's. Or maybe just the intro to your next song, but at least provide some music to distract the audience while you were changing your character, you know, to fill the void."
"Yeah!" I enthused. "We'll have to see what music we can find. And maybe get an idea of costumes from the Internet. This might work out great."
"And then we'll have to get together to practice. We've still got three weeks, which should be plenty of time. We can practice over here, no sweat. Do you have a piano so we could work at your house, too?"
We went on discussing our act and the details of getting it ready. It was great listening to how excited he was. I was excited about it, too. I was also excited at the prospect of spending more time with him, going to his house, working out the act with him. This was all working about better than I could have imagined.
We talked for about an hour, the latter part of the conversation drifting from the Prom performance to school and other kids and just chatter. I realized while talking to him that we were becoming better friends, better than the casual ones we’d been before. We were relating well together, laughing at the same things, sharing opinions, finding how much we had in common. I was disappointed when I heard his mother calling to him to get off the phone and start his homework. When he said he had to go, I felt a sort of pang, even before he had hung up. But then, he asked if I could come over to his house tomorrow after school and bring some music I'd been working on so we could work together just to get the feel of it. Wow. I said sure, and after talking over the details of me coming over, we finally hung up. I just held the phone for a few seconds, sorry the call had to end. I was surprised when I looked at the clock and saw we’d been talking for over an hour.
- - - - - -
The next morning, I was at my locker dropping off my backpack and getting the book I'd need for my first period class. I was looking into the locker, leaning over, when suddenly I was shoved hard from behind. I fell into the locker, banging the side of my face on the open edge. It hurt like hell. I had to struggle a little to get out because I was sprawled off balance and partially in the locker. When I did get out, I saw Dale slowly walking away not far down the hall. I was mad and was going to call after him, but just his swagger stopped me. It was probably better to just put up with his occasional harassment than make a big deal over it, even though I hated the wimpy feel that settled over me when I decided that.
In homeroom, Tim saw me and walked over. "What happened to your face," he asked, his eyes showing his concern.
"That fucking Dale shoved me into my locker when I wasn't looking. I hit the side of my face on the doorframe. Why, what does it look like?"
"You have a nasty red mark running down your cheek. It isn't cut, but you're going to have a bruise there. You should tell someone."
I looked disgustedly at him. He knew as well as I did you just didn't do that. The consequences of solving your problems that way were usually worse than the problems themselves. You had to find a different way to deal with such things.
Tim didn't give in that easily. "Well, we need to do something about Dale. He's a butt hole, and he seems to be getting worse. That crew he runs with are a bunch of shit heads, too."
"Aaaah, we should just ignore him. He only bothers people once in a while. He's not worth the trouble of even thinking about."
"But look at your face! He shouldn't get away with it!"
"Look, Tim, forget it. Thanks for caring, but forget it."
Tim looked mad. He didn't forget things fast. I'd have to make sure he didn't try to get back at Dale. Tim was no pushover, he was athletic and strong, but he also was no match for Groppler.
I was looking forward to joining Adam again after lunch, and finished as quickly as I could and left while the others were still eating, throwing a sarcastic rejoinder at Bobby when he asked why I was in such a hurry.
Adam was at his usual table. He’d evidently been able to get here early too. He glanced up at me when I put my book bag down, and grinned at me. "Hey, did you remember to bring the music for a song we're going to run through at my house?"
"Yeah, I've got it in my locker. I'll bring it with me. We're still on for after school, then?" I hope, I hope, I hope. It was all I'd been thinking about all day.
"Sure. I'll meet you by the bike rack out front. Hey, what happened to your face?"
I explained about Dale. He looked upset. "That guy's an asshole. He almost drowned me at the city pool last summer. I guess he thought it was funny, but he pulled me down underwater from behind and wouldn't let me come up. The lifeguard saw him and yelled. Dale let go just as I was inhaling pool water. I came up coughing and choking and panicking out of my skull. Dale was laughing, and the lifeguard kicked him out. If he hadn't been watching Dale, I don't know what would have happened."
I'd been upset by this morning's event, but this was different, this really made me mad. Now I realized how Tim had felt. Seeing or hearing about someone else, someone you liked, getting treated that way was much worse than it was when it happened to yourself. I started thinking maybe it was time to do something about Dale. I didn't know what, but I'd think about it. Maybe kick it around with Tim.
Adam and I talked and kidded with each other till it was time for our next class.
"I'll meet you at the bike rack," I reconfirmed as we were leaving the library.
"Sure, Greg, see you then." He walked off down the hallway, his slim body, his confident walk resonating so strongly with me, my feelings for him stronger than ever. I suddenly realized, standing there watching him, I was about half hard. Oh man, I thought, I need to be careful.
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