We had our second rehearsal for the school musical the following afternoon after school, and the only word that comes to mind, which accurately describes it, would be . . . chaos!
We all thought that Snowy had bitten off more than he could chew in dreaming up this idea of a modern rock musical and so too it seemed that half the school faculty was thinking along those lines as well.
One by one, they popped into the school hall to check on our progress, with their snide remarks and quiet sniggering not going unnoticed by Snowy, or those of us who bothered to appear for rehearsals. There seemed to be far fewer of us there than had shown up on the first day, but we all pressed on regardless.
‘People, if I could have your attention for a moment please,’ Snowy called out in exasperation to the rabble that were his cast and crew.
We could see that he was clearly agitated by our lack of co-operation and the over-abundance of attention from the other teachers.
Ben and Guy and I sat down in the front row of seats and waited for him to restore some semblance of order, but it didn’t come. I felt Guy’s leg brush against mine and glanced up at him. He looked across at me and smiled. I smiled back.
Neither of us bothered to move our legs. We left them there, resting against each other, each of us feeling the electricity that was flowing freely between us, but neither of us quite game to do or say anything more than that.
Ben still had no real idea about what Guy and I had discussed, and as dear a friend as he was to me, that was the way I intended to keep it. At least for the moment.
The previous afternoon, when we I had called around to Guy’s house, he had told me he was gay. I wasn’t totally surprised by that, but what neither of us seemed to have was any idea about was what to do or where to go from here.
Guy was clearly interested in me, just as I was interested in him. He had held my hand. He had even run his thumb gently across my knuckles in doing so. We had even started leaning in towards each other, you know, that moment when two people know that they are going to kiss? But just then we had heard Ben thundering back up the hallway from the bathroom, and the moment was gone.
We quickly let go of each other and sat apart on Guy’s bed, both of us just looking around the room, at anything but each other, as Ben barged through the door we turned at the same time to face him.
‘Hope I’m not interrupting anything,’ Ben had said to us, with a sly grin on his face. I suddenly had the urge to throw something at him.
Anyway, back to the present.
Guy’s leg and mine brushed against each other, then we smiled at each other, just then our ear drums were shattered by a piercing whistle which, as it turned out, came from Ben. He had stood up, placed two fingers in his mouth and blown while Guy and I were off in dream world.
Everyone suddenly stopped and turned to look in our direction. Ben sat down, and the three of us just sunk deep down into our seats.
‘Thank you, Mr Walker,’ Snowy said to Ben as he once again took control of the group. ‘Now, as I was trying to say, what we want to do is go through as many albums, tapes, CD’s, or whatever it is you kids play your music on these days, and find a heap of songs that we can use which will fit the theme of the musical.’
The reactions of the students went from cheers to groans, and everything in between.
Snowy had asked us all, through the week, to bring in any tapes or cd’s that had songs on them that we thought might be useful, in the context of the musical. The result of that suggestion was that we ended up with a selection along the front of the stage of everything from the sixties through to the present day.
We had everything from The Beatles to Bon Jovi, and all we had to play them on was one old tape deck, which, for those of us who had brought cd’s, was totally useless.
‘But we can’t play them all,’ Andrew Harris, one of the juniors, said to him.
‘No, Mr Harris. Obviously we can’t . . . and we have far too many samples to be able to get through them all in one afternoon.’
We could see that Snowy didn’t know what to do. He paced up and down in front of us. He rubbed his chin. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He scratched his head.
‘So what are we going to do?’ Andrew asked.
‘Any suggestions anyone?’ Snowy asked us all.
Guy put his hand up.
‘Sir, why don’t we split into groups, even if we have to go home to do it, and all go through what we have, then bring our suggestions back here on tape, so we can go through it again some other afternoon?’
Ben reached across me and thumped him in the arm and said, ‘Suck!’
Guy and I just grinned at him.
A slow smile spread across Snowy’s face. ‘That’s an excellent idea, Mr Harding. All right then, listen up everybody, here’s what we need.’
He proceeded to tell us he wanted love songs, for when our main characters are together. He wanted songs about unfulfilled love, for when they were apart. He wanted songs about reunions, for when they get back together. And he wanted more love songs for when they lived happily ever after.
‘Listen to the words people. Forget about how good it sounds, or even how bad it sounds. Just listen to the words,’ Snowy told us. ‘Then we’ll meet here again the day after tomorrow and see what we have all come up with.’
‘Shit, he doesn’t want much,’ one of the boys who was sitting behind us said. We didn’t notice which one it was. We were already up and moving.
‘Come on guys. Let’s go back to my place,’ Guy had said to us. And so we followed. We certainly weren’t going to argue with him.
* * *
Guy poured us all drinks when we got to his house and we sat out on the back landing in the afternoon sun drinking them, sipping Coca-Cola from long cool glasses.
‘So?’ Ben asked as he put his empty glass down. ‘What have you got that is worth listening to?’
‘You name it,’ Guy answered, with a smile. ‘I’m sure we’ll find something that we can use.’
‘Well, come on then, let’s boogie,’ Ben said, getting up from his seat and doing a little dance on his way to the door.
Guy glanced at me and then just shook his head.
‘Like I said to you the other day,’ I laughed. ‘You get used to him after a while.’
‘I’m not so sure about that.’
We got up and followed Ben inside and then down the hall to Guy’s bedroom, pausing only briefly to deposit our empty glasses on the kitchen table as we had passed it.
When we reached the bedroom door and looked inside we found Ben there, standing by the bed, with a magazine in his hands.
He looked up at us, from me to Guy and then back at me again, then smiled.
‘You too, huh?’ he said to Guy, as he passed Guy his magazine.
Guy blushed, a bright shade of red that I hadn’t seen before, and I looked down and noticed what he was now holding. It was the latest copy of Locker Room magazine, the same issue as the one that was now hidden under my own mattress, with a picture of a guy called Randy Phillips on the cover. Fucking gorgeous!
Ben stopped in front of Guy and looked him squarely in the eyes, then cheekily ran the tips of his fingers down Guy’s cheek and said, ‘I just had this feeling about you. You two are just perfect for each other. You know that?’
Guy quickly stepped back away from Ben, looking shocked. While I just stood staring at the two of them, with my jaw somewhere down around my ankles!
Ben looked at me and gave me a sly wink, then walked out the door.
Guy looked at me. ‘And you think I’ll get used to him?’ he whispered. ‘He’s a fucking nutcase.’
When I heard the front door close I snapped out of the daze I was in and ran after Ben.
‘Just where the hell do you think you are going?’ I called out to him from the front verandah, as he reached the front gate. ‘And what the fuck was that all about?’
He closed the gate behind him and then leant across it, facing me.
‘You figure it out,’ he said to me, grinning.
I looked at him for a moment and then, when it dawned on me why he was doing what he was doing, I smiled at him. ‘He thinks you’re a nutcase, you know?’
‘Maybe I am. Anyway, you guys don’t need me around here this afternoon. You’ve got things to sort out.’
‘Aren’t you going to help us pick out some songs?’
Ben shook his head. ‘I’m just the roadie mate. You’ve got to sing them, so you pick them out. Besides, I don’t think there’ll be very much music played here this afternoon. Not now anyway.’
‘You are crazy. You know that don’t you?’ I said to him, just as Guy came out and joined me on the verandah.
‘Maybe,’ he said, smiling at me, then he turned and headed off down the street, before looking back at us and calling out, ‘Thanks for the drink, Guy.’
We both waved back to him, then watched as he walked away, whistling to himself.
When I walked back inside with Guy, he put his arm around my shoulders and we headed for his room.
‘He didn’t want to be in the way,’ I said to him, as we sat down on the bed.
‘I still think he’s a nutcase.’
‘Yeah, maybe he is. But he’s a loveable nutcase. Ain’t he?’
He didn’t answer me. He just leant across and kissed me.
* * *
Ben was waiting at the usual corner for me the next morning, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
I grinned back, and walked straight past him, saying nothing.
‘Well?’ he asked, when he fell into step beside me.
‘Well, what happened?’
‘Nothing,’ I answered truthfully.
‘What do you mean, nothing?’
‘Just like I said. Nothing. We kissed. We taped a heap of songs for Snowy. But that was it.’
‘You’re kidding me?’
We walked on in silence for a little while, with him just looking at me every now and then and shaking his head.
‘What?’ I finally asked him.
‘Man. Are you slow or something? I set it up perfectly for you when I left.’
‘Yeah, you did. And I really appreciate that,’ I answered. ‘But I . . . I couldn’t do anything more than kiss him. It just didn’t seem right. Not yet anyway.’
‘And that’s all you did?’
‘Yeah. That’s all. We talked a lot and I told him I really wanted to . . . well, be with him. But I also said that I wanted to get to know him some more before things went any further, or got too serious. Christ, Ben, I’ve only known him for a couple of weeks.’
‘What did he say?’
‘He said that he was cool with that. He respects that. And he thinks we should take it slow as well.’
‘You pair . . . fair dinkum. You’re both fucking hopeless.’
‘Just give us both some time, okay? I think that things will turn out okay,’ I said to him with a grin.
‘I hope so, mate. I really do,’ he said to me, slapping me on the back as he did so.
* * *
The day started out like a dream, and I just floated through it until lunch break, with Guy there by my side every step of the way.
Ben was there too, but Guy was the one I kept smiling at and thinking about. Ben told us both that we were the crazy ones. We just ignored him.
The three of us spent our lunch break in the shade of the huge old pine trees that lined the sports oval, with Ben propping himself up against one of the gnarled trunks and Guy and myself sprawled on the grass at his feet. Our heads were close to each other, close enough to hear each other breathing, but not quite close enough so that we could have leant over and kissed one another.
Ben was looking down at us like a proud parent on a wedding day. He was proud of himself all right. If he did nothing else in his life from this point forward it wouldn’t have mattered to him . . . he had brought us together, or so he thought.
We wouldn’t burst his bubble. He could have his moment.
When lunch was over and we walked back towards the classrooms, Guy walked beside me, briefly placing one hand on my shoulder as we walked.
His touch was gentle and for a moment I felt so warm and happy. I was finally loved by someone, for who I was, not who they thought I should be.
For the briefest moment it was the best feeling imaginable. But then, reality struck, hitting me in the guts with a whump, that sickened me.
I quickly stepped away from Guy, breaking his touch, and we stood staring at each other, each of us not sure what to say.
‘W-w-we . . .’ I stammered. What I wanted to say was that we needed to be careful. That was all.
He looked worried. ‘What?’ he asked.
Ben had been walking a few steps in front of us. He stopped and came back to us.
‘What’s wrong with you pair?’ he asked.
I just shook my head and turned and started walking along the rose lined path once again, leaving them staring at each other.
Someone grabbed my arm. ‘What was wrong? What did I do?’ Guy asked me.
‘You didn’t do anything,’ I answered. ‘It was me. That was all.’
I took a deep breath and let it out again.
‘Come on Tim. You’ve got to tell me. Please.’
I smiled faintly at him.
‘We need to be careful. That’s all,’ I said to him as I looked around, noting the other students and the teachers that were on lunch duty, who were all heading back toward the class rooms, just as we were.
For a moment he frowned, but then he nodded slowly.
‘You’re in the boondocks now, remember?’ I said to him. ‘We can’t get caught. Not here. Not at school.’
As his expression changed, I could see the realisation of what it was that I was saying slowly wash over him. The frown left him, and a smile broke through.
A group of our classmates passed us, casting quizzical glances in our direction. I could see that Guy was about to say something, but when he noticed them looking at us, he chose to remain silent.
‘Do you pair have any fucking idea what you are talking about?’ Ben asked us, clearly frustrated by what was going on.
We both turned to him, and at the same time said, ‘Yes.’
Guy turned back to me and smiled again. ‘All right then. No touchy feely stuff here at school. Right?’ he said quietly, so that no one else, other than Ben, would hear.
Then, with a grin he added, ‘Unless it’s in some place private.’
‘Sounds about right to me,’ I answered, almost laughing.
* * *
We floated through the rest of the day, then after school had finished the three of us went down to the mall for a milkshake.
‘How did you guys get on with the music yesterday?’ Ben asked us when we sat down.
Guy and I exchanged glances.
‘Great,’ Guy answered. ‘We put about a dozen songs on tape for Mr Snowden to have a listen to.’
‘You can call him Snowy if you like. We all do. Even to his face.’
‘And you get away with it?’
‘Sometimes,’ Ben replied, with a wicked grin, then slurped up the last of his shake.
Under the table, Guy’s leg was touching mine, and once again I could feel something that was like a pulse of energy passing between us. I wondered if he felt it too, and just then he looked up at me and winked.
We hung out downtown for about an hour, talking about this and that, but none of us made any move to go home.
Finally Guy asked if we wanted to go back to his place.
‘How about you come home to my place?’ I asked him, hoping that he would say yes.
He smiled and said, ‘Sounds like a great idea.’
‘How about you guys drop me off and then head over there?’ Ben asked us.
‘You sure?’ I asked him.
‘Yeah. You guys go and have some fun.’
‘What do you mean?’ Guy asked him.
‘You figure it out.’
We dropped him outside of his house a short time later and waved goodbye.
‘Doesn’t he like me?’ Guy asked me as we drove the few short blocks to my house.
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Well, he doesn’t seem to want to be around me. I’m starting to get this feeling that I’ve upset him or something.’
‘Don’t worry about him. He’s just trying to give you and me a bit of space. He’s been wanting to set me up with someone ever since he found out I was gay.’
‘And how did that happen exactly?’
‘Exactly the same way that he found out you were. He found one of my magazines when he was over home one day. Speaking of which, do you just leave them lying around like that all the time?’
We pulled up at a set of traffic lights and waited patiently for them to change to green.
‘Actually, no’ Guy answered. ‘It wasn’t lying around at all. It was under my mattress.’
‘The sly bastard,’ I answered.
‘You’re not upset with him for doing that?’
He reached across and placed his hand over mine, which was resting on the console between the front seats.
‘Quite the contrary,’ he answered, grinning broadly.
Suddenly there was a honk of a horn from behind us, and we realised that the lights had changed to green.
Guy thrust the car into first gear and we took off.