(From a previously-published novel, now out of print.)
I stood by the gym door, leaning against the wall, while I watched the basketball game. It was halftime, if that’s what they call it in basketball, and the cheerleaders in their little skirts were doing their routine out in the middle of the floor, dancing and throwing each other up in the air. Watching them probably should have gotten me all heated up or something, but it didn’t.
Seeing the guys in their basketball uniforms, including the shirts which left their muscled arms bare, was a different story.
That was a problem for a sixteen-year-old guy. I shouldn’t have been interested in other guys, except for the part where they knocked down the other team and won the game for our school. I was supposed to follow girls around like my friend Isaac did, drooling over them and trying to score dates, or moaning and complaining about them like my nephew Jamey had done up until a couple weeks ago.
Yeah, nephew. He’s the same age as me, a couple weeks older, in fact. Part of the weirdness of our family. I kind of hoped he’d start complaining and moaning about girls again soon. He’d stopped when his ex-girlfriend committed suicide right before Thanksgiving.
Most of the guys I knew had girlfriends or at least went on dates. Some of them didn’t leave much to the imagination when they talked about what they did on the dates. I always kind of nodded and pretended I cared about the conversations. Really, I didn’t want to hear about who did who.
The cheerleaders finished their routine, and the people in the bleachers clapped and cheered. A couple of cheers weren’t exactly rated G. Those came from the other team’s players, probably trying to intimidate our team by hitting on our girls.
The teams took the court again, and my attention immediately went to the guys. I had to be really careful about watching them. If any of them figured out I wasn’t solely interested in the game, it wouldn’t be good. The last thing I needed was to be called a queer or worse every time I went into the locker room, like this one sophomore guy I knew.
I wasn’t stupid, and I wasn’t prejudiced. If guys liked other guys, no problem. It only became a problem when I started thinking I might like other guys. I should have been into sports and girls like my friends. That was what they and my parents seemed to expect. Instead, I worked stage crews for the school plays, belonged to the drama club, and tried to pretend I didn’t like watching athletes in their uniforms trotting around the field, or court, or diamond, depending on what season it was.
“Hey, V.J.” Jamey was suddenly standing beside me.
I jumped about fifty feet straight up. I hadn’t heard him walking down the corridor behind me. If he’d noticed my eyes were glued to the basketball players, he would ask a bunch of questions I really couldn’t answer. He’d already started asking me why I didn’t go on dates and had tried to fix me up with a few girls in the past couple of years.
I took a deep breath and shoved my hands in my jacket pockets. “Hey,” I said, trying to sound casual.
“How’s it going?” He nodded toward the court.
I shrugged. “They’re not so great. Isaac’s doing pretty well, though.”
“Yeah, he’s a jock.” Jamey grinned. “Why are you standing over here by yourself? Bliss, Kayla, and a couple of the other girls are in the bleachers. You could have sat with them.”
“I wasn’t really into the idea of listening to them gossip.” I didn’t think those girls liked me much, anyway. Kayla definitely didn’t. She made bitchy little comments every time she saw me, as long as she didn’t think Jamey would hear. Then again, Kayla made bitchy little comments to almost everyone.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” He shrugged. “At least I don’t have to deal with that with Jebbi. She doesn’t talk behind people’s backs.”
“Why don’t you make it official with her? You’d both be happier.”
He shrugged. “She thinks it’s too soon after Tina.” A frown crossed his face. “So do I, to be honest. It’s only been a few weeks, and I’m still trying to make myself believe it wasn’t my fault she killed herself.”
“Yeah, I know.” He sounded like he wasn’t quite sure.