As usual, after swim training, I waited until most of the guys had gone before I entered the showers. Kyle had obviously waited for me, and took the shower next to mine.
"Haven't you showered already?"
"So why are you showering again?"
"It's hot, and I've got smelly armpits."
"So I noticed," I laughed. "And you creamed me in the heats for the butterfly, asshole."
"You beat me in the freestyle, though. Hey, can I ask you something personal?"
"Depends on how personal."
"It's just that I've noticed that you wait for the guys to leave before you shower."
"I don't like guys gawking at me."
"Does that mean you're shy?"
"Jeez, Mark, you've got nothing to be shy about! You've got a killer bod with a good dick and good hangers."
"Yeah, Wingnut told me that you think I'm some kinda god or whatever. But he didn't mention your interest in my dick or hangers."
"Fuck off. All I'm saying is that you look better than most of the dudes, and you look so damn strong."
"Maybe that's the problem."
"You mean they stare at you 'cause you're better looking?"
"But it's more than that. Right?"
"What is this? The Spanish fucking Inquisition?"
"I've noticed how you put a towel around your waist when you're done showering. The other dudes just hang their towels on their locker."
"And when you're wearing Speedos, you tuck your dick under so that nobody can see the size of it or anything. There's just this huge bulge that looks like you've stuck a sock down there."
"What are you? My fucking manager or something?"
"I just notice things."
"It's the things you notice that worry me, dude."
"Listen up, Kyle. You're you, and I'm me. You parade yourself around… sorry, I didn't mean that. It's just that you don't seem to have any hangups. But not everybody's like you. OK? Haven't you heard of modesty? Sorry, I didn't mean that either. It's just that I don't like being stared at."
"Well, that's too bad, 'cause you're the kinda guy that a lotta people can't help staring at."
Kyle was right, of course, but I didn't think he understood my predicament. I didn't like attracting too much attention to myself. It made me feel awkward, as though people were expecting more of me than I was able to deliver, or, more to the point, wanted to deliver, especially about my personal feelings and thoughts. The irony was that by being competitive and excelling at what I did, like boxing and swimming, I automatically attracted attention. But attention wasn't my motive. My motive was simply to prove to myself that I could excel at whatever challenges I chose to meet. The one challenge that had be baffled, though, was Kyle. He alone was able to penetrate my armor, almost to a point where I felt more vulnerable than I did as a defenceless child at the hands of my father.
Kyle answered his front door after I'd knocked. "Hey, bro! This is neat, you coming around!" His grin was so wide I thought his face was gonna split in two, and, for a second there, I was pretty sure he was gonna hug me.
"Fuck! I had to get outa there," I explained. "That fucking cunt is driving me up the fucking wall."
"Your mom's boyfriend?"
"He's a fucking prick. And my mom is always taking his side when we argue. That fucking sucks."
Being in Kyle's house was like a different world -- a friendly world. Within a few minutes, I was chatting to his dad about a whole bunch of shit and I found myself laughing. Kyle's dad rocked totally, and had the same kinda personality traits as his son. He would be genuinely interested in me, and ask a lotta questions, except his dad's questions weren't so damn personal -- they were mostly about sport.
Later, I chilled with Kyle in his room and listened to some music he'd taped from a couple of CDs that Steve had lent him. Again, it was a different world, far away from the bullshit at home.
"Hey, you know something?" Kyle said as he changed tapes. "You and my dad get along really well. He really likes you."
"And you know something else? When you laugh, you must be one of the most handsome dudes on the fucking planet."
"Are you hitting on me, Kyle?"
"I'm just telling you something I think you oughta know."
"Hey, I appreciate it. OK? But there's a lot you don't understand about me, so drop it."
"I like what I do understand. So does my dad."
"Just drop it."
Kyle chilled, and it was cool just listening to music in his room. Actually, I felt really at home in his room. Like the rest of his house, it had a totally cool vibe, except that it was a vibe peculiar to Kyle. His vibe. A sharing vibe. A vibe that made you feel welcome. An invitation to stop the world for a while and just relax. I was there until quite late, hoping that my mom's asshole boyfriend had gone by the time I'd arrived home. He was a big bastard, and I was no match for his brute strength.
Next day, it was another hottie -- about 100 F. Maybe that's the reason I lost my rag during swim training. A couple of juniors were goofing off. Three of them snuck up behind Ross, Kev and me, and pulled our Speedos down. My immediate reaction was to spin around and fist the kid who was facing me. My second reaction was to rearrange his fucking face, but, as was becoming more and more usual, Kyle stepped in and dragged me away from the bleeding kid whose teeth had split his lip. Blood was everywhere.
"Quit it, man! It was like a joke! They're just kids. Did you have to fucking over-react?"
"Well, if it had been you who did that to me in front of everyone, I would've fucked you up, too."
"You went way over the top, Mark."
I pushed Kyle away to release his grip. "Hey, who's fucking side are you on, anyway?"
"Hey, I'm your friend. I'm allowed to tell you when you're getting outa hand. Remember?"
For the rest of the swim session, everybody ignored me, except for Kyle. The junior was taken to the medic and given a couple of stitches in his lip which had swollen to the size of a football. Later, I resumed the convo with Kyle.
"So why aren't you giving me the silent treatment like all the other cunts on the team?"
"'Cause I like your bod," he grinned.
Damn! How the fuck was I supposed to deal with this idiot comedian? "Don't make me laugh, Kyle. I'm not in the mood."
"Listen up. Everyone thinks you over-reacted this morning. But they'll get over it. It was just a joke. The juniors always get up to shit like that -- especially at the start of the season."
"Maybe it's just me -- weirdo Marko -- the mutant from hell."
"Maybe you should just lighten up a bit. Smile more. Remember what I said about your smile last night? A lotta the guys are shit scared of you, 'cause you always look like you're mad at something."
Oh, fuck. What was the use? It was impossible to win with Kyle. He was a fucking terrier who got his teeth into your ankle and wouldn't let go no matter how hard you shook your leg. So, I gave him a smile.
"There ya go! Hold that pose."
"My face hurts."
"'Cause it's outa damn practice!"
"Aren't you worried that the guys might not talk to you 'cause you hang with me?"
"You've got a serious compo, bro. I think a lotta guys would like to hang with you if you gave them half a chance. Maybe you should start by telling that little dude that you didn't mean to hit him so hard."
"He's lucky you stopped me."
"I'm lucky you didn't belt me when I did."
As usual, I waited until the guys had gone before I entered the showers. I should have known that the terrier would be there waiting for me.
"That's why they did it," he said as he turned on the taps.
"Pulled your Speedos down." He nodded in the direction of my cock. "They wanted to get a good look at that pussy eater of yours."
"You're a sicko, Kyle. Man, are you ever sick!"
"Hey, of course I am. Just look who I hang with!"
A couple of months ago, I would have hammered the guy for being so fucking cocky. In fact, I was still in the habit of testing his friendship, even to the point where I honestly expected him to just shrug and walk off. But he wouldn't. Why? Sure, he'd joke about liking my bod and goofy shit like that, but I knew there was more -- a lot more -- behind his insistence that the frail elastic that bound us together should never snap no matter how far I tried to stretch it.
That night, I called around to Carol's place after school just for a chat. She was a pretty cool chick. She had to be to handle me. I told her about what had happened at swim prac, and about the junior. "I guess I shouldn't have lost my rag like that."
"Well, seems to me that you lost more than your rag. You've lost the respect of the team. The weird thing is, you haven't lost Kyle."
"I don't understand that dude."
"To understand him, you have to understand me."
"Huh?" Women! How come they never made any fucking sense?
"Think about it. I also hang with you, right?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Everything! How come guys are so fucking dumb? I love you!"
"Yeah, but… I mean, hey… what the fuck are you saying?"
"Go figure. And you know something? You love him, too."
"Bull-fucking-shit! I'm no fucking faggot!"
"Who says you need to be? Anyway, I don't see Kyle flapping his wrists around, either."
"I gotta go. Stack of homework before the mid-term exams. See ya."
Love? Jesus! She had to be fucking crazy! What the fuck would she know? She saw things from a female perspective, and that had nothing to do with the male perspective. Guys didn't love each other. Well, not like that. Maybe there had to be another word for it -- the bond, the friendship. But love? No fucking way! I stood for a moment at the end of Carol's street and looked in the direction of Kyle's house. Should I? No. What was I gonna ask him, anyway? Whether or not he loved me? Yeah, right. He'd freak. So, why the fuck was my mind in such turmoil about all this shit? I decided to head home. Homework was more important, and a helluva lot less baffling.
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