South Africa
Part 30

It was about 1am when I rocked around to Kyle's house and tapped on his bedroom window. The fact that we had another exam paper in the morning was the last thing on my mind. Actually, I felt pretty cool, and had a major case of the giggles. The window opened, then my bud's sleepy but puzzled head emerged.

"Do you know what fucking time it is?"

"Chill. I just wanna hang out for a few minutes."

"Hey, I'm serious. Do you know what time it is?"

"I'm sorry, OK? I'll jet. I'll see you in the morning."

"Hey, wait! That's not what I meant. What's up?"

"I just had the shits with my mom's boyfriend, and we ended up having an argument. He pulled a length of fucking hose on me, and I split."

Sleep suddenly vanished from Kyle's eyes as he realized what I'd just said. "He pulled a what? Did he use it?"

"Nope," I laughed. "I was too damn fast for him. He has before, though."

"Were those the blue marks you had across your back a while ago in the gym?"

"It should be cool now. I'm gonna split home. I'll check you later."

"Don't fucking tell me then if you don't wanna."

"It's not that I don't wanna tell you," I giggled. "Fuck! You talk about me having a short fuse! I met Steve tonight."

"My Steve?"

"Well, yeah. Your surfer buddy."


"He was fucked outa his bracket, man. Then he lit another joint, and we shared it." I was conscious of the fact that I was laughing at everything I was saying, even though it wasn't particularly funny. But I couldn't help it. "Fucking hell, I've never felt like this before. Then I went home, and the shithead saw that I was stoned, and he tried to beat me."

"What for? You've beaten yourself already."

"Oh, c'mon, Kyle. Steve told me you've smoked it up with him before. So don't get fucking heavy with me."

"Steve's got a big fucking mouth. Anyway, I tried it and I didn't like what it did to my brain. And you're acting like a fucking girl."

"Cheers, Kyle. Go fuck your hand." I spun on my heels and split.

Next morning, Kyle arrived just before the paper started. He was usually early to school, so he must've slept in or something. Meantime, I'd had a chance to think about his high and mighty fucking morals, and I was way pissed that he'd treated me like some dumb kid the night before.

For the next few days, I'd give Kyle a 'hi' in the morning, then split to Steve's place straight after school instead of walking home with Kyle like I usually did. Steve was cool company, and didn't preach about stuff. Kyle, on the other hand, was my self-appointed shrink, which annoyed the fuck outa me.

When I first met Steve, I thought he was a big-headed, blonde bimbo 'cause of the way he'd carry himself, like he was the fucking man. But he was actually pretty smart, and neat to hang with.

I watched Steve take a drag of the joint, hold the smoke in his lungs for a while, then exhale. "Kyle said to say hi."

"I've been giving him the cold shoulder lately."

"Yeah, so it seems," he grinned, passing the joint to me. "We were surfing, and he asked me if I'd seen you around. I told him that you'd probably rock over this afternoon. I asked him if he wanted to come too."

"To give us another fucking lecture?" I giggled.

"He said both you guys have a bio paper tomorrow -- he had to study and shit."

"Maybe he's taken the hint. Did he say much?"

"Nope. I guess I've been giving him the cold shoulder as well. I know what the guy's like… he gets jealous at the drop of a fucking hat. I figure he's pissed off big time 'cause you're hanging with me."

The bio paper was one that I had to study hard for, and I was up most of the night hitting the books. Next morning, I must've looked like something the cat dragged in, 'cause Kyle commented. I could see the sadness in his eyes, even though he made an attempt to be his usual, friendly self. I'd obviously hurt the guy, and couldn't help getting a case of the guilts, even though feeling guilty wasn't my style. I met up with him again after the paper. Our convo began as if we were strangers trying to get to know each other. I spoke first.

"How did it go with you?"

"OK, I think. And you?"

"So, so. I'm tired, though. Been up all night studying. Can't wait for Monday, and the final paper."

"So what are you doing tonight?"

"Not sure. Corners maybe. You?"

"Not sure either. Guess I'll check with Steph."

"She's going to Corners. At least, she told Carol that you guys were going."

"Oh? I guess it's Corners, then," he smiled awkwardly. "Fuck, I need to check with my folks."

"Well, maybe I'll see you there," I said as I prepared to walk away.

"Hey, Mark?"


"Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot." The answer kinda fell outa my mouth even though I knew that I was about to be quizzed big time.

"What's going on? What's happening? I thought we were pretty good friends… even close."

It wasn't an easy question to answer, unless I wanted to hurt the guy. I chose to be diplomatic. "I guess I need a break from it for a while. Guess I've never had a friendship like this one."

"What's with the grass?"

I laughed and shook my head in disbelief. "Fuck, Kyle, sometimes you are so fucking naïve. You're probably the only dude in school who doesn't smoke grass. Anyway, I don't do it a helluva lot, and Steve's got contacts. I don't see it as such a big deal, though."

"I've smoked before."

"I know. Steve told me. That's why I didn't understand your high and mighty attitude."

"It's not like that."

"So how is it?"

"You get outa control sometimes."

"From grass? Crap!"

"Grass and those cocktail drinks you call 'shooters' make you crazy."

"And you can't handle that, right?"

"I'll handle what-fucking-ever."

"Hey! Who carries who home most of the fucking time?"

"Hey, so next time, leave me. I'll live."

"Jesus fucking Christ, Kyle, I think you're deliberately starting a fucking argument here."

"I dunno. I thought it was a normal convo. So what do you and Steve do all the time?"

He wanted to know? OK. I'd give it to him straight between the eyes. "We get fucking slaughtered together. And I think I know what your hassle is. You're fucking jealous."

"Of what?"

"Steve's like your best friend, and he's been hanging with me."

"Well, you're my best friend, too, and you're hanging with him. So there ya go. My two best friends hanging together. Totally fucking cool. So what's there to be jealous of?" I could've sworn that his spiky, black hair had risen an inch in anger.

"Why do our convos get totally outa fucking hand when there's a prob. Huh?"

"'Cause everybody talks and nobody listens? Anyway, you're right, let's quit this convo while we're ahead. I've gotta jet."

"Will I see you tonight?"

"I'll check."

He was some yards away when I yelled, "Hey, Kyle! If you can make it, call me."

As I walked home alone, I thought about the dilemma. He didn't understand what I had to put up with at home. The beatings. The arguments. The bullshit. He lived in a home where there was lots of love, and totally cool vibes. How could he possibly understand? Not that I wanted to discuss any of my probs at home with him… or anybody else, for that matter. I dealt with them the same way I dealt with everything else -- by myself. The last fucking thing I needed was advice or a lecture from somebody who lived on another planet. He didn't need to smoke dope. He didn't need to anaesthetize his brain. He didn't need to banish the demons from his memory.

And Steve? Well, he lived a pretty cool life, too, except that his parents were rich, and had certain standards that they expected him to live up to… like dressing up in a penguin suit and mixing with high society. I figured dope was his way of dealing with uncomfortable restrictions. Claustrophobic, even. He was a surfer. He enjoyed being physical, loose, and free. He was a rebel. His long, blonde, feral hair said all that needed to be said about his attitude.

As it turned out, Kyle couldn't make it to Corners on Friday night. Steph was there, though, and told me what had happened. "You know what Kyle is like. Short fuse. Anyway, he had an argument with his dad, and his dad went on about Kyle having only one more paper to write, and that he didn't want him getting slaughtered tonight, then spending the whole weekend nursing a hangover. Anyway, he asked his dad if he could come over and visit me, but he'd lost it by then, and his dad said he wasn't going anywhere 'cause of the way Kyle had spoken to him. I guess Kyle is a lot like his dad… stubborn. So I told Kyle that I'd be going with you guys, but that he could sneak out after they'd gone to sleep. Yeah, right, he says, and be grounded for the rest of my life?"

"You really like Kyle a lot."

"Yeah, he's so cool. He's all bravado, which I think is neat, but he's kinda like a little boy inside. I guess I feel kinda protective in a way."

Steph was right. Kyle was a little boy in many ways. He'd try to disguise it with all his macho bullshit, but anybody with half a brain could see through his camouflage. And I guessed that was the thing about Kyle that really got to his friends. His softness. He could annoy the shit outa you, but there was no way you could stay mad at those big, hazel, puppy-dog eyes when he was feeling vulnerable.

By the time Sunday had arrived, I was feeling guilty about the way I'd been treating Kyle. Me? Yeah, the kid was like a fucking disease. If he'd been anybody else, I would've ground him into the dirt with my heel. But not this dude. When he opened the front door, he was so stoked that I thought he was gonna hug the shit outa me, but he managed to control himself. After all, he had his macho image to protect. By the same token, I was comfortable with being at an arm's length. Hugging and expressing affection to another guy weren't exactly my strengths.

Anyway, we spent the time studying in his room for the final paper the next day -- science -- so it was down to serious business. Nevertheless, I could tell that Kyle read my presence as a sign that we were still friends. Best friends.

When it came time for me to split, I stood at the front door and looked at my bud. "Hey, Kyle. It's no big deal with Steve and me. OK? I just want you to know that."

"Yeah, I know. I just can't help it. When Paul left for England, it tore me to fucking pieces. I guess the thought of losing another friend scares me shitless."

"Hey, you underestimate yourself, man. I'm not going anywhere. You can be a total pain in the ass, but you're the only pain in the ass I've got." 

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