There were times when Kyle's intuition was almost scary. He'd phoned me, and noticed that I was pretty quiet.
"Your mom's boyfriend there?"
"Is that why you don't wanna talk?"
"Check you in the morning."
Kyle's intuition was working again next day after swim prac when he didn't follow me into the showers. I was definitely in no mood for small talk or questions, especially about the bright, red welt across my ass. When I left the showers, he was waiting for me in the locker room, which pissed me off big time. There was no time to stuff around, though, or we would've been late for class.
"Sit on a hot poker or something?" he asked as he watched me dress.
"Don't start, Kyle." Fuck! The last thing I needed was a fucking inquisition. "I was busted taking some of shitforbrains' stash. OK, happy now? Anyway, it's not over yet. I fucked off outa there so damn quickly this morning."
"What do you mean it's not over yet?"
"I think he's still gonna mess with me a bit later. I've never seen him that mad."
"I thought you got stuff from Steve?"
"Steve wasn't around, so I just got into shitforbrains' stash."
"Ever thought of getting hold of the cops?"
Jesus! Talk about fucking persistent! "Here we go… Kyle the not-so-brilliant friend. And then? Then what?"
"I dunno. Report him for abuse or something."
"Yeah, my mom will love me for that."
"What does she say about it?"
"She doesn't know about what he does to me."
"He'll never do it when she's around… and he knows that I won't tell her."
"Why? You scared of him?"
"It's a long story, but, basically, my mom's happy with the dude. I've never seen her happier, and I think she's crazy in love with the fuck. I don't wanna screw things up for her."
"Does he hit her?"
"No… fact is, he's good for her. I'm sure he loves her, too, and he does stacks for her."
"What's his buzz with you, then?"
"Personality clash, I think. We've never really liked each other."
"That is totally fucked up, man."
"Anyway, it's my prob… I'll handle it."
"Doesn't look like you're handling it very well."
"Every other week, you've got new bruises."
What the fuck could I say to end Kyle's incessant questioning? If it weren't for the fact that I was dressing, I would've walked out. "Hey, I enjoy getting beaten up. I get off on it. Anyway, you wouldn't handle it any differently."
"Why don't you come around to my place after school? Wait 'til your mom gets home before you go back?"
"Stop going into a fucking panic, dude."
I was putting on my school tie when Kyle suddenly pushed me off balance. I steadied myself, then glared at him. I felt like tearing him limb from limb, but waited to hear what he had to say.
"No what-fucking-ever! I'm your friend! My name's Kyle, not dude. Stop treating me like a piece of shit whenever I wanna help. OK? I get fucked up mad 'cause one day you're not gonna be in school 'cause he's beaten you into hospital or something."
I instinctively grabbed his wrists and held them firmly in the air. "Hey, listen up. I've looked after myself for ten years now, since I was seven, and I can handle it OK. But I'm not sure how to handle you!" I could feel my eyes watering, but I wasn't sure if it was 'cause of anger or 'cause Kyle was bringing my emotions to the surface. How the fuck was I supposed to handle this dude's tenacity or persistence? He was taking the concept of friendship to new heights. Dizzy heights. "One of my biggest fucking hassles is you, Kyle. One day you're not gonna be around. We're gonna go our separate ways. That's something I'm not sure I can deal with right now. So stop putting me on the back foot, 'cause I don't wanna fight with you." Then, to make the fucking situation even worse, his eyes were watering, too.
"OK, Mark… no more arguments… for now. Please let go my wrists. My hands are turning fucking blue."
I turned, and headed for the urinals and wash basins, mainly to dry my eyes. I wasn't gonna go to class looking like a fucking wuss. Kyle was still waiting for me when I returned to pick up my bag. Then we walked to class together.
By the time break arrived, I was feeling a lot better. I guessed that Kyle had helped to release some of the tension that had built up inside me. We didn't talk about shitforbrains, though. Instead, the convo was about a dude we'd seen at Corners. He was an old dude who was always at the club, trying to chat up our girlfriends.
"Aren't you worried about him stealing Carol?"
"Are you kidding? He's no threat."
"All the girls love him to pieces."
"'Cause he makes them laugh, that's why. They don't take him seriously, and neither do I."
Later, in the gym, the swim team and some of the rugger guys were paired off for wrestling matches. We wore gym shorts, with jockstraps underneath for protection. Just my luck to be paired with Jumbo. He got an arm around my neck, then pulled me down. Suddenly, I was flat on my back with one of his legs over my legs, and my arms pinned behind me. I tried desperately to twist out of his hold, but the black giant was just too damn powerful. Finally, I had to submit before the bulging mass of muscle broke my fucking neck.
I wasn't the only one to be humbled, though. Kyle was paired with beefy boy Alan. Maybe it was the coach's revenge for Kyle's average performance during the swim tour. The mat was slimy with sweat, so my bud was already slipping all over the place as he tried to avoid the opposing mountain of flesh. I watched Alan get Kyle in a scissor grip, then force my bud onto all fours before he was sat upon. Alan wrapped his tree-trunk legs around Kyle, and tossed him onto his back. It was then that Kyle submitted, and the coach ordered Alan to stop, but Alan kept squeezing. From the look on my bud's face, he was just about to cry out in pain from being crushed, so I signalled him to grab Alan's nuts, which he did. He squeezed so fucking hard, Alan had no choice but to release his scissor grip. It was immediately obvious to the coach that Alan was gonna retaliate with his fists, but the coach pushed him away before trouble had a chance to erupt.
Wingnut wasn't with us on the walk home. He was still at school practicing cricket for a big game that was due in a few days.
"So I went over to the pitch to remind Wingnut to pick up the dog crap when he got home. "I'm fucking bowling here, Kyle," he shouted, then realized that the coach had overheard him. "Oops! Sorry, coach!" he said, putting his hand over his mouth. He was almost in crap up to his ears."
"Typical Wingnut," I laughed. "That grommet has a real talent for finding trouble just about anywhere. If that kid ever gets to heaven, he's gonna turn the joint upside down."
When we arrived at my house, I turned to say 'cheers' when Kyle asked me if he could come inside. "I need to piss."
"Sure," I agreed, even though it seemed like an odd request. Kyle had plenty of chances to piss at school, and his house was only a few minutes walk away.
Shitforbrains was standing just outside the bathroom door, facing me, and holding a length of hose pipe, when I heard the toilet flush. A moment later, Kyle appeared. He saw me standing there, shirtless, and wearing just my khaki school pants and shoes.
"You need to go, Kyle."
The expression on Kyle's face was one of shock as well as helplessness. The realization of my predicament was dawning on him. The reality was right there before his startled, disbelieving eyes.
"Your friend going to go, or what?" shitforbrains asked.
"Fuck off, Kyle."
"Will you call me later?"
"Maybe. Just get the fuck outa here now."
"I can't. What's going on here?"
"Your friend is a thief," shitforbrains explained, "and he needs to be taught a lesson."
"You gonna hit him with a fucking length of hosepipe?"
Shitforbrains slammed the hosepipe against the wall, causing a loud, frightening bang. "Who the fuck do you think you're speaking to?"
Things were getting way outa hand, so I pushed Kyle down the hall to the front door. "Fuck off, Kyle, before you get it, too."
I could tell that Kyle was a second away from becoming hysterical, but he managed to contain his rage. "What? You just gonna stand there and get beaten? That's not the fucking Mark I know. Fight the fucker back!"
"Fuck off, and go home, Kyle."
As soon as it was all over, I pulled the phone cord outa the wall and went to my room. No way did I wanna talk about what had just happened to an hysterical Kyle. Instead, I waited until mom and shitforbrains had left the house, then I phoned my bud.
"Hey… you OK?"
"Making supper… macaroni and cheese. Want some?"
"Wanna come over?"
I waited on the phone while he asked his folks if it would be OK. I was hoping they'd say yes. Right then, I needed a bud like Kyle. Hey, what was I saying? He was my only bud. True bud. There wasn't another dude like him on the whole fucking planet.
By the time he knocked on the front door, the macaroni and cheese was just about ready. "Hey, bro… follow me to the kitchen. Supper's almost ready."
"Mmmm! Smells fantastic," he smiled as I pulled the hot, steaming dish from the oven. "Shit over now?"
"Yep. Did you try to call?"
"I unplugged the phone. Did you tell your dad?"
"No… thought about it, but I knew you'd be totally pissed if I did."
I dished the macaroni and cheese onto two plates, then asked him if he wanted to eat outside on the bench.
"What do you mean the bench? There's only one bench… oh, OK. Yeah, that bench." Was this guy crazy or what? Now the bench had become some kinda icon 'cause of what happened between us the other night.
"Is the food edible?"
"I'm a fuckup most of the time," I laughed. "But I can cook."
I watched my bud take a mouthful, then give me his verdict. "It's good! Mmmm! Delish! You're gonna need to teach me to cook sometime. Wicked!"
"Your hike food was pretty good."
"Yeah, but I can't eat hike food all my life."
While we ate, I didn't say all that much. I hadn't invited Kyle around to get into deep convo. I just needed his company… I needed to be reassured that the world wasn't such a fucked up place, and he was just the dude to reassure me. After we'd finished eating, I made some tea.
"Kyle, I need you to do something for me."
I dunno how many times I dried my eyes and blew my nose as I wrote this chapter. I can't think of a more impossible friendship than the one between Kyle and Mark. But I also can't think of a better one. Damn, I love those two guys! MrB
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