Kyle was right. There was a lotta stuff I didn't understand. Or maybe didn't wanna understand. Or didn't even wanna think about. The easy way out was to light up a joint. I knew that it wasn't doing my bod a whole lotta good, but it sure as hell helped unscramble my head so that I could peace out.
Before rocking over to Kyle's house after dinner one night, I'd gotten myself pretty spaced out. But I had to be there 'cause we were gonna organize a mask party for his eighteenth birthday on Saturday, July 1. The idea for a mask party came about 'cause one of the guests was gonna be a major surprise, organized by some of Kyle's buds on the swim team. Kyle had often mentioned this particular dude. They'd been close friends since kindergarten, but hadn't seen each other for about two years since the dude and his folks had split Safrica to live in England.
Kyle's dad answered my knock at the door, and invited me inside. I then made my way through the house to my spiky-haired bud's room, with its poster-covered walls, and surfboard. He took one look at me and freaked.
"I'd hate my folks to see you all spaced out," he said, observing my dreamy eyes as I planted my ass on the side of his bed.
"Your dad knows."
"He gave me the eye when I arrived. I could tell that he saw it right away."
Kyle slammed an open hand on his desk, bowed his head, and sighed aloud. "Ah, fuck, man."
"Stop stressing. Do you think your folks never smoked the stuff?"
"It's not that," he insisted as he eyeballed me. "It's just that they both think so damn highly of you. I don't want that to change."
"What's gonna change that? Fuck, Kyle, don't be so damn thick."
One of the things that had continually bothered me since I'd met Carol and Kyle was that, for some inexplicable reason, I felt as if I didn't really deserve their friendship and loyalty. There were times when I'd convince myself that they weren't seeing the real me, so I'd put them to the test.
That's exactly what happened one night when the four of us were out clubbing. I'd gotten myself totally shitfaced on alcohol, which caused a major argument between Carol and me. To make matters worse, I told her that I didn't wanna jive with her on the dance floor.
"OK," she pouted. "If that's the way you want it, fine. I'll jive with somebody else."
"Cool. Go ahead."
But when I saw her dancing with another guy, I totally fucking lost it, and started to push the guy around on the dance floor. Then I found myself stepping backwards. Kyle had grabbed my shoulders, and was pulling me away. After that, none of us was in any mood to stay at the club, so, with a dark cloud hovering over all our heads, we decided to split.
During the walk home, Carol's jaw hadn't stopped flapping for fucking ages. But it was when she called me a drunk, that my flat hand instinctively smacked her across the face. A second later, I felt a blow to my head from behind, which caused me to almost lose my balance, and stumble to the pavement. I turned, saw Kyle's angry face glaring at me, and instantly climbed into him with fists flying everywhere. The rest of the incident was a blur. I was punching the fuck outa him, he was punching the fuck outa me, and the girls were screaming hysterically as they tried to pull us apart.
When Kyle and I eventually stopped trying to annihilate each other, he called me a cunt for hitting Carol. He was right, of course. I'd blown it big time. But when Steph began to diss me, which she had every right to do, Kyle unexpectedly came to my defense. "Shut up if you're gonna start talking shit about Mark," he said. How was I supposed to figure this guy? One minute, his fists were trying to turn me into papier-mache while he's calling me a cunt, and the next he's telling Steph to shut up 'cause she's giving me a fucking earful. Go figure.
By that stage, both girls were mad as hell at us, and walking some paces ahead. When we dropped them off at their houses, neither gave us a kiss goodnight. We were well and truly in the fucking dog house. Big fucking time.
"You wanna come home with me?" Kyle asked with a shrug as if he'd expected me to decline.
Silence reigned right up to the point where Kyle had arranged the spare mattress on the floor of his room. As soon as it was ready, I crashed in a horizontal heap, fully clothed.
"You wanna talk?"
"You gonna sleep with your clothes on?"
"'Cause I'm not in the mood for you getting off by staring at me. OK?"
"What the fuck's wrong with you?"
Huh? World War III had just erupted and this guy wanted to know what was wrong? "Nothing."
"I can give you a massage just to ease the tension," he giggled.
His giggle was the straw the broke the camel's back. "Hey, do me a favor, Kyle, and, for once, keep your fucking sexual preferences to yourself. OK?" Then I rolled over, and faced away from him.
I could hear him arranging himself on his bed, but I said nothing. For the next few moments, the atmos was thick enough to cut with a blunt knife. It was obvious that I'd managed to hurt him real bad with a stupid choice of words uttered thoughtlessly in anger… my best bud. How much more damage could I have done in one night? Carol, Steph, Kyle. What next?
"Kyle?" I said after what seemed like ages.
"Kyle, I'm sorry. I never meant that."
"Well, it's obvious what you were thinking." His voice was soft… almost a whisper… and heavy with painful emotion, as though I'd caused irrevocable damage to our friendship.
"I'm drunk, Kyle. I never meant what I said. I'm sorry. OK?"
"You still wanna massage my shoulders or something?"
"It's cool, Mark. Go to sleep."
As I made two coffees in the morning, I wondered what the hell Kyle was all about. He reminded me of those stories I'd read in newspapers about maltreated dogs that would continue to be loyal to their asshole owners. How the fuck did I deserve a friend like him?
I placed his steaming mug of coffee on his bedside chest of drawers, woke him, then asked him if he was OK.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he yawned, stretched, then sat up and leaned back against his pillows.
"I'm sorry about last night, Kyle."
"Hey, we were all shitfaced," he explained before taking a sip from his mug. "Coffee's great. Thanks."
"I've gotta go see Carol. I fucked up big time."
"I've never seen you like that."
"I lost control."
Lost control of what? I asked myself as I walked home. Who or what was the demon inside me that surfaced when I'd had too much alcohol? Was he the real me, lurking somewhere in the dark depths of my soul? Or was the real me the person who attracted people like Kyle and Carol? Had my father's bashings turned me into some kinda monster, only to be made even worse by shitforbrains?
Well, Carol was gonna have to wait for my apology. After I'd showered and changed, the pizza restaurant called, and wanted me to rock over there straight away for a written test. "If you pass the test," the boss said, "we want you to start working today."
That night, I managed to catch up with Carol. "I'm really sorry, Carol. I didn't mean to hit you."
"I know you didn't. But you and Kyle don't give a shit when you've been drinking. And it's as much his fault as yours."
"He uses you for a drinking buddy. And you use him."
"Crap. We felt like getting trashed 'cause of end of school, and the hols and stuff."
"You've always got an excuse."
"We don't need one. If we wanna get trashed, we will."
"Typical male… escaping from the real world."
"Hey! I don't need to escape from anything."
"You and Kyle just lose control. Steph and I might as well not be around when you guys drink."
"Hello? Who lost control when they decided to dance with another dude? You knew what would happen, so don't go dumping your baggage on me."
"You think you know everything, don't you? Steph and I saw Kyle at the beach today, and all he could do was take your side. He called Steph and me paranoid. He said that Steph and I were making a big deal about nothing. Anyway, Steph's as mad as hell at Kyle."
"So I take it that you don't wanna know how I went at the pizza place today?"
I had to work again the next day, and phoned Kyle from the restaurant. He wasn't home. When he did return my call, I was busy waiting tables, and didn't have time to talk. He left a message, but I was too fucked by the end of the night to bother calling back. I'd wanted to apologize again to him for that low shit I'd said about his sexual preferences. He was my best bud… the best bud I'd ever had… the only bud I'd ever had... and he didn't deserve that kinda lamo crap. Hey, he didn't deserve any of the crap I'd ever laid on him, but something inside me just couldn't help dishing it out. It was some kinda defensive thing, and it just popped up from outa nowhere like some Jack-in-the-box on a spring.
The radio was blaring as I answered the front door. "Hey, Kyle."
"Hi," he yelled. "Hey, you deaf or something?"
"You should talk," I said as he brushed past me, and made his way though the house toward the kitchen as if he owned the fucking joint.
"How's it going?"
"That and other stuff."
"How come you're sweating? It's fucking cold outside."
"Situps. I've been doing situps, and pushups, and skipping."
"Cool. Now I can watch you shower."
"Fat fucking chance."
"Hey, you ever see an elephant with white ears?"
"No." I watched him pull the pockets of his cargoes inside out, undo his zip, then flop out his dick. I cracked totally at the sight of the 'white ears' and the 'trunk'. "You're a fucking idiot, Kyle," I laughed.
"Yeah, but only for my friends."
"Want something to drink?"
"Coffee?" I asked as I went to the sink, and filled the electric jug with water.
"Cool. Hey," he paused for a moment. "I tried to phone you."
"And I tried to phone you. I thought you might've been pissed at me."
He had to be kidding. About what? Jesus Christ, I'd had the guilts big time ever since those insulting words tumbled outa my mouth, and he's asking me about what? "What I said the other night."
"You were drunk. Anyway, I've come around for that massage you promised me."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. I've been hunting you down." Then he stood behind me while I was busy with the jug, and put his arms around me, placing his hands on my stomach.
"Do you have to do that now? I'm busy boiling water."
"Just wanna feel if you're getting soft in the middle."
In all my life, I'd never met such a tactile person. He was all about touching and feeling and being close. It came as naturally to him as it did unnaturally to me. But there was something about Kyle's openness, honesty and spontaneity that made it acceptable… well, most of the time. Then he moved his hands to my shoulders, and began to massage them while I still had hold of the jug of boiling water. "That feels fucking good. You should think seriously about becoming a masseur or something."
"Feels good for me, too."
"Can I finish making the damn coffee now?"
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