Wearing the Inside Out
Chapter 4 - Clockwork
The day passed without any word from Jack.
Aunty took me to Canobie Lake Park, a nearby amusement place and we spent a lot of time and a lot of her money just having fun. I'm still a sucker for the mirror house and the Turkish Twist still leaves me happily deranged. Having your whole body spun hard enough to stick you against a wall and the floor dropping out from under you just does stuff to your insides and you feel dizzy and giddy and all shook up afterwards, but in a good way. Feeling your own weight keeping you against a wall with no support below, knowing it, seeing it, but being unafraid, I'm not sure what about that makes you tingle, but it's awesome. One kid, probably 11 years old, even took his hat off and set it on the wall while we were in full spin up, the hat stuck in place as he grinned smugly.
Strangely that ride was a good example of how my life had been recently. Everything spinning out of control, the bottom dropping out, pinned in place, dizzy if you move your head too fast to look around. It was like that ride just plain fit my moods and history. Odd.
And for the record, yeah, I took the opportunity to look around with my newly opened eyes while we were at the park. I found my eyes drawn places that they probably always went, but now I was more aware of what I was looking at. You guessed it, other boys. Some younger than me, some older, even a couple of adults. Can't lie, I was appreciating some of the things I saw, especially now that I wasn't trying to subdue the feelings it produced. And while I saw things I liked, especially at the pool area when we took an hour after lunch to get wet, I still knew that I wasn't looking for anything other than Jack. I had a few moments of fantasy…
But I was in love with Jack. Other guys were good to compare with, but couldn't match up to my feelings for Jack. I had to be careful, though. Aunty caught me looking off into the distance at one boy, a slender, tall boy a little older than me with an Eeyore smile. I think she thought I was looking at a clutch of girls just past him. She couldn't help but comment on it though, saying "Oh, my! Got your peepers popped for someone here?" with that coy tone.
I musta blushed so bright she thought I was getting sunburned. We got out and spent the next couple of hours going back on some of the rides and eating fair food. She was spending way too much money on me, what with the food and fair games and the penny arcade. I made two key chain medallions there with Jack and my names on them. Not sure if Aunty saw what I stamped on them or not. She was busy winning tickets at skeeball.
Yeah, I guess I kinda got it bad.
It was late when we got home, Mom was in a much better mood. I still couldn't bring myself to look her in the eyes much less chance hugging her. But the change, the calm that came from her was different. It was apparent that she'd done some crying from the marks on her face.
I didn't push things. She was still fragile. Whatever gentle magic her friend had worked on her today was still taking effect and I didn't want to spoil that. She seemed in control more. She didn't smile at me and Aunty when we came in. I heard them talking as I went up the stairs, not wanting to tip things back the bad way. It was a good sign, I guess, that her and Aunty were speaking in lower tones.
Despite the fact that he had left a message that he wanted to talk to me, there was no phone message on my aunt's voice mail from Jack's dad. The implications of earlier that morning had drifted into a blur while we were at the amusement park. Given a little time to think on the way home, though, had me questioning many things in my life. And wondering exactly what Kenny and Robby had meant about chasing the boogieman in the Thomas' cellar.
But that's a different story.
I showered quickly, not wanting to give anyone a reason to get a shouting match going. It was a warm night and the windows were open to let the evening breezes in. I wasn't much for the whole PJ's thing, so I decided to just go to bed commando. I turned on the radio and lamp beside the bed and began reading through a book I picked up off my aunt's shelf down stairs. She's got tons of mystery paperbacks, mostly salvaged from library sales. I was just getting into the beginning few chapters, where the lawyer was uncovering the plot even as he was falling into it, when I saw a light click on in Jack's bedroom.
At first, I was afraid to get up and look out the window. Not because I was naked, but because I didn't know what to say or even how Jack was feeling. It's kinda a chicken-shit excuse, but it's how I felt just then. I gave it several minutes and then got up my nerve to look. But as I bolted from the bed to the window the light across the way went out. The bed table lamp beside me was out a moment later. I didn't even shove my bookmark in the novel as I dropped it by my pillow.
I looked over, shoving my upper body out the window, elbows on the sill, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jack's face in the darkness. The evening breezes were a wild and cooling surge against my skin as I leaned out slightly into the chasm between houses. Must be some sort of wind tunnel effect with how close some of these are build, I reasoned.
Image that, me reasoning anything.
I thought of a half dozen quick things to say to explain why I didn't rocket to the window when I first saw the light on. I even hoped that I could contain all my confusion long enough to say hello. But the darkness of his room was absolute. No movement, no ghostly figure of him standing there just watching me. Not even a hint that there was a shape at all lying on his bed. I must have missed him, I thought. He's gone to some other room, only coming up here to check on his plants or to grab a pair of boxers before going to get a shower.
I've missed him.
"I'm up here, Paul," his voice sounded from beside the window and further up the roofline. He was laying on the roof, staring up into space, wearing only a baggy black bathing suit and sneakers, no socks.
"Whutcha up there, Toothpick?"
"I've been climbing out of my window to observe the heavens since I was seven."
"Well, I mean how…. No never mind. Why are you out there?"
"To observe the heavens again," he responded, not sure why I needed to hear him say it again. "And because I was hoping to speak to you."
"Yeah, sorry I wasn't over earlier. Aunty took me out for a while. I've wanted to see you all day." Almost immediately I felt like I'd said too much, admitted something that I was wanting to have returned but not sure if I was ready for the results from. I tried to cover up with, "You know, Dad wants to have a talk with me."
"I am aware of that," he replied. "He will likely ask you to not come over any further."
"He fears you will be a bad influence on me, as my brother's friends were on him." He tilted his head slightly in my direction, shifting his eyes to meet mine across the open space. "I… have been thinking a great deal about you of late."
"About last night?" I ventured, breathlessly.
He nodded, turning his head back to the sky. "I have never felt like that before, Paul. I should have known he would know."
"Who would know what?" I asked, half wishing I didn't have a clue what the answer might be. Kenny's and Robby's words echoed in the back of my empty head.
"That Father would know I was sexually excited. That I was feeling intense physical sensations with you."
For a moment, my heart did a full double gainer. I mean, first off he'd just admitted he was feeling sexy with me, and it was INTENSE for him. But at the same time he'd said his dad knew he was feeling that way from like 10 blocks away, which seemed to confirm what Kenny and Robby said that morning. Somehow, someway, my best friend in the world was a living, breathing boy computer.
And that made his creepy dad Dr. Frankenstein.
For about two minutes neither of us said anything. He kept staring straight up, his eyes barely moving around as he watched things far above us. I kept watching him. My knees began cramping being stuck in that position. "Hang on a sec, I'll be right back," I said, startled at how loud my voice sounded in the silence that stretched between us, how it echoed through the fenced alley between houses. I slipped back inside the room, grabbed a pair of swim trunks from the dresser, pulled my Sketchers on and went back to the window. The wind seemed to pick up as I stuck my foot out through the window, ducking low as I swung my body out.
Okay, yeah, I know, it's kinda dumb to step out of a window onto a pitched roof at night wearing just sneaks and swim trunks. And I know it's certifiably stoopid to be doing all this for the first time while like my hearts all racing and I'm trying to figure out what's going on between me and a boy that's like part mother nature and part mother board. But at that moment, I wasn't feeling rational. I wasn't feeling the truth that I could fall and die any second now. Just now, at that moment, all I wanted was to be on equal footing with Jack, even if that meant a precarious footing at best.
I made my way out to the side of the window, only almost killing myself twice in the three steps I took, turned around and gingerly sat down. When I felt stable, barely, I looked over and saw that Jack was smiling back at me, that closed-lipped, enigmatic smile of his. He looked half a step from bursting out with laughter.
"What's so funny?" I asked, barely breathing for fear of slipping off the roof.
"You put your trunks on backwards. The tie strings are hanging out the back."
I reached back and felt the strings, stretched tight from under my butt to the top hem of the trunks. I hadn't even noticed. You'd think that guy's most private parts going into his swim trunks the wrong way might catch his attention. I looked back at him grinning.
"Guess I was just in a rush to join you," I managed to say, feeling a blush spread over my face. It was embarrassing, but kinda funny at the same time.
His smile faded as he looked back up at the sky. I took that as a cue to do the same. It was safer that way too. I got a good look down just before that, and the prospects of testing gravity weren't very appealing.
"Met some cool guys today. There's friend material there." A quick tightening of his jaw was all the expression I got from him about that. But it was enough to let me know that there was a reaction to the idea of other people being friends with us. Or with me, rather. But it was there and gone so fast I couldn't figure out what that reaction actually was. Like so many other things with Jack, it was a wait and see sort of thing. "I might bring them by to meet you, even if I think they already know who you are."
"That'd have been nice," Jack replied, although at the time I didn't hear the "would have" implied in the contraction. I guess my mind was on the possibilities of the future instead of limitations on it.
Again it grew silent between us. But unlike other times, this wasn't a comfortable silence, as much as I wished it could be. Something just felt… off. And I felt I knew what was on both our minds. I risked a look over at him, my eyes able to finally look at his body, even clothed as it was, with the kind of appreciation of someone who had more than just friendly interests in it. To be totally honest, I know I was looking on with longing.
There was a suppleness to his body that I noticed now. It may have been how he was laying on the pitched roof, and it may have been the moonlight enhancing his form in the darkness, contrasting sharply with the dark greens and blacks of the shingles. His legs stood out more to me now, sharply angled as they were. Might also have been that the swim trunks he wore were about two sized too small for his already small frame. But they had a shape that drew me, strong yet slender, the skin smooth and flawless, a few fine hairs catching moonlight and giving a shine to his calves and the upper curve of his thighs over the knees.
His chest was bare, smooth, with tiny nipples. I could make out the striations of his rib muscles as his arms were thrown back open wide, his hands cradling his head. The fine details of his torso were mostly rendered as shadows and moonlight, dancing gracefully over the contours of his body like a cascade of new fallen snow rolling down the mountainside, captured at just the right moment by some gifted photographer.
How hadn't I seen this before? I questioned. He's…. beautiful.
His eyes flicked down at me once and then back up to the stars. It was like he could feel my eyes on him, but he had to check to be sure. I think I blushed a bit as I looked back up at the sky, not sure how to proceed, but knowing I had to say something. I had to know.
"So, he knew, huh?" I asked, hoping to start the conversation again.
"I've been thinking about what happened last night. About how we were…you know, close. About how it felt. Not just the kissing or when we were pushing hips on each other. I mean the other feelings."
"I've thought about last night a lot as well."
"So you said," I said, finding it odd to be the one pointing out the obvious this time. Normally, he's the one that gets to correct me and make leading comments. This sort of inversion was weird, but no weirder than being on a roof in swim trunks talking to another boy about how we nearly were in each other's pants the night before.
"I have learned so much with you, Paul. And I've discovered so many other things I want to learn from you. Perhaps even learn and explore with you." He inhaled and sighed loudly across the empty gulf of space between us.
"Jack, I want to explore things with you, too. I can't explain how I feel. There's times I can't even understand how I feel. All I know is…. things with you felt right." I looked over and saw him staring back at me, his eyes shining in the darkness. "And while I don't know what it all means, I know it means I have strong feelings for you. Very strong."
"I feel very strongly for you as well, Paul. It's not about wanting to be with you anymore. I need you. Physically, mentally, emotionally….."
"Spiritually?" I asked, trying to fill in his blank.
"I don't know that I can have a spirit. There are things about me that defy conventional understanding."
"Indeed. Secrets." Again the air seemed to open up between us. Empty air. With lots of empty space below us.
"Jack, if there are things you have to say….."
"Jack?" came a call from inside his house.
"I better go inside before he sees us talking." He stood up and nimbly stepped into his own bedroom window. He stopped looking back at me, and this time I could see that the shining in his eyes was partly tears, because one rolled down his cheek. "Paul, I don't know if what I'm feeling matches what you are feeling. I'm still learning about how to feel. But I do know this. I am honored to be and to have been your friend, no matter what my father may think of you."
"Jack, are you awake, my son?"
"I better go now," he said, closing the shade to block me from his father's view.
I lay back and let the stars walk across the skies. I wondered if Pops felt this way with Mom. Probably not. From all accounts, they were destined for each other. Totally smooth ride on all sides. I felt tears of my own but didn't even have the strength in me then to cry them.
I dunno how long I lay on the roof like that, but I do remember that twice I looked over to Jack's window, wondering what went on behind the blind, wondering if Jack was looking back at me. You know, secretly, defying his father's wishes or just being that soundless presence that he is at times. Logically, looking at me wasn't the same as being with me.
And about that; I mean, what the fuck, over? Why would I, of all people be a bad influence on Jack. We weren't doing stupid or illegal things together. I don't even smoke!
I did climb back inside before sunrise. Don't expect me to explain how I did it, since I don't remember. But what I do remember was waking up the next morning with a folded note taped on my bed post. How he managed to jump across from his room to mine and then back without me knowing, well, that's probably something I'll never figure out, but the note was in his own perfectly smooth and flowing handwriting. I guess I'll end this chapter with the note and you can figure it out for yourself where it's going.
I am overwhelmed by the amount of feelings I am experiencing when I think of you. I can only imagine that you are feeling the same. Father insists that you are a negative influence on me and my study habits. He insists that I do not see you again in personal situations any further. Even common social occasions between us should be kept to a bare minimum, in Father's opinion. I do not know how to circumvent his authority in this matter, or how to petition him to allow us to remain friends.
I have never felt this way about anyone. I am uncertain how to proceed. Paul, I love you, I believe. I hope you feel as strongly for me. I do not know when we shall see each other again. Please, be well.
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