"What Ya Doin' In the Dumpster?"

by Grasshopper

You know those days that, when you look back on them, start out like every other dang day, but turn into days you never forget?

I got up, rising, not shining, just up. Looking for clothes......everything I owned was dirty, thrown on the floor, under the bed. The only clean shirt left is the one my mom gave me last birthday......you have one, I bet...........a heinous button-down thing, orange with little black squiggles all over it. I had sworn an oath never to wear it in public.

Picking up one t-shirt, then another, sniffing them and nearly passing out, I glanced at the clock and feeling the pressure of time, I sighed and grabbed the monster punkin shirt from its hanger. The instant my fingers touched the orange cloth, I got this premonition. My mind started sending out loud beeping sounds....Danger! Bad shirt! Danger!

But, remembering how sometimes, I go with no socks or no underwear or jeans with a rip or dog bad hair or a giant zit, I figured it might be okay. I gave in and just yanked on the shirt from hell. It couldn't be any worse than the day I forgot deodorant and, by 5th period, I smelled like a billygoat. The look on Melissa Harrelson's face was priceless as she fought for breath. I admit that I did wave my arms around way too much just to watch her gasp.

Black cargoes and sneaks.........I took a swipe at my tangled hair, grabbed up my backpack, crammed my homework in, toed up my board and headed for the smell of food.

The minute I saw my mom's face, I knew. Her eyes teared up and she stopped stirring the oatmeal (God save me) to come over and hug me tight.

"Ugh, get off me," I groaned.

"You have on the shirt I gave you." Mom's are real weird that way.

"Uh......yeah," I replied intelligently, actually looking down to refresh my memory.

"I thought you didn't like it."

"What? Me? Not like it?" I stammered. "It's iced."

'Liar,' I yelled to myself.

But, she feeds me and gives me money and, well, she IS my mom.

Prying her off, I grabbed up my gooey strawberry poptarts and headed for the door, just as I heard Eddie's horn blare.

Climbing into the backseat, I just waited. Sure enough............

"Hey, Macklin, where'd you get the shirt?" This from my best friend, the idiot driving the '94 Chevy Camaro. "Beat the crap out of a jack-lantern?"

"Bite me, Lasko," I answered, possibly for the 17 gazillionth time. I wish I had a dollar for every time I'd invited Eddie to bite me. To my sorrow, he'd never taken me up on it.

"Dream on," he replied, flipping his finger in the rearview mirror.

Dale turned and draped his arm across the back of the front seat, peering at me through his thick glasses. "I think it's quite..........um............well, it's very............." Giving up all pretense, he laughed and shouted, "Sorry, Mack, but that shirt really blows."

"I didn't have a clean shirt, barfbreath.......Okayyyyyy??" I was mulling over the danger signals I had gotten when I touched the now infamous shirt. I had been right...Danger! Bad Shirt!

From the opposite corner of the backseat, Karen's quiet voice chimed out, "I kind of like the design."

Eddie howled, "Kiss of death. It's the kiss of death when a girl says she likes your shirt. You wanna wear Mack's shirt, Karo?"

"Okay,,,,,,enough," I growled. "Somebody lend me a shirt. Who's got a t-shirt in their backpack?"

"I don't,"

"Me neither."

"I do," Karen smiled, her eyes twinkling, and proceeded to pull out this tiny BabyGap bellybutton 'handkerchief' that said Daddy's Princess across the front in glitter. "Here, Mack."

"You guys all so suck," I groused, trying not to laugh.

"Well," Eddie snorted, "You kinda are your daddy's little princess."

"Shut.............up!!" I groaned.


I had told these three people, my best friends in the whole world, one rainy night while we played Truth or Dare in Dale's basement playroom. Karen had turned to me and said, "Truth" and I, just because the word was out there, and suddenly it was too much to hold in any longer, actually told it.

The reaction had been mixed. Karen had been immediately intrigued, wanting to know who I liked. Dale had squinted behind those big glasses and just said quietly, "That's okay, Dude. We've all got some weird shit."

It was Eddie, my best friend since 2nd grade, who flipped. "You what? You are sooooooo not. Tell me you're not! Jesus, Mack," and he inched away from me, as if I was gonna jump on him.

"Don't hold your breath, douchebag," I muttered at him as he scooted across the floor. Isn't it gross how, when you do tell someone, and you want their understanding, sometimes they freak and think you gonna jump them right there. "I said I was gay, not blind and stupid."

"But," Eddie mumbled, "But........don't fa.........gay guys do it all the time?"

I just sat, rolling my eyes and sighing. What an idiot. "NO! Gay guys do not do 'it' all the time, you nincompoop. No more than you do." Score one for me, knowing that Eddie Lasko had never done 'it' in his whole little life.

"Have you ever thought about.....? Me or Dale? Ewwwwwwwwwwww," he spluttered.

My head down, more from frustration than anything else, I sighed, "What? I say I'm gay and immediately you think I'm insane? Do you want every girl you see?"

Eddie blushed, "Pretty much."

Karen slapped him on the head, "God, you're disgusting."

Anyway, that was my "coming out" party. Fun was had by one and all. Some had more fun than others. Actually, it went pretty smoothly and for the last two months, no one had mentioned it much. Karen always wanted to take me shopping and Eddie teased me about the cute new guy in Homeroom, but, all in all, nothing changed. Same old Dale, Eddie, Karen and Mack. Until today, with the wearing of the shirt made by leprechauns from hell.


We drove into the school parking lot and Eddie shoved the old car into a pretty much non-existent slot by the fire hydrant, our parking space for the last 2 years.

Walking across the quad, I felt a couple of people glance at us and wondered if it was the shirt but then I forgot it in the scramble for books in locker, plans to meet for lunch, and other important stuff. I had never tucked it in and the tails were flapping as I walked toward homeroom.

By 4th period, I had pretty much ignored the shirt and it had been ignored by everyone else. I figured everyone has a hideous article of clothing given to them by a clueless mom. I could survive the day, go home and bury it in the clothes hamper, never to be seen again.

No such luck! As I sat down gingerly in my seat, I sighed. This was Government. I hated this class. The teacher would throw out topics and kids would spout out thoughts.........and we all know that some kid's thoughts are totally bogus. I was usually easy to sort out who was parroting their parents from who actually had a brain. Every day, I would sit and hear people say stuff like:

Gasoline should be free.

and

If you didn't have sex, you wouldn't need an abortion.

and

It says so in the Bible.

I just tried not to listen. I had enough problems of my own with church and well, more personal matters, and I saw no reason to try to argue with a blockhead.

The only good thing about Government class was the view. Not a view out the window, but a view of who always sat by the window. Zack Raulerson.

But today.......today of all days. The day of the hideous shirt. I should have seen it coming. I just didn't think even this class, this teacher, could get so out of hand.

We took a pop quiz on the election of supreme court judges and then, five minutes before the bell, the teacher sprang this one on us.

"Tomorrow, we'll discuss the gay marriage amendment."

I heard it but my mind didn't want to register what the teacher had said.

Oh, shit!


Now, I have to backtrack just a second. I know you're wondering if there is anyone I look at, dream about, or just generally drool over. Well, yeah. And you think you know I'm gonna name the captain of the football team or the most popular boy on campus..........but I'm not.

Ever since 4th grade, I've wanted to be friends with Zack Raulerson. You all know a Zack Raulerson, the guy that's bigger than everyone. Tougher, dicey, not exactly safe. He lives somewhere in that part of town where your mom never let you go. He has a scar on his cheek and wears a lot of black Metallica t-shirts. I've always wanted to know Zack but he's a total loner. He does pretty good in school but the teachers are rude to him and it causes conflict where none should be. More than once, I've wanted to take his side when a teacher is commenting on his lateness or his dirty hands or his homework written on paper towels. I always want to shout, "But he's here and he used those dirty hands to write the damn homework." But, I don't...... To my shame, I never have.

He always wears shades. The aviator kind that mirror back at you, so no one can ever see his eyes. I've wondered what's going on in those eyes.


"Many states are testing the gay marriage idea out this election," the stupid teacher said, surely not realizing the firestorm that he was creating. "I will want to hear your thoughts tomorrow."

Now, I don't know when you were in high school, but no one except the geeks and sweet tree huggers ever stand up for any underdog's rights. We had a discussion about cutting the huge redwoods where Andie took on the whole debate team and then once, they argued about computers taking over the world and the audio-visual geeks set everyone straight. But, for the most part, defending any social topic is pretty much taboo for fear people will think you're 'different'. God forbid you argue for abortion or legal use of marijuana or gay rights. You would right off be labeled pregnant, stoned or gay.

I waited for the first negative comment and cringed when it came.

"Fags are evil and will all rot in hell!!"

I waited for the teacher to stop that line of talk and looked up when it didn't happen. Turning my head, I watched Ned Schneider, red faced and gripping his books tightly, take in another breath to shout another harangue.

"They can't get married. It says so in the Bible."

Ooooookay. Score one for Ned and the Bible. The bell rang and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

"Wait up, Mack," Eddie called out, as he ran down the hall, stopping me right outside the classroom door. "Wait'll you hear what happened in gym."

As we stepped out of the way, I heard Schneider and his buddies come out the door, still spewing garbage.

"Bunch a fags," Schneider growled, as he pushed his way through the crowd. His arm hit against mine and he dropped his books. I wasn't about to help him pick them up and turned to go.

"Hey you," he shouted.

"Huh? What?" I replied.

"You shoved me, ya little queer. God, will you look at that fag shirt?" he bellowed out, punching his friends.

Dang! Wrong place, wrong time. I shot a look at Eddie and he rolled his eyes.

"Didn't shove ya, Schneider," I answered and Eddie and I hauled butt. I wish I could say I stood there and gave it right back but he has about 50 Big Mac blubber pounds on me and I wasn't ready to out myself right there in the hall. Damn this shirt!!

"What the heck was that?" Eddie punched my arm as we headed for the caf.

"Nothing. He was showing his wide expanse of knowledge in Gov class. I was so impressed and he must have seen that," I snarked.

"Yeah, right." Everyone knows Ned Schneider. His father is some kind of Holy Roller preacher and is always spouting off at town meetings. Ned comes by his prejudices easily.

"Well, watch yourself, Mack. He is a jackass but he thinks he's right."

"The worst kind, I know."

*

The day stumbled on. Remember school, when it was like the clocks stopped ticking and you couldn't keep your eyes open and the teacher's voice was like this rusty wheel scratching out medieval Gaelic sounds? Sort of like the time the English teacher decided that we needed to read Beowolf. Lord, save me from that ever ever again.

I thought I was gonna make it home. It was truly all I wanted. To go home and take off this wretched shirt and play vid games and not think about the words echoing in my head "fag rot hell" Dang, I hadn't even kissed a boy yet. I wasn't going to any fiery hell anytime soon. Let me do something first and then maybe I'll consider buying a ticket. Prolly not, though.

I was crossing the back parking lot, headed toward the Ag. Building when the hair on the back of my neck just kinda stood up. Most everyone was already in class and the lot was pretty much empty. Aw, shit! Everyone knows not to be alone anywhere anytime, especially not when you're a kinda skinny, not too muscley 17 year old kid who just happens to have on the most hideous shirt ever created and, by the sound of the voice yelling at me, should not have been standing in the hall after Gov class.

"Hey.......Macklin!!"

If I don't turn around, will he go away?

"Hey....I'm talkin' to you. You............Fag!"

Sighing, I stopped. "What is it, Schneider? You need help crossing the parking lot?"

He loomed up and planted himself in my path. "You didn't apologize for making me drop my books."

Dang! Can we just say "Big Fat Bully"? Knowing I needed to be meek and scared if I wanted to save my ass, I rolled my eyes instead and answered, "I can't help if you're spastic and drop your crap." My heart was banging in my chest and I knew the outcome of this little party already but dang if I'd let him whack me for being scared.

He blustered and grabbed my backpack, me still attached. I was expecting a pile of knuckles in my face but instead, he lifted me off my feet and dumped me in the big smelly army green dumpster. "That's where you belong....with the rest of the garbage," he hooted.

I could hear his footsteps as he left me there, sitting square in the middle of the cafeteria garbage. I wish I could say I was brave or laughing or something equally lighthearted but I wasn't.

This was kinda a defining moment for me. I was in a dumpster. I was in it cause I didn't stand up for myself. Not the being gay part.....nah. That wasn't it. It was the 'you're bigger than me, so I have to let you do this' part.

I tried to stand up but the banana peels and green jello; the 5 day old spaghetti and the sour milk all made me slip and slide. I'm embarrassed to say that I kinda panicked for a minute thinking that no one would find me and the dumpster guys would come in the big truck and dump me in and take me to the big dump and well.......................

Okay. Enough of that. I want out. There was no way to crawl out. The inside walls were thick with slimey ooze and I was just trying not to touch anything or let anything touch me. What a huge ick factor here!

I heard a noise outside the dumpster and yelled, "A little help here, please." I kicked on the wall.

Nothing and then the sound of a truck pulling up to the front. Oh, God! The dumpster guys!! I love you, Mom!

Suddenly, a face appeared over the wall of the dumpster. "Hey, Kid. What ya doin in the dumpster?" Zack Raulerson drawled, his voice echoing down into the cavernous box.

"Haha," I groaned. "So not funny. Can you get me out?"

"Sure, hold on." He leaned further in, his nose wrinkling at the atrocious smell, his shades hanging from the neck of his t-shirt. "Grab hold of my hands."

I did and he pulled me out as easily as if I weighed nothing. I gotta eat more. It was embarrassing.

He had pulled his truck up to the base of the dumpster and we were standing on the hood. He reached over and pulled a purple gummi bear off my cheek and brushed at the jello stains on my shirt.

"You okay?" he asked, shoving the shades back on before I could look.

"Yeah. Only my pride is hurt, I guess," I answered.

"I watched him throw you in," Zack said quietly. "I'm sorry. I'd have stopped him but I didn't know if you wanted me to. I'm sorry."

"Not your fault that the guy is an asshole," I replied.

"You really okay?"

It was weird but until that moment, I hadn't even realized that tears were backed up behind my eyes. I opened my eyes reeeally wide to stanch the flow but one fell to run down my cheek mixing with the green jello.

I felt Zack lift my backpack off my shoulders as I rubbed away the stupid tear. He jumped off the truck hood, but I knew he had seen me cry. I wanted to disappear into the pavement. All these years, and the first time he ever speaks to me, I cry like a girl.

He walked over to the curb away from the dumpster and sat, watching me from behind those dark glasses.

Sitting down beside him, I said carefully, "Thanks, Zack."

"Sure, Billy," he said in that quiet drawl.

Now, no one ever calls me Billy. I'm Mack or Macklin to family and friends. No one, that is, except my mom. But, somehow, I wanted Zack to call me Billy. Something different from everyone else. It made me feel good.

"You want me to take care of Schneider for you?"

I turned my head and tried to look through those mirrors into his eyes. He cocked his head and then, knowing what I wanted, he reached up and slid the glasses off his face to dangle in his fingers.

I saw green eyes touched with a ring of brown and flecked with tiny drops of gold. I saw me reflected in his eyes. I saw laughter and wisdom. They were old eyes. I knew he had seen a lot more of life's harsh realities than me. I felt so much. I wished he could see me.

"No," I said softly, shaking my head, "But thanks for asking."

I had known I was gay for years. I had known I was attracted to Zack Raulerson for years. I had never expected to be this close to him. I could feel my belly churning and I was struck absolutely dumb. Where was my sparkling personality? Where were all the funny things I could say? All the jokes and witty words?

"Billy?" his voice was low and made my toes curl.

"Yeah?"

"What we're gonna discuss tomorrow, you know, in Government?"

"Yeah?" My mind was free wheeling.

"You are, aren't you?"

"Huh? Well, I um..................Why would you say that?"

He slid the glasses back on, as if they were his shield against the light and against the world.

"I can kind of feel it."

He can feel it? How do you 'feel' it? Why would he even bring it up unless
1. He wants to bash me.
2. He's trying to tell me something.

Stammering, I said, "What do you feel?"

Now he blushed. Big tough Zack Raulerson, the object of my dreams for years was actually blushing. I was beginning to think maybe this was my lucky shirt.

"I feel kinda like these vibes coming from you."

Oh..........My.........God!! "Zack, why do you want to know?"

He turned his head away, staring off across the parking lot. He mumbled, "I want to know cause I need to know if it's okay that I feel stuff."

"WHAT? WHAT?" My head was gonna explode.

He stood up abruptly and headed for his truck. "Nevermind. See ya, Billy."

"Wait!," I yelled. "Zack, wait!" But he drove off, squealing tires and taking the corner too fast.

I sat for the rest of that class on that curb. I was too stunned to move. I kept repeating what he had said. What exactly HAD he said? Had he said anything? I wish I'd had a tape recorder. The words were getting all jumbled in my head. Had he said he felt stuff? For who? About what? Why was he asking if I was gay? Did it matter to him? My God.....Zack Raulerson!!

I finally got in that backseat of Eddie's car and collapsed.

"Phew! You totally stink, Mack," Karen shrieked, rolling down her window and sticking her head out.

"Whoa, Mack.....where you been and what you been doin?"

As I related the story of my adventure in the dumpster, I left out the end. I didn't want to talk about that part yet. I wanted to go home and think, just sit real still and think about what Zack had said.

"What you gonna do about Schneider?" Eddie asked. "You can't just let him get away with that."

"I know, but it has to be a good plan cause I sure can't toss that big tub in any dumpster," I said, groaning at the thought.


The next day, I looked for Zack but didn't see him until the dreaded Gov class. I wanted to ask him what he'd meant but I was so afraid it wasn't what I thought. I didn't think I could stand it if he was just another "Schneider" and wanted to punch me.

We got back our quizzes and I got a B. Not bad. I looked over at Schneider and he was fuming over the big red F on his paper. I couldn't tell what Zack had gotten cause he rolled his paper up and shoved it in his backpack.

"Now, class. We were going to spend the remainder of the class today discussing the idea of gay marriage and how it affects the rest of us."

Well, now, isn't that a fine way to put it? The REST of us. Like I'm a different species. It was all I could do not to shake my head and scream, 'I'm just like you. I just want someone to love and I want to be able to take care of that person and know that if something happens to me, they will be okay. I want to live with the person I love with pride and acceptance. That's all I want. Is that so hard to understand?'

But, of course, I didn't. One day I will, but not yet...not here...not today. Alone is a tough place to be and right now, alone is all I am.

Schneider's voice rumbled, his eyes cutting around the room, catching me in with his big grin before moving on, "It's a crime against nature. Fags will all go to hell."

The teacher had grace enough to be embarrassed. "That's enough, Schneider. "

"They are an abomination. My father says............."

"Your father is an asshole." The voice was low and quiet but the tone was firm. "You repeat what he says and make yourself look stupid and that makes you an asshole too."

I looked at Zack. He was looking directly at me, the sunlight glancing off the mirrors of his shades. I wished I could see his eyes. I didn't know if he was defending me or defending himself or just being kind.

Schneider stood up out of his desk and glared at Zack. The room went silent. "Why are you defending them, Raulerson? You a fag?"

It was so quiet, we could hear the sound of the clock ticking. I swear I could hear my own heart beating.

Zack turned in his seat and reached up to slide the glasses off. "Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. You wanna do something about it?" His eyes cut like razors as he didn't flinch.

It was like watching a hot air balloon deflate. Schneider mumbled something about fags but no one was paying any mind.

I sat in my desk and stared at my hands. I didn't think I could move. He just did what I had dreamed of doing all my life. Standing up for what I believed. I looked over at him as he sat there, quiet and still, as if he hadn't changed the face of the earth as far as I was concerned. Zach Raulerson!! My mind couldn't work itself around it.

The teacher, realizing that there was nothing he could add to this discussion, called class early and the kids all rushed out the door to spread the gossip. Yet another mystery swirling around Zack Raulerson.

I wasn't sure what do or what to say. Zack made that decision for me by walking out of the door and heading down the hall toward the main doors. I wanted to say something to him but I had no idea what that something was.

He prolly thinks I'm a total loser for not doing what he did. I felt like a total loser. I was ashamed of myself for letting Schneider throw me in that dumpster and for not standing up for myself. I knew I couldn't look Zack in the eyes.

In the cafeteria that day, people whispered, cussing and discussing, whether the boy the girls all wanted and the guys all envied, was indeed gay. The object of their whispers was not there. He was never there. Zack never ate in the caf.

I wanted so much to talk to him. To try to make up for the way I felt I had not done my part, had let him down. I wished, for the millionth time, that I was bigger, stronger, braver.......like Zack.

Going on a hunch, I left for the Ag building early, trying not to look over my shoulder for stupid Schneider.

I saw his truck parked out at the end of the parking lot and grasping for what little bit of brave there is in me, I walked toward the old beat up Ford.

"Hey," I offered.

"Hey back at ya," Zack said quietly. I was beginning to realize that looks could be very deceiving. For a big dude, he had a very soft voice. I won't even try to tell you what that soft voice was doing to me.

"That was totally iced, what you did today in class, Zack."

He looked at me, those mirrors reflecting my own face. "Why?"

"Cause...........well," I stuttered.

"I just answered him. I don't think he'll give you any more trouble."

"Why not?"

"He and I had a little chat after class. We came to an understanding of sorts."

I knew I sounded like a parrot but I just seemed to keep repeating what he said. "An understanding?"

"Yeah. He won't be making any more cracks and he won't be touching you again."

"I.............," I didn't know what to say, "Thanks," I offered lamely.

Zack stared off toward the pasture behind the Ag building, his glasses a wall to what he was thinking.

"So.........," I said, wanting to stay, needing to run away. No one knows how impossible it is for a 17 year old gay kid to find the words to ask what he wants to know more than anything else in the world. My heart was screaming, 'Are you?' but my mouth wouldn't form the words.

"So?" he wasn't making it any easier.

This was my chance. I had to do it now. Deep breath. "Zack?"

"Yeah?" And then ,he did it. He took off those glasses. I could see his eyes. I was leaning on the car door, my hip grazing the side panel, as he sat with his left arm propped in the window frame.

"What you said in class?"

"Uh huh." I could see it in his eyes now.

"Maybe you are and maybe you aren't, right?"

"Right."

I couldn't do it anymore. He wasn't gonna say and I wasn't gonna ask. I lifted myself off the door and turned to leave.

"Billy."

"Yeah?"

He sucked in a breath and made a decision. "Wanna know what happened to that drawing of the sunrise you made that won the prize in 5th grade?"

"Huh?" Lord, where did that come from? I hadn't thought about that in years. I had won 2nd prize in the school art show and my drawing disappeared.

Zack reached for his glasses, as if to hide his eyes one more time from a world he just didn't belong in.

I saw something flicker in those green eyes. What was prolly my bravest move so far in life, I reached my hand in the window and took the shades.

"Now, Zack. Tell me about that drawing?"

"I...........," he tripped over his words, "I took it."

Suddenly, feeling a power I'd never felt before, I tried to keep the grin off my face and asked, "Why?"

His eyes found mine and they held on. "I wanted something of yours," he said in that voice.

Little did he know, he could have had anything I owned. I would have wrapped it up and taken it to him.

"I would have given it to you."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

He cleared his throat, took the shades from my hand, his fingers touching mine and slipped them back on but it didn't matter anymore. I kinda knew what was behind them now........beautiful clear green eyes, ringed in brown with flecks of gold. Honest eyes. Zack's eyes.

"Wanna skip and go get some cheese fries?" he asked.

Hmmmm, big decision. Ag class on irrigation or Zack Raulerson. Hmmmmmm!!

"Oh, yeah."

As I climbed into the shotgun side and he cranked the engine, my life was glowing. He was offering me the answer to the question...maybe-maybe not. He had answered the question when he let me hold his glasses and he let me see into his eyes.

"I have to ask something," I said, one tiny bit of awe for the mystery that was Zack Raulerson still lingering.

"Shoot," he said, his brows wrinkled, waiting for some huge question.

"How did you get the scar? A knife fight or a motorcycle wreck?"

He frowned for a second and then he laughed. Not some minor snort but a deep from your belly kind of laugh. "Where did you get those ideas?"

"It's what everybody says."

"And you believe everybody?"

"I did," I said, watching how his face gentled as he laughed. I don't think Zack laughed very much. I intended to change that.

"You won't tell?" he said, still chuckling.

"Nah. Our secret."

"I was building a doghouse for this stray dog that had wandered into our yard. I couldn't hammer worth crap and hit my own self with the end of the board. It cut me and the dang dog disappeared anyway."

"So much for one of the many Zack Raulerson mysteries."

"There are more?"

"Oh yeah."

"And you believed them?"

"I didn't really believe the one where you eat live kittens for supper," I laughed.

"Dear God," he snorted.

We rode in comfortable silence, me trying not to stare at him. He was so different from what everyone thought. He was brave and kind and gentle.

Over the cheese fries and the Dr. Peppers, we laughed and talked and learned about each other. He didn't even like Metallica; he wore the t-shirts cause he got them cheap. He really liked country music. His mother had died when he was only 5 and he and his dad had had really hard times but they were making it.

I tried to tell him stuff about me; my friends and my skateboarding, but he already knew. Zack Raulerson already knew about me.

It was funny how we had been in the same town, the same schools, breathing the same air for all these years; me watching him and apparently, him watching me.

"When you asked me yesterday if I was one," I finally said.

His eyes darkened. "Yeah, Billy?"

I took a deep breath. "Yeah, I am."

I watched his eyes.

"Remember how I told you I could feel it?" he said quietly.

I nodded my head.

"I can feel it cause it's coming off me too."

"Soooooo, I take that as a maybe yes?"

He grinned, and my heart flipped. "You got that right in one."

"Soooooo," I was really at a loss. "What does that mean?"

"Well," he said, "For starters, never wear that shirt again and stay out of the dumpster. I can't always be rescuing you."

I felt all the tension fall off me and I laughed until tears flooded my face. In just 2 days, I had gotten tossed in a dumpster, outted myself to the boy I had always wanted and now, I find out he just might want me too.

I don't know if was the shirt or Schneider that had worked this miracle, but I did know that today was a perfect day. Perfect in all kinds of ways.

"I have a confession," I said with my eyes on the runny ketchup.

He laughed, "Can't be worse than me stealing your picture."

"In 6th grade, I took pictures of the class at the end of the year. I took one of you all by yourself. I have it," I blushed crimson, "In my wallet behind my license."

"You're kidding?" he grinned.

"Would I make that up?"

He thought for a sec. "Nope."

School tomorrow would be a different world. We (doesn't that sound good) We decided to play it by ear, just be the friends we'd always wanted to be and see how the pieces fit.

As Zack's tail lights dimmed down the street, I wanted to laugh and cry and yell in the middle of the street. I thought again about Eddie's reaction to my being gay and his question.

"But, don't gay guys do 'it' all the time?"

I hadn't even touched Zack. I didn't even know where to begin to touch Zack. Why is it so difficult for people to see that we're all the same? I knew he cared, I can still hear his laughter and see those green eyes full of smiles. We'll have to see what it is we think we've found. For right now, I just want to breath it all in. I don't know why zactly but I feel more like a person; more alive. That's all I need.

"Billy, dinner. What are you doing out there standing in the middle of the street?" my mom called.

"I'm starting my life, Mom. Just smiling and starting my life."

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