The Circle Squared - Book One: Squaring the Circle
"Intro to A.D. 1958"
He was sitting on his mossy boulder, looking so adorable, so much the Toby I remembered. His strawberry-blonde hair was a bit long and curled just a tiny bit at the ends. His emerald-green eyes sparkled. His red lips looked moist and warm. I could just make out a few hints of his freckles from across the clearing.
"Geeze. Spent all that time meditating tryin' to see ya, and all I had to do was take a couple pills. What an idiot."
He laughed at me. I didn't mind, I even joined in.
I felt myself wanting to blush. I wondered if I did. Or if I even could.
His grin told me I was.
"Fuck. Don't even have a real face and I'm blushing. Fuck."
"It's cute, I like it," he said in his Georgia accent.
I needed to change the topic. One came to me instantly.
"That's how I got here this time, right? I ain't gonna stay, am I?"
"Nope. Just a dose of pills and some weed, I guess. And don't'cha even think it!" he said, warning me.
The idea occurred even as he warned me. I shrugged.
"If ya do, I'll drop ya in someone who's bein' eatin' by a lion or somethin'!" he said firmly.
"Ouch!" I replied, knowing full well that he'd never do anything of the sort - but I did know he would certainly put me somewhere I'd rather not be in order to teach me not to try again.
"Desi Arnaz while he's doin' Lucy," he said with an evil grin.
"When they're sixty."
"Ahhh!" I screamed in horror.
"You do, and I won't let you over here to see me again. 'Sides, I think you'll be back more than I thought before. You got a way a hidin' shit from me."
I didn't understand how I could possibly hide anything from a nearly omnipotent Toby. I also pondered momentarily the coincidence of my thinking of Tom's hiding things from me earlier. Then I wondered again how this could really be Toby, and not just my own internal creation.
"I don't know everything. I can just see what's likely by watchin'. But you, shit, man, you got a way a not doing what's likely and doin' what's not."
I felt complimented.
"You kinda always did," he added wistfully.
I felt as if I were blushing again, even though I didn't really have a body here. Or there. However you want to put it.
"Yeah," I said a bit sadly. "Doin' the unexpected."
I was thinking of my outburst that had me throwing Jeff out of my room, and then giving Tom a blow-job.
"Yeah," Toby said leadingly. "He already forgave ya."
"Pfft. Tom does that. So easy for him."
It hit me like a bolt of lightning.
"No wonder he was all cool at school. And after, at that, like, welcome back thing at the bikes."
I felt like an asshole for ignoring him.
"Think he understands. He knows you need, like, closure, or, whatever. Gotta talk about it before it's over. So-o-o Alex."
I rolled my eyes and held back most of the grin.
"Sorry I gotta know it's all worked out and can't just ignore it and pretend. Geeze."
He laughed at me again. I joined in again. I felt that I was missing something, but had no clue what it could be.
"Think he's worried it might become like the times before. Right?" I asked, looking to him for an answer.
He offered only his soon-to-be-patented, "you figure it out" face.
"Yeah, fine. You just love being all mysterious and shit, don't ya?"
He grinned. I pondered it, and I grew more sure of it.
"Yeah. And I don't wanna be mad at him. I just don't wanna pretend we ain't, you know ..."
"Yeah. That's 'cause you don't wanna deny me, what we was. Ya made that promise to yourself. Now you feel like it applies ta him, too."
"Is that fair?" I asked, wondering if I was doing Jeff an injustice by holding him to a standard that he had no hand in establishing.
He shrugged and looked helpless, signaling his own uncertainty in his own special way. Patent pending.
"It's not fair to me to have to pretend it ain't goin' on. I want someone who won't do that. I want a real relationship. Not sneaking around my friends. Not actin' like it ain't happenin' even in front of folks who know we're both gay and - together."
I was sure of that.
"If it's just sneakin' 'round, it ain't no different than what we was doin' before."
His grin was more than just at my own resolution, and I knew it. Sure, he was glad to see me working it out, but there was something else. I asked.
"You're talkin' just like me. A lot like. You'd almost pass for a real Peach."
"The guys used to say I did that when you was up visiting. Both times. I guess I just love the way you talk," I admitted with a grin.
"You'll be cravin' gumbo 'n cornbread next," he said, laughing.
"That does sound good," I admitted.
"You could use some meat on your bones."
"I could use some meat-"
"Ah-ah-ah!" cutting me off with an upheld finger and that grin. "Left that one wide open, didn't I?"
He saw it even as he said it, before I could jump on it.
"Oh, come on! If you're gonna lob the soft ones, 'least let me hit one!"
He laughed, so did I. There was nothing more enjoyable than his laugh. It was musical in a way that wasn't effeminate, and sweet without seeming weak. I always would have done anything to hear that laugh, and hearing it again was like hearing a favorite song after years of being deaf.
I knew that the sunlight filtering down through the leaves above wasn't real, and the breeze carrying the soft scents of grass, flowers, and water was just as false. I was well aware that his shape and form sitting naked on the mossy boulder was just an illusion. Even the sound of his voice was just fantasy, but all of it seemed more than real, whether it was inside my own head or across the boundary between us.
Does it matter if this is really happening or if it's all in my mind? I'm enjoying it.
He grinned and asked, "You really need to know which?"
"Am I really that easy to read? Thought you wasn't gonna get in my head without asking me first?"
"But if this is all you making it up, then I'm already in your head. Right?"
His grin switched from merely amused to playful. His eyes sparkled greener than the illusory grass beneath us or the leaves above us.
"You wanna help me out with somethin? I mean, if this is all me, I'd be passing up a great opportunity to work on a problem. If it's not, then I'd still be passin' up a massive chance at some advice."
He cocked his head sideways, warningly, looking at me askance, then nodded.
"What should I do about civics class? I mean, I don't wanna show up in Jeff's class and cause him all kinds of worry and stuff, but I don't wanna sit in a class with a guy who hates what I am. What do I do?"
He stared gently at me for a few seconds before replying.
"Well, first, don't take any crap from anybody. Period. Get me?" He put on his serious face and then nodded in response to my own. "And, seems to me, if you change classes you're gonna bother your best friend. Maybe he needs it, maybe he don't. If you stick to the same class, you'd bother no one, but maybe yourself. Unless your teacher is bothered by you. Ya think he is?"
I didn't tell him it was my teacher, so that points to him being all in my head. But if he's watching over me all the time, he'd know, too. Damn, that didn't help at all.
Then I considered his words and the situation they pertained to instead of the surreptitious reason behind the question.
"I don't think I bother him. He just don't approve of my choice."
I rolled my eyes and gave finger quotes.
"So-o-o," he said slowly, "you can choose to put the pressure on Jeff, or you can put the-"
"Pressure where it belongs! And maybe even prove something to him!" I said with glee.
I couldn't stop my own grin from widening. He glanced around and seemed to notice something, but quickly tried to hide that fact from me. I would have asked what, but he stood and walked toward me, his grin becoming one that could only mean he was up to something. I waited in joyful expectation.
"I want you to play again. I miss it. And it'll be good for you. Okay? Please?"
I could see deeply into his green eyes. I never considered that they weren't really there as I seemed to fall into them and into the warmth and comfort behind them. I wanted to be with him again, together, where we could hold and enfold each other. I wanted the simplicity of what we had between us " no confusions, no duplicity, no hiding, no pretending. I ached for that just one more time. It hurt so deeply to know that it was impossible.
I must have lost my smile judging by his lost smile and his next words.
"It's okay, Alex. We had our time together. We had more those two summers than some ever have their entire lives. Be glad for that, please?"
I nodded and smiled again. For him.
"Thanks," he said softly.
"Anything for you."
He grinned again.
The urge to be more with him, somehow one with him, was nearly overpowering. He was so close that I could almost reach out and touch him. I could almost see how much he wanted to do so. I knew it wasn't his body, that it was gone, and I only saw what I thought I should see.
"Toby? Have you been through all this before? With me? Somehow?'
He laughed. His eyes lit up and he seemed to grow larger or closer, or both.
"You have too. Before. And again. We've bumped into each other before. Will again."
"Here? On this side?"
He nodded, and I could tell that he felt he shouldn't have. We were sharing a secret of the highest order.
"And don't worry about the Circle meetings right now. Circles go 'round 'n 'round, okay?"
That made no sense to me.
What about the Circle meetings? And why mention them? And why the, "round and round" nonsense? What the hell-e-o?
I was about to ask, but I felt the wind tugging at me in that odd way. I noticed the colors of the place fading.
"How it goes," he said sadly. "Like I said, though, I think you'll be back. Somehow. So don't try. Got me?"
I nodded. I wondered if I was dreaming or not.
A hope suddenly appeared.
"Oh! Tobes! Can, uh, can you help with the dreams?" I asked, hoping against all reason that he would nod and I would never again die in the van.
He looked immensely sad before answering.
"No. If I'm just all made up in your head, what could I do? And if I'm what I say I am, how could I?"
That hope dashed.
"If it's any consolation for ya, I'm always watching over ya. Okay?"
That almost brought tears to my eyes. It was possibly the most wonderful thing he could have said to me. With the exception of what he said next.
"Always loved ya. Still do. Always will."
The tears blurred my vision as much as the growing fog.
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