Authors: Blair Mastbaum
I follow him to his room and I wonder if I’ll remember anything from when I was 11. My heart beats super-fast. I walk through the door and I feel like I never left, though he’s never mentioned I’ve been here before, which is totally weird, but I’m not going to say anything. He has a way of forgetting things maybe because he smokes a lot of weed or maybe because he wants to.
The bed is messed up and the pillows are folded into balls and strange shapes, suited for him sleeping and hanging out and beating off. There’s a whole wall full of shelves with videos and some books on them, just slightly
than I remember. The walls are covered in wood paneling and the same surfing posters. Shirtless guys with deep-looking eyes pose on waves with emblems below. A huge
poster that was always there hangs above his bed. It shows a bright-orange sunset over a meandering river. Ashtrays and half-smoked joints all over the carpet are new because he used to have to hide it all. The carpet is scattered with T-shirts and slippers and skate shoes and surf wax. I add my backpack to the mess.
A neon-green chameleon sits on a dead branch inside a glass case. It looks tripped-out and mellow. He didn’t have a lizard before. It’s a full-on trend now. If you think you’re all tough and you’re a
on Oahu, you have a lizard. I don’t get it, but it’s true.
I walk in, almost tripping over a pair of plaid boxers.
Clay turns on a lamp without a shade. He’s in silhouette, like a ghost haunting the room.
I can see his shape, but not his face.
He can see all of me like I’m being questioned by spies. He lifts his arm to scratch the back of his neck, and his shirtsleeve falls up so light filters through the thin cotton. His hair looks golden from backlighting.
I look back and forth between him and the pair of boxers on the floor.
He gets something from his dresser drawer and flops down on his bed. “Look at this pot.” He opens a film canister stuffed full of strong-smelling weed.
I look to the floor at his boxers again, and picture how cool he’d look in them. I sit down next to him on the bed. I’m afraid I won’t be able to control myself and I’ll attack him. I can’t believe we’re on his bed together. If I move, he moves from the vibrations. I lean over to be closer to him and look at the pot. “That looks like good shit.”
I have no idea what good shit looks like.
“That’s $800 worth. I’m
buy this camera--the
SR2, and I’m
make a punk rock, science fiction, surf, road movie. It’s
be insane.” He stands up on his bed in front of the old
poster and waves his arms as he talks. He had the same poster for like five years. He’s loved that movie since he was 12. The lamp on his nightstand casts his shadow on the poster, but huge, behind him. “I’m
fill it with blood and sex and horror,
run my truck off the
lookout and film it from the bottom. I hope it explodes. That would be so cool. This chick, Lisa, already said she’d get
naked.” He drools a little and catches it with his hand. “It’s
be... audacious!” He sticks out his tongue and makes rock and roll hand signs out to his sides. He stands above me on the bed. Fuck, it’s so weird. I remember him talking about this same movie when we were kids.
“When’s that Tammy girl coming?”
Clay jumps off the bed to the floor. “Tomorrow, I think. She’s from here.” He takes a cricket out of a small cardboard box and throws it into the aquarium.”
“Oh.” I roll over face down. I hate her already.
The phone rings. The eyes of a frog-shaped phone on Clay’s shelf light up, and the ring sounds like a
ribbit. I remember it from years ago and always wanted one ‘cause
he made it seem cool.
He ignores the frog phone and stares at me. “What?”
“Hammerhead! Phone!” his mom calls from the other room.
He walks to his phone, sits on the floor with his back to me, and picks it up. He holds it gently, like it’s fragile, close to his face. “Hey…just hanging out.” He lowers his voice. “What are you talking about? I am too. Yes, I can’t wait. I am not. Yeah. I’ll pick you up. No, I want to. Did you tell Susan the flight? OK, me too. Yeah!
Me too. Why are you acting like this? What? No. I’m not mad. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hangs up quickly.
That was undeniably the sound of a boy talking to his girlfriend. There’s no other way to interpret it. I feel sick. I think this is what betrayal feels like. I want to cry, but I can’t in front of him. He’ll think I’m a pussy.
He looks at me defensively, his chest out, like I’m just one of his surfing
hanging out in his room and he’s afraid I’m
make fun of him for taking shit from his girlfriend. “What?”
“You sound different when you talk to her.
fake. Like a kiss-ass.”
“Fuck you. I already have one bitch nagging me.”
“Fuck you, asshole. You don’t have to be a dick.”
“Then don’t be such an annoying little shit.”
I get up off the bed, and throw his pot canister across the room as hard as I can.
He jumps up, and slams me into the wall. He shoves my shoulders up against a poster of a guy surfing a huge wave.
He stares into my eyes. His face is red and his eyes are watery. I can feel his breath on my face. What if he’s a psychopath? I picture him methodically cleaning up my guts.
The veins in his temples are pulsing. A layer of sweat coats his skin. His eyes look like they’re going to pop out. “Fuck you,” he whispers. “Don’t do this to me.” He drops his head and stares at the ground. His face softens and his eyes fill with tears. Tiny hairs on his arms stand up and he starts sobbing. He squeezes me close and tight to his body. He rubs his nose and chin and cheeks against mine. The stubble on his chin rubs against my lips.
I push back into him, trying to feel all the resistance I can, the pressure of him on my body. He rubs his mouth along my cheek and across my lips. He kisses me and sticks his tongue in my mouth. A rush of adrenaline surges through me and I start sweating. My body is going to melt in his arms.
Clay slides his hands down my shoulders and arms and pulls my T-shirt up over my head. It pulls on my ears and makes them feel hot.
I can smell my sweaty skin, exposed at last. For once, I’m not embarrassed by how skinny I am. It doesn’t matter. This is more intense than anything I’ve ever done. Nothing else will ever compare. My ribs rise and fall as I breathe. The hair on my legs looks sexual. I feel like I’m floating above the bed, unable to feel all of this.
He pulls off his T-shirt. He looks like an amazing sculpture, like the one in Waikiki of Duke
Kahanamoku, the first modern surfer.
His blue boxer’s waistband rides a couple inches above his shorts, which tent up in front.
I can’t believe I’m allowed to touch him. I lick his chest and I can taste his skin, still salty from surfing.
He pushes me onto the bed.
Gusty cold storm winds
Blow off the remaining buds.
Summer’s spell is sweet.
Clay rolls off me, smiles, and rests his head on the pillow. “I’m sorry I hit you.” He closes his eyes like he’s going to sleep.
I crawl up in his bed, under the covers, into his warm, sleepy world. I hear a strong gust of wind. Leaves fly into the screen on the window and I smell the healthy scent of oncoming rain. The rain excites me. “Clay?”
He moves a little and pulls the pillow over his head. “Huh?”
“What’s going on? What are you thinking?”
“I’m tired.” He tells me this like nothing happened between us.
I get up, try to put my shorts on, and fall on my face.
“Dumb shit.” Clay laughs and goes under the covers.
I walk over to his lizard’s aquarium. It’s a Jackson chameleon--neon-green with huge eyes, a permanent smile, and a broken tail. They live in the wet parts of the island. Clay probably caught it himself while hiking the
Koolaus. The lizard’s face looks like Clay’s when he sleeps. I walk over to the dresser where there’s a photo of Tammy. I flip her off and put the photo face-down. Next to it, I find a photo of Tammy and Clay. He’s shirtless in front of a waterfall.
I stick it in my pocket.
Lightening crackles in the distance, followed by booming thunder far away.
mow my yard.”
He sticks his hand out from the covers and gives me a
I was hoping for “I love you. Let’s kill everyone, so it’s just us, and hide away together and have sex and stare at each other till we die.”
But, hey, at least he acknowledged me.
I strap my pack on and take a skateboard from out front of Clay’s house and throw my bike in his carport. I have to leave something here as proof that today happened. I throw the old, beat up board down on the street,
a couple steps back, then run forward and jump on the board, flying down the hill faster than I’ve ever dared to before. I’m out of control, and I don’t care. Clay’s protecting me now. I look straight up as I roll down the hill. The sky is getting darker. It’s going to rain soon. I skate home down the centerline of the
Highway. Cars honk and barrel around me, but I’m not scared.
I get home and start mowing the backyard. My dad’s inside doing a crossword puzzle and watching some crap financial news show about how to get richer by fucking over poor people. I mow Clay’s name into the grass, repeating the letters over and over again.
My dad walks out the back door and looks at the yard with totally exaggerated disgust. “You’re going to have to do a better job than that if you want to get paid.”
“I’m not finished.
God!” I scream over the roaring mower. “Don’t watch me or I’m
chop my foot off.”
I finish up the lawn,
go to my room. I jump up and down on the bed and leap over to Clay’s skateboard. I skate around my room, from my bed to the wall, falling off and making black marks on the baseboards, using all the energy I can. It gets my blood pumping and I sweat little. Clay’s smell is still on my skin. I take off my shirt, and look in the mirror. Who’s this skinny little boy? This is so embarrassing. And Clay saw me like this? I drop to the floor and do push-ups till my arms are tired, then do sit-ups till my stomach hurts. I open my closet door, hang on to the top of it, and do pull-ups--fourteen of them. Not bad. My veins stick out. My skin is damp and shiny. I look in the mirror again. I look good, I guess--OK anyway.
Clay likes the way I look, and he’s the best-looking person I’ve ever seen.
I sit on the floor and lean on my bed and take out the photo I have of Clay, shirtless and wet in front of the waterfall. It’s bent-up and warm from being in my pocket. Tammy. I have to get her out of here. I can’t believe she’s in my room. I get scissors from my stupid little kid desk and cut her out so Clay stands alone. I spit on her till her face and body comes off the paper when I rub it. I mangle her face and rip her arms and legs and breasts off. Then I light a match and burn her.
She melts and sizzles.
“Are you smoking in there?” my mom screams from the other room.
“No! I’m melting wax for an art project.” I lie back in my pile of stuffed animals, grab my notebook from my backpack, and write a haiku:
Clay’s bed, summer, afternoon sweat is love, riding home smiling.
My door flies open, and Jared walks in. “Man, you smell like shit.”
“Can’t you knock?” I hide my notebook in my pack.
He walks over to me and takes a deep smell.
I lift my armpit. “I’ve been working out.” I raise my eyebrows.
“Oh, yeah, I can tell, you must be up to 90 pounds. Where were you earlier? I came by -- No Sam-boy home.”
“Smokin’ some weed with Clay.”
He looks jealous. “You’d sort of have to be stoned to be friends with him, huh? He
“Well, then I’ll stay stoned all the time.”
Jared looks totally confused. To him, Clay’s a drug dealer, a dumb-ass loser surfer not worthy of our attention because everyone else gives him too much already. He must sort of know somewhere in his brain that I like Clay or something, because I usually hate these kinds of guys as much as he does. He has to know I’m gay, but I never brought it up. I don’t think he’d mind even, but that’s just not the sort of thing we talk about. He never mentions what girls give him a hard-on, so why should I, I figure. He’s cool though and his parents are liberal and his uncle’s gay and they hang out all the time, so I know he wouldn’t care if I told him.
When we were younger, I would sneak out, lie, steal money, or anything to spend the night at his house, to see him lie in bed with no shirt on, to watch him sleep. I used to suggest we go swimming way more than a normal amount at beaches where I knew no other kids would be, but that’s all faded. Anyway, I used to fall for almost every good-looking boy, so having a crush on Jared’s not saying much, especially back then.
“Well, I’m on my way to my drawing class. Guess I better go.” He smiles at me, and there’s
in his eyes--not like the kind of sadness when a friend gets murdered or something, but the kind of sadness when a pet dies. I watch him walk out into the very beginning of a thunderstorm.
Big dark storm clouds cover the sun and make my room go dim. The air smells fresher. The storm makes some ions exchange, from the earth to the sky, and back again.
I sit with my elbows on the windowsill looking out. The wind cleans my face. The house creaks in the wind. Tears build up in my eyes and blur my vision, but they don’t run down my face. I liked hanging out with Jared. Now, I’m lonely. It’s a risk letting him leave, letting him in on my new life. I need to hang out with someone, be with someone to share opinions, smoke together, be brothers. I’ll call Clay.
He has to be up by now.
I dial and it rings.
“Hello?” It’s his mom.
“Hi... Susan?” I feel weird calling her by her name. “It’s Sam.”
“Hi, sweetie.” She talks to me the same way she talks to Tammy. I feel like part of a fucking harem.
“He had to go back in to work. Marcus broke his leg
a ramp, so he’s covering for him.”
“OK, thanks.” I dive out my window and ride to the skate shop. I don’t know if it’s a mixture of love, happiness, or sadness, but I feel really lonely and, if I’d stayed home alone, I’d have been crying, and I didn’t want to feel that pathetic.
I lean my board outside and walk into the shop.
Some guy is sorting random skate shoes on the floor and a couple other guys I’ve never seen before are building boards on the counter.
I walk right up to Clay. “Aloha. What’s up?” I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve seen him, but it’s only been like three hours.
“Hey,” he says in a monotone.
Is he bored with me already? What did I do wrong?
“What’re you doing tonight?”
“Picking Tammy up at the airport, and she’ll probably want to hang out with Maya and Becky.” He looks over at the guys to see if they’re listening.
“So, why don’t you get someone else to pick her up? We could go to the look out and smoke pot or ride bikes or play video games or walk around Waikiki and check out the prostitutes or harass tourists at Ala
He looks around the shop and gets really mad. “Dude,” he says with his teeth clenched, “I’m picking Tammy up. Lay off,
brah.” He relaxes and leans closer to me, monitoring everyone else in the store over my shoulder. “Don’t come over when Tammy’s here,” he says in his surfer cool-boy accent, like that’s supposed to make it OK. He looks me right in the eye. “Got it?”
He ignores me, and starts locking up his display cases.
It starts pouring outside. The storm’s here. I’m heartbroken. I need to cry or hit him. I need to hit myself for being stupid enough to think we were best friends out of the blue. I knew something was coming like this. It was too good to last—not with my luck.
“I’m closing up.”
I hate you, you asshole prick fake.
ride? I can swing you by on my way home.” He acts like everything’s OK.
What a liar.
I bolt and slam through the door. As I skate home though the rain,
I think I’m having a nervous breakdown. My insides are melting into an indecipherable mess. I wanna ride in front of traffic and kill myself. That would show him.
He’ll be sorry when I’m gone.
I climb in the window of my room, and lie on my bed and cry. My stomach feels tight and sore.
My eyes burn. I hate being sixteen. Everything’s changing
and getting more confusing than I ever thought it could. I’m all alone and just hours ago, I felt so cared for, I felt so alive,
felt like I’d never have to be lonely again. I think of a line from the movie,
Clay has the poster for: “I was going to the worst place in the world, and I didn’t even know it yet.”