Authors: Alex Sanchez
Tags: #Social Issues, #Dating & Sex, #Social Science, #Gay, #Juvenile Fiction, #Homosexuality, #Fiction, #Gay Studies
Jeremy nodded. “That’s part of it.”
Nelson shrugged. “But you said you only have safe sex, right?”
“Yeah. But something could happen. A condom could break.”
Nelson grabbed some water to swal ow his bite of pizza. “Have you ever actual y
anyone who had a condom break?”
“Yeah.” Jeremy nodded. “A couple of people.”
“Oh.” Nelson paused and regrouped. “Wel , I’m wil ing to take my chances. I’l probably get it eventual y anyway. If I do, I’l go on meds.
“And it’s a pain in the ass!” Jeremy’s voice rose with alarm. “It’s not like you get a cold and you can take pil s for a week, then it goes away.
It’s every day, on schedule, no matter what, for the rest of your entire life!” His voice continued growing louder. “Until you get it, you have no idea how it changes everything. Hardly a minute goes by when you don’t think about it. And there’s no escaping. You have to deal with it every damn day—forever.” Nelson wrapped a finger around his silver neck chain. He’d never seen Jeremy so upset.
“Look,” Nelson said soothingly. “I know it’s a big deal.”
“ Jeremy said, stil insistent, “if I’m dating someone, it affects him, too. The last negative guy I dated couldn’t handle it.”
“I know the risk I’m taking,” Nelson said. “I can deal with it.”
Even though he tried to sound like he meant it, the truth was he hadn’t real y thought about whether or not he’d be able to handle it. He’d just accepted HIV was part of being with Jeremy. And since he was probably going to test positive also, he could only benefit from Jeremy’s experience.
Nelson plucked the rose off the table and stuck it in his water glass.
“I’m sorry,” Jeremy said. “I didn’t mean to vent on you. I guess I’m just anxious about how your test wil turn out.”
“Me too,” Nelson said.
They sat silent til Nelson couldn’t stand it any longer. “Can we talk about something else now? Please?” Jeremy nodded. They discussed the movie, which Nelson thought had a downer ending—the girl left the guy. But Jeremy thought it was more realistic that way.
They talked about their favorite movies. Jeremy liked sci-fi and action pics. Nelson liked romantic comedies and fright flicks—anything conducive to hand-holding.
As for music, Nelson liked just about anything with a beat. “Except country. I hate, hate, hate country!” Jeremy grinned across the booth at him. “That’s my favorite.”
“Don’t tel me!” Nelson laughed. “Can you excuse me while I go vomit?”
HIV he could deal with, but
That was a different matter altogether.
As they left the restaurant, Nelson hoped Jeremy would invite him back to his place. Though it would make Nelson late getting home and his mom would bawl him out, it would be worth it.
But after half a block of looking in store windows, stil no hint of invitation had come forth. Precious minutes were passing and Nelson real y, real y wanted to suck face. He’d heard in safe-sex lectures that the chances of getting HIV through kissing were almost zip.
“Want to go to your place?” he final y blurted out.
Jeremy glanced up from the window display. “It’s kind of late.”
“It’s barely eleven!”
“Yeah, but by the time we get to my place and then you get back home . . . I don’t want to get in trouble with your mom.”
“She’s cool,” Nelson said. “She’s the freakin’ vice president of the PFLAG chapter. She wants to meet you.”
“Have you told her? About my being positive?”
Nelson shut his eyes. Not
again. “She hasn’t even met you yet! Besides, I don’t care what she says. It’s none of her business. I’m not a kid. If she doesn’t like it, tough.”
“She’s your mom, Nelson.” Little worry lines furrowed Jeremy’s brow. “I don’t want to get caught between the two of you.
“I’l tel her,” Nelson said, fidgeting once again with an earring. “Just not yet. Can she at least meet you first?” Jeremy sighed. “Okay.”
They continued walking to the metro, Nelson moping inside. As much as he adored Jeremy, sometimes he wanted to make him stop being such a stick-in-the-mud. Couldn’t Jeremy just let himself be crazy in love for one minute?
At the station they paused on the landing amid a throng of people.
Jeremy inhaled the rose in his hand. Then his coffee-colored eyes looked up, softly intent.
Nelson jumped at the opportunity. “Are you sure I can’t come over for just one teensy little minute? Please? I promise I’l be good.” Jeremy looked at Nelson’s lips, hesitating.
“My train’s coming.” He gave Nelson one too-smal kiss and pul ed away.
“No way!” Nelson protested, clutching Jeremy’s hand. “I’m not letting you go til you give me a
kiss.” Jeremy darted an anxious glance around the platform. “People are watching.”
“I don’t care,” Nelson said. “I mean it.”
Jeremy’s lips curled into a smile. Then he leaned toward Nelson, who eagerly took the cue, aiming his mouth—first this way, then that—until, guided by the goatee’s tickle, their lips met.
Nelson wrapped his arms around Jeremy’s shoulders, taking in the juniper smel of him, and was lost to the world. Then al too quickly, the noisy gust of the incoming train delivered him back.
“Thanks,” Jeremy whispered, his auburn hair blowing across his forehead.
For a moment Nelson thought—hoped—maybe Jeremy would forget being so freaking responsible and invite him home.
But the train’s door chimes rang and Jeremy stepped on board just as the doors closed. He waved through the window, pressing his nose to his rose.
The train started and Nelson moved alongside, fol owing faster and faster, just like in one of those old Bogart movies, til the last car disappeared into the dark tunnel.
When Nelson arrived home,
Saturday Night Live
sounded from the living room. No doubt his mom was waiting up for him.
“Did you have a nice time?” she cal ed. “With Franchie?”
“That was a joke, Mom.” He sat down beside her on the sofa. “Don’t cal him that.”
“I’m just kidding.” She put her arm around his shoulder, pul ing him to her. “Can’t I joke too?” She turned the TV down with the remote control.
“Is that a new button?”
Nelson glanced at the 2Q2BSTR8 on his jacket and rested his head on her shoulder. “Jeremy gave it to me. I think he’s total y infatuated.” She stroked her son’s hair. “And how do you feel about him?”
Nelson wanted to tel her how much he liked Jeremy in spite of the HIV and his being such a stodgy-wodge. He wanted to confide how confused he felt about what would happen if his own test came back negative. But how could he tel her al that?
“Mom, that’s kind of personal.” He grabbed the remote control, turning up the TV, and cradled into her shoulder.
Monday after school Kyle offered to go with Nelson to his HIV test, hoping it would help calm his own worries. But as they pul ed into the parking lot, a new unease came over Kyle. “You think I should get tested too?”
He had, after al , made love with Jason. And Jason had made love with Debra.
“It depends,” Nelson said. “What did you and Jason do together?”
Kyle shifted in his seat. Such detail made him uncomfortable, even if he and Nelson were best friends. “Wel . . . we didn’t exactly . . . you know . . .
Nelson’s eyebrows arched. “’
’? Come on, Kyle, be a big boy. You’re al owed to use grown-up words. “Why don’t you ask the doctor what he thinks?”
In the reception room Kyle thought back to his night with Jason. They hadn’t done anything truly unsafe—like Nelson had—but he’d read so many conflicting things about what real y was safe. The more he thought back on it, the more he squirmed in his chair. When Nelson’s name final y got cal ed, Kyle whispered, “I want to go in with you.”
Nelson’s pediatrician, Dr. Choudhury, was a wrinkly South Asian guy with glasses perched on the tip of his nose. “That’s very interesting hair,” he told Nelson in a high, cheery voice.
After studying Nelson’s folder the doctor explained the test procedure. He placed a special y treated pad with a handle between Nelson’s cheek and gum. “Now we leave it for two minutes.”
While Nelson held the swab in his mouth, the doctor monitored the time on his watch.
Kyle wiped the sweat from his palms, debating whether to speak up. The procedure looked painless. It wouldn’t hurt to at least ask about it.
He cleared his throat. “Um, Doctor? I was wondering . . . if I should get tested too?” The doctor tilted his head back, squinting through his bifocals. “You too? Don’t you boys know to use precautions?” Kyle squirmed in his seat, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut.
“Tel me,” Dr. Choudhury asked impatiently, “did you engage in unprotected penetration?” Kyle cringed, sinking into his chair. “Um, no.”
“Any exchange of body fluids? Blood? Semen? Preejaculatory secretions? Breast milk?” Kyle slid farther down his seat. “Um, no, not real y.”
The doctor threw his hands up in exasperation. “If you want, I can test you. But my suggestion to both of you—” he pul ed the handle from Nelson’s cheek and sealed the swab into a plastic tube “—is to wait til you’re older before you start fooling around with this sex business.” Kyle decided there wasn’t much point in being tested now, though he should definitely ask Jason: Had he and Debra used condoms?
But how could he ask Jason that?
Kyle’s parents’ cars were already in the driveway when he arrived home. He hadn’t told his mom or dad he was taking Nelson to get tested. No sir. No way. When Kyle came out to them, one of their biggest concerns had been his health. Now that they’d calmed down some, he didn’t want them getting hyper again.
Kyle kicked his shoes off in the foyer and fol owed his parents’ voices to the kitchen. “Did Jason cal ?” His dad glanced up from the tomatoes he was slicing. A goofy smile lit up his face. “The future col ege student is home!” he sang out.
Kyle ignored his dad’s goofiness, turning to his mom. “Did Jason cal ?”
“No, honey.” She smiled, lifting a head of lettuce from the sink. “But you got a letter from Tech.” She dried her hands on a washcloth and handed him an envelope.
At the sight of the letter Kyle’s heart jumped. The return address was from the admissions office. This was it—his acceptance to Tech; the start of his col ege life with Jason—unless . . .
“Come on,” his dad encouraged him. “Open it.”
“Honey,” his mom chimed in. “With your grades I’m sure you got accepted. Go ahead.” Kyle turned the envelope over, his hand trembling as he ran his finger beneath the flap. Slowly he unfolded the letter and quickly scanned the page. Halfway down, he looked up again.
His mom and dad were staring at him, their faces crinkled with worry and hope.
“I got accepted!” Kyle gasped.
“Honey, that’s wonderful!” His mom wrapped her arms around him.
“That’s great news, son.” His dad patted him on the back. “You should be hearing from Princeton next.” Kyle bristled. “Can’t I just enjoy the fact I was accepted to Tech?”
“Of course,” his dad agreed. “Didn’t I say it was great
Yeah, but Kyle knew where his dad real y wanted him to go—his
Kyle gave a sigh, turning to his mom. “Can Jason come over?” Kyle wanted to share the news with him in person.
“Al right,” she said, “but—”
Before she could finish, Kyle was racing up the stairs. Grabbing the cordless phone, he speed-dialed Jason. “I’ve got a surprise,” he said as soon as Jason answered. “Can you come over?”
“Um, I don’t think so. My mom’s going to a meeting, and I’ve got to watch Missy. What is it? Can you bring it here, or is it, like, an elephant or something? Is it a car? Did you get us a car?”
Kyle smiled to himself, stretching out across the bed. Had Jason real y said “us”? “It’s better than a car,” Kyle told him.
“Hmn,” Jason said. “Better than a car? Can you give me a hint?”
“No hints,” Kyle said as the phone’s cal waiting beeped. “I gotta go. I’l be over soon as I eat, okay? Laters!” He pushed the flash key.
“Woo-hoo!” Nelson shouted, announcing news of his own acceptance to Tech.
“Awesome!” Kyle leaped off the bed. Not only would he be going to col ege with Jason, but also with Nelson.
“You got yours, too?” Nelson asked. “Of course
got accepted, but can you believe they accepted
This is going to be so cool!” Nelson’s dog started barking. “Uh-oh, Mom’s home. She’l probably have a heart attack when I tel her I actual y got—” his fingers snapped in the background “—ac-cep-ted. Woo-hoo!” He hung up.
Eager to get to Jason’s, Kyle wolfed down dinner, but slowed down for dessert. His mom had bought an awesome chocolate-raspberry cake. “Can I take a piece to Jason?”
“Al right,” his mom said, cutting a slice. “But remember it’s a school night. Don’t stay too—”
“And one for his sister?” Kyle asked before his mom could put the knife down. She cut another wedge.
“And one for his mom?” Kyle added. “And another piece for me later?”
“Why don’t you just take the whole cake?” His dad laughed.
“Okay,” Kyle said, pretending his dad was serious.
Melissa, Jason’s six-year-old sister, answered the Carril os’door. Behind her the TV blared. Dol s and toys lay scattered before it. She grabbed Kyle’s hand, pul ing him in, her eyes opening wide at the box he carried. “What’s that?”
“Mm ...” Kyle rubbed a circle on his stomach. “Cake!”
Jason strode in wearing jeans and a flannel shirt that hung wide over his broad shoulders. A toothbrush handle protruded from his mouth as he vigorously brushed up and down, causing his left cheek to bulge and jiggle.
At the sight of him, Kyle fel in love al over again.
“Wha’s up?” Jason said, popping the brush out. A perfect circle of foam ringed his mouth.
“I like your green lipstick,” Kyle said, kidding.