Authors: Alex Sanchez
Tags: #Social Issues, #Dating & Sex, #Social Science, #Gay, #Juvenile Fiction, #Homosexuality, #Fiction, #Gay Studies
“I’m going to finish my homework,” he said, and wandered back to his room.
On the way he stopped by the bathroom for aspirin. Glancing out the window at the driveway, he recal ed being a little kid, happily bouncing his first bal there, never imagining al his future would bring.
Nelson sat on the carpet in his bedroom, glancing out the window at the quiet suburban night, and thinking.
Twenty-eight hours had passed since he’d gotten his negative test result, and he stil hadn’t cal ed Jeremy, even though he’d promised to—
and even though Jeremy had phoned twice, leaving messages both times.
But when Nelson had started to cal , he remembered his night with the Motorcycle Dude and how easily he’d let slip al caution about using a condom, and how depressed he’d been for an entire week afterward, barely able to get out of bed, certain he’d been infected. It had been a close cal —severely close.
Did he real y want to take another risk of getting infected? Maybe Kyle was right.
He should forget Jeremy and date some nice HIV-negative boy instead. But he hadn’t met any boy nicer than Jeremy. And Jeremy was the only guy who hadn’t tried to jump Nelson’s bones their first time together. He liked Jeremy more than he’d ever liked anyone except Kyle.
But what would Jeremy’s reaction be to the negative news? Nelson picked at a scab on his finger and glanced at the phone. What if Jeremy didn’t want to go out anymore?
“Dumped again,” Nelson said aloud.
His dog Atticus, lying beside him, looked up, and Nelson patted him. “Just you and me, boy. You’l never leave me, wil you?” Atticus leaned up, slurping his tongue. As Nelson hugged him in return, a new idea dawned on him:
Why not just lie to Jeremy
and tell him I
tested positive? That way he won’t have any reason to dump me.
Total y bril iant!
Nelson grabbed the phone and started to dial, but stopped.
Wait a minute, that’s totally crag.
He hung up. What was the matter with him? He should just tel Jeremy the truth.
Once again he lifted the receiver. Slowly he dialed and listened. The phone rang. Once. Twice. He stil had a chance to hang up.
Just then, Jeremy answered. “Hel o?”
Nelson took a deep breath. “Hi. It’s me.”
“Nelson! Hold on a sec. Let me get off the other line.”
Nelson waited, picking at his scab some more, til Jeremy came back on.
“Dude, I left you two messages!”
Nelson brought the scab to his mouth. “I’m sorry.”
“I was worried,” Jeremy said. “How’d your test go?”
Nelson sucked on his finger, tasting blood, and trying to decide how to tel Jeremy his news. “Can I come over? And—you know—talk in person?”
“Sure!” Jeremy said eagerly. “Come on over.”
Jeremy lived with his straight older brother in a redbrick low-rise near the community col ege across town. Since Nelson’s mom had gone to the supermarket, he left her a note and walked to the metro.
“Hi. Come on in,” Jeremy said, answering the door. “You can meet my brother.” Nelson pul ed off his jacket. “Kiss?” he asked, pursing his lips.
Jeremy took the coat and grinned, pecking Nelson on the lips. He turned toward the kitchen. “Hey, Bob! This is Nelson.” Jeremy’s brother looked like a slightly older, tal er version of Jeremy—same brown hair and eyes—though in Nelson’s opinion, he wasn’t nearly as cute, with a scruffy face and the start of a potbel y. “Howdy!” Bob waved from the kitchen pass-through. “Nice to meet you.” After pouring Nelson a Coke, Jeremy led him to the bedroom. Though it was Nelson’s first time in the brothers’ room, he could guess which half was whose. On one side hung an outdated babe calendar of a bare-breasted blonde. A disheveled pile of CDs lay scattered by the stereo.
Tangled covers lay strewn on an unmade twin bed.
On the opposite side hung a framed arty photo of a guy in his underwear. Col ege textbooks neatly lined the desk. On top of a perfectly made bed lay a pile of freshly laundered clothes.
From amid the jumble of shirts, socks, and gym shorts, a pair of bleached white undies shone out, bright as a beacon.
“Sorry about the laundry.” Jeremy placed a coaster on the desk for Nelson’s glass and pul ed the desk chair out for him. “Have a seat.” Nelson noticed a photo of a grinning girl in sandals on the desk. “Who’s that?”
“Celia,” Jeremy said, sitting on the bed opposite Nelson. “One of those ‘Save the Children’ kids. We write letters. It helps keep me from getting too self-absorbed. So, how did your test go?
Nelson eased into the chair and fidgeted with an earring.
“I, um . . . tested negative?” It sounded like a question, though he hadn’t meant it to.
Jeremy’s face scrunched up—either in confusion or disappointment, Nelson wasn’t sure which. “Negative?” Jeremy echoed.
“Yeah?” Nelson said, his voice quivering.
“What a relief!” Jeremy sighed. “That’s great, man. When you didn’t cal me, I figured you’d tested positive and were too depressed. I remember how down I got about my result. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.”
Hearing Jeremy’s story, Nelson felt total y sil y. He was probably the only freak in history to feel upset because he’d tested negative.
“So,” Jeremy said. “Why didn’t you cal and tel me?”
“Wel . . .” Nelson fussed some more with an earring. “I guess I was afraid, after al you said . . . you know . . . about dating someone negative.
As Nelson spoke Jeremy gazed intently back at him, his calm brown eyes only making Nelson’s words that much harder to utter.
“I mean . . . if you don’t want to go out with me anymore . . . just tel me.” His hand trembled as he reached for some soda and waited for Jeremy’s response.
Jeremy studied Nelson. His tongue ran across his lips before he final y spoke. “Wel , I guess I’m just a little scared. . . . Are you sure
want to go out?”
Nelson felt his shoulders relax. “Of course! Do you?”
“Yeah.” Jeremy nodded slowly. “I do.”
Nelson’s heart leaped up in his chest. This whole thing felt so frigging goofy—like they were exchanging wedding vows or something.
“How about Saturday?” Jeremy asked, shifting on the mattress.
“Saturday’s good,” Nelson replied, imagining them together on the bed.
In fact, why wait til Saturday? Summoning his nerve, he moved onto the mattress. He brought his lips to Jeremy’s. And they fel onto the pile of laundry, their arms entwined around each other.
Nelson breathed deep the fresh detergent scent. His tongue glided across Jeremy’s, darting from side to side. His hands caressed the muscles of Jeremy’s broad shoulders, holding him tight.
“Uh-oh,” Jeremy whispered.
“What?” Nelson whispered back.
“Your face—” Jeremy laughed, blushing “—is on my underwear.”
Nelson lifted his head to look. Beneath him lay Jeremy’s tighty-whities.
Jeremy quickly yanked them away and tossed them atop the pile. “Sorry about that.”
“I don’t mind,” Nelson said, grinning fiendishly.
Jeremy smiled. “Want to help me fold?” He sat up.
But Nelson pul ed him back onto the bed beside him. “Stay,” he begged.
“We’d better not,” Jeremy protested. “My brother and I have a rule about . . . you know . . . when we’re both here.”
“We’re not doing anything,” Nelson grumbled, “except kissing.”
But Jeremy stood firm—the spoilsport. Instead of engaging in wild raunchy passion, they folded clean laundry. Apropos, Nelson brought Jeremy up to speed on his boring life: his acceptance to Tech, his dog’s dry skin, Kyle’s obsession with Jason, and Jason’s coming out drama with the coach.
In turn, Jeremy told Nelson about his job at the video store, his classes at the community col ege, and his brother’s latest girlfriend.
“This feels so intimate,” Nelson said, plucking Jeremy’s underwear from the pile. He’d never folded another guy’s clothes—other than Kyle’s.
While Jeremy turned to put his T-shirts in the dresser, a nutty idea popped into Nelson’s brain: Why not take the undies? Jeremy wouldn’t miss them. But would it feel right stealing his date’s underwear? He should at least ask. But then Jeremy would
think he was kooky.
“Can I have them?” Nelson asked in barely a whisper.
Jeremy turned and glanced at the underwear in Nelson’s hands. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah.” Nelson tried to sound coy, even though he felt his face turning red.
“Hmm,” Jeremy said, eyeing Nelson from head to foot. “You’re very interesting, you know that?” He gave a shrug. “I guess you can keep them.”
“Thanks!” Nelson beamed, stuffing the underwear into his pants pocket.
Jeremy turned again to put another stack of clothes into a drawer. The contour of his jeans curved across his butt. Nelson reached his arms out, circling Jeremy’s waist. Jeremy turned, his mouth beckoning. In an instant they were kissing and Nelson tried to pul him onto the bed again.
“Hey, stop.” Jeremy pried away, laughing. “We both have school tomorrow. I’l borrow the car and take you home, okay?” Nelson moaned. But at least he had the underwear to take with him.
When Jeremy started the car, the radio came on, blasting country music from the speakers.
Nelson covered his ears. “Can we please listen to something else?”
“Sure,” Jeremy said. Nelson switched to a pop station. Then he grabbed hold of Jeremy’s hand for the drive home.
As they pul ed in front of his house, he announced, “I want you to meet my mom.”
“You mean, now?” Jeremy peered nervously out the window.
“Yeah. She’s dying to meet you. Besides, that way she won’t yel at me for being out so late.”
“Oh, great. She’l yel at me instead.”
“No, she won’t. I left her a note.” Nelson squeezed Jeremy’s shoulder. “Please?” Jeremy stared at him. “Have you told her yet?”
Nelson knew what he meant: about the HIV. “I’m waiting for the right moment. Come on!” He opened the door.
Jeremy ran a hand through his hair. “Do I look al right?”
“You look great,” Nelson said out loud, in his mind adding,
not the least bit HIV positive.
As they walked up the sidewalk Atticus started barking. Nelson opened the front door and grabbed the dog by the col ar to keep him from jumping al over Jeremy.
“I was about to phone you,” his mom said, walking into the foyer.
“Mom, this is Jeremy. Atticus, leave him alone!”
Nelson yanked back the dog, which had discovered Jeremy’s crotch.
“Um, hi, Mrs. Glassman,” Jeremy said, awkwardly pushing Atticus away.
“You can cal me Felicia.” She extended her hand. “I see you’ve met Atticus.”
“Nelson told me about his skin condition,” Jeremy said, shaking her hand. “Is he better?”
“Much better, in spite of the fact that
—” she gave Nelson a hard look “—keeps forgetting to put medication on him. Did you remember today?”
“How can I remember if you don’t remind me?” Nelson grinned.
“Wow!” Jeremy said. His gaze had fal en on the prints lining the wal s. “Those are awesome.”
“Mom made them,” Nelson said. “She’s a graphic artist. Tel Jeremy how you did them.” While Nelson spread cream on Atticus, his mom toured Jeremy around the first floor, tel ing him about her work. The lilt in her voice hinted that she liked him. Nelson had always imagined introducing his mom to a boy he liked—even though his dream had never included fretting because of HIV.
“Wel ,” Jeremy said, after chatting for a time. “I better go. It was nice meeting you Mrs.—I mean—Felicia.”
“It was nice meeting you, too.” She reached out, clasping both her hands around his. “I hope to see more of you.”
“I’l walk you out,” Nelson told him.
When they got to the car, Jeremy leaned against it and heaved a sigh. “You think she likes me okay?”
you? I think she’d marry you if you were straight.”
Jeremy raised an eyebrow. Nelson could tel what he was thinking. “Don’t worry, I’l tel her.” He leaned forward, wrapping his arms around Jeremy, and kissed him. “Thanks for the ride home.”
As soon as he came back inside, his mom exclaimed, “I think he’s wonderful! Why were you so scared of me meeting him? He seems very mature. How old is he?”
“Nineteen,” Nelson said, closing the door behind him.
“Wel , he definitely seems older. I think he’l be very good for you.”
“Mom! You make it sound like we’re getting married.”
“No. I just think dating steady wil be a very positive step for you.
Crap. Did she have to use the word “positive”?
“Good night, sweetie,” she cal ed to Nelson as he climbed the stairs to his room. “Remember you have to take Atticus to the vet tomorrow!” Nelson curled up in bed, dialed Kyle, and told him about his evening.
“You asked for his underwear?” Kyle shrieked into the phone.
“Yeah,” Nelson said. “Hey, can you help me take Atticus to the vet after school tomorrow?”
“I can’t,” Kyle said. “I have swim practice.” The cal -waiting signal beeped. “Can you hold on a sec?” While Nelson waited, he brought Jeremy’s jockeys to his cheek, inhaling the fresh detergent scent.
Kyle came back on. “You mind if I take the cal ?”
“Let me guess,” Nelson said. “Does his name begin with aJ?”
“Yeah,” Kyle said in that wistful tone he got.
Nelson restrained himself from gagging. “Tel her I send a big, wet, sloppy kiss.” After hanging up, Nelson undressed for bed and slid beneath the sheets, hugging the briefs against his chest.
previous owner was inside them.
Kyle tapped the flash button on his phone. “Jason? I’m back. Nelson says hi.” He left out the big, wet, sloppy kiss part, and leaned back on the pil ows in his bed. “We missed you at the GSA meeting. How was your day?”
“I total y zoned out at lunch. My whole day sucked. It total y blew.”
“Why?” Kyle sat up. “What happened?”