Kyle was conspicuous by his absence at swim prac that afternoon, which aroused Wingnut's curiosity. I told him that I hadn't seen Kyle, and that I didn't know what he was doing. Later, I phoned Steve to tell him that Kyle had gone crazy, and to be careful.
"You think he might come around here?"
"You can bet on it."
"Fuck! I'd better phone a friend. Thanks for telling me."
Steve was a big dude, and fit, but he wasn't the fighting type, so it was no surprise to hear that he was gonna call for back-up. Even so, Kyle was mad enough to take on twenty guys.
Naturally, Carol was curious about my blue, swollen cheek, so I told her to phone Steph, and let her know that Kyle was on the rampage.
"You told Kyle about Steph and Steve?"
"He forced it outa me."
"Did you hit him?"
"He forced me into that, as well. I tried to walk away after he slugged me, but he wouldn't let me go. He was as mad as all fucking hell. Totally crazy."
"Do you blame him?"
"Hey, you know Steph's reputation… that's why we split up. Remember? I know she's your best friend, Carol, but Kyle's getting in way too deep. Maybe this whole thing will open his eyes."
In class the next day, it was a different story. Everyone was giving us the fucking eye, and waiting like a bunch of fucking vultures to see which one of us would chirp first. They were all itching for Kyle and me to climb into each other, but they were disappointed. I kept my head down, and concentrated on my school work.
At swim prac, I asked Wingnut why Kyle wasn't there. "He can't train 'cause he's got stitches in his face. He's sitting in the stands. Aren't you guys talking?"
"Stitches?" Apparently I didn't know my own strength. I knew that I'd hit him hard enough to knock him out, but not hard enough to cut him.
"Yeah, he's pretty beat up. Looks like a piano fell on him. Why aren't you guys talking?"
"Ask Kyle. He's the one who's not talking."
That night, Carol and I met up with Wingnut and his girl at the pizza restaurant, where I asked him if he'd seen Kyle.
"Yeah, he's at home. Says he's got a stack of homework."
"On a Friday night? That's not like him."
"He's not like him! He's totally down. I'm scared to talk to him."
Over practically the entire weekend, I couldn't keep my thoughts away from Kyle, and how the hell I was gonna patch up this whole fucking mess. I picked up the phone a couple of times, only to replace it. What the fuck was I gonna say? And when I wanted Carol to be a diversion from all the shit that was going on in my head, she'd nag me about us guys getting back together again. Yeah, right. It was OK for her to lecture, but she really didn't understand the intensity of Kyle's and my friendship. Hell, I didn't understand it either! And the very thought of speaking to Kyle -- even though I knew I had to sooner or later -- gave me a major case of stomach butterflies.
On the Monday, I saw Kyle in class, but I didn't acknowledge him. For one thing, it would've provided the rest of the class with a reason to speculate about us, and, for another, I was still nervous about how Kyle would react. At recess, I thought there might be a chance to talk to Kyle privately, but he'd disappeared to the comp lab to write his diary or whatever it was. Maybe that was his therapy. Later, at swim prac, the two of us were like total strangers. I guessed I'd succumbed to my old ways of keeping to myself. Withdrawing into my own private world had always protected me from problems that were too damn difficult to confront, and this was one of them. Big time!
Wingnut wasn't helping matters, either… he was still pestering me about why Kyle and I weren't talking. The poor little bugger was totally confused. Maybe that made three of us.
Kyle's absence from school on Tuesday only served to worry the fuck outa me. It was weird, 'cause when he was around, I couldn't bring myself to talk to him, but when he wasn't available, I felt as though I'd been robbed of the opportunity. That afternoon, I made up my mind that the situation couldn't remain in limbo any longer. One of us had to make a move, and, since I was the one who'd rearranged his face, it was gonna have to be me.
The most courageous thing I'd ever done in my whole seventeen years must've been placing my finger on Kyle's front doorbell, then giving the button a push. I'd gone beyond the point of no return.
"Mark! You've been a stranger!" It was a relief to see Kyle's mom. If it'd been Kyle himself, I don't think my mouth would've worked. "Kyle's not here right now… he's gone down to the beach."
"In this weather?"
"It's where he often goes to think things through. He's probably sitting on the rocks. I'm sure he'll be glad to see you, though."
The wind was quite strong, and had flattened the surf to swirling mush. Even the regular fisherfolk were absent. The sight of a lone figure sitting on a rock, and staring out to sea, was kinda eerie.
"So why weren't you at school today?"
He turned to face me, but gave no indication that he was pleased to see me. "I was sick this morning," he said, blankly.
"Yeah, right." I sat on the rock beside him, and stared out to sea for quite a long time. It was as though the wind had blown away the friendship between us, and left in its place some kinda sinister vacuum. "I'm turning in my prefect's badge, Kyle."
Well, at least that got his attention. "What the fuck for?"
"'Cause, the next time, I wanna be able to give you a good fucking hiding, and knock the shit right outa you, without worrying about my position at school."
It worked! He smiled! "Don't do that. If anyone deserves to wear that badge, you do. You're one of the few good prefects at school."
"Can I be honest with you, Kyle? As a friend?"
"I'm not in the mood for any heavy shit right now."
"You're never in the mood. You think that everything is supposed to be OK and happy, and that it's all some big game. The problem is that when something heavy does come down on you, you handle it like a bull in a china shop."
"Like everything, Kyle. You let Alan get to you. And this whole fuckup with Steve… your best friend. Steph's been at Carol's house every fucking day crying her eyes out. Wingnut comes to me every day and asks when you and I are gonna speak to each other."
"He's a persistent bugger."
"He's just confused, Kyle. And he's feeling it as well. He says you've been miserable at home, and abrupt with him."
"He said that?"
"Not in so many words… I got the impression that he thought he was in the way."
"You're OK, though. Right?"
"For sure! I'm fine! I'm surrounded by friends, so I'm doing OK," I said, sarcastically. "I'm not sleeping at night, and Carol keeps telling me that I'm like a million miles away. But, hey, I'll live."
"You're used to being a loner, anyway, so it shouldn't be hassling you."
"Is that what you want, Kyle? You want us to go our separate ways, and maybe back to how it was?"
"I thought maybe you wanted that. I dunno. My brain is pretty fried, and I'm not thinking straight."
I stared at the sea again while I thought about baring my soul. Nobody, not even Carol, had ever been privy to my most private thoughts and feelings... at least, not before I'd met this incredible dude. But here, with two solitary figures sitting on a rock in the wind, and the surf pounding the sandy shore, it seemed somehow to be the right environment to speak words that, to me, were almost from a foreign language.
"I haven't had a real friend for as long as I can remember. Oh, sure, I've had guys that I hang out with, and fight with, and that kinda thing, but I've never had a real friend… until you came along. Fuck knows why, but I like you... more than anyone I've met besides Carol. You taught me what real friendship is all about. Your friends grow outa fucking trees! But for me? They come along once in a blue moon."
"Was that a blue moon? I thought it was my nuts that were blue. You were staring, huh?"
His joke cracked me up, as it did him. His timing had been perfect, and relieved a lotta the tension. At the same time, my eyes were brimming with tears… his were, too. But there was no fucking way that either of us was gonna start blubbering. That would've been totally uncool.
"I'm here 'cause you're my friend, Kyle. Pulling this stunt today… staying away from school… that's not the Kyle I know. The Kyle I know hits his probs right between the eyes, and faces everything. I want us to be friends, Kyle. Right about now, I need a friend, and I can't afford to have you just walk away. And if I know you as well as I think I do, then I think what's happened is eating you up big time, 'cause you need your friends, too."
"Yep, pretty much."
For quite a long time, we became silently lost in our own thoughts as we stared at the sea, almost oblivious to the wind that was buffeting us, and threatening to blow us both off the rock. Eventually, I slapped my bud on the back, and stood. "Let's go home, buddy."
"Yours or mine?"
"Yours… it's home to me as well." I reached down, grabbed his hand, and pulled him up. In some ways, Kyle was like a little boy, and it was way cool to use my strength to help him to his feet. In other ways, he was the strong one, upon whom I depended for emotional support.
Kyle's folks invited me to stay for supper, and it was just like old times, even though the 'old times' were no more than a week old. I guessed that the term 'old times' was kinda relevant 'cause, for a while there, it seemed as though they'd never be resurrected.
Wingnut's nose must've been working fucking overtime, 'cause he jumped the fence the moment he saw Kyle and me. He was beaming big time, and said "hi". He didn't stay long, though. I guessed that he wanted to give us big guys some time together to heal our wounds.
The rest of the evening was pretty laid back. After supper, Kyle and I chilled in his room, just listening to music, and making the odd comment. Neither of us mentioned Steph or Steve, though. That was a taboo subject for the time being. But it was clear to me that just being in each other's company was enough to make us both feel good about the friendship we had. It was a very special friendship that had been tested to a point where I figured most friendships would've cracked and disintegrated under the strain. But not ours.
"What did you mean before? At the beach…? Y'know, when you said that you didn't know why you liked me?"
"Just that." Then I cracked totally.
"What's so fucking funny?"
"I was just thinking… I've punched the fuck outa a lotta dudes in my time, but I've never liked any of them, except you. Is that weird, or is that fucking weird?"
"Yeah," he grinned, and gave me his trademark goofy expression that made me wanna hug him. "It's fucking weird. But I'm glad."
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