The level of affection that Kyle and Paul had demonstrated for each other during Paul's week-long visit to Cape Town was something I'd never observed between two guys before. I had to admit that I was also feeling a deep sense of loss as we drove home from the airport. Not as much as Kyle was experiencing, of course. But I was nevertheless surprised at the extent of my own sorrow.
Paul and I had hit it off right from the start. We had a lot in common… working out, buffing up, and smoking js. He was the kinda guy who didn't take shit from anybody, but he sure knew how to party. He reminded me of myself in many ways… studious when it came to schoolwork, intelligent... but he also had a wild side. Anyway, we'd gotten along like a fucking house on fire during that week, and I figured we would've easily become best friends if he'd stayed.
The other thing we had in common was Kyle. And during that week, I learned a lot about myself, especially about my own feelings for Kyle. When I saw those two guys hug and weep openly at the birthday party after Paul had removed his mask, I realized what Kyle had been trying to tell me for as long as I'd known him… that it was OK for two guys to be close.
The amazing thing was that those guys hadn't seen each other for over two years, but the long separation obviously hadn't done anything to diminish their friendship. If anything, absence seemed to have enhanced it. I was also mindful of the time I'd told Kyle about my being afraid of the day he and I would ultimately go our separate ways… something which I figured was inevitable... and something which had already happened to him and Paul.
Anyway, as I got to know Paul better, and identified with him in so many different ways, I knew that my feelings for Kyle were cool. Maybe I wasn't able to express them as openly as Paul did, but he'd shown me that it was OK to feel that way about another guy. Hey, if it was cool with a guy like Paul, it had to be cool, period. That guy ruled.
So there we were, the four of us, Kyle, me, and his folks, feeling as though we were returning home from a fucking funeral or something. It was affecting Kyle big time… as well as for the second time. Was that how he and I would be feeling when the time came for Kyle and I to reach our fork in the road? Maybe, with a bit of luck, that day would be a helluva long way off. Right now, I needed my best bud. And I figured he needed me.
Although neither Kyle nor Paul had mentioned anything to me about their having sex together, I didn't need to be a fucking genius to figure out that it must've happened. Hell, if it could happen to Kyle and me, albeit not that often, it sure as hell could happen between those two. They'd been joined at the fucking hip since they were lighties.
And that got me wondering about Paul. If I'd met him in a different situation, minus Kyle, I'd never in a million years have picked him as… well, as being the kinda guy who could get close to another guy. Like me, he was as tough as nails. Actually, it was the same deal with Kyle. He didn't give the impression of being anything other than super straight, either. Well, at least in public. So I guessed there was only one conclusion... that, in reality, there was no clear-cut division between sexualities even though most people insisted otherwise.
Carol had often lectured me about guys having a 'feminine' side, and how it was uncool to hide it. But, hey, she wasn't a guy. She didn't understand the pressures guys were under to be totally masculine. That's what everybody expected of us. It was all about image.
"OK, so what am I supposed to do? Rock over here in a fucking dress?"
"You idiot. I'm not talking about dresses. I'm talking about feelings… emotions… and how guys have this weird idea that they can't be expressed 'cause it'll make them look like wusses. Did you see Paul and Kyle at the mask party? Were they swallowing the lumps in their throats and trying to hide their feelings? Hey, even Kyle's dad had tears in his eyes, and he's about as macho as a guy can get."
"That was different. That was a reunion."
"What's so different? It was emotion, and it needed to be expressed. You know what I think?"
"Yeah… I know what you think 'cause you keep telling me over and fucking over."
"Well, it's true. You keep things bottled up. No wonder you're so damn aggro all the time. Have you ever told Kyle how you feel about him?"
"But have you ever told him?"
"I don't need to tell him. Guys don't tell each other that kinda shit."
"Oh? What kinda shit? That you love him?"
"It's a different kinda love, Carol… it's a guy thing… when we say 'luvya, bro', it's like a bud type thing. Anyway, guys don't need to talk about it."
"I'll bet Paul and Kyle talk about it. And you would too if you'd just loosen up for a fucking change."
"Hey, I've already told Kyle how I feel… like after that time Steph and Steve got it on… and a week went by without Kyle and me seeing each other. I found him sitting on the rocks at the beach one evening, and I told him how he'd taught me the true value of friendship. Anyway, Kyle's never told me that he loves me, either. So there's your fucking theory down the drain."
"Yeah, right. We both know what would happen if he did. You'd freak, and probably deck him. It wouldn't be the first time. I don't understand you guys. You fight like cats and dogs, then become friends again. What is it with you two?"
Well, there was no answer to that question. How could I make sense of something I didn’t understand? "Hey, are we gonna talk shit all night, or fuck?"
The first week back at school after the hols was totally hectic. The teachers were not only trying to cram as much as possible into us, but they were also getting us to revise all the shit that we'd done over the past two years. This was our third quarter for the year, and the lead-up to the big one… matriculation. To make matters worse, I had to attend prefect meetings like they were going outa fucking style. The teachers were also undertaking evaluations for the Awards Evening due in September. Every kid in school was being scrutinized.
The first week wasn't without its fair share of drama, though. While I was on prefect duty in the quad one day, a lightie approached me. I recognized him as one of Alan's new band of groupies… kids who thought the bully would provide them with protection. How wrong they were.
"There's something I've gotta tell you. It's about Wingnut."
"What about him?"
"Alan told me he was a trouble maker, and wanted me to beat up on him. But I told Alan that I was a friend of Wingnut, and that I couldn't beat up on my friends. So then I got my own ass kicked 'cause I didn't follow orders."
"Sounds like you're mixing with the wrong crowd, dude."
"Yeah, I know that now… and I've been trying to make up to Wingnut, but he doesn't wanna know me."
"So what happened?"
"Well, after I got my own ass kicked, Alan and the guys cornered Wingnut and his friend Brian in the change rooms. Wingnut was copping a beating when Brian tried to help him, so Alan beat up on his younger bro as well."
"So you're telling me this 'cause you've got the guilts?"
"Yeah. I know Wingnut's a friend of yours, so I thought I'd better tell you."
"Don't worry… I'll find him."
Alan's timing was way off. Not only had he beat up on a friend of mine… a kid half the bully's size… but he'd also chosen a time when I was totally strung out from the pressure of school, prefect meetings, and whatever the fuck else was happening. Eventually, I caught up with him in the toilets. He was alone, standing at the urinals.
"Hey, asshole. I'm tired of hearing about you bullying the lighties. You're dead meat."
"Don't gimme that bullshit, Mr Prefect… sir. You can't do anything to me without getting yourself into serious shit."
"You're the one who's in serious shit, asshole."
"I'm walking outa here," he said as he zipped his fly. "Any trouble from you, Mr Prefect... sir, and I'll report you."
As soon as the slob was within range, my fist connected with his jaw, and sent him sprawling on the floor. "OK, so report me. Now, get up." Well, he got up, took a wild swing at me, but was down again in a second, with blood oozing from his lip. "Get up again."
"OK, so I'll help you up." I reached down, grabbed his blazer with both hands, and hauled him to his feet. He was a fucking heavy dude, but I was so damn mad I could've lifted a ton with ease… and probably just had. With one well-aimed punch, I flattened his nose, and heard a loud crack. He was on the floor again as many hands grabbed my arms and pulled me back.
"Lemme go! I'm gonna kill the cunt!"
"Settle, Mark!" somebody yelled. "You've done enough damage already."
Well, the remainder of the day passed without further incident, so Alan had obviously thought better of reporting the fight. Even he, with his miniscule, idiot brain, was able to figure that reporting me would land him in more trouble… like a hospital bed. On the other hand, if he decided to change his mind, and ratted, I'd be finished as a prefect… and maybe even expelled from school. If that were to happen, I'd have to repeat a year instead of doing the post-matriculation course like I'd planned.
"Alan's been pretty quiet lately," Kyle remarked as we walked home from school the next day. "Kinda disappeared into the woodwork. We all know that it won't be for long, though." After a lack of response from me, he continued. "I've checked out Wingnut's bruises on his arms and chest. He must've been beaten up pretty bad." Still no response from me. "So how's Alan? I heard his nose is broken."
"I don't wanna talk about it."
"I've never seen you so damn strung out."
"Just drop it, Kyle."
"OK, OK. Just asking."
"OK. Change of sub. You hear about Steve hanging with Tammy lately? Can you imagine that? Steve with the one girl?"
"Maybe he found whatever it was he's been looking for. Happens to all of us sooner or later."
"Did you watch the Mr Price Surf Comp on TV?"
"Danny Mills from Aussie came third in the finals. He's a totally hot surfer. Jeez! The winner was Taylor Knox from the States." Kyle paused for a moment before adding, "Mark?"
"Anyway, I've been hanging with Steph a few arvies after school this week. She's been quizzing me about Paul. I think she fell in love with his king-size cock."
"She saw it?"
"Yeah… when we slept over at Steph's place after we'd all gotten trashed at Corners that night."
"And it doesn't bother you?"
"Why should it?"
"Kyle," I said as we stopped at my gate, "I don't get you. You breeze through life like it was some kinda feel-good movie. Most of all, I don't understand why you hang with me when I'm in a bad mood."
"Paul and I used to bash the shit outa each other when we were lighties, but we always stayed friends. More than friends. It's the same with you."
"I'm not Paul. I suppose that means I'm some kinda substitute when he's not here?"
"You know better than that."
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