After we'd towelled ourselves, I was happy to walk around the house starkers -- and so was Kyle.
"Wanna coffee before you go?"
I was at the kitchen bench, making the coffee, wondering if Kyle would come up behind me, and put his arms around me like he had the other night. But he didn't. Maybe he wasn't in the mood or something. I wasn't sure.
"You're smiling," I said as I handed him his mug.
"Yeah. I feel good inside... you and me being naked together like it's no biggie."
"Should it be?"
"It used to be."
"That was before you led me astray."
"Still nervous about visiting your dad in Joburg?"
"You better believe it. I was only seven when I last saw him."
"You're excited, though?"
"Part of me is. The other part is freaking. I've gotta go, though. If I don't take this opportunity, it may never happen again. Anyway, it's a missing piece of the jigsaw... a big piece of my life. It's hard to imagine me and my dad being like you and your dad, though. Your dad is just so damn cool. Remember when he and I went fishing a couple of times during our last hols? Up the Garden Route? It wasn't like being with someone's dad... he was more like being with a bud. And he treated me like an equal, not like some teen. I can't see my dad treating me like that."
"You said he's cool on the phone, though."
"Yeah... but that's not like face to face. Imagine if you hadn't seen your dad for ten years."
"You still gonna see Nick?"
"Yep... he phoned to make sure I was still coming up."
"Sounds pretty keen," I laughed.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Hey, Kyle, you're talking to me. Anyway, you're blushing."
"Nick's cool. We just kinda hit it off. It was one of those things. Y'know... he was easy to talk to, like we'd known each other forever."
"Not like us... you and me... I mean in the beginning."
"Hey, it was worth all the shit."
"Yeah, you're right, it was. You know something? If you hadn't stuck by me, I mean if you hadn't taken all the crap I dumped on you, and come back for more, I could've been... well... I wouldn't have changed."
"You didn't change. You were always who you are. You just kept yourself hidden."
"So how come I couldn't hide from you?"
"Intuition, maybe. I dunno. I just had a feeling."
"Fuck off, Mark. It wasn't like that."
"OK. But mainly I was interested in you as a person... you were a challenge."
"You still are. I never take you for granted, Mark."
"I don't take you for granted either. On the other hand, I know that you'll stick around like shit to a blanket. That's the kinda dude you are."
"And you're the kinda dude who sticks up for his buds. You didn't fight Alan today 'cause he pissed you off, you fought him 'cause he was crapping on me."
"One excuse is as good as another."
"Bullshit. What about the time you beat the shit outa him after he'd hassled Wingnut?"
"So, what are you gonna do? Gimme me a medal?"
Friday was the last day of school before Spring Break, and our final assembly. My lip was still a bit swollen, but a lot better than it was the day before. Surprisingly, Alan and I were chatting almost like we were buds. Sometimes, fists were the only way to gain respect, or settle disputes.
Kyle had organized some guys from the swim team, plus a couple of buds, to have a few beers at his place that afternoon. It was there that Kyle's dad got involved in a pretty serious convo with me about my meeting my dad.
"He's probably just as nervous as you are. Maybe more so."
"It's hard to tell."
"Well, I can only judge it from my own perspective, and only imagine what it would be like to be meeting Kyle after not having seen him for ten years."
"It was you and Kyle who inspired me to phone my dad. I figured there was a chance that maybe... well, y'know... that maybe my dad and I could kinda patch things up."
"You're like a brother to Kyle."
"Yeah... I guess we kinda get along OK."
"Better than OK. His mother and I had often felt a bit guilty about not having more children. But not any more. He's got you and Wingnut, plus a lot of other friends... kinda like an extended family. At least, that's how we feel about it."
"Thanks. I do, too."
"You need a ride to the airport?"
"Thanks. That'd be neat."
I had to work at the pizza restaurant that night, but Kyle, Steph, and Carol were waiting for me when I'd finished my shift. I was totally pissed about a mixup with the credit card payments, 'cause I'd only earned half of what I'd expected. To add salt to the wound, Carol had PMS, and was miserable about the prospect of my spending a week in Joburg to see my dad.
"Sorry, Kyle... Carol and I have decided not to go to Corners tonight. You and Steph have a cool time. OK?"
"Hey! We're all going away in different directions for the holidays, so this is like one of the last times we can go out together. Fuck! Hey, Mark, I'm sorry about the money you lost... so I'll pay for you guys."
"It's cool, Kyle. Carol's not feeling so well, anyway."
"Fuck! What a way to start the holidays!"
"Fuck that 'shit happens' crap! Every time there's something I wanna do, and it doesn't happen, then I get that 'shit happens' crap!"
"Hey, fuck off, man. I'm not going to Corners. Carol's feeling shitty, and I need to save some money."
"Yeah, yeah... all of a sudden."
"Fuck you, Kyle."
"Yeah, well, I'm gonna jet. Coming babes?"
"Where to?" Steph asked, obviously taken aback by Kyle's outburst.
"Shit, Kyle! I don't wanna spend the first night of the holidays at home! Lets the two of us go to Corners."
"Nah... I'm pissed off. I'm going home."
"Now you're being a jerk," I insisted.
"Yeah... like always," he said as he stormed off. "Catch you later."
"Hey, Kyle! Wait up!" I grabbed my bud's shoulder and spun him around. "Hey, what's up? You're behaving like a jerk."
"Yeah, so what's new?"
"So you're just gonna leave Steph here standing with us? Hey, listen. You blew it. I can tell by the look on your face. You're embarrassed, right? OK, so how about I check with Carol to see if she wants to go to Wipeout for a while, and we can all hit there. Sound OK?"
"No, it's cool. I'll take Steph there, and the two of us can play pool. If Carol's not feeling so great, then it's probably better just to let her relax or something."
Anyway, we all ended up going to Wipeout and having a pretty cool time, playing pool, and sinking a few beers. We were also cracking up big time about Wingnut, Sean, and a bunch of their friends. They'd tried to get admission to the club, but the bouncer insisted on checking their IDs. IDs? Yeah, right. Sean got a clip over the ear from the bouncer 'cause he'd called him a son of a bitch. Anyway, the grommets were turned away.
After taking the girls home, Kyle and I stood outside my gate, chatting for ages. My mom and shitforbrains were home, so there was no point in inviting Kyle inside.
"Sorry for losing it tonight."
"Hey, it all worked out OK. Carol had a good time."
"It's just that... well... it's just that I wanted tonight to be special."
"You want every fucking night to be special, Kyle," I laughed.
"Carol still pissed off about you going away?"
"Yeah. You'd think I was never gonna come back."
"Maybe you won't."
"Jesus, Kyle! You're as bad as she is. I'll only be away for a week."
"You think I'm gonna stay in Joburg forever?"
"What the fuck am I gonna do with you? You know something? I used to think that buds were guys you'd hang with. Y'know? Nothing complicated. But you're different."
"I dunno. It's like we're more than buds."
"You've gotta understand something. I've only ever had one Kyle in my life, so it's not like I've had a whole bunch of experience."
"I've only had one Mark."
"But you've had Paul, and Steve, and Wingnut... and maybe Nick."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'm not blind, Kyle."
"Those guys aren't you."
"What are you saying? That I'm more important than they are?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying. That's like saying that my dad is more important than my mom, or that my mom is more important than my dad. Everybody's important, but nobody's the same."
On the trip to the airport for my flight to Johannesburg, I was feeling apprehensive about meeting my dad. Meantime, I could tell that Kyle was feeling empty... probably worried about what was gonna happen to me.
"Hey, Kyle, I'm gonna see my dad, and you're gonna see Nick. In a week from now, we'll both be back in Cape Town. So don't stress about it. OK? Now gimme a Kyle smile so that I can take it with me."
"I hate fucking planes. They're always taking people away."
"They also bring them back."
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Kyle and Nick Story