In the summer of 1998, I was in a transitional period.
A transitional period on many different levels. I was moving from a small,
quaint, Catholic elementary school to a large, bustling
all-boys prep school. On another level, I was making the transition from
the lowly colored belts to a position of siginificant authority and priveledge
as a black belt in my karate school, north of the city. I was undergoing
in that fateful summer, however, a much deeper and more personal change:
one from an awkward feeling around cute-looking guys to seeing that feeling
for what is was: In the summer of '98, I realized that I was gay. No, not
gay, bisexual but mostly gay.
Great, I thought to myself. Just as I get into an all-boys school. The next six years were slightly difficult. I managed to get through the first couple of weeks in 7th grade alright, but there was one serious problem. A guy by the name of James. I didn't know him too well at first, he played football, and at our many-time-state-championship football school, those morons (yes, all you football players out there are morons. You want to destroy your joints for fun, be my guest.) kind of had a clique going. Which didn't bother me, because I has what they call the "people skills", and everybody in the 85-member class new of me, if not knew me directly, by the end of October. Oops. Irrelevant tangent. Sorry.
James was a little bit smarter than the rest of the football morons, interested in politics, but not smart enough to have a genuine understanding. My political thoughts versus his were kind of like a human brain versus a dog's. His weren't quite as deep. Me? A fucking Plato. (No offense, dude.) So that's basically who I was, tall (5'10" @ age 13), intelligent (very), well-liked (by most people), sexy (or so people claim when they don't think I'm in earshot), Christopher. Jesus, my life was complex. Oh, and James. He was short, walked with a cute sort of, how should I describe it, 'duck' gait? He had dark, disorganized hair, just long enough to drive me nuts, white teeth that contrasted severely with his bronze complexion, and his eyes were just as bad about that. He was really cool, his voice was the funiest thing about him. He had no trouble expressing exactly what he wanted to say, and wasn't really afraid of offending anyone. His voice is indescribable, I can only say that it was deep and unique. Now in that 7th grade class, there were probably 5 guys whose voices had changed, and James and I made up 2/5 of that crowd.
James was absoluely the hottest being I knew. But he was as straight as an arrow. Some damn girl. Gross.
One afternoon, it was 5th period, my study hall and his, I was sitting in the library reading a Time magazine. It was about four weeks into our 8th grade year, and things were proceeding at a so-far-so-good pace. James came up to me and sat in one of the four chairs around the table I was at. Since I hadn't really had a chance to talk with him this year, I put down a fascinating (Ha!) article on G. W. Bush and Coacaine and said,
"James, what's up?"
"Fuck off." he snapped.
"Love you too. What the hell's wrong?"
"She dumped me."
"Aww, I'm sorry. That's what you get for making long term committments in the damn eigth grade."
"Yeah, man, but I really liked Lisa."
"If you've come for moral support, You might try Barnes--"
"No, no, I want to do something to get my mind off that bitch. You free friday night?"
"Free? Why, I'd be more than happy to ditch the damn triplets."
"Yeah, yeah, I don't want to hear it."
"Of course not. But I don't know. You play football, I don't. I'd hate to compromise your clique."
"Come off it, Chris."
"Fine," I said, "So what do you want to do?"
"I was thinking of getting a group together and--"
"No," I suggested, "Just us."
Clever Christopher was going somewhere! Yes!
"Fine. See you at that big-ass gigaplex in 100 Oaks."
"7:30. I will arrive."
I got home that Friday, told my parents where I was going, and ran downstairs
to stew over what to wear. I finally settled on a pair of aged khakis,
a nice stylish belt, and a plain white tee shirt. I looked at myself in
the mirror and had one thought: Irresistible.
I got to the movies around 7:15 and James was already there, pacing back and forth. He looked me over and a supressed smile flashed over his face. I was nervous. Did he know?
We got our tickets and shit, went in, and sat down. The movie? The Sixth Sense. Never mind how we got in. People in Nashville are really stupid. The movie was a great psychological thrill, and we both left thoroughly weirded out. As we were about to go our separate ways, I suddenly thought of something.
"Why don't you come back with me."
My father picked us up, which is incredibly cool because he never asks questions, and we headed out and back to my house. James and I descended to my bedroom which ws configured like an office. I sat down at my desk and he sat at one of the 'guest chairs'.
"James, something else is bugging you." I said.
"It's nothing, really, I--"
"Come on. You can tell me."
"No, I can't, I don't want to--" and with that, he burst into tears. I moved over to him, where he was crying with his face in his hand. I put his head on my shoulder and held him there for about five minutes while he pulled himself together. He got up, dried off his face, and walked out of my room. I chased after him and caught him halfway up the stairs.
"James, I've never seen you like this. It's really out of character. What is going on?"
"What?" I looked at him in the eye.
"I love you."
END PART 1, Book 1
TEXT TAKEN FROM "THE STRANGER" COPYRIGHT 1977, 1998 BILLY JOEL.