“But I don’t want to go to any fuckin’ Halloween dance. Can’t we just have a few beers, smoke a joint and imagine we’re dressed in silly outfits,” I yell at my best friend Mark.
He just frowns and gives me the finger. He’s been trying to convince me for the last fifteen minutes to go to the big annual high school bash at the old dance hall on the edge of town tomorrow night.
In reality it’s not that I don’t want to go it’s just that I’m scared to go. One, I don’t have the right costume in mind and for some reason that really matters to me this time and two, and more importantly, I have come to realize in the last few months that I am gay yet don’t know in my heart what to do about it; thus, my preoccupation with getting drunk and stoned at every opportunity lately. Numb and avoid reality is my M.O.
Mark looks deep into my green eyes and sighs in resignation.
“What is up with you Jon? I’ve known you for too long and too well…you’re hiding something. Come on…what is it?”
I look at him in desperation as I grab a handful of my blond hair.
“Fuck, Mark, I don’t know.”
“You know you can tell me anything.”
It is true too, for everything but this one thing, and I have yet to summon the courage to tell him. Someday I will but it seems all too soon for such a HUGE aspect of my life. I’ve even wondered if he knows already but hasn’t said anything out of respect for me.
“You NEED to go to this party because you can dress up and act like you’re somebody else…or who you really are,” he says, finishing with an impish grin.
“You bastard,” I laugh.
“Yeah, I am, so what. Look, we ARE going to the party so let’s figure out what we can wear.”
I shake my head in resignation as I get off my bed and go to my closet.
Flinging open the doors I say, “Have at it.”
He stands from sitting backward on my desk chair swings his leg over and faces me then tosses me a joint from his shirt pocket, “Have at it.”
Soon we are giggling as we throw about half of my closet’s contents onto the floor and my bed unable to figure out any reasonable solution to our problem.
“Hey, wait a minute, who’s cleanin’ this shit up?”
“YOU,” he replies.
Mark then pulls the last of the hanging clothes towards the center of the closet.
“Hey, hey, hey. What’s this?”
“My great grandfather’s World War I uniform, my dad gave it to me…it fits me too. My great grandfather got it when he was 18, so I guess I’m the right age. Hot as hell, all thick wool.”
“Well that’s a start because I have one too, great uncle’s or something.”
I walk over to my bookshelf and get the helmet down, “Got one of these.”
“Of course, it’s in my dad’s office.”
Feeling like we have accomplished something we go down to the kitchen to satisfy the munchies. While eating chips and cookies (he’s going for the salt as I go for the sweet) we realize we still have no clue who we are going to be or what we are going to use for masks.
“This is a problem, Mark.”
“No shit, Sherlock!” is his smartass reply.
As we both giggle I get up from my stool at the counter and begin rummaging through the cabinets searching for ideas because I can’t think of any other place to start.
I then pull open the drawer that has the plastic wrap and aluminum foil in it.
“Oooooo,” coos Mark, snatching the roll of wide foil and pulling out a yard before he tears it off. “What about this!”
He then wraps it smooth around his head and neck crinkling it together at the crown of his head. I fall on the floor laughing. As he laughs the foil vibrates making an eerie sound that causes us both to laugh harder.
“STOP IT! I’m going to wet my pants!” I scream.
Mark tears off the foil because he is having trouble breathing.
“We must!” I laugh.
“What would we be?”
“Who cares? It’s just too cool and NOBODY would know who we were!”
Then I tear off a sheet of foil and wrap it around my head.
Another round of giggles ensues while Mark smoothes it across my face and then says, “Hold still,” as he tears two eye slits with the tine of a fork.
“What about breathing,” I vibrate.
Air was barely coming through around the neck.
“I don’t want to tear a mouth hole, it would
just ruin it…hmmmmm. We need some sort of tube…then we could
drink too,” I say. Still wrapped in
the foil I run to the basement, nearly stumbling down the stairs, and into my
Dad’s shop. Again I begin to flip
open cabinet doors searching for what I know still has to be there.
I grab a pile of packages and leap up the stairs and then toss them across the counter. “What’s this?”
“Tubing. Remember my Dad used to sell medical supplies a few years ago…well, here they are. All the shit you need to connect bags to bottles to drips to…whatever…and now from drink to lips!”
We spend the next hour figuring out all of the logistics of taping the tubes to our faces in various symmetrical patterns to achieve the best facial effect with the desired necessities of breathing and drinking. Mom is not pleased to see a basketball of crumpled aluminum foil on the counter when she comes home from work. Only the promise to replace it and her realizing that we are very happy boys make her not get mad.
“But you need to clean up and clear out NOW because I’ve got dinner to make.”
Mark and I say our good-byes with promises of a phone call later to review our entire outfits.
“Only after you’ve gotten your homework done.”
“Awww, Mom!” both of us whine as we smile.
She shakes her head with a roll of her eyes having heard that line from the two of us a thousand times during the twelve years we’ve been friends.
Dad is driving us over in my car. He doesn’t want us driving with our foil faces. Mom is following to take him home. They both laughed at our silly “tin soldiers” creations.
“Dad, pull around back so people don’t recognize us getting out of my car.”
“Sure,” he replies.
On the way to the front door a wave of fear overcomes me, grabbing Mark’s tricep I give it a squeeze. I can see the smile in his blue eyes as he turns to me.
“Let’s have some fun,” he whispers.
It is the only way we can clearly communicate with the foil.
We walk up to and “vibrate” hellos to all of our friends and not a single person has a clue; the costumes work. The next hour is spent entertaining and teasing anyone we encounter not caring about past interactions or worrying about future retributions because we can be anyone and do just about anything we want. Even a few adult chaperones are the target of our mischievousness.
Laughter erupts at the drinks table when they see us place our middle finger into a cup and the drink disappears. Of course it takes a lot of sucking to get that drink from the tip of my finger into my mouth but it’s worth all of the effort not only for the much needed refreshment but the reaction from the crowd.
Soon we are the talk of the party; no one can figure out who we are. All the girls begin to come up to us to dance. This sends Mark into heaven from the gleam in his eyes and the way the foil crinkles as he smiles. I am just along for the ride.
After the fourth or fifth song exhaustion starts to set in and my mind begins to wander from the girl in front of me. Suddenly I come to a complete stop as I see the most gorgeous butt in the whole world bent over before me. He’s picking something up off of the floor. Dressed in white full body leotard with a skeleton printed…well, at least across the back, I am awed.
“Whoa,” I vibrate in a deep baritone voice.
“Are you OK,” Cherie asks.
I nod slowly and then begin to dance again while staring at the boy across the floor. As he stands up I see he has a full head rubber skull on.
“Dammit,” I mumble. Entranced by the “body” across the floor I need to know who it belongs to because instantly I know that there is more to this than just lust; an aura exudes from him that speaks to me.
As I bounce to the music he finally turns toward me. He stiffens when he realizes that my eyes are locked on him. About to be overcome by fear I remember that he has no clue who I am so I salute him and then blow him a kiss. He instantly looks mortified but then relaxes and I can tell he’s laughing. Finally the song ends, I tip my helmet to Cherie and walk toward the skeleton.
“Hello” I reverberate just loud enough for him to hear over the rising volume of the next song.
He leans in and speaks into my ear, “You can blow kisses at my bones anytime.”
My head shoots back and I stare into his eyes. I hear him laugh and then he walks away. I am too stunned to react.
“Hey, you OK,” Mark asks softly into my ear from behind me.
I jump a foot.
“Whoa, chill, dude,” he vibrates, “It’s OK.”
Quickly he grabs me by the wrist and gently pulls me across the room and out the front entrance. The cold night air feels good after sweating in the wool uniform. He lets go of my arm but continues to walk across the parking lot. He finally stops by the stand of old growth trees that block the dance hall from the neighborhood beyond. I catch up to him slowly following his determined steps.
“Jon, trust me, it’s OK,” he says softly.
“What are you talking about?”
I stare at the blank silver face before me. He notches his doughboy helmet back a bit on his head. I can see the tension in his body as he struggles to summon the courage to speak, even without seeing his face I know his body language. He has something to say and I know what it is. Not willing to let him or myself struggle with it any longer my heart tells me it’s OK.
I put one hand on each of his shoulders lean in so that our foreheads touch and say, “Yes, I’m gay.”
He quickly grabs me in a bear hug and whispers, “Thank you.”
“For lettin’ me out of havin’ to ask. And just so ya know, I’m cool with it.”
I hug him harder and start to sob.
After a minute he says, “Stop, you’re gonna rust.”
We both burst out in laughter.
“How did you know?”
“How long have I known you? Do you think I’m stupid? Don’t you know I love you more than my brothers? Don’t answer any of those questions; just know that we are the best friends anybody can be.”
I lean back against the trunk of a sugar maple, tilting my head upwards and stare at the orange, brown and gold leaves fluttering gently above me. I hear Mark sigh and step toward me. Looking back down I feel for a second he wants to kiss me but as he’s known I’m gay I know that he’s straight. He hesitates for a second fondling the medals pinned to the uniform then leans towards me.
He says softly, “Go for Mr. Skeleton, you won’t be disappointed.”
“Look, it was SO obvious, Jon. You got the hots for him….BIG TIME and I’m tellin’ you to go for it.”
For a second I am confused.
“Wait…you know something!”
He steps back. I can see the foil crinkle into a smile.
“YOU BASTARD! You know who it is.”
Vibratory laughter resounds throughout our little clump for forest.
He leans in again, gives me a quick hug and says, “I love you.”
Then he takes off running for the front door.
I don’t chase him because I need to think. He has just blown the top of my head off with his acknowledgement and acceptance of me being gay besides his desire to see me date a boy. As I think about all Mark has done for me in the past and now in the past five minutes I can’t believe how lucky I am to have him. Mark has always been giving but he had just gone beyond anything I could have ever expected. He turns back toward me when he gets to the door. “I love you,” I whisper. Then I take off in a mad dash to him.
As soon as we open the door to enter together we are met by Mr. Skeleton.
“Hey,” he says with laughter in his voice.
We both “buzz” him.
He laughs harder.
We spin him around each grabbing an arm and lead him back into the party.
“Where were you going,” I ask.
“To find you, Jon.”
After two more steps I stop dead in my tracks. They take two more steps before spinning around to look at me and laugh. My shoulders slump because I feel that I have been duped. The two of them become quiet and quickly approach me.
“I’m sorry, Jon,” he says as he pulls the skeleton mask over his head, “It’s me, Dave Bell.”
The person I least expect yet would have most wanted to have been under that skull is there in reality. It’s my turn to laugh.
“See I told you not to worry,” Mark says.
I shake one finger at him and then give him another. Now Mark starts laughing. I grab Dave’s skull and slide it back over his head.
“Come on let’s go have some fun!”
As we walk back into the depths of the party Mark grabs the hand of his ex-girlfriend Shelly and nods his head toward the dance floor.
“OK,” she squeals.
I was so grateful when he dumped her because I hate her squeaky voice. Dave turns to me and grasps my hand. For a moment I think to yank it out but then whisper to myself, “Yes, I can.” Less than a minute later I am on the dance floor with a boy and loving it. There are so many other groups of crazy costumes dancing with each other that we don’t stick out as anything odd. Yet to Dave and me we know that this is our first dance together. That, combined with the fact that I might actually have a boyfriend is almost too much for me to handle.
“Does Dave feel this way,” I think as I try to imagine his face beneath the mask, “Does he want to have a boyfriend?” “Does he want me as a boyfriend?” “Oh, my God, what about my parents?” I am analyzing myself into a self induced paralysis. My dancing comes to a stop but thankfully so does the music. Then a slow dance song begins.
Dave looks into my eyes and opens his arms, “Want to?”
Pushing the temporary insanity from my mind I waltz up close to him and say, “We’re crazy to do this.”
“No one really has to know who we are. I only figured it was you because I’ve got a brain…No really…I recognized the uniform my cousin is wearing…and you two always come together.”
We both chuckle at the inadvertent pun.
“Yeah, right,” I reply sarcastically.
We naturally hold each other and begin to sway to the music.
“What’s going on,” comes a screechy question from Shelly.
“Oh God,” I whisper, “drop dead bitch.”
Dave laughs lightly in my ear, then asks seriously, “Why did you blow a kiss at me.”
“Cause I have balls when I think I’m anonymous…and you have the cutest ass.”
“Thanks, you know you’ve been the object of a lot of my fantasies…and then to have you blow a kiss at me. I almost came in my pants. I’ve tried many a time to talk to Mark about you…’cause I wondered if you were gay but he wouldn’t let on at all.”
“How long has he known about you?”
“Since I tried to suck his dick one Thanksgiving three years ago.”
I have to laugh.
“I never had the balls to do that,” I tell him before hugging him tightly into my chest as we quietly lose ourselves in the rhythm of the music.
It’s amazing that we didn’t get harassed except by Shelly making stupid observations to Mark as they dance next to us. She hasn’t a clue that she is dancing with her ex.
I make a mental note to tell Kenny and Bob ‘Thank you’ for blazing a tough trail these last few years being the out couple at our school, enduring the taunts and rising above it all with humor and grace. That thought fills my heart with desire.
I can’t take the vibration any longer and use my pinkie to punch a hole through the foil at my mouth.
“Dave, will you go out with me?”
He leans back, looks me in the eyes and says, “Absolutely. Anytime and every time you ask.”
A smile grows on my face tearing the foil at my mouth. Dave peels back the corners exposing my lips. It’s refreshing for them to feel the cool air again.
“Kiss me,” Dave says as he lifts the bottom of his mask.
I do without hesitation.
We hear Shelly go, “Ewwwwwww!”
Only to be interrupted by Mark yelling, “You dumb bitch, grow up and get lost.”
I look over Dave’s shoulder to Mark and tip my helmet to him. He returns the gesture as the song fades away.
“Come on, it’s time to blow this clambake,” Mark vibrates to us.
I nod my head, lift my helmet, tear the foil off my head and wipe the sweat from my face. Dave pulls his skull off. I run my fingers through his hair trying to straighten the tangled mass of red hair. He grabs my wrist and pulls me into a kiss; all of this accompanied by the sounds of gasps and whispers.
We march toward the front door and just before we exit Dave and I spin around and bow with a flourish tipping our mask and helmet respectively.
As the cool air hits my face I feel a sense of rejuvenation and elation.
I run in front of Mark turn around and as I walk backwards say, “Can you believe it? I…WE just came out! This is the best! YOU are the best, Mark! And YOU Dave, you’re my BOYFRIEND! I can’t believe it…you ARE my boyfriend aren’t you?”
“Who wound him up,” Dave says to Mark with a smirk.
“You did. Now tell him you’re his boyfriend before he has heart attack.”
Mark takes his helmet off and then the foil from his face.
“Oh my God, what a relief”
“No, the relief was when you told Shelly to grow up and get lost,” I chuckle.
As we get to my car I ask Dave if he needs a ride.
“Yes I do. Thank you. Having you is so much better than having to call my Dad.”
I smile as I reach for my keys only to reach past them for my phone which has begun to ring. I flip it open, “Hey Dad.”
“Been nippin’ at it. Do I need to come get you.”
“You have no faith in me,” I say with mock disgust.
“No, I just know you pretty well…and I was you’re age once too. But you’re OK, huh?”
“Yeppers. Just the best Dad.”
“Glad you’re havin’ a good time. Well then, I’m off to bed. See you in the morning…but don’t hesitate to call me. I don’t mind getting’ up if you need me. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad. Thanks. Bye.”
I click the phone shut and smile.
“OK, where are we off to?”
“You’re going to drop me off at home so I can call Angela and then you can take you’re handsome boyfriend and have a little private time. You two need it.”
“Angela, what’s that all about,” I ask.
“She knew it was me in the outfit. She said she could tell from my cute butt.”
I spun him around.
“Even with the thick wool…yeah, it is cute. Don’t you think Dave?”
“You two stop it! Crap, I’ve created a couple of monsters.”
Laughter erupts from the three of us.
“You know, I’m a very lucky man to have you Mark…and now you, Dave.”
Dave gave me a smile with a wink.
It is relatively quiet during the ten minute drive to Mark’s house. I think we all were digesting the events of the evening. It occurs to me that come Monday morning I would basically be out at school and it wouldn’t be very long until my parents would find out.
Mark is looking at me when we pull up to his house.
“Yeah, I was just thinking I need to tell Mom and Dad before some nosey biddy calls ‘em.”
“Want me to be there with you?”
“When aren’t you there for me?”
“Only when you’re takin’ care of my sorry ass.”
“Yeah, right,” I say with my head cocked looking through my eyebrows, “They’ll think it’s you!”
“Aww, I ain’t worried about breakin’ their hearts.”
I just shake my head.
Mark gets out of the car and opens the back door for Dave to get in up front.
As he shuts the door he leans in the window, “I love you, Jon. Dave, don’t hurt him or you’ll have me to answer to…but I love you too so…aww, crap, just don’t hurt each other and have fun. Both of you - call me in the morning and we’ll talk. You can share the phone if you’re still together snuggling.” He gives a cheesy smirk before continuing, “I think our senior year is going to be a hell of a lot of fun!” With a wave he stands up.
“See ya, Mark,” we say in unison.
Mark ducks his head back in the window and says with a smile, “But I don’t want to go to any fuckin’ Halloween dance.”