Chapter 9: Jilt My Heart & Tilt My MindMature

Narrator: Junior Archvale


The guitar began softly, picking out chords. Kieth and I lowered our eyes from each other's. Then, a man began to sing, with a smooth voice that was swiftly and gently capable of jumping up into a falsetto.

"You said it,
I believed it,
I could hold it,
I could feel it,
I left it, mmm,
I breathed it,
Wish I knew how to leave it.
Only God knows why people will say the things they do.
Only God knows that I'm a foo-ool for loving a heart that's cruel."

He seemed to have chosen, thus far, a gender-neutral break-up song. I was expecting something more eccentric, maybe angry or even seductive. Something I might hear watching Godiva's or Queer As Folk. But, truthfully, I had no idea what kind of music gay guys listen to.

At that point, I was sure, as I danced alongside Penny, that Kieth now understood my gaze... even if I didn't fully understand it myself.

"I'm a foo-ool for loving you!"

Penny whispered in my ear, "With that last song -- thank you. I didn't know you knew."

"Knew what?" I blurted, nearly interrupting the song. But before she could answer, the artist, who I now recognized as Shawn Hlookoff, drowned us in more of his lyrics.

"Feel worthless,
Cause I gave in.

You took it,
Without waiting.
You saw me.
I could not see.
Love is blind like me-e-e.
Only God knows why people will say the things they do.
Only God knows that I'm a foo-ool for loving a heart that's cruel.
I'm a foo-ool for loving yoou!"

I was struggling, without success, to read Penny's lips. But as I did so, I did the math in my head: she wasn't into men. No! I can't jump to conclusions like that.

"I'll never do it again.
I felt my last sin.
Should've known better,
Nothing lasts forever,
Trust and you'll nev-ver fo-or-ge-et!"

Tears, unfallen, began to cloud my vision. My arms rose, out of their own volition. What was I doing?

"Only God knows why pe-ople will say the things they do.
Only God knows that I'm a foo-oo-ool for loving a heart that's cruel.
I'm a foo-ool for loving you..."

I had my arms wrapped around her and my tongue invading her mouth, before I knew what I was even doing. It caught me, and her, by utter surprise. Her arms, moving up my back, felt so warm. Far too warm. It was a warmth I had never felt before. It had nothing, at all, to do with temperature, and everything to do with affection. My affection.

"I'm a foo-oo-ool for lov-i-i-ing you-ou-ou!"

But they weren't trying to reciprocate, no, she was pushing me away. I fell back, onto the couch, like a discarded toy thrown back into its box. My voice was weak, as the song faded, "I should have known."

"Next track, please!" Kieth yelled.

There were more people on the makeshift dance floor now. Faces I recognized, faces I didn't. Ashley was in the corner, making sure her DDR pads weren't damp.

"I have a guest to greet," Kieth added, a sly edge in his voice now.

But I didn't care.

Penny sat down beside me, and gave me a comforting hug. I still felt that warmth in her touch; it was utterly frightening. She spoke, sadness in her voice, "All I've ever dreamed of is feminine. It wouldn't work."

"Can't you at least try? Please?" I sobbed.

"How long have you felt this way about me?" she asked.

I had avoided it for so long, telling myself I wasn't mature enough, telling myself that relationships at my age didn't last. I gave her the most honest answer I could, "I can't remember when I didn't."

"Eighth grade," she deduced. She paused, thoughtful. "C'mon, get up and dance. It'll make you feel better."

She hadn't answered my request, so I just looked at her, indifferent.

She sighed.

"I'm not used to dancing to lyrics," I lied, red-faced and tears wiped away. Truth was, I wasn't used to dancing... at all.

"Shawn Hlookoff, a Canadian, you know his work from Kyle XY. Remember?" Penny then began to sing, "She coo-ould be you-ou..."

I gave her a look that told her to stop, and betrayed how much that very song, which I had played so many times, made me think of her.

Luckily, that wasn't the next song on Kieth's mix CD. I'd seen it earlier in the disc tray when I dropped my own in. A full list of the songs and artists was written around it in marker. And so, I was pretty sure I knew what was coming next, and that it certainly wasn't directed at me.

There was a man standing at the edge of the front hall, an old athletics t-shirt from our school on his lean, muscular frame. Judging by his facial hair, he looked about Kieth's age. He was probably somebody's date.

Before the lyrics came, twenty seconds of just guitar began...

I began to wonder, then, about the sadness and frustration I'd read in Kieth's eyes, and the shadows below them. What made him, now, so happy?

The man looked more awkward than I did. Somehow, he distracted me from my heartbreak. So, so, awkward. No, no -- scared. That man must have very nearly soiled himself.

The End

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