The Tale of ErikMature

I first met Erik in our Geometry class in tenth grade. He was one of the school's most popular basketball players. A person who could make funny jokes as well as three-pointers on the court. His red hair and freckled baby face made him an icon among the females and his aura of masculinity had other popular guys gravitating towards him, wanting to be his friend. His world and lifestyle totally contrasted with mine. While he was playing ball in our school's auditorium, I'd be in my living room, watching anime and eating popcorn with Miranda. While he whisked girl after girl to dinner and a movie, I watched boy meets boy on Bravo. While he bobbed his head to the latest rap star, I headbanged to the sounds of underground metal bands. Each boy knew nothing of each other and weren't on the path of doing so. Until Erik was asked for his book for the weekly book check in Geometry class.

I was put in the front row of the class. The first to be checked. Our teacher ,Mr. Hunter, was one the most obnoxious and rude of Louis High School's staff. He found humor and satisfaction in the harassment and mortification of his students, especially those of which were proverbial among the student body. He seemed to have it in for me, since he saw me walk into his class in September of the previous year, and I mirrored his disrespect. He looked at me as if I was being prosecuted for murder, his dark brown double chin jiggled as he spoke.

"Hart, you have your book?"

I could feel the contempt in his voice, praying for me to give a negative answer. He look disappointed when a handed him a large orange textbook decorated with various shapes and formulas, the word "Geometry" printed across the top. After opening it up and inspecting the front page, he closed and dropped it onto my desk with a large slamming sound. I flinched hysterically, causing a few scattered laughs across the classroom. I looked up at Mr. Hunter, confused and angry. He bore the smile of a proud asshole.

"Sorry, it slipped."

I glared at him as he walked over to Erik's desk. Erik seemed to be asleep. His face disappeared behind his arms as they folded over the desk in a V pattern. Mr. Hunter put his hands onto the ends of the desk and lowered his head to what would be eye level with Erik. He let out a blaring "BOO!" right into his ear. Erik's head shot up instantly, his eyes wide open and red. Mr. Hunter gave a small chuckle as he tried to play off his slumber by rubbing his eyes and sniffing a little.

"Do you have your book, Mr. Grant?"

Erik nervously looked through his bookbag, under Mr. Hunter's piercing gaze. Erik slowly removed his empty hand out of his bookbag, looking defeated. He didn't look back at him. He mumbled.

"What?" Mr. Hunter said tauntingly.

"I don't have it."

"I'm sorry say that a little louder. I don't think I heard you." Mr. Hunter playfully put a hand to his ear.

"I said 'I don't have it'!"

Erik finally looked up at him, angry. Mr.Hunter looked back at him, a sly grin on his face.

"Well, I suggest you find it by next week. I'd hate to tell Coach Johnson that his prized ball player is doing bad in class."

With that, Mr. Hunter continued with his checking, baring Erik's enraged glare. When the bookchecks were done, it was evident that Erik was the only one without a book. Erik looked at him expectantly.

"How am I supposed to work without a book?"

"I suggest you find someone willing to share, Mr. Grant." Mr. Hunter says, not looking at him.

Erik gave a sigh. He slumped back in the chair, he seemed to look in my direction.

"Can I share a book?" he said. I nodded and we scooted our chairs together.

Erik never found his book, and never got slack from Mr. Hunter, and would always have to share with me. Over time, I found myself feeling glad every time he would come to class without a book. Whenever the work was done, he would stay next to me, and we would talk. I learned a lot of stuff about him I never would've thought would come from someone like him. I learned of his lack of passion for basketball, devotion to grades, and his determination to make it in the hard world of being a popular guy. I found myself opening up to him about everything too. How I shared his grade obsession, his willingness to be taken seriously, and his hatred of Mr. Hunter. It wasn't too long before I realized my feelings have grown past that of a friend towards him, and I began to shy away.

Over the next period of time, I found myself ducking into corners when I saw him coming, look away when he looked in my direction, and would reprimand myself later for not talking to him at the end of the day. And when I thought things couldn't get worse, Erik found his book. Our days of acquaintance were over.

At times, Miranda would give me that stare. That famous stare of hers which told who was ever getting it "What are you doing? This will only lead to ruin. Get your shit together and do what you have to do!" I would stare back, hoping that someday I would heed that unspoken advice.

"I love you, Erik" I said. I gazed into his eyes, I studied his face, I longed for the feeling of his body against mine. I say it again, "I love you, Erik. I want to be with you forever, and I hope you feel the same about me."

I felt disappointed when an annoyed voice sounded behind me.

"That has got to be the lamest confession I've ever heard." Miranda walked past me into my room, fixing her hair in the mirror, "You like my hair?"

Miranda liked to dye her hair every once in awhile. She'd dyed her once dark brown locks black, blue, green, orange, and red, and it was purple streaked black today.

"It's fine," I said, not turning around, still studying Erik, "Why is it lame?"

Miranda turned around, her hair flying and her expression unforgiving. "Because one, it's sounds like it came out of a bad nineties movie and two, it's to a picture."

I sighed as I put up the eight and a half by eleven picture of Erik I printed out off of the school's internet page and put it into my dresser drawer. I turned around to find her still messing with her hair in the mirror.

"Why don't you just talk to him?"

I sighed and plopped myself onto the bed. "I don't know. I just can't anymore."

"Well if you keep on doing this, he'll end up thinking you didn't like him at all and move on. It's bad enough that he might be straight."

"Don't say that!" I say, bolting up from the bed.

"It's true," she said, not showing sympathy,"You need to do something."

I plopped myself back on the bed. Why couldn't Miranda be one of those sympathetic best friends who tried to cheer you up when you made a mistake? But throughout my anger, I knew she was right. I might be losing Erik, if I hadn't already.

He seemed oblivious. Whenever I saw him in the hallways, he seemed to not give any semblance of acknowledgment towards my existence. I'd walk by, and he'd continue on with whatever he was doing. I'd tried to say something on occasion, but couldn't think of what to say. My mind seemed to blank out at the sight of him,. I worked up the strength to talk to him one day, but the circumstances weren't how I wanted them to be.

"What the hell is your problem?"

"Look! I didn't mean to say that you were gay, just a little feminine. That's all."

"Erik, you know at one time I thought you were more than just a shallow meathead, but I seemed to pay too much sympathy to the idiot who could never remember to bring his book to class for three straight weeks!"

Erik put up his hands as if to calm me down. He looked behind him. His friends, who were once standing in a circle behind him snickering, were now gone.

"What's wrong? Need a posse of homophobes to watch your back?"

He looked up to me, his eyes turned sad and pleading. As much as I fought it, a twinge of regret and compassion went through me, and I listened to what he was about to say.

"Look Dave, I'm sorry, okay? It's just friends....they're.....not like you. They're not as.....different."

I moved my face towards his slowly. I opened my mouth, my compassion evaporating . "Then I guess it's time for you to pick a different social crowd." I said dryly.

Erik turned away from me, defeated. He ran a hand through his hair, seemingly frustrated. He let it drop.

"I need to talk to you," I heard him say, his back still turned," Will you meet me at my locker after school today?"

"No, I won't. If you can't talk to me in public, you can't talk to me at all."

"But you are gay, though. Why would that make you mad?"

I looked up from my magazine at Miranda. "It doesn't matter if I am or if I'm not. He had no right to say that. I'm so sick of dealing with close-minded homophobes at our school. I thought Erik was different, you know?"

Miranda whirled around from the mirror, her newly dyed orange hair whirling around with her. She sat down on the bed next to me, her green eyes centered on me.

" 'Your husband' type of different, right?"

"No!" I give her a whack with the magazine, evoking laughter,"Just...not like every other boy out there who thinks every gay guy in the world acts the same. A guy that would want to meet someone new and learn about them without jumping to some inane conclusion. I did that with him, why can't he do that with me?"

"Maybe you should consider the fact that everyone is not like you. Consider the possibility that Erik maybe didn't want to get to know you as bad as you wanted to know him. You're the one with the crush, not him."

I threw myself back on the bed. She didn't even sugarcoat it a little bit.

"Are you always this blunt?"

"I like you, okay? I don't know what I'm gonna do about it, but I do I think I'd really like it if you and I would go out this Saturday. Whaddya say?"

I looked at his smiling face. I felt my face contort in bemusement. Did he just do what I thought he did? Did he actually just ask me out on a date? Is this for real? It could be a trick. It could be a prank. It'll be a set up for embarrassment. Or could he be serious? Could he really want to go out with me? He could,but why? Why would he want to go out with me? And why is he staring at me like that?

"Are you okay, Dave?"

I didn't notice that I still hadn't said anything back yet and it'd been two minutes.

"Umm.......sure. I'll go with you....but..."


"No more homophobic slurs. You gotta be different, and don't let your friends do it either. Deal?"

A warm smile was now plastered on his face. He must've thought this condition would be easy to follow. "Deal."

I hadn't been to an A&W in almost five years. I'd remembered coming here with family members on occasion, feeling happy and vibrant. This time was different, the same feelings were still there, just combined with first-date jitters and overwhelming neurosis. I flinched when I heard Erik call me from behind from outside the restaurant.

"Hey!" he yelled as he jogged up,"You just got here?"

I looked at him in awe, but not in the way that was to be expected.

"Why are you in your basketball uniform?"

"Uh...Well, I had practice before, and I didn't want to be late. I decided to leave as soon as I was done showering."

But why in the hell didn't you bring an extra change of clothes? Doesn't everyone else on the team bring one?

I kept my thought to myself. Erik gave a slightly embarrassed sigh.

"I went to practice in my uniform and forgot my change of clothes like an idiot."

I smiled as I led him into the restaurant. Great answer.

After we got our food, we sat by a window, facing each other. I looked across at his red and gold jacket, fantasizing about what lied underneath, I had to focus on my french fries in order to keep from melting. I looked at his face, which seemed fixated on my jacket, pensive and concentrated. His eyes darted up at me, his lips curled into a grin.

"Why are you blushing?"

My eyes grew wide for a second, but I recovered with a scratching of the head, a sniff, and a throat clearance.

"Uh....I'm probably just red from the cold from outside."

After that we started talking. I learned of his tough past of being an outcast due to his pale skin color and hair amongst a community of dark-skinned, brown haired folk, his unswerving devotion to his sister, mom, and grandmother, and his fondness of late night dates with junk food, a couch and a comedy from the eighties. I found myself seeing an Erik that no one had known before. A side of him that was never openly expressed. He was opening up to me the way I'd wanted. I soon found myself feeling more open and comfortable. I told him about my road to being an unconventional guy with a love of anime, video games and writing. We ended up talking about the music we liked. I laughed at his love of Southeast Asian pop divas and he cringed at my love of European death metal bands. Ironically, we both agreed to check each other's interests out. The date went on like this for a long time, our laughs breaking down our doors and walls.

"So....when did you know?" I heard him say. I immediately knew what he was talking about. Without skipping a beat I replied, "Sixth grade, you?"

"Oh!" He said, taking a cautious bite into his cheeseburger, "I found out at the worst possible time. I had this girl, named Chelsea. We were making out in her room and I noticed I had a boner, but the thing was that I was staring at her LL Cool J poster when it happened."

I almost choked on my french fry when he finished. I burst into laughter, even though I didn't mean to, thinking it was rude. I felt relieved when he laughed too.

" I dumped her later that night."

"Did you tell her why?"

"I told her it was because she was a bad kisser." he said with a shy chuckle.

A few laughs later. He turned serious.

"Are you out to your parents?"

"To my mom."

"What about your Dad?"

"He's dead to me. It's none of his business. I'm out to just about everyone else. What about you, are you out to your parents?"

"I'm out to my grandma, but I'm not out to my parents yet. I just don't know how to go about doing it. They're really prejudiced, you know? How did you tell your mom?"

"I didn't. My aunt told her. She saw it on my Myspace page. She came home and avoided me for a few days. I don't know if she accepts it or not, but she hasn't disowned me or anything. We're getting along okay though."

He gave a nervous smirk. I noticed his fist shivering on the table. I reached for it, giving it a squeeze. I felt encouraged in my action when I felt him graze my hand with his thumb. I looked up to his smiling face, his eyes seemed to glisten in the newly prominent sunshine from outside.

We kissed later that day under a large oak tree in the park, raindrops dripping on us from the leaves. As my tongue rolled over his, I felt that as we kissed, Erik was gonna be all right with himself, as if my lips gave him hope with every time they touched his. When our lips parted, I felt my head sink into his chest,his arms around me. I closed my eyes and I think for the first time in my life, relaxed. I felt him kiss my forehead. We stood there holding each other until it was time for me to go. That night, Erik came out to his mom..

It's been two years since then, and the euphoria of that day stays with me, reminding me of the time when me and Erik took the first steps towards being boyfriends.

The End

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