An EXCERPT from Dan Skinner’s GAY YA Novel, “MEMORIZING YOU

Rosemary  was  good  to  her  word.  She  forgave  me,  and  we  were  friends   again.  Ryan  readily  embraced  her  into  our  select  group  with  open  arms.  It   was  nice  to  have  another  confidant  to  our  secret.  Another  accepting  soul.  What   was  so  intrinsically  stupendous  about  Rosemary’s  persona  was  how  normal  she   made  us  feel  by  being  so  normal  around  us.  It  wasn’t  like  she  was  hanging  with   gay  guys.  It  was  like  she  was  hanging  around  with  friends  who  happened  to  be   gay.  We  could  kiss  around  her  and  cuddle.  She’d  just  look  away  and  make  a   humorous  quip  about  razor-­‐‑burn,  or  how  she’d  never  really  been  into  gay  porn

She  began  jogging  with  us.  Went  shopping  for  new  school  clothes  with  us.   She  practically  chose  everything  the  two  of  us  would  wear  the  next  school  year.

I  quit  track  that  semester.  I  just  didn’t  have  time  with  the  work  schedule.  But   Rosemary  and  I’d  make  time  to  sit  in  and  watch  Ryan  during  practice  and  the   pre-­‐‑season  games.  It  was  like  watching  a  gladiator.  Those  were  her  words.  Not   mine.  But  I  agreed  one  hundred  percent.  When  he  moved  across  that  field,  he   was  an  imposing  figure.  He  looked  powerful.

It  took  her  a  month  to  ask  us  any  real  personal  questions.  I  couldn’t  answer   them.  Ryan  did  so,  unabashed.  She  lived  vicariously  through  his  stories  of  our   sexual  experiences.  She  wasn’t  one  bit  embarrassed  by  it  either.  Connor  had   conspicuously  gone  by  the  way-­‐‑side  with  her  after  the  birthday  party.  He’d  seen   us  sitting  together  on  the  bleachers,  watching  Ryan.  It  didn’t  appear  he  was   pleased.

The  three  of  us  studied  together.  What  I  wasn’t  good  at,  Rosemary  was.  She   was  a  whiz  at  math,  and  science,  and  sociology.  And  between  the  two  of  us,   Ryan’s  scholastics  got  better.  Mine  too.

She  loved  watching  us  workout.  Ryan’s  father  looked  at  us  like  we  were  the   Three  Stooges.  Like  he  couldn’t  figure  out  what  comedy  was  going  on  between   the  three  of  us.  But  it  worked  for  us.  When  she  was  there,  his  periodic  visits  to   check  in  on  us  got  fewer  and  fewer.  We’d  find  him  later  in  the  living  room,   passed  out  in  a  chair  with  The  Carol  Burnett  Show  on  in  the  background.  His  mom   was  indulging  in  another  late  night  cup  of  coffee  in  the  kitchen.  When  her  back   was  turned,  three  beers  disappeared  from  the  refrigerator  and  reappeared  in  our   hands  in  the  garden.

We  learned  that  Rosemary  was  not  unacquainted  with  the  wonder  of  weed.   She,  in  fact,  had  an  older  sister  whose  boyfriend  dealt,  and  we  occasionally   benefited  from  that  relationship.  Almost  every  weekend  of  September  that  year,   the  three  of  us  had  a  private  camping  party  at  the  back  of  Ryan’s  family’s  lot   where  the  tent  was  pitched  with  a  campfire.  Our  sleeping  bags  were  slung   together.  Ryan  and  me  and  then  her  at  my  back.

I’d  always  awake  with  her  arms  around  the  both  of  us.  Ryan  and  I  would   kiss  first.  She  would  kiss  us  both  last.  She’d  became  an  integral  part  of  my  and   Ryan’s  lives.

I’m  sure  our  school  couldn’t  figure  out  what  was  going  on  between  the  three   of  us  at  all.  The  speculation  had  to  be  insane  seeing  me  hold  hands  with   Rosemary  one  day,  and  then  she  holding  Ryan’s  the  next.  Then  seeing  us  all   together.  I  actually  think  Rosemary  took  delight  in  the  idea  that  two  men  found   her  attractive  and  that  the  three  of  us  were  all  close.  No  one  ever  said  anything   openly  to  our  faces,  and  we  were  never  privy  to  any  gossip,  but  we  knew  it  was   there.  You  could  see  it  in  the  eyes  of  those  passing  by.  I  know  what  I  would  have  thought.  I  still  get  a  private  chuckle  about  this.

The  only  one  appearing  to  not  appreciate  this  seeming  perverse-­‐‑relationship   was  Connor.  The   self-­‐‑ordained  sex  god  of  our  school  manifested  the  body   language  of  a  man  in  full-­‐‑blown  jealous  disgust  and  anger.  It  was  only  because  of   his  relationship  with  Ryan  on  the  team  that  he  seemed  to  be  able  to  control  his   tongue.  Ryan  had  no  difficulty  with  Connor.  He  rarely  paid  much  attention  to   him.  But  Connor  had  a  bone  up  his  butt  about  Ryan.  And  the  concurring  opinion   was  that  it  began  and  ended  with  Rosemary.

It  was  the  week  right  after  school  started  that  the  thing  with  Connor  came  to   a  strange  head.  Ryan  got  starting  quarterback.  Connor  was  second-­‐‑string.  It  was   unexpected.  Even  Ryan  didn’t  anticipate  it.  Connor  was  a  madman  on  the  field.   An  unbeatable  force.  A  lot  of  the  members  of  the  team  had  thought  it  had  been  a  misstep  on  the  coach’s  part.

But  they,  of  course,  had  been  Connor’s  friends.

Our  team  had  won  a  game  against  Southwest.  Or,  more  succinctly,  Ryan  had   won  the  game.  He’d  been  unstoppable.  The  crowd  cheered  his  name  and   number.  His  father  paced  the  bleachers,  letting  everyone  know  it  was  his  son  that   was  the  champion  of  the  game.  Rosemary  and  I  were  just  as  pumped.

I  met  him  in  the  locker  room  to  collect  his  gear.  I  knew  he  had  a  lot  of   celebration  to  still  go  through.  Connor  had  caught  a  glimpse  of  us  there.  I’d  only   touched  his  hand.  If  I’d  been  a  teammate,  it  would  have  meant  nothing.  But  I   wasn’t.  And  that  meant  a  hell  of  a  lot  more  in  Connor’s  eyes.  When  we  saw  him,  he  turned  away  quickly.  Was  out  of  the  room  in  a  flash.  I  grabbed  the  gear  and   began  the  walk  to  Ryan’s  dad’s  car.

I  heard  the  tromping  footfalls  behind  me  all  the  way  from  the  gymnasium.  I   knew  the  heavy  body  that  made  that  thudding  sound.  And  I  knew  it  was  trouble.   The  bad  feeling  permeated  the  early  autumn  air.  The  leaves  under  my  feet crunched  fast.  His  crunched  faster.  I  tried  to  move  steadily  ahead  of  him.  But  as  I  did,  he  compensated.

Just  as  I  reached  the  car,  hands  gripped  my  collar  and  spun  me  around.  No   surprise.  The  hostile  face  of  Connor  breathed  fire  into  mine.  Lines  much  older   than  he  owned  were  etched  in  his  flesh.  Flames  blew  out  the  whites  of  his  eyes.   Teeth  ground.  There  was  one  undeniable  truth  in  his  complexion.  He  did  not  like   me.  His  white  knuckles  glared  in  my  vision.  “I  got  something  to  say  to  you,   faggot.  Don’t  try  to  run  away  from  me.”  Spit  blasted  against  my  face.  “You  guys   think  you’re  fooling  all  of  us  hanging  around  with  Rosemary  and  all,  but  you   ain’t  fooling  nobody.  We’ve  seen  your  cutesy-­‐‑pie  heart  necklaces  and  the  way   you’re  always  together,  using  her  to  make  us  think  you’re  not.  But  we  know.  We   know.

“You’re  nothing  but  a  couple  of  queers.  And  I  don’t  know  who  alls  dick  you   guys  sucked  to  make  him  quarterback,  but  this  ain’t  gonna  stand.  Fairies  don’t   get  to  suck  their  way  to  the  top,  and  your  cock-­‐‑sucking  buddy  is  gonna  go  down.   You  hear that?’

“Hey,  sweetie!”  It  was  Rosemary’s  voice.  Oddly  lilting.  Strangely  menacing.

Connor  shifted  to  look  at  her.  His  face  crumpled  in  the  next  second  as  I  saw   the toe  of  her  boot  catch  his  crotch  straight  on.  He  tried  to  keep  to  his  feet,  but   couldn’t.  His  knees  struck  the  asphalt  of  the  parking  lot.  Air  expulsed.

She  kicked  him  again.  Then,  she  pushed  him  to  the  ground.  It  all  happened   in  a matter  of  seconds.

“You  bigoted  piece  of  pig-­‐‑shit!”  she  screamed,  kneeling  beside  him.  Her  face   was  next  to  his,  looking  like  a  devil  Halloween  mask.  If  the  devil  was  a  girl.

Veins  had  popped  in  relief  all  over  his  face.  Big  and  blue  and  pulsating.  He   was gagging,  sucking  air.  She  smacked  him  in  the  face  with  the  back  of  her  hand.  The welt  was  the  perfect  shape  of  her  fingers.

“You  wanna  play  that  queer  game,  buddy?  Do  you?  Do  you  really?”  She   was  centimeters  from  his  face.  “Here’s  what  we’ll  do  if  you  want  to  play  that   game.  You  open  your  ugly,  sick  mouth  of  yours  again,  I  will  tell  everyone  I  left   you  because  you  got  drunk  and  I  caught  you  offering  to  give  my  guys  both  a   blow  job.  How’s  that  sound?  And  I’ll  be  graphic.  They  will  believe.”

She  grabbed  his  jaw.  “Do  you  want  to  play  that  game?”

He  turned  to  his  side,  out  of  her  grasp,  an  earlier  dinner  of  burger  and  fries   spewed  suddenly  from  his  mouth.  He  shook  his  head  repeatedly.  He  muttered   unintelligible  words.

“Good,”  she  said,  standing  up.  “I’m  glad  we  can  say  we  mutually  broke  up   because  it  just  wasn’t  working.”

I  threw  the  gear  in  the  car  and  we  left  him  there.  Rosemary  walked  like  a   triumphant  crusader.

If  one  ever  has  had  a  doubt  about  what  true  friendship  meant,  if  there  was   ever an  uncertainty  to  how  a  friend  should  stand  against  the  odds  for  another,  all   anyone  had  to  do  was  witness  an  episode  of  courage  like  this.

I  was  speechless.  For  fifteen  minutes,  I  was  speechless.  We  sat  at  the  end  of   the  bleachers,  away  from  all  the  activities  while  I  tried  to  absorb  what  had  just   transpired.  Rosemary  bummed  a  cigarette  off  a  passerby,  and  we  shared  a   smoke.  Her  fingers  shook  as  she  handed  it  to  me.  I  could  only  imagine  the   adrenalin  surge  coursing  through  her  veins.

Finally,  I  said,  “Okay.  Wow.  You’re  Wonder  Woman.  Why  did  I  not  know   this?”

“I’m  not  Wonder  Woman.  I  just  don’t  understand  that  Neanderthal  attitude.   The  world  has  enough  troubles  and  lies  and  pain.”   She  reached  over  and   touched  my  leg.  The  cigarette  jittered  in  her  fingers.  “Why  people  would  try  to   hurt  people  who  can  actually  find  love  in  this  mess  makes  no  sense  to  me  at  all.  You  have  to  be  pretty  sub-­‐‑human  to  be  against  what  we’re  all  looking  for  in  life.   That’s  something  to  bust  your  knuckles  for.”

My  eyes  saw  her  beauty.  Completely.  “You’re  very  special,  girl.”

“You  made  me  believe,  David,”  she  said,  voice  just  a  shadow.  “You  guys   found  love  inside  all  these  obstacles.  That  gives  hope  to  all  of  us  with  far  less  to   overcome.  Do  you  know  how  powerful  that  is?”

“So  why  did  you  break  up  with  Connor?”  I  knew  I  was  prying.  But  I  had  to   know  why.

“Five  minutes  or  five  years  version?”  she  asked,  a  sarcastic  edge  to  her  voice.  “Okay,  five  minutes.  I  experienced  my  first  love  with  you.  You  made  me  see   myself  differently.  Made  me  want  to  be  something  different.  I  was  transported   from  the  boring  life  I  lived  to  the  one  I  imagined  with  you.  I  would  have  given   everything  because  you  became  my  everything.  It  was  a  revelation  about  myself,   David.  We  all  define  it  differently  in  our  own  heads.  But  it’s  a  rapturous  moment   to  know  how  wonderfully  strong  our  feeling  can  become  for  someone  other  than   ourselves.  How  we  can  become  entwined  with  another.”  She  stood.  “Can  we   walk?”

We  walked  out  into  the  football  field  that  was  still  full  of  chucks  and  holes   from  the  game.  She  suddenly  dropped,  sat  yoga-­‐‑style,  and  pulled  me  down  to   join  her.

“When  what  happened  with  us  happened,  I  felt  like  shit.  Lower  than  shit…”   I  deemed  it  necessary  in  interject  my  apology  again.

She  waved  it  away.  “We  know  why.  There’s  no  apology  needed  there.  It’s   just  one  of  those  things  that  pushes  us  from  here  to  there.  And  it  pushed  me  into   thinking  I  needed  to  prove  something  about  myself.  My  value,  I  guess.  I  don’t   know  what.  But  Connor  came  along,  and  people  made  me  feel  like  he  was   important,  and  that  I’d  be  something  better  and  different  if  I  was  with  him.  Except…that  I  wasn’t.  I  was  a  number  to  him  like  someone  waiting  in  line  at  the   delicatessen  to  buy  some  Pastrami.”

Her  eyes  twinkled.  She  searched  for  my  hand  and  found  it.  “The  night  of   Ryan’s  party  when  I  heard  you  two  in  the  garden,  I  learned  more  about  myself  in   five  minutes  than  I’ve  ever  known.  Love  doesn’t  happen  because  you  find  the   right  bricks  and  cement  to  build  it.  Love  really  is…pure  magic.  It  comes  from”— she  gestured  toward  the  heavens—”out  there.  And  it  falls  like  pixie  dust   wherever  it  wants.  And  when  it  does…you  can  fly.”






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