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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