Friday afternoon had the promise of freedom in the air, and every ass wiggled in its seat as we waited for the last class to end. Okay, maybe I was the only one wiggling, but just looking outside, would make anyone want to be out of school. Economics had to be the most boring thing on the face of the earth. Picking out socks excites me more. Why do I need this for a journalism degree anyway?
Finally, the teacher warden, err, teacher dismissed us. Naturally we were saddled with more reading from the that ponderous tome they jokingly call a textbook. I headed out of the building at a pretty quick clip. Nick broke from a crowd of people and flagged me down.
“Kody! What are you doing tonight?” he asked as he closed the distance.
I shrugged. “Avoiding my Economics book, mostly,“ I replied.
“There’s a free concert in the park, and some of us are going. Let’s hang out tonight.”
I looked over at his group of friends, many in lacrosse jerseys, and thought about how my last chat with someone from the Lacrosse team had gone.
“You know, I think I’ll pass,” I told him.
“Kody, you have to go.”
“See that guy with the black hair and the killer grin? No, the one on the left?” he asked as he tried to not be conspicuous.
“What about him?”
“His name is Steve, and he is totally hot!” Nick made a moony expression in Steve’s general direction.
“What does that have to do with me?” I asked.
“I need you to chaperone, you know, in case he turns out to be a dick.” He looked at me as if I should have known this.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked uncomfortably. After all, I’d never done this before.
“If I give you the signal, you go into a fake epileptic seizure or something.” He burst out laughing at my expression. “Kidding! You just remind me we have someplace to be, and it gives me an out.”
“Um,” I said while Nick gave me the his best puppy dog eyes.
“Please, Kody? I’ll go tell Jake you like him if you don’t help me.” He looked at me with a serious face.
“That is so not fair! In fact, it’s blackmail.”
“You are making me be bad, Kody,” he said, and then laughed at me.
“Would you really tell him that?”
“Only if you asked me to.”
“I’d feel better about things in general if I had some kind of sign about Jake. I just can’t shake him from my thoughts.”
“Research.” Nick grinned.
“Do some research and see what you can find out about your guy. Might give you a clue about whether or not you want to chance getting over your shy little self.”
“You’re funny. Not.” I replied.
“Serious, man, go find out which building he lives in and then talk to his RA. They might know something.”
A shadow crossed the sun, and I felt the gravitational pull of Roy as he stepped out from behind me. Roy joined us moments later, flashing a welcoming grin. It seemed he too would rather be outside than in class, clad in shorts and a tee shirt that showed he indeed was as solid as he appeared, and not a trace of learning to be seen. No books, no pens or note books. Just the planet Roy, settling into orbit.
“Hi, Roy, do you know Nick?” I asked.
“Yeah, you were with the drunken loud mouth guy at the party last week, right?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, but he’s usually not that bad; only when he drinks.”
“Okay, no more for your buddy then. Kody, I’ll see you about eight, and thanks.” Nick flashed me a grin and took off. He was perfectly nice, good looking and sane. Why wasn’t I attracted to him like I was Jake?
“Going out tonight?” Roy asked me.
“Yeah, I guess I am.” Roy gave me a look and I felt guilty. “I’m sorry, Roy. We’re just going to the park. Nick says there is a free concert there. Do you want to go?” I asked. Roy’s face lit up and I felt very good about myself. His face went from being enlightened to what might pass for thoughtful, or maybe he just had gas.
“Maybe I’ll meet you there. Would it be ok if Jake comes too?” he asked.
Oh no, how did I get myself into this? Stupid, stupid, stupid! All I needed was to act like a freaking goofball with Jake in a place with tons of people.
“Uh, well, I guess I’d have to ask Nick if it was okay,” I responded weakly. He looked at me with what might be termed a thoughtful expression. It was kind of interesting to see this huge lug working something out in his mind. I imagined his thought processes required much the same effort moving boulders would.
“Why don’t you like Jake?”
“Is that what he thinks?"
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “Jake’s smarter than me. I don’t know what he thinks. But you get…different when I talk about him.”
“Well,” I said as I shifted from foot to foot, “I was pretty embarrassed about the way I left things with him.” Jesus, I was talking out my feelings with a Neolithic Dr. Ruth.
“I don’t understand.” I looked at him and wondered exactly what went on in his head.
“Don’t worry about it. I am going to go home and get changed. I’ll see you there, okay?” I felt very weird as I left Roy. I wonder how much Jake confided in Roy, the immovable object. I wandered home, idly thinking about Jake and his sidekick. Roy seemed more and more like a faithful dog— -- maybe not the brightest dog, but loyal none the less.
I wandered into my apartment, pulling off my tee shirt and dropping it in the laundry hamper. I would need to do laundry this weekend. I grabbed a fresh pair of my illicit underwear and took a shower so I’d look presentable for the concert. After combing my hair and getting that little flip in the front back in place, I flipped switched on my radio and lay down on the couch.
The radio was playing back to back songs by the same artist for ‘the drive at five’ as they called it. Cher’s “Dark Lady” floated through the air and I sighed. I knew I would have to get dressed soon. I stretched, enjoying the feel of my mostly bare skin on the couch. The song changed, and the second Cher tune came on, “Song for the Broken Hearted”. I sighed deeply again.
“Kody!” My door handle jiggled and the door popped open. “I told you about….Oops!” Nick laughed and covered his eyes, then cracked his fingers to get a look at me. I was horrified as I scuttled to my bedroom to the sounds of his laughter.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he gasped as he laughed at me and I glared at my closed bedroom door.
“Don’t you knock?” I yelled at him. I pulled on some cargo shorts and grabbed a tee shirt, then grabbed my shoes and ankle socks before going back into the living room to find a grinning Nick.
“I really am sorry to have embarrassed you, Kody. I heard the Cher, and I told you no moping over Jake if you don’t have the ‘nuts cojones’ to go after him!” Nick emphasized this by pantomiming carrying objects roughly the size of bowling balls near his crotch.
“Whether or not I go after Jake is no one’s business but my own. Besides, he could go after me too, you know.”
“Well, don’t get your panties in a twist, although I admit those boxer briefs looked damn fine on you.” Nick licked his upper lip and I threw my balled up socks at him.
“You’re not going dressed like that are you?” Nick asked as I searched for the armhole in my shirt.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. He looked at me critically.
“Come with me, my young Padawan. What if Jake is there?” Nick clucked at me and headed for my bedroom.
“Where are you going?”
“Kody, can I be honest here?” Nick asked while looking at me, then continued without waiting for my reply. “You have a nice body, and I think Jake appreciates that. But what if you dressed to take his breath away tonight, huh? Let’s just try to blow him away. I mean, let’s look in your closet and see what we have to work with, okay?” Nick rifled through my hanging clothes while I stared at him.
“Nick, I don’t even know if Jake likes me.”
“Of course he does. Why else would he call me for your number?”
“He called you for my number?”
Nick appeared to be in deep thought then handed me a blue button-up shirt, shot through with black thread. It had a shimmer to it that wasn’t silk, but it looked nice.
“Let’s see how this looks on you,” he said.
“Nick, he called you for my phone number?”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
“He didn’t call me though.”
“Will you put on the damn shirt?”
I took the shirt from his outstretched hand and slipped it on. The material was cool as it slid across my skin. I turned to face him once I had it buttoned.
“Okay, take off the shorts.”
I stood looking at him.
“Okay, fine. I’ll look for pants while you take ‘em off, jeez!” He grinned and, taking his eyes away from my waist, began going through my closet again. I took off the shorts, then cleared my throat.
“What?” he said, popping his head out of the closet; I blushed as his eyes dropped to my legs before speaking.
“Pants are in the dresser, second drawer.”
“Huh? Oh, right.” He crossed the room and opened the dresser, rooting around for a proper choice. He straightened up with a pair of khaki colored cargoes. “We need to iron these. You stay here. I’ll iron, I don’t need any distractions or I’ll burn your pants,” he joked.
I felt good that Nick was paying me this attention, but when did Jake get the phone number? More importantly, why hadn’t he called? Why did he get the phone number if he wasn’t going to use it? My pants flew through the doorway and landed on my head.
“Cover yourself, you pervert!” Nick laughed. I pulled on the pants and walked into the living room where Nick was waiting.
“Damn, Kody!” Nick whistled at me, and I blushed again. “If Steve’s a dick, I’m jumping you tonight!”
“Nick, when did Jake ask you for my number?”
“Monday I think….yeah, Monday.” Nick tossed me the socks I had thrown at him, and, as I slipped them on, I thought about Monday. The phone rang several times, a bunch of no answers and then Charlie called….Oh my God! Could I have yelled at Jake on the phone after Charlie had pissed me off? Wait a minute.
“Why did Jake call you for my number?”
“I don’t know, He didn’t say.”
I sighed. “So do I look okay?”
Nick gave me a critical eye, told me to turn around and I complied, feeling silly. Once I had completed my turn, he looked at me as though thinking deeply. His eyes met mine and he waved his hand in a circular manner.
“Do that again?”
I walked over to the campus and headed for the first dorm, Iroquois, and I approached the beat-up desk in the lobby. My mission here was simple with a simple mission in mind --— follow Nick’s advice and get some information on my crush.
“Can I help you?” a girl with lank brown hair and an industrial strength acne problem asked me.
“I’m looking for Jake….Uh...” It dawned on me I didn’t know his last name. Oh shit! Now I looked like an idiot! The door behind me opened and a very tall girl with red hair walked to the desk with a sheaf of papers.
“Hi Kate, I have the weekly memos,” she said while handing pages to the now identified Kate.
“Thanks Erin.” Kate returned her gaze to me. “We don’t have any Jake’s.”
“Right, thanks,” I said, feeling I got off easy.
“Are you looking for Jake Sheridan?” the red-head asked.
“I’m really not sure what his last name is.” I looked at her. How could she know Jake? I hoped she wasn’t his girlfriend.
“Blond hair, pretty smile and big beautiful blue eyes?” I blushed with each descriptive she added. That was Jake all right! “So that would then make you Kody, the coffee boy?”
My jaw dropped.
“Yep, must be you.” She smiled at me. “Jake lives in Mohawk --, room number five -oh -three. Come on, I’ll show you where it is.”
I followed her in a daze. How did she know who I was?
“So you’re the strong silent type, huh?” she asked.
“Um, how do you know me?” I blurted out.
“You mean Jake didn’t mention me?”
“Well...” I began.
“Don’t worry. I’ll get even with him. You guys going out tonight?” she asked as we approached a building with metal letters bolted to the side of the wall, naming this building Mohawk.
“Well, I don’t think....” I was cut off again.
“You guys will look so cute together,” she went through the door and I stopped. If she thought we were going out and that’s we’d look good together, then he must be gay. And she knew how I was, so that meant that Jake must have talked about me. Cute together? This girl was one of Jake’s confidantes! She just told me Jake likes me. He’s interested! In me!
I turned from the building and walked back to my apartment with a grin plastered on my face. Jake liked me! Jake Sheridan really likes me! She thought we’d look cute together, so he was gay and he likes me!
I took the stairs to my floor two at a time and burst into Nick’s unlocked apartment. I heard the shower running and poked my head into the bathroom.
“Jake likes me! Jake Sheridan likes me!” I danced out of the room and I heard laughter from the bathroom as the shower shut off. I twirled around the living room with a grin plastered to my face. Maybe this time I had a chance! Nick came out wrapped in just a towel and I hopped off the couch and hugged him.
“Jake likes me!”
“Yeah, I figured when you said it a minute ago!” he laughed. I let him go and gave him a huge smile. “How did you find out?”
“I took your advice and went to the dorms. This girl he talks to, she gave it away. She said we’d look good together and asked me if we were going out tonight. Jake told her he was interested in me! I might actually have a chance with him!”
“That’s awesome, Kody!” We slapped high five, bumped knuckles and he went to get changed. I went to my apartment floating on cloud nine.
I walked around my apartment straightening knickknacks and moving small things so that they were arranged just so. I whistled as I did so, checked my watch and danced a little from spot to spot in my living room. I was hoping to see Jake at the concert tonight. That single thought ruled my mind. I checked my watch again before straightening some books. I sat down, checked my watch, and then stood back up. The nervous energy in my body wouldn’t allow me to rest. I finally locked my apartment and walked next door, checking my watch once again and realizing dimly only twelve minutes had passed. I went back to my apartment and forced myself to wait ten more minutes before going next door. I entered Nick’s apartment with a quick rap on the door.
“So? How do I look?” Nick turned for me. Nick had chosen a silky green button up to accentuate his eyes. Cream colored cargo’s with ox-blood loafers and a choker of small white seashells completed the outfit. His chest was hinted at, and the pants were enough to make you interested in what they actually concealed.
I placed my hand on my chin, appearing to be in thought. “I dunno, turn again?
“Ass! Let’s go!”
Washington Park was in downtown Albany, located just a few blocks from Lark Street. Nick explained that Lark was significant because it was the gay section of the city. Each year they held the Larkfest which was like a block party with rides and food. This free concert was part of an effort to revitalize downtown and, by association, Washington Park.
Continuing his tour guide act, Nick explained that Washington Park was the home of the Park Playhouse, an outdoor theatre that provided free shows throughout the summer months. A small amphitheater provided seating space and lawn chairs were in place for the corporate sponsors. The playhouse was done for the year, but the park was still green and the weather --— in the mid sixties— -- couldn’t have been more accommodating.
We strolled up Central Avenue, past Deja View and various other businesses. We chatted idly, people swarmed around us to catch their busses home or rushing to their cars. Posters dotted the lamp posts on the way to the park, advertising the food, beer and live music. A banner stretched across the intersection of Lark and Central, again advertising the event.
We crossed the street at the intersection with Lark and walked up Central a couple more blocks before turning left onto Henry Johnson Blvd. The park stretched out before us. The stage loomed in the distance as we headed towards the east side of the park.
“Steve said we could meet by the middle of the park on the east side. I guess his apartment is just off the park.” Nick scanned the crowd for his date, unconsciously wiping his hands on his pants as he did so. It was kind of funny to see someone like Nick nervous, someone normally so confident and outgoing.
“Nick!” Steve waved to us and Nick smiled widely in reply. He waved back and called a greeting as we closed the distance. Steve had a couple people with him. I had to admit he was pretty darn attractive. Couldn’t hold a candle to Jake, of course, but, all in all, he wasn’t bad.
I quickly faded to the edges of the group, introduced and forgotten. Steve was turning out to be quite the gentleman and, since it seemed that Nick didn’t need me to do anything drastic, I decided to look around. The astute observer might think I was just looking for Jake. Well that would be completely true. I wandered into the crowd, stopping to get a soda from a vendor. $4.75 for a soda? No wonder the concert was free! The soda was worth its weight in gold!
I turned, soda in hand, and spotted the banner for tonight’s band. Jake. Well, if I was looking for a sign, you can’t get one more to the point than that, now can you? The girl who seemed to be the lead singer attempted to get the crowd warmed up before launching into their first set. They rocked out a nice sound--, strong lyrics and a driving beat.
I spotted Roy in the crowd, easy to identify with his stiff movements, making him look like a creature made of stone and brought to life. His head swiveled mechanically, ; I imagined small ball bearings and a grease fitting at the nape of his neck to keep it all in working order. He waded through the sea of mingling, dancing bodies. Didn’t he know you were supposed to dance while on the dance floor? I headed towards him as the band broke into a slow lament. The concert-goers separated allowing me to see Jake next to Roy. He was in profile to me, the setting sun in the west glowing like a corona round him. The sunset paled in comparison to my Jake, for I knew for once in my life that I had a chance, that it wasn’t just some idiot fantasy.
I steeled my nerves as I walked to him while the song played. The sweetness of the lyrics rang true, the end of the song as it hung in the evening air still clings in my memory.
I watched him as I approached, framed by the sunburst behind him, and all I could think was that, of all the things made by nature, this was the most beautiful. Of all the boys I had seen, he was the sweetest by far. Of all the times my heart has swelled....this time it was real, this time I wouldn’t have to cry myself to sleep.
As I closed the distance, I began to raise my arm and finally placed it on his bare forearm. The skin was as smooth and warm as I had imagined it would be, but somehow even more so. He turned to face me, his eyes so blue and shimmering with unshed tears. My heart broke for the lost expression on his face, a look that declared he was adrift in a sea of emotions. I felt our eyes lock, and my body was frozen in place as the song trailed off. Cheers went up in the crowd and a new song started, some of the moment broken, but not all of it -- —not by a long shot.
“Hi,” I said to him. He blinked, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, um, better now.” His face broke into a smile that showed the love Mother Nature put into making this boy.
“That’s good.” I returned his smile, feeling so lucky to have him here.
I stared into his eyes, mesmerized by his presence and feeling my reserves faltering. My mind was screaming to ask him out, but what if I was wrong? What if he said no? I noted his face, his beautiful face and realized that he was tongue tied as well. What if he said yes? What then?
“So, um, Jake would you like to go get….um, something to eat….with me?” I looked up at him with my stomach having more than butterflies— -- maybe more like birds. Or Pterodactyls.
“That sounds….um, great.” Jake smiled at me, and I felt my joints weaken a bit. I smiled at him, and my heart soared. He said yes!
Jake said yes!