Saturday, August 05, 2006

My best school friend

My best friend in school, from third grade to the end of high school, was a guy I'll call 'Tony.' His family moved out here after the school year had already started, and I showed him around. Here's the bathroom, here's the merry-go-round, this is Kathy; Run away from her, because she tries to kiss boys.

The day I met Tony, we encountered his older brother 'Charlie' on the playground at recess. Charlie checked up on Tony, asked how he was doing, in a fatherly way. Tony said "You don't have to be my friend anymore, Charlie. He's my friend now," he said, indicating me. I was a bit shocked, because I didn't know if I would even be friends with this kid.

But he was right, and by the end of the year we were inseparable. After third grade they moved us both into the gifted program. Miss Apple must have nominated us. I recall a for-fun exercise in which you were supposed to circle all the words you found inside another word. I went up and asked Miss Apple if you could also circle the main word itself. She put her finger to her lips: "Hush!" I bet every kid circled the main word after that. I also bet that Tony and I had the highest scores.

Miss Apple liked Tony best, and on the last day of school told him a secret: She was getting married, and would come back the next year as Mrs. Prune. When Tony told me this I said, "Yeah I know, she told me too." That was a LIE!

Being put in the gifted program was not without consequences. I came to feel that we were the normal kids, and that kids in other classes were more rowdy, nasty, and violent. I didn't use the word 'barbarian' to describe them, but they were Visigoths.

Another consequence was when my former best friend from kindergarten to second grade happened to run into me, Tony, and fat Mike one day while we were waiting for a transfer school bus. 'Randy' was none too smart, and he was also gay, in my later estimation. When we were in first grade, he got so turned on when I imitated the voice of one of the many 'girlfriends' he bragged about having, that he tried to pull my pants down and bugger me. He freaked out when I started yelling "No!" and gave it up, so that I would be quiet. In second grade, Scott told me that he and Randy would bugger each other. He said it was fun, urged me to try it. I declined. For one thing, my underwear was usually packed with my own dung, but for another, the idea just seemed too yucky.

So the day that Randy saw me with Tony and Mike, he asked me if I liked being at the other school (where the gifted program was). I said yes, and the most bizarre thing happened: I saw tears well up in Randy's eyes. He always made such a big deal out of being macho. And now tears. I turned away for some reason, but Mike had also seen it, and later commented on it. I guess Randy loved me. But he was a liar and manipulator, so I'm glad I didn't see much of him again until high school, when he was on the football team. I once overheard the quarterback scoff that Randy had cried when some guy hit him. I briefly felt loyalty to Randy until I realized that I no longer knew him.

Kathy once crawled after Tony and me on the merry-go-round, trying to kiss us. We got away. By high school she was a lush, fully-developed young woman with a fantastic smile. Tony and I both agreed that we should have let her catch us.

Tony was a good guy, honest, smart, careful of others' feelings. All of the kids in his family were very smart, and achievers. Tony was smart, but he had his own plan for life. He called himself "lazy." And in a family of such stars, his father, I hear, would ridicule him. I also treated him like trash too much of the time. Charlie told me when we were grown that they all had.

In sixth grade, everyone, even the teacher, ridiculed Tony. One time, blaming him for some bullying the Visigoths were inflicting on me, I got him from behind in an elbow choke hold across his windpipe while he was seated. The dominant boy whose in-group I was always begging to join laughed that Tony had turned purple, and in another minute would have been brain-dead.

In seventh grade, the epiphany. Tony and Carl had always been nice to me, and the dominant boy was ridiculing me yet again. So I tried to kick his shins -- and marched over to sit down with Tony and Carl. I completely shunned the dominant boy after that, and focused my friendship on Tony. I had learned that friendship is about being friends, not a pyramid of monkeys crapping on each other.

I don't know who I would have become if Tony and Carl had not been sitting there the moment I became enraged at the dominators.

When we entered high school, Kevin told me that "some of us" were watching to see if Tony and I would continue being such close friends in high school, because it might mean we were fags. Crucially, Kevin did not use the word 'fag,' but various circumlocutions. Based on this, and despite his various statements about digging chicks, I now declare that Kevin was a fag.

I sat Tony down on a remote bench and explained that since I didn't want people to think we were fags, we couldn't hang out anymore. This may have lasted a week, until I gradually drifted back to Tony. After all, he was my friend.

I was very short, and super-scrawny through most of high school. Tony was skinny, but of more normal height.

One of his older brothers was popular, and on the swim team. He flirted once with a blonde bombshell and Tony said "Gosh, did you hear what he said? I could never do that!"

I was jealous and annoyed when Tony joined the swim team. He soon developed muscles that were visible in the team photo. But in all things he was modest. In the team photo, he looked bashful. He often said that he had an "inferiority complex."

Looking back on it now, I ridiculed him and his thinking the way my father ridiculed my mother. I hierarchically feminized him in our friendship.

He was a good friend, important and valuable. I don't know what kind of jerk I would have developed into had it not been for him.

Fast forward. After high school we lost touch. He was so handsome, like a young Harrison Ford, that I didn't want to introduce him to my girlfriends. I avoided him for that reason. One time, he talked about living in a gay neighborhood, and how he knew what it felt like for women to be constantly hounded by men. He imitated them saying "Come on, you know you want it!" No, he didn't, he said.

I was at his wedding to a vivacious, cheery woman. I took the bus. I had no money. I saw both of his sisters there, and thought about how hot they were. I briefly spoke to one guest, and for weeks afterwards entertained foolish romantic notions about her.

He and his wife both went into the same field, and he rose to become a program director, while she developed psychiatric problems and divorced him a couple of years ago.

He's been over to our house a couple of times since then. He looks fabulous. Handsome, well-dressed, nice lustrous long hair.

"The ladies must be crawling all over you!" I said, a couple of times. Later he replied to my similar statement in email by saying that, as for the ladies, he's been dating only men since the divorce. I gather that he lives with his boyfriend.

In a better world this last bit would not matter, nor be worthy of much comment. But this isn't a better world, it's one where I grew up screaming about how ridiculous 'fags' are.

So, my best friend in school has a side that appreciates men. Does that mean I should write yet more in this entry, as I search myself for signs of gayness? No need: I have plenty of signs of gayness (if stereotypes have any merit). I just happen to dig chicks.
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