There’s a feeling you get – a feeling that flushes from your heart to your head, and eventually down to your lower body. The feeling overtakes you and makes you want to stomp. Makes you want to look in the mirror and say, “you’re the one.” That’s the feeling you get when you’re about to see that boy.
So here you are, getting ready in your room. About to see him one last time before graduation, before life, eventually, gets in the way, in the way of what you feel might be real. You blast on Santigold. A song that you love. A song that you know he loves too. It takes balls to go up to a guy, I admit. But it takes a full-beating heart to go up to the guy that takes your breath away, almost without trying.
He has tried. You’ve noticed, and what at first seemed like a delusion, turns out to be… sparks. He feels it as strongly as you do, you’re sure. How else can you explain this feeling? And so, you’ve resolved that, with this knowledge, you’re going to blast your feelings just as loud as the music in your room – all packed up in boxes containing remnants of a past life, a college boy eager to find his path.
Nothing sets the heart beating faster than a ticking clock. With mere hours left before college comes and goes, it’s either act or let go.
You walk into the dive bar in downtown Chicago. It smells, but it’s what your senior class decided to make the final stop. Immediately – because we all know you’re your confident veneer shields a sensitive and insecure soul inside – you dash to your friends, the girls and boys that you’ve accepted, after many classes and many more drinks, “get you” – as incomprehensible and complex and superficial and extreme and perfectly broken that you are.
And because they get you, they rally you on. They know that you’re ready to talk to Boy in Color. But this talk is unlike any other you’ve had before. This talk is about context and consequence. You want to let him know how you feel.
Boy in Color is hanging on to his friends, the girls and boys that “get him.” So after taking a big gulp of your well drink, gin and tonic perhaps, you walk over by the jukebox to try to infiltrate his group, so that maybe you can be one of the boys that “gets him” too. You sense the air between the two of you thickens as you walk closer, as if a barrier you must break before finally getting to him. But you don’t stop. You keep walking.
In the midst of drunken bodies, you see him notice you. Flashing a quick smile that brightens up his face, Boy in Color puts down his drink and dashes to meet you. He’s excited to see you, and you break the barrier with a wholehearted hug.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” he says loudly over the music.
“Yeah, I had lots of packing to do, but I couldn’t miss this,” you reply signaling to the sea of familiar faces flooding the bar, ordering drinks, laughing in
unison, former roommates and former flings, classmates and best friends, excited to be finally done with college and scared that it’s all over.
“So when are you leaving?” You ask to keep the conversation going.
“Well, I finished moving out of my apartment earlier this week. Right now, I’m staying with a friend downtown for a few days.”
“Do you have any plans for what you’re doing after that?”
“I’m going home for, like, a month. Then it’s off to Buenos Aires for who-knows-how-long. That’s as much of a plan as I’ve got,” Boy in Color says with a smirk. “How about you? Back to New York City?”
“No… not yet. I think I’m moving to San Francisco. I mean, it’s not like I have a job there, or anywhere for that matter.”
“Man, I’d love to move to San Francisco.”
You take a sip from your gin and tonic and a picture flashes in your head of you and him living in San Francisco, together. You turn around and take another look at the crowd. A face splashes to the surface, one that you don’t recognize. This glowing face belongs to a tall guy with spiky, almost plastic, dark blond hair. He spots Boy in Color, and smiles with his crooked teeth. As he approaches, Boy in Color puts his arm around your shoulder and leans in to whisper, “Oh, there’s the friend I’m staying with.”
“Did he go to school with us?”
“No. He’s older; lives around here. I met him a couple of months ago.” Then he stalls, not sure if he wants to share this last part: “I guess he thinks we’re seeing each other.”
“What makes him think that?”
But before Boy in Color can answer, Crooked Smile shoves himself onto him to give him a hug. He stands back and looks at you as if you were some alien from outer space. Right after Boy in Color introduces you, you make an excuse and head towards the restroom. Never a good idea to come clean to your crush while his part-time lover imposes in with his harsh hugs, infiltrating your sparks with his stinging cologne.
About an hour later, you notice that Crooked Smile has not left his side. And all you want is a minute alone, a minute to clear the air so that you can go to San Francisco and he can go to Buenos Aires and nothing was left unsaid. So you resort to your old trusted pal – your pack of Parliaments. You walk back to Boy in Color and nudge his arm.
“Smoke?” You ask inviting him out with you in the most friendly of forms.
“I quit smoking.”
“Oh, come on! One cigarette?” You are tempted to add a “For old time’s sake,” but stop yourself out of fear of sounding like a total sap.
Boy in Color takes a second and then smiles and walks towards you, grabbing your pack and taking a cigarette. The patio is mostly empty, and you can’t picture a better opportunity. Enough small talk, you take the plunge.
“So why are you staying with that guy?”
“You think he sucks?”
“You’re right. He does suck. But I invited him here, I have to stay with him.”
“You don’t have stay with him,” you say, almost imploring. You look directly into his eyes and repeat it. “Don’t stay with him,” you go on, “stay with me. Tonight.” And you don’t have to say anything else. Whatever he might have suspected of a mutual attraction, his eyes and your words have made it apparent. He keeps looking at you, taking his time before saying another word. And at this point, his response is almost inconsequential. It feels so good to let the air between you dissolve so smoothly. Tonight was about you letting him know and letting him go.
Several people stumble out and join you on the patio. Friends of friends surround you and you lose the intimacy. But after such a loaded conversation, you appreciate the frivolity. Boy in Color turns to them and shushes them down. Apparently, he has something to declare to the group. You’re smiling and smoking and happy.
“I just want to say… what a great guy Oscar is.” Yep, he’s talking about you. “I hate that college is over, if only because I won’t get to hang out with you more often.” You start to blush. “And I want you to know,” now he’s looking at you, “that no matter how far away I am, you can always count on me for anything. And I mean that… anything.”
Your drunken friends cheer him on, and the outdoor party moves back in to order another round of drinks.
Now the night is coming to a close. You grab your jacket from the pile that’s accumulated on one of the tables and make your way to say your goodbyes. Boy in Color notices that you’re getting ready to go. He closes his left eye and points at you as if aiming a gun. You walk over and give him a hug, gentler than when you first saw him earlier that night but just as warm.
“I’ll see you again?” you ask in a soft whisper while he’s still holding on to you.
And with his signature smirk, he replies: “In living color.”