Oh, yeah. Take it off. Take that helmet off for me. Show me what you got.
Okay. Oh, Christ, the way the breeze caresses that sweaty hair is magic, turn my way. Please baby, please. Just another couple of degrees...
Snick, Caleb took the picture and waited for the next opportunity.
Yeah, that's it. Now let me see that shy grin... Ah, God, there it is. That's my pretty boy. Yeah, baby. Pout for me... That lower lip is yummy, mister. Give it a nibble, will you? Use those pretty white Chiclet teeth of yours and--
"Are you perving on number seven again?" Erin asked, raising her voice to be heard over the marching band. Decked out with sprigs of holly on their hats, they played the March of the Toys in a Christmas-themed, slightly too ambitious show.
"No, I am not perving on number seven. I do not perve. I appreciate when I see the skillful hand of the creator and I applaud a work of art in nature as I would any object of art in a mus--"
"You're totally sporting wood right now. I have seen wood before and that sir, is wood."
Geez. Caleb flushed and shifted his position to hide it. Was it that noticeable? "Will you shut up already?"
They weren't kids anymore or anything. A visit from the boner fairy was nothing new, but seriously, did she have to point it out?
"I don't think so. No. A gay man's gal pal does not shut up in this situation. A gay man's gal pal asks what are you thinking? Every single person in this school already knows you pop wood for our varsity QB and I promise you, in his case QB does not stand for queer boy as much as it stands for quickly broken--as in every bone in your body--if he finds out you're sitting there perving on him. So cut it out."
"I can't help it."
"You can too help it. You have to get over this thing you have for him, Cay. Caleb McKenzie does not pine after what he cannot have. Caleb McKenzie is fierce and independent and deserving of the love of an out and proud gay man. Caleb McKenzie is looking for a long term, life affirming--"
"You must have me mixed up with someone else. If I could have Christian Munez for just one night--for one hour--I'd take it and never look back."
"No you would not."
"I would." Caleb snorted. "My wood would, and I go where the wood goes."
"No kidding. You and all the other Y-chromosomes. What I don't get is why Christian of all people? He's like a hillock of muscle with no personality and no brains."
"What's your point?"
"Have you ever, in this entire year, heard him say anything that didn't start with Um?"
"Now you're just being mean."
"No, I'm not. I have a class with him. It's Um, I think Stalin killed a lot of people. Um. I think Russia was only our ally because Germany was worse. He's not your type. He's inarticulate and vague. He's quiet and maybe a little shy. He's not into you. He'll never be into you. He'll never be worthy of you, even if he was. Which he's not."
"Au contraire, Erin. I know I've told you the story, but in case I haven't, let me tell it now--"
"Oh, here it comes." Erin rolled her eyes. "It all started on the first day of the fifth grade--"
"Erin." If he whined it was on her.
"Do not tell the story. I get it. He saved you from bullies who didn't like your pink camera."
"You have no romance in your soul. Did I ever mention that? I'm telling the story."
"Yes. I have to tell the story until the story sinks in. Until you understand about me and number seven because until you do, I will have to listen to you natter on about um this and straight that, so be quiet."
"All right already, I give. He's your hero." Erin held out her kettle corn and he took a handful.
It wasn't much of a story really. "Apparently pink was for girls, blah, blah, blah. It was the fifth grade, come on."
Most years, the CPH Lemons lived up to their name, falling well below the lower middle ranks of Orange County's high school football teams, lower even than Aspirington Preparatory School's team The Aspirants, which took the field every year despite the fact that not one Aspirant had ever aspired to play football in the first place.
This year--Caleb and Erin's glorious last year as Lemons--the team hadn't disgraced itself, and it was all because of number seven, Christian Munez, the boy for whom Caleb had personally invented the white poster board Moon? Yes! and Luna Si! signs that now appeared to dot the crowd like an old piano roll in reverse, white squares throbbing on a vast dark sea of cheering locals. Christian, who had led his Cinderella team to an unheard of Lemon record 8--2, and was trying--but failing--to get past a real football school in the CIF quarter finals.
Since Caleb photographed the games for the school paper and the yearbook, and Erin felt no game was complete unless she was there to heap disdain on the sheer bourgeois excess of school sports in general, they often sat together in the best seats, right on the fifty yard line, to argue.
"You were an underweight, over-bred, crying snotty mess in the fifth grade."
"That's not how I tell it."
"You were wringing your hands and shouting Oh, woe is me, will no one save me from these ruffians? It's okay, honey. They took your new toy and threatened to break it."
"Yeah." God. That awful, awful feeling. Powerless. Hopeless. Victimized, while all the other kids laughed and jeered at him for crying. While they got off on his pain.
He'd hated being helpless.
Not one of the bastards in his own fifth grade class, some of whom he now regarded as friends although that had been a long time coming, had stepped up to stop them. Not one.
The incident bore the lingering stink of cruelty and so--he'd discovered--did the people who'd been part of it. No matter how many years had gone by, no matter what they'd done in the interim, he'd never trusted any of those kids again.
Mobs are mindless. Mobs rush headlong into destruction for its own sake and even if individuals feel sick and regretful afterwards--after mob mentality dissipates and sanity returns--trust is still broken forever.
In retrospect, he'd been grateful he was the victim of that, because it taught him a valuable lesson but didn't leave him with regret--which he would have had if he'd been one of those jerks picking on some kid because his camera was pink.
Christian Munez probably didn't have regrets either, because that day Christian had resisted the mob and he became Caleb's hero for life.
"Then Christian snatches that camera from them while it's in midair, one handed, like a snake" --Caleb's hand shot out to demonstrate-- "and throws his arm around my shoulders. He doesn't smile at me or anything."
"Aw." Erin, having heard all this before, is texting with someone. "So sweet."
"But he says, 'Don't let those clowns get to you. They're just jealous because you have something nice and you're not afraid of what people will say.'"
"And you say, 'But now I am afraid.'" Erin looked up at him.
"And he says to me, "Don't be. I got your back.'"
Erin's eyes met Caleb's. Halftime was nearly over. The drum line had taken the field, pounding out a vaguely erotic rhythm that made Caleb's heart beat faster.
He knew Erin understood. He was Christian Munez's bitch--he had been since the fifth grade. He was wholly and completely in love, and he couldn't imagine wanting another boy, another man, even though as one of the founding members of the Gay/straight student alliance and a charter member of Club Fabulous, the entirely unofficial clique of out gay boys from all six of the tri-city area high schools, he could have skimmed the cream from a largish crop.
"I wish you would reconsider crushing on him," Erin told him again. "If for no other reason than it's cliche."
"You don't think I know that?" Caleb grabbed another handful of kettle corn to cover his horny, pathetic yearning.
"You know here." She tapped his head, then moved her hand to his heart. "I want you to know here. It's hopeless. Christian Munez will only break your heart."