Damn you, Vader!
Apologies for my massive ego. Roll on chapter 13.
“So Kash Jones is gay?!”
“Well, he was at the Minaret last night, so I’m assuming yes.”
“Whoa. I can’t believe it.”
“You better believe it!” I sing as I just happen to be nearby, listening in on the conversation. “Kash is as gay as the day! As queer as a lyre! As homosexual as...a...well, you get my jib.”
“Thanks so much for your input, Way,” says Sarcastic Simon, rolling his eyes in that smarmy “I’m so fucking awesome” way he has about him. “You know how highly your opinion is valued.”
“You know, your condescending use of second name really doesn’t intimidate me as much as you think it does,” I say, matter-of-factly. That’s a lie, I’m practically quaking in my Docs.
“So Gerard, how did you get these pics anyway?” Randal shows me his screensaver. It’s Kash Jones, dancing with Frank’s friend Mitch. He’s blindfolded. He’s wearing a banana hammock. And it’s leopard print.
“Friend of a friend,” I shrug.
“You sure you weren’t at the club yourself?”
“So remind me...why are we here again?”
“To watch the drama unravel.”
“Couldn’t we have done that from outside?”
“Probably. But we’ll get a better view from over here.”
“What, Mikey, what?”
“There’s a guy, over there in the corner.”
“Well it is a predominantly male environment.”
“But he’s watching me.”
“Oh my God he is...Fuck you, paedophile! Go get yourself a life and find someone your own age to perve on!”
“Hey fags! Having fun?”
“No, Frank, I’m not having fun. I’ve never felt so violated in my life. And I live with Gerard!”
“What’s dorky-douche talking about?”
“Your friend over there. He seems to think Mikey’s Jesus or something.”
“Oh, that’s just Lonely Sam. He comes here every night to creep out dudes by staring at them.”
“Is that even legal?”
“Dude. Different turf, different rules. Welcome to my world.”
“Nope. Actually, I was taking part in an International Connect 4 Tournament against some of the world’s most celebrated young players,” I reply. “I won two gold medals and a silver because one son-of-a-bitch cheated by distracting me with hot pretzels.”
“Gerard, what are you doing here?”
“This is my school too, you know.”
“No, I mean here. You do know that this is the Young Nudists Association right? We have a club meeting every week.”
So THAT’S where Ray disappears to Thursday lunchtimes! “Sorry,” I say. “I thought YNA stood for Yodelling Narwhale Aprons. It’s my mom’s birthday this weekend.”
I don’t need telling twice. I keep it quiet but anybody who knows me knows that I have an irrational phobia of body hair.
As I make my way to the Drama room for rehearsal I can’t help but admit it. That plan of Frank’s was a stroke of genius. Kash is now living his worst fear...the fear of being branded different. Everyone sees him as in denial, a walking contradiction, a self-hating hypocrite and it’s enough to humiliate him for life. Plus there are pictures all over the Internet of him in a leopard-spotted man-thong.
Samantha is waiting for me and greets me with a secret smile but for some reason my eyes are drawn elsewhere. Lindsey is wearing a dark purple mini-dress patterned with Gothic roses that shows off her perfectly toned, marble-skinned legs and I mentally want to slap myself. But I can’t help it. Even when I’m finally going out with the girl of my dreams I can’t stop myself craving these half-hours alone with Lindsey Ballato: mysterious, ambitious and driven, stingingly harsh yet undoubtedly motivating. She who sometimes makes me want to slam my head into a wall and then run outside naked into the pouring rain simply to hear her cruel, cackling laughter.
I get it. I’m disturbed.
As soon as I drop into line Lindsey snaps her fingers and beckons me over to the empty classroom. I follow unhesitatingly. Once inside she locks the door and turns to me with an amused expression on her face.
“So,” she says with a hint of a smile. “You and Samantha.”
“So,” I repeat, feeling instantly self-conscious. “Me and Samantha.”
“Samantha and I.”
“Doesn’t sound as good.”
“How did it happen?” she asks, still smiling faintly. “You finally grow a pair and ask her out?”
“As a matter of fact I did,” I reply proudly. Then I remember what she asked. “Ask her out, I mean. Not grow a pair. I already had a pretty good set of those.”
“Good to know.”
I nod, slightly confused by her manner. She appears so interested, excited, even happy for me. Did I expect her to be disappointed? Do I want her to be disappointed?
“I’m happy for you.”
“I am happy that you are happy for me.” That’s a lie. Damn you, whore! Why can’t you be miserable and grieving over loss of love? “I...uh...” Don’t say it. “I really care what you think.” Dammit!
She laughs, sending the back of my neck tingling. “Thanks, Gerard. I’m glad somebody does. Did you learn your words?”
I whip them out with a flourish and hand them back to her with a shit-eating smile on my face. “Hell did I learn them!”
“I’ll take that as a yes. Okay, let’s run through Desert Song and-”
“-I wrote that.”
“Yes, Gerard, you did. And we’ll do Music Box as well-”
“-I wrote that too.”
She puts the sheet down. “Are you trying to impress me?”
Look around for a distraction. “Hey look! Hitler’s got no moustache in that picture!”
“That’s the janitor’s wife.”
“Really?” I peer closer. So it is. “Damn. That woman needs to take better care of herself.”
“You know what?” She tucks the sheet away and turns on the CD player in the corner. “I think we’ll just work on the steps for Las Vegas again.”
Cool beans. I actually quite like that dance now. Especially as Lindsey has to dance it with me and she wiggles her cute little butt so nicely and...I’m going to stop thinking there.
Three seconds into the dance and I am literally transfixed by my partner. What. The. Hell. Is. Wrong. With. ME? My mental war seizes control of my feet, causing me to follow the wrong moves. Lindsey notices.
“Left foot Gerard, left.”
“Jesus Christ, tell me you know your left and right?”
“I know my left and right, I just...”
“What? What is it?”
“You just landed a desk on my foot!”
I lift the offending object off her foot and look on guiltily. Lindsey massages her foot, a look of intense pain across her face. She looks up and her eyes burn with the fire of Hell itself. And I find myself weirdly attracted to it. Stop it! Stop thinking about sex! Think of...cake. And pastry. Nothing erotic about pastry.
“Can I get you an ice-bun?” I ask her, biting my lip anxiously. I did not just say that.
Apparently I did. Lindsey furrows her forehead in confusion. “A what?”
“I pulled a hamstring in gym,” I invent wildly. “And...I was out of ice packs. So I stole a frozen bread roll from the cafeteria and it worked, like, amazingly. So now I keep a stack in my locker.”
Silence as Lindsey processes my bizarre excuse for idiocy. Then she bursts out laughing. Wait, that’s a massive understatement. She’s clutching her stomach, grasping the desk and tears are streaming from her eyes in laughter and I just stare, having never even seen her smile properly before. And I can’t help it. I start laughing too.
“You might just be the biggest moron I’ve ever met,” she gasps finally.
“I do try,” I shrug modestly.
“So fuckin funny,” her giggles begin to subside but that big smile is still on her face. That big, beautiful smile. “Hey, are you at Sean’s tomorrow night?”
Sean...Sean...The name rings a bell. And there goes the light bulb. Ding! Sean. Samantha’s popular friend. The host of my first A-List party. I was so excited when I got the invite that I had to excuse myself from Maths to happy dance and cry a little bit. He said I could bring some friends so obviously I have to bring the guys but that doesn’t stop the fact that I’m going to be spending most of my time with Samantha.
“Yeah I am,” I tell her. “You?”
“Yeah,” she nods. “Sean’s is a fun night, I guess.”
“Cool,” I grin. “I’ll see you there.”
She grins back and my insides immediately start dancing the conga as I get that feeling. The feeling that tomorrow night is sure to be a very memorable one.
“Gerard’s in the A-list! Gerard’s in the A-list! Gerard’s in the A-list! And we get to party!” Frank squeals for the entire world as if he was six years old again whilst jumping up and down on my bed.
“Jesus Christ, keep it down!” I yell, throwing a starfish-shaped cushion at him. “How old are you, for Godsake?”
“You can be as big of a Meany Panini as you want,” Frank giggles and kicks the starfish at Ray who catches it and examines it interestedly. “The fact is I am a legend. My master plans never fail me. You should all bow down to Frank Anthony Iero, God of Total Awesomeness.”
“Go fuck yourself,” says my charming baby brother from behind a History text book. “I hate parties. I don’t want to go.”
“No one’s saying you have to.”
“But who will keep Gerard out of trouble?”
“Hey guys,” Young Nile sings coming out of the bathroom. “What do you think?”
I feel my mouth drop open comically and looking around I can see that everyone else looks the same way. Because Young Nile has just walked through the door intending to go to an A-list party dressed as Darth Vader.
“You have got to be shitting me,” Frank, as always, is the first one to break the silence.
“I don’t know you,” Ray shakes his head.
“Change,” I order him. “Now.”
“I can’t,” Young Nile shakes his head. “I said I’d wear it for a bet. If I can last the whole party with this on, Terry will give me a Tomb Raider Cheat that means you can see right through Lara Croft’s swimming costume!”
“Well this is going to be fun,” Mikey smiles.
Things get worse. Ray-ban, otherwise known as The Man With A Licence, is driving us all there in his “car”. By “car” I mean beat up yellow pick-up truck he bought off his great-aunt for little more than a dollar. I always wondered why she cackled evilly as she sold it and now I know why. The car gets about a foot down the road and fucking dies on us. So we have to walk the rest of the way, me in my new red Docs which are taking a while to break in so that by the time we finally get there I have blisters on my heels the size of Jupiter.
Sean opens the door. “Dude!” he greets me happily. “Dudes!” he waves at the others.
“Hi, Sean,” I smile, cringing at his overuse of the word “dude”. “Thanks for inviting us.”
“Dude, like no problem. You dudes expel serious amounts of awesomage,” he says, gesturing for us to follow him inside.
How the hell did he ever make the A-list before I did? Oh yeah, I realise upon entering the house. He’s freaking loaded.
It’s as if the entire house has been converted into a VIP dance club. I’m talking about hot tubs under the stairs, disco balls that spit Lucozade, bubble-blowers, multiple DJs and about six hundred karaoke machines. Ray points excitedly.
“Man oh man!” he squeals. “They got karaoke!”
“No Ray,” Mikey holds him back. “I can’t let you do that to yourself.”
“I’m gonna go find Will,” Frank takes off, immediately eaten up by the mass of guests.
“Yeah, I should look for Samantha,” I follow suit, ignoring Ray’s protests that if there was karaoke to be had then he was going to have karaoke.
I pick my way through the crowd carefully, unwilling for anyone’s drink to spill onto my new shirt. And hell is there a lot of drink. It’s only late evening and already nearly everyone is completely pissed. The music is so loud that it vibrates the floor beneath my feet with an intensity that threatens to knock me over, and it’s not even good music. Just crappy chart shit.
Eventually I spot Samantha talking to some random people I’ve never seen before.
“Oh, hey!” she greets me, brushing my cheek briefly with her lips. “Guys, this is Gerard. And these are Johnny, Aaron, Brittany, Danielle and Chelsea.”
“Hi,” they chant in the exact same tone of voice with the exact same smile on their faces in the exact same pose. It’s actually a little disconcerting.
“Samantha tells us you got the other lead,” says Aaron. “Way to go. I’ve never seen more chicks in one place than in the Drama studio.”
“Hell yeahs baby-ee! That is so totally-ee awesome! You must be-ee, like-ee, amazing!” Chelsea-ee gushes. I can tell that her tendency-ee to put –ee on the end of every-ee other word is going to get very-ee annoying,
“I heard there was hardly anyone trying out,” sneers Brittany, giving me the once over. “Last year they put anyone through, as long as they could belt a note.”
Ouch. That was rude. “Surely that’s the only thing that matters?” I say, confused. “I mean...it’s a musical, right?”
“Well, yeah,” Brittany shrugs, flipping her long blonde (bleached) hair over her shoulder. “But you know, there are other factors that could be...important.”
“Like what?” I challenge.
She shrugs again and looks away, a sign that the conversation is over. But it doesn’t feel over. I know exactly what she’s trying to say; apparently I’m not musical material. The fuck does it matter to her if I can sing or not, I don’t have the image, therefore I am beneath her notice. And even though I really should be used to it by now, after sixteen years it still stings.
“It’s been seven hours and fifeen days since you took your love away...”
Eugh, speak of the devil. Danielle looks around for the source of the annoyance. “Omigod, who is that on the karaoke machine?”
“Hope it’s no one I know,” I say jokingly and they all laugh.
“It burns!” squeals Chelsea, clutching at her ears.
“I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant...”
Suddenly I feel the laugh freeze on my face. Because I do know that ridiculously out-of-tune, nail-bitingly awful voice, know it so well I sometimes hear it in my worst nightmares. It’s the voice of one of my best friends.
It’s Ray’s voice.
Groaning, I cast around for some kind of distraction. But too late. Johnny has noticed the guy standing on the stage and points towards him, looking amused.
“Hey Gerard,” he smirks. “Isn’t that your friend? Toro, right?”
“Nope,” I shake my head. “Definitely do not know that guy.”
“But nothing compares, nothing compares to yooouuuu...”
God, make it stop! The whole party cringes as Ray aims high and misses epically but continues to belt each lyric out with passion. I have to leave. Now. I spot Mikey in the corner, surrounded by girls and head straight for him.
“Michael!” I scream, giving him a terrifying eyeful of my war-face. “Michael
Mikey glares at me. “Use of my middle name? This better be pretty fucking important.”
I thrust my arm out, pointing at Ray. “You let him go up there?!”
“I tried to stop him!” Mikey protests. “But then came the harpies.”
He gestures to the girls surrounding him who continue to gaze up at him with love in their eyes.
“You’re so hot when you call me that, Mikey,” says one of them.
“What does it even mean?” asks another.
“God, you really are stupid,” Mikey rolls his eyes. “Harpy. Devil woman. Demoness. Major bitch-whore.”
“You’re so hot when you’re defining things, Mikey.”
“You’re so hot when you tell me to shut up, Mikey.”
“Stop saying that!”
“Mikey, how could you be so cruel?” I ask, disgusted. “They’re obviously smitten with you.”
“They’re not smitten with me, they’re bored and drunk. For Godsake, do you have any self-respect whatsoever? Read a book and get a fucking job!”
“You’re so hot when you offer moral direction, Mikey.”
“Get away from me!”
“You are such a freak,” I shake my head in distress, looking desperately for some sanity. There, Young Nile’s talking to some normal-ish looking people. I know it’s not my best bet but I can’t see Frank around. I head over to engage him in conversation instead.
“The trick is to get the camera angle absolutely right,” Young Nile is saying wisely. “Otherwise you just get a screen full of leather jacket. But if you tilt it upwards just slightly...BAM! Major boobage, my friend. MAJOR boobage.”
“Let me get this straight,” one of the other guys says, frowning. “This is a video game character we’re talking about?”
“Well, yeah. Lara Croft, dude. Don’t get much hotter than that.”
“You sick, sick bastard.”
Okay, no sanity over there. Maybe if I take a sip of this ominous looking blue liquid I’ll feel better.
One plastic cup full later and things haven’t improved. Ray is still singing only now he’s moved onto Moon River, much to amorous applause. NOT. They’re screaming at him to get off the stage but to no avail. Mikey is now lecturing the girls on the impact that Martin Luther King’s life had on American History and Young Nile is still trying to persuade people that he is not, in fact, a psychotic “sexual predator” as they put it.
But there is one who’s trust in social situations I would never doubt. Despite being who he is Frank is still probably the coolest, suavest, most socially adept person I know. He has the ability to adapt to any circumstance, he mingles with the right people, says the right things, makes the right jokes and people love him. Nah, Frank will do me right.
A crash. The sound of shattering glass. A girl screams and a tidal wave of people rush outside to where a boy is crouched on the floor, being pummelled repeatedly in the stomach by a midget in tartan pants. Onlookers gasp as he is yanked backwards off of the casualty, still kicking and screaming.
“You sonofabitch! You fucking shit-eating bastard child of a drooling monkey whore!”
“Frank, what the hell?!” I rush over to help hold him back.
“Fucking faggot,” mumbles the guy on the floor, spitting blood onto the floor. “Crazy little queer.”
“I’m crazy? I’m crazy? You wanna see me get real fucking insane? Huh? HUH? Let me go!” screams Frank, tearing at my restraining arms.
“Will! Help me!” I cry.
Will stands there, awkwardly surveying the scene before shrugging. “I uh...I think you got it under control.”
And he runs off. Out of pure shame, embarrassment, humiliation. All of the feelings going through me right now. And I can’t find it in my heart to blame him. As I stand there, feeling the heat rush to my cheeks as a hundred onlookers shake their heads and spit cruel laughter, for the first time in my life I wish I could follow him. I wish I could run away. Run away from the party, from the sneering faces, from the writhing maniac in my arms.
Run away from my friends.