We were in Adam's pick-up and bound for Stacey's. I didn't even know Adam knew where Stacey lived.
"Why are we going there?" I asked.
"Why do you think?" Adam grinned. ”To buy drugs."
That was the most amazing idea.
"That way," Adam said, "we'll have something to do instead of the homecoming dance."
"But what drugs should we get?" That sounded silly coming out of my mouth, so I added, "I mean, what does Stacey have? Did you talk to him?"
Adam shrugged. He looked so relaxed behind the wheel of his pick-up, one hand on the steering wheel and the other resting on the gear shift. I had almost forgotten he wasn't supposed to be driving with me. "We'll figure it out when we get there," he said.
"Did you call him?" I asked. "Does he know we're coming?"
"Nah, I just figured we'd stop by. I'm sure he'll have something. He always had something for my sister." He glanced at me. "You know, raver drugs."
Maybe Adam didn’t know any more about this than I do. I thought about what Casey said again, what Adam had said at the party, about giving head. Maybe Adam was just a lot of talk, a lot of hot air. That was okay; I didn't mind. Teek was like that too, sometimes. And if Adam was all talk, maybe I was less lame than I thought I was.
"Yeah, I know," I said. "So you don't think Stacey will care if we just show up? What if he's not even there?"
"Then we'll come back later." Adam shrugged again. "Don't worry about it. You sound like my mom."
Because Adam's mom had tried to school him on the etiquette of buying drugs. Are you sure you shouldn't call ahead, honey? I snorted.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing," I said. I pulled a loose thread from the sleeve of my sweatshirt and in the pause that followed, found myself asking, "Hey, why do the soccer guys call you BJ?"
Adam seemed startled for a second, but he recovered fast. "Cause I get a lot of head," he told me.
The truck rolled over a pothole and I reached for the panic bar. "That's not what Casey said."
"Well, why'd you ask if you already knew?"
I shrugged. "I dunno."
"Well, I was drunk," Adam said as we rolled up to a stop light. He was looking straight ahead at the traffic signal. "She told you that, right?"
"It was just something I said, you know?" Still staring at the light, he added, "I'm not gay. I mean, I don't have a problem with anyone being gay. I'm just not."
"Okay," I said. I figured that was what I was supposed to say. But I couldn't help thinking about Casey, how she was clearly messing with me, but when she said "closet case," it had made sense. Teek would say I was projecting. I told myself not to bring it up again.
The light turned green and we took off again, Adam staring very intently at the road in front of us.
"So um," I said, "Why do they call Andrew 'Finger Bang?'"
Finally, Adam looked over at me and grinned. "Now that's a good story," he said.
We got to Stacey's and Adam punched the doorbell three times, which made me nervous. Since we got out of the pick-up, I'd become hyper aware that we were doing something illegal.
Stacey lived in an apartment complex kind of like the one Mom and I lived in, but it was two stories and maybe not as nice. That was weird. I always assumed he'd lived in a big suburban tract home like Lionel. I'd assumed his family had money because I thought Stacey just sat around all day like Lionel, and you couldn't do that unless you were at least sort of rich. But I guess that wasn't true. Maybe you didn't have to be rich to do that; it just depended on how you lived.
You could, for example, sell drugs, and avoid getting a day job indefinitely.
Adam rang the doorbell again. I had my hands in my pockets and my hood pulled up on my sweatshirt. No one would recognize me, but I kept looking over my shoulder, like I expected Mr. Bodoni to pop up at any moment. The doorbell's loud buzz kept making me jump.
"I don't think anyone is home," I told Adam. "Maybe we should come back later."
Adam was trying to peer in the window, through the mostly closed blinds.
"The lights are on," Adam said. He sounded frustrated. "Wait..."
I heard it too, a sound from inside. I heard the twist of a dead bolt, then the door opened a crack and Stacey's face peered out.
"Hey, Stacey," said Adam.
"Oh hey!" Stacey's face lit up. "Adam! And Lionel's brother!"
"Dillon," I supplied.
"Sorry guys," he said, "I was in the can."
"Can we come in now?" Adam asked. I loved that Adam basically had no manners and could just invite himself into someone's apartment like that.
"Yeah, of course." Stacey stepped back and pulled the door open. "Come in!"
I followed Adam inside. The first thing I noticed about Stacey's place was that it kind of stank. I thought it was an animal smell, though I didn't see any sign of a pet. I considered taking my shoes off, but as my eyes adjusted to the light, I realized the grey-green carpet had probably seen worse than the soles of my sneakers. The next thing I noticed was the clothing strewn everywhere. Spilling off of hooks by the door, on the floor, draped over the chairs. They weren't all Stacey's. They couldn't have been. One on the hook looked like a woman's coat and there was actually a bra draped over the arm of a blue and green love seat.
"Do you have a roommate?" I asked.
Stacey looked at me strangely. "I live with my mom."
Adam laughed. "Really? But your place is so cool!"
Adam must have been looking at the framed band posters on the walls; these were bands I recognized, bands anyone would recognize. The Rolling Stones mouth with the tongue sticking out, the AC/DC logo, Metallica. I wondered if they were Stacey's or his mom's.
"Thanks," said Stacey. He tucked his finger tips into his pockets. His jeans were so tight, that was all he could manage. "So what's up guys? You want to hang out?"
Adam looked at me and I thought, is he really going to freeze up and make me tell Stacey what we were there for? But he didn't.
"Can you sell us some drugs for Saturday?" Adam asked. No details in that, except for "for Saturday" which I wondered why he even mentioned. I guess so Stacey didn't think we just wanted to camp out in his apartment and get high.
Stacey was silent for a second, just standing there with his fingers in his pockets. He puffed out his cheeks. "Depends," he said, "What are you looking for?"
Adam didn't miss a beat. "What have you got?"
"Not that much right now," said Stacey. "I've got some research chemicals, maybe a couple of hits of E. Oh, I have acid too."
Adam looked at me again, like he expected me to know something.
"Are you guys going to a rave?" Stacey asked.
I looked back at Adam. "Um...we weren't really sure."
Stacey chuckled. "All right. Do you want to sit down, hang out for a bit? You guys want some beer?"
I looked at Adam again. We were doing a lot of this standing around, not saying anything. I was almost in awe of Stacey, how cool he was, how it didn't seem to matter to him that Adam and I just showed up on his doorstep trying to buy drugs. How he was offering us beer like it was no big whoop.
"What?" Stacey grinned like he thought there was some inside joke we weren't telling him, like he thought Adam and I weren't just standing there like morons.
"Yeah," Adam finally said. "Awesome."
"Cool," said Stacey. "Make yourselves comfortable, I'll be right back."
"He's bringing us beer!" I hissed to Adam when Stacey was out of earshot. "He knows we're too young, right?"
"He's not even twenty-one," Adam said, looking around for a place to sit. He decided on an ottoman that was draped with a jacket. He sat right down on the jacket. "And he's going to sell us drugs, right? I don't think he cares.”
"Oh," I said, because I guess that made sense. I found a folding chair to sit in; it looked like a director's chair. I crossed my legs and tried to pretend I was cool. I was actually pretty excited.
Stacey came out of the kitchen with three cans of Tecate. I didn't recognize the label, but that didn't matter. All beer tasted the same to me: pretty gross. I took the can from Stacey anyway. It was cold at least, sweating beads of condensation that chilled my fingers. Adam wasted no time in cracking his open.
"So how's school?" Stacey asked. I couldn't tell if he was serious or not.
"It sucks," said Adam, kind of blasé.
"You guys go to that private school, right?" Stacey said. "What's it like? It's really small, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it's small," I said, opening my own beer. It fizzed over the top and I had to lick off the foam. "It's okay." I didn't have much to compare it to. I'd been a private school kid all my life, thanks to Dad's funding.
"So you like, know everyone in your class?" (We nodded.) "That's cool."
"Sort of," I said, "But you can't avoid people."
"Who are you trying to avoid?"
I wondered what would happen if I told Stacey about the note in my locker. I wondered if he could relate. I think I've mentioned that Stacey was what I think people would call a little bit flamboyant. He waved his hands around a lot when he talked and at the end of sentences when the last word goes up like you're asking a question? And he wore those ridiculous pants. I thought ravers wore oversized wide-legged pants. Stacey's were girl-jeans tight. I always wondered if people gave him shit.
"So E," Adam said. "You said you have E, right?"
"Yeah." Stacey took a sip of his beer and made a face. "I have to check how much. I already promised a lot of it out. You know I'm not like a drug dealer, really, right? Not a real one, I mean." He took another drink. "I just get stuff for me and my friends usually. Or brothers of friends."
That made me laugh. "Okay," I said.
"I'm serious!" Stacey said.
"You're not a drug dealer," Adam suggested, "you're a drug appreciator.”
"Yes," said Stacey, "Exactly."
He looked amused. I wished I'd come up with something funny to say too. Instead, I found myself blurting, "Do you sell drugs to my brother?"
"Nah," said Stacey. "We did some acid together once, and that was mine, but he didn't really like it."
Adam laughed. "Did he freak out?"
That was weird to think about: my cool, unflappable brother freaking out on acid.
"Not really," Stacey said. "He was just really quiet and he said the trip was too long. He kept saying he’d rather be doing something else.”
"How long is an acid trip?" I asked.
"It depends. It can be like, eight hours."
"That's a long time!" I looked at Adam.
"Yeah, I don't want to do acid," Adam said, "Not on Saturday, anyway. I wanna do E."
"Have you done it before?" Stacey asked.
Adam and I both shook our heads no, and I wondered if that was the right answer about a second too late. Maybe we should have lied about it? Oh no, we're old hand at doing E. We did it last Tuesday.
"The first time is really awesome," said Stacey, "And it's really great for parties, especially if other people will be rolling."
"Yeah, we might go to a party," Adam said. I think he was just talking again; no one we knew would be having a party on the night of Homecoming. And if they were, we probably wouldn't be invited.
"You don't think that would be like, too much?" I asked Stacey. "To go a party? Like, it wouldn't freak us out?"
"Oh no, it's a really social drug. You'll like being around other people!"
"I don't like being around other people when I'm sober," I said. Then, so Adam and Stacey wouldn't think I was talking about them, I added, "A lot of people, I mean."
"Well, everything is more intense when you're on E. And just, like, better. Lights are awesome, music is awesome, dancing is awesome. You want to touch everything and when someone touches you, it's like..." Stacey reached out and ran his hand firmly over my arm, where I'd pushed up my sweatshirt sleeve. "Even a touch like that feels amazing."
I tipped my head back and drank more beer, hoping that had not made me blush. And that was stupid if it had, because it was this totally normal, neutral touch, the way your mother would touch your arm. But it had felt weirdly good just then, when Stacey did it. I was suddenly reminded of my dream.
"How much?" Adam was asking. "For two hits of E?"
"Twenty a hit," Stacey said. "So forty."
It was then I remembered I didn't have any money. Not like, I had some back in my room or in my other pants—I was flat broke. Busto. I might have had a dollar in my book bag—one of those crumpled soft dollars that has gone through the laundry more than once, so worn it feels more like fabric—but one dollar wasn't going to buy me anything.
"Really?" Adam seemed pleased; he must have thought that was a good deal. He looked at me. "You got a twenty, Dillon?"
"Um..." I stared into my beer can. "Can you spot me?"
Adam twisted around to pull his wallet from his pants. "Oh yeah, no problem," he said, "I have the money I was supposed to buy Homecoming tickets with. You can pay me back later."
"Thanks," I said, promising myself the impossible, that I would somehow come up with the funds. I imagined asking Richard. Can you help me buy some drugs? Adam peeled two twenties out of his wallet and waved them at Stacey.
"Let me make sure I have two hits that aren't accounted for first," Stacey said, standing up and setting his beer on the coffee table. The coffee table looked like it had been nice at one time, but now rings and water spots mottled its surface. Stacey didn't have any coasters. Mom would love that. Coasters on the coffee table was one of the few enforced rules in our apartment.
Adam had found a big black binder that was wedged into a crack on the couch. "Can I look through your CDs?" he asked.
"Knock yourself out," said Stacey cheerily, as he disappeared into his room.
I stood up, tried to stifle a burp. "I'm gonna find the bathroom," I told Adam.
Adam grunted in reply. He was lost in music-land, in Stacey's CD binder, poring through it like it was a really great book.
I followed the path Stacey had taken to his bedroom; that was the only way to go that wouldn't put you in the kitchen. I guessed the bathroom was at the end of the hall and I passed Stacey's room on the way. His back to me, he was looking through something on his desk. From what I could see of it, Stacey's room was a disaster area, much like the rest of the house. He was ankle-deep in a pile of clothes. Lionel's biohazard sign would make more sense on his door.
I cleared my throat. "Bathroom down the the hall?"
He looked over. "Oh, yeah," he said, "But wait a sec."
I looked from the bathroom door back to Stacey. "What is it?"
"Just hang on...here." Stacey turned away from what he was doing and motioned me closer, peering around me to glance down the hall. "I wanted to ask you...you do actually want to do this, right, Dillon?"
I dropped my voice to match his volume. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, this isn't just Adam's idea, right? Cause I don't think your brother is really going to care if I sell you drugs as long as they aren't drugs you don't want."
I nodded, then shook my head.
"You want to or not? I can always say I don't have enough."
"I...do," I said. "I want to do E with Adam." The "with Adam" seemed dorky after I said it, like Adam was still the important part of the equation.
"Okay," Stacey sounded kind of relieved. I felt like that was a dumb thing for him to worry about, that I was somehow getting peer-pressured. Because why? Lionel would be pissed at him?
"Then you know," Stacey said, "you don't have to go a party if you don't want to. That's fun, but you can like, have a lot of fun just with Adam too."
"Cool," I said.
Then something clicked in my mind. Oh my God, Stacey thought we were going to get high and have sex! Because, that was what people did on Ecstasy, right? I hadn't even thought of it, but now it made sense. And I'd just smiled and nodded. My stomach dropped to my shoes.
"Wait, no... It's not..."
"Seriously, it's cool. I don't need the details," Stacey said. Then he grinned. "Hey, chill, I'm just messing with you."
I touched my face; my skin felt hot. Shit, blushing again. "Haha," I croaked.
Stacey smirked. "Okay. Bathroom's down the hall."
He started to turn back to his desk, where he was looking through a mini tackle box of what must have been his drugs. And I knew I should just turn around and leave, not make it worse and certainly not ask the question that had been clanging around inside my head. But for some reason, that's just what I did.
"Are you gay?" I blurted.
Stacey turned back around. He looked a little surprised, but probably less than I did.
"Why?" he asked, "do you think I'm hot?"
He cracked up. "I'm joking! Man, you should see your face. You are bright red."
"Shut up," I muttered.
"Well, what about you?" Stacey asked. "You've gotta be bi at least. Sorry, I didn't mean that in a mean way."
"It's okay," I said. I'd already turned as red as I could get—and I was the one who asked first. "But I'm…neither. I mean, I'm nothing. I'm not interested in dating or hooking up or anything like that.”
"Uh huh." Stacey nodded like he didn't really believe me. "You didn't strike me as the saving-yourself-for-Jesus type."
"I'm not!" I said. I wasn't sure if he was still kidding or not—was Stacey always kidding?—but really, that ship had sailed. I almost said that to him; it might have sounded cool. That ship has sailed. But I didn't want to open that can of worms.
"So what, then?" Stacey asked. “Asexual? Nothing turns you on?"
I couldn't believe I was having this conversation.
"It's more like… I don't see the point of getting involved with anyone. Dating is like, too much trouble. People get way too into it. I'm happy just being alone."
Stacey raised an eyebrow. "You really believe that? Or are you just saying it?"
"I don't know," I said.
At least that part of my answer was truthful.
Up next week, Chapter Twenty: Donuts.