We were heading for the Pizza Palace downtown. I almost never went downtown, so this was exciting. Street lights and neon flashed patterns against my window as we rolled past. Signs for all these beautiful places I've never been. I could spend the night just riding around in Stacey's car, I thought. Wondering at the new beauty of the city.
While I was sitting there watching the lights go by, I told Stacey about the dream I had about him. "I just wanted to be honest with you about it," I said."I don't think it meant anything. I just thought you should know."
"Oh, Dillon," he said. He called me cute again. He said that a lot, like it was one of his favorite words. Maybe I was cute. I flipped down my visor for the mirror.
"Oh my God, my eyes!" I laughed. My eyes were all pupil, the blues of my the irises shrinking away. Angling the mirror, I inspected my nose and mouth, which I had almost forgotten I had until that moment. I touched my lips. "Is that really what I look like?" I twisted around and looked at Adam. It was dark in the car, but I thought his eyes looked like mine.
"Yeah, you totally look like that," Adam told me, like he could see exactly what I saw. " Stacey, what is this music? It's so good!"
"Crystal Castles," said Stacey. He turned it up. It was really good! "We're basically there, I just need to find parking."
We listened to Stacey's weird awesome music until he finally found a parking space, then we followed him along the sidewalk to Pizza Palace. A group of women coming the opposite direction clopped by, and I turned to make sure Adam was still right there next to me. I didn't want to get separated. Stacey held the door open for us and we went inside, stepping onto a huge and crowded restaurant floor. The scent of pizza washed over me immediately. I peered over to the counter, to all these beautiful pizzas sitting there below the glass and heat lamps.
"Are you guys hungry?" Stacey asked.
"I don't know, maybe," I said. It looked and smelled like the best pizza in the world, but it was hard to think about eating anything. Adam shrugged.
"Well, my friends are in the back," Stacey said. "Let's go find them first.”
Stacey led us through a sea of tables and chairs. As we weaved around all these people engrossed in their food and their company, everyone seemed so insular. Like each table was trapped in its own little cubicle. The absurdity of that hit me and I laughed. I thought about how much time I spent sitting alone in my room, alone on the couch watching TV and that seemed ridiculous too. What a waste. But my eyes were open now.
"Hey!" Stacey lifted a hand to wave toward one of the big corner booths. A green-haired girl waved back from the booth. Beside her sat a guy with glasses and another girl, who motioned us over.
Stacey squeezed in on one side and Adam and I slid in on the other. It was a tight fit, but I didn't mind. I turned to smile at the girl beside me, the one with normal-colored hair. I usually hated meeting new people, but it just felt right tonight. Everyone was smiling at us. Stacey's friends seemed really nice.
Stacey introduced us, but I couldn't keep anyone's names in my head. The green-haired girl had a large lip ring that gleamed at me across the booth. Her hair was practically glowing. I kept catching myself staring. The girl sitting beside me had long dark hair and a Blondie t-shirt and I realized in a delayed Aha! moment that she was holding hands with glasses-guy under the table. Of course they were a couple; it was suddenly so obvious.
"Are you guys in high school?" asked the girl in the Blondie shirt.
"Yeah!" Adam said.
"Cool, I'm not the youngest for once," the girl said. "I graduated this year."
"That's awesome," I said. She was only a little older than us. I grinned at her. My face had started to ache from smiling so much.
"They're rolling," Stacey said, under his breath, "in case it isn't obvious."
Was it obvious? I glanced around the restaurant. If someone else noticed, would we get in trouble? But no one else was looking at us. And Stacey's friends were smiling; they didn't seem to mind. They were so chill.
"Do you want a some water?" asked the girl with the boyfriend. She pushed a plastic cup my way.
"Yeah!" I said. "Thanks." I picked up the glass, and managed to only slosh a little on my sweatshirt when I tried to drink it. The water hit my tongue, icy and delicious. It felt weird going down my throat, but a good-weird. I wanted Adam to try some too, so I passed him the glass. We passed it back and forth.
Glasses-guy was talking about his job or something. I wasn't really following. His eyes looked serious behind his old-man-style frames, but when smiled his grin stretched from one earringed ear to the other. I hadn't really looked at him before that, because I was distracted by the girls. The girls were so distracting with their painted eyelids, bright lipstick. The green-haired girl was as colorful as a bird. It was so unfair, how colorful girls were allowed to be.
If I were a girl, I would wear red lipstick and have long, long hair. I wouldn't be like Teek, who shunned cosmetics and cut her hair herself, I would take full advantage of all those girl-things. The girl in the Blondie shirt was playing with her hair, twirling it around her finger. I wondered what it would really be like to have hair like that.
"Yeah, that's so true," Adam said suddenly, and for a second I thought he was talking to me, that I'd been saying that stuff out loud. But he was looking at Stacey and one of the girls. He was actually following the conversation.
Adam had such a good handle on himself. I exhaled, focusing on the spot where my shoulder was touching his.
The girl beside me nudged the bread basket forward. "Do you want a breadstick?"
"I don't know," I said. "Maybe?"
She laughed. "You're really quiet."
Was I? I was only quiet because my mind was working so hard. Thoughts zipped through my head like cars on the freeway, leaving as quickly as they arrived. I looked at the girl and her boyfriend, and I wanted to tell her that they were a really beautiful couple. And that looking at them, obviously so in love, made me think that I was wrong about what I'd said to Stacey, how I didn't see the point being with someone. Because I could see it now. The point was love. This couple was in love and it was beautiful and I loved them for it. Like I loved Adam, like I loved Stacey.
I decided I even loved Teek, even though she wasn't there, even though she'd been a little stupid lately about the whole Jacob thing. I thought about them at the Homecoming dance together. Was the dance still going on?
"What time is it?" I asked.
Stacey showed me his watch, a Mickey Mouse one where his gloved hands pointed to the numbers. I couldn't tell if the stubby hour hand was pointing to eight or nine, but I pretended that I could.
"Our homecoming dance was tonight," I told the table. "We didn't go. Me and Adam, I mean. It was probably lame. I'm glad we're here instead, because this place is so cool and you guys are cool too."
"Well, it's probably not over yet," Stacey said. "You guys could totally go crash it."
"Yeah, we could totally crash it," Adam said.
"Ecstasy would have made school dances a lot less lame," the green-haired girl said, laughing.
"Nothing could make school dances less lame!" the girl next to me said, and I laughed with her about that. I could just see me and Adam crashing the dance right now.
"You wouldn't know," Stacey told her, "You're straight edge."
“Damn straight!” she said. She toasted us with her boyfriend's water glass; Adam and I had already drank all of hers.
We must have sat there for hours. I think it was hours. It was hard to tell; time had started working differently for me. I didn't care though. I didn't care if it was hours or days or years. The pizza came and it was gorgeous: half pepperoni, half veggie and sparkling with grease. I didn't want any, but I could still appreciate it. I tried to stop smiling and sound very sober when I asked the waiter for more water, but he still looked at me funny, so maybe it didn't work.
While everyone else was eating and talking, I looked at Adam. He had taken a piece of pizza and was pulling little pieces of cheese off the top and then putting them in his mouth. I kept drinking my water, but slower this time, because I wanted it to last. I could just look at Adam and drink water, and that was really all I needed.
I chewed my straw up like it was gum, and the girl next to me offered me another one, still in its wrapper. That was so funny; I didn't even realize I'd been doing it. Adam's leg was touching mine and he kept bouncing his knee and that felt kind of funny but kind of good too. This was totally the best place I could be, here in this booth between Adam and this girl who was so nice and helpful. I wished I could remember her name.
Something was uncomfortable in my pocket, so I reached in there and that's when I rediscovered my cell phone, which was totally cool even if it couldn't make any calls. It was almost the same pink as the girl next to me's lipstick, and that made me happy. I was happy to have a pink cell phone. It was like I had never really looked at it before. I pushed a button just to watch the screen light up.
"I'm gonna go to the can," Adam said. I barely noticed him getting up; I was too interested in my phone. I'd replaced Adam with my phone.
"Where'd your boyfriend go?" Stacey asked me, pulling my attention from my unsuccessful game of Snake. How much time had passed since Adam left, I wasn't quite sure.
"I think he went to the bathroom," I said. "Has he been gone a long time?"
The girl beside me asked, "Wait, are you gay? Is he really your boyfriend?" but I was only half-listening to her. I was waiting for Stacey to tell me if I should be worried or not. He was drinking his soda.
Finally, Stacey said, "Not that long, I guess."
I should go find Adam, I decided. I scanned the room for a likely door, one with the little restroom-man maybe. Teek hated those restroom signs, because why did the woman have to be in a skirt? That was sexist. "Where is the bathroom?" I asked.
"Down at the end over there," one of the girls told me, pointing. "Through the big door and on your left."
I got up. For a second there I felt like I was coming down, like I wasn't so high anymore, but then I stood up and another wave of it hit me. That was good; I didn't want to come down yet. I was kind of scared of coming down.
I tried to look as normal as I could, making my way to the bathroom. I passed a table where a family of five was eating. The youngest kid, the one in the high chair, was looking at me with these huge brown eyes. While the rest of the family was bent over their pizza, insular, the baby was looking around, totally curious about the world beyond his (or maybe her) table. That was cool; it was how I felt. Maybe if we all stayed babies longer the world would be a better place. I smiled at the baby as I passed.
I followed Stacey's friends instructions and I found my way to the bathroom. I pushed through the heavy door and the bathroom air surrounded me, the smell of antiseptic. The door closed behind me and it was suddenly quiet. I saw Adam by the sinks.
"There you are," said Adam, like he somehow knew I would follow him. He was playing with the soap dispenser, the kind that spits out pre-lathered foam. Adam pumped out a handful then let the soap fall off his hand and into the sink. The basin was already lined with that foam. The bubbles flashed rainbows under the fluorescent bathroom lights like a bunch of miniature prisms.
"Let me try!" I reached out for the other soap dispenser. I got a handful of bubbles and then I blew on my hand, blowing the foam at Adam and the sink. Adam cracked up. We were definitely still high. I got some bubbles on Adam's cheek, so I reached over to brush them off. Adam shivered; the feeling of his face brought me back to sitting on his front steps, and I had to touch his cheek again.
"You like me, right, Dillon?" Adam asked, and he was so close to me I could finally see the stripe of color around his giant pupils. I hadn't even known Adam's eyes were brown, not before tonight.
"Yeah, I do," I told him.
"Cause I fucking love you, man," Adam said. "I really do."
I started telling Adam that I loved him too, that he was my best friend in the world, but I didn't get to finish because he grabbed me and kissed me.
First his mouth was on my cheek, but then his lips slid over and locked onto mine and Holy fuck, Adam was kissing me! In the bathroom! Of Pizza Palace! My mind could barely wrap itself around that. I didn't even fully realize how amazing it felt until Adam pulled back and looked at me. I thought he was going to say something, but I didn't let him. I grabbed onto the back of his neck and we were kissing again, up against the sinks in this totally public bathroom where anyone could walk in, and I didn't care, it felt so good.
I had no idea kissing could feel like this. It felt the way you'd imagine kissing would feel, if you were an idealist who'd never done it before. If first kisses felt like this, no one would be disappointed. Adam's lips were warm and open; his tongue was in my mouth. I couldn't get enough of this. Why didn't we ever do this before? The time spent driving around aimlessly or in my bedroom doing nothing, squandered opportunity. This was incredible. Adam was gripping my shoulders so tightly it almost hurt, but even that felt good. It just made me want to kiss him harder. I was putting my whole weight into the kiss, everything I had. I was all about kissing Adam. I was filled with it; there was no room for anything else.
Then the bathroom door swung open and I remembered where we were and everything came rushing back. I pulled away from Adam, but it was too late.
There was this kid standing in the bathroom doorway, this kid who couldn't have been older than seven or eight. He had this big mop of brown hair and his eyes and mouth were both wide open. We just gawked at each other for a second, a staring contest, a show-down.
When I found my voice again, I said, "Sorry."
And Adam, who still had his hands on my shoulders, pulled me into a bathroom stall with him and shut the door.
It was silent for a second, and then I heard the bathroom door slam shut again. The kid had left. Adam and I looked at each other, and we just started laughing. I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. The bathroom stall seemed to shake, seemed to vibrate with our laughter as we leaned together.
In this pizza parlor bathroom stall, I sank my face into Adam's neck and held on.
Up next Thursday, Chapter 24: Bad Days