Beware The Ides Of March
It’d been a long six months since I’d met him, six months of AIM conversations and smoking bongs on his front steps with five of his best friends, six months of song recommendations. I remember when we first met each other, when we first liked each other, I told him the song “Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morrisette was about him and he told me he’d never heard it, and then an hour later he told me he was listening to it, that it made him smile. It took that long to download an MP3 back then.
This guy, his face was covered in freckles and his hair was red but not in that fiery way, not in that way that your friends make fun of, it was red like it could look brown if it were wet, brown the same way his face was, covered in all of those confident freckles. It was like looking at pennies through a kaleidoscope.
He always had a girlfriend, always, he had four or seven or ten of them during that six months and I could never, ever understand why one of them wasn’t me, like I was in the queue behind all of the classics, all of the blockbusters, I was that film someone recommended that you weren’t really sure you wanted to watch in the first place, that film that had no critical reviews and no stars. I have always been that film.
At the end of the six months, he sat next to me in our high school cafeteria while I ate something grotesque and adolescent like a chicken nugget sandwich with mayo and he was whispering to me, touching me, and I could tell he’d just broken up with one of his girlfriends but more than that, I could tell there was something different this time. This was wasn’t a suggestion but a proclamation; this was the time something was going to happen. Something was definitely going to happen.
We made plans for that Friday and I didn’t tell my friends. I wanted it to be a secret, I wanted every detail to stay between him and I, an afternoon clandestine and private and all of the things we’d never been before. Before, we only touched lips through glass, through gutted cigar, through rolling paper but I could tell this time would be different.
I woke up that morning electric. It was the Ides of March, ten years ago today. I don’t remember anything about school that day — don’t remember what I wore or what I ate or anything other than my English teacher repeatedly telling us to beware the Ides of March in that theatrical manner that embarrasses teenagers, makes them wish they weren’t alive.
After school, we left the parking lot together in his car, his car, one of the only places we’d ever been alone together before that day, and we drove to his house where we got high with his friend and then the two of them began skateboarding in his cul-de-sac and I watched like a child in awe because I was, and I was. Later we drove to Taco Bell and his friend let me sit in the front seat and I thought, this is what it’s like to be somebody’s girlfriend. On the drive back to his house, all of the lights turned green as the car kissed each intersection and I knew that it meant something, sometimes you just know.
We ate; we smoked more and he skated more and I watched more and I ignored phone calls, I ignored my cell phone because I knew nothing was that important, there was nothing more important than Taco Bell and skateboards and freckles. The sun began to set so we retreated inside, we watched Camp Kill Yourself at my request and his friend fell asleep on the living room couch and we began to kiss, we began to do things we’d never done before, at least not together, and when his friend woke up and left, he took me into his bedroom and everything became amplified, all of the things we’d never done together on a projector screen like it was a Hollywood premiere that would eventually transform into some televised season finale-turned-series finale. An unannounced end, an empty promise claiming it’ll return next season but never airing again.
I was shy and awkward and when I think about myself then, now, when I think about it I feel warm because I was so curious and scared and happy. I was so happy. First his mouth was everywhere, then his fingers, and before I knew it both hands had found their way home, to my hips, but somehow he was still inside of me and that’s when I knew that something wasn’t going to happen; something was happening. Something was actually happening. I smiled and I pretended it was more cinematic than it was because I knew it was supposed to be this way; I had watched porn for the first time just one week before that, fifteen-and-a-half-years-old in my friend’s basement watching women do things that still confuse me a decade later. I said his name and let fingers run wildly over his freckled shoulders, his strawberry fields forever.
And before I knew it had begun, it was over. We fell asleep because we were teenagers who didn’t apologize for lacking in stamina, to us it was fine, to me it was good, even, because it hadn’t hurt like everyone said it would. To me it was something to call my friends about the next day, to sit on a corner and remember over cigarettes at 5 AM when he dropped me off. To me it was something to check off of my list, but more than that, and without my consent, to me it was something that would render me invincible and invisible in one fell swoop. One foul swoop.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.