Excerpt, Why Can’t Life…

We started walking toward home. Bobby was quiet, but I could tell something was on his mind. I wondered if there was a problem with Cynthia. I wanted to ask, and yet didn’t want to know at the same time. But finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“How’s Cynthia?” I tried to sound nonchalant, but you know how that is. The more you try the less nonchalant you sound.
“Cynthia and I broke up the other day,” answered Bobby.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Why do people lie? Why was I lying?
We walked on in silence for a while. Then Bobby turned to me. “I’m the one who broke it off, actually.”
“Yeah. It just wasn’t working.”
“I know how that is.”
“You do?”
“Well, from the other side. I guess Carole felt the same way. That’s why she broke up with me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear it.”
“Yeah, I was too. But things have been a little weird between Carole and me for a while, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.”
“Weird? In what way?”
“Just weird.” How could I explain it to Bobby? I still couldn’t really explain it well to myself.
Bobby thought for a while. “Yeah, I guess I felt the same way. Things were weird between me and Cynthia.”
Without even discussing it, Bobby and I had made our way to the woods—to the same spot by the stream where I’d spent time with Carole and then him. I grew nervous remembering how sad I’d felt the last time we were there. I didn’t want to feel sad again.
I suggested we go somewhere else. Bobby seemed a little surprised, but didn’t argue.
We walked deeper into the woods and found some big boulders in a clearing. You could still see the hills in the distance above the trees. I suddenly realized why I liked seeing those hills. They make me feel good about what’s out in the world and the future, like it belongs to me, too, not just everybody else.
The sun beating down on our faces felt good. I pointed out the fresh green leaves on the trees to Bobby.
“Yeah. Makes you feel optimistic about life, doesn’t it?” He didn’t look very optimistic though.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
“I was just thinking about the last time we met. And you told me about how you felt different and you didn’t really fit into any one place. Remember that?”
“Do you still feel the same way?”
“A lot.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t really get what you were saying.” He gave me a quick look. “Or maybe I did and didn’t want to hear it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, because I sometimes feel that way too. But I guess I didn’t want to admit it.”
“You? The football-basketball-hockey-baseball-and-everything-else jock?” I was sorry as soon as the words flew out of my mouth, but it was too late to take them back.
“Oh, not you too! Just because I like sports doesn’t mean I’m a dumb jock!” He looked angry.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“I hope you didn’t. You know how I feel about that with my father and all.” He softened a bit. “I have other parts to my life, you know. Parts that make me feel different. Like everyone does.”
“You’re right. Like me too. Why do we stereotype people so easily?”
“I don’t know.”
We sat there not saying anything for a while, both of us lost in our own thoughts. I looked over at the hills in the distance and thought about my roller coaster dream. The good part. On a sunny day like today, with the sky so blue, the view from the coaster would be spectacular. Bobby asked me what I was thinking about, and I told him about that part of my dream.
He laughed—for the first time today it seemed.
“Was I in the roller coaster too?” he asked.
I nodded, laughing too.
“Good. Because I would trust your driving.”
“Don’t be so sure.” Then I thought about the other part of the dream and told Bobby about it.
“What do you think it means?”
“Beats me. Maybe I’m afraid of all those other parts of my life that bring me down.”
“What parts?” Bobby had turned to me, looking very serious.
I could feel myself blush. “Parts that make me feel different.”
Bobby was nodding. “Yes.” Then he looked up at me again. “What makes you feel different?”
I remembered the last time Bobby and I had a similar conversation. Was I going to beat around the bush again?
“Well, I feel different about the people I like.”
“You mean friends?”
“I mean romantically.”
Bobby looked embarrassed. But instead of stopping me, it made me want to keep talking.
“You know how some people are gay and all?”
“Yes.” Bobby couldn’t meet my gaze, clasping and unclasping his hands.
“I sometimes feel that.”
“You mean the gay stuff?”
Bobby looked up at me. “Me too.”
“You too?”
We were both quiet, but my heart was beating so loudly I was sure it would fly out of my chest at any minute. Did I just hear what I think I heard? Bobby told me he might be gay too?
“Not that I don’t like girls or anything,” Bobby said suddenly. “I enjoyed making out with Cynthia and stuff. That’s not why we broke up.”
“I know what you mean. I enjoyed making out with Carole.”
“So what makes you think you might be gay?” Bobby asked me.
“I—I’m not sure exactly. But I notice guys and think about them a lot…and other stuff.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell him how much I thought about him.
Bobby was quiet for a while. “So what makes a person gay?”
I shrugged. “Do you think I know? And if you like girls, too, doesn’t that make you bi?”
Bobby shook his head. “All these labels. All these questions. Why can’t people just be themselves?”
I shrugged again. “Yeah, but what is being yourself? I’m still trying to figure that out.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I am too,” Bobby said.
We both started laughing. We sat and laughed for a long time. I guess all the stuff we’ve been keeping in for so long was now coming out in waves and waves of laughter. We talked more about how we’d been keeping everything in and denying it. I told Bobby about my visits to the hospital with Mr. Aniso and how he made me feel better about gay people. Bobby told me that’s why he’d gone out with Cynthia because he didn’t want to think about any gay feelings. We talked about a lot of other things too. And we both have a lot of questions. But it was so amazing to just laugh and joke and let go of our secrets. Some of them anyway. You don’t know how bad holding secrets feels until you let go of them.