I couldn’t believe my eyes as we flew over the city. The truth is I’ve never left Texas before, and now, well now I’m fifteen-thousand feet in the air, and over a thousand miles from home! My imagination seemed to spark to life as I looked at the setting sun over my new city. So this is it, this is home now. I don’t know what the people are going to be like. I don’t know if I’m going to fit in. But I have a second chance at this, and I’m not wasting it.
“Artie,” Adam anxiously began as we prepared to land. “Now I know you were a little worried during takeoff, but landing is really easy.”
I shot him a skeptical look as I heard those words. “If it’s easy why are you warning me about it?”
“Just trying to be a good uncle.” He shrugged, but I could tell he was hiding something from me.
The closer we got to the airport the lower our plane seemed to go. Finally, we found our path to the runway, yet as I looked down I saw nothing but water!
“Adam,” I gulped as my heart began to race. “where’s the land?”
“It’s there.” He tried to comfort. “It reaches out into the bay, just, why don’t we shut the window?”
“No!” I rejected, unable to remove my eyes from the sight. As land came into view I felt my heart racing faster and faster. What if we miss the runway? What if we just land plop right into the bay? I know I said a crashed plane is better than Texas, but I was being dramatic! I’m just a teenager! That’s what I do!
“Relax.” Adam instructed, noticing me clutching my seat. “You’ll be fine.”
I nodded but clenched my teeth as the plane flew lower and lower. Finally our wheels began to touch the ground, as we connected with the runway. As the fear of the flight began to pass, the thrill of the sights seemed to pump through me. We landed in a runway that stretched out into the middle of a bay! That’s insane! No one in my hometown would believe that even exists, let alone that I landed on it! But here we are!
Adam couldn’t help but laugh as I kept thinking about the city in the distance. “You’re an anxious one, aren’t you?”
“I guess.” I shrugged, knowing he had hit the nail on the head.
“It’s okay.” He tried to support. “I was an anxious kid too.”
I nodded but stayed quiet as the instructions for getting off the plane sounded out through the speakers. I tried my hardest to balance the new sights with following my uncle, but I had never seen anything like that airport. It was like something from a movie. The walls rose high above our head as glass designs filled the ceiling. The only thing I can compare it to was a warehouse, a really nice warehouse!
As we left our terminal I couldn’t help but gulp at the rushing crowd. What felt like hundreds and hundreds of people passed by us in the busy airport. At first Adam stepped out into the crowd, but quickly turned back when he realized I had froze.
“A little overwhelmed?” He asked with a smile.
“Yeah.” I slowly nodded. “I, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many people at once.”
He let out a laugh and watched me closely. “Just stay close, you’ll get used to it.”
I followed instructions and entered the ocean of moving people. I couldn’t help but scan the area as I tried my hardest to keep up. I’m starting to see why Adam says San Francisco is so beautiful, and I haven’t even left the airport yet!
“Alright,” Adam began when we finally got our suitcases from baggage claim. “This next part is actually pretty important, you’re going to have to learn the public transit.”
“Oh,” I exhaled as he began to walk once more. “is that like busses and stuff.”
“Yup,” He confirmed, hardly slowing down. “There’s MUNI and BART. MUNI is more local, and BART is more to get to main points. Bart is what we’ll take to get to our home downtown.”
“Okay.” I gulped as the whirlwind of information began to overwhelm me. “How often do you use them?”
“Every day.” He sighed, beginning to use some sort of machine. “San Francisco is way too busy to drive in.”
“So you don’t have a car?” I asked, shocked by the revelation.
“Nope.” He shook his head. “This weekend was the first time I’ve driven in years.” I couldn’t help but feel disappointment fill me as I heard his words. I’m just a year away from a permit! I’ve been waiting so long to learn how to drive! And just like that, poof! It’s gone! “But it’s a good thing.” He explained, handing me a ticket before going back to work on the machine. “You’ll be free to go wherever, whenever.” He tried to encourage. “Well, within reason.” He quickly clarified, remembering that he was the adult in charge.
“Oh, okay.” I accepted, trying to balance it in my head. I won’t get my permit, but I guess I have the freedom of it a year earlier! I mean, how bad could public transport possibly be?
I followed my uncle as he led me to a row of gates. “Just insert the ticket,” He began from the gate next to me. His words faded in my head as the ticket got sucked out of my hand. I couldn’t help but smile in amazement, without checking I walked forward straight into a locked gate! With a loud thud I felt the air knock right out of me!
Adam couldn’t help but laugh at the display in front of him. “Artie,” He finally sighed. “did you listen to anything I just said?”
“No.” I confessed, taking a step back. “This, it’s a lot all at once.”
“I get it.” He accepted, reaching over to my terminal and pulling the ticket back out. The second he pulled the ticket the doors in front of me flung open, granting me access to the station. “You’ve got a lot to learn.”
“Yeah.” I nervously laughed, taking the ticket from him. Something new again, is the long silver thing our ride into town, did he call it BART? Or did he say that’s MUNI?
I’ve never felt smaller than I did on that ride home. Everything around me felt like a fairytale as the train ripped towards the city. The new sights, sound and smells filled my body, making me feel as though I was being transported to another world. I know it sounds like I’m being dramatic again, but think about it! I’m a small town boy dragged into the biggest city I’ve ever seen! The only city I’ve ever seen!
The sights only seemed to grow more amazing as we stepped off the train and headed towards a bus stop. I couldn’t help but freeze as I noticed a giant domed building in the distance.
“Artie, come on, we’re going to miss our bus!” Adam called out, but as he turned back he instantly figured out why I had stopped. “Oh,” He exhaled. “that’s city hall, pretty crazy right?”
“Yeah.” I slowly nodded my head. “It, it’s amazing.”
“That’s real gold at the top.” He proudly boasted as his smile grew more genuine. “Just wait, it only get’s better from here.”
“Really?!” I exclaimed quickly looking back to him.
“Yup.” He proudly nodded. I could tell the excitement on my face meant something to him. As we finally boarded the bus he tried his hardest to point out every landmark we passed. It wasn’t so long ago that he was in my shoes. A boy from nowhere in one of the world’s greatest cities. Except unlike him I’m not on my own.
When we finally reached our destination I was left absolutely speechless. A park stood in front of me, surrounded by old style homes and the city scape peeking out from the distance behind them.
“Welcome to Alamo Square.” Adam proudly announced.
“We, we live here.” I gasped, taking a long look at it.
“We do.” He nodded his head.
“Wait,” I called out as we began to walk through the large square of grass. “is this where Full House was filmed?”
“I’m not answering that.” He sighed, leading me towards the smallest house in the row.
“So it is?” I asked, but once more got silence.
“Yeah,” He finally caved. “but that’s not the point. It’s, you, this is one of the most historic areas in the district.”
“Wow,” I began as mischief flooded my mind. “I didn’t know Full House was that big of a deal.”
“What?” He disappointedly asked, but as he looked over to me he realized I was poking fun at him. “Okay, ha, ha.” He played along. To my surprise I laughed so hard I had to stop for a second or two. Adam went to say something, but instead hid his smile and nodded. “Now come on, you have school tomorrow.”
“What?” I asked as my laugh quickly faded.
“Now it’s my turn to laugh.” He teased. “Who did you think I was on the phone with at the airport? They can accommodate you starting tomorrow.”
“I thought you were talking to work.” I shook my head. “I really start tomorrow?”
“Yup.” He nodded his head and started to lower his voice. “Is that okay? I’m sorry, I should’ve…”
“It’s fine.” I interrupted with a forced smile. “Thank you.”
“No problem.” He exhaled, climbing the steps of the house.
“I’ve never lived on a hill before.” He observed as I joined him on the porch. “This is kind of cool.”
“You didn’t notice?” He asked, happy with the change of conversation.
“Notice what?” I asked, looking around the open air.
“The whole city is nothing but hills.” He shrugged. “I hope you’ve got a good pair of lungs.”
“I hope so too.” I muttered as he pulled open the front door. Once more I found myself in a state of amazement, well, until I noticed empty beer cans littering the table and floor. A long sectional couch sat in the middle of a large living room with a massive flat screen T.V. across the room. The T.V. was surrounded by various video games and movies, giving me a peak into my Uncle’s personal life. A kitchen sat behind it which seemed to lead into yet another small room with a glass door.
“Why don’t I show you to your room?” He quickly decided, stepping in front of his mess. He led me up a set of stairs and around to the back of his house where three doors stood. “Bathroom, my room, and your room. There’s another bathroom downstairs.” He explained, finally opening the door to my new bedroom. A plain bedroom decorated mostly in white stood inside as I nodded my head. It’s not the best, but hey, this is bigger than any room I’ve had before!
“You can decorate it however you want.” He explained. “If you want I can even check with my landlord and see if we can paint the walls.”
“Okay.” I nodded my head, taking a long look around at it. “I, thank you Adam.”
He turned towards me and thought about pulling me in for an embrace, but quickly decided against it. “No problem.” He nervously laughed. “It’s late so I, I’ll leave you to getting all moved in. I’ll make sure to leave you a new toothbrush near the sink.”
“Okay.” I accepted as he made his way out of the room and shut the door. At first I was filled with excitement as I unpacked my bags, but just like the days before my mood shifted as I began to calm down. When I finally crawled into my new bed I felt sadness overwhelm me.
Unlike the night before I wasn’t able to hold back tears. Just like at my grandparents’ house they flooded my eyes as my pain engulfed me. I tried my hardest to keep it as quiet as possible, but knew if Adam was close he might hear me.
After a few minutes passed I heard a light knocking begin on my door. I tried my hardest to pretend to be asleep, but before I knew it the door slowly opened.
“Arthur,” Adam quietly called out. “you okay?” I tried to stay quiet, but the sniffling from my breathing was quickly giving me away. “I miss her too.” He suddenly let out, taking a seat on the foot of my bed.
“It’s not fair.” I finally confessed. “Why’d it have to be her?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head, getting his first real look at my pain.
“We used to just sit up and read, and just, talk.” I explained, unsure why I was opening myself up so much. “But now I never get to do that again!” I cried as the tears began to flood my eyes once more.
He nodded as he thought it over for a minute or two before finally looking up at me. “We can start something new.” He offered, reaching out his hand. “Come on.”
I hesitated at first, but nodded and grabbed onto it. He led me back out to the living room, making sure to stop in his room on the way for extra pillows and blankets. I watched as he quickly assembled two small beds on opposite sides of the long sectional couch.
He motioned for me to lay in mine as he sat down on his. “Me and your mom used to do this all the time as kids,” He began to explain. “Whenever our parents fell asleep we’d sneak back downstairs and fall asleep watching whatever movie we could find on T.V.”
I watched closely as he sorted through the menu’s and found the first Harry Potter movie. “I’m not going to force you to do this,” He suddenly explained. “but if you want to try this, I do too.”
“Okay.” I accepted, as he hit the play button.
“You don’t have to go through this alone.” Adam offered, staring off at the T.V. “I really miss her too.”
“Thank you.” I forced out, starting to get comfortable on the long couch. “I-I’d be stuck with your parents if it wasn’t…”
“Don’t mention it.” He interrupted. “Trust me, I’ve lived with them, I get it.”
I nodded and rested my head on the pillow as the movie began to play. We didn’t talk much from there, but it was nice knowing he was so close. It helped the pain to fade. It helped to show me I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.
The next morning we both woke up to a black T.V. screen. I can’t say I remember much of the movie, but I’m glad he had a plan. I’m starting to wonder why he was so nervous about taking me in. He’s a natural at this! I know he’s got his secrets, but I’m sure none of them are that bad.
“Alright,” He exhaled as we left the house and truly got our morning underway. “now this commute is really important, because you’re going to have to do this on your own from now on.”
“Okay.” I nodded my head, feeling my anxiety slowly rising.
“Can you handle that?” He checked as we started to talk.
“I-I don’t know, I’ve never really taken public transit on my own.” I gulped.
“Okay,” He sighed as nervousness engulfed his own face. “You’re just going to have to pay really close attention.” He advised, leading me through the park.
“They don’t have like school busses or anything?” I asked, trying my hardest to stay on top of my worries.
“Nope.” He shook his head, leading me down a small block of houses and around the corner. “Now, did you get all of that?”
“All of what?” I asked, looking around.
“The commute.” He replied, pointing to large white building, decorated with windows.
“I don’t understand.” I shook my head.
A wide smile grew on his face as he began to laugh. “That’s your school.”
“Adam!” I yelped as all my concerns faded. “That was the big bad commute?!”
“Yup.” He cackled. “That’s what you get for your Full House joke.”
I shook my head as we slowly crossed the street to it. “This is really it?”
“It is.” He confirmed in a nod. “Now come on, you have to get set up, and I have to get to work.”
“Where do you work?” I asked, realizing I had never asked.
He let out a deep breath and looked at me. “A gourmet breakfast place.”
“So are you like a cook or,”
“I own the place with my best friend.” He explained, thinking carefully about it.
“Cool.” I nodded my head, connecting the dots on how he could afford such a nice home. “What’s it called?”
“Don’t worry about that.” He dismissed, growing weirder and weirder about the conversation.
“Why?” I skeptically looked at him.
“It, it’s called The Price is Right.” He confessed looking away.
“Adam.” I shook my head as a smile began on my face.
“I didn’t want it, but my friend, she insisted. She said it was a fun play on our last names.” He argued, clearly still sensitive about it.
“I think it’s funny.” I shrugged. “How long have you guys been around?”
“Close to ten years.” He proudly explained. “We started it right after High School.”
“And the name is still a sensitive subject?” I couldn’t help but tease.
“It’s not sensitive!” He insisted, but the tone of his voice said otherwise.
“Okay, okay.” I laughed following him up the big staircase and into the huge building.
This place makes my old school look like an absolute crapshoot! Modern art and flat screens full of school information lined the walls. Posters and flyers decorated clipboards, showing just how active the school actually was. As students began to pass by I was amazed by how different everyone was. My school in Texas was all white, literally! But here, here it’s like a different world. People of all different cultures and backgrounds spoke with one another as they quickly made their way to morning classes.
“Welcome to Ida B. Wells High School.” A voice announced as we entered the front office. “You must be Adam and Arthur Price.”
“We are.” Adam nodded his head. “This is my nephew Artie.”
“It’s nice to meet you Artie.” A heavyset man smiled as he extended his hand. “I’m Principal Wright,” He shook my hand as our eyes connected. “and this young man is Ky Iwata.” He explained pushing a teen a little taller than me forward.
“Artie.” I repeated as the teen nervously shook my hand. As our hands connected I was amazed to see black lines creating a design on his arms. He’s my age and he has tattoos?! No one back home would believe this!
“He-Hi.” He finally forced out.
“Ky.” Principal Wright warned in a strict voice, seemingly shocked by how nervous he was behaving.
“Sorry.” He shook his head. “I’m just off this morning.”
“I understand.” I forced a smile, taking a long look at his features. A small medal circle with foreign writing decorated his neck and messy dark hair, parted down the middle filled his head.
“Why don’t I show you to homeroom?” He smiled, grabbing books and papers off the desk and handing them to me.
“Sounds like a plan.” Principal Wright nodded. “Adam, we’ll work on his paper work then you can head out.”
“Alright,” Adam nodded his head, turning to me. “behave, and uh, if you need me just call.”
“Okay.” I nodded my head, realizing how nervous we were to leave each other. We’d only spent a day together, but somehow we had formed a comfort zone. One that helped us both cope with what had happened this weekend.
“And Ky,” Principal Wright began once more as we left the office. “please, for the love of God, keep this boy away from Dizzy.”
“I can’t promise that.” Ky laughed, as we entered the busy halls.
“Dizzy?” I asked with a tilted head.
“He’s my best friend.” Ky proudly explained. “And, well, you’ll see.”
“That’s really his name?” I prodded, amazed by the culture shock.
“No.” Ky laughed. “It’s just been his nickname since we were kids, and it just stuck.”
“Oh.” I nodded my head.
“So where are you from?” Ky asked, taking a long look into my eyes. “Because I’m betting off your accent it’s not around here.”
“Oh, I, I have an accent?” I asked, thinking it over.
“Nothing too bad, you just sound, a little, country.” He teased with a smile. “But that’s okay, most people here have an accent.”
I nodded my head as I finally looked back at him. “I’m from North Texas.”
“Nice.” He accepted. “And what brings you all the way here Mr. Texas.”
“Just needed a change of scenery.” I lied, keeping my cards as close to my chest as I could.
“That makes sense, besides, what is there in Texas other than a bunch of dirt.” He teased in a laugh.
“We have mountains, and lakes and animals of all kind.” I proudly bragged.
“So you’re an outdoorsman?” Ky investigated, hoping to get to know me better.
“I don’t know if I’d put it like that.” I nervously laughed. “But I’ve been hunting before and all.”
“Oh, maybe keep that part to yourself.” Ky instructed with a nervous smile. “Not that I care or anything, just people here in California may not like that.”
“Really?” I asked trying to figure out if he was messing with me or not.
“Oh yeah.” He giggled, as we reached one of the classrooms. “Mrs. Mowry, this is Artie Price.”
“Nice to meet you Artie.” She smiled, reaching out and shaking my hand. “Why don’t you introduce him to the class?”
“Hey everyone!” Ky shouted at the group. As heads turned towards us I couldn’t help but gulp. The largest class I had in Texas was fifteen people! This is like, double that! “This is Artie Price, he’s going to be in our class now. He moved here all the way from North Texas, so we’ll have to make sure to show him California living.”
“Yeah!” A voice shouted, drawing laughs from the class.
Ky smiled to me before leading me towards a few empty desks. “Artie,” He began. “this is another one of my best friends, Charlotte Charles.” If I thought Ky’s tattoos were mind blowing, they had nothing on Charlotte’s make up. Neon purple neatly decorated her face and perfectly reflected off her dark skin.
“Hi.” She smiled, taking a closer look at me. “When you say another, does that mean he’s met,”
“Not yet.” He shook his head. “Mr. Wright told me to keep them as far apart as possible.”
“He’s not that bad.” Charlotte argued. “I swear, sometimes they treat him like he’s crazy and it only makes him worse.”
“Dizzy?” I asked, trying to get a good idea of the guy I was already hearing so much about.
“Yup.” She sighed. “He’s not bad or anything, he’s just, eccentric.”
“He still goes by Dizzy.” Ky shrugged. “I think that says all he needs to know. But don’t worry Artie, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get you into trouble.” I nodded but fidgeted in my seat as I heard those words. Is he, flirting with me?
Charlotte raised her eyebrow and looked to Ky with a smile. “And when Ky and Dizzy become too much you can always come hang out with me.”
“Oh.” I nodded my head.
“If it’s cool with you that is.” Charlotte offered.
“It is.” I quickly accepted. “It’s just, I don’t know. People in Texas aren’t this,”
“Nice?” Charlotte finished for me. “People in California aren’t either, were’ just,”
“Punks.” Ky exclaimed.
“We’re not punks.” Charlotte insisted. “We’re just, artistic.”
“Artistic?” I repeated, staring at them both.
“Yup.” She happily nodded. “I’m an artist.”
“I’m not really an artist,” Ky shrugged. ”I just love sitting by the water, and surfing if I can.”
“Surfing is art.” Charlotte proudly supported. “You should see him go Artie, its pretty crazy.”
“I’ve never even been in the ocean before.” I bashfully admitted.
“Really?!” Ky exclaimed. “You have to come sometime! I can even teach you to surf if you want!”
“Maybe.” I nervously accepted.
“You at least know how to swim?” He asked with a welcoming smile.
“Yeah.” I nodded, and before I knew it I was catching the smile from his face.
“That’s all you need.” He said, as a calming silence filled the air. For whatever reason the loud classroom seemed to stand still as our eyes connected. As a blush began on my face I quickly broke eye contact and looked forward.
“Ky,” Mrs. Mowry began. “do you happen do know where Mr. Armstrong is?”
“No idea.” Ky sighed before realizing who he was talking to. “Genuinely, I have no idea.” He quickly tried to clear up.
She let out a deep sigh and shook her head. “Well when he decides to show up, you tell him to come see me.”
He nodded his head but instantly directed his attention back towards me. He went to speak but before he could Mrs. Mowry took control over the class. “Alright everyone,” She began. “We’re almost to the weekend, so let’s just hang with it for a little bit longer. How’s everyone going to spend it?”
“I’m going to a Giants game!” A voice from behind me shouted.
“Very exciting.” Mrs. Mowry supported, as I tried my hardest to figure out what was happening. “You’ll have to catch a fly ball for me.”
“I’m going to the wharf to fish with my dad.” Another voice shouted.
“Nice, make sure to catch enough for the class.” The small teacher teased, fully capturing the attention of the room. “What about you Artie? Any plans for your first weekend here in San Francisco?”
“I uh,” I froze, not knowing what to say. What plans do I have? I barely even know anyone besides Adam!
“I’m teaching him to surf.” Ky answered for me. I felt a smile creep over my face as I turned to him and nodded.
“Now that’s a weekend.” She smiled. “Ky’s very good as well. You’re going to have so much fun.”
She continued to encourage the class until finally the bell rang to send us our separate ways. “Just follow us and you’ll be fine.” Ky instructed as the halls begin to fill up with students. I nodded but just like the airport struggled to keep up. It feels as though there’s just a never ending stream of people in this city!
“Here we are.” Ky finally exhaled as he and Charlotte led me into a kitchen.
“Where?” I asked, cautiously entering it.
“Cooking.” Ky shrugged, leading me to a two person table, as Charlotte took a seat behind us.
“We have cooking?” I asked in disbelief.
“Well yeah, don’t most schools?” Ky asked, reflecting the surprise on my face.
“Not in Texas.” I shook my head. “And what was that Mrs. Mowry was doing in homeroom?”
“She likes to talk to us.” He explained. “It’s kind of nice. You can talk to her about anything.”
“Literally.” Charlotte nodded her head. “Anything ever feels off it’s worth a stop in her office.”
I looked back at her and tried my hardest to wrap my mind around the idea. A teacher who cares enough to actually get to know her students? What kind of fairy tale is this? Back in Texas we had some teachers who cared, but the budget just wasn’t big enough to support them. They all wound up leaving before they even finished their first year!
“This is crazy to you, isn’t it?” Ky teased with a smile.
“Yeah.” I confessed with a smile. Once more I felt Charlotte carefully watching us as we shared a smile. I don’t feel like she’s judging me or anything, just getting a good measure of what I’ll be like. And right now, I have a feeling she’s getting the wrong impression! I’m not into Ky, he’s just being really nice, and it’s making me feel welcome! That’s it! I swear! Besides, I know the punishment that comes with being a faggot, and that’s not a price I’m willing to pay.
“Alright class,” A middle aged man entered the room. “Today we’ll be learning how to properly fillet fish. Living in the bay area fish is one of our,” He froze as he saw me. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“I, uh, I’m Artie Price sir.” I nervously introduced as the class looked at me. “I just moved here.”
“Oh.” He nodded his head before quickly making his way to the computer on his desk. “Look at that.” He remarked as he stared at the screen. “A new student and no one told me. I’m Mr. Jacobs, welcome to cooking. Sorry that we’re throwing you into the fires right away, but you’ll get used to it.” He dismissed, before returning to his earlier spiel.
“Oh no,” Ky sighed, looking towards the window where a scrawny teen was trying his hardest to quietly sneak in.
“Is he stupid?” Charlotte whispered from behind us. “It’s like he doesn’t even care about getting caught anymore!”
“Mr. Armstrong!” Mr. Jacobs called out as the teen managed to get his torso through the window.
“One second.” The teen pleaded, reaching in and pulling his body the rest of the way in. With a loud thud he fell to the floor before quickly picking himself up. “Did you know they started to lock the doors after nine-fifteen?”
“I did!” Mr. Jacobs shouted, staring the teen down.
“Crap!” Ky remarked as he checked his phone.
“He text you to let him in?” Charlotte asked, trying her hardest to look over his shoulder.
“Like a hundred times.” He groaned.
“He can’t expect you to just let him in every time he’s late.” Charlotte complained as the teen and teacher continued to debate the situation. “Besides, what if you get caught opening locked doors for him? Maybe he should just get here on time like everyone else.”
Ky nodded his head but stayed quiet. “Late students are supposed to go to the front office to check in, not just come in any opening they find!”
“It wasn’t just any opening,” He shrugged as I tuned back into their conversation. “this is my first period class. If I went to the front office I would be late. And how in the world could I miss filleting fish?”
“I announced that a few minutes ago! How long were you out there?” Mr. Jacobs asked in a strong voice.
“I mean, I had to make sure it was food I liked.” The teen teased, drawing laughter from the class.
“And if it wasn’t you were just going to sit outside?” Mr. Jacobs asked.
“I see how you got to that conclusion but,” He nervously stopped. “What in the world is that?!” The boy exclaimed pointing towards the door. Mr. Jacobs let out a big huff before turning to follow his point. As their eye contact broke the teen quickly walked around the teacher and towards the empty seat next to Charlotte, drawing even more laughter from the class.
“Dizzy!” Mr. Jacobs exclaimed, embarrassed by the boy’s trick. “These games are getting old. You and I are having a serious conversation after class, understood?”
“Understood.” He forced a smile, as he sat right behind me. He wore pale skin similar to my own, but his hair was crazier than anything I had ever seen. The sides were buzzed with a lightening like line carved into it, while the top held long blond hair that hung towards the front. He wore black skinny jeans, with a white shirt and green jacket over it. “Who are you?” He asked, looking directly into my eyes.
“Dizzy!” Charlotte warned in a whisper.
“What? It’s just a question!” He tried to keep his voice down.
“He’s new, now be quiet before you get us in trouble.” Ky warned, turning back towards our professor.
“Sorry for being friendly.” He remarked, but I could tell he was just messing around.
With the distractions finally gone Mr. Jacobs was able to really take charge of the classroom. Cooking was like no class I’ve ever had before. Everyone was actually excited to learn! We all watched carefully as Mr. Jacob’s taught us how to properly fillet a fish.
Finally he went around the room handing out fish of our own. The room seemed to burst into laughter and talking, but Mr. Jacobs never bothered to silence them. It was almost as though he encouraged their conversations!
“Alright,” Ky began, as we all descaled our fish. “now where do we cut first?”
“The head right?” Dizzy asked, playing with his fish more than working on it.
“Along the backbone.” I forced out before Ky could follow his friend’s mistake. “Like this.” I instructed, showing them the proper way.
“Wow, new kid knows his way around a fish.” Dizzy teased from behind us.
“You’re full of surprises aren’t you?” Ky asked, drawing a suspicious look from Dizzy.
“I cook a lot.” I shrugged, ignoring the stare. “I kind of have to,” I began, but stopped myself as I realized what I was saying.
“My parents work a lot too.” Charlotte tried to comfort as she noticed my sudden silence. “So it’s nice to learn to cook.” She said, forcing her knife into the fish.
“Geez Char! You’re filleting it, not mugging it!” Dizzy teased as she hacked away.
“Dial it down.” Ky warned him as their eyes locked.
“I’m just in a good mood.” The energetic teen smiled. “You should see my newest piece out on Geary!”
“You’re an artist too?” I asked, trying my hardest to fit into the group.
“No,” Charlotte quickly rejected. “not a real one.”
“Ouch.” Dizzy remarked as the smile began to fall from his face. “Grafitti is art.”
“Okay, what museum is your newest piece in?” She pressured, refusing to back off of him.
“The side of Target.” He answered in a defeated breath. “But it’s a nice Target! It has a Starbucks!” I couldn’t help but giggle at his words. He’s a little immature and weird, but he’s goofy, I kind of like it.
“New kid gets it.” He proudly asserted as his smile began to grow once more.
“His name is Artie.” Ky corrected, turning around and flipping on the stove on his side of the table.
“Nice to meet you Artie.” Dizzy smiled as our eyes met. “I’m Dizzy.” The longer our eyes stayed connected the more I seemed to learn about him. The carefree attitude isn’t an act like I thought it was, it’s really just him. All of this, it’s really, well, Dizzy!
“Don’t worry about him.” Ky instructed from next to me. “If you start talking to him now he’ll chew your ear off for the rest of class.”
“Yeah, and if anything it’s Ky who wants you to chew on your,” Dizzy began to tease but Charlotte gave him a good push before he could say anything. Once more I uncomfortably moved in my chair as Ky’s flirting was brought to my attention. He tried his hardest to ignore it and keep cooking, but I could tell it was something that was bothering him.
As class began to settle back down I found myself only talking to Ky. Every now and again we would overhear Dizzy and Charlotte’s conversation, but for the most part we each did our own thing. Ky was nothing like the kids back home. He was strong willed, and encouraging. At one point we even started to mess with one another! Slightly moving forks or knives, or even turning down the heat on one another’s stoves!
“Dig in guys.”Mr. Jacobs cheered after he had taken a look at everyone’s food.
“We really eat at like, ten in the morning?” I asked, beginning to poke at my cooked fish.
“Of course.” Ky confidently nodded his head. “Wait, is that not lunch time where you’re from?”
“No.” I shook my head. “That’s still breakfast time.”
“What’s breakfast?” He asked, but this time I caught onto his joke.
“Very funny.” I shook my head.
He let out a short laugh as our eyes met. “We eat lunch at normal time just like everyone else. This is just our cooking time, if you don’t want to eat you don’t have to. You can always give it to Mr. Jacobs and he’ll take it to the teacher’s lounge for them to eat.”
“I don’t know if I would trust eating my student’s cooking.” I giggled, taking a long look at my fish.
“Me neither.” Ky laughed with a growing smile. Once more a calming silence filled the air between us. The rest of class seemed to fly by as we all picked at our food. When the bell finally rang again I begrudgingly stood up and followed them to the door.
“I’m not in your next class,” Ky sighed. “But you’ll be with Charlotte, and she’ll be just as helpful.”
“Okay.” I nodded my head as she patiently waited for me. “I’ll see you at?”
“Lunch.” He nodded his head. “So don’t do anything stupid before then, and avoid Dizzy!”
“Or don’t.” Dizzy shrugged. “I happen to be a very fun person.” He smiled as he finally wandered out of the classroom.
“You get detention?” Ky asked, staring down his best friend.
“Nope, a five page paper on why breaking into places is wrong.” He complained with a shake of his head. “I don’t even know what that means!”
“Do something stupid and you get a stupid assignment as punishment.” Ky warned as they both began to walk down the hallway.
“Is he always that, that,”
“Crazy?” Charlotte asked in a laugh.
“Yeah.” I nodded my head.
“Sometimes,” She swayed her head. “he also has a very calm sweet side to him. He’s actually really nice once you get to know him. I think that’s what’s stopped them from kicking him out!”
“And Ky,” I led.
“He’s a perfectionist, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.” She explained. “So please, be careful with him.”
“I don’t follow.” I nervously forced out, waiting for more.
“You know, with him flirting with you.” She pressured, finally saying it aloud.
“I’m not, I mean he’s not, no one is flirting,”
“It’s okay.” She smiled. “It’s cool to be whoever you want around here, no one will judge, just don’t lead him on, okay?”
“Okay.” I quickly nodded my head. “And what about you, how’d you wind up with them?”
“Same as Ky,” She sighed. “I bought into Dizzy’s madness.”
“You guys really love him, huh?” I investigated, realizing he had been the main topic of conversation since I got here.
“Yeah.” She confessed. “He has a way of making people root for him. I think it’s safe to say most of the school loves him.”
I nodded my head but forced eye contact. “And you’re like?”
“Just as crazy as the rest.” She smiled. “Except I keep it inside.” I nodded my head but grew quiet as we finally reached the classroom. I get the feeling she’s just like me. We watch things closely without actually saying what we’re thinking. Maybe I’ll fit in here more than I thought I would!
The rest of the day wasn’t as exciting as the beginning, but it was still ten times better than my old school! Kids here are actually nice! Sure, not everyone gets along, but for the most part they all keep to themselves! And the teachers, they actually care! I could learn a lot here, I know I could.
“So what are you up to now?” Ky asked as the last bell rang and we made our way out of the large school.
“Probably need to unpack more.” I shrugged, staring over at the park near my new home.
“Oh okay,” Ky nodded. “Well I was wondering, maybe you wanted to come see the golden gate bridge with me.”
I felt a smile cross my face, but quickly let it fade as I remember Charlotte’s words. I don’t want to lead him on, I-I’m not gay, and I don’t want to give him the wrong idea. “Sorry, I just, I have a lot of boxes.”
“I understand.” He nodded his head, trying his hardest to hide his disappointment. “Maybe another day?”
“Definitely.” I quickly nodded.
“It’s worth seeing.” Dizzy quickly tried to encourage from behind us.
“It’s alright, we’ll go when it gets warmer out.” Ky supported, trying his hardest not to push me, but his best friend had other ideas.
“No, but still, why wait?” Dizzy continued as Ky’s phone began to ring.
“Hold on.” He sighed, taking a few steps away and picking it up.
“I think you two should go.” Dizzy tried to rally. “You really want the San Francisco experience, this is it.”
I felt my reserve beginning to break, but looked back to him and shook my head. “I shouldn’t I have,”
“Boxes.” Dizzy teased. “I know, we got that part. But the boxes will still be there when you get home tonight.”
“Yeah.” I nodded my head, starting to cave more and more.
“I better get going home.” Ky sighed as he walked back towards us. “It’s a good thing you didn’t say yes, because my mom’s totally freaking out right now!”
“Grades?” Dizzy provoked with a grin.
“No,” He shook his head. “my dog tore apart our couch you racist.”
“Your mom’s crazy about grades too.” Dizzy smirked in a giggle.
“I know.” He confessed. “but it’s not because we’re Asian, she’s just, she cares.” He couldn’t help but laugh at his words. “Who am I kidding? I guess the stereotype holds up in my house.” He teased, as I laughed along with him. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“See you tomorrow.” I happily nodded as he and Dizzy ran through a quick handshake.
“I’m so glad my mom’s not like that.” Dizzy laughed as Ky slowly made his way down the street.
“She’s easy going like you?” I asked with curious eyes.
“You could say that.” He nodded his head. “It’s just us, so we’re close and all.”
As I heard those words I couldn’t believe my ears. He’s just like me! He must know what it’s like! If there’s anyone who can understand what I’m going through, well maybe it’s him. “You still want to take that trip to the bridge?” I suddenly asked.
“Me? I was never, I uh, that was going to be just you and Ky.” He nervously stammered.
“I know, but now he can’t and you kind of convinced me.” I shrugged. “You did say I need the San Francisco experience.”
“I did.” He nodded his head as he began to walk near the park. “It’s a big city, Ky can show you something else. The bridge is mine after all.”
“Yeah.” He confidently confirmed. “Well not yet, but one day I’m going to tag it with art so great people will be talking about it for decades!”
“You’re kind of crazy, you know that?” I couldn’t help but tease.
“I’d rather be crazy than normal.” He warned, leading me to a nearby bus stop. “Bridge isn’t far, just two busses away.” He smiled, quickly changing the subject.
“I-is that long?” I asked, trying to get a good bearing over it.
“Depends on traffic.” He shrugged. “Probably a little over thirty minutes, so that’s not bad.”
“No.” I shook my head, observing the passing traffic.
“You really are new to this life, huh?” He investigated with a curious smile.
“Yeah.” I confirmed, enjoying the colorful city around me.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty great.” He joked, looking around himself. “Where are you from again? Tennessee?”
“Texas.” I quickly corrected.
“Both sound so boring.” He shrugged his shoulders. “How did you even survive there?”
“I liked it.” I confessed. “Sure, this is kind of cool too, but it was quiet and peaceful. When I wanted to be alone, I could be.”
“Quiet.” Dizzy shook his head. “That’s not something I like.”
“You don’t like to be alone with your thoughts?” I prodded, trying to understand the boy everyone seemed to know.
“Sometimes,” He shrugged his shoulders. “but not usually, that’s more Charlotte’s thing, and well, I guess yours too now.”
“You guys are really going to keep hanging out with me?” I asked as a bus finally pulled up.
“For as long as you keep talking to us.” Dizzy replied. “Ky’s our class rep so he has to show all the new kids around, but they usually make new friends and leave us by the second week.”
“Well I’m not all that good at meeting new people.” I confessed as his crystal blue eyes connected with mine.
“Don’t’ say that.” He tried to comfort. “You met us, didn’t you?”
I had to turn to hide the blush that started to fill my face. I grew quiet as I followed what he did. It took a few second for me to properly swipe the clipper card Adam had given me, but when I finally did Dizzy gave me a big nod of approval.
“You’re looking like you belong here kid.” He smiled, sliding into a two seat booth. “Music?” He offered, holding out one of his headphones. I went to reject it, but as I looked around the bus I nodded my head. What do I have to lose?
“What kind of music do you like?” He asked. “Maybe I have it on my phone.”
“I don’t know about that.” I uncomfortably laughed.
“Oh come on,” He warmly smiled. “how bad could it be?”
I wanted to stay quiet but the welcoming look on his face seemed to break me down once more. “Promise you won’t laugh?”
“Cross my heart.”
“It’s, I only listen to Christian rock.” I confessed as his smile widened.
“No, that’s great.” He said, starting to fight a battle against his concealed laughter. “It’s totally cool.”
“I know its lame.” I sighed. “But that’s just what we listened to where I’m from. I mean, that or country music.”
“Well at least you don’t like that.” He offered, but as he saw the look on my face sank in his seat. “We gotta get you listening to better music.”
“Go ahead then.” I teased, inserting the small headphone into my ear.
“Alright.” He nodded his head, placing the other in his and scrolling through his phone. “You’ve gotta know this one.”
I listened closely as a guitar and voice filled my ear. The style was similar to the music my uncle had played, but was still nothing I had ever listened to before. “You really don’t know?” Dizzy asked, staring at me in amazement.
“No idea.” I shook my head.
“That’s Green Day!” He shouted, but only got a blank expression back. “You know, American Idiot, Wake Me Up When September Ends, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, any of them?”
“Nothing.” I shrugged. I couldn’t help but laugh at the look on his face. I guess I’m not the only one affected by the culture shock!
“Were you raised under a rock?” He asked, excitedly sorting through his phone to figure out what song to play next.
“I’m starting to think so.” I nodded, taking a long look at the city out of the window. “I still can’t believe this place exists.”
“Oh, yeah,” He said, pulling his head out of his phone and looking around. “It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?”
“It’s like something out of a book.”
“And you haven’t even scratched the surface.” He proudly smiled. “Just you wait.”
“You sound like my uncle.” I teased, losing myself in the conversation. He shot me a confused look before looking back down at his phone. “I live with him.” I clarified, realizing I had started to share too much.
“Got it.” He nodded his head. “Just you two?”
“Yeah.” I exhaled, as my eyes drifted out the window.
“I understand.” He accepted, giving me a light buck with his shoulder. “My mom always says it’s twice the work, but also twice the fun.”
I nodded my head, but stayed quiet. I felt my thoughts wandering to my own mother, but chased them away, scared of the feelings it would bring up. As Dizzy noticed me falling into my own head he quickly distracted me with the city sights. Anything he knew he pointed out, and anything he didn’t, well, he made it up! It was a tour of my very own. One only I got to experience.
When we finally arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. The big orange bridge soared above us as the sun seemed to reflect all around it. “Follow me.” Dizzy instructed, leading me towards a crowded walkway on the side. Cars seemed to rush past us as we took our first steps out over the bay. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked at all the different sites surrounding me.
“Can you believe this is your new home?” Dizzy asked with a growing smile.
“No.” I shook my head as the crowd around us forced us closer together.
The more we walked the thinner the crowd grew, until finally it was just people hanging around. As we reached the first tower, the walk way extended out over the side of the bridge Dizzy stopped and laid all his weight against the gated fence walls.
“Are you crazy?” I gulped as he fearlessly trusted the world around him.
“Little bit.” He giggled, enjoying the look one my face. “I’ll be fine.”
“Until you’re not.” I shook my head. “What if the fence breaks, or the bridge,”
“You think too much.” He teased with a growing smile. “Just, relax.”
I nodded but couldn’t bring myself to get as close to the ledge as he was, even if it is fenced off! “There’s a saying I heard from someone on this bridge once. People aren’t afraid of the edge because they’re scared they’ll fall, they’re scared they’ll jump.” He lectured, turning around and staring off at the bay.
I nodded my head and with a brave hand grabbed the red railing. Slowly but surely I forced myself forward until I was right next to him. “You ever been scared you’ll jump?” He asked, looking over to me.
“No, I don’t think so.” I shook my head.
“Me neither.” He decided as the wind whipped around us. “Besides, I would fly.”
“That’s kind of dark.” I shrugged, starting to get put off by the conversation.
“It’s poetic.” He teased with a smile.
“Or cliché.” I provoked catching his smile.
He laughed at my words, and just like that I was having a moment with him too. Except this moment wasn’t like the one with Ky. When I look into Ky’s eyes I hear nothing and only feel peace, but with Dizzy, I hear my heart racing in my ears and excitement flood through my veins.
“You’re special, you know that?” He asked turning away to hide a growing blush on his cheeks. “I don’t think I’ve ever met any new kid brave enough to come out here on their first day.”
“I’m not special,” I went to argue but he quickly turned back to me.
“ ‘Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength…’ “ Dizzy began to quote, freezing my heart.
“ ‘Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.’ ” I finished for him in amazement. “That-that’s from A Song of Ice and Fire!”
“Yeah, it’s my favorite quote.” Dizzy nodded, sharing in my wonder. “You read them?”
“Of course!” I exclaimed. “I’m not allowed to watch Game of Thrones, so I have to read the books.”
He let out a short laugh and looked back to the water. “My mom said if I finish reading the series I could watch it.”
“Maybe, maybe we can watch it together?” I offered in a nervous breath.
“I’d like that.” He accepted. Another peaceful silence followed our words except this time he began to lean in before quickly catching himself and pulling away. “My mom!” He suddenly shouted, grabbing his phone out of his pocket. “She’s going to kill me!”
My eyes widened as I realized I was probably in a similar boat, but as I checked my phone saw nothing. “Mind if we cut this a little short?” He asked. “I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
“I understand.” I quickly nodded my head.
“Okay, cool, let’s get you home.” He instructed as we slowly began to walk back towards the bus stop.
“I live right near our school, if I’m out of the way,”
“You’re new around here,” He interrupted, knowing what I was going to say next. “I’m not going to make you find your way home alone. Besides, I’ve got more music to show you.”
I felt a smile spread across my face as I heard those words and followed after him. So this is what Charlotte meant when she said he can be sweet. No wonder everyone seems to like him. Nothing he’s done today was forced, it was all just, him.
“I kind of have to ask,” I began as we waited at the stop. “why’d you climb into the classroom through the window?”
“Thought it’d be funny.” He smirked, recalling the moment himself. “Plus all the doors were locked and Ky wasn’t answering his phone, so it was the front office or the window. I took my chances.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as he made it sound so rational. “I guess your punishment wasn’t too bad.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Mr. Jacobs went easy on me, he was more angry that it was disrespectful. But I didn’t mean for it to come across as that, he’s a good teacher, you know?”
“Yeah.” I nodded my head. “So are you as much trouble as I’ve heard?” I prodded, eager to know.
“I’ll answer that question if you answer one of mine?” He offered as the bus pulled up.
“Deal.” I accepted, stepping onto it. This time I had no trouble swiping my card. It’s my first day and I’m already starting to feel like any other city kid!
“I guess I am.” He swayed his head, finding another small booth for us. “But I don’t always mean to be. I just want to have fun, and well, sometimes I don’t think things through fully.” He handed me his ear bud as he wrapped up his answer. “Now you, how did you know that quote so well?”
“I uh, I had it on my wall in my old house.” I answered with a blush. “It just means a lot to me.”
“Me too.” He nodded his head. “If you haven’t noticed I’m, well, a bit of a punk.” He giggled. “but I never learned to fully own it until I read those words. Now, now it’s one of my favorite things about myself.” He explained as I got lost in his words. “Why’s it mean so much to you?”
I shrugged and went to stay quiet but as his blue eyes looked over to me I felt my resolve yet again fading. “I just never really fit in back home.” I confessed, trying my hardest to give him an answer without sharing too much. “I was different from the others, but that quote, it just makes me feel better about it.”
I wish I could tell him the truth. That I’m a bastard just like the character in the book. That I just fully connect with those words, but I can’t let him in that close. Not yet.
“Then it sounds like you’re finally home.” He encouraged, causing me to smile once more.
The rest of the ride was quiet as we let his music fill our ears, until finally I passed out from our long day. When I woke back up I found my head had fallen onto his shoulder. “I-I’m so sorry.” I quickly forced out as I shook myself awake. “I didn’t mean to,”
“Relax.” He lightly laughed. “It’s totally cool.”
“No, it’s not. I just,”
“Artie.” He interrupted. “It’s okay. I’ll always let a pretty boy fall asleep on my arm.”
“Oh,” I exhaled as a blush filled my face. “I’m not like, you know, gay or anything, I just,”
“I know.” He nodded his head, but I could tell he saw further than my words. “Besides if you were, Ky already has dibs.”
“So you’re both…” I froze not knowing what to say.
“Ky is gay.” He nodded his head. “But me, I’m more, whatever I’m feeling.” He giggled. “We’ve even hooked up.”
“Oh.” I let out once more, as my mind went to war with itself. The old tradition I’d been taught seemed to clash with the excitement of my new life.
“You didn’t like that.” Dizzy analyzed.
“It’s totally cool, I just,”
“It’s alright.” He forced a smile. “You’re from Texas after all. We’ll get that old school thinking out of your head soon enough.”
“So it doesn’t bother you that I, I’ll be weird about that stuff?” I asked.
“Not for now. Just keep an open mind and you’ll find your opinion changing.” He explained. “Besides, how could anyone hate love?”
“I don’t know.” I shook my head, held breathless by his words.
“I think this is your stop.” He offered, as the bus pulled over.
“Do you live close?” I asked as he stood up and followed me off the bus. “Two more stops down.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“But don’t you have to pay to get back on the bus?” I asked, confused by his actions.
“Yup, but I’m not ready to leave you just yet.” He smiled. “Besides, it’d be rude of me not to walk you to your front door.”
“Oh, okay.”I nodded my head. “But your mom,”
“I’m already late.” He shrugged as we began to walk. “What’s another fifteen minutes?”
“Alright.” I giggled as we walked towards the square park. “That one’s mine.” I explained pointing to the thin white house.
“Oh,” He shook his head. “so you have money?” he teased as I looked to him. “Sorry, that was rude and funnier in my head.”
“I don’t understand.” I let out, looking closely at him.
“Those houses are expensive to live in.” He explained, cautiously looking at me. “But you’re new here and your Uncle probably doesn’t want you knowing that. I-I put my foot in my mouth didn’t I?”
“It’s alright.” I shrugged as we walked towards the front door. “You can come in if you want.” I offered, surprising even myself.
“Another day.” He nodded his head. “Besides, you have boxes to unpack, right?”
“Boxes?” I asked before quickly remembering my lie from before. “Oh! Yeah! Boxes!”
“Save it.” He giggled, as my lie came undone. “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”
“Yeah.” I smiled as we shared one last moment together.
Once more I saw him go to lean in but catch himself and flash me a smile. With one last nod he turned around and made his way back to the bus. I took a second to catch my breath before pushing open the big door to the house.
“Hey.” Adam waived from the couch as I stepped in.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, I didn’t,”
“What?” He interrupted, shooting me a blank expression.
“I, never mind.” I shook my head.
“Late?” Adam repeated as he checked his phone. “Woh! It’s almost six!”
“Yeah.” I nervously laughed.
“And you were where?” He checked, reminding himself that he had to parent.
“The bridge with my friend.”I shrugged with a bashful smile.
He let out a deep breath as I braced for screaming, but instead only got a shrug. “How was it?”
“Cool.” I answered, thrown off by how relaxed he was.
“Just let me know next time I guess.” He explained, looking back at the T.V.
“Okay, sorry I didn’t today I,”
“You don’t need to apologize.” He interrupted once more. “You didn’t know, and honestly neither did I. We’re both just learning. No harm no foul.”
“Oh, cool.” I smiled, wandering towards the stairs.
“Want to actually watch Harry Potter?” He asked, looking back at me.
“No.” I laughed. “I have like weeks of homework I need to catch up on.”
“Boo.” He dismissed, turning back towards the T.V.
“It’s already weeks late.” I swayed my head, remembering Dizzy’s approach to a similar situation. “So what’s another day?”I asked, placing my bag down and joining him on the couch.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Adam laughed, as he sorted through the menu’s the same way he had the night before.
A few days ago I said if there was a God He would take me away from Texas. That He wouldn’t let me suffer as much as I was. And in a moment’s notice I was sent here. I guess that maybe, maybe my prayers were answered. Maybe there is some type of God out there. But if there is, why did He take me to a place where two guys are flirting with me? And maybe a place where I want to flirt with them back?