D for Dylan - 1. Chapter One
He wasn't always like this. I'm pretty damn sure I had a right to judge, after all - there was no one who knew him better than I did. Quite frankly, his transformation was too fucking annoying for me to see. The hypocrisy of all these kids in our high school, changing their attitudes about him, inviting him to parties, offering him seats at the cafeteria and acting like he was their best bud this whole time... Fucking gross. I knew them all too well, I was one of the most prominent figures in their spoiled crowd. I played sports with the jocks, I slept with insta-models and girls from the cheerleading squad. Those minions looked up to me, wanted to be by my side, as if hoping that some of what makes me so interesting to others will rub off on them. Well, everyone except Dylan, of course. These days he didn't give two fucks about my existence.
Montgomery High was a toxic place. It didn't take long for me to figure out. On the surface it was a pretty-looking high school with nice facilities, fat budget, decent security and good location, with sweet tuition money pouring in from pockets of rich suburban daddies. On the inside, however, the place was rotten. It was a mix of wanna-be beauty-gurus cyber bullying different girls on a rotating schedule, aspiring pseudo-politicians, fucked-up crackheads, bulimic drama-queens and climate change freaks that did more harm than good with their annoying campaigns around the school. Musicians, artists and nerds were hanging together and radiated faintly non-toxic vibe, but their shitty LGBTQ comrades were a different story - that venomous crowd was preying on their own group like an autoimmune disease, bullying poor queers more than anyone else did. I hated those fuckers, mostly because of what they failed to do for Dylan when he needed them most.
Shortly after crossing doors of Montgomery High, Dylan and I drifted apart. Looking back, I see that it was all my fault. Others may say it was unavoidable, we were way too different and things that glued our friendship over the course of our lives were losing traction. Our mothers were very close growing up, their friendship was legendary - they managed to stay in touch after getting married and living in separate parts of the country, but they reunited after Dylan's dad landed a job at one of the law practices here in Boston. I was almost a 2 year-old toddler when Dylan was born. Naturally, we spent our childhood growing up together. We attended same kindergarten and elementary school, spent every holiday and birthday together, were practically inseparable. I was older than him, but he was much smarter. Even though he started elementary a year earlier, I was still one school year ahead of him initially. Destiny had its own plans for me though - I got a bad case of meningitis when I was 9, spent a long time in the hospital, had to be under isolation for weeks and was very debilitated after infection dwindled. I could still speak and swallow, but I could barely move my arms and had to learn how to walk again. Dylan helped me study, he visited me every day, sleeping over and spending countless hours at my house to keep me company. By then he already knew middle school algebra and geometry, so doing third grade math and English was a piece of cake for a little second-grade genius. I took physical therapy extremely seriously, a few months later I could run again, but I didn't stop there. Three things were set in stone as a result of my childhood crisis - I fell in love with sports for the rest of my life, I accepted my average-ass IQ and I knew that I will always hold on to Dylan no matter what. Unfortunately Dyl's academic efforts didn't yield much - I did learn a lot with his help, but poor attendance left its mark and I ended up skipping a year of school nonetheless. On the bright side - me and my best friend ended up in the same class.
Fast forward to the senior year of high school and our friendship has crumbled apart. I was 19, I played football and grew up to 6'5". Dylan was 17. Hopeless nerd, laying on the grass under the oak tree and reading books on his iPad. He wore those ugly thick glasses that covered half of his face and made his big blue eyes look like two pimples. Puberty stood him up - he was thin as a straw, at only 5'2" he barely reached the top shelf of the cabinet where he kept biochem books he started reading for premed. He had anaphylactic shock upon contact with any kind of sports. I mean, can you really blame me for keeping my distance? I remember the day when Trish made her first sharp comment about the way he dressed. I was a freshman and started dating her right off the bat - Trish was a bitch, but she was gorgeous, lots of guys wanted to hook up with her and my competitive nature did not let me yield to anyone. I remember hearing their jokes about him and I was laughing along, making fun of the only real friend I had. I remember the looks they gave him and the way he looked back. I also remember the way he looked at me...
They drew a fat red target circle on his back right at the beginning of freshman year. I tried talking to him, tried to help him fit in, but he wasn't feeling it. He never cared about what other people said or thought. Ever since he was a little kid, he was the calmest person in the room. Dylan acted older than his age, company of superficial high school kids was boring to him and he paid zero attention to those whom others followed on social media or in real life. The latter proved to be a problem with the popular crowd. They could tolerate bookworms and gays - even brain-dead jocks from my team knew how well they did in life, these days being smart was almost enough for you to make it to the top of the food chain, and frank homophobia was frowned upon almost across the board. What they couldn't tolerate was the lack of his attention. Dylan gave them nothing, he didn't laugh at their jokes, at best he found them annoying. It wasn't because he was thinking less of them, or somehow considered himself above their shit - really he just didn't care about them. At all. He wouldn't give them a single ounce of his attention. I now realized that he was right this whole time. They just weren't worth it.
He told me he was gay back in the middle school, shortly after turning 13. He blurted it out, in a matter-of-fact kind of way, after I made a comment about a girl with a pretty ass that we saw earlier in line to Starbucks. I remember chocking on my coffee. I wasn't shocked - opposite to that, I suspected that he liked boys. I choked because of the way he said it. I don't think he was worried that I won't accept him either. He knew me, knew I was better than that, his orientation wasn't going to change anything between us. Still, I remember that slight concern in his eyes mellowing away as soon as I told him it was cool and gave him a hug.
I wish it was just as easy for him with the others. His relationship with dad took a hit after he came out. Dylan didn't tell me much, but I remember seeing him cry on a few occasions. He always tried to hide his tears from me. He was collected and calm, in this world of short attention span, 3-second instagram loops and emotional prostitution he kept his thoughts and feelings to himself. Some people didn't like it about him, I guess he could seem emotionless and cold, even robotic, but in reality he was far from it. He hated being vulnerable and it was nobody else's business what went on in that mysterious mind of his. The day my mom told me his parents were fighting, I went to check up on him and found him bruised up and badly beaten. He didn't want to tell me what happened, but it wasn't necessary. Dylan's mom took action and divorced his father, suing the bastard for domestic violence, getting the house and full custody over both Dylan and little Sarah. I can only guess how humiliating losing custody battle was for a lawyer. He put up a big fight, but Mrs. Moore had my mother by her side, and there was no force capable of beating their combo. He ended up leaving town and as a result Dylan was devastated. He didn't show it, but he lost a lot of weight and kept unusually quiet for months before opening up again. I was there for him when he needed me and out of the picture on the days when he needed space.
"Damn... Is that really Dylan over there?" - I heard Jessica whispering into my ear, knocking my train of thought off the rails.
She clenched my arm tighter and pointed her freshly manicured finger towards the opposite end of the cafeteria, where Dylan was chatting with Elle and Peter at the table and eating his favorite chocolate pudding. Jess and Mark went on to discuss how many surgeries he probably had, talking nonsensical shit about him as usual. I was having headache listening to their conversation. Zoning out on the white noise they blabbered out with their mouths, I carefully examined my ex best friend. He was dressed casually but with style, wearing gray jacket with a white tee underneath, sporting a pair of blue Levi's and a brand new pair of sneakers. Gone were his brown baggy pants and ugly oversized sweatshirts. Short blonde hair were casually falling on his forehead, reflecting sunlight off the roof window, making his head sparkle with gold. He took off his braces and was now actually smiling - something I haven't seen him do for the longest time. I almost forgot how contagious his smile was. Even his old granny glasses were now gone. People could actually see the jam he was hiding for so long - his deep blue eyes, with those ultramarine specks scattered across the iris, capable of piercing you through soul on that rare occasion when he takes them off the book and graces you with his gaze.
I was wondering what made him change his mind about contact lenses. Or maybe, he had LASIK done? A few years ago he was terrified to try either, but apparently he wasn't anymore. I wondered what caused such a change in him. I knew it wasn't an insecurity or a desire to become popular - Dylan was above this shit, and just to make things clear again - he never gave a fuck about what other people thought.
Dyl's iPhone rang and he jumped in place, startled by the vibration. I chuckled, seeing that some things about him remained unchanged. When his eyes slid down the screen, a warm smile broke slowly on his face. He looked adorable when he smiled. I was curious about what he saw on his phone. Was it a text from his mom? From another friend? Was it something funny that made him smile, or something personal?
He was hardly paying any attention to people that weren't important to him. I was sad to declare that I was now one of those people. Lately he wasn't even turning my way, wouldn't give me a single look. I felt a sting of guilt. Did I expect him treating me differently after everything I've done? I don't think so. Why would he? I made sure, a long time ago, that he wouldn't even look my way...
"I can't believe you used to be friends with this fag..." Jess spat, leaning closer against my seat at the table.
I shrugged in disgust. She knew I fucking hated that word. She wrapped her arms around me and pressed her lips against the angle of my neck. I felt her warm breath on my skin. Jess could be a real bitch, but that was exactly how I liked them. I was in it for fun and sex, and they knew what they were signing up for.
"Don't remind me." I said, brushing off the topic.
I grabbed the back of her neck, pulled her in and kissed her, noting a subtle fruity taste to her soft lips.
I spent too much time thinking about him lately. Dylan Moore was stuck in my head like a bad tune from tasteless commercial. Whether or not it was a nostalgia, a sense of guilt over ruining our friendship or his sudden Ugly Betty transformation throwing sand in my eyes, something kept my mind focused on his face. I wish I knew what happened in his life. I wish I was still allowed to know. I guess spending a good portion of the past three years actively making his life miserable didn't help me with that. He probably thought otherwise, but I wasn't trying to hurt him. It was never my intention. His pain was simply a collateral damage - I needed to get where I was and he was standing on my way.
All of that didn't matter now. We were heading out to the college soon, his hard work paid off and rumors had it - he got his acceptance letter from Harvard this past week. At least I felt pride in knowing that my childhood meningitis played pivotal role in his decision to become a doctor. I left my mark. No matter how hard he tried, he wouldn't be able to take that away from me.
Next several days felt painfully protracted. Time was passing slowly, my thoughts were circling back and forth, constantly drifting to Dylan. I couldn't help it. I had a hard time concentrating on anything, blowing football practice to a point where coach had to roast my ass to keep me going. I felt numb, as if someone snuck inside and killed my ability to feel joy or... literally anything else. I made out with Jess behind the bleachers, she gave me her signature handjob, which felt nice for a moment, but ultimately left me unsatisfied. Last time I felt this way, I was hungover after Jason's party, but I haven't been drinking lately.
Dylan’s eyes were haunting me. I couldn't figure out what it was, I must have missed having him around. This wasn't the first time I dealt with bitter taste of regret - after spending years surrounded by a bunch of fucking twats and hypocrites I longed to catch up with Dylan, to find out how he was doing, to hear him call me out on my flaws, to knock some sense back into me - something that others were too afraid to do now. What he and I had, our friendship, it was tangible and real. People I traded him for were shallow and fake. That's what I was left with.
"Liam, what's botherin' ya man?" Mark snuck up on me from behind and took a seat beside me on the bench.
I sat there sometimes after practice, before heading out to the parking lot. Somehow, looking at an empty stadium helped sort things out in my head. Today, unfortunately, I was going to leave this bench with more questions than answers.
"Dude, what's goin' on?"
"I don't know." I replied quietly.
I wasn't lying. I really had no fucking clue.
"Bro, if this is 'bout the game," he went, "you have nothin' to worry 'bout. You'll get your scholarship, those colleges are out there to get ya man!"
Weirdly enough, I wasn't worried about it. Hearing Mark raise this topic was sobering though. I had to show my best game on the field, too much was at stake and there was no more cutting slack.
"I don't care about the game, Mark."
He squinted at me with a stupid look on his face. "What is it then? Is it about Jess?"
"No. Dude, I'm not in the mood. Just drop it."
I stood up and wiped the back of my jeans from the dust. We grabbed our duffel bags and headed towards the parking lot. It was almost 5 o'clock, most of the kids were out by now and there weren't many cars left. I got to my Chevy Camaro and was about to get in, when I noticed him, standing a few feet away.
Hands in his pockets, rucksack casually strapped onto his back, he looked like he was practicing tandem gait along the parking lines on the pavement, throwing his hands out every few seconds to steady his balance. He stayed late again... probably was studying in library.
I felt my heart racing. There weren't many people out, it was unusual to see him alone, Peter and Elle always hung around to give him a ride home. He didn't have a car - after divorce his mom had a hard time making ends meet. School tuition was expensive enough and Dylan was working part time in the ice cream shop a few blocks away to help pay the bills. Having a car was a luxury he couldn't afford.
He put on a pair of headphones and played a song I could tell he really enjoyed. He was smiling, making awkward dance moves with his tiny shoulders and arms, humming along something unintelligible. He even span on his feet a few times. I don't think I ever saw him like this, he looked very happy.
To be frank, I felt happy too, just watching him. His slender fingers snapping in rhythm to the song I was now dying to hear... It was so fucking weird. I struggled to squeeze a single emotion out of myself all day, and here I was, getting short of breath from simply looking at him. I wanted to approach him, to say how sorry I was for all the shit I've done to him. I also wanted to give him a ride home.
I didn't know what was stopping me. At that very moment, I realized that nothing was. I didn't care about what those twats thought anymore - I was at the fucking top of the food chain, nobody dared to go against what I wanted. And it was a high time for me to admit that there was nothing I wanted more than to give Dylan a ride home.
I'm pretty sure I looked like a creep coming up to him out of the blue, with that dorky smile plastered across my face. My excitement didn't last long, however. After making a few short steps towards him, I was rudely stopped by a black Mercedes pulling into the parking lot with a whistle. The fucker parked right in between me and Dylan, making my blood boil in an instance.
'Who the fuck does he think he is?' I thought to myself, mentally noting that I didn't recognize the car - the model was too expensive even for the kids from our school.
Whoever was inside the car had just killed the engine, opened the door and stepped out. Expecting to see an obnoxious fat white dude, I was surprised by seeing a tall black guy, wearing a gray leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses. He looked older than a typical high school kid. A bumper sticker with Harvard University blazon confirmed my suspicions - he was probably a college student. Well-built and well-dressed, he looked like a fucking model, which made his presence here even weirder.
Dylan saw this guy and froze in place for a few moments. He looked scared, like a deer caught in headlights. He took his headphones off and cautiously dashed back without breaking intense eye contact with that dude. The guy looked at Dylan like a predator at his prey. He headed assertively towards the boy, killing distance between them so fast that I didn't even get a chance to react.
"Hey!" I shouted threateningly.
Despite me standing only a few feet away, neither that guy nor Dylan payed any attention to me. The guy reached out and put his hand on Dylan's cheek. Assuming the worst, I jumped forward to knock him on the ground, but I ended up freezing in place.
Suddenly, solid ground turned into a quicksand underneath my feet. My heart sank as I saw the guy pulling Dylan in by the waist and wrapping his hand around boy's neck. He covered Dylan's full soft lips with his. He kissed him like he fucking meant it, lips sliding on Dylan's cheeks, biting and pulling on his lips, diving in deep and hard, forcing their tongues to wrestle. Dylan reciprocated, letting out soft moans, wrapping his arms around the guy's back, fingers digging into his jacket.
I felt like somebody just stabbed me in the gut and knocked my breath out.
'What's happening? Who the fuck is that guy... Why is he kissing Dylan, why is Dylan letting him?!' I heard myself thinking.
I never felt this way before. I was confused and hurt, I hyperventilated, unable to decipher my own reaction to this.
'What the fuck is he thinking?! Is that guy his fucking boyfriend or something? How the fuck did this happen, how could he fucking do this to me!' I screamed in my head, getting angrier with each passing second.
"What the fuck..." I hissed out loud, chocking in my fury, unable to keep it to myself.
As my heart threatened to burst out of my chest, Dylan and the guy in gray leather jacket broke their kiss and turned my way. For the first time in months, Dylan looked me in the eyes.
I was a fool to think I was ready to look into his.
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