We finally found our shoes and put them on.
I was embarrassed to admit it, but it was kind of emotional for us being reunited with our stuff after that very long day.
I could see how Robby felt the same.
We put our skateboards down with the rest of the things we’d gathered, and then we sat beside the rooftop air ventilation unit to relax and have another cigarette.
“It feels good to have my shoes back,” Robby said.
“If we didn’t find them, I was going to let you have those Adidas of mine.”
We both exhaled smoke at the same time.
“Do you realize that today we got beaten up for being queers?”
“But you’re not a queer,” Robby offered.
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, I apologize.”
“You didn’t do anything, Rob.”
Sometimes, I called him Rob.
“I’ve never done anything,” he said. “I’ve never even been kissed or anything, but I still get beaten up.”
“Shann kisses you all the time.”
“That isn’t what I mean.”
“Well, if I’m going to get beat up for being queer, at least I’d like to know one time what it feels like to be kissed.”
“Um. I guess you deserve that. You know. Everyone deserves to not feel alone.”
“Can I kiss you, Austin?”
The air suddenly became unbreathably thin.
I thought about it. I shook my head.
“That would be too weird.”
We sat there, smoking.
Everything was shitty and confusing.
Robby felt terrible.
I said, “I guess I would kiss you, Robby.”
“Don’t feel like you have to.”
“I don’t feel that way.”
So Robby Brees, my best friend, and the guy who taught me how to dance so I could set into motion Shann Collins’s falling in love with me, scooted around with his shoulders turned toward mine.
He was nervous.
I was terrified.
I watched him swallow a couple times.
Then Robby placed his cigarette carefully down on the gravel beside his foot. He put his hand behind my neck and kissed me.
He kissed me the way I kiss Shann, but it felt different, intense, scary.
Robby’s tongue tasted like cigarettes when he slid it inside my mouth. I liked the taste, but it made me more confused. Our teeth bumped together. It made a sound like chimes in my head. I never bumped teeth with Shann when I kissed her.
When we finished kissing, Robby pulled his face away and I watched him lick his lips and swallow.
Robby’s eyes were wet, like he was going to cry or something.
He looked away and wiped his eyes.
Robby said, “I’m sorry.”
“No. It’s okay. I said you could. I said let’s do it.”
“Is it okay?”
“I said so, Robby. It was weird. Really. Are you okay?”
“I think that was the best moment of time in my entire life, Austin.” Robby wiped his eyes and said, “Thank you. I’ve wanted to ask you to do that forever.”
“You could have asked me.”
“I didn’t want you to hate me.”
“How could I hate you?”
“For wanting to do that to you.”
“Oh. Well. I am sorry if it was clumsy. I didn’t know if I was supposed to act like the man or the woman.”
Robby picked up his cigarette.
“You weren’t supposed to act at all.”
“Good. Because I’m pretty sure I was just being . . . um . . . Porcupine.”
“You know what, Robby?”
“If you ever want to get shot in Ealing, do that in someone’s yard at night.”