The Year We Grew Up – Chapter Six.

Zack’s Place.

Monday evening found the three of us together in the apartment all feeling slightly washed out by the events of Sunday and the heatwave that had suddenly hit. Aaron asked Josh if he had talked to Ali and if the girls would be coming to the party, but Josh just said they hadn’t spoken, he’d left a message, apparently they’d gone out somewhere with Sammy’s cousins.

“If Sammy’s cousins are here they can come too,” Aaron seemed to perk up at the idea of a couple more females. I don’t know why, because as I remember her cousins are 16 years old, they’re twins, not quite identical, but still hard to tell apart, especially if they wore the exact same outfits.

I don’t know why I ever had a crush on Aaron, how can you ever hope to work something out with a guy who’s straight, it’s a waste of time. Now though my attention was distinctly drawn towards Zack. I was thinking about him all day and I know you will think that I am very stupid, but I still wasn’t certain he was gay. Yeah, alright he got very close in the laundromat, he’s got a pink streak in his hair, or actually is it just faded purple?

I wanted to see him again and to invite him to the party on Saturday, but I wasn’t sure how the other guys would take it. Of course it was no problem having a few more people, that’s what parties are all about, but how would it look? It kind of concerned me what Josh and Aaron would think, I mean if Zack shows up and they presume maybe that he’s gay, what will they think about me?

I just hate my life, it goes from one problem to another, I can’t lock myself away like a monk, but I can’t deal with all this stuff either. It’s the not knowing, I can’t tell my dad I’m gay because he’ll go crazy, I know what his reaction will be. I can’t tell my best friends because I don’t know how it would change things. And even though I like Zack I don’t know what the hell to do about it. That’s my life, it’s crap.

Aaron broke the morbid atmosphere pervading the evening by lighting up a joint. None of us smoked, I mean cigarettes, but we wouldn’t say no to an occassional joint. It was Mark’s parting gift on Sunday, he always seemed to have a little stash of hash with him. Aaron passed it to me and I took a couple of puffs, drawing in and holding the sweet smelling smoke before exhaling. It didn’t take long to kick in and Josh had put on some music, so I laid back on the carpet in the lounge propped up against the sofa and listened.

We smoked a second joint sometime later and at some point I must have noticed the time, it was midnight, I decided to turn in. Josh came with me and we left Aaron in the lounge. I didn’t pay any attention to Josh, just threw off my clothes and crawled under the covers, but he started to talk.

“You know Mikey my parents are a real pain, especially my dad. He wants me to be just like my brother and I’m not, not at all.”

“Yeah I know, I heard your dad going on about studying and getting a career and all that, in the car yesterday,” I told him.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, I wish I could just break free and be me.” It was obvious Josh wasn’t happy, he didn’t need to add the next part. “I hate my life,” he said. I thought how ironic is that.

“Look Josh, it’s late. Do you mind if you mind if we talk about it another time?”

“Oh yeah, sorry, yeah another time,” he answered, and I heard him getting into bed.

“Goodnight Josh,” I said.

“Night Mikey,” came the reply, and he switched off the light.

* * * * * *

Like I said before I have been thinking about Zack a lot, actually all the time, and I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m inviting him to the party and nevermind what might happen or what anyone makes of it. If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘he’s at last found some courage’ well it’s not that at all. It’s much more primative, I fancy the guy like mad and I would just love it if I could jump into bed with him right now.

I don’t even have his phone number, how stupid is that, but I remember he gave his address, 31 Sydney Avenue, just across the main street. My mind made up, I head out down the hill and across to Sydney Avenue. It’s exactly how he described it, an almost grand tree lined avenue, with large houses behind neat little front gardens. I’m actually on the right side of the avenue, odd numbers starting with 1, so it can’t be too far.

Standing in front of the black wooden gate, I see there are three floors, the ground and first floor have large bay windows and the second floor a small dormer window. On the right of the front door are three bells one above the other. Next to each bell is the name of the occupant, it’s obvious the house is divided into three apartments and Zack must be the top one, he said it was the attic.

Logically it’s the top bell. The name written next to the push button reads ‘Clifton’, “Zack Clifton” I say to myself as if trying to learn how that sounds. I hesitate just an instant before pressing the button, then I wait. It must take a little while to get down two flights of stairs, so I wait patiently. No one arrives, so now I’m thinking should I ring again, does it work, I don’t know why the obvious didn’t occur to me, that he’s not at home. I think I wanted so much to see him it just didn’t register he might be out.

I rang the bell a second time and waited some more, but when no one answered I finally had to give up.

I went back down the avenue to go home not really thinking about anything except that I could try again tomorrow. Then as I was waiting to cross the main street a bus pulled up at the stop. In the middle of the row of shops here was the bus stop. I was just about to cross when I heard my name shouted out, “Mikey!”

I turned around and saw Zack, he must have been on the bus, then I noticed he had someone with him. “Hi there Mikey,” he said as he drew close. “This is Colin.”

I looked at Colin, I thought ‘who is Colin?’ Is Colin his boyfriend? “Hi,” I said, I wasn’t being overwhelmingly enthusiastic. No I had imagined meeting Zack, alone, not Zack with Colin, whoever Colin was.

“We’ve just got back from college,” Zack said, Colin smiled.

College? I didn’t know he was at college. Well no, how could I. I knew next to nothing about him. “Wanna come back to my place?” Zack asked. “Where just heading home.”

They’re just heading home, what does that mean? They live together, Zack Clifton and Colin whatever his name is. “It’s just up the road,” Zack added.

At least he seemed pleased to see me. “Yes, I know, I just called round there,” I said.

“You did.” He looked surprised. “OK, well let’s go, you can see the inside now,” and he smiled that cheeky grin of his looking right at me.

A couple of minutes later we were in through the front door and climbing the stairs to the top of the house. The final flight of stairs was much narrower than the first, Zack led the way, followed by me and then Colin. He opened the front door and I stepped in behind Zack, into his attic.

The ceilings sloped in all directions, the floor space was bid enough, but the sloping ceilings restricted access. The little dormer window to the front was virtually the only source of outside light, except for an equally tiny velux over the kitchenette.

Zack dumped his bags as did Colin, who went to sit on the bed which was tucked under the eves on the right at the back. I thought you would have to watch you head getting out of bed, especially if you were on the far side where the ceiling was lowest. I looked around, there was one tiny round coffe table, a stool next to the kitchen area, a thick rug on the floor and a bean bag, a purple bean bag. Maybe that’s his favourite colour, I mused.

“Sit down,” he said, indicating the bean bag. So I plomped myself down into it. It was hot up here in the attic, stifflingly hot, I don’t know how he could sleep up here. The sun must tap on the roof from all directions, all day long. I noticed he had a fan in one corner of the room.

Like he read my mind, he opened the littel velux in the kitchen and the dormer at the front. It made no difference, not until he switched on the fan which started to vibrate and swing from side to side. A tiny breeze flowed past me as the fan turned.

Colin had said nothing at all up to this point. Then he addressed Zack, “A cold beer would be good,” he said smiling at Zack.

“Coming right up,” Zack replied. Then turning to me, “Same for you Mikey?”

“Yes, thanks, that would be great,” I replied.

Three cold beers served, Zack sat on the bed next to Colin. “So you came round to visit my little attic?” Zack was smiling.

“Ha, ha,” I said. “Well you did invite me, didn’t you?”

Colin chipped into the conversation then. “So Mikey, how do you know Zack?”

“That’s easy,” I replied. “We met doing our laundry last Sunday.”

“Last Sunday, that’s why Zack never mentioned you then,” Colin was being a bit odd or was this some sort of double talk with hidden meaning. You know, saying one thing, meaning something quite different. I don’t know, but I decided to try to be nicer with Colin, afterall it wasn’t his fault if I’d fallen for his boyfriend.

“So are you and Zack… like together,” I smiled at Colin and it wasn’t a false smile, but I was surprised by his response.

He looked like he was trying to hold back from laughing, it was a bit disconcerting. He looked from me to Zack, and Zack didn’t say anything, he just had that big grin on his face again.

“Did I say something wrong?” I asked. I felt stupid now, as if the two of them were sharing a private joke.

Zack decided to put me out of my misery. “Don’t look so worried Mikey, you should see yourself. You didn’t say anything wrong. Colin and I go to college together, we’re in the same class, same art course. Oh… and we’re not a… couple.” Then they were both laughing and I felt like a complete idiot.

Zack stood up came over and sat on the floor next to me. “Sorry Mikey, we’re not being nasty, just it’s funny.” He put his arm around me and his touch, well I simply forgot about being the butt of their private joke.

“I think you two make a better couple than me and Zack,” Colin said, raising his beer.

Now I was embarrassed and I felt myself blushing. Zack went got up and went over to the kitchen to grab his beer. Sitting on the stool he turned back to me. “So what do think of my little attic then.”

“It’s hot,” I said, and they started laughing again. I thinking I was still missing something here.

“It sure is hot, that just about says it all,” Colin managed to get that out between bouts of laughter. Now I was laughing too, I still didn’t get it, but you know how contagious laughter can be, and once I let go to it I felt my tension drain away.

When finally things had calmed down I decided maybe this was a good moment to come up with the invite. “Zack,” I started.

“Yes Mikey,” he replied looking over at me.

“You know I told you we just moved in, well we’re having a house warming on Saturday. That’s why I called round, because I don’t have your phone number. I mean I called to ask you if you wanted to come.” I think I said that all wrong. I don’t think anything I was saying tonight was coming out right. “You too Colin, we just met, but your welcome to come.”

Zack was smiling, did he smile all the time I wondered or just around me. “Yes Mikey, I’ll be there, Colin too, I don’t think he’s got any other invites for next Saturday, have you Colin.”

“Nothing at all,” Colin replied. “That’s nice of you Mikey, thanks.”

By now we’d finished the beers so I thought it best to head off home. I didn’t really want too, but I wasn’t alone with Zack so I didn’t feel comfortable trying to get to know him better, not right now.

“Well I need to get off guys, see you both Saturday,” I said. “You know where it is?”

“Yep,” Zack replied. “Above the newsagents, top of the hill. I’ll come down with you.”

We both got up and headed downstairs. As I was leaving Zack said, “Thanks for the invite Mikey, now I get to see where you live.”

“Bye Zack, see you Saturday,” and I set off home.

I thought to myself that despite making an absolute idiot of myself it had actually worked out quite well. I didn’t know who Colin was, that is except he was an art student with Zack, and I didn’t know anything much more about Zack himself. That didn’t really matter, I liked being with him, that’s what mattered. As well if they turn up together or anyway when I say there is a couple of guys I met locally who I invited to the party, it sort of looks better.

next – party time…

Chapter Seven – The Party Kicks Off