We haven't fallen into a rhythm yet in the middle of junior year, not nearly.
But when Jed asks me at the end of school on Friday if he may sleep over,
I know he is asking for very little sleep, and promising something much better.
I do not know what Jed and I have.
But I know it is special.
He has cross-country practice after school, and I have a literary magazine meeting, so we agree to leave separately, and reunite that evening. How inopportune, that our gallivanting must be postponed till 6:00, I say, loving the way the words flutter out over my tongue.
To which he replies, All the best gallivanting
Happens after six.
That thought stays with me all through the afternoon, as we discuss art and poetry: Soon, we shall gallivant!
(Jed and I are building our own language, where gallivanting and promenading are more natural and more beautiful than walking. We have been speaking this way for a month and half. So far the novelty has not worn off.)
When Jed shows up to my door,
he still has earbuds stuck in his ears,
and so it's only fair that I scrutinize his songs.
His latest mix is still playing when he plucks out the left-ear connection
and puts it up to mine. I read off the list of songs:
the guggenheim grotto—i think i love you
pearl and the puppets—because i do
rent—i should tell you
the beatles—i want to hold your hand
I come in just on the last trill of “(it's such a feeling, that my love) I can't hide...”
(or were they singing “I get high”? Love is full of double meanings.)
At first glance, they are all “I” songs,
But really they are outside-looking-in songs. I wonder if something is up.
Then I notice he still has a backpack slung over his shoulder. Pardon me, fair sir, but I must inquire... That is when he whips out the bag of toothpicks. There must be hundreds in there.
He says, Tonight I thought we could recreate civilization.
I bite my lip,
and consider the proposition.
And I reply,
Neither of my parents are home yet, and so we duck down to my basement and get to work at building something good. We don't get through with constructing an entire society, or even much of a village, but an hour and a half later we have a pretty good house, with a fence around it and a street outside.
Time to populate the world , I say, tongue-in-cheek.
We head up to the kitchen to find the inhabitants, who end up being salt shakers. One of their children is a pepper pot, and one is a bottle of vanilla. They love him just the way he is, Jed says, then we set to work making them paper robes.
If you told me half a year ago that I'd spend a Friday night doing arts and crafts with a boy (who I'm not dating) and love it, I'd probably think of it, and myself, as pathetic. Now, I would simply say, Magnificent! Jed has dozens of friends, and he could have spent the night with any number of them, doing myriad other Friday-night things. But he is here with me, and we have created a house.
I feel lucky.
After a while, he says, Exhausting work, m'lady. Shall we feast? We feast on microwave burritos and hummus on chips, talking all the while about roasts and pate and all manner of exotic cuisine.
Afterwards, we go up to bed. And now, time for hibernation.
I know the true hibernation is still hours off, so we set up sleeping bags in my room and transport the salt-shaker family's house, so they can sleep with us.
Thank you for this, I say to Jed. My week has been rather lugubrious until today.
Lugubrious? He asks, curious; I have used a word he has not yet heard.
Gloomy, I reply. I am not as naturally light as he is, and some weeks are a struggle just to stay afloat. This week has been difficult. So I define for him: Wilted, or melancholy. Essentially, I've been blue.
Jed puts a hand on my arm, and asks me, What shade, may I ask? Violet, cyan, or ultramarine?
Sky blue, I say, thinking more of stormy weather and dusk. But when I'm around Jed, my days all clear up.
How felicitous – after all, the sky's the limit! Then he confides, My week has been orange, tinged with vermillion.
Oh? Do tell, I reply. I'm not sure what he means, just trying to keep up the banter.
He turns to me and says, I am considering asking a boy out.
Hark, a boy!
And I thought I was astonished by the toothpicks.
Jed smiles. He is truly disarming.
His name is Daniel, Jed says, and I know who he is talking about. He's a long-haired boy who's part of the literary magazine staff, and I used to work on the school paper with him. We are friends but not close. I have seen some of his drawings, enough to know that he's talented.
I was not certain he was gay, but it's not a shock, except when it comes from Jed's mouth. From Jed's tone I know that he really does like him. Daniel is elegant, certainly, but I have never imagined him beside Jed. It would be an odd pairing. But then, love is odd. Or if nothing else, it defies prediction.
I can see you going well together , I say after a minute. I think he'd fit with you well.
Like puzzle pieces?
Like salt and pepper. Truly, though, the idea gives me pause. I've known Jed was gay for months, but in an abstract way. Neither of us has had much experience on the subject of boys, so it's largely stayed out of our friendship. He's dated a couple of guys – Cody Miller, who was handsome but obnoxious, and Kyle Davis, who moved to Canada over the summer – but those were before we were really friends, and he's told me he wasn't dating either of them too seriously.
If he dated Daniel, I'm afraid it would be serious.
I know it's stupid, but when I first learned Jed was into boys, I hoped that he'd turn out to actually be bi, so that he could fall in love with me. I pictured him realizing his error and explaining to me that I was the first girl who'd made him feel that way. I pictured our deep friendship transmuted into romance.
I pictured him being the one to save me.
In the end, he was, but in a different way then I could've imagined. Jed didn't lift me up out of depression like the hero in an old film carrying a girl in his arms; he helped build me a ladder out of embellished vocabulary, eight-hour TV marathons, midnight trips to diners, shenanigans, and trust. Then together, we walked across a bridge to a happier place.
I have never told him about my crush, but Jed is perceptive, and I think he's noticed. Hopefully he doesn't mind.
Penny for your thoughts, Jed says, if that's the wholesale price.
I realize I have been staring off into space, lost in thought, not talking. So I tell him the first true thing that comes to mind. I don't want you to get hurt.
Jed replies, You're so noble. He shakes his head. I don't think that Daniel will hurt me.
I don't want to lose you.
He looks deep into my eyes. Trust me, you won't lose me to a boy. I'm not going to throw away a brilliant friendship like that.
And I understand him then. Even if I were dating someone, I don't think any boy's trust would matter more to me than Jed's. We talk more about Daniel, enough for me to have faith that Jed is making the right decision.
I give you my blessing, I tell him.
Jed stands there for a moment, speechless; I think this is the first time I have truly startled him. Afterwards, he grins and embraces me, saying, You can't imagine how much that means. Then he whispers into my ear, You will be my always.
Time passes, and I watch Jed and Daniel take their first halting steps as a couple. The mixes Jed makes grow less tentative, and after a while he's holding Daniel's hand between classes and kissing him outside the art room. I don't interact with them much, as an item, but I watch from afar, and notice that they're lovely together.
Jed is nice enough not to talk about him much with me, unless I ask. Occasionally Daniel will tell about him after a lit mag meeting, or ask me about his favorite color, or whether I think he'd like chocolate as a gift. When he talks about Jed, his face lights up in a way I have rarely seen before.
I am impossibly happy for both of them.
One day, after I haven't had an adventure with Jed in six weeks, he approaches me in the hallway and says, Saturday next is a most significant juncture in my personal life. There will be a dinner to commemorate the occasion. May I propose you join us?
It takes me a moment, but I realize that Saturday will mark the third month of his and Daniel's relationship. Not quite an anniversary, but a quarter of a year, certainly cause for celebration. And Jed is inviting me to go on a date with them.
Has your beau acquiesced to my presence? I ask.
Jed nods. Most certainly he has.
I accept your proposition, sir. I'd be honored. And I really mean it. Along the way, I've figured out that I love him but I'm not in love with him. It's a fine balance, but on reflection the platonic side is far stronger. After all, crushes come and go, while true friendship is fleeting.
Jed beams, and says, We will pick you up at seven. I recommend you wear blue.
Come Saturday, I am wearing a striking shade of ultramarine. I am ready for anything.
Jed shows up at my door at seven, Daniel in his passenger seat. I slip into the back and we're off like a wink. My parents realize I am going on a date, and I wonder if they think I'm dating Jed or Daniel. No matter what they imagine, the reality is better.
I still do not know yet precisely what Jed and I have,
But I know it is special.
I love him,
he loves me,
but we are not in love,
but we are happy.
We drive first to see a movie, an indie romantic comedy that happens to pair two girls, and turns out to be surprisingly good. Then we head out to a fancy restaurant, the kind with candles on all the tables and menus with wine lists that stretch over multiple pages. We order quickly, then slip into a free and easy conversation.
By the time our entrees have arrived – a veggie burger for me, and the pasta bolognese Daniel and Jed are sharing – I know that I will not accompany them on many more dates, though I'm sure they will share many more.
All night, I've kept the poetic language at bay. Those words are Jed's and mine, and they are between us, not between us and Daniel. But near the end of the meal, I feel the sort of sentiment that needs words like that:
You two are resplendent , I say, bordering on fulgurant.
Daniel stares at me, looking startled but pleased. Jed doesn't miss a beat, though. How courteous, he replies. You're so convivial.
It goes on like that. Sometimes I feel like a third wheel, sometimes I imagine that Daniel does. But we are both there for Jed, and I think Daniel can appreciate me like I appreciate him.
Later, when Jed is in the bathroom, I tell him I think that he is perfect for Jed. He looks at me like he can't understand. I shake my head, promise him that he is exactly right for Jed, even if he doesn't always believe it, and I tell him how long it took me to trust Jed when he told me I mattered. We talk more, and even though I don't think we'll be close friends after the date, in this moment we are completely connected.
The night ends all at once too early and too late; we leave the restaurant at ten, half an hour after closing and fifteen minutes before the waiter threatens to kick us out.
Jed drops Daniel off first. He kisses him goodbye for a long time, first stretching across the car seats, then pressing him against his front door. They melt into each other easily now, and I think to myself, they really are like salt and pepper.
(Maybe they're puzzle pieces too, even if they're not sure what puzzle they fit into.)
Then Jed drives me back, and we discuss all manner of topics, just about everything but the date. We make plans to go on another escapade next week; there's a play we both want to see opening nearby.
After he drops me off, I say, Thank you for including me in your revelry. Truly, 'twas wonderful.
He nods, and we stand outside my house, beneath the stars. What a pulchritudinous moment.
I think of him and Daniel in the dark movie theatre and the soft glow of candlelight. I think of our meandering conversation at dinner, and of the three of us in Jed's car, and I agree completely. Tonight has been one long stretch of lovely moments, and together our time is so pulchritudinous. We may not see each other often, but I will always be his always.
This will linger.