In Kindergarten, we were best friends. Of course, at that age, the term ‘best friend’ didn’t mean what it would come to mean later on. Anyway, we were best friends. At that point, Sharpay had not yet lost her baby fat and it was she who was the outcast. So while she stayed alone in the corner, I was friends with him. We ate lunch and snack together, we set up our blankets side by side at nap time. Recess was spent venturing into the clump of trees in the school’s back yard which we called ‘the jungle’, to climb the trunks and hang from the branches and play Tarzan. He was Tarzan and I was Jane.
In first grade, things stayed the same. We sat together in class and at lunch, we climbed the trees at recess, though Tarzan was a thing of the past. Our new game was Space Aliens. I’m not sure if he was giving me hints in that crazy way that young children can, but at the time I thought nothing of the fact that he was always the brave space traveler who saved me, the fair space maiden. Sharpay, meanwhile, was moving up the social ladder and was now part of the popular girl’s large posse.
In second grade we began the slow drifting apart. He made friends with the new kids, Jason and Zeke. He still hung out with me in classes, but at lunch and recess, the three were inseparable. Sharpay began dance classes. After a few weeks of ballet, tap, and jazz, she dragged me along. I loathed ballet, slightly enjoyed tap simply because it allowed me to make noise, but my heart lay with jazz. This is when I was first introduced to my favourite dance move of all: the jazz square. I spent all of my free time in my room or the game room, with its huge stereo, doing jazz squares until Sharpay got mad at me. Around this time is when Sharpay and I began singing lessons.
In third grade he found a hobby. During recess he, Zeke, and Jason would drag me to the gym so that we could play 2-on-2 basketball. Truthfully, I really hated the game, but anything I could do to spend more time with my friend, I’d do it. It was only when I broke my leg and was then unable to go to dance class that I stopped playing. Sharpay was moving into the inner circle of popularity and I began to hang out with her and the other popular girls during recess. Hanging with girls all the time, of course I had to look. The thing was, I wasn’t looking at the girls, I admired their clothing. I loved the way they coordinated with each other as well as coordinating their own outfits. I wished that I could do that.
Fourth grade marked the arrival of Chad. Chad immediately fell into Troy’s group. They welcomed him with open arms. Now that they had their fourth person, he never invited me to play basketball anymore. Even after I had stopped playing, he would always ask me every day. I rarely saw him, if at all. Sharpay and I were top of our class at jazz, so we moved up to the intermediate class. I was still the only boy there. When we were walking downtown one day, we passed a new store that had opened. It was a hat store. A slave to fashion even then, Sharpay insisted that we enter. As soon as we stepped through the door, I was in heaven. There were hundreds of hats. The store was organized neatly, each type of hat in its own section and grouped by colour. Even long after Sharpay got bored, I was working my way up and down the aisles. Sharpay had to bodily drag me away form the fedoras.
When March arrived, so did our birthday. Sharpay had gotten me a hat. It has always been, and always will be, my favourite hat. It was a black and white houndstooth fedora with a thin black band above the brim adorned with a white buckle. I wore it the next day with faded jeans and a black button-down shirt with thin white pinstripes. During lunch, the Basketball Boys, as I had begun to call them, were led by Chad to corner me in the hallway. Chad taunted and teased me about my hat and matching outfit, calling me a girl and pushing me around. Troy just stood there, not joining in, like Jason and Zeke were, but also not defending me. I was reduced to tears and ran to the bathroom, Chad’s laughter echoing behind me.
I threw my hat to the ground. Troy came in a few minutes later and came over to where I was still crying on the dirty floor. He apologized for Chad. I accused him of not caring and asked why he didn’t defend me. He stuttered, but had no answer. I called him a dumb jock, but as soon as I said it, his face looked hurt. I instantly began to apologize profusely. He eventually calmed me down and helped me wash my face. As we were about to exit the bathroom, he placed my hat back on my head with a grin.
In fifth grade, the Basketball Boys made the middle school basketball team. After the incident that previous year, I didn’t wear a hat or coordinated outfit to school. Troy invited me to every game, to which I went dutifully. Sharpay had moved up the popularity hierarchy, eventually becoming the most popular girl in school. She joined the Drama Club and dragged me along with her. I hated to admit to myself how much I adored the theatre. We were both cast in the chorus for the winter musical. Things were going great until the basketball team made it to the semi-finals. Troy invited me to come watch, as usual, and I said that I would be there, as usual. Then I found out that opening night was the same day. I chose the theatre. He asked me about it the next day so I told him the truth. No more words were exchanged. He stopped inviting me to games.
In sixth grade I found out that Sharpay had a crush on Troy. When Sharpay told me this, I felt an odd feeling in my heart that I dismissed. Sharpay made it her goal in life to get Troy to go out with her. She always had a job for me in her plans. I participated, albeit reluctantly. I think it was then that people stopped seeing me as me, but as Sharpay’s other half. We were inseparable and our twin telepathy grew stronger. Troy came to see the winter musical that year. I have a feeling that he had been headed over to congratulate me on my performance, but Sharpay intercepted him. He glanced in my direction a few times and my heart seemed to beat extremely loud in my ears. He was, however, unable to break away from my sister and eventually stopped trying.
In seventh grade, Sharpay and I got our first lead roles as Leisl and Rolfe in Sound of Music. Sure, we had to share a brief kiss on stage, which was pretty gross, but I was extremely excited. We began to call each other by our shortened names, Shar and Ry. By now we had progressed to the top of the intermediate jazz class and had moved on to advanced. The teacher told me that I had a knack for choreographing and had me sign up for a choreography class. Shar had also reached the top of her class in ballet and tap, both of which I had quit. At the end of the year, Shar and I performed a duet that I had choreographed as our final project. We got an A.
I don’t know how it happened, but Shar and I began to wear matching clothes. On the first day of school, she wore black jeans and a white cutoff jacket over a lime-green halter-top. I wore black slacks, a lime-green button-down and a feax-leather white newsboy cap with a lime-green stripe down the centre. We stepped out of our respective rooms that morning, took one look at each other, and burst out laughing. As we walked in to school that day, Shar slipped into the Ice Princess façade she was starting to develop. People teased, but I ignored them, following Shar around and doing what she told me. Chad, Jason, and Zeke found me again; Troy was not with them. Chad snatched the cap off my head as he teased. I waited calmly until he finished, ran a hand through my hair, put my cap back on my head, and walked away. I congratulated myself on keeping my cool. From then on, I wore a mask on indifference.
In ninth grade Shar and I didn’t have all the same classes for the first time in our lives. In fact, the only classes we shared were homeroom and drama. I began the day with Shar commanding me on how to fix my posture so as not to embarrass her. We were matching again this year, and on the first day our outfits contained pink. I walking into my first class, Algebra, and I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I walked to a seat front and centre and sat stick-straight. When the teacher called my name, I answered clearly. And then she called his name. I turned and, sure enough, he was sitting in the back between Chad and Zeke. When he caught my eye, I held his gaze for a moment before lifting my chin slightly and turning back around. I could feel his eyes on my back throughout the class. We shared all of our classes except for drama and in every class he sat behind me. I could feel his eyes on me all day.
In tenth grade, he became captain of the basketball team. Maybe it was because his dad was the coach, maybe he was actually good. I didn’t know and pretended not to care. Every time I saw him in his sleeveless jersey, I swear my heart stopped in my chest. My thoughts about him confused me. My reactions to him scared me. If we accidentally brushed arms, my face would feel hot and my heart would pound in my ears. Every time Shar made me help in one of her schemes, I felt embarrassed and wouldn’t look at him. Near the middle of the year, I had a revelation. It came in the middle of drama. The teacher, Ms. Darbus, was encouraging me to step my love monologue up a notch when it all clicked. I was gay and had a crush on the guy who used to be my best friend. The only one who knew I was gay was Shar. No one knew about my crush.
Until winter break, things went fine; I was content to watch him from afar. Then, after winter break, she happened. Her name was Gabriella and she stole his heart. I saw him sneak into the audition, hiding behind the janitor’s cart. I gave it my all, taking Shar with me as I brought our energy higher. I could see his eyes, wide and bright, as he watched me dance. Then she came in. When Shar and I were done and had left the theatre, I told her that I had forgotten my cell phone and doubled back. Coming backstage, I heard a melodious tenor. Peeking in, I saw him, sheet music in hand. I closed my eyes letting his voice wash over me. When she started singing my eyes snapped open in shock. He was good. She was good. Together they were terrific. For once, I was fully on board with Shar’s plan. When they ended up arriving for their callback, I thought I would cry. They got the leads. Sharpay congratulated them. I stood by feigning happiness. He would be hers forever.
Now it’s our senior year. I still have a crush on Troy, Chad is with Taylor, Shar is with Zeke. But one thing has changed. Troy broke up with Gabriella and he’s talking to me again. Maybe there is hope after all…