The new guy was going to break his neck. Evan was sure of it.
Evan noticed him outside while he was preparing for football practice. Yes, it was Saturday, but Coach Carroll demanded success, and success was more important than weekend leisure, right? Evan figured so. Still, he couldn’t help but be distracted by the shirtless guy next door, who was currently balancing on one foot on his roof.
Evan opened his window and leaned out. “You should do that inside. You might fall, you know.”
The new guy opened his eyes slowly, and soon his eyebrows furrowed in annoyance. “I was really getting somewhere, man. Why did you interrupt?”
Evan didn’t understand. The guy wasn’t moving, what was he talking about getting somewhere? “I just…I just don’t want you to fall off your roof, is all. Um, I’m Evan, by the way.” This was an odd time to introduce himself, but Evan figured he might as well be polite.
The new guy had settled down Indian-style, still on his roof. He brushed a dark curl from his eye before responding. “I’m Johnny. And I was getting in tune with the universe, man. The universe wouldn’t let me fall while I’m communicating with it, right?”
Evan had no idea how to respond to that. He had figured one thing out, though, and that was that Johnny was one of those people. The people he saw being interviewed on the evening news that kept trying to put flowers in the reporter‘s hair. The people Coach Carroll called “No good long-haired commie scum.” The people Evan knew were going to try and ruin his perfect little suburban hometown with their free-love schtick and civil disobedience.
But even if he was a commie longhair, Evan didn’t want to leave for practice knowing there may be a dead hippie on the lawn next door when he came back. He persisted. “Do you think the universe would mind if you did that inside? Seriously, I don’t want you to fall and get hurt.”
Johnny laughed, but set to making the trellis beside his house into a ladder. “You’re such a drag, Evan. So stuck in the conventional way of things. You must be a Capricorn.”
Okay, Evan was definitely going to be late to practice, but what on Earth did Johnny just call him?
“I’m a what?”
“A Capricorn. Or maybe a Virgo, I’m not sure. When’s your birthday?”
“Really? I would have never guessed you were a Gemini. Alright, I’m gonna try and commune with the world inside my room, and you’re gonna go be the star player or something, alright?”
Evan turned as quickly as he could back into his room. It was a rude thing to do, but Johnny was really unsettling him. All that talk about the universe and Capri-somethings and Gemi-something else…Johnny was seriously an odd duck.
Evan wasn’t giving 100% on the field during practice, and Coach Carroll let him know that he noticed by giving him extra laps and crunches. Hours after practice, Evan could still feel the burn of over-worked muscles everywhere. He wanted to say no when his mom handed him a casserole and told him to take it over to the nice new family next door, but he couldn’t. Even if it meant contact with that weird hippie kid.
Johnny’s mother answered the door, to Evan’s relief. But his relief quickly turned to horror when Johnny’s mother turned and called her son down to meet the “nice neighbor boy”.
Johnny stepped onto the front porch, barefoot and still not wearing a shirt. His lip curled in a mischievous smirk. “Hi Gemini!”
Evan sighed. “Could you just tell me what that means? Is that something you people use as an insult?”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “It’s your zodiac sign, silly. You were born in early June, which means you’re a Gemini, sign of the Twins. Of course, that means there’s another side of you that I really want to see.” He punctuated this last sentence with a poke at Evan’s chest, causing Evan to jump a little. “I’m a Cancer, a good old crab-boy. And Janis is a Capricorn, which explains a lot I think”
Evan blinked. “Who’s Janis?”
Johnny’s jaw dropped. “Really, you haven’t been turned on to Janis Joplin yet?” Evan was surprised at how much force was in Johnny’s slender hands when he grabbed his arm and started to drag him up toward his room. This was it. Evan was going to be part of some sick hippie indoctrination ritual, he knew it. He prayed he wouldn’t end up naked and covered in body paint.
There was no evil indoctrination at the top of the stairs. Instead, it was just Johnny and his record player. Evan settled back in Johnny’s desk chair as he listened. Janis was a bit screechy at times, but there was something there that kept him listening. Hm. Who would’ve guessed he’d like hippie music?
“God, Janis is just so fucking far out!” Johnny had been singing the woman’s praises for the past fifteen minutes. “She’s just so…different, you know? I was in a dance troupe before we moved, and I choreographed a solo piece to “Cry Baby”. You should have seen it. Even you would have liked it, jock-boy.”
Evan wasn’t surprised to hear that Johnny was a dancer. It made sense with the profoundly graceful way he moved around the room as he talked. He spun on his toes when he reached one wall, and then seemed to float to the other side and do it all over again.
Yeah, Johnny was right. Evan would’ve been interested in seeing him dance.
And Janis’ voice wasn’t really screechy, now that Evan thought about it. It was passionate. Beautiful, in its own way.
He could say the same thing about Johnny.
Weeks passed, and Evan found himself making more and more time in his schedule to stop over next door and see Johnny. He was a bit out there, but he hadn’t really scared him yet, so Evan figured he would make an alright friend for the time being. Besides, aside from the other guys on the team, Evan wasn’t really close to anyone else, so why not try getting to know someone new?
At the moment, he was draped in a dark purple robe-thing that Johnny pulled out of his closet and flung at him. Evan smiled at the absurdity of the scene. “Coach Carroll would lose his lid if he saw me in this.”
Johnny’s shoulders slumped in exasperation under his tunic shirt and leather vest. “Don’t you have anything else on your mind other than football and what Coach Carroll thinks? What, does he have some James Bond microphone monitoring you? I know, it‘s like Get Smart! He calls you on a phone in your shoe, doesn‘t he?”
“No, it’s not like that and you know what? You’re not any better. All you want to talk about is Janis. Janis said this, Janis did that.” Evan was rewarded for his wit with a silk paisley shirt to the face. No. There was no way he was trying that on. Johnny would have to deal with that.
“Janis is a goddess and I can’t believe you haven’t realized this yet. But back to what I was saying: There’s got to be more to you than just football. You’re a Gemini, remember? Sign of the twins.”
Evan thought. “I’ve just always liked football. It’s something I’m really good at, so I put 100 per cent into it, you know? We made State playoffs last year, so I must be doing something right.”
Johnny sighed. “Someday I’ll see that other side of you, Evan. Someday.” He blinked as he remembered something, suddenly digging through a small leather beaded pouch on his bed stand. He pulled out a long macramé string filled with beads of every color of the rainbow, and wrapped it around Evan’s neck.
“I made this for you. They’re your love beads. You have to wear them all the time, got it? All. The. Time.”
Evan ran a finger across the beads. Er, this wouldn’t go over well with…wow, Johnny was right about his focus on football. Time to actually take a chance on something new. “Why do I always have to wear them? What about the shower?”
“Alright, you can take them off when you’re showering, but otherwise all the time. And you have to wear them all the time because when your love beads fall off, the person you’re wit or the next person you see will be your true love. Groovy, right?”
Evan looked down at the glass rainbow on his collarbone. Sure, why not?
He’d just tuck it into his uniform during practice, is all.
It was summer, finally. Normally Evan would’ve signed up to be part of a community football team already, but this summer he felt like taking a break. It was weird not coming home late in the day sweating like pig and feeling every muscle in his body ache, but not weird in a bad way. Just weird in a new way.
Johnny had leaned out of his bedroom window earlier that afternoon to invite Evan over to listen to a new record, and Evan leaned out of his window to let him know he would be right over .
Johnny’s room was filled with the now familiar smell of Johnny’s friend, Mary Jane. Johnny had managed to convince Evan that eating pot in brownie-form was far less incriminating than actually smoking it, and Evan’s sweet tooth had gotten the best of him. He didn’t give a rip what Coach C. thought about it. What was he going to do, call him on his shoe-phone?
Shoe phone. Heh. That’s just weeeird.
Johnny’s Swiss pen-pal Stephane had finally convinced Johnny to pick up a Mamas and Papas record. From what Evan had heard, Stephane was apparently to Mama Cass how Johnny was to Janis. Stephane insisted on a report back on what Johnny thought on what he wrote were “The Mama’s and The Papas’ ethereal harmonies and Mama Cass’ intensely moving alto”. That Swiss guy was something else.
From where he was on the carpet, Evan watched speckles of dust dance in the sunlight shining through Johnny’s window. It might have been the brownie, but he could swear that two particular specks were moving perfectly to the melody of “Monday, Monday”. It was fascinating to see. Johnny needed to know about this. He tapped the head full of long dark curls that was resting on his stomach.
“Johnny, look. The dust is dancing.”
Johnny giggled. “Yeah, I guess it is. It’s dancing to the music.”
“I…yes! That was just what I was thinking! Isn’t it far out?”
“Far out? Aw, I‘ve rubbed off on you.” Johnny looked up into Evan’s eyes, and Evan felt his stomach flutter.
“Yeah, but that’s not a bad thing. Seriously though, look at those two specks, Johnny. Do you see them? They‘re dancing like, with each other.”
Johnny shrugged. “Yeah, I think I see them. Fuck, I need to vacuum.”
Evan stared in awe. “But why those two, Johnny? I mean, of all the dust particles dancing in the sun right now, why those two together? Do you think it’s cosmic?”
Johnny seemed deep in thought now. Or at least he was trying to be. “Maybe it’s just like people. They just found each other and decided ‘Hey, I like you.’ and started dancing. People do that all the time, Evan. It’s not always cosmic.”
Evan snorted. “Johnny, that’s sillllllllly. Dust is nothing like people. I mean, you’re a people. A person, I mean. And you’re not like dust at all. You’re amazing. And fun. And gorgeous.”
Ooooooooooh goooosh. Did Evan really say that out loud? Stupid, stupid, stu-
His mental self-flagellation was interrupted by nimble fingertips tracing lines up and down his arm. He looked down at Johnny, who watched him with a glassy-eyed gaze full of trust, but with just a hint of hesitation. Evan wrapped his fingers around Johnny’s hand, which he pulled up to his lips and held there for what he hoped wasn’t too long.
Johnny whispered, so low it was almost inaudible. “Hi, Gemini.”
The record crackled and popped as the previous song stopped and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” started to play. Neither boy was paying attention to it anymore. All they were aware of was each other’s breathing and the feel of each other’s lips.
Evan didn’t even feel his beads as they fell with a soft *thump* on the carpet.
Summer meandered on. The days were filled with quiet, stoned explorations of each other. The nights were filled with hushed conversations over the phone, until Evan’s mother insisted that he go to sleep “for the sake of his health and his friend’s.”
The routine continued into August. Evan was spending an afternoon on his front steps studying the chapter on Cancerians in the astrology book he had picked up at the bookstore. He absentmindedly picked at a stray string on his new jeans, which flared significantly more at the ankle then his old pairs. It was hot enough that the tie-dye headband Johnny had made him wasn’t enough to keep sweat from trailing down his forehead and over his nose. His reading idyll was abruptly shattered by a huge psychedelic-painted minibus bumbling up the street coming to a slow stop by his house. Johnny hopped out of the back through a curtain of wooden beads and ran up to Evan.
“So,” Johnny started, leaning over where Evan sat on the balls of his feet .“Those friends from my old school that I was telling you were coming up?”
Evan nodded. He remembered.
Johnny smiled. “There’s some music festival going on in upstate New York that they want to go to. It’s on like, some farm or something far out like that. Janis is gonna be there! You totally have to come with!”
Evan blinked. “When?”
Johnny flailed his hands. “We’re leaving now! Come on!”
Evan resisted when Johnny grabbed his arm. “Wait.” He said, and shouted through the screen door.
“Mom? I’m heading out with some friends. I’ll be back…” Well, he didn’t know when he would be back, but what he said seemed enough to work for his mom. He decided to add an extra “Don’t worry about me.”, which he said for both his family and himself.
When he turned back around, Johnny’s eyes were full of astonishment as he silently mouthed the word “Wow”.
“That was much easier than I thought it would be.” Johnny told Evan, as their hands intertwined with each other on the way to the van.
Evan shrugged. “What can I say? I let you get to me.”