Skye Nonstein was a young guy who had never considered the idea of living out the path of his life alone. He felt very dependent upon the idea of the “perfect” mate, a family, a steady job—the great American dream, many people had told him. He imagined a house with two rows of plants, one vegetable, one floral, a white picket fence, blue painted siding, two cars, a van and a sleek show-offy car, a son, a daughter, a dog, a full kitchen, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a den, a playroom, a dining room.
His last boyfriend was a total disaster. He couldn’t get his life straight. Rob had a beautiful, almost stone-cut face, solid body, fresh humor, a messy apartment, and a failing GPA at XSU. Not to mention the cocaine addiction. It seemed that this was catching on. Uppers. You’d see at parties that kids were taking lines more and more often. At first it was regarded with fear, then tolerance, and now avid acceptance and mainstream recognition. Skye didn’t understand the appeal of the whole thing, honestly. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that everyone was doing it, but then who started doing it? Probably somebody who had long since either quit or been arrested. Anyway, Rob was a junkie.
Wasn’t as odd as the situation with Brian. He had been totally enthralled with this guy since day one. They worked together while he was still in high school. Brian was this boy who he went to school with and he knew of, but never really talked to him. He was a little taller than Skye and had a taste for mischief. They worked side-by-side in a photo development booth in a department store, so they had a lot of close contact. Every once in a while they would bump into each other, or they would lock eyes and it would be almost—almost something, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. Actually, today it was obvious, that Brian was interested in him, albeit his…other interests. Brian would always point out things going on in the store to Skye: “Man, look at that girl’s ass!” “I really like dark-haired women, I’ve heard they kiss better.” Weird. Awkward too, if you thought about it. Everyone knew Skye was gay, he had been out for a year. Most people didn’t talk about it because of the bad situation surrounding it, but that’s a story for another time.
I can’t deal with that right now.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t that weird. In fact, Brian had been treating him as a legitimate peer instead of writing Skye off as “his gay friend,” like so many other people were quick to do. Seems like people do that entirely too often. He knew he was guilty of it—he had been friends with a girl named Rynada in the middle of high school, but as they got older, things had gotten weirder. He hadn’t even realized he was doing it, but Skye was treating her like “his black friend.” Whenever there was a rap artist he hadn’t heard of, he expected that she had. Whenever there was a discussion about racial issues, he would always ask her, “What do you think?” He thought he was doing so to give her equal say in what was going on, but he now realized he was asking her to speak on behalf of her race. It had gotten bad by the middle of eleventh grade without him noticing what had happened, until the day she confronted him on it. Looking down at the carpet of her bedroom one afternoon that they were hanging out, she asked him. Not able to look him in the face comfortably, she spoke.
Here it comes—I can’t bear to relive it again, but here it comes.
“Skye. I’m not your black friend; I’m just your friend. But I don’t even feel like that anymore. I feel like I’m being treated like an object that you picked up because it was interesting, or different, or intriguing, or made you feel better about yourself. Like a recycling bin makes you feel less guilty about throwing your trash away, even though it costs a lot of money to pay for it. It’s like I’m your pet, or something! It’s like you expect me to listen to your every beck and call while I just function as some sort of culture guidebook you can flip through, and get information on how to be a better White person! It’s not like that! The world is more complicated than that!” She started crying.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.
Skye knew that was what had made Brian a better person than he was. Skye wasn’t the same person he was in eleventh grade, but that didn’t dispel his guilt over the situation. It was something he would dwell on for the rest of his life regardless of whether it still affected him directly or not. What was weird about the situation with Brian was that it really hurt Skye to think of the idea that he would never be with this guy, and yet he was the first person he knew to respect him as an equal.
It hurt, Brian. It was selfish of me to be that way, but it hurt.
At one point, Brian started driving Skye to and from work because his car was getting fixed (his alignment was ruined from running into curbs in suburbia). They would meet in the parking lot after school, talk about whatever happened that day, and head to work. Finally, or so it had seemed to Skye, Brian asked him if he had any interests in anybody at school, if there was a date or anything going on. Skye flushed. He didn’t know what to say, though he had been imagining feeling very suave at this moment and telling Brian that he thought that he was a very attractive man. Then they would kiss, and run off into the sunset, et cetera et cetera.
Idealism is dead.
Red light. Brian looked over at him. They locked eyes in that same way. There was a long pause, where Skye had pursed his lips in frustration. He couldn’t speak his mind, no matter how hard he tried. Would this be another one of those things he brooded over for years to come? Brian asked the only question he could ask at that point. “No one?”
You, it was you, I wanted you, I wish I could go back then and tell you.
“No one.” They rode in silence, as the clock neared four, the time they were to arrive to work. There was a spark between them, but they were afraid of it. Nothing had happened between them, and nothing ever would.
(credit for the drawing of Skye Nonstein goes to my good friend Kaitlyn Watson! Here's some more of her work)