Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (14 page)

BOOK: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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He shakes his head and opens his mouth to reply, but I cut him off.

“And you know what? You don't get to say it's not a big thing. This is a big fucking thing, okay? This was supposed to be—this is mine. I'm supposed to decide when and where and who knows and how I want to say it.” Suddenly, my throat gets thick. “So, yeah, you took that from me. And then you brought Blue into it? Seriously? You fucking suck, Martin. I
mean, I don't even want to look at you.”

He's crying. He's trying not to, but he's seriously, full-on crying. And my heart sort of twists.

“So can you just step away from my car,” I say, “and leave me the fuck alone?”

He nods, puts his head down, and walks away quickly.

I get in my car. And turn it on. And then I just start sobbing.

24

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 5 at 7:19 PM

SUBJECT: Snow!

Blue,

Look outside! I can't believe it. Actual flurries on the first day back at school. Any chance this will turn into another Snowpocalypse? Because I'd be really, really cool with having the rest of the week off. God, it's been a weird fucking day. I don't even know what to tell you other than the fact that being out to the universe is completely exhausting.

Seriously, I'm just totally spent.

Do you ever get so angry you start crying? And do you ever feel guilty for getting angry? Tell me I'm not weird.

Love,

Jacques

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 5 at 10:01 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Snow!

I don't think you're weird. It sounds like you've had a shitty day, and I wish there was a way for me to make it better. Have you tried eating your feelings? I hear Oreos can be therapeutic. Also, I'm not really one to talk here, but you really shouldn't feel guilty for getting angry—especially if I'm right about what's making you angry.

Okay. I have to tell you something, and I think it may be something upsetting. I actually don't think my timing could be worse, but I can't think of any way around it, so here goes:

Jacques, I'm almost positive I know who you are.

Love,

Blue

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 6 at 7:12 PM

SUBJECT: Really?

Wow. Okay. Not upsetting. But this is kind of a big moment, right?

Actually, I think I know who you are, too. So, just for fun, I'm guessing:

1. You share a first name with a former US president.

2. And a comic book character.

3. You like to draw.

4. You have blue eyes.

5. And you once pushed me down a dark hallway in a rolling chair.

Love,

Jacques

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 6 at 9:43 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

1. Actually, yes.

2. Kind of an obscure character, but yes.

3. Not really.

4. No.

5. Definitely not.

I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm the person you think I am.

—Blue

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 6 at 11:18 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

Well, I was doing great there until the end.

So yeah. Wow. I guess I was dead wrong. I'm sorry, Blue. I hope that doesn't make things weird between us.

Anyway, maybe you'll guess wrong about me, too? And then we would be even? Though I'm guessing you saw the thing on the Tumblr. God, I feel like such an idiot.

Love,

Jacques

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 7 at 7:23 AM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

On the Tumblr—you mean creeksecrets? I honestly don't think I've looked at it since August. What was on there? Anyway, you don't have to feel like an idiot. It's fine. But I really don't think I'm wrong.

Jacques a dit. Right?

—Blue

25

SO, YEAH. I'VE BEEN CARELESS
. I guess I left a trail of clues, and I shouldn't be surprised that Blue put them together. Maybe I kind of wanted him to.

Jacques a dit
is “Simon Says” in French, by the way. And it's obviously not as clever as I thought it was.

But I really fucked it all up with the Cal thing. I mean, honest to God, I'm a freaking moron. I seriously don't know what I was thinking. Blue-green eyes and a gut feeling that Blue was Cal? It's classic Simon logic. No surprise that I was horribly, epically wrong.

I spend about twenty minutes staring at Blue's email on my laptop that morning before writing back. And then I sit there refreshing the browser over and over again until Nora bangs on my door. We get to school five minutes early anyway. So I
spend five more minutes sitting in my parked car staring at my email again on my phone.

I mean, he didn't see the Tumblr post. So that's something. That's a huge something, actually.

I walk in just as the bell is ringing, and I'm in a serious daze. It's lucky that my hands seem to know my locker combination, because my brain has checked out. People talk to me, and I nod along, but absolutely nothing penetrates. I think a couple of pickup truck guys change my name to Semen Queer. I don't know. I don't even think I care.

All I can think about is Blue. I guess a part of me is hoping for something today. Some kind of reveal. I can't believe Blue wouldn't tell me, now that he knows who I am. Which means I'm looking for it everywhere. Leah passes me a note in French class, and my heart starts pounding, thinking it could be a message from him.
Meet me by your locker. I'm ready
. Something like that. But it turns out to be an impressively realistic, manga-style drawing of our French teacher performing fellatio on a baguette. Speaking of things that remind me of Blue.

And when someone taps me on the shoulder in history class, my heart is a pinball. But it's just Abby. “Shh, listen to this.”

I listen, and it's Taylor explaining to Martin that she wasn't necessarily
trying
to get a gap between her thighs, but it's just her
metabolism
, and she didn't even
realize
that some girls try to get the gap on purpose. Martin nods and scratches his head and looks bored.

“She can't help her metabolism, Simon,” Abby says.

“Apparently not.” Taylor may be an undercover, bully-fighting ninja, but she's still kind of awful.

And then Abby nudges me again later to pick up a pen she dropped, and it's pinballs all over again. I can't even help it. There's just this thread of anticipation that I can't seem to quell.

So when the school day ends and nothing extraordinary has happened, it's a tiny heartbreak. It's like eleven o'clock on the night of your birthday, when you realize no one's throwing you a surprise party after all.

On Thursday after rehearsal, Cal very casually mentions that he's bisexual. And that maybe we should hang out sometime. It catches me off guard. All I can do is sort of gape at him. Sweet, slow-moving Cal, with his hipster bangs and his ocean eyes.

But the thing is, he's not Blue.

Blue, who's barely been returning my emails.

Amazingly, I forget all about Cal until the next day in English class. Mr. Wise is out of the room when I walk in, and the nerds are restless. A couple of people are arguing about Shakespeare, and then someone stands on a chair and basically bellows Hamlet's soliloquy into this other dude's ear. The couch is especially crowded for some reason. Nick is perched on Abby's lap.

She leans her head out from behind Nick's torso and calls me over. She's beaming. “Simon, I was just telling Nick about
what happened in rehearsal yesterday.”

“Yes,” says Nick. “Who, pray tell, is this Calvin fellow?”

I shake my head, blushing. “No one. He's from drama club.”

“He's no one?” Nick tilts his head. “Are you sure? Because this one tells me—”

“Shut up!” says Abby, clamping a hand over his mouth. “I'm sorry, Simon. I'm just so excited for you. It wasn't a secret, right?”

“No, but it's not—it wasn't anything.”

“Well, we'll see,” Abby says, with this smug little smile.

I don't know how to explain to her that, for all intents and purposes, I'm already taken. By someone who evidently shares a first name with a president and an obscure cartoon character, and doesn't like to draw, and doesn't have blue eyes, and has not yet pushed me in a rolling chair.

Someone who seemed to like me better before he knew who I was.

26

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 9 at 8:23 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

I mean, I get it. Just because I was careless doesn't mean it's fair to push you into revealing yourself before you're ready. And believe me, I'm the freaking expert on that. But now you know my superhero identity and I don't know yours—and that's weird, right?

I don't know what else to say. Anonymity served a purpose for us, and I get that. But now I want to know you for real.

Love,

Simon

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 10 at 2:12 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

Well, Blue is kind of my superhero identity, so you're really talking about my civilian identity. But that's obviously miles away from the point. It's just that I don't know what else to say. I'm truly sorry, Simon.

Anyway, it looks like things are working out the way you wanted them to. So, good for you.

—Blue

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 10 at 3:45 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

Working out the way I wanted them to? What the heck are you talking about?

???

—Simon

FROM: [email protected]

TO: [email protected]

DATE: Jan 12 at 12:18 AM

SUBJECT: Re: Really?

Seriously, I don't know what in God's holy name you're talking about, because pretty much nothing seems to be working out the way I want it to.

Okay—I get that you don't want to text. And you don't want to meet in person. Fine. But I hate that everything's different now, even in our emails. I mean, yes, it's an awkward situation. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really do understand if you don't find me attractive or whatever. I'll get over it. But you're kind of my best friend in a lot of ways, and I really want to keep you.

Can we just pretend none of this ever happened and go back to normal?

—Simon

27

WHICH ISN'T TO SAY I'M
going to stop thinking about it.

I spend all of Sunday in my room switching between the Smiths and Kid Cudi at top volume, and I don't even care if that's too random for my parents. Their minds can stay blown for all I care. I try to get Bieber to sit with me on my bed, but he keeps pacing, so I put him out in the hallway. But then he whines to come back in.

“Nora, get Bieber,” I yell over the music, but she doesn't answer. So I text it to her.

She texts back:
Do it yourself. I'm not home
.

Where are you?
I really hate this new thing where Nora's never home.

But she doesn't text back. And I'm feeling too heavy and listless to get up and ask my mom.

I stare up at the ceiling fan. So Blue isn't going to tell me, which means I have to figure it out myself. I've been running through the same list of clues in my head for a few hours now.

Same first name as a president and an obscure comic book character. Half-Jewish. Excellent grammar. Easily nauseated. Virgin. Doesn't really go to parties. Likes superheroes. Likes Reese's and Oreos (i.e., not an idiot). Divorced parents. Big brother to a fetus. Dad lives in Savannah. Dad's an English teacher. Mom's an epidemiologist.

The problem is, I'm beginning to realize I hardly know anything about anyone. I mean I generally know who's a virgin. But I don't have a clue whether most people's parents are divorced, or what their parents do for a living. I mean, Nick's parents are doctors. But I don't know what Leah's mom does, and I don't even know what the deal is with her dad, because Leah never talks about him. I have no idea why Abby's dad and brother still live in DC. And these are my best friends. I've always thought of myself as nosy, but I guess I'm just nosy about stupid stuff.

It's actually really terrible, now that I think about it.

But it's pointless. Because even if I crack the code somehow, it doesn't change the fact that Blue isn't interested. He found out who I am. And now it's broken, and I don't know what to do. I told him I understand if he's not attracted to me. I tried to make it sound like I don't mind.

But I don't understand. And I totally mind.

This fucking sucks, actually.

On Monday, there's a plastic grocery bag looped through the handle of my locker, and my first thought is that it's a jockstrap. I guess I'm picturing some stupid athlete giving me a sweaty jockstrap as a grand gesture of humiliation and douchery. I don't know. Maybe I'm paranoid.

Anyway, it's not a jockstrap. It's a jersey cotton T-shirt with the logo from Elliott Smith's
Figure 8
. Resting on top is a note that says this:
“I'm assuming Elliott understands that you would have made it to his shows if you could have.”

The note is written on blue-green construction paper in perfectly straight print—not a hint of slant. And of course he remembered the second “t” in Elliott. Because he's Blue. He would.

The shirt is a medium, and it's vintage soft, and everything about it is entirely, amazingly perfect. For one wild moment, I think I'll find a bathroom and change into it right now.

But I stop myself. Because it's still weird. Because I still don't know who he is. And the idea of him seeing me in the shirt makes me really self-conscious for some reason. So, I keep it neatly folded in the bag, and then I put the bag in my locker. And then I float through the day in a jittery, happy daze.

But then I get to rehearsal, and there's this sudden seismic shift. I don't even know. It has something to do with Cal. He's leaving the auditorium to go to the bathroom just as I arrive, and he stops for a minute in the doorway. And then we sort of
smile at each other and both keep walking.

It's nothing. It's not even a moment. But there's this sunburst of anger that starts in my chest. I mean, I can actually physically feel it. And it's all because Blue is a goddamn coward. He'll hang a fucking T-shirt from the door of my locker, but he doesn't have the guts to approach me in person.

He's ruined everything. Now there's this adorable guy with awesome bangs who maybe even likes me, and it's completely pointless. I'm not ever going to hang out with Cal. I'll probably never have a boyfriend. I'm too busy trying not to be in love with someone who isn't real.

The rest of the week is this exhausting blur. Rehearsals are an extra hour every night now, which means I'm having vertical dinners over the kitchen counter and trying not to drop crumbs in my textbooks. My dad says he misses me this week, which really just means he's sad about having to TiVo
The Bachelor
. I haven't heard from Blue at all, and I haven't emailed him either.

Friday's a big day, I guess. It's a week before opening night, and we're performing
Oliver!
twice in full costume during the school day: freshmen and seniors in the morning, and juniors and sophomores in the afternoon. We have to be at school an hour early to get ready, which means Nora gets stuck hanging out in the auditorium. But Cal puts her to work, and she seems content taping up cast photos on the wall of the atrium, next to some screenshots from the Mark Lester movie version and a
super-enlarged list of the cast and crew.

Backstage is the best kind of chaos. Props are missing and people wander around partially in costume, and the various Creekwood music prodigies are in the orchestra pit running through the overture. It's actually our first time doing the play with the orchestra, and just hearing them practice makes it seem that much more real. Taylor is already dressed and in makeup, and she stands in the wings doing some awkward vocal warm-up that she invented herself. Martin can't find his beard.

I wear my first of three costumes, which is this scraggly, oversized oatmeal-colored shirt and baggy drawstring pants and no shoes. A couple of the girls put some junk in my hair to make it messy, which is basically like putting high heels on a giraffe. And then they tell me I have to wear eyeliner, which I absolutely detest. It's bad enough that they want me to wear my contacts.

The only person I trust to do it is Abby, who puts me in a chair by the window in the girls' dressing room. None of the girls care that I'm in there, and it's not even about me being gay. The dressing rooms are just generally a total free-for-all, and anyone who cares about privacy at all changes in the bathroom.

“Close them,” she says.

I shut my eyes, and Abby's fingertips tug softly next to my eyelid. Then there's this scritch scritch feeling like I'm being drawn on, because I'm not even kidding—eyeliner actually comes in a freaking pencil.

“Do I look ridiculous?”

“Not at all,” she says. She's quiet for a minute.

“I have a question for you.”

“Yep?”

“Why is your dad in DC?”

“Well, he's still looking for a job here.”

“Oh,” I say. And then, “Are he and your brother moving down here?”

She swipes her fingertip over the edge of my eyelid.

“My dad is, eventually,” she says. “My brother's a freshman at Howard.”

And then she nods and tugs the other eyelid taut and starts on that one.

“I feel stupid for not knowing that,” I say.

“Why would you feel stupid? I guess I never mentioned it.”

“But I never asked.”

The worst part is when she does the bottom, because I have to hold my eyes open and the pencil goes right onto the edge, and I freaking hate it when things touch my eyes.

“Don't blink,” says Abby.

“I'm trying not to.”

Her tongue sticks out a little bit between her lips, and she smells sort of like vanilla extract and talcum powder.

“All right. Look at me.”

“Am I done?” I ask.

She pauses, appraising me. “Basically,” she says. But then
she attacks me like a ninja with powders and brushes.

“Whoa,” says Brianna, passing through.

“I know,” says Abby. “Simon, don't take this the wrong way, but you look kind of ridiculously hot.”

Which leads to me almost getting whiplash from turning my head toward the mirror so fast.

“What do you think?” she says, grinning behind me.

“I look weird,” I say.

It's a little bit surreal. I'm barely used to my face without glasses anyway, and with the eyeliner, the overall impression is: EYES.

“Wait till Cal sees,” Abby says under her breath.

I shake my head. “He's not . . .”

But I can't finish the thought. I can't stop looking at myself.

The first performance of the day goes surprisingly smoothly, though most of the seniors use it as an opportunity to sleep in an extra two hours. But the freshmen are pretty geeked to be missing first and second period, which makes them the most wildly awesome audience ever. The exhaustion from the week falls away, and I'm carried forward by adrenaline, laughter, and applause.

We change out of our costumes, and everyone is really happy and amped up as Ms. Albright gives us notes. And then we're released for regular lunch with the non-theater civilians. I'm a little bit excited to be going to lunch with my stage makeup still
intact. And not just because of my supposed ridiculous hotness. It's just kind of awesome to be marked as part of the ensemble.

Leah is obsessed with the eye makeup. “Holy fuck, Simon.”

“Don't you love it?” says Abby.

I feel this tug of self-consciousness. It doesn't help that Cute Bram is looking at me.

“I had no idea your eyes were so gray,” Leah says. She turns to Nick, incredulously. “Did you know?”

“I did not,” Nick affirms.

“Like, they're kind of charcoal around the edges,” she says, “and lighter in the middle, and then almost silver around the pupil. But dark silver.”

“Fifty shades of gray,” says Abby.

“Gross,” Leah says, and she and Abby exchange smiles.

It's actually kind of a miracle.

We meet back in the auditorium after lunch so Ms. Albright can remind us how awesome we are, and then we head backstage to put our costumes back on for the first scene. It's a little rushed this time, but I think I kind of like that. The orchestra warms up again, and chatter rises in the auditorium as the sophomores and juniors file into the seats.

This is the one I'm excited about. Because it's my own class. Because Blue will be out there somewhere. And as pissed as I am at him, I still like the idea of him being in the audience.

I stand with Abby, peeking out at the audience through a crack in the curtains. “Nick's here,” she says, pointing toward
the left side of the auditorium. “And Leah. And Morgan and Anna are right behind them.”

“Shouldn't we be starting soon?”

“I don't know,” says Abby.

I turn to peek over my shoulder, where Cal is stationed at a desk in the wings. He wears headphones and a little microphone that curves down in front of his mouth, and at the moment, he's frowning and nodding. And then he stands up and walks out toward the auditorium.

I look back out into the audience. The houselights are still on, and people are hoisted up onto the backs of their chairs, yelling across the room to each other. A couple of people have crumpled their programs into balls, and are lobbing them toward the ceiling.

“Our audience awaits,” says Abby, grinning into the semidarkness.

And then there's a hand on my shoulder. It's Ms. Albright.

“Simon, would you come with me for a minute?”

“Sure,” I say. Abby and I exchange shrugs.

I follow Ms. Albright to the dressing room, where Martin is flopped all over a plastic chair, winding the end of his beard around his finger.

“Go ahead and grab a seat.” She shuts the door behind us. Martin shoots me a look like he's asking me what the hell this is all about.

I ignore him.

“So, something just happened,” Ms. Albright says, slowly, “and I wanted to talk to you guys about it first. I think you have a right to know.”

Right away, I get this sinking feeling. Ms. Albright stares past us for a second, and then she sort of blinks herself back into the moment. She looks completely exhausted. “Someone altered the cast list out in the atrium,” she says, “and they changed the names of both of your characters to something inappropriate.”

“To what?” asks Martin.

But I know immediately. Martin plays Fagin. I'm listed as “Fagin's boy.” I guess some genius thought it would be hilarious to cross out a couple of “i”s and “n”s.

“Oh,” he says, putting it together a moment later. We exchange glances, and he rolls his eyes, and for a moment, it's almost like we're friends again.

“Yup. And there was a drawing. Anyway,” Ms. Albright says, “Cal's taking it down now, and in a minute, I'll step out there to have a quick chat with your lovely classmates.”

“Are you canceling the show?” asks Martin, hands on his cheeks.

“Would you like me to?”

Martin looks at me.

“No. It's fine. Just—don't cancel it.” My heart is pounding.

I feel—I don't know. I don't want to think about any of this. But the one thing I'm sure about is this: the thought of Blue not seeing the play is kind of devastating.

I wish it didn't matter.

Martin buries his face in his hands. “I'm so, so sorry, Spier.”

“Just stop it.” I stand up. “Okay? Stop.”

I guess I'm getting a little fucking tired of this. I'm trying not to let it touch me. I shouldn't care if stupid people call me a stupid word, and I shouldn't care what people think of me. But I always care. Abby puts her arm around my shoulders, and we watch through the wings as Ms. Albright steps onto the stage.

“Hi,” she says into the microphone. She's holding a notebook, and she's not smiling. Not even a little bit. “Some of you know me. I'm Ms. Albright, the theater teacher.”

BOOK: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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