Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (18 page)

BOOK: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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32

I CLICK SEND AND TRY
not to think about it, but I'm restless and punchy and jittery all the way to school. And cranking Sufjan Stevens at top volume doesn't solve anything, which is probably why people don't crank Sufjan Stevens. My stomach is apparently on a spin cycle.

First I put my costume on backward, and then I spend ten minutes looking for my contact lenses before remembering I'm wearing them. I've achieved Martin levels of twitchiness—Brianna has a ridiculous time putting on my eyeliner. And all through the bustle and pep talks and swelling of the overture, my mind is stuck on Blue Blue Blue.

I don't know how I make it through the performance. I honestly don't remember half of it.

Afterward, there's this big goopy scene onstage of people
hugging and thanking the audience and thanking the crew and thanking the orchestra. All the seniors get roses, and Cal gets a bouquet of them, and Ms. Albright's bouquet is off the freaking charts. My dad calls it the Sunday Matinee Tearfest, which quickly inspired the Sunday Afternoon Unavoidable Golf Conflict. I don't even blame him.

But then I think about Ms. Albright making it her life's mission to get those in-tha-butt guys suspended. And how pissed off and determined she looked, slapping the handbook down on that chair backstage.

I wish I had brought her another bouquet or a card or a freaking tiara. I don't know. Something just from me.

Then we have to get dressed again. And we have to strike the set. Everything takes forever. I never wear a watch, but I pull my phone out again and again and again to check the time. 5:24. 5:31. 5:40. Every part of me twists and flips and screams with anticipation.

At six, I leave. I just walk out the door. And it's so warm outside. I mean, it's warm for January. I want to be less excited, because who the hell knows what Blue is thinking, and who the hell knows what I'm setting myself up for. But I can't help it. I just have a good feeling.

I keep thinking about what my dad said.
You're pretty brave, kid
.

Maybe I am.

The carnival is basically our cast party, and everyone's
driving straight from school to the mall. Except for me. I make a left at the light and drive home. Because I don't care if it's January. I want the T-shirt.

It's under my pillow, soft and white and neatly folded, with its wall of red and black swirls, and a picture of Elliott standing in front. Black and white, except for his hand. I pull it on quickly and grab a cardigan to throw over it. At this point, I have to haul ass to the mall if I'm going to make it by six thirty.

Except there's something stiff and pokey between my shoulder blades, in that exact spot you can never quite scratch. I slide my arm underneath the hem and up through the bottom. A piece of paper is taped to the fabric inside. I catch it and tug it out.

It's another note on blue-green construction paper, and it starts with a postscript. My fingers tremble as I read it.

P.S. I love the way you smile like you don't realize you're doing it. I love your perpetual bed head. I love the way you hold eye contact a moment longer than you need to. And I love your moon-gray eyes. So if you think I'm not attracted to you, Simon, you're crazy
.

And underneath that, he's written his phone number.

There's a tingling feeling that radiates outward from a point below my stomach—wrenching and wonderful and almost unbearable. I've never been so aware of my heartbeat. Blue and
his vertical handwriting and the word “love” repeated over and over again.

Not to mention the fact that I could call him right this second and know who he is.

But I think I won't call. Not yet. Because, for all I know, he's waiting for me. For real. In person. Which means I have to get to the mall.

It's almost seven by the time I get there, and I'm kicking myself for being so late. It's already dark, but the carnival is noisy and lit and alive. I love these pop-up carnivals. I love that a parking lot in January can be transformed into summer at Coney Island. I see Cal and Brianna and a couple of the seniors standing in line to get tickets, so I make my way toward them.

I'm worried that it's too dark. And I'm worried, of course, that Blue has come and gone. But it's impossible to know when I don't know who I'm looking for.

We all buy tons of tickets, and then we ride everything. There's a Ferris wheel and a carousel and bumper cars and flying swings. We fold our legs up into the baby train and ride that, too. And then we all get hot chocolate, and drink it sitting on the curb near the concession stand.

I stare at everyone walking, and every time someone looks down and makes eye contact, my heart goes haywire.

I spot Abby and Nick sitting in front of the games, holding
hands and eating popcorn. Nick has a holy buttload of stuffed animals lined up around his feet.

“There's no way he won all of these for you,” I say to Abby. I feel nervous as I walk up to her. I'm not sure we're on speaking terms.

But she smiles up at me. “Not even. I won these for him.”

“It's that crane game,” says Nick. “She's a total boss. I think she's cheating.” He nudges her sideways.

“Keep thinking that,” says Abby.

I laugh, feeling shy.

“Sit with us,” she says.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” She scoots closer to Nick to make room. Then she leans her head against my shoulder for a moment and whispers, “I'm sorry, Simon.”

“Are you kidding me? I'm sorry,” I say. “I'm so sorry.”

“Eh, I've thought about it, and you definitely get a pass when you're being blackmailed.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yup,” she says. “And because I can't stay mad when I'm deliriously happy.”

I can't see Nick's face, but he taps the toe of his sneaker against her ballet flat. And they seem to shift closer to each other.

“You guys are going to be a really gross couple, aren't you?” I say.

“Probably,” says Nick.

Abby looks at me and says, “So, is that the shirt?”

“What?” I ask, blushing.

“The shirt that Drunky McDrunkbutt made me drive all the way across town for.”

“Oh,” I say. “Yeah.”

“I'm guessing there's a story behind it.”

I shrug.

“Does it have to do with the guy you're looking for?” she asks. “This is about a guy, right?”

I almost choke. “The guy I'm looking for?”

“Simon,” she says, putting her hand on my arm. “You're obviously looking for someone. Your eyes are everywhere.”

“Hmph,” I say, burying my face.

“You know, it's okay to be kind of romantic,” she says.

“I'm not romantic.”

“Right.” Abby laughs. “I forgot. You and Nick are so cynical.”

“Wait, what did I do?” asks Nick.

Abby leans into him, but looks up at me. “Hey. I hope you find him, okay?” she says.

Okay.

But it's eight thirty, and I still haven't found him. Or he hasn't found me. It's hard to know what to think.

He likes me. I mean, that's basically what the note said. But the note was written two weeks ago. It almost kills me. Two
weeks with the shirt under my freaking pillow, and I had no idea what was tucked away inside of it. I know it's been said, but I'm a monumental idiot.

I mean, in two weeks, he could have changed his mind about me.

The carnival shuts down in half an hour, and my friends have all gone home. I should go, too. But I have another couple of tickets, so I blow most of them on midway games and save my last one for the Tilt-A-Whirl. I figure it's the last place I'll find Blue, so I've been avoiding it all night.

There's no line at all; I walk straight onto the ride. The Tilt-A-Whirl has these metal pods with domed tops, and there's a metal wheel in the middle that you can turn to make your pod spin. And then the ride itself whirls around quickly, and the whole point is just to get you dizzy. Or maybe the point is to empty your head.

I'm alone in my seat, with the seat belt pulled as tight as I can make it. A couple of girls squeeze into the pod next to mine, and the operator walks over to latch the gate. Almost all the other pods are empty. I lean back and shut my eyes.

And then someone slides in beside me.

“Can I sit here?” he asks, and my eyes snap open.

It's Cute Bram Greenfeld, of the soft eyes and soccer calves.

I loosen the seat belt to let him in. And I smile at him. It's impossible not to.

“I like your shirt,” he says. He seems nervous.

“Thanks,” I say. “It's Elliott Smith.”

The operator reaches over us and pulls the guardrail down, locking us in.

“I know,” says Bram. There's something in his voice. I turn to him, slowly, and his eyes are wide and brown and totally open.

There's this pause. We're still looking at each other. And there's this feeling in my stomach like a coil pulled taut.

“It's you,” I say.

“I know I'm late,” he says.

Then there's a grinding noise and a jolt and a swell of music. Someone shrieks and then laughs, and the ride spins to life.

Bram's eyes are clenched shut and his chin is locked down. He's perfectly silent. He cups his hands over his nose and mouth. I hold the metal wheel in place with both hands, but it keeps pulling into a clockwise rotation. It's like the ride wants to spin. And it spins and it spins.

“Sorry,” he says, when it finally stops, and his voice is stretched thin, and his eyes are still closed.

“It's okay,” I say. “Are you okay?”

He nods and exhales and says, “Yeah. I will be.”

We step off the ride and make it to the curb, and he leans all the way forward, tucking his head between his knees. I settle in beside him, feeling awkward and jittery and almost drunk.

“I just got your email,” he says. “I was sure I was going to miss you.”

“I can't believe it's you,” I say.

“It's me,” he says. His eyes slide open. “You really didn't know?”

“Not a clue,” I say. I study his profile. He has these lips that meet just barely, like the slightest touch would coax them open. His ears are slightly big and there are two freckles on his cheekbone. And his eyelashes are more dramatic than I've ever noticed.

He turns toward me, and I look away quickly.

“I thought I was so obvious,” he says.

I shake my head.

He stares straight ahead. “I think I wanted you to know.”

“Then why didn't you just tell me?”

“Because,” he says, and his voice sort of shakes. And I'm aching to touch him. Quite honestly, I've never wanted anything so badly in my life. “Because, if you had been looking for it to be me, I think you would have guessed it yourself.”

I don't quite know how to respond to that. I don't know if it's true or not.

“But you never gave me clues,” I say finally.

“I did,” he says, smiling. “My email address.”

“Bluegreen118,” I say.

“Bram Louis Greenfeld. My birthday.”

“Jesus. I'm an idiot.”

“No, you're not,” he says softly.

But I am. I'm an idiot. I was looking for him to be Cal. And
I guess I assumed that Blue would be white. Which kind of makes me want to smack myself. White shouldn't be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn't even be a default.

“I'm sorry,” I say.

“For what?”

“For not figuring it out.”

“But it would be completely unfair of me to expect that,” he says.

“You guessed it was me.”

“Well, yeah,” he says. He looks down. “I kind of guessed a long time ago. Except I thought maybe I was just seeing what I wanted to see.”

Seeing what he wanted to see.

I think that means Bram wanted it to be me.

There's this twist in my stomach, and my brain feels hazy. I clear my throat. “I guess I should have shut up about who my English teacher is.”

“Wouldn't have helped.”

“Oh no?”

He smiles slightly, and turns away. “You sort of talk the way you write.”

“No freaking way.”

I'm kind of hardcore grinning now.

In the distance, they begin shutting down the rides and turning off lights. There's something beautiful and eerie about
a darkened, unmoving Ferris wheel. Beyond the carnival, the lights turn off in the doorways of the department stores. I know my parents expect me home.

But I scoot closer to Bram, until our arms are almost touching, and I can feel him twitch just slightly. Our pinkie fingers are maybe an inch apart, and it's as if an invisible current runs between them.

“But how are you a president?” I ask.

“What?”

“The same first name as a former president.”

“Oh,” he says, “Abraham.”

“Ohhh.”

We're quiet for a moment.

“And I can't believe you rode the Tilt-A-Whirl for me.”

“I must really like you,” he says.

So I lean in toward him, and my heart is in my throat. “I want to hold your hand,” I say softly.

Because we're in public. Because I don't know if he's out.

“So hold it,” he says.

And I do.

33

IN ENGLISH CLASS ON MONDAY
, my eyes find Bram immediately. He sits on the couch beside Garrett, wearing a collared shirt under a sweater, and he's so freaking adorable that it almost hurts to look at him.

“Hi, hi,” I say.

He smiles like he's been waiting for me, and he scoots over to make room.

“Good job this weekend, Spier,” says Garrett. “Pretty friggin' funny.”

“I didn't know you were there.”

“I mean,” he says, “Greenfeld made me go three times.”

“Oh, really?” I say, grinning at Bram. And then he grins back, and I'm giddy and breathless and kind of unraveled. And I didn't sleep at all last night. Not even for a second. I've
basically been picturing this moment for ten hours, and now that it's here, I don't have a clue what I'm supposed to say. Probably something awesome and witty and not school-related.

Probably not: “Did you finish the chapter?”

“I did,” he says.

“I didn't,” I say.

Then he smiles and I smile. And then I blush and he lowers his eyes, and it's like this entire pantomime of nervous gestures.

Mr. Wise comes in and starts reading aloud from
The Awakening
, and we're supposed to follow along in our own copies. But I keep losing my place. I've never been so distracted. So, I lean in to look on with Bram, and his body shifts toward me. I'm perfectly attuned to every point of contact between us. It's like our nerve endings have found a way to slip through fabric.

And then Bram stretches his legs forward and pushes his knee into mine. Which means the rest of the period is pretty much devoted to staring at Bram's knee. There's a place where his jeans are fraying, and a tiny patch of brown skin is barely visible between the fibers of the denim. And all I want to do is touch it. At one point, Bram and Garrett both turn to look at me, and I realize I've just sighed out loud.

After class, Abby hooks an arm around my shoulders and says, “I didn't realize you and Bram were such good friends.”

“Hush,” I say, and my cheeks burn. Freaking Abby never misses a freaking thing.

I'm not expecting to see him again until lunch, but he
materializes at my locker right before. “I think we should go somewhere,” he says.

“Off campus?”

Technically, only the seniors are allowed, but it's not like the security guards know we're not seniors. So I imagine.

“Have you done this before?”

“Nope,” he says. And he presses his fingertips softly against mine, just for a moment.

“Me neither,” I say. “Okay.”

So, we walk out the side door and briskly through the parking lot with as much confidence as we can muster. The air is sharply cold from an hour or two of early morning rain.

Bram's Honda Civic is old and comfy and meticulously neat, and he cranks up the heat as soon as we get inside. An auxiliary cable strings out from the cigarette lighter, attached to an iPod. He tells me to pick the music. I'm not sure if Bram knows that handing me his iPod is like handing me the window to his soul.

And of course his music selection is perfect. A lot of classic soul and newer hip-hop. A surprising amount of bluegrass. A single guilty pleasure song by Justin Bieber. And, without exception, every album or musician I've ever mentioned in my emails.

I think I'm in love.

“So, where are we going?” I ask.

He glances at me and smiles. “I have an idea.”

So I lean back against the headrest, spinning through Bram's music list as the heater revives my fingers. It's beginning to rain again. I watch the droplets slide in tapering diagonals across the window.

I make a decision and press play, and Otis Redding's voice comes quietly through the speakers. “Try a Little Tenderness.” I turn up the volume.

And then I touch Bram's elbow. “You're so quiet,” I say.

“Now or in general?”

“Well, both.”

“I'm quiet around you,” he says, smiling.

I smile back. “I'm one of the cute guys who gets you tongue-tied?”

He squeezes the steering wheel.

“You're
the
cute guy.”

He pulls into a shopping center not far from school, and parks in front of Publix.

“We're going grocery shopping?” I ask.

“It looks like it,” he says, with a spark of a smile. Mysterious Bram. We cover our heads with our hands as we run through the rain.

As we step into the brightly lit entryway, my phone buzzes through my jeans. I've missed three text messages, all from Abby.

R u coming to lunch?

Um, where r u?

Bram's gone too. How strange. ;)

But there's Bram, carrying a grocery basket, and his curls are damp and his eyes are luminous. “Twenty-seven minutes until the end of lunch,” he says. “Maybe we should divide and conquer.”

“You got it. Where to, boss?”

He directs me to the dairy aisle for a pint of milk.

“So what did you get?” I ask, when we reconvene at the checkout.

“Lunch,” he says, tilting his basket toward me. Inside, there are two plastic cup containers of miniature Oreos and a box of plastic spoons.

I almost kiss him right there in front of the U-Scan.

He insists on paying for everything. The rain has picked up, but we make a break for it, falling breathlessly into the seats and letting the doors slam shut. I rub my glasses against my shirt to dry them. Then Bram twists the ignition, and the heat kicks back on, and the only sound is the tap of raindrops against the window. He looks down at his hands, and I can see he's grinning.

“Abraham,” I say, trying it out, and there's this soft ache below my stomach.

His eyes flick toward me.

And the rain makes a kind of curtain, which is probably for the best. Because all of a sudden, I'm leaning over the gear stick, and my hands are on his shoulders, and I'm trying to keep
breathing. All I can see are Bram's lips. Which fall gently open the moment I lean in to kiss him.

And I can't even describe it. It's stillness and pressure and rhythm and breathing. We can't figure out our noses at first, but then we do, and then I realize my eyes are still open. So I shut them. And his fingertips graze the nape of my neck, in constant quiet motion.

He pauses for a moment, and my eyes flutter open, and he smiles, so I smile back. And then he leans in to kiss me again, sweet and feather-soft. And it's almost too perfect. Almost too Disney. This can't actually be me.

Ten minutes later, we're holding hands and eating Oreo mush, and it's the perfect lunch. More Oreos than milk. And I never would have remembered spoons, but he did. Of course.

“So now what?” I ask.

“We should probably go back to school.”

“No, I mean, us. I don't know what you want. I don't know if you're ready to be out,” I say, but he taps along the creases in my palm with his thumb, and it makes me lose focus.

His thumb stops tapping, and he looks at me, and then he twines his fingers through mine. I lean back, tilting my head toward him.

“I'm all in, if you are,” he says.

“All in?” I say. “Like what? Like boyfriend?”

“I mean, yeah. If that's what you want.”

“That's what I want,” I say. My boyfriend. My brown eyed,
grammar nerd, soccer star boyfriend.

And I can't stop smiling. I mean, there are times when it's actually more work not to smile.

That night, as of 8:05, Bram Greenfeld is no longer Single on Facebook—a.k.a. the best thing that has ever happened in the history of the internet.

At 8:11, Simon Spier is no longer Single either. Which generates about five million Likes and an instantaneous comment from Abby Suso:
LIKE LIKE LIKE
.

Followed by a comment from Alice Spier:
Wait—what?

Followed by another comment from Abby Suso:
Call me!!

I text her and tell her I'll talk to her tomorrow. I think I want to keep the details to myself tonight.

Instead, I call Bram. I mean, I almost can't believe I didn't have his number until yesterday. He picks up right away.

“Hi,” he says, quickly and softly. Like the word belongs to us.

“Big news on Facebook tonight.” I sink backward onto my mattress.

His quiet laugh. “Yeah.”

“So what's our next move? Do we keep it classy? Or do we blast everyone's newsfeeds with kissing selfies?”

“Probably the selfies,” he says. “But just a couple dozen a day.”

“And we have to shout out our anniversary every week. Every Sunday.”

“Well, and every Monday for our first kiss.”

“And a couple dozen posts every night about how much we miss each other.”

“I do miss you, though,” he says.

I mean, Jesus Christ. What a week to be grounded.

“What are you doing right now?” I ask.

“Is that an invitation?”

“I wish it was.”

He laughs. “I'm sitting at my desk, looking through my window, and talking to you.”

“Talking to your boyfriend.”

“Yeah,” he says. I can hear him smiling. “Him.”

“All right.” Abby accosts me at my locker. “I'm about to lose it. What the heck is going on with you and Bram?”

“I'm, uh.” I look at her and smile as a wave of heat rises in my cheeks. She waits. And I shrug. I don't know why it's so weird talking about this.

“Oh my gosh. Look at you.”

“What?” I ask.

“Blushing.” She pokes my cheeks. “I'm sorry, but you're so cute, I can't even stand it. Just go. Keep walking.”

Bram and I have English and algebra together, which basically amounts to two hours of staring longingly at his mouth and five hours of longingly imagining his mouth. Instead of lunch, we sneak into the auditorium, and it's strange seeing the
stage stripped of the set for
Oliver!
The school talent show is on Friday, and someone's already hung spangled gold tassels in front of the curtains.

We're alone in the theater, but it feels too big, so I take Bram by the hand and pull him into the boys' dressing room.

“Aha,” he says as I fiddle with the latch. “This is a doors-locked kind of activity.”

“Yup,” I say, and then I kiss him.

His hands fall to my waist, and he pulls me in closer. He's only a few inches taller than me, and he smells like Dove soap, and for someone whose kissing career began yesterday, he has seriously magical lips. Soft and sweet and lingering. He kisses like Elliott Smith sings.

And then we pull out chairs, and I twist mine around sideways so I can rest my legs across his lap. And he drums his hands across my shins, and we talk about everything. Little Fetus being the size of a sweet potato. Frank Ocean being gay.

“Oh, and guess who was apparently bisexual,” Bram says.

“Who?”

“Casanova.”

“Freaking Casanova?”

“For real,” he says. “According to my dad.”

“You're telling me,” I say, kissing his fist, “that your dad told you Casanova was bisexual.”

“It was his response to me coming out.”

“Your dad is amazing.”

“Amazingly awkward.”

I love his wry smile. I love watching him relax around me. I mean, I love this. Everything. He leans forward to scratch his ankle, and my heart just twists. The golden brown skin on the nape of his neck.

Everything.

I float through the rest of the day, and he's all I can think about. And then I text him as soon as I get home.
Miss you sooooo much!!!

I mean, it's a joke. Mostly.

He texts back immediately.
Happy two day anniversary!!!!!!

Which makes me cackle at the kitchen table.

“You're in a good mood,” says my mom, walking in with Bieber.

I shrug.

She shoots me this curious half smile. “All right, well, don't feel like you have to talk about it, but I'm just saying. If you wanted to . . .”

Freaking psychologists. So much for not being weird and obsessed.

I hear a car pull into the driveway. “Nora's home already?” I ask. It's funny, but I've gotten used to her being gone until dinner.

I look out the window and do a double take. I mean, Nora's home. But the car. The driver.

“Is that Leah?” I ask. “Driving Nora?”

“Appears to be.”

“Okay, yeah. I have to go out there.”

“Oh no,” she says. “Too bad you're grounded.”

“Mom,” I say.

She tips her palms up.

“Come on. Please.” Already, Nora's opening the car door.

“I'm open to negotiating,” she says.

“For what?”

“One night of parole in exchange for ten minutes of access to your Facebook.”

Jesus Christ.

“Five,” I say. “Supervised.”

“You got it,” she says. “But I want to see the boyfriend.”

So yeah. At least one of my sisters is about to get murdered.

But first: Leah. I sprint out the door.

Nora's face whips toward me in surprise, but I run straight past her, panting, as I reach the passenger side door. Before Leah can object, I pull it open and climb inside.

Bram's car is old, but Leah's car is a Flintstones relic. I mean, it has a tape deck and crank windows. There's a line of plush anime characters on the dashboard, and the floor is always littered with papers and empty Coke bottles. And there's that floral grandmother smell.

I actually sort of love Leah's car.

Leah looks at me in disbelief. I mean, waves of stink-eye
roll off of her. “Get the hell out of my car,” she says.

“I want to talk.”

“Okay, well, I don't.”

I click in my seat belt. “Take me to Waffle House.”

“You're fucking kidding me.”

BOOK: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
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