Without Jeremy, Ch 25: Lines

I never felt comfortable going to Andrew’s house. His dad was rarely there, but that didn’t mean the tension wasn’t there. You could feel it radiating off the linoleum floor, you could hear it in the squeak of the plastic seat cushions, and you could smell it in the fresh ammonia cleanliness. When we got together to work, I always tried to steer the meeting to my house or the library or school or wherever—never Andrew’s house. So when I knocked on the door and his dad answered, I did feel my knees go wibble-wobble just a bit.

“Oh, Mr. Owens, uh, I was supposed to meet Andrew for. . .working on the book we’re. . .working on.”

“Andrew had to go out; he’ll be back shortly.”

I nodded and rocked on my heels. I gave a short shrug because I didn’t know if that statement meant I should go wait in my car or what. Mr. Owens let out a pronounced sigh.

“You can wait here until Andrew returns.”

Should have taken the car when I had the chance. I sat down on the edge of one of the stiff armchairs. To my dismay, Mr. Owens sat down across from me.

“So, what are your plans for the future? Have you decided on where you will be attending school?”

“Oh, uh. . .yes. I’m staying local, for a year anyway, just Community. Then I’ll decide where I want to go after I get some core classes out of the way.”

Mr. Owens pivoted away from me a bit.

“I didn’t know they taught core classes at these schools, thought it was all pottery and liberal thinking and whatnot. They actually make you do math at these institutions?”

Andrew had gotten accepted to the Savannah Institute of Art and Design. His dad had been completely against it, but Mrs. DiScala and Mr. Clark managed to talk him into it.

“No, I’m not going to an art school, Mr. Owens; I’m just not. . .not creative like that. I mean, I’m creative I guess, but I’m, I guess I’m probably going to go to school for business or something. I’ve always worked, and I’d like to maybe own my own business or something.”

“Hmm, very good, very practical. I wish you’d have had a greater influence on Andrew.”

“Well, I mean, it’s not all out of practicality. To tell you the truth, I partway decided to stay close to home because my girlfriend isn’t going to college till next year. Not the best way to make life decisions, but I like her, and I figured since staying home made more financial sense too, it all works out, ya know?”

Mr. Owens turned his shoulders back toward me and narrowed his eyes a bit. He looked like someone had just slapped him.

“You have a girlfriend?”

I was afraid this was going to turn into a lecture about the evils of fornication and the way women lead men astray, but I had already opened the box; there was no turning back.

“Yeah, uh, Lizzie. We’ve been dating since like. . .Christmas? She’s really nice.”

“You have a,” Mr. Owens slowly turned his eyes to the floor and thought for a moment, then looked quickly back at me, “. . .girlfriend.”

“Yup.”

He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. He nodded his head and gave me one of those approving frowns.

“Very good. Okay, very good. And you say she’s a nice girl.”

“Yes, known her for years now, but we just sort of finally got together. She’ll be at the art show if you want to meet her.”

The mention of the art show immediately brought a look of disgust back to Mr. Owens’s face. Luckily, Andrew came through the door at the same time.

“You should have waited outside.”

Mr. Owens wore a tense face and didn’t look at either of us, just stared at the coffee table. Andrew walked past him, and I followed.

“Nice. . .talking with you?”

I jogged down the hall to keep up with Andrew and slipped inside as he closed the door to his bedroom.

“God, that’s like the longest I’ve ever had to talk to your dad. I couldn’t have lasted much longer.”

Andrew shrugged. “My apologies.”

“It was weird too. He got all weird when I mentioned Lizzie, like he couldn’t believe I had a girlfriend. I thought he was going to chew me out or something.”

Andrew gave me a puzzled look. “He got weird when you mentioned Lizzie?”

“Yeah, like shocked, but then he relaxed and was almost like a human. He was all like,” and I mimicked Mr. Owens’ stern acceptance face.

“Jesus, what if,” Andrew stared at his carpet for a moment and then smiled, “what if this whole time he thought you were my boyfriend?”

“Holy shit, Andrew! Why would your dad think I was your boyfriend?”

I saw Andrew tense up. I knew this reaction well enough and knew he was going to follow with a, “No reason,” or a, “Never mind.” But instead he relaxed a bit and said, “Because I told him I might be bi-sexual.”

“Jesus fuck, Andrew! How could you tell him something like that? He must shit bricks every day! Why would you let him think something like that—it must drive him crazy?”

The slightest bit of a smile crossed Andrew’s lips. He leaned back a bit on his heels and cocked his head just slightly. “Because I might be bi-sexual.”

Every part of me froze except my eyes, which were blinking and darting in time with my manic thought process. I was reliving and reviewing every second I had ever spent with Andrew; the hours working on comics, the fights, the fling with Suzie, the little pot-smoking kid, the relationship with his father, everything.

“Don’t worry though, Casey; you’re not my type.”

I was simultaneously relieved and offended. Relieved because I had never knowingly been so close to anyone who might like guys, so I didn’t know how to handle it. Offended because, what did he mean I wasn’t his type? He could do a lot worse.

“I’m not worried—I just. . .I’m just shocked. Are you for real?”

“Yes, quite. You really never suspected?”

“No, I. . .you just never seemed interested. Or, like one day you say you’re not going to date because kids our age are awful, but then you’re making out with Suzie. I never thought you liked dudes.”

“Oh, Casey.”

“What, I never did. I mean, Chris would always call you my girlfriend even, but he was just. . .being Chris. I never even. . .”

“Oh, Casey.”

“What? Like, how was I supposed to know this? You had that thing with Suzie, right?”

Andrew smiled. “You do know what bi-sexual means, don’t you?”

“Well, yes-s-s. I just never thought about you with. . .a guy.”

Andrew pulled the chair out from his desk. “Well, you don’t need to worry about that,” he said, and he grabbed a stack of papers and started sketching.

After talking with Chris and Steve about girls for so many years, I could tell that Andrew had more he wanted to say.

“Is it that pot-smoking kid?”

Andrew continued sketching. I felt a million worms wriggling through my abdomen, and my feet pushed themselves hard against the floor.

“Did he break up with you or something?”

Andrew put his pencil down. “We’d have to be going out for him to break up with me.”

“So he’s just like. . .not into it, er, you?”

“He likes to talk a big game, but I don’t know if it’s any more than that with him. He keeps talking about these clubs he goes to and all his gay friends from back home, but I’m starting to not buy it. It’s like his car is in the shop, and then his gramma has a birthday, so we never seem to do anything. I’m very near done with him.”

The worms in my gut were wriggling like crazy.

“So wait, when did you tell your dad?”

“Freshman year.”

After Jeremy died. I wondered if they were connected, if maybe that was part of Andrew’s loss. I didn’t know how to ask him though.

“Did your dad know about Suzie?”

“No, I didn’t tell him, would have confused him too greatly. I didn’t want to give him hope this was just a ‘phase’ like he thought.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Andrew picked his pencil back up and continued his drawing. I sat down on his bed and opened my bag and pulled out my storyboard notebook.

“Casey. . .thanks.”

I looked back at Andrew and shrugged and shook my head. I didn’t know the right way to react. Andrew got up and sat next to me on the bed.

“Here, take a look at these.”

As we sat together looking at his drawings, I was conscious of the fact that his knee was touching my leg. I felt guilty for being conscious of it, so I made a point of leaving it there, even though it was uncomfortable.

“This is good stuff. I like this one a lot. I like how this one is almost like the same as that panel from The Lost Camera, but this time it’s Death Man who’s knocked out.”

“Yes, tables have turned right?”

“Oh, yeah.”

 


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Dan Pullen lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. He writes stories about simple people and their complex lives.