The Way of the World

Interview or not, being Chris, he couldn’t leave it alone.

“Best friends?” he said to Lance, and Lance just smiled a little smile full of something else and shrugged. Which was saying a lot, for Lance, so Chris said, “Yeah,” kind of dejectedly and moved on to Joey, a natural and time-honored progression.

“What, Chris,” Joey said, clearly up for anything.

“So, me and Justin. Best friends? Can you believe that shit?”

“Come on in,” Joey said, and opened the door.

Joey got him drunk and listened to him and even, because he was just cool like that, trash-talked Justin later on when they were practically heads down on the table and Chris had a mighty hankering for onion rings. Onion rings and trash-talking, a god-given combination. But Joey hadn’t meant any of it, which was the best and worst thing about him, and when Chris woke up the next morning he had a suspicious pair of Calvin Klein boxer briefs on his head that looked way too small for Joey, but there was a full pot of coffee by the bed.

As for JC, before Chris could even say a word JC bleated out a panicky little sound and hunched in on himself, protectively.

“No way, Chris,” he said, shaking his hair down into his face, and that could never be good, because JC’s hair styles were practically insured with Christie’s these days. “Not even going there. Justin’ll be… ha! Right, like I have no sense of self-preservation at all.”


“I don’t care what this is about, really, and anyway, Chris… no. Talk to Justin, why don’t you. Yes! Good idea! I, uh. Have to go.”

And he was gone, spastic and graceful and damn near psychic like he always was, but in the most useless, JC-like way possible. Really, Chris had known better, but tradition was a powerful thing.

So powerful, in fact, that he had the phone to his ear before he even realized.

“Chris, my man,” Trace said. “What’s happening?”

“Nothing,” Chris said, and hung up.

By the time he got to Justin’s place, his lips were chewed on and ragged and he knew in his heart that Justin would set him straight. It was natural selection or some science-y thing like that, inevitable. Justin’s favorite color had been baby blue since the first semester of bus school and he was all about making it real and taking it to the next level and bringing things to the table, and more than anything else, he knew what to say in an interview. It was totally understandable. Chris stared at Justin’s patio door until the sun moved in the sky and one of the brown birds fluttering around the vine-covered feeder began to eye him up, probably as a likely spot for a nest.

“I can see you out there, you know,” Justin said, poking his head around the glass door. “What is this about, some alone time in my back yard? ‘Cause, I have to tell you, I’m having friends over tomorrow, so you need to be winding it up by then, or else–”

“Justin,” Chris said.

Justin closed his mouth.

He looked at Chris, and Chris looked back, of course, because there was never anything else to look at when Justin was around. It was the hair, maybe. JC and Justin and Joey and Lance had ruined him that way. He had been conditioned to look at Justin’s springy hair, and his lips and his smooth freckled skin and his muscles and the way he moved, and it wasn’t Chris’s fault. It was the way of the world.

After a few minutes Justin’s lips crumpled up and he disappeared back inside without a word, so Chris went home.

He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself, because he was not like that. So he didn’t watch tv for sixteen hours straight or go without showering for a week or get drunk every day. Instead, he had lunch with Lance and let him talk about the biz and who was fucking who and money, and Lance looked at him with a cool and appraising look and left him alone. Joey took him to Disney, which he hated, and to an art festival, which made him laugh, and to a family party with all forty-seven of the Fatones, which was nice. JC sang him the new one and made him sit down and write a song, and then took him shopping, because spending lots of Chris’s money always cheered JC up. Chris had to admit it worked for him, too, not that he needed cheering up by then. Everything was fine and dandy, rolling right along. Justin who.

So it was kind of not unexpected when Chris found himself in Justin’s back yard again, frowning at the birds, knocking. Trace just rolled his eyes and stepped back from Justin’s door so Chris could come in, and found his keys and left so Chris could be alone with Justin, who had his arms and legs all wound up, holding on to himself.

“Hey,” Justin said, carefully.

“Oh, don’t even,” Chris said, completely gratified when Justin frowned and then smiled.

Justin shook his arms and legs out and took a breath in like it was his first one that day, and he kept an eye on Chris like he couldn’t help himself, like he couldn’t stop looking. Chris was just beginning to realize he had been stupid and blind in a way that was much more than usual.

“She moves in mysterious ways,” he said, feeling profound and deeply affected.

Justin laughed at him, of course. “What, that doesn’t even make sense,” he said joyously, and Chris had to shrug because he had no clue, really, except he meant it, and Justin was gorgeous, sticking his tongue out and crossing his eyes.

“Shut up, you don’t understand poetry, obviously,” Chris said, grinning.

“Well, you’re not really my best friend,” Justin said, moving closer. “I was just talking shit.”

“I know,” Chris said.

Justin crowded closer still. “You so did not know!” he breathed.

Chris did some crowding of his own, until Justin was trembling against him. “I so did,” he said, nose to nose with Justin until all he could see was one big blue eye. Justin snorted softly, and Chris could feel the warm exhalation on his face. “Did. Totally, totally did.”

“It’s okay,” Justin said, settling his face against Chris’s in a way that shouldn’t be comfortable, eye socket curving around Chris’s forehead and chin smoothing across his cheek, wildly misshapen puzzle pieces snicking into place. “It doesn’t matter.”

Chris opened his mouth to argue but Justin opened his mouth, too, and whispered, “I was waiting for your dumb ass.”

Chris wanted to answer Who are you and what have you done with my best friend to that, but then it occurred to him that he could turn his face up so Justin could bow his head down, and Chris could kiss Justin like he was finally on track, and it would mean essentially the same thing. So he did, and Justin made a thrilled noise Chris could never have predicted, and surely this was better than meant to be, and finally, finally, fuck.



December 2005