The new boy was beautiful, and I wanted him to be my friend, and only mine. Our teacher introduced him to the class. He moved here from Atlanta. We were rural Florida, real Spanish moss trailers and Food Lion grocery trips. The new boy, Cyril, had blue eyes that glittered like television static. He was tall for a ninth grader, maybe pushing six feet. I said I’d show him around campus. In my mind I knew I wasn’t a faggot. Outside homeroom I took him by the hand, I took his hand in mine and not in the fashion of a leader. I jerked off to the idea of girls, yes, but Cyril and his eyes were churning up my lungs. I could picture us entwined in each others’ limbs, wrestling, at first, then breathing together, then the hard bones of our skulls kissing. Cyril didn’t let go of my hand, he just said “careful.” There was a kid in middle school band, Marcus, that everybody knew was gay. Me and two friends got assigned to a room with him on a trip, and my friends told me to tell the band director, Mr. Hofner, to change our room. I didn’t want to, knew it was mean, but also didn’t want to seem “OK with Marcus.” I told Mr. Hofner we needed a new room, without Marcus, and he asked me why. I said because Marcus is not straight. Mr. Hofner was my favorite teacher, but he yelled at me, told me to get real, to grow up, and I knew he lost respect for me. We roomed with Marcus and he turned out to be a cool guy, we all liked him, though my friend Aaron would not split the bed with him and slept on the floor. The codes of overnight trips with other boys, never lay facing each other, never tell each other “good night.” Don’t get me wrong – we did not become friends with Marcus after the trip, and Marcus did not want to be friends with us. At the beginning of ninth grade a group of baseball players kicked Marcus’s ass in the cafeteria, called him gay boy, busted his front teeth out and we all joined in yelling “fight, fight, fight,” though it was not a fight. I only had a few friends, see, with whom I did not speak of anything besides our shared miseries – rural loneliness and the isolation of our bus rides home into the north Florida woods.