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If I could be somewhere else – where? I’m thinking it as Conner mouths fag at me up on the stage.
I want to jump down onto him, shove him through the fire door!
Wattsy steps in the way slapping a badge into my hand.
“Well done Ben, good job boy! We look forward to your Year 12 results.”
I shoot off stage to the hall, passing the seated teachers. All staring forward, lips tight, pretty well sucked in. They probably start looking like it when they get here in the morning. Feel sick just thinking about it in the morning.
If I could be somewhere else, it’d be High across town. Lunchtimes, I’d just be doing my thing with friends, not hiding out in the school library.
I knock a row of knees in my rush to sit down, then it’s him again, hitting the back of my chair and shit.
“Fag. Hey, fag.”
Yeah, okay, shut up now.
No way, would he say it at High. High’s got a rainbow club – everybody’s out and nothing’s happened to them. They’re like, why so much queer?
“Well done, boys!” says Wattsy, taking his place behind the lectern. “Once again this school has topped the region for excellences.”
He grips the lapels of his robe, looking above our heads and far away.
“Scholarship is key to the success of this school. We value it above sporting prowess, cultural achievement–”
“Getting pissed on the weekend,” says a boy just loud enough to be heard.
A teacher’s onto him like a croc on a duck, dragging it under water.
The Lord’s Prayer comes on the screen at the side of the stage. Everybody stands.
When that’s over, the Deputy P. goes to the lectern for the bible reading. I make fun of it in my head, fuck around with my phone. They can’t force this stuff on us – god, it’s so straight.
One of these days, I’m not gonna stand for the prayer. Just put my foot on the seat in front, chew my gum noisy. Then see them stare when the teachers kick me out and down to Wattsy’s office.
And I’ll get right in his face bulging over his buttoned collar, telling him he’s just all about excellence, and you can’t feel sad or hurt or anything at school, except straight. And I’ll pull his ear going out.
Then see me fly to High!
The assembly stands as us smart boys file down the aisle. A special morning tea is waiting in the chapel theatre. Scraping shoes and fucks muttered from the hundreds who didn’t get excellence.
Once we’re out in the quad, Conner decides to go for it, whipping me on the butt as the line breaks up.
And though I’m meant to act like it’s just a flick on the butt – I feel like a fag thing, as I shrink from the guys with a heat in my neck, wondering why does this happen, thinking I think too much and, I might cry.
Don’t want to do that in front of anyone again.
Inside the theatre we hang back from the food on the trestles. We know we must wait for Wattsy and the teachers to start, then a nod from the head prefect or his deputy. That shit has always bugged me. I keep away from Conner, my butt against the wall.
He’s So Hot walks in and stops where I can’t help but see him.
I stare a second too long: his slick undercut, pretty eyes, shoulders not too pumped, not too skinny. He stares back.
Say I smile, make a move on him first.
Say he’s into me too. Like, lifts his eyebrows.
I walk up real close. Better not stand on his foot. He smells kinda salty around the edges.
Then what do I say? Hey wanna get a Mojo after school, watch movies till we’re unconscious.
Say we fool around, have a little brawI, I pull him close at the end.
You’re hitting on me, he’ll whisper. Yeah, I am, I’ll whisper back. And give him a kiss no one will know about, not even anyone.
Nah, probably not.
Old Wattsy gives his pitch in a bald patch of theatre:
“It goes without saying that your excellence endorsements bode well for future scholarship results.”
And so on. I’m leaving a lot out here.
“How many of you are taking scholarship subjects this year?”
He makes big eyes at us.
“For those of you who are undecided, your dean will be happy to assist. And the rest of you should think about it.”
One of us drops a loud one while we’re doing that.
My eyes scan the heads of the crowd for Conner.
Every Valentine’s, we swap roses with the girls’ college around the corner. It’s tradition, it’s bullshit. Usually I just stuff my face with donuts.
Tomorrow in the quad, all the guys will crowd round one guy holding a rose, blazing from his head to his neck. And there’ll be loads of bro-fisting and the girl’s name spread round like it’s the name of a strip club – ’cos she’s not just signed with a kiss.
My lip pulls at the side as I’m figuring it.
Conner – he’ll just love to know he’s been on my mind so much.