A Beautiful Boy
Bonnie’s parents are in Europe for a month, and they left her seventeen-year-old brother, David, in charge. What a joke. He doesn’t care what we do. Every time I see him, he’s stoned. I’ve never seen him without this silver lighter he uses to spark up his joints.
After school, I walk over to Bonnie’s house. When David sees us coming, he goes into his room and locks the door. He never talks to us because we’re still in sixth grade.
Bonnie and I are smearing her mom’s lipstick on each other when David slams his bedroom door open and walks through the room.
“Where are you going?” Bonnie asks.
He shrugs into his coat. He doesn’t look at us, and his long bangs hang in his eyes.
Bonnie runs to the window and pushes back the curtains. “He’s leaving. Wanna see his Playboys?”
“Absolutely,” I say.
His room is dark. Blankets fall on the floor from his bed, and his sheets are covered with lint. An ashtray next to his bed is filled with half-smoked joints and his trusty silver lighter.
“This is where he keeps them,” she says, kicking a pair of jeans out of the way. There’s a glass tank in one corner, and as we approach, I realize there’s a snake in the cage. A pulse leaps in my throat at the sight of it.
“He thinks I’m too scared of his python to look under here,” Bonnie says. She opens the door beneath the cage, and pulls out a stack of magazines.
We carry a few into the living room and sit together on the couch, turning pages. I can hear Bonnie breathing through her mouth. I can smell her strawberry bubble gum.
Neither of us talk. I study each picture, growing warm and limp, my fingers clumsy and tingly as I fumble with the pages. The girls are beautiful, but they all say they’re lonely, they wish they had a boyfriend. In a few pictures, there are men, too. Those I stare at until Bonnie nudges me to turn the page. “Hurry up,” she says. “David won’t be gone forever.”
There are finger smudges on all the pages, and tiny rips. I wonder how many times David’s read these. Maybe he was in his room reading them just a few minutes ago.
Maybe he thinks about sex all the time. It never occurred to me that he thought about anything but getting high.
When David comes back into the house we stuff the magazines under the couch Bonnie looks at me and starts to laugh. I stand apart from her, and watch him walk across the room. I like the way his hair hangs in his eyes, the way he moves. When he looks at me I feel myself blush.
When he goes to the kitchen to make a snack, I slip into his room and swipe his lighter.
Later, when it’s time to go home, Bonnie makes him drive me. She wants a chance to put the magazines back under the snake cage.
We sit in the car together, and he fiddles with the dial on his radio. I never noticed his hands before. I never really noticed him before at all. Now I see he’s beautiful.
“What?” he asks.
He frowns. “Why are you staring at me?”
“No reason,” I say. I lift my skirt up a bit, show my legs and a little bit of my white panties, like the girls in the magazine. I think he might be looking but then he says, “You aren’t even in middle school.” “Am so,” I say.
“What?” he asks. “Seventh grade?”
When he pulls in front of my house I smile at him and close my eyes, waiting for a kiss.
After a moment, I open one to see him scowling at me. He says, “Can I have my lighter?”
I hand it to him and he reaches across me to open my door. “Just go,” he says.