When I was a senior in high school, there were these four freshmen boys that constantly made me think, “Wow.”

I mean, “Fucking Wow.”

Look, it wasn’t love. I will tell you right now that it wasn’t love. It was just me being incredibly impressed and fascinated with these boys and loving every minute that I spent with them.

For starters, there was Thomas. Shaggy hair and all tall and gangly. His body had grown but he didn’t realize it. He wore the same Led Zeppelin t-shirt every day. Black with white letters that were starting to fall off. His dad had gotten it at a concert in 1972, before this kid was ever even dreamed of. Thomas was sort of quiet. Who the hell am I kidding with sort of; this kid didn’t talk, okay? I got told once that he threw out words and sentences and mumble jumble like a wood chipper the moment I would leave the room. But the kid was awesome to just have sitting in the circle, listening.

And Kris with long blond surfer hair that never got dipped in the ocean. The kid had comebacks like you wouldn’t believe. You couldn’t insult the kid without it coming back on you worse, but ten times funnier. Jokes and giggles and all excitement. He looked at everything like it was the first time he’d ever seen anything and he was always all wide-eyed and electrified. I couldn’t get enough of him. He fucking worshiped Kurt Cobain but not like those phonies that all flocked to the man after he shot himself, because this was back in the day when most people didn’t know who Kurt Cobain was. No, Kris looked at the man like he just might have been his dad, and if he could just worship him enough, he just might end up like him, but without the heroin.

Then Ben, who often spelled his name Bin (for whatever reasons, I don’t know), He was fifteen and thought that he was the fucking shit. He wore sandals, girl sandals, everyday, long before it was cool to do it. On his wrists he kept stashes of rubber bands to shoot at people. And it was childish, but he was still a boy, and anyway, it’s funny if no one gets hurt, okay? Ben talked about people like Jim Morrison and Bob Marley and I wanted to tell him, “You don’t know Bob Marley, man” But I was wrong and he did know Bob because he was the fucking shit.

And of course, Patrick. If I had a penis and was four years younger, this was me, okay? He was completely and utterly lost, but always keeping that map in the back of his head. He would sit back and just listen, I mean listen, like if he stopped listening then the talking would stop and he would be bored and alone. And when the talking did stop he would chime in with something that blew anything you had to say right out of the water. He had this smile, that you could think was a frown but it was still beautiful. Beautiful in that little boy becoming a great man type of way. Beautiful because I knew I got to watch it happen.

Somehow these boys ended up hanging out at my house almost every night. Because it was a house that was big, too big, and empty and I lived there by myself for most of my senior year. If you are fourteen and saw a chance to get away from parents, yours and everyone else’s, wouldn’t you jump at it too?

We would sit down in the basement, all dark with red floors and maple walls and old couches, and I would play music like John Prine and Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits and other stuff that they had never heard of. And they would learn the words and come back the next night and sing along and we would talk of worldly things. Things that they never got to talk about and be taken seriously with anyone else. We would discuss politics; now how the hell these boys got to be so knowledgeable about politics I don’t know. Thank you MTV News. But they knew what they were talking about and that was what was important.

We would talk about AIDS in Africa. And Patrick would say, “Just what was Bush thinking when he started the Gulf War?” and Ben would chime in, “I really think this Clinton guy will do us in if he gets elected.”

And Thomas would sit silently and stare at the bookshelves and sometimes he would get up and pick up something on the shelf. These were things my mother brought back from China or France or Argentina; these were mementos she had picked up to show her daughter just why it was that she was away for so long. Thomas would just stare at them and sometimes, under his breath, we would hear him say, “Cool.”

There was this globe that had come from the university that my mother first taught at. And here was Thomas, inexplicably drawn to this giant globe, all ancient looking, and while the other boys and I were discussing the global economy, he was spinning it around and around, and dragging his index finger across it as it spun. I figured he was figuring out where he wanted to go in life.

Then it dropped off of the shelf and there was Thomas all flabbergasted and thunderstruck and eyes near tears, trying to muster up the words, mumbling out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, It was an accident.”

And I said, “Man, it’s just a globe. If I knew it took breaking the globe to get you to talk I would have broken it a long time ago.”

Kris picked it up from the floor, and said, “Chill out Thomas. It’s just a big dent in Africa, not the end of the world.”

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