Triptychs – Chapter 24




So, okay. Here’s a course I really wish was available, at Cal State University, East Bay:




Anthro 211a (LAB): The Care and Feeding of Gay Boyfriends (3 units; 24 hours/day, 7 days/week)


A hands-on, in-depth, real-world examination of the challenges of dealing with the modern-day gay boyfriend in America. Students gain direct experience in such issues as, Getting Your Monosyllabic Boyfriend To Talk About Himself; Finding Places To Have Sex, When Neither Of You Has Private Space; Awkward Introductions To Your Boyfriend’s Friends; Interpreting Significant Silences/Avoiding Unnecessary Hurt Feelings; and more. Students interested in additional credit may elect to take the optional module, Dealing With A Closeted Boyfriend When You, Yourself, Are Out. Credits earned in this course may be applied towards satisfying the Learned This The Hard Way – Core Requirements curriculum.




All right; so, maybe that’s a little much . . . but. As December turned to January, and school and work-study started up again – it’s kind of how I was thinking. It’s kind of how I felt.


I mean – I thought things were supposed to get less complicated! With me having a steady-date-slash-maybe-boyfriend I really liked, really had feelings for, in my own, schizophrenic, still-loving-Cole-too-much way. I mean, I really LIKED Noah, I really did, and I was dating him more than once every three months, and, and, I LIKED him, and things are supposed to get less complicated, when you have a steady date, right? A maybe-boyfriend; right - ?


Cole laughed at me, when I passed that idea by him, one night, on the phone. Well, not the schizophrenic, still-loving-Cole-too-much part of the equation; duh. But; still.


He laughed a lot, actually. It kind of went on, and on. A little more than I thought was necessary, to be honest.


“Dude,” from me; grinning into my empty room. Cole spluttered something I didn’t quite catch; then the laughter, again, and I held the phone away from my ear, and I waited patiently for it to be over. I knew he was overdoing it, for my benefit . . . but. Sigh.


“Dude,” from me, again . . .


The laughter died down, the spluttered words died down, eventually, and then it was the sound of Cole catching his breath; still delighted, still trying not to bust out again, I could so tell.


“So,” from me, grinning.


“You . . . you really thought things were supposed to get LESS complicated, when you started dating? Steady dating, I mean - ?”


I flashed back to my serial-dating past, trying not to think about all the boys I’d dodged, after sleeping with them.  Trying not to think about Hugo. Or Michael. Especially, Michael. “It doesn’t - ?” I went, a little weakly.


More laughter from Cole, peal after peal of laughter; I waited for it to die down.


“Okay,” I went into my phone, eventually. “I’ll take that as a, ‘No’.”


“Oh, Trev,” he went, finally; still panting, a little. “Oh, shit, Trev, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it . . .  But I mean, really. Look at me and Jeremy; look at anybody we KNOW, for God’s sake. When does it ever get easier, when you get all involved with someone - ?”


“Yeah, but you and Jeremy had the whole age-difference thing, the age-of-consent thing . . . Noah and me are both eighteen. I just thought, you know . . . it’d be easier.”


A short pause, from the other end.


“How is it not easy?” from Cole. A little more gently.


I winced into my empty room. “He’s not out! I mean, he’s seriously not out, to his friends, or anything. Can you believe it? I’m about the most out person at school, I outed myself to our Learning Group on the first day, and he’s not out! And here we are, we’re spending all our time together, and, and, I have to watch my mouth, watch what I say, and we can’t even TOUCH each other, unless we sneak it in when nobody’s looking . . . ”


Actually, we’d been sneaking in too many touches as it was; and between that, and the way Noah’d been looking at me, and the ways I’d been looking back – I wondered who’d already noticed.


Yeah. Here I was, out of the closet my whole life – and I was worried about outing Noah, worried about fucking up and outing Noah. Is that perverse, or what?


All I knew was, I wasn’t really happy about it.


“Okay,” from Cole. “So he’s not out . . . But, there’s out, and there’s out.” He sounded comfortable; not hugely concerned. “I mean, he’s not pretending to be straight, or anything? No pretend-girlfriends back home, no double-dating with his straight friends - ?”


“No.” I snorted a brief laugh. “No, nothing like that. He’s a good Catholic boy; he hates to lie, he really does. He just deals with it by not talking about it.”


“Has he talked with YOU about it?” from Cole.


Another semi-snort, from me; then, a pause. “No. Not really . . . I just know. It’s like I told you before, he doesn’t talk, all that much. Not about himself. It’s hard to get him to talk about himself!”


A little snigger of laughter from Cole, kind of muffled.




More under-his-breath laughter, from Cole. A couple of spells of it.


“What - ?” from me, again, blinking.


“Listen to you!” he went. Another push of laughter. “All of a sudden, you’re Mister Sensitivity! Wanting your boyfriend to talk about his feelings - !”


I gaped at that, for a second . . . and then, well, I thought about it for another second . . . and then I just had to crack up myself, some. I mean, it WAS kind of a role-reversal for me, I have to admit . . .


“I’m sorry,” from Cole, after a couple of beats; “I’m sorry – ”


“No, that’s okay; you’re right, that’s what it sounds like.” I grinned into my empty bedroom. “It’s not really like that, though; he expresses himself a lot, just not so much with words.” I made a face, to myself. “It’s just that . . . it’s hard to get at the backstory. His backstory. And, you know me; I need background information, I need people’s backstories . . . ”


Me, talking about filmmaking, again. Using it as shorthand; as metaphor. And of course, Cole knew what I meant.


“Yeah,” from Cole; “yeah.” Silence, for a couple of beats. “So, when are you going to bring him over here for dinner? We really do need to meet him, Trev.” His voice, different, serious now.


I felt a little pang. It was true; I did have to introduce them, it was meeting-the family, meeting-my-family in the sense that really counted. It was a responsibility; my responsibility, actually.


“I’ll talk to him . . . he knows it’s going to happen, he says he wants to meet you guys, too. It’s just a question with our schedules.” I thought for a second. “Just make it a Friday or Saturday, okay? Not a school night. If he gets in late on a school night, he wakes up a lot of people in his dorm.”


“’A lot of people . . . ‘? How many roommates does he HAVE?”


“Seven.” I snorted out a half-laugh. “Can you believe it? They’re in a kind of big suite; four bedrooms, two guys to each bedroom, and they all share a living room and a kitchen.”


“Eight guys, all together in one suite - ?” There was disbelief in his voice.


“Yeah . . . Yeah. It’s actually kind of okay, I guess,” I went on, a little grudgingly. “It’s a nice place, almost new; Pioneer Heights. But you couldn’t build a dorm with less privacy, if you tried.”


“Maybe they did,” from Cole.


“It wouldn’t surprise me . . . Anyway. I’ll talk to him. About dinner.”


“Cool . . . You know, Trev,” he went on, after a pause; “It doesn’t get less complicated, when you’re dating – dating one guy, steady, I mean. But there are compensations.”


He actually sounded a little worried, a little concerned – for me, I knew. And I felt another little rush, a rush of poignant feeling, a not-quite-sadness, maybe; here I was, telling him my run-of-the-mill dating woes . . . and he was WORRIED about me, he was talking me down, taking care of me, the way he’s been taking care of me since we were eleven. God, I was so lucky to have him in my life.


“Compensations,” I said into my cell. And I couldn’t help it, I grinned big. “Compensations - ?” I said it kind of leadingly.


“That’s not what I meant, dipshit. Or, it’s not all I meant.”


“I know.” I grinned, again. “And it’s not the only thing I’m thinking about, either. I really do like him . . . ” And as I said it, I knew I meant it. And that was so weird, saying it to Cole . . .


“Good,” went Cole, firmly. “Good.”



*   *   *





Yeah, there were compensations, to dating Noah; and as January wound down, and I got back into the groove of school and work-study, those compensations kept revealing themselves to me, surprising me again and again. Fuck-me, I was new to this . . .


Well of course, there were the obvious benefits; the physical ones, the sex. Duh.


Not that we got to do very much. His dorm suite was like a train station, there were always roommates and friends around; the idea of sneaking in, and Doing It, even while his bed-room-mate Ron was in class or something . . . no. Just, no.


Although, the time I did get to see his bedroom – I managed to surprise him, I pulled him down onto his bed and tickled him, REALLY well, making him laugh, and it was FUN – but, way too brief. And way too clean.


So, no. His dorm room was out-of-bounds for us to do anything physical together . . . and I couldn’t have him sleep over when my mom was home, I just couldn’t. Nobody but Cole had slept over at my house, since I’d come out to my mom. I couldn’t do that to her.


Which didn’t leave many options.


Specifically, it left the truck; a couple of times, after work-study, we’d snuck off in the truck, to a deserted campus parking lot, and we . . . Well; we did what we could. Mostly-clothed; keeping an eye out for the campus cops, who cruised around way too much for comfort.


It helped that it got dark so early, in January . . . And, that it was so deliciously easy to get Noah off. Make him cum; bring him to orgasm. God; I was liking that, more and more . . .


And then, one other time, one Sunday afternoon – it was back to the hot tubs. This one in Berkeley; and not as nice as the one in San Francisco, but.


THAT had been a wild time. Even if I’d started worrying, that I’d risk getting an erotic complex about the smell of chlorine, and water-puckered-up-skin.


But hot-tubbing was expensive, forty bucks for a couple of hours; neither one of us could really afford it, not often, anyway.


My mom was supposed to go off to Stockton, maybe, for a weekend in late February or early March; I was REALLY looking forward to that, I was keeping my fantasies centered around that, instead.



So, no; most of the compensations, most of the changes between me and Noah, were less obvious. More surprising. Subtle, even.






“Hey,” from me, as I came into the break room at the bookstore; he was just taking his time-card out of the rack on the wall, and he smiled a smile at me that about melted my heart –


So I did the normal, logical thing, by way of response. We were alone; so I took him in my arms for a quick, full-body to full-body hug, and he hugged me back, and he kissed my cheek, so I kissed his . . . and then we were apart, and I was reaching for my own timecard, to sign in.


“Your Bio quiz went okay - ?” Me feeling just a little flushed, and warm, as I said it.


“Uh-huh. It was easy, actually.”


“Told you.” I went into my backpack to find a pen, but Noah handed me his, quick and casual, and I used it to mark my card.






It was . . . the intimacy, that surprised me so much, that got to me, that really GOT to me.


A big part of it was physical intimacy, a kind of body intimacy; I mean, we touched each other whenever we could – probably too much, like I said – and we hugged each other a lot, a LOT –


I don’t know how to explain it. We made space for each other, with our bodies; we made each other comfortable, with our bodies. And all that cold January, the warm of Noah, when we could get away with hugging, or sitting someplace in Tilden Park with our arms around each other – the warm of him, the feel of him, the COMFORT of his body, made such a difference. Such a difference.


And it was all so new to me. It really was.


But even that was just the half of it.



“Ready to go Meet Our Customers?” I asked him, grinning. I opened one of the cupboards, and I dumped my backpack on top of Noah’s, my beat-up canvas on top of his blue nylon, and then closed it. From Noah, a knowing, ironic, resigned look.


Out the break room door, then, past racks of sportswear and souvenirs, to the middle of the ground floor, and the glowing neon sign saying, ‘Pacific Copy’. Waiting for Corbin to notice us.


Which he did, in about thirty seconds; we watched as he turned his register over to Emily, one of our co-workers, then he was with us under the sign, pulling a loose-leaf binder out of a drawer.


“Okay,” he went, without any kind of introduction; “This is where we track the day’s work orders. This number on the left, here – ”


It was a hand-written number, on a much-photocopied paper form – naturally. Of course.


“ – matches the number on the cover sheet on the source documents. If the total job is less than twenty-five pages, go ahead and do it first; for jobs over twenty-five pages, you do them in sequence . . . ”


I didn’t even need to catch Noah’s eye; just his posture, just he way he held his head, so totally radiated his amusement. I felt myself trying not to bust out in a grin, not to laugh . . . and just by the way he shifted, just lightly, I knew he’d noticed.


“ . . . when the job’s done, it goes in the back cabinet, here; and you mark it off on the work order, here – ”


Yeah. It wasn’t just the body-intimacy thing, that was so surprising. It was how we were getting into each other’s heads . . . How we seemed to know what the other one was thinking, what he was feeling.


I guess it shouldn’t have been so surprising; I mean, we’d worked together pretty closely for a whole quarter, and we’d spend some time together outside work too, some pretty intimate time, actually –


No; no, that’s more bullshit; that’s completely inadequate. When am I going to stop doing that - ?


No, the thing is, Noah’s sensitive. As in, REALLY sensitive.


Which means, he’s sensitive to my moods, my feeling . . . I can see it in his face, his expression; way, way frequently, he knows what I’m going to say before I say it. He knows my moods, I can tell, and since I’m such a moody bastard, that’s got to be a real pain to him, it really must . . .


Actually, I KNOW it’s a pain to him, on some level. I can tell that, too.



That’s the other side of Noah being sensitive. He feels things, he really FEELS things; and he shows it, on his face, with his whole body, actually. He tries NOT to show it, of course; and the signs are subtle, I’m not sure how many people notice . . . but I notice. I see it.


God, I hope I don’t wind up being toxic to him. Bad for him. I really do.


“ . . . and, that’s about it. If you finish up the jobs early, you can go back to unpacking the books on the loading dock.” A short pause. “Thanks,” he went, over his shoulder, already-turned, already headed back to the cash register.


I could just feel my jaw drop, as I looked at Noah; his blue eyes, under the bill of his cap, blinked back at me.


“Did he just say that - ? Did he really just say that?” I whispered.


“Yeah,” he whispered back; awe in his face. Then a kind of wondering, ironic up-tilt to his smile, as he looked sideways at the cash register area. “He actually said, ‘Thanks’!”


“Damn,” I whispered; reaching for the work-order binder, shaking my head.


A flicker of expression from Noah, a kind of subtle, pantomimed, ‘what?’


“At this rate,” I whispered, trying not to laugh – “He’ll actually know our names, by the end of the quarter. We won’t be able to get away with anything!”


And Noah, of course, flashed me his amused, you’re-so-full-of-shit look, and then I DID laugh . . .



*   *   *



So, yeah. January wore into February, with Noah and me spending more and more of our time together, all the free time we had at school, actually; and I could just feel people noticing, I could feel our Learning Community group-mates noticing, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.


I mean, how could they not notice - ? Noah and I were actually sitting together, now; I’d had to move to Daniel’s other side, and Noah’d moved to Ron’s other side . . . and, everybody noticed. Not that it was like high school, where your clique, who you sat with, just defined who you were, in earth-shatteringly-important ways . . . no. Still; everyone in our Learning Group had settled into patterns, and habits, and when Noah and I shifted to sit together, and talk to each other, and be friends together – I could just feel everybody noticing. Especially Daniel; and especially, Noah’s roommate Ron.


Well. Some things didn’t change. Daniel and I kept on being the bomb-throwing, snarky, smart-asses in the group; Kat kept on being the Mom Of Us All, and Jose kept on being the grim survivor.


We all worried about Jose. Still.






And of course, in the middle of all this dire, oh-so-important interpersonal interaction . . . a little, insignificant matter tended to crop up, from time to time. It was called, ‘course work’. As in, ‘The Reason Why We’re All Here’.


I was stuck.


I had a project, a quarter-long, really-cool-opportunity kind of project in my Communications class; and I was stuck, for an idea. For the right idea, anyway. And it was beginning to get to me.



“Okay . . . move your head just a little to the right . . . Yeah, perfect! Hold that position!”


Noah and me, having lunch; sitting at the edge of the soccer field cut into the slope of the hillside, the one below our lookout spot at the parking lot. That insanely-beautiful view of the Bay below us, topped by piled-up clouds, silver shading to gray, shading to black, beautiful and thick and ominous-looking. It’d been raining, and it was going to rain again.


I was taking pictures of Noah, of course; duh.


“Now move your head down, just a little – ”


“Why?” A quick glance at me.


“No!” I laughed. “Put your head back the way it was - ! Okay, okay; now, look down, just a little. A little more . . . there. Hold it right there!” I snapped off some pictures, three, six, more. “I’m trying to get the light just right, on your face; at this angle it kind of reflects from the clouds, it lights your face up perfectly, without washing it out. You’ve got such fair skin, it’s really hard to get decent face shots of you, without washing you out.”


Poor Noah; I was taking it all out on him, of course.


Yeah; I was frustrated coming up with the right idea for my Communications class project – we were supposed to do a script, for a commercial information film, or a documentary; and I was determined to overdo it, I was determined to come up with a killer script, for a killer documentary, I really was – but I was stuck. I’d been stuck for days and days, now.


So I was doing what I usually do when I’m creatively stuck, and frustrated; I was taking pictures. Lots of them; a little obsessively, actually.


Lots of them, of Noah; I have to admit. Well, he’d been suffering through it pretty patiently; although he’d been turning an amused, ironic, slight-exasperated expression on me more and more, in the last few days. I know, because I’d caught a few of them in my shots.


I had plans to take other kinds of pictures of him, too; maybe the next time we went to the hot tubs, or the gay nude beach in San Francisco that I knew about. But I hadn’t said anything about that to Noah yet, I was saving it for a surprise.


“You know,” from Noah, looking out over the view below us – “You could still do a script for a corporate film. You could do a corporate-training film, something really simple; but you could do it really well. You could even make it funny, a kind of comedy, or something . . . ”


Typical Noah. He’d known what I was thinking; what I was worried about, what I was stewing about.


He also knew I had my heart set on a documentary.


And that was the heart of the problem, actually; because, in a proper documentary, you start with a general outline, a general idea of what you want to show . . . and then, you pick up a camera, and you start shooting.


And what you GET, when you shoot, is always a surprise; it’s always off-script, it’s always richer, more interesting, more rewarding that the outline you started with; and you wind up rewriting the script, the narration, everything, to make it all fit together. Well, that’s how it’s worked for the two documentaries I’ve finished, anyway; especially my Senior class project in high school, last year.


Yeah; it was all territory I’d covered in my head, over and over again, the last week and more; I was getting sick of it. So I changed the subject.


“I have a better idea,” I said; grinning. I framed Noah’s face in the viewfinder. “How about this - ? I’ll make it an investigative documentary. ‘Inside Noah Martenek, The Platinum Edition’. Oh, I could just see it!”


I pressed my camera’s digital-video function switch – well, it takes pretty crappy video, but it’s better than cell-phone video – and I started recording.


“Who is Noah Martenek, really?” I went on, in an over-the-top, fake narrator’s voice. “Newspapers write about him; whole blogs are dedicated to following his every move, his every word. Presidents and kings clamor to share a stage with him; stock markets around the world rise and fall on his gestures alone. But, who is he, really?”


And his expression, in the viewfinder window, was just priceless. Priceless. A sideways, smiling glance at me, quick; then, he looked back down, shaking his head a little, smiling, shy, self-aware, wordless. Amused and embarrassed, as I rattled on and on with my bullshit.


It was teasing, of course, but it was gentle teasing, it was part of the back-and-forth we’d built up – about me being maybe a little too out there, a little too open about a lot of things, and Noah being . . . well, Noah. As in, really reserved, really shy about talking about himself, except for the few times I’d gotten him to open up . . . it was a kind of running joke, between us, by now. But a gentle one.


And, fuck-me, the shy way he’d looked away just now, the look on his face, the amusement, the look in his eyes as he’d glanced at me, even as his expression was telling me I was full of it –


Plop. The feeling of a drop hitting my skin; a big, fat one.


“Uh-oh,” I went, interrupting myself. I looked up, and stopped recording.




The mix of dirty-white-to-gray clouds had gotten a lot darker; little wisps were blowing off the darker edges. Way down below, I could see the weird, beautiful slanting curtain of a shower falling on the Bay, insubstantial, ethereal; I really wanted to capture it –


Plop-plop. Plop . . . Plop.


“We should go,” from Noah, after a beat; and then he was gathering up his lunch, and beginning to stuff it into his paper sack.


Plop-plop; plop. The sounds of the drops beginning to hit the ground around us, hitting the leaves of the bushes nearby, hitting the grass . . . The smell of rain.




And I looked, quick, back up the hill to the edge of the parking lot; nobody there, of course. Nobody on the soccer field either, duh, nobody in eyesight –


So I leaned over and around, and I kissed Noah; gently. On the lips; the hiss of the rain beginning to get a little louder, the ping-ping-ping of the drops hitting our skin, our clothes –


And partly it was an apology-kiss, an, I’m-sorry-I-teased-you kiss . . .


And partly it was a lot more. The feeling of his lips just brushing mine, here in the open air, the AWARENESS of him, the rush of feelings, strong –


Yeah. Compensations.



*   *   *



It was at lunch again, a couple of days after that, I showed Noah my photos.


Well, ‘my photos’ meaning, just the jpegs I’d been taking recently; mostly on, and around, campus. Some off-campus, some from other places, other parts of my life . . . but mostly-recent, mostly centered around  CSU, East Bay.


A lot of them, were of Noah. A lot of them.




“Mmmmm,” from Noah, softly; looking at one of my better shots, two girls, CSU students, walking on campus; talking to each other, totally engaged with each other, perfectly framed, glowing with energy.


Then, click, on the pad of my MacBook; and it was a study of Noah in profile, really close up . . . he’d been thinking of something deep, he was a million miles away, and his face was side-lit, remote, and beautiful.




Another shot of Noah, half-smiling into the camera, and it was a knowing, ironic kind of half-smile . . . a smile aimed at me.


I slid around to the other side of the little outdoor lunch table, giving him his own space, as he peered into the screen.


But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be watching his expressions, as he went through the collection.






I was impressed, actually, that he was taking his time, actually LOOKING a the pictures; you can so tell, when somebody’s just being polite, versus, well, – what Noah was doing. Noah was spending seconds on each shot, sometimes almost a minute.


I could tell, too, when he hit one of the better shots of him, one of the more revealing ones; his eyes would get a little bigger, and a couple of times, I watched him blush, some.


I loved seeing that.




Click . . .


“These are really good,” he went, softly; after a while. A quick glance over the laptop screen at me, then his eyes were back down again. “Really good,” he went on, in a tone with some wonder in it.


“Thanks,” from me; and I could just feel the grin spreading over my face. “But you don’t have to sound so surprised - !”


Another quick glance up at me, and this time, he blushed deeper. “That’s not what I – ”


“Shhhh . . . ” from me. Still grinning. “I’m just teasing.”


“These really ARE good!”


“Thanks,” I went; a little more gently.




Okay. Explanation.


See, the thing is, I AM pretty good at photography . . . at least, by most standards. I mean, I’ve been doing it my whole life, I’ve taken classes and classes; I even know my way around a darkroom, a pre-digital-age darkroom, not too many people my age can say that, anymore.


So. The point is, if I couldn’t take some decent pictures – decent enough to impress the general public – I’d be pretty pathetic, right - ?



Well, okay. So there’s a little bit more to it, than that.



At some point, it gets hard to judge your own work . . . but. I can still sneak up on it, look at it with fresh eyes, from time to time; and I know some of it, isn’t bad. Some of it, doesn’t suck.




Click . . .


The fact that Noah appreciated some of it . . . was nice. Way, way nice, in fact. I’d gone way too long, our first quarter, being too busy, not taking pictures; I’d almost gotten out of the habit. And so, I’d been afraid of losing ground, of losing my skills . . .


Well, that wasn’t going to happen again. I’d sworn to myself, I’d have at least one of my cameras with me at all times, going forward; and I’d use it, even if it meant taking pictures of the loading dock at work. And if it came to that – well, fuck, I’d make them the best fucking loading-dock pictures around; right - ?






“Hmm,” from Noah; the light from the screen, I swear, turning his face a little blue-ish; it was another dark winter afternoon, solid grey clouds overhead, the campus redwood trees looming up against them like black spikes.


“What - ?” I went, after a second.


Nothing from Noah, for a few beats; he kept his eyes locked on the screen.


But, I was beginning to know him; I was beginning to really know him. And just by looking at his face, I could so tell, something was up; there was a little tension, there.




He looked at the picture, for a few seconds; still not saying anything –


“What - ?!” from me, again; laughing at him, just a little.


Those blue eyes came up to meet mine, for an instant; then they flicked back down.


And then they were looking at me, steady. “I was just thinking . . . could you maybe do me a favor? It would be a really big favor, actually.” He paused, for a second, and looked down, then back up. “If you want to, I mean; you don’ t have to, or anything . . . ” And then he was looking down, and he looked a little flustered.


“Sure,” I went, immediately. Grinning big at him; was he thinking like me, about some fun, erotic photography - ? “If I can,” I went on. I tilted my head a little, waiting for him to go on.


“It’s my brother’s team . . . his baseball team,” he said. He was blushing, now, and I blinked at him. “They’ve got a website, of course . . . and they need some pictures. They need some good pictures, of the team, and the coaches, and the field . . . ”




“Team pictures?” I went, a little weakly.


“No . . . not like that,” he went. I could see him trying to find the words. “More like, GOOD pictures . . . just, whatever you want to take . . . Like these.” He motioned at the screen. “Just, you know . . . okay pictures.” Those blue eyes, looking up at me.


Oh, fuck-me. I felt my stomach, sinking.


“Uhhhhhh . . . I’m really not any kind of sports photographer . . . “ And it was true; I’d bumped into a few of them, mostly in classes; it’s a real specialty.


Noah shook his head. “That’s okay,” he went. “Honest. It’s just, that . . . well.” He looked sideways, up the long hill, for a few beats; that profile, again, his blue eyes, then he was looking down. And then, up.


“Our website sucks,” he went, directly; which made me blink, it was pretty strong language, coming from Noah. “At least the pictures on it do, they’re, like, snapshots. And that’s really bad, because it’s important.”


“Yeah?” I said it gently.


“Uh-huh . . . ” I could see him trying to think, how to phrase it. “See . . . the team, my brother’s team . . . it’s pretty good. It’s competitive, in our league; we’re pretty sure to go to the playoffs, this year, and we’ve got a really good shot at going to the finals. And maybe even take the division.”


All of which meant pretty much nothing to me, it might have been a different language. “Okay,” I said; cautiously.


He went on looking at me. “So, the website for the team gets a lot of attention . . . from newspapers, for instance. From other teams. And from scouts.”


“Scouts?” I blinked.


“Yeah. Scouts from colleges; scouts from MLB, baseball organizations, you know.”


“They actually scout out high school teams - ?” I felt kind of thunderstruck at the idea.


“Sure,” Noah shrugged. “At least, they will if there’s some kind of prospect on the team. But it helps to have a decent website, with decent pictures, to get their attention. And it helps with the league, and the newspapers . . . and, and, it’s really important for the team, for the players . . . ”


And with that, he kind of dried up; just his eyes, looking over at me, trying to explain what he wasn’t saying with words.


Like I said; fuck me. I mean, I wasn’t a good fit for this, I so clearly wasn’t a good fit for this . . .


But Noah, it was pretty clear, really wanted this; it was important to him. And he’d never asked me for anything before . . . I just fucking hated the idea of disappointing him –


I guess my doubts showed on my face. Like I’ve said, I’m not very good at hiding my reactions.


Noah seemed to sag, just a little, under my eyes. He looked aside, after a beat, then down. “But . . . you don’t have to, or anything. I mean, God knows, we’re both busy . . . ”


“No . . . no.” I reached over and squeezed his wrist, quickly. “I’ll take some shots for you . . . if you think it’ll help?” I felt myself making a face. “The thing is, I’m really not a sports photographer; I’m not going to get those, you know, regular action shots – ”


“That’s okay,” he went, quick. “That’s okay. Just, whatever you can do, would be a big help . . . ” He paused for just a second. “If you want to. It’s like I said; you don’t have to, or anything.” That look, kind of up from under his eyebrows, hopeful, and embarrassed at the same time –


“I’ll try,” I went; simply. Then a thought struck me, late. “Uhhh . . . your brother’s on the team - ?”


“Yes,” he went; softly. Not quite looking at me.


Oh, wow. A little jolt; a little shock.


Looks like I’ll be Meeting The Family, myself, I thought. Or part of it, anyway . . .