When We Were Boys

Hello Mr. Magazine - - NEWS - A fic­tion based on true events By Em­manuel Hap­sis Pho­tog­ra­phy by Zeph Colom­batto

When we were boys, we were best friends, but be­yond that, we were cousins. His mother’s fa­ther shared a crib with my fa­ther’s mother. Our own moth­ers gos­siped in kitchens while we sat next to each other in Bal­ti­more’s only Greek school, learn­ing an alien al­pha­bet, how to dance, and how to hate the Turks.

It was a time of never wak­ing up as the same per­son, but al­ways wak­ing up want­ing to see each other. Too old for the play­ground, too young for cars, we would loi­ter at stores to kill time. We didn’t have any money so we started steal­ing for each other.

“Here, I got you this.” Al­ways try­ing to outdo each other. An X-Men sketch­book, an Ace of Base al­bum, a CD player. But one day I felt bolder than ever.

“What are you do­ing?” he asked, as I stormed into the pet store. He waited out­side. The next time he saw me, I had my hands in my pock­ets and was telling him to run. We ended up at a Block­buster where I re­vealed my bounty: seven slip­pery fire­bel­lied frogs, each the size and color of a Now & Later candy. Four of them got loose among copies of Hocus Pocus and Heathers. I took the re­main­ing frogs home, and we fed them fruit snacks be­fore set­ting them free two days later.

At Greek school, he was pop­u­lar. The boys were jeal­ous that the girls thought he was cute and a good dancer, but not jeal­ous enough to not be his friend. I was shy, moody, small for my age, so it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore I found my­self cor­nered against a chain link fence by the class bully, a boy with three rough, older broth­ers, and no sis­ters.

“Do you know what hap­pens to fag­gots?” I didn’t have time to an­swer. He put me in a choke­hold and squeezed. “I’m not let­ting go till you pass out!” he shouted at me. I flung my limbs into his stom­ach and shins. That’s when my cousin punched him in the mouth.

When the most adored girl in our class gave out in­vi­ta­tions to her 12th birth­day party, my cousin and I were the only boys who got one. We weren’t crude like the oth­ers. We didn’t type out 8008135 on our cal­cu­la­tors. Down in the birth­day girl’s base­ment, we played spin the bot­tle. He French kissed her. “What was it like?” I asked. “Give me your hand. I’ll show you.” He pressed

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