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Chapter Five. Milo.

“The girls here are really starting to piss me off.”
That was me, talking to Anthony in his room again. It was after in-dorms, but the dorm parent had written up a slip that gave me permission to spend the night, so here I was, wrapped in a blanket on Anthony’s floor and feeling a whole cornucopia of things.
Anthony looked up from the Algebra homework he’d been copying long enough to give me one hard stare and a laugh. “Why’d you say that,” he said in amusement.
“They’re all uptight,” I repeated bitterly, and stared up at the quote on his doorframe. Tonight, it was not soothing.
Anthony’s pen briefly considered what I’d said. “No, not all of them,” he decided.
“Show me one who’s not,” I demanded, turning my torso around. I knew I was being pushy, but I was frustrated, and Anthony only shrugged.
“All right. Tomorrow, then, I’ll introduce you.”
Reluctantly distracted by curiosity, I settled back against my blankets, and considered all the possibilities. Who could he be talking about? Not the newest new girl, Ouisch. What a piece of work. To me, she resembled a roadblock… blinding, wooden, and obnoxious. Easy to run over with a car. “You know,” I said idly, “Anthony, I can just get my mom’s grade book and give your homework an A.”
“Next time, if I can’t find someone’s to copy,” he replied.
“Okay,” I said. I still couldn’t imagine what chick he was referring to.
(Milo baby, there may be hope after all.)
“What’s the catch,” I asked him with utmost suspicion, because clearly there had to be one.
“With what, homework?”
“No. The girl.”
A page turned in the Algebra book, and Anthony said, “The catch is she’s just a friend. I don’t think she’s your type, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
I pulled my fingers through my long tangled hair and gritted my teeth when it hurt. “Then what’s the fucking point of meeting her?”
“None, I guess, if you put it that way. But all you said was you wanted to meet a girl who isn’t uptight, and I happen to know one. Well… she’s uptight in her own way, but probably not how you’d imagine it. Anyways… you’ll see,” he added, and chuckled privately as though he knew a punch line.
When people laugh at their own jokes, they generally aren’t funny. That means she’s GOT to be ugly, I thought with a sinking heart.
Anthony must have seen me pouting, because he reached over with one massive hand and patted the top of my head, and went on copying. That was it. He wasn’t being very indulgent.
But I myself was far from finished. “This is the problem,” I restated after a moment, “None of the desirable broads are working with me here. Anthony, maybe you’re not understanding, but I don’t want to have to wait until the summer rolls around before I get laid.” I was sure to put emphasis on desirable, and laid.
Anthony glanced down at his math and back to my face, and then back to the math.
Now, anyone else at this point would probably be thinking, “Whoa, this guy’s an asshole!” and though I couldn’t tell, I guessed that Anthony was thinking that too, though he keeps most of his thoughts to himself.
But actually, ladies, believe me when I say that I am the most sensitive, honest, and thoughtful man you’ll ever meet.
(Just ask my mother.)
“Come on, Anthony, you know where I’m coming from.”
“No, I don’t.” The homework done, he closed his Algebra book and looked over at me. I got another full blast of a concentrated stare from those sharp blue eyes, and further words died there on my lips.
Moments passed. Anthony disappeared like the Cheshire cat, and only his bobbling gaze remained, floating in front of me.
“Wise men learn more from fools…” I whispered, but in order to remember the rest I’d have to look at the doorframe, and I couldn’t tear away.
It may have been a tremor of (recently severed) nerves in the eyeballs, but at the mention of his mantra I thought I saw something waver in their depths, and so I plucked up my courage again. Anthony was my friend, after all.
He was now shoving the textbook back into the bookcase.
“Anthony, haven’t you ever been in love?”
The question seemed to thoroughly astonish him. He turned to look at me again, twisting his dreadlocks in his thick fingers, a gesture of uncertainty that was strange coming from this imposing figure he portrayed. But it only lasted a moment.
“No,” he said roughly, and propped himself up better on the pillows, his hands now folded in his lap and his mouth working as he chewed on his cheek. “But I didn’t know you were talking about love. I thought you only wanted to get laid.”
“Well, yeah,” I admitted, “but I was just asking.” I just wanted to know more about you, I wanted to say, since you’ve never told me anything about yourself besides where you’re from and what your favorite porn subscription is… but of course I didn’t say that. You just don’t say that to guys like Anthony. It’s rude.
“No, I haven’t.” His fingers stirred restlessly, and without warning he asked me, “Have you?”
It would have been easy to respond, but for a second, I closed my eyes and remembered her. The soft smell of her gleaming skin; the way she moved, like seaweed underwater, with that long flowing hair… and her eyes, huge and dark and forever, hard as dark chocolate and just as bittersweet… Her name was Maria, and for a handful of beautiful weeks, she’d been mine.
“Yeah,” I said, and was startled to hear my voice grieve. “Yeah, I’ve been in love.”
Anthony nodded, looking a little edgy though it was impossible to say if he was feeling uncomfortable. “What happened?” he asked me, and I shrugged.
Maria, I thought silently. We’d met on the beach in California, where she’d been traveling with her parents. I bought her an Italian Ice, and she’d laughed at my pathetic attempt at Spanish before telling me she spoke perfect English, thank you. For weeks going on months she’d sneak out of the rented cottage at dusk and meet me in the dunes, and I’d point out constellations while she traced them on my skin. Maria. She’d never seen a beach that small before.
“Milo,” she had said. “Please don’t be sad. Love always finds a way.”
Oh, I’d thought.
“She went away,” I told Anthony. “Back to Guatemala, and I never saw her again. But I couldn’t have gone with her, even if she had wanted me to.”
He fell silent after I’d said that, though it looked like he’d wanted to know more. Anthony, however, has a privacy policy that I’ve come to understand and admire with every new day I spend with him, and that is why it’s rude to ask him things unless he chooses to bring it up. So when he didn’t ask anything more about Maria, though he could have, I found myself immensely grateful. Instead, he told me something else.
“I guess I don’t believe in love,” he said carefully, and with the words obviously taking pains not to let his incredulousness for me shine through. “It’s just an emotion, right? But I think it’s the one I’m just not equipped to handle. Now don’t get me wrong; women raised me, and I know how they think, and how they work. Back home the ladies would find me for their own pleasure needs, and as conceited as that may sound, it’s true, and I don’t really understand it, but that’s beside the point. Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s all just so fucking pointless.” His hand waved in the air, the rings he wore flashing. “There is no love. Not for me, anyway. I’ve looked… God, how I’ve looked. But it just doesn’t seem to exist.” His face looked sad. “Something tells me I’ll end up a overweight old bachelor who burns romance paperbacks belonging to my mothers and sits around the house drinking beer and watching lesbian porn.”
The blue eyes held my hazel. “There’s not a single girl in the world that I would die for,” he quietly admitted.
I just stared at him, dumbstruck but trying not to show it. That was the most damaging, personal thing I had ever heard him say. It had been almost a confession, even. It completely blew me away. I had no idea what it meant.
“Well, you don’t have to be in love to care about someone,” I said slowly. Right about now I was starting to feel a little worried for my good friend Anthony. He was talking like he’d utterly lost it, giving up on the entire female portion of the human species! “There’s got to be a chick on campus we could set you up with,” I said, not thinking of myself now at all. But Anthony just shook his head.
“Like you said, they’re all too… uptight.” His voice had a mocking ring, but I don’t think it was directed at me.
Sitting there on the floor, I was getting understandably frantic. I wracked my brains for any girl, anybody, who gave a shit if they were stuck up, just any girl with a body… “I met a pretty blonde the other day,” I squeezed out, “big blue eyes…” Suddenly, this was the only thing that mattered, hooking up Anthony. In my mind, he had turned into this depressed, dying soul that desperately needed the knowing touch of a woman’s lips to bring him back to life… I’m not sure where this idea came from at the time. Probably the same place where I got the impression that Anthony was incapable of doing it himself and that he needed me.
But Anthony was watching me like he knew exactly what was going on in my head, so all he said was “I like blondes…”
“Perfect! I’ll match you up with her.” I had no idea just how exactly I was going to accomplish this, because she had completely burned me myself a few days ago, but right then that didn’t matter, because I was on a mission.
(Milo, you idiot.) My conscience sneered, but I ignored it.
Anthony turning out the light did discourage my newfound energy, however, which might have been why he did it.
“See you in the morning, Milo,” he said, his voice muffled by pillows.
I curled up on my side and stared into the darkness, calm but yet unable to silence the steady roar of thoughts in my ears. “Goodnight,” I said.
Abruptly, the light went on again, and there was Anthony, his eyes burning madly. “And Milo?” He said in a low voice.
“Yes, Anthony?”
“You’d better not be counting on me falling in love anytime soon, you got that?”
“Fair enough. But Anthony?”
“What.” There was a click, and the darkness again. This time, it was everywhere.
“Don’t fucking pet me on the head again, because you know I’ll be forced to kick your ass.”
Through the darkened room, I thought I could hear Anthony smile. “Fair enough,” he agreed.
Then the two of us went to sleep, but I couldn’t tell you if I dreamed.

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