Excerpt: Inclination by Mia Kerick
For all of his swagger and coolness, after spending a couple afternoons with David Gandy at the town library, I have to admit that he’s a genuinely nice person. And from the way he avoids talking about all things personal in nature, it’s easy for me to tell that he’s been hurt, maybe ridiculed or isolated or bullied, by others in the past. I figure that it hasn’t been easy for him to be the lone out gay kid at school—so his evasiveness doesn’t shock me too much. But when he lowers the walls he’s built around himself, just enough to let me stick one foot inside, I learn that he’s smart and funny and intuitive, even if he is a bit sarcastic.
He also knows a lot about the rodeo, which I’ll admit surprises me. After several hours of work on the power point project, we step outside onto the library’s front step to take a five-minute break from all of the whispering we’ve been doing. I ask him, with a sly wink, thinking I’m being as cool as he is, “So tell me, Gandy, are you a closet cowboy or something?”
I know my mistake as soon as it escapes my lips. If looks could kill, I’d be so dead. The way he’s staring at me, his eyes all squinted up and shadowed, lets me know I stuck my foot in it, and deep.
“Shoot, man—I didn’t mean anything by that! I was only joking about the cowboy thing… and then the closet thing…well, it’s just an expression and….” I’m sinking deeper into it. Soon I’ll be knee-deep.
Guess I’ll shut up now.
Without blinking, David replies in a steady voice, “I’m not a closet anything.”
“Uh…no, of course not. And that’s okay because—”
“I’m so glad your homophobia knows some limits.”
I sigh. “I’m really sorry, David.” He turns away from me and stares out at the traffic on Main Street, and then he speaks again, but so quietly I have to strain to hear him. “Del Vecchio, you’re in Our Way, the youth group at Saint Mark’s.” This is the first remark he’s made to me that has nothing to do with pissed-off bulls and their death-wishing riders. It’s as if my stupid “closet” comment somehow broke the ice between us.
“Yeah. I’m the treasurer this year. Hoping to be vice president next year.”
“Great.” He doesn’t sound particularly enthused. “Martine still the adult in charge?”
I nod. “Yeah, she’s very dedicated to the youth group.” He looks over at me and tilts his head, but I can’t exactly label his expression, even though I want to. But soon David’s eyes are pulled back to the traffic. “I remember that you used to be in Our Way, too, freshman year, and maybe for a few months in the fall of sophomore year. Am I right?”
“Yup. You’re right on the money, dude.” I can’t see his face at all now, but I can see the frosty breaths that come out of his mouth each time he replies to me.
“Why did you leave us?” And then there is quiet. In fact, it’s a long enough period of silence that I reconsider my question. “Never mind, Gandy. That’s none of my business. Shoot, I’m really putting my foot in it with you today, huh?”
David turns around. He does it slowly, and when I see his face, I can’t miss that his intense eyes seem to be dull. “I had to leave. Not my choice.” He offers nothing else in the way of an explanation, and I badly want him to tell me the rest of the story. For some strange reason, it’s like I care.
“Alls I’m gonna say is, my family switched churches. And now I help run the youth group there…and it works better for me.”
“Where do you go to Mass now?”
“We don’t go to Mass. We go to Sunday Service at Journeys Worship Center.”
I make a sort of strangled, OMG-David-Gandy-isn’t-a-practicing-Catholic-anymore sound in acknowledgement of his words. He glares at me and asks, “Wanna know the name of the youth group I run up there, at Journeys?”
I nod mutely.
“His Way. Pastor Sutton let me change its name from The Journeys Youth Group to His Way.” He put the emphasis on the word “his.” I stop and wonder why. And then it hits me—David moved from Our Way to His Way. “Come on, Del Vecchio, let’s get back inside before we freeze our butts off. I think the next thing we ought to do is search for a couple of stellar rodeo photos and we can arrange them chronologically. Let’s start with black and whites of Gene Autry and….” David rambles on about our rodeo power point, but he’s got me dwelling on much more than bull riding.