He couldn’t be hasty. That was the thing, Adam figured. Haste wasn’t going to help. He’d just mess everything up even worse. He had to be considered. So he considered it a lot, all day at school in fact.
Scott noticed, unsurprisingly. ‘Adam, what’s up? Looks to me like you’re in love.’
Adam felt himself go red. It wasn’t even true, not even remotely true, but he couldn’t stop himself. He wished the teacher would turn up and start the lesson so he wouldn’t need to cope with this conversation, but no-one came.
‘So? Give me a name! Who’s the girl?’ Scott prodded him in the side. ‘Spill!’
‘There’s nothing to tell,’ Adam said, frustrated that his face seemed to have a different idea. He wasn’t in love with Kirsty or anything. She was too mixed up with Richard anyway.
‘Shit, do you even know any girls? What about the ball, man, do you know who you’re going to ask?’
‘No.’ Adam turned the tables. ‘Do you?’
Scott shook his head. ‘No idea at all.’
That wasn’t what was occupying his mind, anyway. He was figuring things through. He had a lot to think about, and he needed to talk to the right people about it. That was the best way. He thought about these things through class after class, and didn’t think that he was missing anything. Every time the bell rang he remembered Tau’s words from Sunday.
It was only after school that Adam was able to track down Dennis. He was hanging out with Shane by the school corner, watching everyone from the girl’s school walk past. Shane was showing off his bald head but Dennis wore a beanie.
‘Adam! Come to see the parade?’ Shane da da da’d the theme music to The Dog Show. Girls were walking past in their school uniforms and Shane did his best to get their attention simply by leering enthusiastically. Some of them enjoyed the attention, some of them looked displeased, but the vast majority didn’t even notice the boys were there.
‘Hey,’ Dennis said.
‘Hi.’ Adam sat down on the wall next to Dennis. ‘I’m thinking of quitting basketball.’
Dennis looked surprised. ‘Really?’
‘Really. I’m not any good. I’m not enjoying it.’
‘Huh.’ Dennis thought about that. ‘Are you sure about that?’
‘I’m not sure about anything. But I hate screwing up all the time. I feel crappy letting the others down.’
Dennis didn’t rush the conversation. ‘Have you talked to anyone else about this?’
‘I’m guessing there’s other things going on too. Right?’
A girl gave Shane the finger. ‘Dick!’
‘Hoochie mama!’ Shane hooted back. ‘It’s yours for a dollar!’
Dennis grinned at the exchange, and Adam smiled too. ‘Yeah,’ Adam said. ‘Some other things aren’t going so well.’
‘You don’t suck. Don’t let yourself think that you do.’
‘But I’m having no fun.’
‘Bullshit.’ Dennis leaned back as he said it. ‘You love it when the team wins. I’ve seen it on your face. Feels good, huh.’
‘It’s changing you, you know. The basketball. Other things too, but that’s part of it. Don’t you feel it?’
This was new. Adam frowned, trying to get the measure of Dennis’ meaning. There were some things he guessed were different. He was thinking things through more than he used to. He was maybe relying on himself more. But those weren’t changes in him, not really, that was just how he had to be because of how things had been shaken up.
Wasn’t that it?
‘Oh my god, you with the glasses, you’re beautiful!’ Shane shouted at some girl. Her friends tensed up on either side of her as he bounded off his perch. ‘Marry me! Let’s have babies! Let’s play doctors and nurses! I’ll be the lion you be the lioness! Rawr!’
‘If you’re not enjoying it,’ Dennis said, ‘genuinely not enjoying it, then ditch. It isn’t worth the hassle. But if it’s just because it’s hard, man – don’t quit because it’s hard.’
Shane was strutting back over. ‘The only thing hard here is my gigantic dick! Ooh yeah!’
‘You guys should come watch the game on Friday,’ Adam said.
‘Is my dick invited too?’ Shane peered down his pants. ‘I look out for you, buddy!’
Dennis made a face. ‘Not sure I’m flavour of the month with Damon.’
‘Nah, he won’t mind. Go on.’
‘Yeah. Yeah, what the fuck. Okay then.’
‘You don’t have other plans?’
‘No. No other plans. I’ll be there.’
Adam had the momentum now. If Dennis was coming on Friday, that would be good, it would mean things were going to find a new balance point, and why stop there? ‘And Saturday night – are you doing anything Saturday night?’
‘That’s your birthday, isn’t it.’
Shane perked up at that. ‘Holy shit! It’s your birthday!’ He raised his voice so girls walking past could hear. ‘Hey, who wants to kiss Adam? It’s his birthday! Hey you, want to kiss Adam for his birthday? Above the waist only!’
Adam put his hand to his face to dissociate himself from this, which only encouraged Shane more. He jumped up and went closer to the footpath, doing his best to sell every girl who came past on the chance of a lifetime to kiss Adam for his birthday. Adam wasn’t sure what he’d do if Shane’s mad quest somehow succeeded. ‘You remember that? Anyway, we’re going out. Me and Richard and Scott. It’d be cool if you came too.’
Dennis thought about it for a moment. ‘Okay. I’ll be there. Friday for the game, Saturday for your night out. It’s on.’
Adam smiled, and hoped he hadn’t made a big mistake.