"Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves...When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of
childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
Chapter 1- The Gents
Growing up, one must learn the harshest rules of life. Rules that are inconvenient truths to the reality we, as a species, have been dealt. Such rules can be minuscule and seemingly trivial. For
instance, the fact that the Buffalo Bills will be forever known as the team that lost four Super Bowls in a row, and is destined to float among the bottom of the league's rankings every year is
unfortunate. At least for fans of said franchise.
But it's a fact of life. A small and mundane fact that has no huge impact, but a fact nonetheless.
But in addition to these facts, come the ones that are larger. Ones with a wider impact on society that no one can avoid, no matter how convincingly they pull off a track star impersonation. If you
don't drink in college, you're questioned. If it's not for religious reasons and just because you don't feel like getting blackout drunk, you're seen as bizarre- an oddity in this world.
You're also expected to grow up. Not only in the sense that you need to become business savvy and learn to fight for survival in the harsh world outside the school-yard, but also in the sense that
anything and everything you enjoyed as a child must be kicked to the curb like an old tire. If you like cartoons, you're a child. On the other hand, late-night clubbing, drinking, toking and
relieving sexual lust into any girl you find are often seen as the bastion of maturity.
If one person knew all about this, it was Nick Smith. He'd been labelled many things in the past: nerd, goody-goody, 'Gary Stu', suck-up, brown-noser.
In reality, he didn't mind these nicknames. Sure hearing them repeated over and over tended to get tiresome. It could even get downright annoying. But all these names meant was that he had his head
on straight. His friends, those that were supposed to be by his side, would take part in the teasing. Even is two best friends, Pete Dewey and Tyler Clements, would mock him openly- Tyler
They were both extremely cool guys, though Tyler could be a bit brash and cocky- he was the kind of guy that acted more macho than he was. Every day, before he'd get ready for school, he'd make
sure to have some "manly" article of clothing on, such as a shirt with a football team or a rapper's face- Kid Cudi and Wiz Khalifa were among his favorites. Whether he enjoyed rap for the rhythm,
message, or because of his tendency to bandwagon was a mystery.
Nick's other friend, Pete, was often stuck in between the other two. He wanted to fit in, yet still leaned more towards Nick's side of the geek scale. His messy black hair and pale face kept him
from being a hit with the ladies, save for those who were into the goth types. Not that he was goth, his looks just betrayed him in that regard. So often he found himself torn between listening to
his heart and siding with Nick, and listening to his social-status focused brain and siding with Tyler.
This lunch period was no different, as Pete sat quietly while his nerdy friend made an offer to his manly friend. The cool cat recipient rolling his eyes as he listened to Nick's proposal.
The cafeteria was packed with students. The smell of Grade "D" meat wafted into the air, serving as a warning to those with sensitive stomachs to turn around and flee- making an apparent
evolutionary weakness into a strength. The white walls were shining and clear, only the few "Got Milk" posters hung up added some personality to the otherwise dreary, yet boisterous, lunchroom. The
crowd of students added a bit of vibrancy to the place, and sunlight streaming through the giant windows did the rest.
Nick, Pete, and Tyler all sat near the entrance of the cafeteria, munching on their lunches and trying their best not to heave it up as Nick proceeded to come to a conclusion.
As he finished his suggestion, Nick found his eyes drawn to the massive head of Wiz Khalifa on Tyler's shirt. Sure his mouth was moving and words of content were spilling out, but for the briefest
moment he couldn't help but to allow himself to get distracted by the rapper's head, making him realize just how ludicrous he was to believe Tyler would accept his proposal with welcoming arms.
"So, what do you guys think?" Nick asked, slight hope in his voice.
Tyler shook his head, "I think it's a terrible idea."
"Me too." Pete said, deciding to take Tyler's side on the issue. It wasn't a surprise to Nick, though. For as often as Pete felt conflicted, in the end his brain would kick his heart to the curb
and pull Pete towards Tyler.
But Nick was persistent. "How is it a terrible idea, exactly?"
Tyler grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth of ketchup that had smeared onto his lips from the burger. "Well Nick, we're seventeen. I'm pretty sure that puts us above the trick-or-treat age limit."
"That's garbage." Nick protested. "There's no maximum age for trick-or-treating. You can do it if you're fifty, for Christ's sake."
"There may not be a formal limit, but it's implied." Tyler shot back, taking another ravenous chomp out of his burger, a glob of ketchup landing onto his tray, mixing with the macaroni salad.
Pete nodded, "Yeah I actually agree with Tyler on this. Isn't part of growing up moving on from your childhood?"
Nick gave Pete a small shrug, "Well, to some extent sure. We can't live in the blissful fantasy that we did when we were younger. But at the same time we shouldn't just disregard everything that
made up such a major part of our lives."
"Yes we should." Tyler said with an emphasized bluntness. "Face it Nick, we're different people than we were back then.
Nick gave off a small laugh, "We are?"
Tyler seemed a bit taken aback by Nick's answer, before responding like he questioned the existence of gravity. "Yeah, no shit we are. Think about it, when we were ten what did we talk about at
lunch, or in any situation like this?"
"Um..." Nick said, thinking back to what he would consider 'the good-old days', whereas Tyler saw it as the 'pre-sexual fantasy days'. Finally, Nick answered. "Football and movies?"
Tyler nodded, "Bingo. Also cartoons. Lord knows we've had our fair share of discussions about Pokemon and Dragonball-Z."
"What about video games?" Pete asked, ending his somewhat prolonged silence.
Tyler shook his head, "We still talk about them. They don't count."
Nick started to get a big agitated. "What's your point, Ty?"
Tyler turned back to his friend, his eyes showing the glimmer of elitism.
"We talk about three things at lunch in high school." Tyler held out his fingers and counted down. "Sex, alcohol and school."
"Bullshit, we still talk about movies and cartoons and we definitely still talk about football. Just last week we said how the Bills were fated to never win a Super Bowl."
Groaning, Tyler rubs his temples with his thumb and forefinger.
"Okay fine, bad example. But I still stand by my point that relationships and parties have taken over because we've outgrown everything else. That's just a fact of life, and you need to accept
Somewhere across the cafeteria, some kid dropped their lunch, eliciting a chorus of laughter that resulted in the boy running from the lunchroom, face covered in mashed potatoes and milk. Nick
watched this with a distant pity before responding.
"You know my brother went trick-or-treating last year and he was a Senior."
Tyler starts to gag, pounding his chest, his coughs have the unmistakable presence of laughter. Even Pete, who still kept mostly reserved, couldn't help but join in the laughter.
"What?" Nick asked.
"I'm sorry, but when did Ryan become the pinnacle of maturity?" Tyler asked, referencing Nick's older brother by name.
Nick sighed, "Look, I know that Ryan is a..."
"Retard?" Tyler asked.
Nick glared at Tyler, "No, he's not a retard. He's..."
"Mentally challenged?" Pete chimed in.
Nick pressed his index finger and his thumb into the sides of his nose, groaning. "No! Come on guys!"
"Yeah man you just copied what I said." Tyler said, looking at Pete. "I already called him a retard."
"Mine was politically correct." Pete said, a hint of superiority in his voice.Tyler rolled his eyes, face-palming.
"Fuck being politically correct!" he said, before he turned towards Nick, pointing an accusatory finger at him, "You're brother is a retard, Nick. I mean, last year, he did an entire presentation
in Health class where he tried to convince everyone that masturbation is a form of cardio."
Pete suddenly perked up, turning to the now blushing Nick. "Did he really do that? I thought that was just a rumor."
"Nah man. I was in his class when he did it."
Nick sighed. Images from that fateful day flashing through his mind. The ridiculously comical posterboard that no teacher outside of the sexually charged areas of San Francisco would take
seriously. What made it even more hilarious to Nick was his memory of Ryan coming home the night before the project was due, reeking of alcohol and weed, shirt stained with sweat and some other
unrecognizable substance. But knowing his brother, Nick prefered to keep ignorant about it.
Nick finally spoke up, "And I saw the project when he came home from school. If I remember correctly, it was titled, 'How to Lose Weight and Feel Spectacular at the Same Time'."
Bot Tyler and Pete erupted into a fit of laughter, especially Tyler who was laughing so hard he found it difficult to regain his breath. Slowly, Nick joined in as well, chuckling over his brother's
idiocracy just as his two friends were.
Tyler saw this and nodded. "See? Even you can't say your brother isn't a dumb-ass."
Nick nodded, "Yeah I'll admit it. No argument on that one."
Slowly the trio begin to die down, their laughter subsiding to small chuckles. The cafeteria was even noisier now, most students had acquired their lunches and took their seats at one of the many
tables. Those that didn't were preparing themselves to eat their meals in one minute, as the bell was about to ring, signaling the end of the lunch period.
Even with all of the laughter and joking, Nick wasn't done trying to convince his friends to go on his little nostalgic adventure. Knowing they wouldn't accept unless he "reached across the aisle",
Nick decided to make them a deal.
"Look, if I promise to go to Mike Newton's party, will you agree to go trick-or-treating for a little bit?" Nick asked. He didn't like parties. Hell, he downright hate them. The boring atmosphere
for those not willing to get plastered, the over-the-top electronic music made it impossible to hear anyone, especially yourself, the flashing lights of red and gold, the smell of booze wafting in
the air. All of this was a huge turnoff for Nick when it came to partying down. But if it meant his friends would agree to go from door to door, begging for candy as they did when they were ten, it
was worth the boredom and the ear-breaking music.
"Oh yeah that's right, the Newtons live in your neighborhood." Pete said, remembering that the party house, that of the Newton family, was roughly twenty houses down the road from Nick's home.
Nick's neighborhood was rather large, especially when compared to the other neighborhoods in the area.
Tyler looked from Pete to Nick, who gave him a pleading look that most people would consider downright pathetic. He knew he was now in a losing position and let out a sigh in defeat. "Alright, you
know what? I cave. When do we meet at your house?"
Nick grinned. "Five-thirty should work, that gives us an hour and a half before the party starts. Just make sure you're all dressed and ready to go by then so we can head out."
Tyler gave his friend a look of disgust, "Ugh, we have to wear costumes?"
"We're going trick-or-treating. Plus the Newton's party is a costumed one. So you might as well dress up, otherwise you'll stick out like a dick on a subway."
Tyler's eyes lit up in fear, the very idea of not appearing to be one with the "cool" crowd shook him to the core. Still, he wasn't too happy about dressing up, especially since he still needed a
costume, and more likely than not the good ones would be gone.
"Ugh, fine. But I'm gonna be embarrassed carrying around a bag of candy at a party when I'm trying to pick up biddies."
Nick smiled. "Thank you."
The three friends turned their attention back to their meals, just in time to hear the bell ring, signaling that lunch was over. Both disappointed that they were still hungry, yet relieved that
they were free of the cafeteria food, the three friends stood up to leave, grabbing their backpacks off the ground as the cafeteria began to empty, students congesting the doors leading out into
"Well regardless of what happens tonight, I'm gonna get laid tonight." Pete said, speaking up with more confidence than he showed all lunch.
Tyler grinned and gave his friend an enthusiastic nod. "All right! Yeah! My man Pete's gonna pop his cherry!"
Tyler patted Pete on the back, grabbing him by his shoulder and giving him a small, friendly shake. Nick couldn't take it anymore and looked back down at his tray. Slowly, he made his way over to
the trash-bin and dumped the contents down, some of the mashed potatoes were so stuck to the plastic even using a fork to scrape away at it was useless. Giving up, Nick made his way over to the
cleaning station to drop it off, thankful to get away from the peer pressure of sex talk. Had he stayed, he knew that Tyler would have pressured him into vowing to do the same thing Pete had
moments before. At least now he was still somewhat in control of his own destiny. He knew Tyler thought he was strange. Here was a kid. High Schooler that didn't drink, watched cartoons about
dragon-riding vikings and talking, colorful ponies as a means of escape, and didn't have a desire to sleep with any girls yet.
He knew it made him stand out, and he knew Tyler often questioned his sexuality- Pete telling Nick all about the talks he had with Tyler where the meat-headed friend would ponder the possibility
that Nick was gay. As he tossed the tray into the washroom and made his way towards the doors leading out into the hallway, he stopped. His fellow classmates like sardines trying to fit through a
tiny hole. Nick decided to wait a minute for the crowd to die down, not comfortable being in such a claustrophobic setting. He leaned his back against the glass window of the cafeteria, waiting for
the mob to thin.
Thoughts began to flood his mind, daydreams of not only his life, but the fantasies he divulged himself in. What everyone would consider "childish" and "immature". His mind also traveled to
possibilities, and desires. One of which kept popping up over and over without any sign of stopping.
"I wonder if anyone else out there knows what I'm going through."
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